Experiencing the Experience: Redux


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This is a piece that I did on my own blog on July 3 on how the iPhone and customer experience need to be looked at in this era – not as our historically left-brained compadres would have done so – but as Joe Pine, Denis Pombriant and other forward thinkers would see it. I think it merits reproduction. And I’m lazy.

P.S. Since then, I’ve bought an iphone and while it isn’t the greatest business device, it is a game changer. No question of that. From the standpoint of the hardware and the experience.

There’s a reason I love Denis Pombriant. Not just as a bud, but as an analyst. He just damn gets it.

He wrote this piece this morning that I would recommend you all go look at in CRM Buyer called: "More Than Interaction" that makes a crucial point. We have taken a customer experience to mean "an interaction with a customer" and thus the best way for a business to deal with this so-called experience is to make it "good" for the customer. Yet, as DP points out, Joe Pine when he wrote "The Experience Economy" – the paradigm for understanding the customer ecosystem we live in now – he meant a personalized/customized service that can be transcendent for a customer. In other words, there is some true emotional impact that provides the real value to the customer. Not just a "good, measurable, thing."

I can’t agree more than with that. Its why the metricians a.k.a. the left brainers are always harping on figuring out a numerical score to define something that might be profound, but at least is seen as really valuable for a customer. Despite all the hype, the sale of the iPhone was massive because it was more than a device or object – though it was that. It was ultra cool, provided bragging rights, an indication of hipness, and stylish looking.

More interestingly, though, especially if you compare the opening days of the iPhone and the Wii or PS3, you find that the experiences that people had around the purchase of the iPhone were VASTLY different than the PS3 or Wii. Apple customized the services so to speak so that people were "feelin’ the love" on the lines, with some stores providing coffee and donuts or other wholesome foods, and other places where the ambiance was created for camaraderie amongst the people in line. Here’s something from a blog called What’s Next: Innovations In Newspapers, (a pretty cool name unto itself) on one of the employees of the blog’s parent,Innovation International Media, getting his iPhone.

I got my iPhone.

Yes, I stood in line but only for an hour.

I must say, even if the phone sucks, I take my hat off to the execution.

I have never seen a better product release in my life and for that matter, never heard of anything like it.

Apple did an incredible job in organizing this.

I arrived to Lenox at 5 p.m. with Vanessa and the line was huge!

I though that maybe they would run out of phones.

Pretty soon Apple people started walking down the line and gently explained how the process would work.


Later on they started distributing water.

More Kudos.

When the store opened at 6 there was a loud cheer from the crowd.

Then the line started moving REALLY FAST.

In less than 15 minutes almost half the queue had gone by.

I entered the Apple store at almost 6:45.

There were Apple staff applauding each group that entered.

You could take all the time you wanted playing with the phones and then go to a second line to buy them.

After buying the phone one could buy the accessories.

They had MANY accessories, including some of the coolest Bluetooth handsfree devices I’ve seen.

I left happy with my bag and even happier with the experience.

I’m a proud shareholder!

At home I opened the iPhone.

Incredible packaging, as usual.

Connected it to iTunes and in less than 10 minutes everything was working and I was making calls with the same number.

NEVER EVER before has buying a phone been such an easy experience.


Any business that achieved this is meant for success.

Contrast that (representative of many comments I read) with the PS3 launch with someone even getting killed for the console!

The point is that the experience transcended even the phone. Note the guy’s comment – "I must say, even if the phone sucks, I hat my hat off to the execution."


Much as I’m not a fan of the engineering culture of the company and have my complaints. The more I investigate them, the more I, a little grudgingly, become a fan, even with their warts.

Unlike DirecTV who so far has proven nothing to me.

The lesson to be learned here is that it is NOT about an interaction with a company. Nooooo. Its far more complex than that. Its what the customer expects, how important they think the totality of experiences with the company are to them, how important each interaction is to them, the coherence and cumulative effect of the totality of interactions with them. The expectations that are set by their activities all told – those activities that go far beyond just their relationship with the company that is attempting to provide the "experience" and many other factors all of which will be elaborated on in the next few months as I research CRM at the Speed of Light’s fourth edition.

Hats off to Pombriant, to Pine and to the customers who are so damned demanding.

And…to Apple.

Paul Greenberg
The 56 Group, LLC
Paul Greenberg, the president of the 56 Group, LLC, is the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century, 3rd edition. Greenberg is co-chairman of Rutgers University's CRM Research Center and executive vice president of the CRM Association. His blog PGreenblog won both of the only two awards ever given to CRM blogs.


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