One of our favorite books is The Experience Economy by Pine & Gilmore. It describes the value that can be created by moving past commodities, products, services, and into experiences. I was reminded of this over the weekend, in a very real way.
It was time for a new pair of glasses. This is something I don’t replace that often, so quite frankly, I was a little excited. I stopped in at our local mall to visit the Pearle Vision store there. The selection process was both fun and compelling. My wife and I enjoyed the opportunity to explore different looks and styles, while finding something that was both functional and comfortable.
Then came the painful part.
Once we had made the selection, we sat down with one of the sales associates who collected the details to place the order. I probably had a hint of how this was going to go when the first words out of her mouth were, “This is going to take a couple of minutes while I reboot the computer.” Given the business I’m in, I’m sure I made some joking remark about “those darn computers.”
She then began filling in the details in what seemed like an interminably complex and lengthy process. She gave me some verbal indication that she was right near the end and then got the troubling look on her face as she was waiting for the software to respond. After a couple of minutes of waiting, she declared that the computer had frozen again and that she would need to restart the entire process.
What started out as as a pleasant Sunday afternoon shopping visit to the mall now had all the makings of a retail nightmare “waste of time.”
At this point, my wife lost interest and said, “I’m going to Pottery Barn. I’ll see you later.”
Apparently the second attempt actually worked. She then had to leave her station and travel back to the retail counter to enter my credit card information. I sat patiently, assuming this would be the quickest part of the process. Twenty minutes later I finally approached the retail counter to check in on progress. I must admit, my blood pressure was now rising.
I asked if there was any trouble and she said, “Nope. I just needed to help another customer.”
I completed the order and told them I would probably never return. I felt buyer’s remorse for the rest of the day. Even this morning I am contemplating canceling my order.
After this retail nightmare I stopped at the store next door. The Apple Store. I needed a new case for my iPhone 4.
The store was mobbed. It reminded of the Yogi Berra comment, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Sales associates were outnumbered by customers at least 10-to-1. (Unlike the 1-to-1 at Pearle Vision.) My wife and I had the same fun selection experience and then it was time to check out.
I caught the eye of a free sales associate. He approached me, scanned the item with his own iPhone, swiped my credit card, asked me if an emailed receipt was fine, showed me the email address he’d send it to, and I was done. In less than 60-seconds I was walking out the door with my new purchase.
I couldn’t help but reflect on how much effort Apple must have put into ensuring they could produce this kind of customer buying experience. I must admit, I seldom go to the mall anymore, but every time I do I excitedly visit the Apple store to contemplate future purchases.
These experiences hit home for us because they go to “joy.” I had no joy at Pearle Vision and thus I will look for more joyful alternatives the next time. The Apple Store not only gave me joy for that purchase, but also helped calm me from my previous bad experience at the place right next door.
When people ask me how to define “the business value of joy” in software design and development, I describe it as widespread adoption and enjoyable use by the people for whom it was intended. As we reflect on the tenets of the “Experience Economy” we fundamentally believe that customer “shopping, purchasing, and using” experience is what separates the winners from the losers.
Ignore this at your peril.