This post is about how organizations can create experiences for their customers that are positive, engaging and align with their brand.
The three strategies I share can be applied by any business that wishes to create a more engaging customer experience.
Whether you’re operating an escape room, a performing arts center or a news organization that gives tourists a peek into what you do, here are three things you should do:
Meet expectations in a satisfying way.
Go beyond expectations; create surprise and delight via unexpected moments.
Connect the specific experience to the overarching brand promise or company mission/vision.
Here is an example of how not to do this...
We’re news junkies, we read news everyday. And we’ve visited many studio sets during my appearances on local TV. So we were excited to see a national news organization.
The security was tight, since this building would be a target for political purposes. The ride up the Guinness record-setting escalator was exciting, and even the picture was fun.
After our expectations were raised, unfortunately they weren’t fulfilled. We were left wondering what could have made it better and came up with a few ideas.
Here’s where we feel the CNN tour went wrong:
1. Expectations weren’t met.
We thought we would see the news being presented live, the way the Today Show does it, but without being seen. But that never happened. Seeing a screen that represented their control room and hearing the behind-the-scenes audio was cool, but there were many opportunities for group interaction that didn’t happen. While we were shown the teleprompter, we weren’t given the chance to read along as it scrolled by (this could have been done for the whole group at once or by a single volunteer for our amusement) and only one person got to stand in front of the green screen for a few seconds. This was the only time the audience went “ooh” and “aah” as they hadn’t seen one in action before. More interactive, behind the scenes experiences would have made the experience much better.
We also expected to see more of the actual news operations in action, and we thought we might actually meet someone who represents the departments we were seeing. We got to see the newsroom from a window at the top and another studio from a small outside window, but we didn’t get to see or interact with anyone except our tour guide.
2. There was nothing surprising or delightful about the tour.
We were just walked from one floor to another and told multiple times not to take any photos or videos or we’ll get kicked out. We got to see Anderson Cooper and Anthony Bourdain about 100 times — that’s how many giant photos of them were hanging on every wall. We kept on waiting for something interesting or engaging to happen and it never did.
One way they could have surprised us was by giving us free digital access to the photo they took of us at the beginning of the tour, pretending to be reporters. If they did that, they would have thousands of people a week posting that photo on social media, and therefore demonstrating in a meaningful way to their network of friends that they are a fan of the CNN brand. Instead, they charge you $35 at the end of the tour to take a printed photo home. By focusing on generating a small amount of money, they're missing out on mobilizing their tour-goers into an army of influencers. This would build brand value far more lucrative than whatever they're making selling prints.
3. The tour did not build on the CNN brand and did not develop our connection to the company in any way.
The tour ended with us sitting down to watch a video (commercial) for CNN. I wanted to say “hey, we’re already here, we watch CNN, we don’t need to be sold on it any more.” It was a very ineffective and anticlimactic way to end the tour.
More critically, there was nothing on the tour that touched on the importance of CNN. Yes, they’re running a new campaign about Truth vs. Falsehood now, but the live tour didn’t communicate to us why their news coverage is important and needed.
Their end goal is to connect people to their brand and news personalities. A video at the end won't do that. What they really want is for their mission to become part of the value system of the participants.
The tour was an opportunity to engage viewers, show them how they are combating the spread of fake news, and demonstrate the specific processes that are used to verify and validate information before it is presented to the public. They had the opportunity to make their process come alive for us, to show us why what they do matter, to get us to care. Unfortunately, this opportunity was missed.
So those are the things they did wrong. What can an organization do to make their customer tour experience better? To finish up our trip, on the way back to Orlando we stopped at the Georgia Peanut Commission.
My wife—who loves anything peanut butter—told me that it would be a quick stop, that it’s just one building. She tempered my expectations.
Here’s how the Georgia Peanut Commission succeeded at the three points we started with:
We learned fascinating things about peanuts we never knew about through a simple, engaging interactive digital quiz that linked to the infographics spread across the wall and earned us the title of "Peanut Genius." Fun, simple and effective.
We were given an unexpected gift of a peanut butter utensil and other accessories by the friendly and welcoming “communication specialist” working the front desk. The principle of reciprocity kicked in, and I was delighted to buy peanut butter from their gift shop area.
The overall experience clearly communicated the purpose of the organization: to raise the awareness and appreciation of peanut farmers and their work.
At the end, the visit to the Peanut Commission so exceeded our expectations that we both remembered it more, told more people about the experience and spent more money at their gift shop than we did at CNN.
So think about that. You don’t need to have millions of dollars and TV personalities to represent your brand. You don’t even have to be Zappos (we did their tour last year and it was fantastic).
You just need to create an authentic, immersive experience that connects to your customers and speaks your brand language.
Every touchpoint of your brand is an opportunity to create lifelong customers.
First, satisfy their expectations. Then go beyond those expectations: create surprise and delight. Finally, make sure you look at the overarching goal of your organization and ensure that every touchpoint reflects your longterm vision.
And, of course, let us know when we can visit. We can't wait to see the experience you create!