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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are you grocery shopping, or sharing an experiential gift?

As consumers, we love giving recommendations.

Even more, we love sharing our outstanding service experiences with others, as an experiential gift, so that people who haven’t tried the services we love can experience what we do.

Of course, a shared experience changes the dynamics of the encounter completely, particularly when an expert customer is accompanied by one experiencing it for the first time.

The expectations of the expert increase as they want to show off their recommended service experience at its best. At the same time, the productivity of the expert declines as they have to explain details and nuances of the experience to the novice. Most often, however, the enjoyment level of both parties is extremely high, the expert satisfied in giving the gift of experience and the novice satisfied with a new experience.

So it was when I took my mother to Whole Foods for the 1st time this week.

Faced with the abundance of quality ingredients, in no time she had me running up and down aisles looking for obscure items for the week’s meals. I’ll admit with no shame that I had to stop mid-process for a coffee break.

She was clearly enjoying the experience, but I tensed just a little when she sent me to the butcher with the instructions, “see if they’ll bone a couple of chickens.” I love customizing the experience, and Whole Foods does it routinely and well. Yet I was anxious, given that I didn’t know whether they would or could fulfill this special request. My anxiety level increased when the butcher claimed she was willing, but had never boned a chicken in-store in 15 years of work. Still, I wanted to help Whole Foods deliver a special experience to someone I had brought to them, so we decided it was worth a try.

Of course, when I triumphantly returned with 2 two fully boned chickens, my mother proclaimed, “Impressive. At home, my butcher would never do that.”

On the way out, after an hour and a half spent on what would usually be a 20 minute trip, she declared Whole Foods to be her favorite store in the whole world.

Shared service experiences are tremendous gifts for the giver, the reciever, and the company providing the new service encounter.

What I seldom see are examples of companies effectively making customers want to share their experiences with others, making the shared experiences more productive, and creating delightful outcomes in these special, but frequent, types of encounters.


Leslie said...

Wow. Your mom is a tough customer. Boned chickens!? I'm glad Whole Foods was up to the challenge.

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