Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't forget the value of The Experience

I recently had a great reminder about how powerful consumer experience can be terms of engaging people and creating lasting impressions ... and it was an experience that was created more or less by accident. I was in Boston presenting at the Community 2.0 conference [LINK] and had had to get back to Logan Airport from the Seaport Conference Center. Anyone who's spent any time in Boston knows that there's a minor obstacle between the city and the airport known as "Boston Harbor." It's certainly not hard to jump in a cab and drive through the Ted Williams Tunnel, but I've never been a huge fan of tunnels - there's just not much to see! However, I remembered several years earlier taking a water taxi to the airport.

As a midwestern guy, I jump at any chance I have to get on a boat, and from a "view" perspective, it's as direct an opposite to the tunnel as you could get. However, I couldn't remember how to find the water taxi, or get it to meet me at the conference center. Eventually, I asked a policeman how the whole process worked, and he pointed me right back to the conference center - he said there'd be a callbox there that I could use.

I have to admit that it seemed odd to me, in this age of ubiquitous mobile phones, to have to use a "callbox" to get in touch with a water taxi dispatcher. But, since I really wanted that boat ride, I followed his direction back to the conference center, and came upon the contraption pictured above. As I read the instructions, I was a little incredulous that they were for real, and feared that i might be in the middle of some prank. I glanced around the busy street to see if anyone was giving me funny looks or behaving suspiciously. Nope, seemed that the coast was clear.

Anyway, I picked up the mic (like the kind you'd have seen attached to a CB radio in 1979) and made my call - "pickup at stop 1!" Lo and behold, a voice came back right away (brilliant New England accent, by the way) saying, "Sit tight theh, sir, I'll be 'round to collect yeh in foive-a-ten minutes. It's eight dawlahs, cash only." [Translation: "Please remain where you are. I will adjourn to stop 11 immediately; my estimated time of arrival is between five and ten minutes. Please be aware that neither credit cards nor personal checks are accepted; my fee is $8 in cash."] Sure enough, it was the captain himself! Why mess with a dispatcher when you can just call the boat captain directly? I dutifully waited on the pier, and in 7 minutes the water taxi showed up to "collect me." There were already two bored busienssmen on board, who kept their heads buried in their cellphones the whole trip. I, however, enjoyed the views of harborfront Boston for the entire 12-minute trip to the airport.

And that's when it sunk in to me how much more had just been added to my day than just transportation from downtown to the airport ... I'd engaged in something mysterious, novel and fun - while also being functional. It made me think about how many mundane activities and transactions we engage in every day. Every one is an interaction with a person ... a customer, a supplier, a co-worker. They all have a functional purpose, but each one also contains an opportunity to dreate a deeper level of intimacy and relationship. Companies spend so much time trying to have more interactions with customers, but how many are really getting everything they could from the interactions they do have? What interactions could you make more memorable today?