Saturday, July 18, 2009

Make the Moment

A few years back, a client asked me to create some material for their new-hire training program. Since they were in Australia, they asked me to fly out, spend some time on the ground–have a walkabout, and then begin my work.

It was my first flight across the Pacific, and you should also be aware this took place before 9/11/2001.

My Qantas flight from Orlando, Florida to Sydney, Australia lasted about twenty hours (in actual travel time). That’s a long time for a guy that is 6’ 5” to stay seated in the coach seat of a 747. I got up a few times during the flight to stretch my legs. On one of my breaks, I stopped in the galley and chatted briefly with one of the flight attendants.

He asked a few questions about my trip, where I was from and if I had ever been to Sydney. Soon, I discovered the "attendant" was actually the captain. He invited me to the cockpit to visit with the crew. They told some jokes, we shared stories and they used the back of several napkins to map out directions to all the best Sydney pubs and beaches.

I returned to my seat and was awakened a few hours later by a real flight attendant. The captain wondered if I wanted to view our landing from the cockpit. Do I stay in this little chair and crane my neck around my fellow passengers to watch us land sideways, or see Sydney harbuor through the panoramic cockpit windows. Let me think about that one for a minu… Done.

It was, needless to say, one of the most incredible work assignments of my life, and the flight was just one part of it. Sydney is a vibrant city perched on a magnificent bay, and Australians are some of the most hospitable people on the planet.

Writing the material was a snap and a real pleasure… because of the people, not because of the beaches, the pubs, the technology or the Koala bears (although they are cute).

Did I feel challenged to learn everything I could and give them my best work? You bet.

Did I feel connected to them in a way that would not have been possible online? A smile and handshake are so much nicer in person. It’s also much more enjoyable to drink an Aussie beer by the Harbour than in your office. Trust me.

Were they some of the best collaborators to work with? Absolutely. In fact, the governor handed me the Olympic torch so I could be photographed with it before him. I had no clue who he was until much later.

Will I always be a raving fan and champion of Qantas, Sydney and Australia? What do you think? Yes, Yes, Yes. Paint my chest blue with white stars anytime.

I still think about that Qantas crew. I wish them the best and a g'day, where ever they are. Thanks for creating a great moment in my life. Now, let me think of how I can return the favor today, with someone else...

Friday, July 17, 2009

We Can’t Fake It Anymore

In business, staging or controlling an experience requires a storefront or website with a team of employees as the performers and leadership directing it all. The audience sits in breathless anticipation, waiting to be dazzled.

Cue: action! And…what happened? Where did everybody go?

Today, social media platforms are the latest stage. Fans, customers and audiences are no longer limited to your storefront or website as the source of their primary experience. Even more significant, the audience does not need a director or your cast of performers.

Consumers can write their own scripts, direct the action and complete sales and provide their own services - without your permission. They can also switch hats, assuming the role of critic, to judge the quality of their fellow users and performers. Armed with online rating tools, they can champion the best experiences and denigrate average or bad experiences.

Factoid: 70% of online consumers report taking advice from strangers. That means a fourteen year-old girl and her satirical video can have just as much influence as your million dollar ad campaign. Controlling information (the script) is a dead-end strategy, so why even bother?

Your audience wants an authentic experience–greater transparency, believable resources, and honest leaders, meaningful interactions with real people like themselves.

The opportunity now is not to simply stage another experience. An emerging, more dynamic choice is for organizations to let their audiences (employees too!) define, create and deliver the user experience, while you help draw attention and facilitate it.

  • Let go, and facilitate
  • Take down the curtain and demonstrate the process, transparently
  • Find your audience and join them. Listen to what they are saying and add your thoughts
  • Invite users to post to your site and rate your services, your employees
  • Encourage your employees to become champions by supporting their interactions with customers and allowing them to be completely "real" with every customer interaction