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The Customer Experience Revolution — Are You Next?


uring 2007 and the particularly economic emptiness of 2008 it became very noticeable that there

were a group of companies, large and small, from

several industries that were better, different, more profitable and

Photos courtesy of Brigantine Media ( )

more sustainable than most others. What were these companies

doing? That was the question that motivated the live interviews

and research behind a new business leadership book called The Customer Experience Revolution. These companies, dubbed

“Experience Makers,” included Apple®; Amazon; Starbucks

Coffee Company; Square; Skinit, Inc.; BMW MINI Cooper; and Netflix, Inc. among others.

These Experience Makers redefined industries and changed

customers’ lives for the better. They also changed the expecta-

tions of existing and future customers. Once a market has been changed to a difficult-to-duplicate customer experience, those left competing with just price, features or value-added services are usually marginalized or eliminated.

These customer experience leaders are masters of the three

Ds of customer experience. The companies, which purposely and successfully Determine, Develop and Deliver extraordinary

customer experiences, have a decisive advantage. The aggregate view of Experience Makers reveals how they define customer experience and when it begins:

1. The customer experience includes all interactions people

have with or about a company’s messages, people, pro-

word-of-mouth referrals. “About” also includes very

powerful social media, where one person can quickly

communicate to many people about the extraordinary customer experience they just had.

2. Inside the customer experience is user experience, a

or services. And “about” including viewing third-party

products or services. It is the proof point that promises

with the company’s messages, people, processes, products videos, reading printed opinions such as reviews, and

Fall 2012

cesses, products or services. “With” as in direct contact

person’s experience directly interacting with a company’s made during the customer experience are true.


3. Experience leaders believe that customer experience

people indomitable? It was a bold step. Apple was entering a

tinues when they become customers and even energized

exactly was the opportunity for a new entrant to compete with

begins when people are potential customers and conadvocates.

This insight forms a customer experience continuum where

the experience of customer care begins well before a person is actually a customer. All interactions with or about a company’s

already in the market manufactured phones with great value. And others were adept at consistently introducing new technologies, styles and advanced features.

Before 2007, there were already many successful companies

making smartphones, which combine computing, Internet

experiences people want to have along that continuum at the

Apple entered the market, these smartphone companies includ-

strategic, tactical and operational levels. It starts at the top and is part of the company’s culture. “Delivering extraordinary

customer experiences is becoming more and more important,” according to J.D. Power & Associates. “We know from the data that people will pay for it.”

connectivity and other capabilities in a wireless phone. Before

ed formidable competitors such as Nokia, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry®, Palm and Motorola. These telecommunication

giants leapfrogged each other every three months, constantly adding innovative features and functions.

Suddenly, with one announcement, Apple changed the

When people have experiences they do not compare them

playing field by changing customers’ expectations of what a

site that sells and transacts, it might be compared to Amazon,

Apple sold 3.7 million iPhones, with one million sales in the

in nice, neat industrial ways. For example, if you have a web one of the best experience companies for process. That’s one

reason to go out-

smartphone should do for them. In the first year of production, two months following its introduction.

Before the iPhone, Apple was primarily a computer com-

side your industry,

pany, not a phone manufacturing company. And its entry into

customer experi-

iPhone was expensive, with a poor camera, no 3G capabilities

look at the best

ence companies, and



apply the insights from them. Even

if you are not in the

the phone market was in many ways a competitive failure. The

(a standard at that time), no keypad and no memory card. But this technologically weak and feature-poor product transformed

customers to enthusiastic advocates at a rate unseen in the smartphone market.

As Apple saw it, success in this market wasn’t about the


technology, the features, the calling plan or the price. While

or content busi-

exactly what it promised — an extraordinary experience. From

market, computer ness,



these insights can come from a company such as Apple — a

company that took bold steps based on customer experience to enter and redefine a market new to it and change smartphone

all those are important ingredients, Apple’s iPhone delivered the time people heard about the iPhone until they became customers and then enthusiastic advocates, the iPhone offered, by far, the best smartphone experience.

Customers flocked to phone stores to replace their old

customers’ lives forever.

phones with the new iPhones. Even though their old phones

Seeing the customer experience opportunity

aesthetics and prestige of Apple’s new product. Most of all, they

The crowd at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco on

January 9, 2007 could barely contain its excitement. A confident Steve Jobs entered the stage, peered out at the suddenly hushed

were quite adequate, they wanted the charm, buzz, coolness, fun, wanted what they heard so much about from iPhone owners — the pleasurable experience of using it.

Best of all for Apple shareholders, the iPhone was extremely

crowd, and confidently announced, “Today, we are going to rein-

profitable. Apple grossed 50 percent on each sale. Furthermore,

to the phone market. Apple launched the iPhone. And in a few

its stock rose 44 percent. The industry and its customers were

vent the phone.” It was a brand-new phone from a company new

Fall 2012

all those successful companies making phones? Some companies

messages, people, processes, products or services affect that

experience. Customer experience companies purposely create

short months the phone industry was changed forever.

What made it a great idea for Apple to enter a market

with large, firmly entrenched corporations that seemed to most


field crowded with tough and experienced competitors. Where

Apple gained 14 percent of the cell phone market in a year, and

so changed that four years would pass before another company, just as new to the phone industry as Apple was in 2007, would directly challenge the iPhone.

Customer Care News

That company was Google, which introduced its Android

had trouble understanding the customer experience advantage

as passionate and committed to anticipating, creating and com-

why Nokia and Research In Motion’s Blackberry® have had

phone in January 2011. And the people at Google are every bit

ing through with remarkable customer experiences as Apple. It is no accident that in the experience revolution, these two Experience Makers, both new to the phone industry, are battling for smartphone supremacy.

Creating the iPhone customer experience

The iPhone offered an innovative experience by intimately

understanding and anticipating what people wanted to do with

their smartphones. The iPhone promised and delivered a pleasurable experience as a phone, an Internet communicator, and a music player.

Apple began studying the market and its competitors at

least three years before it introduced the iPhone. While some

people were having good experiences, most were not. The stylus that phone makers often included to poke and type on the tiny keys of their phones was generally unpopular. It was an enlarged

toothpick-like pointer, a potentially dangerous poker that was

precarious to use. People would worry about where the stylus

of the iPhone. This is likely an important part of the reason difficult times since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. In the smartphone market, they were marginalized by an Experience Maker. If they are to come back, they must at least

be at parity with Apple and Google along the customer experience continuum.

The same approach with the Customer Experience 3Ds can

be said of Apple’s success creating the market for the tablet with the iPad. With an average

selling price of $595 to $645, the iPad sold almost 15 mil-

…SUCCESS wasn’t about

lion units worldwide in 2010

since its introduction in April


created the tablet market by

developing and delivering

The iPhone is a great

in the way. When smartphone owners were focusing on poking

tomer experience that results

from the world around them.

Phone makers promised ease of use. But customers’ actual

experiences were hampered by phones that had cramped key-

boards and tiny hardware pieces that many reviewers and users experienced as feeling “unsure, toy-like or plastic.” Broken promises created an opportunity for Apple to create a better experience.

The smartphone experience that Apple created started

with the elegance of the phone itself and the user experience

or the price.

for mobile customers.

example of how a company

their device, the stylus ultimately disconnected most of them


positive customer experiences

was or even lose it. The real job of the stylus was to help people

adapt to the phone maker’s hardware. However, the stylus got


of that year. Apple purposely

Apple iPhone

can create a complete cusin major success. Apple did its

homework all along the cus-

tomer experience continuum



before it entered the smartphone market. The iPhone

is exemplary. Furthermore, it keeps customers buying

–an EXTRAORDINARY experience.

every time a new iPhone is introduced.

Customer experience is critical to sustainable success today.

that would deliver on the promises made from the beginning

A purposely created customer experience will make a company

user-resistant, fixed-in-plastic buttons and tiny keyboards with

seeing opportunities to be created by customer experience? Are

of the customer experience. For example, Apple replaced the a daring interface. The stylus was replaced with the human

finger — what Steve Jobs called, “The best pointing device in

better, different and more valuable than most others. Are you you next in the customer experience revolution? CCN

the world. One we are born with.” To assure that the screen

Jeofrey Bean is an author, speaker and the principal of Del Mar

developed a screen to interact with people’s fingers by ignoring

wanting to increase the certainty and effectiveness of their deci-

and finger were a gratifying and efficient combination, Apple

unintended touches and hover motions. This intuitive touching

of the screen, or gesture-based interface, allowed users to “flick” This is very much like the experience of turning the pages of a book in real life. It is natural, engaging and, for many, fun.

iPhone’s lure confounded many competitors. Some of them

sions about product and service development, as well as marketing

and customer experience leadership. He is the author of the new

business leadership book The Customer Experience Revolution:

Fall 2012

through a menu, between photos, or from one screen to the next.

Research & Consulting, LLC. He is also an advisor to companies

How Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks Have

Changed Business Forever, with Sean Van Tyne. He can be reached at


The Customer Experience Revolution — Are You Next?  
The Customer Experience Revolution — Are You Next?  

During 2007 and the particularly economic emptiness of 2008 it became very noticeable that there were a group of companies, large and small,...