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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough

How seriously committed are you to reinventing your customer experience? If you aren't, you may want to reconsider as Jonathan Tisch's latest book titled Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough: Reinventing The Customer Experience offers many compelling reasons to do so.

"Today's consumers are looking for something more - a relationship with an organization that will truly enrich their lives." That means providing them with experiences that are "unique, memorable, delightful, comfortable and deeply rewarding" - something that an accomplished hotelier like Tisch is committed to!

We've certainly heard before how many of the tried and true ways of doing business just don't work anymore. We live in a world where consumers feel diminishing loyalty towards many brands, increased price sensitivity, and innumerable choices. Furthermore, she's newly empowered, armed with information and greatly suspicious. No more taking customers for granted. No more assuming they will be satisfied. No more assuming they will stay with us 'til death do us part!

Not only does traditional mass advertising no longer work, but our traditional methods of keeping track of our customers' attitudes [i.e., intrusive surveys, focus groups and diaries] are simply ignored. After all, who has the time?

However, IF we craft customer experiences of such caliber and amazement that our consumers willingly return for more and zealously promote us via word-of-mouth recommendations, they will then generously offer their opinions, suggestions and attitudes. So why not focus on creating better experiences to forge stronger and longer lasting ties with our customers?

So explains Tisch using a multitude of wide-ranging examples.

Tisch refers to Proctor & Gamble's efforts to better understand how consumers live, and identify their frustrations/irritants. Armed with that information, they can develop products that absolutely delight consumers. This article from the May/June 2007 issue of THE HUB titled Moments of Truth focuses on Dina Howell at P&G, and the company’s shopper marketing efforts. It discusses efforts to not only understand how people live, but also how they use products. Note the reference to 'shopper marketing'.

Tisch's emphasis on the total consumer experience delights me. If you refer back to STORY Brings Brands to Life, and the statement 'it may not be my fault, but it is my problem', you start to capture the mindset that the book describes. Refer, too, to Stephanie Weaver and Customer Experience Definitions - Finale. The opportunity is to transform the thinking about customers into considering them as guests. Which means that we need to act like HOSTS and welcome our guests at every opportunity.

As I read the book, I can't help but have flashes of Paco Underhill's insights... Luckily, Tisch refers specifically to Paco in a section about the Art of the Welcome. However, before that section he makes points about the need to be a consumer [or a retail anthropologist for that matter] and pay attention to how you interact with your experiences. In other words, become totally customer-centric; understand every aspect of your experience, including those of your employees. After all, they are the ones to deliver the experience to customers.

Here is the wide range of companies that Tisch highlights: In N Out Burger, Dell Computers, Tufts University, Sephora, and Commerce Bank. He touches on the reinventation taking place via Lifestyle Centers and the influence of New Urbanism [see Southlake Town Center: A Lifestyle Center, Atlanta's Atlantic Station - A Lifestyle Center and An Architect's View of Better Lifestyle Centers]. He addresses healthcare transformation with new models like Virgin Life Care, and Revolution Health that borrow successfully from hospitality to offer patients a more holistic approach.

He considers spaces that welcome referring to Morris Lapidus and the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Here is how Tisch codifies Lapidus' rules:
- eliminate corners
- use sweeping lines
- create unusual effects with light
- use plenty of color [my personal favorite]
- create a sense of drama
- keep changing the floor levels
- keep people moving
- remember that people are attracted to light [the moth complex]

About Paco Underhill he says: he captures the "fascination with the challenge of creating great public spaces and an intense curiosity about people, their emotions and behaviors." Tisch brings up: Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People all retail environments that are "less about selling to customers than about welcoming them and enveloping them in a world that is relaxing, engrossing, surprising, and rich."

He examines the news world, made familiar through his experience with Open Exchange. CNN has successfully challenged viewer assumptions. The Harrisburg International Airport, Target with their new approach to prescription drug packaging, and Microsoft's focus on security have all successfully anticipated users' needs.

EZ Pass, NYC 311, TripAdvisor, and FlyerTalk represent examples of organizations that not only facilitate the dissemination of information, but also are transparent in how they make information available. In fact, the transparency eases the dissemination.

Examples of companies that have embraced customization include Tc2 or Textile Clothing Technology Corporation, Land's End and My Virtual Model, PhotoStamps, and Build-A-Bear Workshop. In so doing, they delight their customers.

Models for community building [which by the way leads to unbelievable loyalty and word-of-mouth endorsements] include Harley-Davidson and its HOG members, eBay and PayPal, MySpace, and politics as exemplified by Howard Dean and the Democratic Party's site.

Tisch talks about the publishing industry and it just so happens that the New York Times ran this article titled The Greatest Mystery: Making A Best Seller By SHIRA BOSS on 5/13/2007. There's an opportunity waiting to be discovered!

The museum industry also represents opportunity to redefine the customer experience The Children's Museum of Manhattan [interestingly, in the Tisch building], as do Starbucks and HearMusic.

Here are some of the followup questions I submitted to Mr. Tisch. I will post his responses when I receive them.

+ How has the book affected the evolution of the Loew's customer experience? Did some examples/cast studies hit home more than others? Which ones?

+ Re: the chapter on diversity. Some hotels have made a big effort in recognition of women's changing roles in business [and increasing work-related travels] to attract them. How is Loew's reacting? Has that caused any friction and how have you addressed that? What about other non-traditional groups?

+ Consumers' value equations are changing across categories including hospitality. They expect more for less money, and are getting it. How is Loew's reacting?

+ What are the various tools that Loew's uses to monitor consumers and changes in the marketplace? Which are most valuable? How do you manage all of these tools? How do you transfer the insights to the organization? How do you keep the process fresh?

The book title generates discussion. When I brought it with me to a dentist appointment, I wound up in an intense discussion with my dentist's sister who had been an avid viewer of Now Who's Boss? [this is a program transcript CRM Mastery E-Journal].

Chocolates on the Pillow is an excellent read, filled with non-traditional and wide-ranging examples that will definitely get you thinking about the customer experience in general, and your customer experience specifically.

For other perspectives on the book consider the following:
+ Customers Rock! Are Chocolates On The Pillow Enough?
+ Customers Are Always Jonathan Tisch Helps Reinvent
+ Experience Manifesto's Chocolates On The Pillow and Amazon.com: Chocolates on the Pillow
+ Converstations' Review Chocolates On The Pillow
+ The Orlando Sentinel Chocolates On The Pillow
+ Ad Age's Bookstore Review of Chocolates On The Pillow.

Finally, this Forbes Magazine from 2004 provides a background on Tisch's previous book, "The Power of We".

Disclosure - I received a free review copy of this book.

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