Putting the “Signature” in a Signature Experience

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Chris O'Leary

I’d like to thank my good friend and colleague, Chris O’Leary for sharing the following stories about several memorable “signature experiences”… Frank

Chris writes…

In the work that I do with customers and clients, a concrete example of a signature experience is often worth more than all the theory and process in the world. For that reason, I find myself being alert to and collecting examples of signature experiences, storing them away for later use.

Over the past several weeks I have observed two of these signature experiences that made an impression on me, and I thought I would share them with the readers of this space. The first occurred while my bride and I were honeymooning in Prague at the Prague Marriott. As a Platinum member of Marriott’s loyalty program, we were treated very well even though we were traveling on points and not paying for the room. The last night we were there, we called down to request our Platinum welcome gift, which more often than not is pretty modest, often consisting of no more than a package of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies! When we ordered, we were asked if the gift was for one person or two (!!).  Soon, they brought up an impressive dish with 6 pieces of salmon, each prepared a different way, and a full size bottle of wine. In all the times that I have stayed at a Marriott, I have never been asked the “one person or two” question, and certainly never received such an exquisite welcoming gift. My wife and I enjoyed it very much!

Then earlier this week, we had to go to the AT&T store in Waltham, MA to sign a piece of paper needed for a change in our account (it’s an iPhone thing, I guess). The account rep (James) there was terrific, not only doing the paper transaction, but also completing the rest of the changes to our account that we wanted to make, accomplishing in one hour what we had been trying to do online and on the phone for a month. But what made an impression on us was the story that he told about one of his customers earlier in the day.

That earlier customer was buying an iPhone for his wife’s birthday and was transferring her existing number over to the new phone, which would necessarily result in her losing service at some point during the day. That prompted a discussion with James about how to handle the gift giving, expressing surprise and puzzlement about the service interruption, how to package the gift, etc. While the customer was completing some paperwork, James excused himself and went next door to the wine store, where he purchased “a nice bottle of Riesling” and two wine gift boxes. He suggested to his customer that the wine go in one and the phone in the other, and that he present the gift that way. Obviously, James understood that his job at that moment was not to sell a phone, but to craft an extraordinary occasion for his customer and his wife.

What do these signature experiences have in common? I would suggest that there are three aspects of these experiences that constituted the “signature.” First, in both cases there was the element of pleasant surprise. Second, in both cases, the AT&T customer and I ended up feeling good about ourselves, about our performance as a husband and how well we were treated. Finally, the “experience” was less about the transaction or the touchpoint, and more about the time with loved ones that was enabled.

For me, the signature experience was not when I ordered the Platinum gift, but when I enjoyed that gift with my new wife. For the AT&T customer, the signature experience was not buying the phone, but when he presented the gift in the way that James had suggested. And though I have no way of knowing, I imagine that he told his wife the story of how that all occurred, which made her feel great, because someone she loved had been treated with such individual care and creativity.

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