Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Makes It the Greatest Customer Experience on Earth?

Image courtesy of MCAD Library
Do you know what comprises the greatest customer experience on earth? I do. I've seen it twice!

"What? What are you talking about, Annette? Have you been keeping secrets from us?"

Au contraire, mon frere/cher.

Last summer, I took my kids to see a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show. They had such a great time and assured me they wanted to go again the next time the circus was in town. They even asked me last summer if they could go again, but the circus had already left.

As soon as I saw that Ringling Bros. was coming to town this summer, I bought tickets for the three of us. Ironically, it was exactly a year to the date that we went last year.

Of course, after last year's show, I was inspired to write a blog post about The Greatest Customer Experience on Earth. Sitting at the show this past weekend, I knew I'd need to write a follow-up post.

Why? As always, there were lessons to be shared.

I've said before that great experiences should hold the following qualities for the customer:
  • Personal
  • Memorable
  • Remarkable
  • Emotional 
  • Consistent
Without a doubt, the circus covered all of these.

Touching briefly on consistency, I think it is an "umbrella quality." What do I mean by that? Those other four qualities (and any other qualities you may use to describe your greatest experiences) need to describe your every experience with a brand. Always. Every time. Consistently.

I think Ringling Bros. does consistency well; it was like deja vu all over again! I believe this was a delighter for my kids. Although they knew what to expect (always a good thing for kids) from the show in general - right down to PETA protesting outside the arena again - they were still surprised and delighted by the actual performances; they knew it would be great.

Some of the other qualities of this great experience?
  • Well-orchestrated
  • Streamlined and fluid
  • Seamless
  • Attention to details
In addition, the following people skills facilitated how well-orchestrated and seamless the show and the experience were.

Adaptable/Flexible: If something didn't go as planned, e.g., when a tumbler didn't land as expected, they improvised and made it appear as if it was meant to be the way it was executed it. Never missed a beat.
Communication: Announcements before and during the show helped to set expectations; they were proactive and framed as "here's what's about to happen and why." There were also announcements made for safety reasons.
Teamwork:  The different types of performers all worked together to ensure not only each other's safety but also the overall quality of the experience for their guests.
Attitude: Right in line with teamwork, performers didn't take a "not my job" attitude; you could just tell that if one saw something out of line or if someone needed help, any and all chipped in.

Speaking of people and people skills, let's not forget those unsung heroes of the circus, the pooper scoopers: dressed in black to also facilitate the seamless, well-orchestrated experience. As I noted in last year's post, their roles are not glamorous, but they are mission critical. Not only did they scoop the poop but they also set the stage, modified sets, and were like puppet masters for some of the acts. The really cool part is that they were dressed in black so as to not distract from the show. With a black floor and a darkened arena backdrop, these men and women were barely visible.

And finally, any brand well-versed in the language of customer experience knows that listening to customers is essential. Like last year, we were given a card (the same card) with contact information (phone number, address, email address) to provide feedback about the show overall.

What other qualities would you use to describe great experiences?

The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail. -Charles R. Swindoll


  1. Great article, Annette. You almost make me want to go out and buy a ticket for the circus!

    I think you covered most of the major bases in your post revolving around what makes a great customer experience. To elaborate a little on the communication aspect of CX that you mentioned, what makes a company stand out above the rest (all things being equal) is timely and effective follow-up with its customers.

    Thinking back to all of the companies whose websites I’ve visited for support through the years, I can think of one that impressed me beyond my expectation - which is already high to begin with - Grooveshark. Because of their fast, concise, and personalized responses, I've been a paid subscriber of their music service for quite some time now. It's a great feeling to know that, should an issue arise, I will be taken care of with a friendly, if virtual, smile. A company that offers a great product is one thing, but a company which obviously goes out of its way to make you feel like you are their only customer is worth its value in gold nowadays.

    1. Thanks so much, John-Paul. I agree with your point about follow-up... and I think you'll like tomorrow's blog post. :-)

      I like your last sentence: companies that go out of their way to make you feel valued, to make you feel like you're their only customer... that connection, that relationship, that feeling... priceless.

      Annette :-)

  2. Annette, funnily enough I too went to see the circus and it was so good I was compelled to write a post http://www.ginaabudi.com/what-could-you-learn-from-a-bunch-of-clowns/

    More bizarrely the points I picked up on were the very same.

    Maybe there is a book in there for you somewhere

    And you would have some fun researching it.


    1. Ah, great post, James. It appears we did have similar experiences! How crazy (yet cool) is that?! Perhaps there is a book in there somewhere! I've already written two posts on the circus - tomorrow will be a third - I'm guessing people will have their fill after that. ;-)

      Thanks for sharing yours.

      Annette :-)

  3. Hi Annette,
    I haven't been to the circus for a long time but one of the things that I do remember from the circuses that I visited was that everyone tends to have multiple roles. So, when they are not performing they may be the pooper scoopers in black. They do this to manage their headcount and costs but what it also does is keep everyone involved with all aspects of the performance for everyone.

    We could learn a lot from circus groups. They tend to achieve so much with a lot fewer people than we would expect.


    1. That's a great point, Adrian. I actually started watching to see if I recognized people with different hats on (literally and figuratively) because they were all multitasking. It was so well-orchestrated; they never missed a beat. And I'm guessing that 99.999999% of the population never even thinks to look for those things - they just enjoy the show (as they should).

      Annette :-)

  4. What an eye opener this post has been for me. Very much appreciated it, have also bookmarked it, and I can’t wait for more !