Sometimes premium experiences go wrong. Dates slip. Customers are disappointed. Items are out of stock or damaged in delivery. What distinguishes premium experiences from ordinary experiences are the way people interact with stakeholders before, during, and after the experiences, even the experiences gone wrong. The systems premium brands have to recover. Or simply a sincere apology or empathy when the disappointment can’t be overcome or corrected, only responded to with whatever is next.
So, first, an apology. I wrote this post during Day 4 of the #YourTurnChallenge, but didn’t ship. My own fault for forgetting that even though I have a premium business class airfare this trip due to using a Global Upgrade (thanks @DeltaAssist for appreciating my Diamond loyalty last night on Twitter when I mentioned it), my trans-Atlantic flight wouldn’t have that shiny blue WiFi light. So, I didn’t ship. I don’t consider it a failure, but it’s not what I intended. A premium blog (kidding, I don’t get to assign that to my own blog), or a promised expectation – even when only promised to myself – should be met.
It’s sort of like what I imagine the #YourTurnChallenge crew felt when they had to write a letter about what happened with the volume of submissions, with the weak points of their chosen platform showing through – what do we do and say to our audience? But they did what they needed to, and said what they needed to, and then followed up by treating people with respect, responding when they were mentioned, and providing a premium response to those who expressed disappointment. I know, because I mentioned my disappointment along with my pleasure at being motivated to ship my writing more quickly. When I mentioned the disappointment, @JoyceMSullivan immediately responded and searched for my post, Veterans Pay it Forward, (which I had done, but failed to find), and then searched for and linked my second post, Find the Others – Veteran edition. And THEN offered special attention if I would give them another chance with my third post. I didn’t need the special attention for the third post to remain interested – I had already written and posted the third BECAUSE of the attention from their team. I only needed to be heard and encouraged to continue as one of their stakeholders.
But, they didn’t stop there. They ALSO referred me to their philosophy, most recently referred to by Seth Godin in his post Please, Go away about the Big Blue Phone. And that’s a great philosophy. Most people hate to hear about problems, wishing the problem would go away. But it doesn’t. The vocal person with the problem goes away – as a customer, as an advocate, and as someone who could have helped improve the premium experience. And it still didn’t stop there – another of their advocates, @ericrovner checked with me and the first advocate to see if we needed help. And the person running the #YourTurnChallenge, @winniecao, also tuned in. They amplified my original writing too! And garnered more followers for me who were interested in my topics. They read my posts and praised them. And one even subscribed to my newsletter on my site.
I was already someone who echoed Seth’s messages to my team. I already bought a 5 pack of his newest book as a pre-order. But I wasn’t really an aficionado, just an occasional reader who saw value in his work that I could pass on. But now, now he and his team almost certainly have a customer for life. And likely several others on my team who pay attention. And a host of people online who see his work amplified, expounded on, and recommended. Had I been a skeptic this would likely have turned me around. Nice work.
But, that’s still not the lesson. The lesson is that anyone can pick up the premium experience mantle and deliver on it. The people who responded to me appear to be volunteers with no requirement to deliver premium customer service, but they took it on themselves to do so. And every single person out there could do the same thing. Imagine if they did – mediocre brands and services could become premium just by the actions of their people. Why would they? Well, that’s up to them to answer, but for me, and I think for my teams at each of my institutes and organizations, it’s because our stakeholders deserve our best. And, even more, we deserve to give our best, to feel good about what we’ve given. And that might be the lesson – we are the premium people because we choose to be, and that’s all it really takes.
(Posted from the @Westin executive lounge in Frankfurt while I’m waiting for my room. A premium response to a less than premium check-in availability for a 100+ night platinum member. Premium responses are everywhere.)
A version of this post was originally posted at http://www.jamesschmeling.com/premium-experiences/.