Monday, November 7, 2016

What I Learned About Customer Experience From The World Series

In my 53 years on earth, I’ve never been a sports fan. I don’t play anything, don’t watch anything, and don’t have steadfast loyalties to any league, jersey number or team.

But, I found myself in an interesting situation this past week while in Columbus, Ohio for a 3-day conference and wound up at game 7 of the World Series. That’s right! A colleague who I work with in Root’s Chicago office convinced me to make the road trip to Cleveland to see our hometown team play because even without being a diehard baseball fan, this was sure to be a once in a lifetime experience. Well…since I am ALL about experience, my interest was piqued; we spent an unreasonable amount of money to secure tickets through Stub Hub and headed to Cleveland.

At the risk of sounding cliché, from the moment we arrived there was magic brewing. There was palpable excitement in the air coupled with the nostalgic smell of hot dogs, and roasted peanuts being peddled throughout the stadium. The stadium was buzzing with passion oozing from loyal fans of both teams wearing their team’s colors at every turn. Pete Rose was commentating from his box and Bill Murray and Charlie Sheen were there as celebrity representatives of each side.

Masses of people set out to find their seats and settle in to witness a little piece of history. The hour and a half chunk of time of our early arrival flew by in the blink of an eye as I took in every sight, sound and smell in that stadium. Once friends, family and colleagues learned I was at the game, my phone was blowing up with text messages.

“You are at the game?!?!”

“You are part of something really big right now!”

“You are literally witnessing history!”

My colleague and I sat in our seats, in full business attire, having impulsively come straight from a conference, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the sea of jerseys, logoed shirts and hats and even painted faces. But still I didn’t feel out of place. As a matter of fact, fans from both teams welcomed us into this special  community with open arms. I was part of this little club now that I barely knew existed.

And every text message and comment from my friends and the crowd was spot on. I witnessed freaking history. Sports fan or not, it was impossible NOT to get caught up in the energy and excitement of what I was watching.

That’s when I realized something – all of this was not about the “game”, it was about the experience. It was about everything that experience represented – the fans, the food, the celebrity. It was about a moment in time where you feel like you are part of something big. And it was about the support, engagement and camaraderie of the community of people sharing this moment in time with one another. I left the game vowing to be loyal to the Cubs forever and to go to as many of their games as I can next season, I have found myself researching the team and the players, learning their names and their history. I had fallen in love!

All of this was making my wheels spin. My work is based around customer experience and I just had one of the most unforgettable ones of my life. So, in my mind, I knew there was a parallel to be drawn regarding business.

And here’s what I came up with. It’s not just about the product or service being sold. Yes, I bought tickets to watch a baseball game, a game between the Cubs and the Indians, but that’s not what it’s all about. The World Series game was the product I bought but what has made me loyal, what will keep me coming back, was the overall experience. For heaven’s sake, I’m still not sure about all of the rules of the game yet or the names of the players.

So, think about that and what your company is doing to create an overall experience that captures the hearts and minds of your new customers, your first timers who may be skeptics or even indifferent to your product or service. What is the experience that you can offer that has them committing to coming back, to learn more about your organization and to want to be part of it.

And huge congrats to the Cubs! It was more than worth getting back at 3 am and having to be up a few hours later because it’s an experience I will never forget!


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