Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Customer Experience Oasis

Hi!  I was on vacation last week celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary.  They took us on Oasis of the Seas which is, in a word, gobsmacking.  You've got to see it up close to believe it.  Have a look at this video and you'll understand why.  But, truly, you need to be on the ship to appreciate it.

Why Not?
Do you know what my favorite part of this video is?  It's their stated commitment to bring more and more "why not" experiential moments to their customers.  After all:
  • Why not have the first living park at sea?
  • Why not have the first Atlantic City style Boardwalk at sea complete with hand carved carousel and an aqua theater?
  • Why not have 2 story loft style staterooms?
  • Why not have 25 different dining options?
  • Why not have a full size basketball court and two flowrider simulators?
  • And there are so many others...

I won't cover the actual service displayed by their employees nor the fact that this is actually a logistics company operating under the guise of a cruise line (that will come later).  We both know that it's an occupational hazard of mine to pay attention to service delivery and execution of fine details -- I'd say they knocked it out of the park during this trip.

It's the experience, stupid.
So, of course that's a riff on Bill Clinton's 1992 election strategy...  The point is that as the economy was in '92, so is experience in this example today.  Anything that deviates from focusing on brand promise and the actual delivery of the brand promise in the form of exquisite customer experience is a waste of time.

As you know, I'm a big fan of #CXO tweetchat.  Yesterday's was about the blending (or sometimes not) of marketing and customer experience.  We talked about when customer experience begins, who owns it, if marketing initiatives impact it and the relationship between the brand promise and experience.  During the chat, it occurred to me that my trip was a living example of a perfect symbiotic blend between the brand promise, the marketing and the actual customer experience.

There's the courting...
Royal Caribbean has created a vibrant, interactive site and has presence on most social platforms to create a pre trip experience.  Their YouTube channel has their own content and they also encourage fans to upload their own as well as part of the "Nation of Why Not" site.  This smartly complements traditional marketing to stimulate purchase, helps stem buyer's remorse post purchase and encourages excitement for your upcoming trip (also helps keep the magic alive when all you have is memories of your past trip).

And then you fall in love...
When on board, you have the marriage of the magic of what is promised to the magic of what is.  I won't lie - I knew it would be good but couldn't guess at the volume of goodness.  And, it would be impossible to do it justice by writing it all down which is why I shared the video.  Suffice it to say that from beginning to end, I was constantly amazed by all of the (not so obvious) things I discovered thanks to their choice of a "why not" mindset in their customer experience design and delivery.

Why not ask why not?
The lack of boundaries (in a good way), the pushing of limits, the asking of "why not" helps to create the magic of what is promised that is paid off by the magic of what is.  It speaks to focus on knowing your product, where you succeed in delighting others, exquisite marketing and (most importantly) exquisite delivery.

The point: it is possible to have a symbiotic relationship between the promise and delivery.  We can all do better.  How are you going to do just that?

If you liked this post, please comment, tweet and share with others!  I'd love to hear from you.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef



  1. Don't you just love when an experience meets your expectation and better yet exceeds it? They say "under promise and over deliver" but it seems here that they over promise and even over delivered. Love it!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Natasha! It was a customer experience expert's dream case study. I wish you could see their system for efficiently disembarking passengers from the trip when it was over. An operational love story if I've ever seen one!

  3. I love the post. You're right it is a great example of what we were discussing. All of those "that was cool!" moments are ultimately what makes the experience rise above and totally fits with the "why not" expectation that was set.

    I have a devil's advocate question for you. I don't really know the best way to phrase it, so I hope it's clear. When we talk about these over-the-top experiences (things where the experience element is obvious), do you think some of the principles of great cx get lost on those who need to hear it most? Do the owners and executives then dismiss CX as something for cruise ships, restaurants and theme parks? I ask these not to challenge, but as honest thoughts I've recently had, and you post just brought them again to my mind.

  4. Hi Brian! Thanks for stopping by and for your excellent points! Your question is a good one but I'd suggest that the success Zappos has had in delighting customers with small moments of experience, for example, could be a good counterpoint.

    I think the biggest mistake we all make is that we have to be over the top 100% of the time to make people happy. Truth be told, the best moments I had on this cruise were the very small niceties extended to me by their staff such as this one, "if you go on this excursion, bring extra sunscreen with you as the wind can burn you as the sun can burn you." That didn't come from the excursion manager, that came from a server.

    The best experiences, IMHO, are a blend of the small and big moments. If all we had were big moments, we'd stop appreciating them or categorize them for others as you rightly suggested.

  5. That's exactly my point :) I think great CX IS in the details. To me those are the "that was cool" moments that get people talking. I guess my point was not so much tho about big or small moments as it was about which examples/environments we choose to highlight. When we use the example of a cruise living up to the hype, does say a product manufacturer or supplier or bank then dismiss the ideas because they see them as irrelevant? Do we lose voice? I'm not saying we necessarily do or even needing a response, just thinking aloud.

  6. You're right that it's easy to dismiss good service by saying "oh, that's just the nature of XX industry." I think there are multiple examples in retail (Nordstrom and Zappo's) that are more "accessible" which would be good counter arguments.

    At the end of the day, we make good servicing and experience seem like more effort than it actually is. It really can just be a heartfelt "thank you" instead of an over the top display of affection.