Experience: the essential competitive advantage

I camped on the street last night in front of 1 Stockton, the San Francisco Apple Store.  I’ll be here until 8am tomorrow.

Reporters ask “why?”
It’s a great question.  And it occurs to me that every business should be answering this question, too.
What would make anyone want to camp in line for a new product release?
What would make someone do that in my industry or for one of my products?
What do people in line say?
What do those who pass by say?
How do they feel after the line is done and they’re buying and using the product and service?
(I’ve had some great conversations with the homeless about what a one-man tent costs, or where they sleep and how they live.  What’s it like to talk to people you don’t think of as part of your market, or you wouldn’t normally have a conversation with?)
Of course, the answers must extend beyond marketing, to every aspect of the product, how it is sold, delivered and serviced.
I may be preaching to the choir, but only dinosaurs will keep competing primarily on price, features, or ad dollars. Others have gone on at length about some of the reasons (Seth Godin, for example).
Watching an Apple Store for 24 hours, and talking to people about it is a great example of how all the little details are accounted for, from the security guard who says goodnight to the friendly staff who all greet you with a smile, to the window cleaner who spends 90 minutes here each morning at 6am and the free internet I’m using to type this on a store computer while charging my old iPhone.
I’m not a fan of Apple in particular.  I’m a fan of anyone who understands the power of good design (understood in the broad sense) and delivers a fantastic end-to-end experience.
If you aren’t asking these questions for your business, it’s just a matter of time until someone comes along and eats your lunch by delivering a dramatically improved experience. And they’ll do it without using any special magic, just by paying attention and asking different questions.
If your organization operates in silos with no way to account for the experience a user has throughout the process, expect the same.  Saying “we’re customer focused” doesn’t make it so.  What do your customers say?
The answers you come up with today may be less important than continuing to ask the questions, to be curious, and to be out there talking to people and watching them.
So come join me in line, start asking the questions, looking, and listening, and lets talk about some of the answers.
(I’ve written several posts about the iPhone and User Experience that you might find interesting, perha

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