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PEOPLE Spelling and superheroes


Each year at their thinkAbout event, Pine and Gilmore choose one standout business as the recipient of their annual EXPY award to honour their exceptional contribution to the client experience. Last year it was awarded for the first time to a non-profit organisation called 826 National. The business is a network of eight writing and tutoring centres that help under-resourced students aged 6 to 18 explore their creativity and improve their literacy.


To show this perfectly applied in a business setting, Pine and Gilmore use the example of Joie de Vivre Hotels and the company’s founder Chip Conley – who’s a past recipient of an EXPY award. In the late 1980s, Conley bought the Phoenix, a rundown motel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and decided to theme it around Rolling Stone magazine. But instead of being an overt homage to what many consider the bible of rock, Conley went through past issues and extracted five principles he felt summed up its essence. Pine says: “They were: adventurous, hip,


funky, irreverent and young-at-heart. Conley thought if he could capture the sense of the magazine, everyone who loved it would love his hotel. And it worked. Without having to put an oversized guitar in the lob- by, the Phoenix became the place for bands to stay when they played San Francisco.” Conley went on to create venues such as the Hotel Rex, themed around New Yorker magazine, and the Hotel Carlton, themed around National Geographic. He now has a portfolio of hotels, restaurants and spas.


34 LEISURE HANDBOOK 2014


Pine says: “What’s interesting is the planners stopped them opening up their first tutoring business in a retail zone, so their answer was to put up a fun little store in front of it. Their first was a Pirate Supply store selling hooks and eye patches and wooden legs. Every place they go now they open up a store. In Brooklyn, there’s a Superheroes store. It also helps take away some of the stigma of kids having to walk in for extra tutoring.”


Pine and Gilmore’s formula for creating memorable experiences revolves around their THEME acronym: n Theme the experience – design around a dominant organising principle.


n Harmonise impressions with positive cues – create memories with signals from the space (set) or the staff (ensemble).


n Eliminate negative cues – remove whatever runs counter to the theme or desired impressions.


n Mix memorabilia – let guests attach memories to physical objects they actually use in the experience.


n Engage all five senses – richly stage all sensory phenomena. Gilmore says eliminating negative cues is the most simple to address, yet often the most overlooked. “Anything that doesn’t contribute to the theme is a negative cue. It might be something as simple as a staff member who doesn’t smile.” As a model of good practice, Gilmore cites the John Robert’s hair salons in Ohio, which from the start in the 1990s focused on creating a personal guest experience.


Gilmore says new customers are given a white gown to wear, while regulars are given black, enabling staff to tailor their greeting without that client ever knowing they’ve been signposted. Similarly, instead of the receptionist having to tell a stylist their next client has arrived within earshot of a current client – potentially creating the negative cue of making them feel rushed – the stylist is buzzed via a device hidden in their pocket.


BRAVE NEW WORLD Of course, the world has moved on since the publication of The Experience Economy, and social media is responsible for creating a whole layer of consumer experience. Pine explains: “You learn about a place much more readily from other people now. Your first impression may not come from discovering it yourself, but from friends or strangers. Pine cites the now-celebrated example of musician Dave Carroll, who had no offer of compensation from United Airlines when luggage handlers broke his guitar. So instead he took to YouTube with a song of complaint entitled United Breaks Guitars. “The song went viral within hours and attracted over 12 million hits on YouTube. It’s estimated that United’s stock price dropped 15 per cent as a result. That’s the power of social media” says Pine. Interestingly, while Pine is passionate about new technologies (he recently co-authored Infinite Possibility – Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier with Kim Korn), Gilmore confesses to being averse to such “anti-social” pursuits as Twitter and doesn’t own a mobile phone. Perhaps like many successful partner- ships, Pine and Gilmore’s personalities and skills are complementary rather than similar. “He likes cigars, I don’t. He’d spend time at Disney, I wouldn’t,” jokes Gilmore.


www.leisurehandbook.com


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