Customer experience, the jazz way

Lessons for customer experience from a master of voice

Over the last couple of days, I have spent a little time with three exceptional musicians: New York's Refuge Trio, made up of Theo Bleckmann, Gary Versace and John Hollenbeck. I was able to take part in a masterclass vocal workshop with Bleckmann, and several of his statements on singing - like so many showbiz ideas - offer excellent insight for customer experience practitioners.

(We spoke in German, and all this is based on my brief notes, so all quotes are no more than "my best attempt" at capturing the meaning.)


The Master on backstage and frontstage
TB: "When you perform, it can feel like a flat film set. It's like behind me is nothing. But that's not true: the music and the energy is all around me."

In experience design, we often think about frontstage and backstage processes - which is a useful distinction. But the interplay between backstage and frontstage is more complex than just boxes arriving from the storeroom.

Theo's words reminded me that the spaces behind the scenes and in front of the scenes share a common energy - one which customers can sense, and staff can be motivated (or demotivated) by. Remember, the frontstage/backstage boundary is real, but it is permeable to more than just product.


The Master on keeping on track
In one musical exercise, Theo had us hold one note while he played other notes. With notes that were further away, this was easy. But when he played the semitones - the closest possible notes - above and below our note, many of us found ourselves sliding off line.

This common singer's exercise offered parallels to the world of motivation, as is being discussed on Wenovski. Wildly different notes were easy to ignore, but the nearly-the-same notes were pure seduction. Similarly, it's not the grouch in the corner who will demotivate you - he's easy to ignore. Instead, it's the people who do pretty much the right things, but with a little less fire and passion for the customer. Their path - the slightly easier path that looks oh so similar - is the dangerous one, as it tempts us to do just a little less.

It's the same with service design. "All the other companies all do it this way - which is nearly the same. Why don't we?"

Answer: because you need to be exceptional.


The Master on intent
TB: "Know what note you are going to sing before you sing it. Intention is important - otherwise things happen out of fear or habit."

I can think of no greater enemies to good customer experience than fear and habit. Fear can be fear of trying something new, or fear of looking the customer in the eye and making human contact; habit is the innovation-killer of "we always do it this way". And fear and habit together are stagnation and boring or bad service.

Theo's advice here is that intention - knowing what we want to "sing" in advance - is the best weapon against these two.

What "song" do you intend to "sing" to your customers?



Photo by Amanda Stockwell from theobleckmann.com

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