The story starts with me. I am an avid outdoors type person. I love having good ski, snowboard, mountain bike, kayak and hiking gear. I generally buy nothing short of the best as I've found myself in places where your life depends upon your equipment.
Recently I bought some Vibram hiking boots from Mountain Equipment Co-op. They basically wore out in about a year despite the fact they were only one of 6 pairs of footwear I used in that year. This includes the gaping holes in the toes and any of the plastic area. I called MEC which were very helpful but they said my best bet was to talk to Vibram myself. I went to the website twice now and left messages telling someone what happened and asking at the very least if they would contact me. I feel the quality of the boots is real bad and could have been possibly improved by the company examining them (I will otherwise not use them anyways).
Now while I rant about other companies on this blog with similar story (Rheem Water Heaters, Hillcrest Plumbing - both criminals IMO and The evil City Center Florists), I also want to commend companies that do really good things with customer experience. I recently made a post applauding Marriott Hotels for outstanding customer experiences. I've had similar great experiences with Shaw Cable Group, Delta Faucets (great warranty service) and others like Mountain Equipment Co-op.
So what are the lessons to be learned here?
1. If you run a company, you can no longer ignore the power of the people to spread bad news of horrible experiences via social media such as blogs, twitter, facebook etc. A simple person like myself can put such a message out and it will eventually reach potentially millions of your customers.
2. I would suspect people are much more motivated to spread negative experience than good ones. Companies like Vibram and ignore your customers when they have serious and legitimate complaints, it will hurt you. Just read the follow on messages on the City Center florists blog post about how others reacted to their deceptive and illegal business practices - http://technoracle.blogspot.com/2010/03/vancouver-city-centre-florists-use.html
3. You need a platform to reconcile the multiple channels of experience into a single view at your company. This should take into account social media activities as well as data from existing business processes and CRM type systems.
4. Understanding the context of an experience is essential. This will probably involve ontology work or semantics for a shared understanding of the possibilities, meaning and concepts within an experience, with inside of and outside of the enterprise.
5. The old way of doing business is dead! Big multinationals cannot simply adopt the Ostrich move (stick your head in the sand until danger goes away). YOu must be proactive in ensuring your customers have the best experience or they will not be your customers much longer.
In closing, if I owned stock in Vibram, I'd be selling it as fast as I can. Bad experience, shoddy workmanship and no desire to communicate with customers are a recipe for financial disaster.