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Customer Experience Magic

December 3, 2012

polar conductorIn 1830, rail transportation was high-tech. In 2012, much of it uses the same technologies as trains on the original 30 miles of track in the US. By 1848, there was a train station in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. Yesterday it was the station to board the Polar Express. The station was quaint, built at a time of fewer and smaller people. Two middle aged women sat behind a small table with a box full of paper tickets, grouped, and arranged alphabetically. I waited and checked my phone. As I received our three adult and one child allotment, I asked one of the women if only children would receive a silver bell from “Santa.” Upon her affirmation, I quietly explained that the young man with us was special, and how he’d be thrilled to receive a bell from the big guy. She understood. The silver haired woman in red moved, whispered to the “Conductor,” and then stealthily walked back to the gift shop for more whispering. As I looked at my phone and attempted to set up a photo, I felt a light tug of my vest pocket. The woman had slipped a silver bell in there for Kyle. “You’re all set,” she said, smiling. Now I had to get the bell to “Santa.”

I browsed Facebook, Twitter, and my WordPress stats as we waited to board. It wasn’t very cold, but my five year old granddaughter was, so her mother and I traded off holding the little girl while encouraging her to magically “be lighter.” As we approached the stairs to board, the little blond was gazing up. The “Polar Express” must have looked massive to her growing perspective. We were the last in, but our seats faced each other and were separated by a small table with four ceramic mugs. We’d be having hot chocolate! Sure enough, a young man dressed in white, complete with a chef’s hat poured, and a matching young lady served chocolate chip cookies. Everyone had hot chocolate, warm cookies, and matching smiles. After 30 minutes or so of songs,  book readings, a visit from “the hobo,” and phone play, we pulled into the “North Pole.” Kyle questioned our location, but quickly ended his inquiry when he saw the man in the red suit outside. Or maybe it was my explanation about global warming melting the polar ice cap…

polar santaChristmas music was playing, and suddenly elves appeared! “Hey Dad, that elf looks just like the guy who served us hot chocolate,” said Kyle. I assured my son he wasn’t  but Kyle insisted, “no, that’s him.” I filibustered the proceedings with, “I hope the fat guy doesn’t hear you saying that.” Kyle quietly looked toward the back of the train for Santa’s arrival… I passed the time scanning Facebook. Finally, the jolly man lumbered toward us. Unseen by Kyle, I held out the silver bell to the very reasonable facsimile and said softly, “this is for the young man next to me.” “What’s your name,” he bellowed to my boy…

It was magic, and there was little technology involved. No matter how magical the engineering of this year’s gadgets or any technology product, the experience is delivered by human beings. At Kronos, our workforce management products save organizations millions of dollars each year, but the experience is delivered by interface designers, engineers, project managers, consultants, trainers, tech support engineers, and even marketing types, many the customer never sees. The customer experience magic they deliver (or don’t deliver) defines our success or failure. What magic are you delivering on behalf of your customers? Oh, and put away the damn phone. There’s no magic in there.

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most
real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

The Conductor in The Polar Express

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