With the release of my new book, Turn Every Transaction into an Experience, I feel it is necessary to define what I mean by this term. Here is an excerpt from my book:

Let’s start by defining the word experience and contrast it with the word transaction. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, transaction is an exchange or transfer of goods, services or funds, an action or activity involving two parties that reciprocally affect or influence each other. An experience, on the other hand, is: a direct observation of or participation in events, something personally encountered, undergone or lived through, the act or process of directly perceiving events. Perhaps the best way to think about these words is that a transaction is simply exchanging money for something. For instance, a customer gives you a check and you give them a car. An experience is something you remember. Here are some examples of transactions vs. experiences:

  • Picking up your marriage license at City Hall is a transaction. The wedding is an experience.
  • The date of your 25th birthday is a transaction. Your surprise 25th birthday party is the experience.

Having a restaurant greet you by saying, “welcome to ABC,” is a transaction. Being greeted at ABC restaurant by a host who says, “Welcome Mr. and Mrs. Smith Happy 20th anniversary,” is an experience. Danny Meyer, the owner of Union Square Hospitality Group sums this up perfectly when he says, “The companies that are going to prevail realize it’s the quality of the emotional experience that sets them apart. Service is how well something is done technically, hospitality is how it feels emotionally.” People remember and want to share experiences not transactions.

Concentrating on the customer experience is how businesses can build loyalty and profits. In order to be successful at creating a great customer experience, a company must review each customer touch point and determine if the execution of their process at that touch point is a transaction or an experience. Let me share an experience I recently had.

In July I went to Paris with my wife for our 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed at the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe hotel. Now, as someone who spends more nights in a given year away from home than at home, I have a pretty good idea of how hotels execute their processes. Especially those that are customer facing or customer touch points. Yet, what this hotel did I was even impressed with.

When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by a doorman and a bellhop who took our luggage as we made our way to the front desk to check-in. So far nothing too extraordinary. I expected a typical check-in process that is very transactional, i.e. you provide the hotel with your information, including a credit card and they provide you with a key to your room. As I stated earlier, a transaction is basically an exchange and that is what typically happens during a hotel check-in. However, the Renaissance made the check-in process an experience by doing the following: after the gentleman at the front desk took my information he did not hand me the key, instead he escorted me and my wife to the elevators, got on the elevator with us, accompanied us to our room, where he opened the door came inside and showed us all of the room’s amenities. He then handed me the key and as he left our room the bellhop entered with our luggage. I have never experienced this before and can honestly say it wowed me. It wowed me not because it was such a big deal, but because this hotel realized that little things really do matter. They took the transaction of checking into their hotel and made it an experience. The best part is it did not cost them any money, just their time.

If you want to surprise and delight your customers and have them not only return, but also tell their friends about you, then you need to create a story for them that they can share. You can accomplish this by turning every transaction into an experience. By the way, my book tells you how to.