I'm a pretty old dude as I see when I take a good hard look in the mirror each morning. I'm 56 years old - a ne plus ultra age for a baby boomer. I went to Northwestern University during 1967-71, the height of campus radical activity, and, trust me, I engaged big time. Becoming a liberal democrat was a dramatic move to the right for me.
As a result, I have a heavy duty love of boomer era music - the true classics of my time. It ranges wide - from the harder blues/rock of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Cream on the one side to the more poignant "love-when-you're-20-and-don't-know-what-you-are-feeling" music of Carole King and the peaceful sweetness of James Taylor. I've heard both Carole King (writer of the post-mentioned tune) and James Taylor each sing "You've Got A Friend," differently and wonderfully somewhere north of a quintillion times on FM radio, XM radio. Sirius radio, Internet radio; via CD, DVD, and MP3 - the latter, of course, ensconced on an IPod. I've heard them via Rhapsody's streaming services in their on-demand version of this incredibly well-traveled song. I love that song no matter who sings it and where I hear it.
But...there is this particular version, see, I have of it as an MP3 that resides on my IPod as part of a concert that Carole King gave at Carnegie Hall in some unidentified year (what I really mean by unidentified is that I can't remember. I SAID I was 56). This particular version makes me cry or at least well up to the top every single time I hear it. Without exception. It is a duet sung right after James Taylor makes a surprise appearance on the stage with Carole King. I always imagine that he appears with that serene, slightly wry, slightly goofy grin he has when he's happy or at least gives the appearance of being happy.
Know what makes me cry - not in big outbursts but light streams streaking my face?
More than that - the audience's absolute DELIGHT In seeing James Taylor appear unexpectedly and their clear roar of JOY when he does (check out the audio below).
Know why I cry? Because for a brief second, brief moment, even via the MP3 this is - I just KNOW what the whole audience and each member of the audience is FEELING. Total excitement, personal delight, audience happiness, nostalgia, each individual's memories of something from another era which they at least think was happier and simpler than their lives are now; their youth, the anticipation of something that they already remember from 30 years before. It's the whole crowd, it's each individual - that singular person and the screaming crowd's massive conglomeration of concentrated singular moments that are ONLY theirs that they share for an instant with every single other person there. Its a connection that you feel driving right through the bit rates, the sampling rates, the code compliation, the codecs and all those distribution media and channels whether its a CD, DVD, or hard drive; an internet, satellite or terrestrial radio or even a TV set, right into your heart and soul. Its something that is social and possibly profound but may not be an important turning point in any member of the audience's life at all. But then, maybe it was. And I FEEL it every-single-time I listen to this file in an MP3 format called "You've Got a Friend" by Carole King with James Taylor. Its not the performance, nor is it the file or even just the song (though I love the song). Its the people - each, every and all of them. It is something that makes this an experience, not a thing. One that reaches in and grabs and holds.
I DARE ANY OF YOU reading this to tell me that you've never had a moment like this in your life - or even many moments. The moment isn't long. Its not transcendant. I don't think about God and the Greater Good. I connect with a particular crowd on a particular night who had a particular moment with particular performers who reminded each of them that there was something else that existed wonderfully in their life for a moment some other time and they shared that with each other member of this audience - leading to the roar of total delight you hear on this clip below. It may not have been an important moment but it was a beautiful one that has its own meaningful value - which was different but shared for that few seconds.
Frankly, most of you aren't gonna cry when you hear this because this is a valued moment for me - my experience with that social group a.k.a. the audience. I don't doubt that many of them are my age - and many of you may be but you may not be either. So what I'm going to do is two things. First, I'm going to put two audio clips up - one the studio version of a part of this song by Carole King and the other the audience version. Listen to the difference in HER singing. You'll see what I mean by a social connection big time. Second, I'm going to provide a guest commentary from my exceptionally brilliant friend and fellow guru - Graham Hill. Graham, who I've mentioned here several times before is one of the most astute and original thinkers in the CRM world. He is based in Europe and travels here on occasion - mostly for CRMGuru events - because he is a fellow board member with me. His commentary is always both riveting and at the same time has a distinct and unique flavor to it because he is the only person I know who can bring neurobiology to CRM and make it work. So, blogists, bloggettes, RSSers or whatever you blog readers are called, here's the audio. Crank up your volume so you can get a true sense of this marvelous crowd (I hope you do but I won't hate you if you don't.). And, note to RIIA, don't sue me. My intentions are pure.
Now here's Graham and pay close attention to what he says. You'll see what I am and what I mean. The lessons for all of you wrestling with both new business models and love in your lives.
Your posting is a brilliant example of a number of themes that are starting to run though our developing understanding of the "social customer". First, it shows how the customer is a social animal, influenced by what other customers (concert goers) do and in turn influencing others. The recent discovery by neuroscientists of "mirror neurons" that allow us to sense what is happening to others and to respond appropriately is behind much of this. So are many other recent discoverys collectively bundled under the catch-all of behavioural economics.
Second, it shows how the customer experience is where the action is today. Not the provision of goods or even services, but the "value in use" of them extracted during the experience of their consumption. The role of marketing changes in the process too, from the traditional one of converting goods into goods sold, to one of embedding goods & services into the experience and all the things that go with that. Value in use as perceived by the customer is the long overdue counterpart to the lifetime value of customers that so many companies aspire to. It nicely balances out the currently heavily lop-sided customer value equation.
Third, it shows how importance the co-creation of experiences by performers and customers is. A performer without an audience is just playing for himself, an audience with out a performer is just a crowd waiting to happen, but put them together and mix them around a bit and something special happens. And you get your very special concert. And what goes for a concert at one end of the scale goes equally for individual customers interacting with companies too. Co-creation occurs in many ways: through customer driven-innovation as lead customers innovate for themselves and others, through customer-generated media like the recent Chevy Tahoe / Apprentive contest and through customer recommendations which McKinsey reckons is behind a whopping 60-70% of ALL purchase decisions.
Finally, (as the list of themes is getting dangerously long), it shows the importance of bring together different individuals or groups with different capabilities to stage the experience. No one company can afford to be an island any more. Capabilities are combinations of knowledge, skills, experience & other resources that create value for customers. A concert includes not only the lead vocals and on-stage musicians, but the crew that supports the concert, the promoters that market the concert, all the way to the concert hall owners. Take away any of them and the whole things stops working. Just like when you take away customer service in a business the business slowly grinds to a halt surrounded by angry customers, depressed staff and lots of bad press.
Oh and one more thing, lest we forget. It is the customer who decides what is valuable, not the company. If you enjoyed the concert, it was great, it was memorable, it was the stuff of legend. But if you didn't, well, you wouldn't be writing this posting would you?
Thank you, Graham Hill. Very, very smart dude isn't he?
So that's it. deeply personal, big crowds, business lessons learned, cool and really intense stuff that just feels awesome, and something that makes you realize that its really GREAT to be human and alive. Life can just be grand sometimes can't it?