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Making Routine Customer Experiences Fun

Most consumption experiences that people have are the routine stuff of life -- filling the gas tank, buying groceries, grabbing a quick lunch. Such tasks for the most part are neither fun nor painful; they're simply things that need to get checked off the list. Indeed, the authors say, they are so neutral that people often choose the seller with little thought and forget the experience in a matter of hours.

Some providers of neutral services want to keep things that way. They want to be so convenient and reliable that people continue to use them unthinkingly. For certain mature service businesses, however, the addition of fun can be an important differentiator. The authors present three case studies taken from industries not known for fun -- furniture retailing, consumer banking and the grocery business -- to show how it can be turned to profitable advantage.

Jordan's Furniture, Commerce Bank and Stew Leonard's operate their basic business models at a very high standard of excellence. But they also have what it takes to make a routine experience into something positive: strong leadership, a clear vision, a discriminating filter for new employees, a focus on hiring for attitudes rather than skills, and the ability to come up with the unexpected. The authors offer some general guidelines and cautionary notes to help managers who may want to try to emulate these successful companies.

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