An outstanding book that should be on everybody’s “must read list” is “The Experience Economy” by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. 

One of their examples is so crystal clear that virtually anybody or any business can relate to it.  It has to do with the price of coffee.  At the commodity level, the cost of beans for a cup of coffee is about two cents.  At the goods level (packaged beans bought at a store), the cost of a cup of coffee is about twenty-five cents.   At a local convenience store the cost of buying an actual cup of coffee is about one dollar.  So, how does Starbucks get four or five dollars for a cup of their coffee? 

At Starbucks it is not just about the cup of coffee.   You also get the Starbucks experience.  There is a certain look, smell, sound – and more.  The stores are designed and the employees are trained to give you the Starbucks experience.

Lexus, one of the top luxury automakers in the world, touts the “Lexus Experience.”  They want buying and driving one of their cars to be an experience, not just a purchase.  And like Starbucks, they are successful at creating the experience.  People are willing to pay more money for a Lexus automobile, not just because they manufacture a great car, but because of the great service and experience they deliver.

Disney is probably the most expensive theme park in the world.  Why go to Disney when you can go to Six Flags or a closer, much less expensive theme park?  Nothing against these other parks, they are a lot of fun and actually pretty nice.  But Disney creates an unbelievable experience for their guests, which is why people will save for years to take a vacation to Florida or California, just to go on a Disney vacation.

So what can we learn from Starbucks, Lexus and Disney?  They create unparalleled value for their customers – or guests – and they do it through creating an experience.

In past “Shepard Letters” I’ve written about creating value – delivering more than the customer expected.  Take it a step further.  What experience can you create?  It can be as advanced as appealing to the five senses, as Starbucks has done.  Or it could be as simple as the perception a customer has when they visit your place of business?  For example, do you have an office that is opulent, modern, old-world, cluttered, serious, fun, small, big, etc.?  What image do you try to create with your office?  What does your customer feel when they walk into your place of business?

Here is a way to start creating the customer experience.  Ask yourself two questions:  1) When my customers or clients do business with me, what do they feel?  2) What do I want them to feel?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you are on your way to not just creating value for your customers and clients, but also creating the experience.

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email:  Web: For information on customer service training, go to  


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