What Pono Can Teach Us About Retail and the Customer Experience

Pono, which in Hawaiian means “righteous” or “goodness” is an audio player that’s capable of playing music at the same quality at which it was recorded. When I read about Pono on NPR, a project that Neil Young, plus a talented team of tech and design folks, have been working on for 2 ½ years, I smiled. I enjoy music and also saw some parallels between its path over the last few decades and retail.

Most of us are now listening to music that’s been compressed onto an MP3 file that we can carry in our pockets on a smart phone or player. But there’s been a price we’ve all paid for this convenience and portability. According to Neil, we’re getting about 5% of the original sound produced during the studio recording. Prior to the MP3, we had CD’s, which gave us about 15% of the true sound.

The musical and emotional connection between the artists and the fans has been compromised. We’re not hearing what the artist/producer wanted us to hear and we’ve become satisfied with it.

This is very similar to the path that retail has taken. Many years ago, there were only small independently owned shops in your town. True merchants, who knew your name, took care of you and created a real experience. Then malls, big box and on-line stores started to spread like kudzu. “Convenience”, “potential cost savings” and “lots of stuff” drew us in. Similar to the music we’ve been listening to from our pockets, our retail experiences have been watered down and compressed.

Our work is primarily in the specialty retail and manufacturing sectors, focused on cycle, running and outdoor. Activities that we’re personally involved in but more importantly understand and teach the value of an excellent customer experience in a in a retail environment. Micro communities are forged, (we call it “TribeBuilding.”) True connections are made. Trust and loyalty is earned.

Early in the book “The Human Brand” by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske, they write:
     
                          “Early humans developed a kind of genius for making two specific
                            kinds of quick judgments: What are the intentions of other people
                            toward me? And how capable are they of carrying out those intentions?
                            Social psychologists call these two categories of perception warmth
                            and competence, and they drive most of our emotions and behavior
                            toward other people – and in today’s modern world, toward businesses too.”

Just as I want to feel the warmth and competence in a retail environment for a great customer experience,  Neil Young is passionate about the Pono project so we can hear the intended warmth and competence of music as it was originally produced.

Is your business offering MP3 or original studio quality customer experience?

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