How Rock Concerts Reinforced What I Knew About the Client Experience

Exclamation Labs has grown quite a bit over the last five years, so for the last ten months or so, we have made a deliberate effort to reinvent ourselves a bit. I was fortunate enough to attend two rock concerts this past summer and fall. Afterwards, when I had a moment to sit back and take it all in, it reminded me just how critical the customer experience is.

The Concerts

My wife Amy and I are blessed with two beautiful teenage daughters, ages 13 and 15. While we enjoy a number of outdoor family activities together, we also share a love of music. Both girls play instruments in their school bands, take private lessons on those instruments as well as play piano. Because Amy and I want to feed this passion for music, we decided to start attending as many local concerts as possible the last few years. In 2015, we decided on a Billy Joel concert, and wait for it— Herman’s Hermits (they’re a “British Invasion” band of the 60’s). Now I should explain that these are honestly the girls’ favorite performers. Amy and I are fine with this eclectic genre as the lyrics are much safer, and the actual music is far better than today’s.

Billy Joel Concert

Last July we made the trek to Baltimore for the Billy Joel concert. Now don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun, and I can honestly say it was everything I expected. Considering that there were probably 50,000 people in Raven’s Stadium, we could see quite well, although we had to stand nearly the whole time. Billy Joel played all the favorites that I grew up with as a kid, and I called my sister as he performed “Uptown Girl”—remembering that she and my youngest sister would play the 45 rpm record over and over. You may have to Google what a 45 is, depending on your age. But here’s the thing, you could tell he was exhausted of doing these shows—he actually said that at one point. There was very little talking to the audience, and whereas performers typically have some sort of prepared dialogue for in between songs, it seemed like he might be winging it. Once the show ended, it took us nearly three hours to get out of the parking lot and back to our hotel room, which was two miles away.

Watching my older daughter’s face throughout the entire concert will be up there at the top of my list. I’m a firm believer in making sure I do certain things with them while they’re still at home with us, and this was definitely one of those life events that we’ll never forget.

Peter Noone

October soon rolled around (insert “leaves changing” footage) as did the night for the Herman’s Hermits concert. My youngest daughter was extremely excited. This concert was also held at my former high school, and when we entered, a very nice lady who was “with the band” asked my daughter if she knew who Peter Noone was (I don’t suppose they get many kids). My daughter promptly explained that not only did she love the music and know all of the lyrics, but that she had called into the radio show “Something Good hosted by Peter Noone” on occasion. The handler gave us some tips for after the show. When we took our seats, which even though were further back were still only fifty feet from the stage considering the size of the auditorium, it dawned on me that we were the only people in the audience under age 60. I wasn’t expecting much, and I was a little concerned by the sheer number of oxygen tanks in use in such a confined area.

Peter Noone

My daughter with Peter Noone
Then Peter Noone came out and everything changed. Not only was he singing the favorites from his own work, he performed songs from many of the British groups of the day including the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, The Beatles, you name it. He was loud, he was dancing and kicking, he was on fire. And it wasn’t just the singing—he was mixing in jokes about Cumberland, Maryland and actually changing out the lyrics to fit (for example, he did “Ferry Cross the Potomac” as opposed to “Ferry Cross the Mersey”). He stretched “Henry the Eighth” out for a good ten minutes by inserting an entire comedy routine in between verses, never once dropping the beat. Various sections of the audience were prompted to outyell each other as they spelled out “H-E-N-R-Y”. At the end, he came back and did an encore and, of course, received a standing ovation from all who were capable. Between his singing and the stories he told, you knew that this guy genuinely loved to perform for an audience. And here he was in Cumberland, Maryland for goodness sakes—but instead of “just performing” he made light of it (he talked about how when he was touring with the ‘Stones back in the late ‘60s, he told his band “someday, boys we’ll be performing in Cumberland, Maryland) and went out of his way to enjoy himself. And when a performer is enjoying himself, the audience naturally follows.

On the way out, Mr. Noone came out and signed autographs as folks left. The nice lady who had given us tips found us and made sure my daughter got a photo with him as well as an autograph. It doesn’t get much better than that. So much for trying to take a selfie with the stage in the background, Herman has his arm around her. The drive home took three minutes and we joked that we could just sit in the parking lot for three hours to make it feel more like a concert.

As Exclamation Labs grows, I consider what I want our clients to experience when they work with us. I also want our client’s customers to have an experience that motivates them to continually do business on the sites and interfaces that we build. When our customers do well, so do we.

I thought about this in the context of these two concerts. Exclamation Labs is not the biggest agency out there, nor do we want to be. We’re not in New York city or San Francisco.

I asked Amy about the two concerts. “If you didn’t consider that one ticket cost $250 and the other $40, if all things were equal, which of the two concerts would you go see again?” We both agreed on Herman’s Hermits. We also agreed that knowing what we now know, we would gladly travel several hours and sit in traffic if required to see his concert again. So what was it that made it so special? With Noone’s energy and enthusiasm, you couldn’t help but have a good time. The entire performance was personalized and we felt as though we had been lifelong friends with him—in a way we have been.

The Client Experience

So back to Exclamation Labs…. I’ve always looked for people who are passionate about what they do. That passion could be creative like my own, it could be a programmer who spends nights and weekends writing code, or it could be the business analyst who continues to tweak a web process to get 2% higher conversion. That same level of enthusiasm carries through in the work. It’s kind of like the “Happier Cows make better cheese” line—not that I’m comparing my team to cattle. And whom would you rather work with? People who love and live what they do or people who are likely not to work at the company by the end of your project?

It also reinforced to me that the most expensive ticket isn’t always the best performance. In the case of an agency, on rare occasion, you can find a group of talented folks who all made a conscious decision to get away from the city and suburbs to raise their families in peace and quiet. Just like with Peter Noone, you’ll get a much more personalized, dedicated, and, frankly, better experience.

If you think about it, concerts of any type are the ultimate form of customer experience—and the customers come prepared with high expectations.

Ironically (and this is just an interesting factoid), at first thought it would seem that there is a difference of at least one, possibly two, decades between Billy Joel and Peter Noone age wise. Not so. They're basically the same age. The Piano Man is 66 and Herman is 68. This just goes to prove that age does not always equal experience!

Jonathan Hutcherson
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