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David Lee King

Some Thoughts and Quotes about Authenticity



I’m reading Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine III (same guys that wrote The Experience Economy). I love this type of book – the focus is still on Pine and Gilmore’s favorite topic, that of the experience economy. But this time, they have narrowed that focus a bit, to how those experiences can be perceived as authentic experiences. I’ll be sharing thoughts and random quotes from the book as I read it.

The first quote comes from the preface of all places! “..too many [businesses] have latched onto that single word – experience – without changing core business practices. Too many companies say they’re offering ‘experiences’ without actually staging experiences” (page xii).

That actually answers a question I’ve had as I have started to check out some of these businesses that claim to offer an experience of some sort. For example, I’ve visited Cold Stone Creamery twice now. They have amazing ice cream (and their watermelon sherbet is to die for – it’s that good)… but the experience they tout? Not so much.

What have I actually seen in my two visits? Teenaged staff paying next to no attention to me while quickly making my ice cream concoction, not making a big deal of the cold stone marble mixing board at all, and quickly hustling me out of the way – even when there’s not a crowd. What gives? Well, apart from me smelling bad or something that day, somehow the corporate message of the Ultimate Ice Cream Experience wasn’t translated down to the Cold Stone Creamery workers in Topeka, Kansas. Did those employees receive the “hey, this is an experience we’re serving” message during initial training but decided against the practice? Were they even trained in imparting that staged experience at all? I have no idea. But in this case, the actual delivered experience did not match the experience the corporate office wants to provide.

Libraries and other organizations sometimes do the same thing – the experience we want to provide often doesn’t match what we actually dole out daily. Think about it for a sec – does your mission statement match what happens in your building on a daily basis? And… does “what happens in your building” match what goes on on your website? For example, some libraries think of themselves as community gathering places. But then when the community actually gathers, they’re told to be quiet, to turn their cell phones off, and to please drink that coffee outside the building. Or, the staff and the physical building both do a great job of offering a physical community gathering place, but doesn’t do a good job of offering a digital community gathering place. Their digital community tries to gather, but quickly finds no place to gather at all, because the website is no more than an electronic brochure with links and a catalog database – so they gather elsewhere (ebay forums, yahoo groups, myspace). They “have left the building.”

If this describes your library, maybe you need to take a step back… step back and give some hard thought to:

  • what you want the end result to be
  • even better, ask your customers what THEY want THEIR end result to be
  • then create a strategic plan, mission statement, vision, etc that focuses on reaching that desired end result
  • teach your staff how to create, mold, or otherwise deliver that end result (or at least work towards it) physically AND digitally
  • redesign that website so it does the same thing – so it focuses on providing the desired end result

If we plan on offering experiences, let’s start changing those core business practices so we can actually deliver engaging experiences to our customers.

Comments on this entry are closed.

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  • http://libraryrevolution.com/ Emily C

    “…does “what happens in your building” match what goes on on your website?”

    Thank you for asking this question.

  • http://libraryrevolution.com Emily C

    “…does “what happens in your building” match what goes on on your website?”

    Thank you for asking this question.

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  • Lissa Staley

    This book looks great – I just requested that our library purchase it and asked to be put on the waiting list! I’m frontline staff, so most of my time (and energy!) is spent teaching people who come to the desk how to use the computer management software, printing software, random websites, etc that they want to use at the library, or sometimes even occasionally helping them find books! But the summaries of this book on amazon really resonate with me, because I think that I approach customer service as an experience I provide for the patron. The way I have always thought about it is “If people are spending their tax dollars on customer service from me, I better be enthusiastic and entertaining, because no one wants to pay for grumpy and sarcastic (even if that’s how I am feeling).” While I feel good about this in the physical library, I am less certain of how to apply these ideas on the library’s website. Does anyone know of good library examples of authentic experience websites?

  • Lissa Staley

    This book looks great – I just requested that our library purchase it and asked to be put on the waiting list! I’m frontline staff, so most of my time (and energy!) is spent teaching people who come to the desk how to use the computer management software, printing software, random websites, etc that they want to use at the library, or sometimes even occasionally helping them find books! But the summaries of this book on amazon really resonate with me, because I think that I approach customer service as an experience I provide for the patron. The way I have always thought about it is “If people are spending their tax dollars on customer service from me, I better be enthusiastic and entertaining, because no one wants to pay for grumpy and sarcastic (even if that’s how I am feeling).” While I feel good about this in the physical library, I am less certain of how to apply these ideas on the library’s website. Does anyone know of good library examples of authentic experience websites?

  • Jeff Imparato

    Hi David,

    I happen to know the owners of Cold Stone, and I’m sure they would appreciate your feedback. Did you leave a customer comment card there? otherwise, I can give you a contact number to talk to them directly.

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  • http://www.yestoknow.com/ Tony Tallent

    David you’re right on here. What I see happening is that the world-o-spin or catch-phrase-leadership has latched on to this really meaningful word, Experience. Our real world really should match our Virtual world which should match all that we say and do each day. Otherwise “Experience” just becomes another piece of jargon (ie, “out of the box thinking”).
    Tony Tallent
    http://www.yestoknow.com

  • http://www.yestoknow.com Tony Tallent

    David you’re right on here. What I see happening is that the world-o-spin or catch-phrase-leadership has latched on to this really meaningful word, Experience. Our real world really should match our Virtual world which should match all that we say and do each day. Otherwise “Experience” just becomes another piece of jargon (ie, “out of the box thinking”).
    Tony Tallent
    http://www.yestoknow.com

  • Jeff Imparato

    Hi David,

    I happen to know the owners of Cold Stone, and I'm sure they would appreciate your feedback. Did you leave a customer comment card there? otherwise, I can give you a contact number to talk to them directly.