Customer Experience: From Ordinary to Extraordinary

©2015-2017 Customer Experience Rules! Text by Jeofrey Bean and illustrations by Steve Hickner

Leadership and culture bring innovation

Business expert, author and professor Jeofrey Bean has made a career of studying what differentiates the best customer experience companies.

“It’s all the interactions people have with or about a company’s messages, people, processes, products or services,” Bean says. “The best realize there’s an emotional and quantitative component to every interaction a person has from the time they discover you to the time they (hopefully) become an advocate.”

In addition to realization, it’s also institutionalization. Bean says there are two major characteristics shared by great customer experience companies like Apple, Airbnb and REI.

First: “You have to have a leader who is always thinking about the customer experience. It doesn’t flow from the project level up to the top. It has to be led by the top.”

Second: “It’s a culture. The customer experience companies are usually flatter, have less layers, than others. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re working there you have a way to get your ideas to the leaders.”

In advance of San Diego AMA’s March 29 signature event, where Bean will illuminate the customer experience path from ordinary to extraordinary, he commented on three specific examples of exceptional customer experiences.

Amazon Go

Amazon has long been known for new ideas that delight customers and baffle competitors. This time, it’s Amazon Go, a new retail shopping experience that Amazon bills as a new kind of bricks and mortar store with no checkout required. The company says: “Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”


Amazon looked at the worst of the customer experiences for grocery shopping. They isolated two things at a conventional store: people don’t like to wait in line and they hate the checkout process. They’re putting the ‘do fors’ right on the outside of the store. The ‘do fors’ are no lines and no checkout. It’s a test to see if the ‘do fors’ are enough for people to trust Amazon to sell them groceries. If the conventional stores don’t innovate similarly, they could be left behind.


Intuit Turbo Tax Mobile App

Intuit’s TurboTax Mobile App is Exhibit A for the company’s customer experience philosophy. In fact, Intuit calls it “Innovation at your fingertips”. Using the app, you can take a photo of your W-2 with your phone or tablet and import your information into the right tax forms. You can also connect with an expert live, on-screen to get answers to your tax questions.


Intuit is always thinking about CX and UX and they’re always testing to improve it, even in older products. This was innovated right here in San Diego. It was no surprise they came up with it because they’re always paying attention to how we’re communicating and the technology we’re using. Innovation doesn’t come from the big incumbents, it took someone like the leadership and the great innovative people at Intuit to say, ‘OK, let’s try this’.



When Bean included Square in his 2012 book, The Customer Experience Revolution, the company’s small size made it one of his Ones to Watch. Since then, the company has reimagined the mobile payments game and has positioned itself to revolutionize a number of other markets including merchant accounting, payroll and capital.


Square is a very interesting company because they’re the ones who really cracked the code on making the customer experience so good you’ll adapt to their technology. They figured out we didn’t want to have a bank application process online. They requested only three or four pieces of information. Every piece of the process is very well blended, there’s no experience shock. A couple companies tried to crack this code and couldn’t do it because they didn’t understand the bank application piece.


Is there another San Diego customer experience innovator like Intuit out there? Bean calls education firm CourseKey and merchandising technology provider Stickshift his latest local Ones to Watch.

What Happens Next?

In each of these cases, think about the established, traditional players being broad-sided by the disruptor’s innovation. You might imagine the incumbents are too well-established to be upended, but Bean would argue otherwise. “Look at what Netflix did to Blockbuster,” he said. “Look at any of the firms that don’t come up with these innovations. They miss out, even though they have the large customer bases, because they aren’t thinking about the customer experience.”


Jeofrey Bean shared his wealth of customer experience insights with San Diego AMA members and guests March 29 at UCSD Extension. Find our recap and photos here. Sorry if you missed this event, it was a good one!

The good news is you have another chance to catch Jeofrey, at UCSD Extension’s 2-day Customer Experience Workshop. The better news? San Diego AMA members receive discounted registration!

About Bill

Bill is VP, Content at AMA San Diego. He is a member of the sales team at Neil Patel Digital. He enjoys coffee, CrossFit, golf, traveling, current events and post-apocalyptic fiction. Find him on Twitter: @BillWinnSD