Category Archives: Travel

Travel experiences, both business and personal. Covers transportation, lodging, etc.

audio-technica ATH-ANC3 in-ear noise-canceling headphones

Auditory Bliss at 30,000 feet

 audio-technica ATH-ANC3 in-ear noise-cancelling headphonesI have always been interested in trying noise-canceling headphones when I fly. But, I prefer the portability and comfort of in-ear headphones. So, until recently, there weren’t many desirable options. Then I discovered the audio-technica ATH-ANC3 in-ear noise-canceling headphones at my local Apple Store.

From the audio-technica site:

Electronics in the control box create a noise-canceling wave that is 180° out of phase with the ambient noise. This wave acts like a noise eraser: it cancels out the annoying sounds that surround you without diminishing the audio you want to hear. The result…a peaceful enclave to enjoy the music or movies of your choice.

I found the headphones to be quite comfortable for a long flight. The sound quality is good, but perhaps not quite as good as my Etymotic earphones. But, the most dramatic thing I noticed was how much I could reduce the volume when the noise-cancelling was turned on. While I was on the plane, I turned on the noise-cancelling switch and adjusted the volume to be comfortable. Then, I turned off the noise-cancellation. The engine noise from the plane was so loud that I literally could no longer hear the music at all. Basically, without the noise-cancellation, you have to turn up the volume way beyond a normally comfortable level. Not good.

So, I’m sold. I take them with me on all flights now. And what a difference it makes! One simple product that makes the experience of flying a little more enjoyable.

Yahoo! Search Launching Great New Features

Yahoo! Search

It has been a while since I have posted. If you head on over to Yahoo! Search, you will see why I’ve been a little busy lately. We’ve been working on a ton of great new ideas for our Search experience and some of them are now ready for you! It is all about giving consumers a much better experience when they are searching, so that they find exactly what they are looking for faster and are happier with the results. Check out what we’ve been up to and I think you will agree.

A new Travel Destination Shortcut

Yahoo! Search travel shortcut

A new Music Artists Shortcut

Yahoo! Search music artists shortcut

A new Audio preview feature

Yahoo! Audio Search sample playback

An exciting new Yahoo! Search Assist feature (image from Danny Sullivan on Flickr). Danny has a great article about it on Search Engine Land titled Search Suggestions on Steroids: Yahoo! Search Assist

Danny Sullivan's Y! Search Assist screenshot

I’m sorry that I can’t provide you with a link to our new Search Assist technology yet, since it is currently in testing. But, stay tuned!

If you want to read more about Yahoo! Search, you can check out our blog.

Transformational Experience

Sunset in Santorini

Sunset in Santorini,
originally uploaded by Larry Cornett.

So many of us love a cup of coffee in our favorite cafe, but I don’t think many would call that a “transformational experience”. However, having a cup of coffee in a small cafe on the edge of the caldera at sunset in Santorini? Yes, a transformational experience that created a memory that I will never forget. What price do you put on such a cup of coffee?

The book “The Experience Economy” briefly mentions a key example that helps explain how a simple good can be economically transformed into an experience for which a customer is willing to pay one thousand times more. The following table outlines this transformation for the simple coffee bean.

Economic Offering Example for Coffee Perceived Value
Guided transformation Greek coffee in Santorini cafe at sunset $$$$$
Staged experience Coffee drink in your favorite cozy cafe $$$$
Provided service Cup of coffee on the road $$$
Created good Roasted and packaged coffee
Extracted commodity Harvested coffee beans $

We all know that a cup of coffee prepared at home is much, much cheaper than buying a coffee drink at your favorite cafe. Yet, every day so many of us are willing to stand in long lines and pay much more to have that drink prepared for us. Why? In some cases, it is for the service. Replicating the perfect cappuccino at home is no easy task. However, often people are seeking the experience provided by having that cappuccino in the cafe atmosphere. Enjoying the music, watching people, and meeting new friends are all part of the experience you quite willingly pay for.

Starbucks certainly understands this and that has been a key component of their amazing success. In the book “The Starbucks Experience” Joseph Michelli describes 5 key principles for creating a business that delivers an extraordinary experience for its customers:

  1. Make it your own
  2. Everything matters
  3. Surprise and delight
  4. Embrace resistance
  5. Leave your mark

On page 11 there is a section that captures how important they realized a holistic experience was in converting a loyal customer:

“…the ambience of the store must be inviting; the store must be a place where a person will feel comfortable hanging out alone or with friends. This setting, often reffered to by Starbucks partners as the ‘third place,’ must capture a unique warmth that sets it apart from the first two places in most people’s lives: work and home.”

Consistently offering customers positive (and sometimes even transformational) experiences has been a big part of what makes Starbucks work. Even if you aren’t a fan of the chain, you have to admit they have had phenomenal global success. They get it.

The Business of Experience

Commoditization. It happens in every industry as it matures. As companies struggle to compete and differentiate themselves, they succumb to pricing pressure and feature wars. We’ve all seen it happen with both goods and services. And, we’ve seen it happen in the technology industry too. Software with even more features than the competitor with the requisite feature chart on the back of the box. Internet access pricing being driven down to almost “free” levels. Web hosting for absurdly low monthly fees with an ever-increasing set of available features.

So, what is a company to do? Well, some have spent time understanding their customers and what it is that creates loyalty. Those companies have learned that earning the loyalty of a customer goes way beyond offering the lowest prices or the most features. In fact, loyal customers will often spend more for less. As a very loyal customer of Apple Computer, I can attest to that. Why? Because we value the holistic experience of that brand and what it provides us.

An excellent book on this trend is “The Experience Economy” by Pine and Gilmore. Published many years ago, it foretold this current shift to more and more compelling experiences to win loyal customers. The following chart shows this trend as we move from an economy of goods and services to one where companies differentiate themselves through what they call “transformational experiences.”

Experience Value Chart

I can personally speak to this shift, as I have experienced it during my current trip to Bangalore India. I have flown on a number of airlines during my career, but only a few airlines have stood out from the crowd and inspired my loyalty. Yes, they all try to compete on price, services, and destinations. But, only a few seem to really understand the value of the in-flight experience. Many claim that they do, but they fail to actually deliver a complete end-to-end experience. To name only one airline that I feel has succeeded: Singapore Airlines. They get it. The attendants are amazingly friendly and attentive. The food is excellent (for an airline). The seats are very comfortable, with a full recline that allows actually sleeping. And, their entertainment system is expansive. I always end up watching way too many movies on my international flights with them. So, when given the opportunity, I select Singapore Air every time. Not always the cheapest and not always the most convenient, but the experience makes it worth it.

I cannot begin to cover this topic as deeply as the book below does, so check it out for yourself. The main take away? The world is changing, as it always does. If you find yourself competing on price and features, as many of us have been, you’re behind the curve. The key is going to be understanding, really understanding, what your customers need and what will inspire their loyalty. Understanding that will allow you to offer a complete end-to-end experience that will change the game for you.