In this Fall issue, M/I/S/C/ explores the beliefs, touchpoints and myths of the customer experience. A number of influential writers take a deep look at true customer experience, how it works and what’s next. Editor In Chief Idris Mootee examines the transformation of the luxury brand experience. Dane Solomon, SVP Executive Creative Director at Williams Sonoma discusses customer experience design in retail and online settings. EVP and Global Head of Innovation at Idea Couture, Scott Friedmann and Grey Goose Brand Ambassador, Joe McCanta explores food, cocktails and the customer experience. And Dr. Morgan Gerard explores the myth of customer experience and asks whether customer experience can be designed. The issue's art section features a curated collection of extraordinary pieces that explore as well as shape the meaning of Experience.
Contributing writers: Idris Mootee, Will Novosedlik, Robert Boloton, Scott Friedmann, Jenn Lim, Nathan Shedroff, Dane Solomon, Jill Richmond, Consult, Joe McCanta, Jon Otis, Brenda Rideout, Cheesan Chew, Mathew Lincez, Leah Hunter, Nicole Chen, Joseph A. Michelli, Scott G. Pobiner, Noelani Bailey, Shira Lazar, Christopher Windelov-Lidzelius, Dr.Morgan Gerard.
Contributing artists: Winnie Truong, Eric “eepmon” Chan, Alyssa Monks, Brendan Gerorge Ko, Matt W. Moore, Mike Bishop, Mike Ellis, Kevin Filliter, Marie Harnett, Nathan Cyprys, James Bridle, Sarak lllenberg, Bryan Espiritu, Jan Avendano.
The Internet / Digital Age has introduced an overwhelming amount of free content for "customers" to access and experience online. Presented with an unprecedented amount of choices, most customers gravitate towards familiar and trusted broadcasting sources like CNN, AOL, NBC or MTV as part of their passive consumption ritual. In addition, as IPTV continues to evolve into the cloud, many broadcasters are now adjusting their web experiences to provide free on-demand video content (many of the same shows that play on cable TV can now be accessed online directly through the broadcaster's own website - sometimes on the same day).
More curious, savvy and ambitious customers may flock to alternative, unfamiliar or questionable sources of free video content such as justin.tv or the Torrents - some of which may present pirated or "illegal" content and harbor potentially harmful viruses, Trojans and other unknowns - but are still worth the risk because of the content they provide and the nature by which it can be accessed and experienced by the customer.
The contrast between these two sides of free content illustrates how the promise and potential of the digital online context is in many ways not being fulfilled and how the customer experience is still falling short of what it could be. Both ends of this spectrum (the incumbent broadcast brands versus the shady interloping start-ups) present different value propositions, qualities, characteristics and attributes that touch on various aspects of a customer's experience - but not one (from either side) has been able to combine and deliver the best from both.
For the most part (within the free content experience) the customer still pays the price through Internet access fees, subscription regimes, viruses, uncontainable pop-up windows and spam; and through the same captive ad based revenue models that aggressively force feed online customers with just as much (or more) branded noise as their cable TV based cousins. Although the online context has the potential to deliver entirely new experiences that leverage the very best qualities of the web, digital and social media, the customer experience remains fragmented, inconsistent, and misaligned with the existing and emerging values, expectations, capabilities and assumptions.
As a customer of free content I'd like to highlight and compare a few elements of the experience from both sides. My personal evaluation criteria generally boils down to:
Lets begin with a short comparison of the customer experience of two mainstream news networks offering free video content online. One an incumbent in the N.A. market the other an interloper of sorts.
When I want to glance at the mainstream news from south of the border I click towards CNN. Apart from their lack of geo-political coverage - they do have a considerable amount of bite size clips of news from the United States and around the world to choose from. There is no consistent ability to watch a live stream of their main network channels - only on special occasions like presidential addresses or when Anderson Cooper posts on a disaster zone for ratings. Most annoyingly - and this is where they loose major points in my book - is when selecting or clicking upon the bite size video clips, each one is preceded by an ad that you cannot skip - each time - often the same ad over and over again. This is a serious pain point. In addition to this, there are an insane amount of banner ads that take over the entire screen - and I find myself wondering if I'm watching CNN or Capital One presenting the news. Whatever it is, I don't trust it and I don't like it. This is a completely negative customer experience - and there is a less than positive brand association for all parties involved.
Clicking over to Al Jazeera (the interloper) I'm able to watch a live stream or feed of their main English news channel - just like watching cable TV. If I choose to browse other stories there are no captive advertisements presented prior to accessing the video clips - refreshingly there are no obnoxious banner ads framing everything, confusingly pushing products and services at me. Just the news as represented and reported by Al Jazeera. The experience is simple, positive and refreshing. I recognize that they are not making me pay for the content in anyway. While I assume and even anticipate this may be an acquisition scheme at play - I go back time and time again and rarely visit CNN's site anymore.
While I don't have cable TV, I also choose not to pay for content services like Netflix. Due to misaligned content and copyright laws here in Canada, we cannot access the full catalogue available elsewhere. This fragmentation reassures me that I will not have the same customer experience as my neighbors to the south. I choose to wait and see.
Torrents are a free, relatively convenient and a somewhat shady alternative that promises me a broader spectrum of content (some not even "released" yet). Torrents also provide layers of on-demand selection and control, and the ability to download what I want, when I want it. In addition to these qualities I'm also attracted to the lack of advertisements. While Torrent sites are often saturated with banner and pop-up ads - the content at the end of the tunnel is not. Once downloaded, it runs on-demand and ad free. All I have to do is get over the unfamiliar web-personas, the piracy thing and the possibility of catching a nasty virus.
Of course YouTube is a completely different animal. While advertisements have crept further and further into this free content land - slowly eroding my experience - the ability to browse and consume heaps of content at will, upload my own content, create my own channel and subscribe to other channels is great. YouTube empowers me to join the broadcast revolution and embed, spread, seed and share through various online and social media platforms.
Last but not least there's justin.tv - a venture-backed start-up from California. This is one of my favorite free video channels online and one of the best customer experiences to have. On justin.tv people create their own channels and upload their own video playlists (mostly pirated content) - everything from live streams of geeks playing video games, DJ's and musicians performing, rants from crazy people to historic documentaries. There are ads but they only play once - the first time you click on a channel. Of course, there are live discussion forums and ongoing commentary next to the video content, if you choose to engage, you can. The only negative is that there is no control over the live streaming content, only the choice to tune in to a channel streaming video and watch or not.
Within this wild and competitive space, content providers are going to have to do a better job of aligning the qualities, characteristics and attributes of free online content. By improving the customer experience by stepping outside of their traditional media and business model approaches towards new media and the flexibility it promises, demands and affords.
- Mathew Lincez, Fall 2011 MISC
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