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TecHRseries Interview with Joe Pine, Co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP and Internationally Acclaimed Author of The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money

Internationally acclaimed author, speaker, and management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial start-ups alike- Joe Pine joins us in this TecHRseries interview to talk about his journey, the concept of ‘The Experience Economy’ and what businesses need to do to elevate both, their employee and customer experience during this downtime.


Tell us a little about yourself Joe…we’d love to hear about Strategic Horizons…(the idea behind it) and of course a little about the books you’ve authored!

I wrote my first book “Mass Customization” while working for IBM, and then left to form Strategic Horizons. My partners (Jim Gilmore and Doug Parker) and I consider it a “thinking studio” for helping businesses conceive and design new ways of adding value to their economic offerings through our writings, speeches, workshops and other events. “Mass Customization” did that in letting companies figure out how to give individual customers exactly what they want at a price they’re willing to pay. Next came “The Experience Economy,” which taught businesses that they could avoid commoditization by shifting beyond goods and services to staging experiences for their customers. In addition to other ideas and frameworks, I’ve also co-written “Authenticity” on managing customer perception of offerings, places and companies themselves, and “Infinite Possibility” on creating customer value by fusing the real and the virtual.

Here in 2020 we’ve re-released “The Experience Economy” yet again, with a new preview based on the subtitle Competing for Customer Time, Attention and Money – the three currencies of the Experience Economy that companies must manage properly in order to grow and prosper.

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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic induced remote work has led to its own share of challenges, we’d love your thoughts on what companies should be doing better to enhance their employee and overall customer experience; both of which are crucial to ensure business continuity.

I’m currently working with Rightpoint on exactly these issues, taking these ideas, frameworks and principles first to use experience-led transformation to confront today’s corona crisis and then also to apply them internally to enhance the employee experience.

So first, what we encourage companies to do as COVID-19 continues to disrupt business around the world is to refresh their places, redesign their offerings and renew their capabilities. With fewer customers (and in some cases still no customers), it’s a perfect time to refresh stores, restaurants, theatres and all other places to give a great first impression for returning customers. Then, focus the redesign of offerings on staging memorable, engaging experiences that are, as we write in the re-release of our book, robust, cohesive, personal, dramatic and even transformative. Finally, companies should renew their capabilities in particular to interact digitally with customers in ways that make sense to them today.

And, as you say, companies must enhance their employee experience in order to give them the wherewithal to stage remarkable experiences for customers. Here I encourage companies to first examine their processes, procedures and technology to stop wasting employee time to yield time well saved. Then recognize that all experiences are about time well spent, so apply the same adjectives I mentioned earlier – robust, cohesive, personal, dramatic, and here I will say especially transformative. A transformative HR experience helps employees set personal and corporate goals, be held accountable and feel personally connected to the journey of reaching those goals. The aim here is time well invested, where employers and employees gain compound interest over time, paying dividends now and into the future.

Focusing on employee engagement during a downtime is challenging, especially when business leaders need to look at business goals and continuity as a top priority during this downtime: what points would you share here to help teams try to balance this out?

It is certainly a challenge, but also a necessity. You can only achieve your goals through your employees, and companies should seek not merely to revive their businesses coming out of this virus-induced recession, but to thrive, and that takes employee engagement. It is all the more important now for employees who work remotely with plenty of circumstances competing for their attention.

So, I don’t view it as an either/or situation, but as both/and. As leaders seek to achieve the business goals that will ensure survival and set them up to succeed when we eventually come out the other side, they should use whatever new initiatives are required to simultaneously enhance the employee experience through the intentional design of all interactions with and between employees. That’s what the word staging means, and that’s experience-led transformation applied to employee engagement.

As teams and businesses plan their reopen strategies what are some of the top thoughts you’d like to share, what should HR leaders keep in mind?

First, recognize that employees may have even greater concerns coming back to your places than customers do; you need to put just as much effort in overcoming any feelings they might have of being unsafe and vulnerable. Second, think of your reopening as a premiere for a show, and you want to make it a performance that ensures it will be a long-lasting show to which the audience wants to return again and again. And one specific thing I will mention that is a key element of refreshing your places is to create what I call “Safety Theatre.” You of course absolutely must put in place the processes and procedures to keep your employees and customers safe, but you also must show that they are safe.

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We’d love to hear about some of the HR Technologies / Remote work tools according to you that can help boost employee culture and collaboration during a time when work from home is fast becoming part of the new normal…

The two keys to successful remote working are an effective digital workplace and internal communication tools. Technology is always changing, and companies need to constantly evaluate their digital operations to ensure they effectively support internal teams, especially when the majority of employees are working remotely. Many tools, such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, help connect employees from afar, but companies should consider taking it a step further and create an internal hub for collaboration. For example, the team at Rightpoint helps companies design and implement digital workplaces and tools that work best for their employees, creating integrated platforms to support remote communication and knowledge sharing across the organization, wherever (and whenever) employees work. As an example of my point about renewing your capabilities, such digital workplaces should be a priority for any organization that sees remote work continuing for the foreseeable future. Whatever tools they’re using, organizations need to understand employee needs to ensure they provide a productive and engaging workplace experience

How would you advise businesses, especially HR to stay a step ahead of the game as the global economy tides through these uncertain times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?

That’s a great question, for again, companies should seek not just to survive, but to thrive – and that goes for HR too. So, avoid stopgap measures whenever possible, and instead, let the experience you want to create for your employees – and your customers – guide how you approach today’s situation. Work from the future back, not the past forward, to design the ideal experience you want your employees to have, and then do what you can today to not only address current needs but to make that future an inevitability. Moreover, do so with an eye to knowing that any competitive advantage you create as an employer will not last forever, and so you must think of how you regenerate that advantage over and over again, as my colleague Kim Korn likes to say.

And here’s another both/and: both physical and digital. On the customer side, I’ve long told retailers that it is worth it to have a live salesperson work with an individual customer in a store, then it is worth it to do so online, not relegating it to, say, chatbots. Similarly, HR needs to design, create and stage an engaging employee experience whether they work remotely, in-office or in a hybrid way, where you make the transition happen frictionlessly, seamlessly, costlessly and instantaneously.

A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

 One of the results of this time in which we live is that people all over the world recognize that they don’t need more things; in the developed world, at least, we have enough stuff. What we value are the experiences we have with our loved ones, our friends and our colleagues that give life meaning. So, goods and services are becoming even more commoditized – and the old ways of interacting with employees less valued – and therefore companies need to shift up even more so to stage engaging experiences, and even transformative ones that help us achieve our life aspirations. Now is the time to make that shift.

Remember: you are competing against every other company in the world for the time, attention and money of individual customers. To avoid commoditization, you must therefore stage an experience so engaging that it gets customers to spend time with you, give you their attention and then buy your economic offerings.

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Strategic Horizons LLP

Strategic Horizons LLP, is a thinking studio dedicated to helping businesses conceive and design new ways of adding value to their economic offerings.

B.Joseph Pine II is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker, and management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial start-ups alike. He is cofounder of Strategic Horizons LLP, a thinking studio dedicated to helping businesses conceive and design new ways of adding value to their economic offerings. Earlier this year Mr. Pine and his partner James H. Gilmore re-released in hardcover The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Moneyfeaturing an all-new Preview to their best-selling 1999 book introducing this concept. The book demonstrates how goods and services are no longer enough; what companies must offer today are experiences – memorable events that engage each customer in an inherently personal way. It further shows that in today’s Experience Economy companies now compete against the world for the time, attention, and money of individual customers.