Thursday, January 16, 2014

Half a Million Dollars Worth of Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by James Lawther.

In the late 1960’s, Eric Clapton found a second hand Fender Stratocaster for sale in a guitar shop in London.  He paid £150 for it and gave it the nickname “Brownie.”

In 1970 he used Brownie to record “Leyla.”

If you were born in the 20th century, then chances are you know “Leyla;” it is one of the quintessential Rock anthems -- I hate Rock with a passion, and even I am word perfect.

In 1999, Christie’s in New York sold Brownie at auction.  It was expected to reach $100,000.  It sold for £497,000.  That is almost half a million dollars, a lot of money for a forty-year-old guitar, particularly one with a lot of miles on the clock.

Why does everybody rave about Stratocasters?
The Stratocaster is to electric guitars what McDonalds is to burgers.  Pete Townsend, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Eric Clapton all played them.

So what is all the fuss about?

Leo Fender, the man who designed the Stratocaster, wasn’t a musician; he was an electrician who made amplifiers for a living. 

He designed the Stratocaster after listening to the problems that electric guitar players complained about.
  • The electric jack on a Stratocaster plugs into the front of the guitar, not the bottom; this makes it easier for the musician to connect it to an amplifier.
  • All six tuning pegs on a Stratocaster are on the top of the head (not three on the top and three on the bottom).  This makes it easy for the musician to tune it.
  • The Stratocaster has a characteristic curved body so that when it is being played it doesn’t dig painfully into the musician’s ribs.
Leo’s attention to detail didn’t just stop with the needs of the guitarist; he even went as far as to make the Stratocaster modular, so it is really easy for a repair man to fix it.

Image courtesy of TF28
The Stratocaster is a customer experience triumph
Is it surprising that after all that care and attention paid to customers' needs that the Stratocaster went on to be a massive commercial success and the choice of every aspiring Rock and Roll Legend?

If you listen to what your customers have to say - and then act on their advice - your business might just become legendary as well.

My first wife said, ‘It’s either that guitar (Strat) or me,’ you know – and I give you three guesses which one went. -Jeff Beck

James Lawther writes about customer service and business process improvement at www.squawkpoint.com.  In his spare time he listens to Funk and Soul.

5 comments:

  1. James,
    Great story and thanks for sharing. Although, isn't the story more about design than customer experience?

    Wait.

    Maybe they're the same thing. ;)

    Adrian

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  2. Adrian, I think you might just be right

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  3. Good article on how product design can be intimately based on user/customer experience. Just a couple points: Eric Clapton's number one hit is spelled Layla, not Leyla. And arguably the most differentiating aspect of the Stratocaster's design was its long neck (21 frets originally, with 22 in more contemporary models) accessed by its double-cut out body design enabling guitarists to easily hit higher notes than ever before.

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  4. Charlie, thanks for your points, I think you highlight my dislike of rock music beautifully. I didn't know about the long neck, though I guess that is another example of just how good the Stratocaster is.

    James

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