Customer Experience is Everything.

curry

Reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors seemingly has it all. He has money, fame, professional success and a wonderful wife and family. It all adds up to a likeability factor that’s off the charts. He shreds the NBA and then goes home to record a Dubsmash video of a song from “Frozen” with his wife to post on social media.

He’s at the pinnacle of his profession. Under Armor gave him equity in their company to get him to design a shoe for them. His jersey is the top seller. In the off-season, he goes to Tanzania to hang mosquito nets in areas ravaged by malaria. He doesn’t send money like most would. He goes there.

No wonder people really like him.

Remember Tiger Woods? Remember when he was at the top? He dominated the links, his face was everywhere and every blue chip company wanted to be associated with him. He had it all. But even before his fall from grace, there was something about him that rubbed many in the public the wrong way. It could have been his robotic interviews and the cold vibe he threw off.

His popularity was more a form of respect for his utter domination on the golf course rather than a genuine embracing of the man himself. When his game began to deteriorate, the mystique was gone. Even before his shameful indiscretions were made public, he was fading. He offered one thing and that one thing evaporated.

As a company, you want your Customer Experience to be more Steph and less Tiger.

Tiger’s “customers” (sports fans, consumers, etc.) showed that their Tiger Woods “experience” was not something that really resonated on any deeper level. Their grudging respect for his one attribute (excellence on the golf course) was easily unraveled. Admittedly, he made it pretty easy for them to unravel.

When your customer experience is one dimensionally focused on product excellence, you are a misstep or two from a perilous fall. When your product quality, corporate culture, efficient processes and excellent people combine to form your identity in the marketplace, you may find your customers will be on your side if one of those important attributes falters.

Customer experience is bigger than the value your product provides.

Customer experience is everything.

The Snake.

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I’m a 49er fan to be sure. But until 1980, I was a die hard Oakland Raiders fan. As a freshman in high school, I wrote a paper that was supposed to be about William Shakespeare but instead, I wrote it on George Blanda, the kicker and second string Raider QB. I got a C on the paper. She penalized me two full letter grades over the topic which I considered a moral victory.

When Al Davis announced the Raiders were leaving their fairly new sold out stadium in Oakland to move to El Lay, it was one worst days of my life. I was instantly done with the Raiders and football in general. I tore down the Raider posters in my dorm room at San Jose State, openly cursed Al (I nearly had a multiple schadenfreudegasm when he died because fuck Al Davis) and was done with them forever. My loyalty was in a dumpster along with the posters of Blanda, Kenny Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff and Jim Otto.

That was the end of a golden era when the Raiders were unlike any team in sports. It was a time when you could actually go to Rickey’s in San Leandro after the game and the players would be there and they’d buy you a drink. The Raiders of the ‘70s were a rough-and-tumble, no nonsense group that played (and partied) on the edge 100% of the time.

No one personified this more that Kenny “The Snake” Stabler who died Wednesday of colon cancer at the age of 69.

When he replaced the wooden, inaccurate, immobile “Mad Bomber” Daryle Lamonica at quarterback, it was a revelation. He was wicked smart, wicked quick, wicked accurate and well, wicked. He could find any receiver on the field. He called his own plays. John Madden eventually threw him the playbook and said “go win” because he knew The Snake could see and feel more of the game in the moment than the coaches ever could ensconced in the safety of the sideline.

I’m not going to recite statistics (although Kenny’s were great) or accomplishments (there were many but you can Google them). What made Kenny one of the greatest quarterbacks in history were his arm, his brains and his leadership. He was Tom Brady without the Audi R8, $40 million mansion and supermodel. After the game, he’d bum a ride to a bar and shoot the shit. He was a  football player rather than a faux celebrity.

He (and John Madden) left the Raiders after the 1979 season when Al didn’t want to pay him. The timing was perfect. We were both done with Al at almost the same time.

When I learned yesterday that Kenny’s last wish was that his brain and spine be donated to the Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, as sad as I was, I had to smile.

He had plenty of both.

On Bud Selig.

selig

Good riddance.

I love baseball. Like, really love baseball. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that the Commissioner of Baseball was really an employee of the MLB owners. But Bud Selig took things to an entirely new level. He WAS an owner. He took the Milwaukee Brewers and put them in the sham-custody of his daughter and he became the Commissioner of  Major League Baseball, a position I’d always put one notch below President of the United States.

Bud, you sweet deluded bastard.

At age 80, you’ve stepped down with your odd blondish toupee in hand (or head) and your legacy will be one dimensional: You have lined the coffers of your fellow owners with solid gold. The unlikely story of a Milwaukee used car salesman turned mogul turned weird sports executive is over.

Owners have never been richer. The number of kids playing baseball has plummeted. The beer has never been so expensive. The DH rule is an abomination to be dealt with by your successor. The Oakland A’s situation is being handled by a super-secret blue ribbon commission that’s been “studying” for almost four years. The All-Star game has gone from the only sports All-Star game that mattered to some sort of 72 hour commercial for ESPN.

You are the Richard Nixon of sports. Get yourself some big shorts and a metal detector and scan the shores of Lake WInnebago in your sunset years and let’s hope that new Commissioner Rob Manfred can rebuild Major League Baseball to it’s former greatness.

Al Davis is Dead.

Al Davis, noted football man and plaintiff

He owned the Oakland Raiders. I was a massive Oakland Raider fan as a kid. Massive. I wrote my freshman english Shakespeare paper on George Blanda (a Raider player) rather than The Merchant of Venice. I got a C on the paper because it was not about The Merchant of Venice but Miss Winner couldn’t bear to give me less than a C because it was such a well-written paper. This in a way got me thinking about writing which led me to a journalism degree. I digress.

Everyone hated Al even then. But one sad day, he took my team and moved them to Los Angeles where they went from being a ‘blue collar’ team to being a ‘teardrop tattoo, what makes you think I won’t cut you, gang colors’ team. I tore down all my Raider posters of Belitnekoff, Blanda, Otto et al and while I respected the players, the Raiders as an entity were dead to me as was Al himself. Like taking candy from a baby,  he bilked the well-meaning but clueless rubes who run Oakland out of millions of dollars they didn’t have and came slinking back north. You knew that whatever happened be it lawsuits, financial disagreements, scuffles with the powers that be in the NFL offices, Al would win through bullying, selfishness and intimidation. While he couldn’t always win on the field in the later years, you didn’t want to cross him in a courtroom, backroom or alley.

He was a walking, breathing monument to the non-existence of karma. But like him or not, he spent every day the last half century doing doing exactly what he wanted to do and answering to no one until he died peacefully in his home at age 82 as if to give us the finger one last time.

A Baseball State of Mind

Brian Wilson has rhythm.

The 2011 baseball season started a couple of weeks ago and is finally settling into a rhythm. More than most team sports, certainly most American team sports, baseball is all about rhythm. There is a rhythm to a season, to a game, even to an at bat.

To my mind, most of the things that have torn at the fabric of the game involve deconstructing it. Tearing it down. Taking a game that is much greater than the sum of its parts and turning it into, well, parts. Imagine taking a Beethoven piano concerto and taking all of the notes and putting them in different buckets. B flats in one bucket, Cs in another. You could analyze the number of each type of note, you could come up with probabilities for which note is most likely to follow another. You could crunch these numbers and some up with criteria to decide which other pieces you might enjoy.  Put that into an Excel pivot table and presto!

Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds. If you remove the soul and the visceral element from Beethoven, you’re left with an unsatisfying collection of notes that are played in a predetermined order. I think we’re doing the same to baseball and it hurts my heart.

Fantasy baseball, free agency with the associated monster contracts, big-money owners building a team for one championship run and then tearing it down all contribute. My beloved San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year and it was a great experience. But the experience was the fans uniting around Brian Wilson’s beard or my two sons cutting school to go to the massive victory parade. It wasn’t just a collection of games won.

Baseball, like life, has a rhythm. I enjoy a homerun or a  double into the gap but truth be told, I crave the comfort it provides in spite of people who want to destroy it from within and a world which seems hell bent on making it less than it was meant to be.