Define and Refine

In my book The New Gold Standard, I advance a business principle which I labeled “define and refine.” The principle emphasizes the importance of defining the experience you want customer’s to have with your staff and explores how to refine that experience based on what is relevant to your customers. While several chapters of The New Gold Standard examine how “define and refine” applies to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, I have been helping audiences understand how the concept relates to them. For example, while presenting on the main stage of the National Speakers Association Convention I looked at how most professional speakers define their experience.

A quick review of professional speaker websites suggests that many present themselves somewhere on two emotional or intellectual dimensions. One dimension ranges from informational to transformational and the other ranges from escape to purpose. So you could imagine a 2 by 2 grid with 4 quadrants – purposeful information, escapist information, escapist transformation, or purposeful transformation. For a long-time in the speaking industry, success could be assured for those who provided an experience geared at delivering purposeful information. However, when corporate training budget decline, businesses turn to other less costly avenues for gaining purposeful information. If they are going to spend money, they are looking for a different more relevant experience to justify the expense of a live meeting.

From my perspective, meeting planners are increasingly looking for a purposeful transformational experience where people do not just come together to collect information but where they purposefully transform from one state of being (like pessimistic) to an another state of being (like hopeful). If my assessments are correct, relevance requires an adjustment from informational experiences to transformational ones. Effective speakers will then define the transformational experience they seek to provide and design aspects of that transformation in to key connection points they have with their clients.

So let’s take this out of the speaking arena and into your business. If you were to look at websites in your industry what two dimensions seem to be prominently promised by competitors. If you are a financial advisor it may be a dimension that ranges from simplicity to transparency or if you are a software designer it may range from ease of use to innovation. Whatever your two dimensions turn out to be, you can create a grid using those dimensions and look at where you are on that grid. You can then talk to customer about where they see you on that grid. You can also look for trends in customer behavior and see if you need to reposition you offerings for relevance. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once noted that you can’t “step in the same river twice.” While customer preferences may not be as transient as a river, we can keep providing the same river of experiences, when the customer has long since changed.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Tracy Edwards on July 30, 2009 at 10:26 pm


    Lethbridge College is tremendously excited about hosting you in September! We want our frontline staff to embrace your message and we’re delighted to have you also interface with our special donors and friends for a stellar evening event . . . we will keep you very engaged during your busy day here!

    LC was a proud sponsor of Joseph Michelli at the International Chair Academy Conference in Denver in 2008. One of our core values at Lethbridge College is an absolute focus on our people. . . developing them and celebrating their accomplishments. We know that you are the right speaker to inspire them to achieve even greater heights!



    Dr. Tracy Edwards
    President and CEO
    Lethbridge College
    Lethbridge, AB, Canada

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