Episode #95: 1.21 Gigawatts of Customer Experience

People love to receive. But they also love to give. When considering experiences, don’t think only about what you’re giving someone — think about what you can enable them to give to others. For example, I love driving my DeLorean. But people around me seem to love it just as much. That’s why I’ve always said driving a DeLorean is about “smiles per gallon.” Today we go back to the future as we learn about building better experiences.

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Okay, today’s a car edition of the CXM Experience. I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And I’m here to talk about experience as it relates to cars, which I don’t talk about very often, but I thought it would be kind of fun today.

I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure to own a couple of pretty unique cars over the years that have been a lot of fun. And one of them I’m going to talk about today. Many of you would know that I have, and I’m often featured in it, and I have pictures of it all over the place. But I have since 2008, owned a DeLorean — you made a time machine out of a DeLorean? So, the DeLorean is a very, very, very interesting car.

Now there’s a bunch of misconceptions about the DeLorean. And let me quickly clear up some of those because they’ll get in the way of understanding and enjoying this particular discussion today. Number one, the panels are made out of stainless steel, not aluminum. The car is extremely light, the whole point of it. It’s essentially a fiberglass body with the minimal amount of fiberglass. Imagine a Lotus Esprit with all the non-essential fiberglass cut out. And then the stainless steel is screwed into the fiberglass as fairings. And the reason they use stainless steel is that you can make stainless steel very, very thin, and it doesn’t rust. Whereas if you’re using normal steel, you have to make it much thicker, because you have to account for corrosion.

So you’ve got a very, very light car. At the time, the lightest production car built. About 2600-2800 pounds. Famously underpowered. Also not true. There’s more than enough power for a very light car. And at the time of its launch, the DeLorean was faster than the Corvette of the same vintage, and the Porsche 911. It’s a super fast, super light, super interesting car.

Drivability is extremely high. It’s manual steering, so you feel the road well, but it’s got incredible ground control. It was the first production car to be able to take a mach one in a turn. And I have proven that that is true. You can make some modifications to your DeLorean, suspension engine, etc, which I have. And you can have even more power and even better handling. Those things are all optional and easy to do. And I’ve done them, and they have not been that hard to do.

The DeLorean is powered by a Volvo engine, extremely reliable. Some people have done up to half a million miles on DeLoreans. So very cool. And the car is a tremendous amount of fun. It’s like driving a go kart.

There is a dealer network. The company was restarted many years ago. And they have a dealer network. Dealers in the Pacific Northwest and LA, Chicago, Houston where the main office is, Orlando, and on Long Island near New York. What other misconceptions are there about the DeLorean? Oh, yeah, there’s no cocaine inside the car. That’s it. Also, he was totally framed on that one. He was kind of ugly in a lot of different ways. But he was acquitted in a very short trial because he was framed, and he was threatened at a moment of desperation. The sad thing is if he’d waited a day, there was funding in place that would have saved the company.

So, DeLoreans were produced from 1981 to 1982. There was a batch produced in 1983, once they went into bankruptcy. Do not buy one of those. They were assembled from spare parts lying around the factory. You want to buy a production car from the 81 or 82 runs. And the VINs started at 500 — mines 1922. Pretty good zone to be in. There’s a group of DeLoreans which have an antenna installed in the fender, don’t buy one of those. If you really want one that’s going to be the best you want to get a gas flap, grooved front hood, which would be in the first couple thousand cars. Mine’s one of those.

Why am I talking about the DeLorean today? Well, it’s interesting driving a car like that. I like to say that the car is really about smiles per gallon. It’s an interesting experience to have a car — but we’ll move this to other experiences as well — that other people get joy out of. Let’s talk a little bit about how humans work.

Humans work… I said that like an alien. Huu-maans. Humans work in a couple of interesting ways. We do like to get things. Certainly, we like to receive pleasure and get pleasure, and get things. We’re certainly like that. And very much a lot of experience, and a lot of experience management, is focused on delivering joy. Making people happier and doing it in a giving sort of way. Nothing wrong with that. Everybody loves Santa.

But people really love being Santa. People really, really love being Santa. And this is something that I think most people overlook in their experience flows, which is, it’s great to get something. It’s even better to give. And when you give something and when you can give joy when you can give something that people appreciate. It’s a tremendous lift and gives you a huge boost. And it makes you want to keep doing that.

So, how can you take your own experience, and make it into something that other people can have a gifting experience along the way? Where they’re giving things of value to others, and ideally, getting appreciation from others along the way.

I’ll describe a typical driving experience in the DeLorean. I’m driving along the road the other day, a van pulled up beside me, the window rolled down, I’m kind of used to it because people often will pull alongside me and take pictures. Very common. Pulled alongside me, rolled down the window, and the person leaned out of the window, and literally did a bowing “I am not worthy.” Two moving vehicles, like oh my God, please don’t die. But really, out of the window.

I’ve had people honk, smile, wave. Getting gas… it takes a long time to get gas. Everyone wants to know about the car. I literally got into arguments with people whether it’s made out of aluminum or stainless steel. I say it’s made of stainless steel. No, it’s made out of aluminum. No really, I’ve owned this car for more than a decade. It’s made of stainless steel. No, you’re wrong. It’s made out of aircraft, aluminum. No it’s not. That’s an actual conversation I’ve had. But you have this great engagement.

What’s amazing about it is everyone’s got a point of view. Everyone wants to say something, people want touch it, people want to sit in it. I don’t like that people want to sit in it that much. That’s not great. The touching is also not awesome because it leaves fingerprints everywhere. but it’s like the car is like a unicorn. And people have heard of the unicorn. They’ve seen pictures of the unicorn. They’ve seen movies with unicorns in it. But they’ve never seen a real unicorn. And wow, there’s a real unicorn.

A friend of mine once went to the dealership… Toby Peterson runs an amazing shop in the Pacific Northwest called DeLorean Northwest. And my friend John came with me one day to the shop. And John walked in, and he saw all these DeLoreans there, because they’re all being worked on and in various stages of repair, exchange, or being turned into something. And John said, wow. He said, You know, I always loved your car because it’s like a unicorn. This is like a unicorn farm. And it really is. It really is quite something else.

For me, the great thing, like I said a few minutes ago, the smiles per gallon aspect of the car is what keeps me coming back. The car is fun to drive. And it’s gone up a little bit in value, that’s really not that interesting. The car has a lot of really interesting qualities in terms of the way you enjoy the road and the driving experience. It’s fun to have a story about your car. I can do this and have this kind of conversation. But really what it is, is all the smiles and all the looks.

I love going to car shows. I’ll go to a car show… and my car’s in really good shape. I’ve taken excellent care of it. I go to the car show and I’ll be beside million-dollar Enzos and Bugattis, and all these amazing vehicles, and Porsches, etc. And the line is around my car. It drives the other drivers crazy. But yeah, everyone wants to see the Back to the Future car. Everyone wants to see the DeLorean.

What’s kind of cool about it is that its got this double path on it. There’s the path of the story of the car, and the car company, and all the other things that happened there. And that legend, and the legend of John DeLorean and all the stuff that he invented and did and went through in his life. And then there’s this entire other string of the Back to the Future piece. Now there are some DeLorean owners who get super wound up about the Backs to the Future stuff and get really angry about it. I don’t. I embrace it. I’ve got a flux capacitor in the back, just where it is in the movie. I’ve got a secondary backup flux capacitor in the little storage compartment behind the driver. And the front of that can be turned into a flux capacitor. I’ve got one of those, made in Belgium. Very cool, it works. You don’t want to get stuck back in time, obviously, with a broken flux capacitor. And then I’ve got a little tiny one that’s good for just short hops. Just go back a couple minutes, that I plug into the cigarette lighter. You say something and you wish you’d said something else, that one that saves me on those kinds of experiences. But it’s not good for long trips.

And then I have in the front of the car, in the trunk under the hood, there is a Mr. Fusion that’s connected to the electrical system and lights up. And one of my favorite things to do, and this is the last thing I’ll talk about in terms of experiences at a car show. I’ll start with the car closed. Back is closed, front is closed. But the doors — the wings, we call them wings — the wings of the doors are open so you can see inside the car. I put these metal bars, essentially a shower rod that I’ve cut at an angle on the posts, so people can’t just jump into the car. If you don’t put them up, kids will roll into the car, because it’s so low. It’s only six inches off the ground. So you put those bars in to keep people out of the car. And then you just step back and watch the smiles and watch everyone enjoy the car and talk about it.

My favorite thing is watching parents tell their kids about the car, and in particular, tell their kids about the movie, or then come to me and say I can’t believe I haven’t shown this movie to my kids yet. I’m taking them home right now and they’re gonna go see Back to the Future. Or the really good parents are, I just showed my kids Back to the Future the other day, it’s really great to see the car in person.

And then someone will say, Can you show me the engine? And it’s kind of a car show thing, right? I’ve always thought it’s a little funny because most engines are just, you know, engines. Especially these days. There’s nothing in there. You open up the car engine, new car, and it’s just like a big piece of plastic. And this is like, oh, there we go. It’s not that exciting. But anyway, I happily show them the engine. So what I do is I release the hood. And then I lift the hood. And inside there’s a Mr. Fusion. And that’s all that’s in there, just the Mr. Fusion. And I open it up like that. And it’s lit up. And I say yeah, runs on garbage. And I’ve got to say, I never get tired of it. Some people laugh right away. There’s a certain age, where they’re too young, they don’t get it. It doesn’t mean anything to them. There’s a certain age where they know that it doesn’t run on garbage. And they know that there’s not really a Mr. Fusion. But wouldn’t it be cool if there was. And there’s just the second there where they sit suspended between belief and disbelief. It’s just amazing to watch. It’s amazing to watch. Never lose that childlike perspective. Because you know, in that joy is invention. And then they’re like no. It’s a rear engine car. And then I open up the rear, and I show them the rear engine. And actually, the engine is actually pretty cool on my car, because it’s all lit up. And it’s got graphite covers and stuff. So the engine actually has some entertainment value to it as well.

So that’s the story of my DeLorean. But more importantly, the story of experience. And when you’re thinking about experience, don’t just think about what you’re giving someone. Think about what you can enable them to give to others. If I was going to use one example that’s done a reasonably interesting job of this, it would be Dropbox. One of the brilliant things about Dropbox is that the way Dropbox grew virally is by having people get more Dropbox by inviting friends to share Dropbox. It’s not quite as good as giving value, but it’s pretty good. And that really drove their business for a long time in a very amazing product-led marketing motion.

And so same idea here. What can you do to allow people to give as a way of giving them the satisfaction of using your product and your experience. Food for thought. And for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn and I’ll see you… back to the future.