Why dedicating a portion of your marketing budget to a Customer Experience Study Tour could be the best investment you’ll make.

I was recently running a full day workshop for 70 leading financial advisors. I dedicated the afternoon to innovation and one of the exercises I got them to work on was design their own hypothetical two-week customer experience study tour. The exercise produced some surprising insights and learnings.

The scenario I posed to the group was that money was no object and that they had just 20 minutes to map out a two week schedule that would see them visit, tour and study the brands that are renowned globally for their customer experience.

Working in groups of 8, each table was asked to outline their itinerary and discuss why they chose the brands and places they did.

The study tour schedules were meticulously planned and thought out. They included trips to some of the world’s best-known restaurants (including the best restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana in Italy) a tour of the Mont Blanc factor, along with the world’s best hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and tech companies such as Apple, Netflix and Google. Most groups included the brands that deliver a master class in customer experience — Zappos and Disney.

I then asked everyone to look through their group’s list and do a rough calculation of the two-week trip and vote whether it would be a worthwhile investment for their business.

The response was a unanimous yes (despite some of the trips being trimmed back a touch here or there — not travelling in an Emirates first class apartment, for example, would save about $50,000).

What could you learn from experiencing the world’s best brands from the inside out? Often, the best inspiration for creating better customer experiences and more innovative ways to do things come from stepping outside your industry and normal environment. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t love a tax-deductible trip to Modena, Italy, to experience the degustation menu at Osteria Francescana? (all in the name of research, of course).

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