I went to the theatre on Saturday (to see the superb Monkey!, nothing high-brow). As we were waiting for the show to start we were chatting about what it is that makes live performances so special. Whether it's a concert, a play, or even a conference talk, there's something magical about a live performance that a recording never captures.
I suspect the crucial difference is that you know a live performance is unique. It'll never be done in quite the same way ever again, and that makes it captivating. With the aerial antics of Monkey! it also gives you a slight feeling of dread that you're going to witness an accident live on stage!
Can organisations seeking to give their customers a great experience tap into these same feelings? Not easily, but I think it is possible for them to create the same sense that the experience is unique. To do so they need excellent staff and flexibility in their systems. Flexibility doesn't mean that the system isn't there or isn't competent—rock-solid support is as crucial for frontline staff as the wires used by the performers in Monkey!
The one thing you can't do is boilerplate a customer experience—if it's not unique then it's not an experience.