40 years, 10 films, $7.5 billion+ in box-office revenue, countless fans.
The recent release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi got the SmarterCX team thinking about how the movie-watching experience has evolved over the past 40 years, and how an iconic franchise like Star Wars has created unforgettable customer experiences.
To get first-hand insights, we informally surveyed our colleagues, family members, friends, and each other, and found that almost every person has had a memorable experience with Star Wars – from piling into a VW in 1977 to watch the first movie at the drive-in, to pre-ordering tickets to the newest film, and everything in between.
Here are 3 things that Star Wars taught us about customer experience, and the delicate balance of new and nostalgic.
1. As consumer expectations evolve, so must the buying experience. BUT, CX professionals are wise to keep some of the nostalgia alive.
Ming Chen, friend, and one of the biggest Star Wars fans we know (he has $15,000 worth of Star Wars collectibles) says he will not miss opening day of Star Wars: The Last Jedi for anything. He reserved his tickets online two months ago, and knows exactly which theater, what time, and what seats he’ll be sitting in. Is this a good thing?
“The internet actually has taken the fun out of ‘getting tickets’,” Ming said. Although he likes having the movie time and a seat reserved, he misses the fun and the thrill of getting a good seat. “I’d still like to be able to get there early and ‘beat’ all the others to the good seats in the middle.” Ming does report, however, that the comfortable seating, including more leg room, wider seats, and dine-in viewing is a preferable experience to theater seating of the past.
2. As technology evolves, so has the movie watching experience – mostly for the better. BUT, some things can remain the same.
Where the importance of preserving nostalgia is concerned, Nicole Rucinski, Director, Field Marketing at Oracle, would agree. Nicole remembers paying about $4 per ticket to see the first Star Wars movie, and waiting in line for 3 hours with her family of 16 to watch it at Astor Plaza in Times Square.
“We got a button to wear with our ticket that said ‘May the Force be with you’ and the music was so loud in the movie compared to the dialogue that when the music came on, everyone had to stick napkins in their ears!” Nicole remembers.
She’s seen every Star Wars movie since then, and although the sound quality has improved, the lack of “exclusivity” has taken away some of the excitement. “It was a family activity then, marked on the calendar as a special treat for ‘being good’. Now it feels like it’s just another movie that everyone will see whenever it’s good for them. It’s not a special treat, it’s just part of the week.”
3. While technology and innovations in CX are expected, the lasting feeling of the experience is most important in the customer’s mind. Technology and innovation should drive these feelings.
“It changed the course of my life,” Mike Monello, Partner at Campfire and Co-Producer on The Blair Witch Project, said about the first Star Wars film. “Star Wars made me look at movie theaters differently. They were no longer places to go see movies but more temples for transformative experiences. George Lucas instilled the importance of movie theaters in the overall experience of cinema by developing THX sound and pushing theaters to improve the overall experience. Lucas didn’t just make movies, he wanted to control, as best he could, the total experience of his films.”
When Mike’s kids reached movie-going age, he had a hard time getting them excited about going to the theaters. Streaming services were their movie-watching medium of choice as theaters were slow to transform the experience at the pace of customers’ expectations. “Eventually my kids told me going to the theater wasn’t worth the hassle of riding the subway!” Mike said. “But the tide is changing – reserved seating and recliners have improved the experience. We’ve gone to more movies at the theater in the last year than in the previous five.”
While it may be tough to fulfill every movie-goer’s desires and even tougher to replicate the experience that Star Wars has created for its fans for generations, maintaining a close relationship with customers and their expectations is key to ruling the CX galaxy.