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CX Spotlight: Sweetwater Sound

In my recent post, I made the claim that technology needed to be used in the service of creating deeper customer relationships and interactions. The truth is that it is easy to find companies and technologies that fail to meet our expectations, so I’ve decided to highlight a company that I think is just crushing it when it comes to customer experience.

Sweetwater Sound is a distributor and retailer of musical equipment based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. They operate a physical retail store as well as a large e-commerce site focused exclusively on musical instruments and pro audio equipment. Founded in the early 90’s, primary as a musical catalog company, they have been experiencing fantastic growth in recent years all amid an industry that is undergoing tremendous shifts.

The musical equipment industry is in no way insulated from the pressures and Amazon, yet in this environment, Sweetwater has found a way to excel. In this increased era of efficiency, price competition, and commodification, I would assert that they are competing on customer experience. There’s not a thing I can buy on Sweetwater that I can’t find on Amazon, yet time and time again Sweetwater wins my business.

I recently had the privilege of attending Sweetwater’s Annual Gearfest and it struck me that they do three things exceptionally well:

  1. Focus on relationships
  2. Create unique, meaningful experiences
  3. Use technology in service of customer experience

1. Focus on relationships

As a company that makes most of its money as an e-commerce site, it would be an easy temptation for them to fall into focusing all of their efforts on the effectiveness of a website for converting sales, but this not Sweetwater’s approach.

Instead, they have a massive team of sales engineers (a team which I’m sure is a substantial portion of their operating expense) who quite simply build relationships with customers. As a Sweetwater customer, I have a dedicated sales engineer named Paul.

 /></p><p>I’ve known Paul for over 8 years. We talk on the phone. We have lengthy email exchanges about potential purchases. He calls to check in on me and ask about my previous purchases. He gives me discounted pricing off what’s published on the site. He’s my equipment guy and time and time again, when I’m in the market for a new piece of gear for myself or for my church, I wouldn’t think of making a purchase without Paul. Meaning I make most, if not all, of my musical equipment purchases through Paul.</p><p><strong>2. Create unique, meaningful experiences</strong></p><p>Gearfest is essentially the biggest music equipment store I’ve ever seen in my life. There are literal circus tents filled with gear!</p><p><img src=

a lengthy post from Highland President Jon Berbaum with lots of resources around design thinking mindsets and practices that can help you understand your customers on a deeper level.

  • If you’re in Chicago, we host the Chicago Customer Experience Meetup on the second Tuesday of every month. These are totally free to attend (we even provide food and drinks!) and are a great opportunity to meet with others who are committed to creating great experiences for their customers. You’ll also be able to hear from inspiring speakers from Chicago companies who are known for creating legendary customer experiences.
  • Finally, if you’re looking to take a deeper dive into CX for your organization, Highland is hosting a Customer Journey Mapping Masterclass on October 3–4. This is a great opportunity for teams to come together and produce a real journey map with the help of our team of CX designers, researchers, and strategists.
  • Regardless of where you get started, I’d love to hear from you if you have questions about how to bring great CX to your organization. At the end of the day, CX is about helping businesses improve the experiences of the people they serve — and really, shouldn’t that be something we all strive for?

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