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Over the weekend of November 11th, I experienced what seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of several “new media influencers” to try out a new service called “Lux Delux.”

But in reality, treating yourself to an amazing experience filled with top of the line customer service doesn’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime; Lux Delux aims to be the chosen service for anyone that wants this experience throughout the year.

SETTING THE SCENE

Location: Where else but Vegas, baby? When you’re talking over-the-top entertainment and anything goes, Las Vegas has to be one of the top destinations in the world. Our specific destination in the desert? The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I had never stayed there before and it didn’t disappoint.

The Hosts: Out hosts for the weekend were Lux Delux founder Andy Hsieh, social media guru Helen Todd, and a team of “Luxierges” making sure that everything went according to plan.

The Speakers: Special guest speakers from Facebook, Foursquare, and the co-creator of Farmville.

The Superheros: Why Superheros? I honestly felt like my fellow guests were assembled like some hand-picked team of social media all-stars. Each one of us had a special super power that they brought to the table, and by the end of the weekend we were all “superfriends.” The other distinction? Our “Hall of Justice” was in a casino hotel.

Here are just a few:
Benedict Corpuz is a world-traveling flight attendant that lives on Foursquare. He tells us that the San Francisco Airport is the #1 destination for check-ins (more than 400,000), and he holds the lofty title of being the mayor. Want proof? He has 58 check-ins there in the last 60 days.

While the entire group is very active (hyperactive?) on Twitter, Calvin Lee has racked up some impressive numbers for an individual, with more than 70,000 followers and 150,000 tweets send. In comparison, I’m at 3,300 and 2,300 respectively.

My former co-worker Sara Zucker is an amazing fashion blogger and a Tumblr God. When not acting as the Community Manager for Glamour, her Tumblr account is followed by more than 40,000 people for the latest news and style.

Christine Martinez is a power user for a service you may not even know about, Pinterest. This service is an “online pinboard” and serves as a way to collect, organize, and share things you love from around the web. Never heard of it? Better get going… Christine already has more than 700,000 followers.

Myself and the other attendees had similar superpowers, providing expertise in blogging, Facebook, fashion, travel, and all things social media. It was the first event where having your phone out, taking photos, tweeting, checking in, and texting was not considered rude, it wasn’t frowned upon, and it wasn’t done on occasion under the table… it was HIGHLY ENCOURAGED and EXPECTED, and done constantly. Don’t worry though, we’re trained professionals in multitasking.

The experience
I’d like to start out with a quote that I will paraphrase from Gary Vaynerchuk, a strong proponent of customer service. I believe he ranted about this when I saw him speak at SXSW a few years back, saying “The level of customer service at companies is so terrible these days, that when someone like Zappos comes along and really focuses on it, people are completely blown away.”

What he is saying is not a commentary on how good the culture at Zappos is (it’s amazing), but how bad it is everywhere else. This gives companies that want to focus on a top of the line experience a huge opportunity in any market. It doesn’t matter if you are selling shoes and accessories online, wine and liquor (Gary’s family business), books, consulting, and speeches (Gary’s individual company), or a trip to Vegas… FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

And that’s exactly what Lux Delux has done. During our round-table discussion, we were trying to pinpoint on a fitting description — a luxury version of Groupon? Just uttering that felt like we were insulting the founders, but hold on. In marketing a new product, it’s important to “ground” users with something they are already familiar with. And since everyone knows what Groupon is, Lux Delux can then make a very clear distinction: Groupon is all about DISCOUNTS… about getting to the lowest common denominator, where consumers are simply looking for a bargain (often with no loyalty to the venue), and merchants are often losing money.

To contrast that, Lux Delux is all about the experience and the value. Here’s how it evolved for us:

- Helen and Claire are in constant communication leading up to the trip, with detailed logistics and a phone number for any questions
- You arrive at the airport and are greeted with a smile and a Starbucks smoothie before being escorted to the hotel Kanye-style, in a black Cadillac Escalade SUV
- The “home base” for the weekend is the former Real World Suite at the Hard Rock
- Upon arrival at your room, there is an iPod playing a custom playlist based on your favorite songs, and a massive bag of your favorite snack (I went with Twizzlers).

What’s interesting is it’s tough to impress a New Yorker, even in Vegas. World class restaurants, 24×7 entertainment, fantastic people-watching, celebrities, and the ability to get just about anything, any time? Yeah, we’re with you on that. The one thing they CAN do, however, is to give you a hotel room that is 2-3 times the size of your studio apartment. That always gets us.

Friday night features an amazing group dinner, drinks, and desserts, with each stop unfolding by a host saying “right this way” and immediately bringing us to our prepared table.

Saturday was the time to get some work done, as we heard presentations from Foursquare, Facebook, and @zamland, the co-creator of Farmville. This seemed to benefit all involved, as the superheros gained some social media insight on upcoming projects, gave their feedback to the companies, and Lux Delux could gain learnings for their official launch.

Along the way were some more unique experiences:
- Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (Andy’s brother) coming to speak to us
- A one-on-one meeting with the curator of the Hard Rock’s memorabilia
- A behind-the-scenes backstage tour of the hip hop performance team “Jabbawockeez
- A tour of “Stitched,” a bespoke boutique clothing store at the Cosmopolitan, which doubled as a whiskey tasting venue
- And finally, a “dress to the nines, get your groove on, and bypass the enormous line” trip into a VIP area at Marquee nightclub to end the night.

In the end, there are two take-aways for me.

First, it’s about people.
As I told the group during our roundtable, I’ve done 175 episodes of The Hopkinson Report, but it’s the 60 or so interviews with amazing entrepreneurs that really stands out for me. We’d assembled some of the most dialed-in social media people in the industry, and we had synced up across all platforms in the weeks leading to the trip, following each other avatars and gleaning information from tweets and bios, but it wasn’t until we met in person that a bond of friendship really formed. The same goes for the Lux Delux staff… it’s the people that deliver the customer service.

Second, it’s about the experience. Will there be people that think this service is extravagant? Of course. But this is no different in every facet of life. If everyone viewed a car as simply a way to get from point A to point B, we would all be driving Honda Accords and there would be no need for BMW or Porsche or Mercedes. If everyone looked at clothing as something functional and not style, we’d all be wearing khakis and tshirts and there would be no Vogue or GQ. And if everyone viewed food simply as nutrition, we’d be eating chicken and vegetables every night and never indulging in a Filet Mignon or sushi.

We can’t all be rock stars. But for those looking to be treated like a rock star, even for a single night or single weekend, there is Lux Delux.

Blogger Disclaimer: In exchange for feedback and consulting with their marketing plan, Lux Delux provided all activity, travel, and accommodations to me for this experience.

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