Delighting Customers One Clip at a Time

By Lior Arussy

And the award for the best, although simplest, way to delight customers goes the Seattle Crowne Plaza Hotel. During my travels I get to stay in wide variety of hotels around the world. I am often impressed by the many inventions dreamed up by the hotels geared to enhance the guests’ experience and add value by solving issues that matter. But the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Seattle impressed me because they managed to solve a problem, even I, the seasoned guest, did not notice and recognize as a problem. This is a proactive approach that does not wait for customer complaints to dictate the hotel’s actions. Instead, the hotel took a proactive approach to anticipate the issues. Kudos. What a way to go!

So you are probably asking: “What is the big invention that impressed me so much?” (something which I must admit is pretty difficult to do). A Drape Clip. “What is a Drape Clip?” you are asking? I asked the same question, when I first saw a sizable plastic clip named “Drape Clip” attached to the room drapes. After the turndown service, the mystery was solved. The maid used the clip to attach the right and left drapes to ensure complete darkness and prevent even a single ray of sun from entering my room uninvited.  It was at that moment that I realized that most hotel drapes do not close all the way and they leave a narrow, yet annoying space between them. This narrow space allows the sun’s rays to enter at an early hour of the day and causes guests to wake up before the time they intended to. Once you are awake, it is difficult to go back to sleep and you end up tired throughout the day due to as you are short on sleep. Someone at the hotel actually thought about the guest and their need for sleep and tried to place himself or herself in the guest’s shoes (or bed) both physically and mentally. Only by doing such an exercise could someone have come up with an invention such as the Drape Clip.

Companies often complain that delighting customers is expensive and eats into their margins. They add that their industry is heavily commoditized and there are no new ideas left to introduce to their market. Both claims may be equally applicable in the hospitality industry. The competition is tough. Many brands compete for the guests’ attention and wallet. The high end of the market includes some fancy perks at a high price that fewer customers can actually afford. Is great experience a matter of high costs only? No, it does not have to be that way.  Great experiences can and should be affordable in order to reach greater target audience.  The Drape Clip is not too costly. It was not a revolutionary idea that transformed an industry. It is simple.  What makes it special is the fact that it was more a matter of thinking like a customer. A simple but creative idea can make all the difference. Companies failure to delight customers, has little to do with budget, and mostly a result of inability to think like their customers. It is a state of mind more than a size of budget. A simple imaginative exercise that addresses the questions:

  • “What is the real problem we solve for the customer?” (In the hotel business it is not just room availability, but rather executive effectiveness and hence the importance of sleeping well.)

  • “How does the customer consume our products or service?”  (Different customers consume them differently. Search for the bizarre and you may find some interesting insights.)

  • “What else is missing to perfect the total experience?” (Never assume it is complete. The day you declare success is the day you start losing the battle to emerging competitors.)

  • “How can I surprise the customer?” (Surprise is what brings the Wow factor. Meeting expectations is just OK. Do not expect special excitement. Customers will get excited and be willing to pay and be loyal if you demonstrate the ability to be one step ahead of them and solve their problems before they even think about them.)

The future belongs to the Drape Clips, a simple, yet brilliant, application of a cost effective solution to delight customers. This is an era where every company struggles to keep costs down and yet find ways to innovate.  This could seemingly be a serious conflict.  In this instance, something creatively implemented, something simple and brilliant, wins over lavish and expensive. Delighting customers and creating memorable, clear differentiation comes from ideas like the Drape Clip. These ideas demonstrate thinking like the customer and anticipating his needs.

It sounds so simple, yet it seems difficult for companies to achieve. The current product or service focus, which includes the ongoing struggle to keep costs down, leaves companies thinking “products” and not “customers”. Executives are consumed with the costs of their products’ features, the raw materials required to produce and the processes required to deliver them.  They have not resources left over to focus on thinking like the customers. Another barrier to simple brilliant ideas is the fear of increased costs. Their perception that experience is only within the realm of high end products and any customer delighting features will throw their cost model off the charts, restricts them from even trying. This perception, however, is a false one. Without constant innovation, the product will lose the customer’s attention and will be subject to price pressure. This is how companies bring commoditization and price pressure upon themselves - they give up on the ongoing cycle of product innovation. They stop thinking “customers” and start thinking “products”.

Although customers have become more powerful these days, companies still have a choice. The choice is either to continue to believing the perception that “experience is expensive” and therefore choosing the path of no innovation or to stop acting powerless and taking charge of their destinies. The consequences are clear, choosing the path of no innovation, is a vote toward accelerated commoditization (you might as well count on further, on going cost reductions and shrinking budgets). Selecting the path of innovation, will require different thinking, but will lead toward growth and healthier, more profitable customer relationships.

Only you can make the choice to innovate and continue courting customers through new ideas. The future belongs to those companies who can come up with Drape Clips, simple, yet brilliant ideas that anticipate the customer’s needs and address them. So to get started, let’s do a simple exercise. Ask yourself a simple question: “What can I do with a regular plastic clip to delight my customers?”  Be creative. The power is in the idea. Good luck.

Read other articles and learn more about Lior Arussy.

For permission to reprint or reuse this article, please contact Lior at lior@strativitygroup.com.

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