Dramatic or Incremental Customer Experiences?
Change the Rules
By Lior Arussy
As the New
Year arrives, we find ourselves, once again, back to our strategic
planning white boards: Hours
of debates on defending market share, preventing product or service
commoditization and hopefully, offsetting customer churn.
Somewhere on the packed strategic agenda are customer
experiences. What do we do
with them? How can we
improve them? What do they really mean?
experiences are your core value proposition, not just package design.
They are the true differentiators and the fulfillment of your
company’s mission. Most
companies fail to understand this.
For those that do, customer experiences are the first item on
their strategic planning to-do list).
Today’s biggest misconception is that companies view customer
experience as an additional cost and not as a way to grow business and
profits. As such, they
succumb to making small, incremental changes rather then more impact
full, or differentiating ones. The
time has come for real change that will require some tough choices.
The time has come for dramatic experiences or nothing.
experience aren’t just about being nice to customers and they
certainly aren’t about smiling more sincerely (You can’t pay
employees to smile sincerely). Customer
experiences are about loving your customers and making money in the
process–a lot of money.
They represent an order-of-magnitude differentiation rather
then another modest, incremental increase.
experiences change the rules of the industry.
They set you apart from the pack.
While everyone else is focusing on efficient transactions, you
are tapping into the emotions and aspirations of your customers and
creating a powerful connection with them through powerful experiences.
Great customer experiences are also about breaking the rules by
doing something new, and charging far more for it.
following the crowd. Forget
about following market trends based on historical data and industry
“Best practices.” By
doing that, you’re following (and fulfilling) someone else’s
agenda. I advocate
instead, a more innovative-based approach that focuses on “Next
practices.” Move your customers out of their expectation zone and
focus on the “what’s next.”
Give them something new they haven’t thought
about before as opposed to simply providing them with their expected
incremental improvements. Surprise
them. Make them smile and
learned this lesson in the most unexpected way.
After landing at Ronald Reagan National Airport, I was picked up by a taxi into which the driver (and owner) had
installed massage chairs. The
massage service, which offered a selection of massages in varying
degrees of strength, was free of charge to all passengers.
Having put himself into the shoes of his customers, he easily
recognized the opportunity: Business
man or woman disembarks from plane only to jump into a cab for a
hurried trip to that early morning meeting. A stiff neck or back-ache
from hours of plane travel are common experiences but typically,
because of the scarcity of time, are not dealt with.
The aches and pains linger and distract…hardly a recipe for
success! This particular
taxi driver decided to change the rules and align his value with the
customer experience. He
did not follow the rules of taxis as commodities.
He did not read the industry’s publications, guiding him on
how to squeeze customers for more money.
He simply put himself into the shoes of the customer, imagined
the experience, and then went ahead and responded to it.
to say, I used the service, enjoyed it and tipped him handsomely.
It was worth it. His
service surprised and pleased me–and solved a real problem.
For that I was willing to pay more.
It was actually very perceptive on his part not
to put a price tag on the massage, but to provide the experience for
free. If there had been a
related charge, most passengers would probably have passed it up.
By not charging, according to the driver, the service was
always in use, without exception. As expected, he received more in
tips than he ever could imagine had he charged for the service.
The value in the passengers’ eyes was much greater, as it
usually is with great experiences, than a middle-of-the-road price
could ever be. By leaving
the pay up to customers, he actually made more money in tips than any
fee he could have charged for the service.
asked him if he would be willing to pick me up on the way back to the
airport, he stated that he was already fully booked for the rest of
the day. I wasn’t
rule-breakers who invent new experiences “suffer” the good problem
of high demand and repeat business.
move through the strategic planning process and consider redesigning
your customer experience, ask yourself the following questions:
Are these obvious
changes we promote?
counter-intuitive are our experiences?
would our competitor’s response be to our new experiences?
(Dismissal, shock, surprise; agreement?)
What rules are we
Are we following
market trends or opposing them?
closely knitted are our experiences to the customers’ emotions
is the customer’s response to our newly designed experience?
(amazement, gratefulness, boredom,)
If we were the
customer, would we pay extra for it?
How difficult will
it be to pursue and implement the experience internally?
counter-intuitive your proposed experiences are, the more likely they
are to be dramatic and truly differentiating.
Conduct a simple litmus test:
While discussing the various ideas, what responses are you
generating from the participants?
Do they smile and say it is outrageous and cool, or do you get
the impression that they feel it’s just another so-so idea.
If they’re not smiling with amazement, your proposed ideas
are not outrageous enough and most likely won’t pass the tough
loyalty test of the customer.
objections you get from the traditional nay-sayers (You know them,
“we don’t do things this way” or “that’s not how the company
does it”) the better your experience will be and the more on target
you are. After all, a strategy that everyone agrees with is not really
a strategy; it’s merely common sense…a tactical, incremental
implementation of someone else’s strategy and agenda.
…Sometimes known as market trends.
own leader. Through
experiences, you can change the rules.
Chart your own new path and force the competition to follow.
And if you do your job well and do not succumb to success
(while your competition scrambles to figure out how you changed the
rules and how to match the new ones), you will be busy creating even
Customer experiences are about creating a unique and easily defendable
market position which will make you the envy of every other industry
competitor. In a sense, it
will bring you back to the leadership position you’ve been craving
as defined by your most important stakeholder (if you made the right
choice): The customer.
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