Friday, March 5, 2010

5 Steps Toward Turning Your Commodity Into a Great Customer Experience

When a consumer buys a service there are a set of intangible activities carried out on his/her behalf.  When a consumer buys an experience, however, he/she buys a set of memorable events that a company has created - as in a theatrical play - to engage him/her in a personal way.  Engaging a customer in a personal way gains their trust and their continued loyalty as well.

The nature of economic value follows a natural progression from commodities to goods to services and then to experiences.  Each step along the way adds value.  Think of coffee.  The coffee bean is a commodity to be sure.  It is widely traded on the futures market and is a classic example of economic elasticity.  When it is roasted and packaged it now becomes a good that is distributed throughout various retail channels.  When it is brewed it now becomes a service that is available at cafe's, restaurants, etc.  When it is served in a high-end restaurant or espresso bar, where the ordering, creation, and consumption of the cup embodies a sense of ambiance or sense of theater, it now becomes a distinctive experience.  It is interesting to note that the price one is willing to pay increases as the good or service moves along this evolutionary path.

  1. Engage consumers in a personal way.  How?  Well, it’s always best to ask.  Asking customers what they want sounds almost too easy but it’s surprising how many businesses forget about this critical step.

  2. Watch customers.  Observe your customers and note their frustrations as well as their enjoyment.  Are there any unmet needs you notice? Anything you could do to enhance the experience?

  3. Think about the difference between opening a Dell computer (not too exciting) and opening a new Apple computer (exciting).  Think about the coffee shop that double seals your bag of freshly ground coffee because they knew you were traveling and didn't want the coffee to get stale.

  4. From a technical services point of view, think of how you can make a typical service call an experience or think of something that the client always asks for and then just add that into your routine.

  5. Does your client often stop at a specific coffee shop before a meeting?  Next time, have the coffee shop mention that their drink is free - compliments of you.  They will remember this gesture - for a very long time.

There are many types of experiences that can engage an individual and the challenge of the business is to create experiences compelling enough to make a lasting impression.  When you do this, you create loyalty and loyal customers are one of your best forms of sustainable competitive advantage.  They are priceless.

So the next time you hear about something being a commodity - think about how you can make it invaluable by creating an experience around it.  It's value will increase greatly and you win by creating loyal customers.

About the Author: Shane Ketterman is an IT Professional and MBA grad.  He owns and is a Certified Professional Coach focusing on the IT industry.  He is passionate about social media, marketing, and seeing others succeed.  His website is
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