How To: Design Your Customer Experience

Today’s discussion is about creating your customer experience. I’m going to use a play as a case study, yes a play as in theater. The name of the play is Kakadu: The Musical. I had the privilege of being invited by a friend and jumped at the chance to go.

The experience was amazing, and when you find an organization that puts on a play with only two service glitches it is worth talking about. How do you achieve such a service record? By designing the product delivery/service process with the customer in mind. Here is what I observed from the outside for the Kakadu musical.

Get Your Process Down

Get Your Process Down

Marketing: This is something that is universal to all businesses – you have to market your product. By this point you should understand your target market enough to know the channels to use to reach them, and it goes without saying that you have to create a product that your target market wants to buy. I heard about the show via word of mouth, but to get to that point you have to push the message via other channels. Kakadu had several press releases in newspapers, a lot of people were talking about it on twitter, and there were radio advertisements.

Sell Tickets: Kakadu used quite a few channels to get their tickets to their target audience. The locations for ticket sales ranged from a grocery store (Goodies) to the venue (Muson Center) and a Jazz Venue (the Jazzhole) to the internet (Afritickets and Eventiso). Having multiple channels for product/service delivery is great because it gives you multiple avenues to reach your target market.

Deliver Tickets: If you bought the ticket in person you picked it up right there and then, and if you bought it online the idea was that you could print it out as well. It almost didn’t work out that way though for the latter, there were some issues with one of the online ticket purchasing platforms. This was the first service glitch as the platform didn’t provide any level of customer service; luckily the play organizers did what any good entrepreneur should do, they handled the problem. They picked up the phone listed on their contact information and sorted it out. When we got there and found out they had sold out of the regular tickets, they offered to allow us to upgrade to VIP by paying the difference.

Get them to their Seats: Rather than let us navigate the theater by ourselves to find our seats, they had really helpful ushers to get us to available seats with minimal disruptions to the people already seated.

Let them Enjoy the Show: This was the best bit. The show was amazing, the actors were amazing, and it was everything I didn’t know to expect from Nigerian theater. The set changes occurred in the dark right in front of us and the actors were totally engaged in each other. It was one of those plays that engagement with the audience was limited to the musical aspects of the show. The emotional parts of the dialogue struck so real they had me breaking out my handkerchief to catch my tears. If this show comes on again, go. In fact if I’m in town when it gets reprised, I will go again. It wasn’t all perfect though as there wasn’t an intermission so my throat was bone dry from all the laughing and cheering.

What can you learn from this?

  • Think through it all: Look through your delivery process through the eyes of the customer. What do they have to do to buy your product/service? Walk through it as if you were the customer and ask the following questions:
    • Where do they shop? How can I get my products there?
    • How do you intend to deliver the product? Is it a way that your target market is used to? Would it cause them any inconvenience? If it does, is it a deal breaker? Could it result in them being delighted enough to share their experience with their friends?
    • Is the product worth what you are asking for it? Does the product deliver on the value proposition that you have promised the customer?
    • Bottom line how can you make the whole process more convenient for the customer?

 

Pay Attention…

This May!

The Beginner’s Guide to Business Plans is out. Sign up for the newsletter to get your very own copy.

In other news,I will be creating my first product. It is a SWOT analysis tool that will help you use your business model canvas to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your product. The tentative release date is the 1st Anniversary of Gig Theory, August 1st. Telling you guys this now is part of me putting myself on the spot (haha), and part to get you excited about a new addition to your business planning/management arsenal.

Also coming this month is a new feature called A Day in the Life….

A Day In The Life

This will launch in the third week of May (YAY!!!) and it showcases how I use some of the information that I share with you on this platform in my other ventures.

On to this week’s post.

I was reading the back of a can of air freshener recently and some of the copy caught my eye:

“Eliminates unpleasant odors. Freshness and perfumes every room in your home with the fresh and clean fragrance of nature.”

I read it about 3 or 4 times to make sure I was reading this correctly. Freshness and perfumes? That was a fail, not a huge one, but a fail nonetheless.

Why?

Because copy is one of the ways a company interacts with their customer. Well written copy helps the company communicate value in a professional way. There are not many customers who are particular about correct word choice in sentences, but you never know. Regardless of whether your customers are the type to pay attention to such details or not – if you are going to do something, do it well.

Bottom line for you:

  • Pay attention to the written material on your products, website, and any and all copy you have floating around. If your copy is sloppy, chances are something else in your business is.

What you can do next:

  • Gather all the written material you have on your business and proof read it. Your goal with this exercise is to make sure that there are no grammatical errors and that the words flow well.

 

Designing Your Product/Service

For a lazy person, I was super motivated on one particular day to grab cash, my car keys, and hit the road. I was going to get cake. I got to the cake shop’s location and couldn’t find it. So I went to the internet on my phone, got their number, and proceeded to call them three times just to get the right location. Why was I so motivated?

Well this place makes amazing cake!

Normally when I’m feeling a dessert, I go online to find recipes with the specific mix of ingredients I’m craving, I go shop for them, and make the dessert myself. But Take the Cake, the shop in question, makes cakes that are without question the best bought cakes I have ever had. Their ingredients shine through like the carrot in the carrot cake and the coconut in the Italian cream and their buttercream frosting tastes like real butter.

Cake

Via LisaB on Flickr

This story speaks to something about this cake shop:

Their ability to make the best cake I have had the privilege of tasting outside my kitchen.

To be able to achieve what they have achieved in my mind you need to understand what motivates your customer in the first place – the benefit their getting from you. To go back to the cake example, the cake shop makes it clear to the customer that they:

  • Make their cakes in small batches so that they come out perfect each time
  • Everything is baked from scratch using pure and fresh ingredients
  • They make Houston’s Best Cakes

The first two statements speak to the benefit that the customer can expect to get every time. They can expect a cake that tastes as good as or better than the last time they had it.

Understanding the benefit your customer gets helps you design your product because you are keeping the result of the customer’s interaction with your product in the forefront of your product development process.

So what is it that your business does that would make a lazy person get out of bed, into their car, and into busy traffic to get your product? With every version of your product, with every added feature, with every new component to your service, you need to think of about how this version, feature, or component will benefit the customer. Why? Well the benefit is what will motivate your customer to hand over some cash. And for every business that is the bottom line.

Bottom line for you:

  • Make sure that all your marketing materials communicate the benefit that the customer is getting. Your product/service and its packaging should also communicate the benefit if possible

What you can do next:

  • If you are not currently marketing materials do not communicate the benefits that you offer, now is the time to do so

Selecting your Target Market: Warm Niches

I have been doing quite a bit of reading in the last few months to wrap some concepts around my head, and one of the books on my list is Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Start-up. One of the key concepts presented in this book is to pick a niche as opposed to trying to cater to a large mass of people. He takes it a bit further and advises that everyone has a warm niche:

“A “warm” niche is a niche where you have some kind of association” ~ Start Small, Stay Small

A lot of us entrepreneurs think: “I’m going to target this group of people that has at least 3 million members; if I get only 1% of that market, my business will be off to a great start.” The thing with targeting such a large mass of people is that there are usually a few big players with large amounts of money targeting that group already. In business market share is everything, so the cost to get a measly 1% out of the hands of an established player might cost more than a small start-up can afford. This is where niches come in.

A niche is a small group of people that require a specialized service. Think about it this way:

You might be looking into developing a business that caters to the needs of craftsmen. There might be a lot of craftsmen in your market so you can look at a specific type of craftsman, say a carpenter. There are fewer carpenters than there are craftsmen. You might then consider narrowing it down even further by focusing on carpenters that cater to corporate clients. This is choosing a niche.

The concept of warm niches helps you choose a niche where you have some knowledge. For instance if you know someone close to you that is a carpenter who caters to corporate clients, he might help you acquire intimate knowledge of the issues that he faces day to day that your offering can solve. You can also, with his permission, use him as a resource in your research. He can point you in the direction of prominent trade publications or places where he and his colleagues hang out.

Picking a niche makes marketing your offering significantly cheaper because you are trying to reach a smaller number of people. And because this group is so much smaller, you can focus on where they hang out rather than trying to put out mass advertising. There is nothing wrong with mass advertising, but it is very expensive to reach a larger mass of people and that expense is something that you may not be able to afford.

So instead of trying to focus on 1% of 3 million; why not start with 1% of 30,000. It’s only 3,000 people, but these 3,000 people could make the solid start to your business.

References

Walling, Rob (2010-08-04). Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup. The Numa Group, LLC. Kindle Edition.

How To: Go Beyond for Your Customer

It was a hot day in Houston, almost 100oF, and I decided that since I didn’t have a functioning car I might as well walk to the nail shop. The flaw in my thinking was that the nail shop was quite a distance to walk in such heat on a road that isn’t pedestrian friendly. Halfway through the walk I realized my mistake, but I kept going. On arriving to the nail shop the owner says she recognized me on the road but wasn’t aware of where I was going and she promised me a ride back home. I sit there, enjoy a massage, and my regular treatments. During the period I strike up conversation with a woman who has two toddlers but makes the 45 minute drive to the nail shop just to get her nails done by the owner and her employees; I hear about other customers who come from far and wide ranging from 45 minutes – 1.5 hours away. The lady who was sitting next to me, Mrs. 45 minutes, once drove 2 hours in hurricane related traffic.

Sitting through the whole experience I kept asking myself what was so special about this place that people traveled so far to come to get their nails done. I didn’t have to look hard to get the answer. A lady came in asking for a pretty design, all she could think of was some slashes and she was shown a design that absolutely delighted her – it had slashes (stripes) and dots in three different colors. Another lady came with her two young daughters, and the owner personally did her nails and the nails of her girls while having conversation with her like she was an old friend. And of course there was me, the woman without a car in the Houston Summer. Once my services were done the owner took me home in her white Mercedes SUV. The make of the car doesn’t have any bearing on this, but it was the first time I was in a Mercedes SUV so bear with me.

What did I learn? I learned that you need to keep your promises (your basic value proposition), but you also need to go beyond. The store promised me a nail job that I would show off and they delivered, but the owner went beyond by taking me home because she knew it was a long uncomfortable walk. The other people who came there had their not-fully-formed visions fully realized and mothers and daughters left with nice designed and well done nails.

Being able to go beyond like this requires that you know your customers, listen to them, and keep your eyes open for chances to improve on the experience that you currently provide.

So keep your promises and whenever you have the opportunity to, take it a step further and go beyond.

A Discourse on Value

…when Customers choose an organization, they are more interested in the Value they’ll receive… ~ Business Model You1.

 

My first foray into the business world was participating in a business plan competition as part of my senior project in the final year of my university. There were eight competitors, and we came in at a not-so-shabby number four. Looking back now I realize there were a lot of things that we didn’t fully understand – financial statements, building an organizational team, and value. But the most important thing was value. We thought since our product offering was cheaper than all else that was available on the market, our customer would jump at the chance to pay us whatever little money we were asking for. We were wrong.

The simplest definition of value that I have seen so far is WIIFM (What is in it for me?) Value propositions answer the all-important question that customers have –

What is in it for me? ~ Via Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall

Answering this question requires that your business has a solid understanding of the problem your offering is trying to solve. Such understanding helps pick a customer segment that you can easily/profitably cater to. The determination of whether or not you can cater to a segment is based on the other business model components i.e. can you garner the key resources, conduct the key activities, and acquire the key partnerships required to fully serve that segment. Understanding your problem also helps you define the best solution that will help you deliver on your value proposition.

One thing I have learned since my fourth place finish is that one shouldn’t confuse value with either low cost or with features. Customers want a tangible benefit, one that if they apply it to their lives would make a marked difference to them. To give an example, I love to read books and to read them one has to buy them. When I was younger and much broker, I had a deal with a young man who sold books at a street corner in the Garage in Ikorodu. I paid him 20 naira to borrow a book that I returned and he could still sell at the same price since it was a used book to begin with.

The feature: The ability to borrow books

The benefit: read more books for less money

Thinking of just the feature didn’t fully convey the value that I would get from using his service; yes it said I could borrow books, which was great, but nothing was said about the monetary terms of that arrangement.

The benefit on the other hand didn’t mention anything about borrowing books. How I got the books, borrow or buy, wasn’t important to me, what was important (my problem) was that I had access to a lot of books at the prices that fit my budget. The interesting bit of this story is that 10 years later I still remember this man and the solution he provided for me. Can you say that your customers will remember you ten years on?

Whatever business you are choosing to go into, take the time to understand the problem and the customer having the problem; this will help you offer them value in the way of a great product or service.

Footnotes

  1. Book by Tim Clark, in collaboration with Alexander Osterwaleder and Yves Pigneur