I’ve spent my professional career teaching companies and individuals how to provide amazing customer service and a customer experience (CX) that would keep customers coming back and help their businesses to grow and thrive. But today, customers expect more. They know what good service looks like and they expect it. And, they not only compare you just to your direct competitor, but to the best service they have ever received—from anyone. Delivering an expected level of service is now the baseline, and you have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition—because they are also trying to out-service you. I have found a way. It’s a concept that is being embraced by smart, successful companies to disrupt their competition, and in some cases, entire industries.
And the secret is this: Convenience. If you can find a way to make your customer’s life easier, or find a way to be easier to do business with, you will have added a new level to your CX that will draw customers away from the competition. How can you do that? I can teach you. My new book, The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty, can guide you and help you come up with ideas to create more convenience for your customers.
The book highlights dozens of companies that have used convenience to disrupt their competitors. And, in some cases, companies that have come up with ways to make people’s lives easier have disrupted entire industries. As I studied these companies, I identified six Convenience Principles that they are using to set themselves apart from the competition. They are:
Let’s discuss each one and look at examples from different companies:
Reduce Friction: This is really what convenience is all about. It is the overriding principle, and the others that follow detail ways to reduce friction, or make life easier for the customer. Think about a convenience store. The concept originated in the 1920s, when Southland Ice Company, which sold big blocks of ice for iceboxes (precursor to the refrigerator), started stocking basic items like milk and bread. Maybe their items cost a little more, but customers loved the convenience of not having to make a special trip to the grocery store for these necessities, and the convenience store was born. Today we know it as 7-Eleven, which has nearly 65,000 stores worldwide. Another company built on the principle of reducing friction is Uber. They not only disrupted a competitor (a taxi cab company), they disrupted the entire industry. You open up the Uber app, input your destination, the app informs you how far away your driver is and how much the trip is going to cost. When the car shows up, the driver knows your name, and when you leave, you don’t have to reach in your pocket for money or a credit card, because you’re already in the system. Uber out-convenienced the entire industry!
Self-Service: While self-service sounds like it’s making more work for the customer, this isn’t really the case. Many customers prefer the self-service checkout option at the grocery store if it means not having to stand in a long line. And, when customers have a question or problem, where do they turn for answers? Most will start by checking the company’s website first, hoping to find a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, or maybe even instructional videos to help them figure out a solution on their own. One of my favorite examples of self-service is offered at Panera Bread, a chain of restaurants that provides the option for customers to order and pay for their meal at a kiosk. Since introducing the kiosks, Panera has been working to streamline the process even further. Now, when you place your order at a kiosk you are given a pager, then you simply take your seat at a table. The tables actually have sensors built into them, so when your order is ready, you don’t even have to get up. The server knows where you are and brings your food to you. I asked a manager at a local Panera why they made the change, and his answer was simple and direct: “Because it’s more convenient for our guests.”
Technology: Technology is an obvious way for companies to create more convenience. By providing an app or website, you are giving customers more options, more ways to connect, get information, or even make purchases. PayPal is an online banking solution through which people can send money or transfer funds from one bank account to another in an instant. One of my favorite apps is the NoWait app, which allows customers to remotely put their name on a restaurant’s waiting list. If the wait is an hour, you can actually watch your name moving up the list and time your arrival so when you get to the restaurant, there is…no wait.
Subscription: Subscription services have expanded from magazines and newspapers to include all kinds of products and services. Amazon, the leader in convenience, offers a subscription service for a myriad of consumable products. Annual maintenance contracts are a form of a subscription model. If you go to a hardware store to buy air conditioner or furnace filters every six months, many now make it easier by offering the option of automatically sending you the new filters when you need them. And when they show up, it is also a reminder to change them. Netflix disrupted the video industry when they offered a subscription model that made it easier than driving back and forth to the video store.
Delivery: Take it to the customer. Using delivery as a convenience proposition can go beyond shipping a product to the customer’s home or office. Even some service-based businesses have begun to offer mobile options, going to where the customer is, making life easier. I recently purchased a new car—not from the dealership where I had been a loyal customer for more than 20 years—but from one that, even though it was much further from my home, offered more convenience. I really didn’t intend to buy a car there; I just saw one that caught my eye while driving past. When I stopped to look at it, I told the salesman that I would ultimately buy from my local dealership, but he sold me on convenience. He said that anytime the car needed service—even a simple oil change—they would deliver a new car to my home to use until they returned mine. He disrupted the other dealership that I’d been going to for more than two decades.
Access: Are you available where and when your customers need you? If you’re not, you face some stiff competition. Websites are available 24/7. Walmarts are everywhere; in fact, 90 percent of US residents live within 10 minutes of a Walmart. Think about your location and hours of operation. Are they designed to be convenient for your customers – or for you? Could you disrupt your competition by offering nighttime or weekend hours? Huntington Bank offers extend daily and weekend hours.
The concept of being intentionally convenient can be a competitive business weapon. I studied hundreds of companies and their business processes to identify the areas in which these companies excelled to create a more convenient CX. My book The Convenience Revolution can guide you and help you come up with ideas to create more convenience for your customers.
In the end, it’s really quite simple. Customers will pay more for convenience. And they’ll choose to do more business with the people and companies that make their lives easier. So, choose one or more of the Convenience Principles that you can work on. Find ways to be more convenient for your customers and you’ll disrupt your competition and create fierce loyalty.
Shep Hyken is a customer service/experience expert, an award-winning keynote speaker, and a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book, The Convenience Revolution, is available to purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, 800-CEO-Read, and many other fine retailers. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. You can follow Shep on Twitter at @Hyken.
(Copyright © MMXVIII, Shep Hyken)