(By Natalie Burg)
“Unique is the operative word. Unlike customer service, using another business’ methods won’t do the trick. To create a truly memorable experience, companies must find new ways to create innovative customer experiences.“
Smiling and greeting customers when they come in the door is good customer service. Giving grocery shoppers a choice between a traditional checkout lane and electronic self-checkout is offering customer experience.
While delivering great customer service is essential, it won’t make any business stand out from the pack. Creating a unique customer experience is the best way to really make an impression.
“Unique” is the operative word. Unlike customer service, using another business’ methods won’t do the trick. To create a truly memorable experience, companies must find new ways to create innovative customer experiences. Here are four ways some companies are doing exactly that.
For ages, sit-down restaurants nearly everywhere in the world have worked the same basic way. When dreaming up ideas for new customer experiences, restaurateurs aren’t apt to consider upsetting that basic structure.
Rajat Suri is seeking to change that with the Presto tablet, a touch-screen gadget that allows customers to skip the waiting part of dining in by taking the orders.
“Suri demonstrated the gadget over dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant, where the only interaction with waiters came when they delivered the falafel,” reported Sarah Frier for Bloomberg Businessweek. “Presto lets diners order by scrolling through pictures of entrées and pay swiping a card through Presto’s built-in reader.”
Another type of business that has stuck to the same operating procedure for eons is the bank. John Wynn of Universal Mind explained how one bank is innovating around customers’ expectations in a way that doesn’t necessarily require high-tech gadgets. Umpqua Bank has transformed its branches around the idea of “retail banking.”
“Branches are referred to as ‘stores’ with a greater emphasis on retail operations and atmosphere,” wrote Wynn. “Those ‘stores’ are considered destinations, where a customer can not only handle banking needs but also take a few minutes (or hours if they’d like) to just hang and learn more about financial products and services.”
That unique orientation is supported by a unique power structure. Unlike the traditional hierarchy found in banks, Umpqua Bank employs a flatter organizational structure.
“The concept was created to empower all associates with the ability to work in all areas of a traditionally specialized banking environment,” Wynn said.
Consider Soft Innovation
Even companies that peddle product instead of services can innovate without inventing new hardware. In “The Method Method,” Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry refer to the concept as “soft innovation.”
“Soft innovators establish new standards for quality, experience, and sales in their categories without actually doing anything profoundly innovative,” they wrote in an excerpt of the book published in Fast Company. “Think Ben & Jerry’s, which introduced the ice cream pint to the world as a more personal alternative to the half-gallon or gallon tub.”
Soft innovation means highlighting seemingly small things about a product — the smell, personality or design — in a way that alters the customer’s experience.
“None of this is individually groundbreaking, but collectively it has a big impact,” they said.
Treat Them Like V.I.P.
For those looking to clean out their closet and make some cash in the process, Threadflip has made reselling clothes and accessories easier than ever. With something called White Glove Service, the fashion site completely eliminated the hassle of listing and shipping used items.
Sellers must first apply to take advantage of the free service, but those who participate receive prepaid labels, fill them up, and then send it back to the company. Staff will then suggest prices, photograph and post the items, and ship them when they’re purchased. Not only does Threadflip handle their customers like top shelf sellers, the treatment means more money for their wallet since local consignment shops take a bigger cut. Offering this exclusive treatment has set Threadflip apart from other online marketplaces and made what can be an onerous experience a painless one.
There are myriad ways a business can create a unique customer experience. And that’s a good thing, too — it means that no matter how many brilliant customer experiences other companies implement, there’s always another idea out there, waiting to transform the customer experience even more.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”