[Marketing] Tse, Caleb - Small Efforts with Big Effects: Finding Ways to Delight your Customers
- Caleb Tse
|Title||Small Efforts with Big Effects: Finding Ways to Delight your Customers|
Bombarded with more and more local and international choices, consumers are growing increasingly fickle with their needs and demands, and gradually more disloyal towards brands. Yet, many service firms still follow general marketing protocol in formulating strategies based predominately on consumer complaints and surveys.
This leads to a focus on drastic quality improvements or service innovations; essentially in the realm of how to make things easier, tastier, more efficient, or more comfortable,. This incremental line of thinking cannot result in true service differentiation, however. This article proposes a new strategic thinking of how service brands can better attain differentiation amidst growing competition: getting big effects with less effort.
This strategy is consumer-centric in nature and entails service brands to first dissect their entire consumer journey, mapping out what consumers think and feel at every point while going through the service provided.
Next, the brand should identify core consumer insights of the consumer experience, figuring out the fundamental reasons of why customers enjoy or despise an aspect of the experience. Finally, based on these core insights, the brand is to then design and add an element of surprise and delight to the consumer experience. These tactics should focus on enhancing memorability rather than on increasing the cost of the brand; they should be small in efforts, but big in intended effects. How is this possible you may ask? Consider the following three examples.
The Soho Grand Hotel is a small luxury boutique hotel in situated in the heart of Manhattan, New York City. Competing against the various big upscale hotel chains and similar boutique establishments, this hotel’s point of differentiation may not be noticeable at first glance. It boasts a rustic but elegant interior décor, and gives hotel guests a nostalgic home-like feeling. Everything you would expect to find at a luxury hotel is present at this hotel, but with one unique offering: a black pet gold fish in every room.
Labeled by the hotel as “goldfish team members,” they accompany every guest at the hotel for the duration of their stay. You may ask, what is the big deal about a goldfish? Based on a core customer insight that patrons traveling and staying at hotels in foreign cities may at times crave companionship, the accompanying goldfish may be the difference between an ordinary stay and a memorable stay at a New York hotel. Indeed, on Travel Advisor (a leading U.S. travel review website), many customer reviews of the Soho Grand Hotel show that hotel guests get quite attached to the pet goldfish during their stay and spread the word about the goldfish to others. With customer reviews and word-of-mouth being a strong determinant for business in the hotel industry, this small and simple strategy based on a core insight has helped the hotel to achieve uniqueness.
Another notable example stems from a core consumer insight on gender shopping behavior. Men generally have a low tolerance for long hours of shopping as compared with women, which can often result in relationship tension or conflicts between boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives. In 2011, IKEA Australia came up with a solution to this problem: creating a designated section of its stores exclusively for men to hang out in. Stocked with big screen TVs, videogames, men’s magazines, snacks (for purchase), this section, dubbed “man-land,” was the antidote to male-female shopping tensions. Operating much like a babysitting area, men could be “dropped off” by their significant others, play in the area, while their partners shopped, and later “picked up” again when the shopping was done. This campaign did not last long; IKEA only instituted it for four days to celebrate Father’s Day, but the campaign boosted in-store shopping duration, positive public relations, buzz and online discussion, and ultimately displayed IKEA’s customer-centric focus. In comparison to the totality of IKEA’s operations, this was indeed a small effort with big effects.
Finally, as a quintessential Chinese cuisine option, especially during the cold wintertime, “hotpot” consists of a group of family or friends cooking raw meats, vegetables, dumplings, noodles etc., in a communal soup-based boiling “hotpot.” While a litany of hotpot restaurants tend to differentiate themselves based on normal dimensions of food variety, freshness of ingredients, customer service, and price, one privately-owned chain of Sichuan-styled hotpot restaurants has gained significant popularity in recent years by doing something different. Haidilao (translated as “finding treasures in the sea”) boasts of high marks in these aforementioned dimensions; they serve high quality fresh offerings, promote infectious customer service with happy employees, and offer decent prices. Yet, notably, what separates this chain from competition, is its attention to the pre-dining consumer experience. Recognizing that customers despise waiting times for seating, the chain offers free manicures, shoe shining services, neck massages, and pre-meal snacks/drinks among others to its waiting patrons, which effectively turn these annoying and unproductive waiting periods into pleasant and memorable customer experiences. As a result of this strategy, the hotpot chain has seen steady growth in business, fueled by very positive word-of-mouth from customers who express their fondness for the hour plus queue for seating, as much as the meal experience itself.
In this increasingly competitive global market, it is difficult but certainly not impossible for brands in service industries to obtain differentiation and customer delight. While the bulk of firms focus on making things bigger, better, and faster, smarter brands instead should consider strategies derived from core consumer insights of the consumer journey. This may lead to the realization that often, simple small efforts can lead to big effects.