Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies

In one of my earlier posts about Webkinz, I mentioned my research on five disruptive customer experience strategies. But I failed to list them out (thanks for those emails). So here they are:

  1. Ultrasimplicity: stripping away features to better meet the needs of customers. Companies often compete with each other by squeezing new features into their offerings. Over time, this process of “continuous enhancement” can lead to products and services with more capabilities than most customers need. So there’s an opportunity to develop a simplified version of existing offerings. [examples: ING Direct and JetBlue]
  2. Online infusion: integrating online features into core offerings. The number of US households with broadband more than doubled in the last few years – growing from 20 million in 2003 to almost 45 million in 2005. The increasing willingness of consumers to do things online has outpaced most companies’ online efforts. That’s why there’s an opportunity to disrupt the status quo by designing offerings that natively incorporate online capabilities as part of the core product definition. [examples: Netflix and Disney Mobile]
  3. Service infusion: integrating service features into core offerings. Companies often think of service independently of the products that they deliver. But customer needs are best met with a strong combination of both. That’s why firms can create a distinct advantage when they blend together product and service offerings. [examples: iPod/iTunes and Panasonic Plasma Concierge program]
  4. Service amplification: investing in distinctly high levels of service. For many companies, “human” service is viewed as pure cost – putting service capabilities on the chopping block whenever they face cost pressures. With this relentless marketplace squeeze on services, firms can differentiate themselves by bucking the trend and making a significant investment in raising their service levels. [examples: Mandarin Oriental hotels and The Container Store]
  5. Value repositioning: offering a radically different value proposition. One of the things that Starbucks’ success has taught us is that coffee shops don’t have to compete based solely on their coffee. When companies take a closer at a targeted set of customers, they’ll often find an opportunity to appeal to a different, less obvious set of needs and desires. [examples: Starbucks and Umpqua Bank]

All firms should ask themselves a couple of questions about these strategies:

  • Which of these can we use to differentiate our firm?
  • Which of these can competitors use to disrupt our business?

The bottom line: It’s better to be disruptive than disrupted!

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

5 Responses to Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies

  1. Chris says:

    Appreciate the example of Panasonic Concierge. I think it illustrates a good example of a company owning “total” customer experience, not just their portion of it. My own experience illustrates this: I recently purchased a Panasonic plasma TV from a discount retailer. I got it home, unpacked it, and plugged it in…no picture. I called the concierge line and a very engaged and helpful woman led me through an extensive trouble shooting process that included checking all the wires were properly attached (including those for my DVD player and my set top box – both non Panasonic products). In the end, the TV itself was not the issue. Instead, my satellite set top box needed to be rebooted. What impressed me was the fact that she led me through the set top box reboot! And as if this help was not enough, before she hung up, she proactively asked if I had programmed my remote. When I replied “not yet,” she led me through that process as well! This case might as well be an example of service amplification as well as infusion.

    Now, contrast the above with a more traditional scenario where the customer service agent troubleshoots the issue and determines the root cause is not the TV (but instead is with an upstream or downstream component sold by another vendor). What usually happens next is the helpful suggestion to “contact your satellite provider and have them look at the issue.”

    I saw a similar phenomenon years ago when I assisted several large communications companies launch new broadband services (i.e. high speed Internet services) to the mass market. Early on, the tendency for these companies was to own just the connection piece of the service (i.e. the wire going into the home). However, the better companies knew that in order to win the battle for subscribers (which the investment community closely monitored), customer service had to include knowledge of the other key components (i.e. dependencies) of broadband service (e.g. the customer’s modem and the PC). So, instead of saying “our systems show the connection is working fine, please contact your modem or pc manufacturer”, the better companies were able to tackle the leading causes of service disruption across all key components that comprise service.

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