Utilizing New Channels to Create Unforgettable Experiences

IMG_6139

Dinner’s on Joe.
Illustrated by H.P.Riggs, JR.

In today’s ever changing environment it is important for companies to separate themselves from their competition by creating unforgettable experiences for members of their community (customers, vendors, friends, etc.).  The Disney empire was built on creating “wow” moments and every company strives to do the same. Wow’s are what keeps them coming back and are the cornerstone of customer loyalty. This month, while working with a local insurance agency, we came up with a unique “wow” moment for his company that we believe we should share.

The agent, we’ll call him Joe, works for a large and reputable insurance company. His agency, franchise of sorts, is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River and his target market are the more than 20,000 residents residing in the three towns close to his office.

His agency is relatively new so Joe and his three employees continually seek unique ways to separate his firm from his competitors. We meet monthly to discuss his approach and to brainstorm on how he can improve his business without breaking the bank. Among the many ideas we discussed the following stood out as the most creative.

During our conversation Joe mentioned that he wanted to figure out how to work more closely with a local and very popular cheesesteak / pizza shop in order to gain exposure. The shop is located within walking distance of his agency and the owners recently gave Joe their business. Up until this point he has considered trying the traditional tactics including the ever so  popular “place your card in the bowl and win a lunch” contest. But today, a new idea emerged.

From now through the end of summer Joe will sponsor two pizzas per weekend to be delivered to anonymous customers within his target area. He will pre-pay the pizza shop and allow them to randomly select which customers (delivery only) will receive the surprise pie. Here’s how it will work and why it is a great idea.

Customer A calls on a friday night for a pizza to be delivered to his/her home. When the food arrives the driver simply tells the customer that the pizza is complementary of Joe, a local local insurance agent, who wants to build his reputation throughout the community. A pre-printed “thank you” card will be placed on the top of the box inviting the recipient to “thank Joe” on his company’s Facebook page and telling them to enjoy their meal. A simple yet powerful gesture.

Here’s why it will work.

  •  People love surprises, especially ones that save them money.
  • Eating is intimate and so is insurance. A natural yet subtle connection.
  • It screams community. Isn’t that what it’s all about.
  • The pizza shop also looks good so they will begin to sing his praises.
  • If he can successfully encourage people to talk about it online and thank him on his Facebook page then he will begin to reach people in those places every company wants to be.
  • It’s out-of-the-box, inexpensive, emotional, an experience, and fun. In other words, a homerun.
  • It’s nice.
  • It employees a new channel in the B2C relationship. Engaging the pizza shop to creates a new and unexpected carrier (literally) of his message.

There are few details to be worked out, including debriefing the staff at the pizza shop so they are clear in their message and making sure we get the responses we need, but nothing too challenging. The best part about it is the cost – we estimate an annual investment of $1,200 – $1,500.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and we will certainly keep you posted.

A Key to Customer Service is Keeping Your Promise

This evening our team participated in a group exercise about how we can improve customer service. We discussed the following four characteristics associated with delivering exceptional customer service: keeping promises, active listening, attitude and the power of persuasion.

Although each area drew an equal amount of participation it was the discussion around keeping promises that interested me most.  I discovered three basic elements that every person in sales should know – (1) As a member of the company, you are the expert and the curator of the customer experience (2) that the most important thing any member of any company can do is to deliver proper expectations (3) and that every effort should be made to keep any promise made to the customer.

In order to drive home the point of keeping the promise to the customer we used the following clip from a Seinfeld episode which proved to be a great way to convey the message.

Although obvious when thinking about it, keeping the promises made to your customer will differentiate your company from the rest.

Make Them Look Up

The Promise Land

Over the holidays I became a fan of Wegmans Food Markets, a growing supermarket chain that sat atop the 2005 Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work for List.”  If you’ve ever been to one then you know it has outstanding food at reasonable prices and the in-house market makes you think you’re somewhere other than heading for the baked goods aisle.

As if this weren’t enough the customer service is what some consider to be the best in the industry, and perhaps one of the best in the entire service industry.  Much has been written about the “employees first, customers second” philosophy Wegmans adopted, an approach shared by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, and Marriott, to name a few.  However, what struck me most wasn’t the free ham being doled out by the charismatic butcher (who happened to keep my daughter and I entertained for over 15 minutes), or the cheese guy with the cool accent who led me to the “brie” promise land. It was the train.

Above the heads and perhaps missed by some was a train that ran inconspicuously throughout a part of the store. I’m not even sure I would have seen it had it had not been spotted by my keen-eyed four year old. Yet when I saw it I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  Each aisle I turned down I checked to see where it was, whether or not it was still moving, and how far it had progressed since the last spotting.  It was pleasant, fun, memorable, and brought me to another time and place although I could never pinpoint when. It was a perfect compliment to an enjoyable experience during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. So why is this the train so important and why should an organization, a non-profit entity or a for-profit company care?

The Train by Jennifer Nicholson

The train represents a pleasant escape for the customer, the unexpected and added element to whatever experience an organization is trying to deliver.  It is the intangible little thing that may not make immediate sense, or speak directly to a mission or vision, but it manages to breathe a little life into an engagement and perhaps makes an incredible difference in an experience.

For Non-Profits
During last month’s ASAE Technology Conference there was a session on how organizations should consider using online games to increase membership for their organizations.  Generally I agree with this and think perhaps there’s a real opportunity for games (or other things) to change the experience for members. It certainly can’t hurt for organizations to continue to think differently. However, what can’t be missed by nonprofits and for-profits alike are the other elements that also make Wegmans great: its commitment to its employees, to its customers, to quality product and to reasonable prices.  I also think there’s an opportunity here for organizations to over analyze and ultimate kill the idea of using games to engage (not necessarily recruit) members, especially if they think too much about the outcome and not enough about the value of  what I call temporary escape.

For Companies
It’s time for every company to continue to add elements to the experience it delivers to its customer base.  Consumers are faced with so many choices and options that it may just be the companies that concentrate most on providing an escape to their own experience that outlast the rest. By fine tuning the fundamentals (mentioned above) and figuring out how to make them look up, the experience will become unforgettable.