Chip Bell is a bestselling author and the keynote speaker forHostingCon 2014. He says most organizations focus on value added services, in other words adding a services to an existing base. Companies basically take what base level services a customer expects then add more.
He used the examples of airlines upgrading someone on a flight or a hotel upgrading a standard room to one with a view. The problem with companies using this kind of thinking is that it is focused on additional services and linear thinking which doesn’t leave much creativity to explore new and better methods to grow business. Instead, the customer begins to expect these value added services and it becomes more expensive for the company to continue to provide them.
Bell’s suggestion is that smart organizations focus on “value unique” services instead. Rather than focus on more or adding, Bell says, “…we’re going to focus on different, unique, ingenious, creative [services] and once you’re in that realm of value unique, it’s unlimited, there’s no limit to creative applications, unique applications and looking for ways to create that.”
Another area of interest to companies looking to grow their customer base is the practice of mechanizing processes which use to be a great experience, an idea that is particularly relevant to the cloud and hosting industry where so many services can be purchased and implemented without ever talking or interacting with a person.
He used the airline example again to describe this concept. In the past when there was a problem or issue with the flight or the customer was a frequent flyer, gate agents had the ability to selectively upgrade passengers or find a unique solutions. Before, when one had to interact with the gate agent in order to facilitate this process, the interaction created an opportunity to create a strong, positive customer experience.
When the flyer was upgraded he/she was generally grateful to the gate agent for making the experience more enjoyable which created an emotional connection to the company.
This type of process creates loyal customers who share their experience with friends, social media and in reviews. This type of exposure for organizations has become much more relevant and way to get “free” advertising and endorsements for companies and their services. When people love a brand our new world of social media makes it easier to share that information with the world.
Now the airline upgrade process is very mechanized. Customer names go on a list and passengers are upgraded by an algorithm based on flyer status with a computer screen in the terminal to inform them of their upgrade. This takes away the ability for the customer to make an emotional connection with a person and thus, the company.
Bell explained, “To me, that whole focus of let’s get this high tech and leave out the high touch has created a missed opportunity where an organization could delight the customer. Now I just assume I’m going to get upgraded to first class and when I do, I don’t tweet anybody. You know I use to send out this great note about how American Airlines upgraded me and I tell all my friends. Now I don’t tell anybody, it’s just mechanical.” He says this concept is what makes it so important for organizations to think about how they can create value unique services and a fantastic customer experience worth sharing.
His presentation at HostingCon will focus on 5 perspectives from his book, “The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service”, that provide companies ways to think about providing a unique and innovative experience for the customer.
When discussing the idea that organizations may undervalue the importance of customer experience and brand community, Bell said, “…the research shows that organizations that have no emotional connection or less and less emotional connection end up becoming commoditized and fight over best price, or lose market share to other organizations that have better products or better buzz. So we know that customers want an emotional connection.”
With some things it’s okay that it’s become mechanized. For example, pressing a button in a elevator or buying a drink from a vending machine is not something that requires an emotional connection. Nor does buying a book on Amazon and those types of experience are never shared. However there are times, like when something goes wrong with a transaction that the ability to provide a customer with an emotional connection creates a powerful way to gain a loyal customer who will share their good experience with others.
We discussed this idea in the context of the recent cloud services price slashing by Amazon, Google and others. In response the idea that much of the cloud and web services industry is being commoditized and they are no longer able to compete on price, Chip responded, “No, exactly. It’s not about that anymore. It’s not about price, it’s not even about product and so to me the playing ground now is about the experience. That’s how I can differentiate. I can always find a better price and I can always can find a competitive price, you have to be competitive on your prices or customers go elsewhere because they know their options.”
Since it’s no longer relevant to try to compete on price, what is really valuable in this discussion is how cloud and web service providers can differentiate themselves to continue to be successful in a highly commoditized market. Bell said, “To me that whole focus of focusing on price or focusing on unique product. Even products, look at how quickly a new product comes out and and then quickly some other organizations copy it…but experience, that is a whole different ball of wax and that is the realm of emotional connection and that’s what I talk about, it’s an experience you create.”
So the question becomes, how can cloud and hosting service providers best implement this idea of emotional connection and unique customer experience when almost all services and interactions with these type of businesses are through a computer? Chip had a great response to this question and will explore this idea and others in depth in his HostingCon Keynote session Innovative Service: Strategies for Creating Growth and Bottom Line Impact.
We also discussed Chip’s upcoming book about creating a superior customer service experience as a means to boost customer loyalty. Although the WHIR can’t disclose details, the book explores customer service in a creative way that was partially inspired by his granddaughter. Based on the overall concept of the new book Chip shared with us, it will be a great read for any cloud or web hosting provider looking to provide outstanding customer service as a means to create a valuable point of distinction.