Your product must be good–that’s a given. But if you’re going to win¸ it’s about the experience.
The best brands understand that when it comes to offering a product or service¸ delivering competently on the basics is just the cost of entry: It’s necessary but not sufficient.
Customers have higher expectations. They’re looking for something that makes your company stand out as a little bit above average. In b-school vocabulary¸ these are called “customer touchpoints¸” and if done poorly they can send potential buyers fleeing to other brands.
Consider cell phone companies¸ for example. While consumers care about prices and number of minutes in their plans¸ the quality of connections and service¸ and the phone models available¸ it turns out that it’s things like unclear billing statements and surprise hidden fees that can drive consumers away from their carriers.
Or consider the neighborhood coffee shop. In my neighborhood¸ the shops that do the most business aren’t the ones that serve the best or the cheapest coffee¸ it’s those that provide Wi-Fi¸ ample space¸ good lighting¸ and allow you to stay¸ unrushed.
Even gas stations have critical customer touchpoints. When I drove cross-country a number of years ago¸ I wound up refilling most often at Irving¸ a midwestern chain I had previously never heard of. Their tagline: Really¸ Really Clean Restrooms. In a category as commoditized as gas stations¸ the consistent cleanliness of a restroom (the need for which drives people to stop)¸ can easily be the tipping factor when customers must make a choice. It’s not a benefit that’s costly to offer¸ yet most gas stations overlook its importance.
What follows are examples of customer touchpoints I have observed that I think are clever or obvious¸ yet few category competitors have done well. In addition to surprising and delighting customers¸ these unexpected product benefits make brands more “buzzworthy.” When you surprise and delight customers¸ they are more likely to pass on favorable word of mouth.