To Beat the Competition, Become the Most Convenient Option for Customers
Amazon's customer-centric model is all about convenience.
Every customer will ask the question, how easy is it to do business with you? When you think about how every customer wants more convenience from a purchase, that they will pay more for a product or service or give up customer loyalty of many years to be accommodated better, can you afford not to provide convenience if you still want to be in business three years from now?
Convenience is nothing more than removing barriers to do business with you. But, to remove those barriers you need to have feedback from the customers on what they tell you is convenient. This can be your opportunity to disrupt your market. If you just look at the most convenient company in the world -- Amazon -- and what it has done so well to make Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world, there are many strategies you can copy.
In his book The Convenience Revolution, customer service expert Shep Hykenh shows six principles that any company can use to disrupt an industry:
1. Reducing friction
Friction is the enemy of customer experience because friction slows down the momentum that the customer had toward buying from you. Think of the taxi industry. In the past, getting a taxi often meant calling a company ahead of time, waiting for the taxi to show up (oftentimes late), never knowing how much it would cost until you reached your destination and then an awkward encounter of payment and tip. Now with companies like Uber, you can be picked up almost anywhere, you know the price before your trip even starts and your payment information is stored so there are no awkward transactions. Simply put, Uber reduces friction.
The most important lesson in self-service is to remember what is convenient for a self-service system for one person will not necessarily be convenient for another person. When designing self-service options, you need to take those differences into account.
One company that has really excelled in this is Panera. Its self-service kiosks were created to be more convenient to customers so they spend less time waiting in line and getting their food.
Utilizing technology should reduce friction and improve the customer experience.
One innovative technology is PayPal, which embodies those concepts in its mission statement: "We believe that now is the time to reimagine money, to democratize financial services, so that managing and moving money is a right for all citizens, not just the affluent."
Some of my favorite tech devices are my iPad and Kindle, which make it easy and convenient to read books while traveling.
While it may not be realistic for you to expect your company to deliver technological breakthroughs on the scale of those engineered by companies like PayPal, Apple and Amazon, which transform whole marketplaces, the core concept is about rapid ownership. What this means is that it takes you far less time to feel as though you own the experience of using and benefiting from the technology.
This is possibly my favorite principle. Subscriptions allow a customer to have products delivered every month without re-ordering. This convenience is a huge time saver, with customers getting what they need delivered before they actually need it. This principle has built some of the largest companies in the world and changed industries forever.
A favorite of mine is Apple Music Unlimited. Back in the '90s, we would have to buy an entire album just to listen to one or two songs we enjoy. Now, for a nominal annual fee we can listen to unlimited songs per month.
Customers expectations have changed thanks to the Amazon Prime Program. Now, anything that saves a trip to the store is likely to factor into a customer's purchasing decisions. That means even companies that don't have products that are traditionally considered "shippable" can save customers time, effort and energy by making delivery part of the service offering.
Restaurants that don't offer delivery are missing out on lots of business. While there might be a lot of overhead for restaurants to handle delivery themselves, they can sign up for apps like DoorDash to tap into a larger customer market. Even a service business like a hair stylist could visit you at home instead.
Just think about how much easier it is for your customer to make a purchase if they can access it 24/7 to work with their schedule, especially those who work outside of the standard 9-5. As an example, Anytime Fitness operates its gyms 24/7/365. During off hours, gyms aren't staffed, but instead they use surveillance cameras for the safety of their members. Online companies like Amazon are available all the time as well online; even if you aren't an online component, think about a way to offer an online component when your business is closed..
Jeff Bezos believes that everything should be customer focused. He has said that 70 percent of the time should be spent on building a great service and 30 percent on shouting about how great the service is. And that service has paid off: Amazon is responsible for about 49 percent of online sales. Try implementing at least one of these six principles and you might find yourself with a competitive edge.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor