Today’s blog is from Dustin Klein and Howard Brodsky, authors of the just released book The Unexpected.
Innovation is a word that is tossed around a bit too often today, but when it’s used correctly – and applied effectively – there’s no denying its impact.
So what constitutes innovation?
It can be breakthrough technology. But it can also be a business style or approach, a corporate culture, or a new process. In essence, it is asking “what if?” and then testing the answer.
One way to ply innovation is an approach to how you can service your customers, your vendors and your employees. It doesn’t require dismantling your operations, your workflow, your current processes or procedures, or even your existing products or services. But it does require you to think differently about every interaction you have both internally and externally.
The concept is called The Unexpected. And while that may sound a bit ominous, it isn’t.
Rather, The Unexpected is based on the idea that consumers have resigned themselves to accepting subpar service in order to get the lowest possible price.
And unfortunately, because of the commoditization of many products and services, many business organizations have found themselves in a similar situation as they try to compete on lowest price. Sadly, they’re finding there isn’t much lower they can go and still be profitable.
As a result, you hear a lot of companies say “We compete on service.” But what does that really mean?
More important, when you start to hear everybody say that, it devalues exactly what that “service” is. And when you devalue something, you lose the competitive advantage it once carried.
Moving forward, delivering what might be considered “world-class” customer service – going above and beyond, delivering “plus-one”, and ensuring your customers can depend on you – may soon become your ante at the great poker table of business. And many of those who fail to deliver a minimum service level that is at least above average, will wither away.
So how does innovation play into this equation?
Simple. By innovating your business approach internally and externally, by training your team to be “eyes up” and to identify opportunities to do something different, you can effectively separate yourself from the pack and create a competitive advantage that is hard to overcome.
Here’s what has been uncovered:
First, people want something that is Memorable, which is the first element of The Unexpected. That means something that causes you to walk away and say, “Wow – I can’t believe what just happened to me.”
Here is a very simplistic example: Let’s say you frequented the same restaurant every Friday night with your spouse or significant other. You always ordered two glasses of red wine with your meals. What if one Friday night the owner sent out two glasses of a new red wine he or she stocked BEFORE you ordered. And what if the waiter told you that the owner thought you might enjoy this new wine and simply wanted your feedback on its quality and taste. It was on the house and a thank you for being such a loyal customer.
You’d find that an Unexpected surprise.
Not only that, but neuroscience tells us that an experience such as this releases dopamine from the brain stem and results in an elevation of your positive mood – creating happiness and joy. It etches a little reminder into your brain that says, This Happened, and creates a memory – the What.
But The Unexpected is more than this. You must also make that Memorable experience Distinguishable, which is the second key element. The Memory must create a Where – it must distinguish your brand from other brands. In this case, the restaurant.
And then, it must also be something that people want to tell others about, thus becoming Viral, the third key element of The Unexpected.
Finally, if you accomplish those three things – Make it Memorable, Distinguishable and Viral – it will result in the fourth key element of The Unexpected: Profitable.
You will either be able to go deeper and wider with your key client base and increase your profitability – for example, by telling others about how you received the free wine you might cause a friend to say, “Wow – we go there every Saturday and order dessert. I wonder if they might do the same thing for us when they create new signature desserts.” Or, you might be able to create more Profitability as Starbucks and The Ritz-Carlton do – by commanding a premium price for your products and services because you are never quite sure what Unexpected experience either organization will deliver.
Incorporating The Unexpected into your day-to-day operations is actually quite simple….but that is a lesson for another day.
To hear more about how to deliver the Unexpected to your customers, join Brodsky and Klein at our Soundview Live webinar: Breakthrough Strategies to Earn Loyal Customers for Life.