How to win customers in 2016

Allen EdmondsWith the New Year upon us, I was asked by a blogger to comment on trends that will influence customer experience in 2016. My reaction was to reply with insights into the rapid growth of consumers’ mobile connectivity across socioeconomic categories and the impact this trend is having on the number of customers who are active on social media, the quantity and speed of their feedback, the increasing percentage of revenue captured via mobile channels, etc.

It’s true that mobile connectivity is a big deal (and the main reason that you and I have either downloaded the Uber app to our smartphones or know someone who has). But rather than add my voice to the cacophony echoing this trend, I will instead provide an alliterative set of attributes (based on my 2015 observations of what’s resonating with customers) that will help you win customers in 2016 and beyond.

  1. Simplicity – Make it easy: Uber, a venture-capital-backed ride-hailing startup, surpassed a $50 billion valuation two years faster than Facebook – largely on the simplicity of its app. According to Uber, “Riding’s as easy as 1-2-3: 1. Request a ride; select your pick-up location on the map 2. Map your driver; watch your driver pick you up in minutes, and 3. Just hop out; no payment hassle after you arrive.” Now it doesn’t hurt that Uber is also known for its drivers’ clean cars, professionalism, and service bent. But that app is gold. Earlier today, I requested an Uber Black Car at 1:08pm that pulled in front of my house two minutes later. In addition to timely, my driver, Irfan, was courteous and professional. When I reached my destination, I had a digital receipt on my smartphone before I stepped out of the vehicle. Simple.
  1. Alacrity – Make it quick: My family and I often enjoy impromptu meals at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches or Chipotle Mexican Grill. In one strip center near our home, these restaurants are located next door to each other. At this location, our choice of where to dine is often determined by the line at Chipotle – which frequently extends to the entry doors. Interestingly, although Jimmy John’s is also popular and teeming with customers, there never seems to be much of a wait. Many times, I’m challenged to pay for my sandwich and return my credit card to my wallet before my sandwich is made and delivered to me. As Jimmy John’s says, it’s “Freaky fast!”
  1. Quality – Make it well: My brother-in-law, Mike, a pastor in Vancouver, B.C., likes to say, “I’m too poor to afford cheap shoes.” He would rather spend more money on a pair of well-made shoes that will last him for many years than buy a cheap pair that he’ll soon need to replace. Five years ago, I bought a pair of Allen Edmonds dress shoes. The sole of the right shoe finally wore down last November. I stopped by an Allen Edmonds store where an employee took all my information, printed a shipping label, and gave me a box to package my shoes and ship via FedEx to the factory for refurbishment. About a week later, I received an email update containing before-and-after pictures of my shoes. Two days later, they were delivered to my home looking like new! And now I’m good for another five years… I can’t wait to share this experience with Mike!

While I have no crystal ball, I can say this with certainty: In 2016 customers will be turned off by complex instructions, chronic delays, and shoddy quality. Mediocrity will be a tough sell. The availability of more choices, from transportation companies to dress shoe manufacturers, has exposed the futility of subpar product and service quality.

On the other hand, if you’re fortunate enough to have earned a reputation among customers for simplicity, alacrity, or quality, you will likely have a good year. If you’re known for two of the three attributes, you’ll probably have a great year. And if your brand is synonymous with all three, buckle up for the ride because you’re going to be very busy in 2016!

Happy New Year!

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

  • Anna M.

    I have to agree with you on your blog. As somebody who works in customer service, I see everyday people (myself included), who will not even bother with a place that has a huge line. Technological advances like ‘mobile orders and pay’ for Starbucks are great examples of making apps easy and accessible to use. Ease of use, quality of product and speed of service are so important for attracting and keeping customers.

    I’m starting a blog on Customer service and would love if you would follow me. Thank you!

  • While Starbucks has its detractors (E.g., those who bemoan its ubiquity or chastise its “burnt” beans), objective customers have to marvel at the consistency of product/service quality at its stores. I can count on the same quality latte whether I’m at the full service store in my neighborhood, the kiosk at the local supermarket, or the airport location next to gate B80 at DIA. And as a bellwether of technology, Starbucks’ use of technology/apps to reduce customer effort and speed transactions is just the icing on the cake – or, rather, the crema on the espresso. ; )
    Anna, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Steve