June 17, 2014 at 7:59 AM
Observing consumer trends and understanding customers’ lifestyles can lead to moments of genius in meeting customer needs to create a superior Customer Experience. Case in point: Starbucks.
According to US-based technology and market research company, Forrester Research, 92% of companies surveyed last year confirmed that the customer experience would be a top priority for them. We are entering what Forrester refer to as the Age of the Customer:
“a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.”
For companies to thrive – and possibly survive - in this new age, they will need to offer a consistently superior experience for their customers.
Starbucks gets it Right: "Third Place"
Starbucks is one company that has done just that over the past few years. Starbucks did not grow into the largest coffeehouse in the world, with over 23,000 shops globally, because it has the best coffee. It did so by offering a superior customer experience. For decades, Starbucks have strived to become our “Third Place” – that place between work and home where we like to pop in for a while to read our mail, have a chat with a friend, have a business meeting, or pass the time waiting for our next flight or next appointment.
For Starbucks patrons, it’s less about the coffee and more about the experience. Sure, there’s that cozy ambience and vibe that they create with their soft jazz music, décor, and scent and sound of coffee being ground. But Starbucks solidified their position in our hearts and minds as our preferred “Third Place” when they first started offering free Wifi to customers.
By simply knowing their customers and observing consumer and market trends, Starbucks had a stroke of genius with this offering. An innovation like that shakes up the industry and leaves competitors scrambling to catch up.
Now that most coffee shops offer free Wifi, Starbucks continue to trailblaze the customer experience in order to tighten their grip on their competitive advantage.
Sheer Retail Brilliance: The Trifecta
Last week, they announced another industry first by offering wireless charging mats for mobile phones, so customers can charge their phones for free while enjoying a hot cup of java.
This is sheer retail brilliance. If there’s anything we’re more addicted to than coffee, it’s our Internet connectivity and our mobile phones. With this latest offering, Starbucks have created the addict’s “Customer Experience Trifecta” of coffee, free Wifi and free juice for their phones.
In doing this, they have not only created a competitive advantage, but also supported their objective of making Starbucks their customers’ preferred “Third Place.” For travellers accustomed to sitting on airport floors to be near a plug-point, it’s a dream come true.
Lessons to be Learned
So what lessons can we learn from Starbucks that will help us thrive in the Age of the Customer?
Create a superior experience for your customers by one of two ways:
- identify customer problems and then see how you as a business can solve them, or
- observe and respond to consumer trends in a way that fits in to and enhances your customers’ lifestyles.