To dis­rupt the mar­ket, give your cus­tomers an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence

The East African - - BUSINESS - WALE AKINYEMI Wale Akinyemi is the chief trans­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, Pow­ertalks

Good ser­vice pro­duces cus­tomers but a good ex­pe­ri­ence cre­ates am­bas­sadors

One es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent of disruptive ideas is their abil­ity to go vi­ral. When some­thing goes vi­ral it means that peo­ple keep pass­ing it on and it gains pop­u­lar­ity and in­creases in mo­men­tum. What makes some­thing so cap­ti­vat­ing that peo­ple just can’t stop talk­ing about it to each other un­til the idea or prod­uct be­comes the hot topic on ev­ery­one’s lips?

To dis­rupt, an idea must go vi­ral. What are the el­e­ments that make it do so?

This past week, Ap­ple launched the iphone XS, XS Max and XR. As al­ways, the launch was the num­ber one trend­ing topic in the world. Why does Ap­ple have such a cult like fol­low­ing? What is it that gen­er­ates such a fol­low­ing not just for Ap­ple but in­deed for any­thing?

An­other name that elic­its the same kind of cult-like fol­low­ing that leaves peo­ple in an­tic­i­pa­tion for days is Marvel. The Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, with su­per hero films like Iron Man, In­cred­i­ble Hulk, The Avengers se­ries, Cap­tain Amer­ica, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Black Pan­ther, among oth­ers, is the high­est-gross­ing film fran­chise of all time, hav­ing grossed over $17.5 bil­lion at the global box of­fice.

Now be­sides the cult-like fol­low­ing of th­ese com­pa­nies, they also bring in huge rev­enues. Ap­ple re­cently be­came the first com­pany in his­tory to cross the tril­lion dol­lar mark, and Marvel con­tin­ues to break box of­fice records with each new movie.

It there­fore ap­pears to be that if we can at­tain a cult-like fol­low­ing it will show up in the bank bal­ance. So, the big ques­tion there­fore is, how do we at­tain the fol­low­ing? How do we de­liver prod­ucts that be­come vi­ral?

Wal­ter Isaac­son gives a hint in his book Steve Jobs. In this au­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy of the Ap­ple founder, Jobs is por­trayed as be­ing to­tally ob­sessed with the Ap­ple ex­pe­ri­ence and not just a prod­uct. He wanted a phone that would not need com­pli­cated moves to get any­thing done or to get to any feature. He wanted a phone that jeans-wear­ing geeks like him could use eas­ily — a phone that they could slip con­ve­niently in the pock­ets. He wanted to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence that was more than just an­other phone.

There is a Youtube video in which Steve Jobs speaks about the “Ap­ple Cus­tomer Ex­pe­ri­ence and In­no­va­tion.” In the video, Jobs said that one of the big­gest lessons of his life was to start with the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and then work back to the tech­nol­ogy. “Don’t start with the tech­nol­ogy and then fig­ure out where to sell it,” he says.

Cus­tomer po­si­tion

The Ap­ple ex­pe­ri­ence did not start from a tech­nol­ogy or fi­nance po­si­tion. It started from cus­tomer po­si­tion. Once the cus­tomer po­si­tion had been estab­lished then the engi­neers could de­velop the prod­uct. At this point the cost to the cus­tomer was no longer an is­sue. They would pay for it be­cause it de­liv­ered the ex­pe­ri­ence that they wanted even if they did not re­alise that they needed it be­fore.

The re­al­ity of de­vel­op­ing the right cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is that once the ex­pe­ri­ence is guar­an­teed, peo­ple will pay for it. You can buy a bot­tle of soda from a kiosk, or you can buy it from a five-star ho­tel at 10 times the price. Once in the five star ho­tel no one will com­plain that the drink is too ex­pen­sive and tell the waiter that just out­side the gate of the ho­tel the same can be bought for a frac­tion of the price in the ho­tel.

What do peo­ple pay for in the ho­tel? They pay for the ex­pe­ri­ence. Why did peo­ple watch The

Black Pan­ther mul­ti­ple times? They were pay­ing for an ex­pe­ri­ence. That is what cre­ates an emo­tional con­nec­tion with the cus­tomer. Peo­ple may for­get what you sell them but they will never for­get how you make them feel.

Good ser­vice pro­duces cus­tomers but a good ex­pe­ri­ence cre­ates am­bas­sadors. For an idea or a prod­uct to go vi­ral, it needs am­bas­sadors.

Am­bas­sadors are un­paid mouth­pieces or am­pli­fiers who in­flu­ence oth­ers con­cern­ing the prod­uct or ser­vice.

In or­der to cre­ate am­bas­sadors the sin­gle most im­por­tant ques­tion is, what is the ex­pe­ri­ence we are giv­ing our cus­tomers? Un­for­tu­nately many do not ask this ques­tion but are driven more by an­other ques­tion, “What is the re­turn we want to give to our share­hold­ers?”

Both are valid ques­tions but his­tory has proved it that if we get the first ques­tion right, the sec­ond will take care of it­self.

A com­pany that lacks a well-de­fined cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence philosophy is on shaky ground be­cause it will re­side in the place where com­pe­ti­tion hap­pens. Com­pe­ti­tion hap­pens with prod­ucts and services, but not with ex­pe­ri­ences. Ex­pe­ri­ences are emo­tional and it takes a lot of ef­fort to repli­cate an emo­tion. You have to cre­ate your own ex­pe­ri­ence.

If the name of your com­pany is XYZ Com­pany then ask your­self, “What is the XYZ ex­pe­ri­ence?” If you can­not an­swer with­out think­ing too hard then you do not have what it takes to han­dle the dis­rup­tion that is com­ing your way.

Pic­ture: AFP

An Ap­ple iphone Xr model rests on dis­play dur­ing a launch event on Septem­ber 12, in Cu­per­tino, Cal­i­for­nia. Ap­ple also launched the iphone XS and XS Max. The com­pany has a cult-like fol­low­ing.

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