Shep Hyken is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member, award-winning keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. As a customer service and experience expert, he knows the critical role stellar service plays in a company's trajectory of success. He writes about it in his upcoming book, The Convenience Revolution. We asked Shep why he believes convenience is the next big game-changer in customer service. Here's what he shared:
Easy. Convenient. User-friendly. Simple concepts, but when leveraged as a business strategy, more powerful than you might imagine.
If you can find a way to make doing business more convenient for customers, you can disrupt your competition--and maybe even an entire industry! If you want to be truly successful, you have to do more than meet your customers' needs, even more than offer excellent customer service. You have to be convenient.
Convenient means being easy to do business with. It means that your customer does not experience friction--before, during or after the sale. Starting with the assumption that you provide a quality product or service, and deliver it with good customer service, how can you take it to the next level by adding convenience?
6 foundations of convenience in business
After studying hundreds of companies, I've identified six principles that lay the foundation for being more convenient:
- Reduce friction. Make it easy to do business with you. Some companies make this the focus of their value proposition.
- Technology. Leverage technology to create a smoother customer experience.
- Self-service. Let customers own their experience if it makes their lives easier.
- Subscription. Like a magazine or newspaper that shows up on a regular basis, there may be a facet of your business that can operate under a similar model. For example, a hardware store could automatically deliver air conditioning or furnace filters every six months, rather than making the customer remember to come in and buy them.
- Delivery. Literally, take your product or service to the customer.
- Access. This encompasses logistics, hours of operation and availability.
Convenience as a winning business strategy
The most basic, obvious example of leveraging convenience as a winning business strategy is your corner convenience store--everyone knows they'll pay a little more for products there, yet the ease of purchase is a powerful draw.
Along the same lines, how about the minibar in your hotel room? Guests who take advantage of the minibar pay a large markup even compared to convenience store prices. The can of Coke that costs $5 in your room is less than half that price at a vending machine just down the hall. Despite that, hotels are still restocking their minibars every day.
Amazon and Uber: Masters of convenience
In my opinion, the most convenient company on the planet is Amazon.com. Amazon started as an online bookseller, and its model of large selection, low prices and convenience disrupted the entire book industry. When it expanded beyond books, it disrupted the entire retail industry. Side-by-side price comparisons, one-click buying, two-day delivery and easy returns all make Amazon the most convenient and frictionless company to buy from. The ease of doing business has made it the first-stop shop for millions worldwide.
Uber is another prime example because they've made using the service so user-friendly. You open the app and type in your destination. The driver knows where to pick you up, and the app shows how far away the driver is and how much your trip will cost. When you reach your destination, there's no exchange of money--you just get out of the car and Uber charges your credit card. It's so easy; it's almost like magic. It's no wonder Uber disrupted the entire taxi industry.
Upping your convenience game
Maybe you aren't out to disrupt an entire industry, but you can see the overwhelming advantage that convenience offers. You can use the concept to disrupt your direct competitors.
I had done business with a particular car dealership for almost 24 years with no plans to change. The people were friendly and, more importantly, they were located close to my office, so when I dropped my car off for service I could walk to work.
One day I saw a beautiful new car on the showroom floor of a competing dealership. I stopped to look, but I was upfront, telling the salesperson that I would probably buy from my regular dealership because it was conveniently located. I wasn't expecting what happened next--the salesperson upped the convenience game.
He asked me to look around for a waiting room. I didn't see one, and there was a reason why. He told me that any time my car needed service, he would deliver a new car to my home for me to drive until my car was ready. He said, "The next time you come back to this dealership won't be for an oil change. It will be to buy your new car." Wow. Talk about convenience! I've been a loyal customer ever since.
Assess your convenience factor
So, how can you up your convenience factor and disrupt the competition--or possibly an entire industry? Ask yourself these four questions:
- What is the easiest service experience you've ever received from anyone or any company, and how can you bring some of that into your day-to-day operation?
- Have you created policies that punish good customers for the sins of a few difficult ones? If so, can they be changed or eliminated?
- How easy are you to do business with? Are you easier than your competition?
- As you look at the touch points where customers interact with any aspect of your company, are there areas of friction that can be changed to improve the experience?
Remember: You don't just want to out-service your competition. You want to out-convenience them. All things being equal, the company that is most convenient to do business with ... wins.