TMCnet Feature
March 11, 2015

How to Disrupt the Status Quo with a Better Customer Experience

It used to be that if you lived in San Francisco and wanted to go to the airport, you called Yellow Cab, spoke to a dispatcher, and hoped like hell that the car would arrive in time for you to make your flight. Now, if you book with Lyft or Uber you can see exactly when your car is coming, communicate with the driver while they are en route, and quickly pay from your phone. These companies are building multi-million dollar businesses and huge valuations by changing the experience of booking a car. In fact, a whole generation of new businesses are upending traditional markets by offering better customer experiences. With an awesome experience, startups and SMBs can successfully take on well-established competitors. Here are six ways you can do it too:

Offer smart personalization.  Amazon started the trend when it added, “customers who bought this item also bought” recommendations. A new generation of startups is taking personalization to a whole new level by learning about individual customers and being smart about what items they recommend. At Stitch Fix, a personal styling service, the stylists pay attention to which items I keep from my shipments, and which ones I return. By learning about my preferences they make successive shipment more closely attuned to my personal style. And I’m buying more.

Provide status updates.  You can see when a Lyft will arrive before you even request a car. After booking you can watch the driver’s progress toward you. And if they take a wrong turn or stop for gas on the way, you know it!  Today’s customers expect this level of transparency with everything they purchase. And it’s not just new companies that are cashing in on the trend. Fifty-year old Dominoes Pizza is in on the action too. Not only are they making it possible to order a pizza from a Pebble watch, but they also have an app that lets you order from your phone and then tracks your pie as it’s baked and delivered. My kids love it!

Go to your customer.  Today’s busy customers often don’t have time to go to retail stores to select merchandise or try clothes on, so you can’t be successful if you wait for them to come to you. Companies like BarkBox, Club W, and Munchery were built on the premise of bringing products to customers who don’t have time to search them out on their own. Today you can even try on eyeglasses in the comfort of your home (and send a photo of your prescription from your mobile phone if you need special lenses).

Make payment frictionless. With Lyft and Uber, you don’t need to scramble for your wallet, and hope the driver takes a credit card. You only need to enter your credit card once and then you are automatically billed when your ride is finished. You can even split payment with friends from your phone. Today’s consumers expect payment to be easy and automatic.

Let customers share luxury items. The way consumers prioritize spending is changing. Timeshare vacation homes have been around for decades but it’s only recently that a new generation is embracing the “sharing economy” in many aspects of their lives. Instead of saving for cars, homes, and other luxury items, millennials are bypassing big expenditures in favor of sharing. The success of Rent the Runway would have been unthinkable in previous generations (share a party dress with a stranger?!), but in a world where people share their cars and homes, it only makes sense that designer evening wear is shared too.

Offer awesome service. Customer service is a critical part of delivering a better customer experience. Today’s customers expect to be able to get their questions answered now. Not only do they want fast, helpful answers on their channel of choice, but they also want access to your knowledge base so they can do their own research. Many companies are also delivering personalized service, instantly, within their apps — like game developer Space Ape which makes in-app support a critical part of the experience they offer, so that gamers don’t have to stop playing to get help.

You can join the new generation of startups and SMBs that are upending traditional markets by offering better customer experiences. We’ve already seen it in car services, eveningwear, eyeglasses and food delivery. What will be next?

Sara Varni leads marketing for Desk.comSalesforce's all-in-one customer service app for fast-growing companies. Attracting leading customer-oriented brands such as Yelp (News - Alert), SoundCloud, HotelTonight and Disqus, has become known as the savvy customer support app that connects agents with e-mail, phone calls, and social channels. Prior to this role, Sara led marketing for the Salesforce AppExchange, the #1 enterprise app marketplace.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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