Pursuit of Awesome

“The Pursuit of Awesome is a commitment to the practice of creating and delivering powerful experiences to customers with the intention of building or reinforcing a positive loyalty to the organization.”
 
Concept Summary
Far too often in organizations the customer experience has failed to impress. Customer service is often seen as an area to cut costs and quality, the actual sales process can be cumbersome depending on the product or service, and after the purchase is complete customers sometimes feel a sense of abandonment. As organizations focus on growing the customer they often forget the key principle that retaining a customer costs less that attracting a new one. The Pursuit of Awesome commits an organization to the continual development and delivery of experiences that build and maintain a customer’s positive image of an organization. This may include an organization identifying those individuals that already create these experiences on their own and replicating them across an organization or creating new ones. These Awesome experiences should be isolated, temporary, and replicable organization wide to be most effective. What becomes routine also becomes expected and comes to lack the feelings generated by Awesome. Over time customers will share Awesome experiences, which acts as a powerful marketing tool for the organization.
 
Awesome Experience – An Awesome Experience is a positive experience that exceeds reasonable or preconceived expectations.
Identification of Buying Factors–For each product or service an organization should understand and identify the factors that influence a customer’s buying decision. Furthermore these should be divided into functional benefits, emotional benefits, and peripheral benefits to better value them.
Replication– If a buying factor can be further developed to create an Awesome experience, that experience should be able to be replicated among different customers. In other words make the awesome experience unique but make it available to a wide range of customers. One off Awesome experiences do little to enhance the value of the organization. The pursuit, replication, and retirement of Awesome experiences should be entwined in the organizational culture.
Knowledge Transfer– Awesome experiences should have RPCs created for them so that others can understand and offer the same types of experiences. This adds value to training and demonstrates a commitment to the creation of an Organization in pursuit of Awesome.
Incentivizing Awesome– Employees must be incentivized in some way to not only provide previously created Awesome experiences but also to develop new ones.
Empowering Awesome– The workforce must feel empowered to deliver Awesome experiences to customers. Supervisors and managers should also be empowered to provide Awesome experiences to associates as well in terms of communications, training, and development.
Training for Awesome– The organization should have training programs in place which make Awesome a normal part of the organizational culture.
Loyalty– Awesome experiences endear customers and employees generating loyalty, provided that those experiences are continuously changed or modified. When a specific Awesome experience is replicated for the same customer it can become a normal expectation which diminishes the value of that experience over time.
 
The Situation
Every organization talks of providing an extraordinary customer experience whether the customer is an individual, another company, etc. The customer experience is central to almost every organization if you went by mission and vision statements alone. However when was the last time you were wowed to the point where you would call something extraordinary?. Organizations often talk the talk but fail to walk the walk when it comes to providing extraordinary customer experiences. However it is precisely the extraordinary provides differentiation to an organization from the rest of the pack and provides a basis for the building of positive goodwill and loyalty among customers.
The products and services an organization offers are constantly under attack by competing organizations, new technologies, and price variability. An organization only has a limited number of tools and means to counter those attacks. It cannot determine a response to a new competitive strategy until after the fact, it cannot predict what a college kid is creating in his garage that may be a game changer, and it certainly cannot influence most if not all the costs associated with its activities.
The one thing an organization has complete control over is the experience of its customers when dealing with the organization. In my mind there are three levels of customer experiences which are an Unsatisfied, Satisfied, or Awesome experience.
An unsatisfied customer experience will reduce the customers continued patronage to that of convenience or price influenced patronage, in that if the product or service is significantly more convenient or less expensive the customer may continue to utilize the services of that organization. They will not generally seek out the products or services for any other reason. Those customers may influence others in a negative fashion about the organization and create barriers to new customer acquisition.
A satisfied customer experience will maintain the customer’s patronage as long as the other factors remain constant. Customers will still be sensitive to changes in both convenience and price but will choose a satisfied experience over an unsatisfied experience if all else is equal. The organizations which provide a satisfied customer experience will find themselves in fierce competition with others offering a similar experience.
An Awesome customer experience will maintain and enhance the customer’s patronage regardless of other factors up to a reasonable point. The customer will often pay more and accept a lower level of convenience if the experience they have is an Awesome experience. In addition customers that have an Awesome experience will often share the experience with their social network serving further to enhance the brand while lowering the barriers to new customer acquisition.
            Organizations have a great deal of control over the customer experience but often choose to provide a blanket approach which favors a consistent experience for all customers. This well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate approach will often find an organization merely satisfying customers rather than creating an awesome for them.
Organizations
tend to find and maintain the standard found amongst its competitors which
provides little room for differentiation.
The Concept
The Pursuit of Awesome is the development of a set of unique tactics, or Awesome experiences, that an organization can provide which elevate the overall customer experience. They are designed to provide unexpected benefits to the customer and are applied sporadically, temporarily, and temporarily at an individual employee’s discretion. They are not meant to serve as a blanket approach to enhancing the customer experience but rather serve as enhancers to the current formula.
The first component of an Awesome experience lies in its unexpectedness. They cannot be incorporated into the functional activities of an organization,  else they become expected by the customers who then negatively react when it is no longer provided. Customers should not be aware of the Awesome experience before they are presented with it. Therefore such experiences should not be advertised or marketed but rather seen as a hidden perk which serves as a tool of enticement and loyalty. It creates the perception that  if I continue to be a customer, what will come next?
The second component of an Awesome experience is that it must be sporadically applied. It should not be universally applied to every customer. It should be subtle as to not arouse a negative response from those that don’t benefit. When a customer has an Awesome experience, it is enhanced by its exclusivity and rarity. This provides talking points and ultimately positive word of mouth between customers and potential customers. An example might be to receive a onetime buy one get one free for my cereal purchase today at the grocery store when the customer was checking out. Maybe one out of ten customers will get that special deal that day. No advertisements and no marketing, just a way of enhancing the checkout experience.
The third component of an Awesome experience requires that it is temporary. When an experience is repeated time and time again across an organization it becomes expected, and thus from the perspective of the customer it becomes the usual. The usual rapidly loses value as a marketing tool and becomes an expense to the organization rather than as the intended enhancer. Therefore the Awesome experience must be temporary in its utility and application.
The final component of an Awesome experience is the empowerment of the organizational workforce to deliver those experiences in conformance with the first three components. Providing a list of potential experiences each employee is empowered to provide on a limited basis and at their discretion allows those employees to customize those experiences to individual customers. For example if an employee is empowered to provide 2 free boxes of cereal a week they might give them to customers that are toting around several children. This increases the positive feelings of not only the customer, but also the employee for being able to provide such an experience. Who doesn’t feel great putting a smile on someone’s face?
 The Pursuit of Awesome can be a powerful marketing approach for any organization. Through its uniqueness and exclusivity it will generate positive reactions for current customers and ultimately lower the acquisition cost to obtaining new customers through positive word of mouth.
Implementation
1.     Develop a list of potentially Awesome experiences that are of value to the customer and of reasonable cost to you. Get creative and original. Examples might be free merchandise, entertainment bonuses such as movie tickets or dinner coupons, an irregular discount, etc.
2.     Determine the employees that will be empowered to provide these experiences. They may be checkout staff, sales staff, etc.
3.     Determine the frequency each employee is allowed to provide various incentives. For example an employee may be empowered to give a 10% discount on merchandise once a day to an individual customer. Or they may be given a pair of movie tickets to randomly hand out. Ensure that the Awesome experiences are monitored in order to prevent abuse, such as employees providing perks to friends or family.
4.     Make a certain selection of Awesome experiences available for employees to use in order to provide random and unique experiences regularly. For example out of a list of 15 different Awesome experiences only three are being used at any one time by employees. After a given period of time a different set of three experiences will be introduced to employees for use.
5.     Do not advertise or market the experiences and train employees how to spot customers that could benefit from a positive experience.
6.     Ask employees to provide suggestions for new Awesome experiences that could be introduced to keep the brand fresh and exciting for customers.
7.     If an organization is very large, test various Awesome experiences in different locations and share best practices based on reception and success.
Luffy Notes
A.   Feedback about awesome experiences often can be observed through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The organization that offers such experiences has to do little other than empower employees to provide those experiences. Social media and networking will do the marketing for you over time as people share their Awesome experiences with others.
B.    Ensure that Awesome experiences are changed frequently to keep them fresh and exciting for customers walking through the door. If the same customer has the same Awesome experience twice the second time will hold less impact then the first, and the third time even less. So focus on developing a growing list of Awesome experiences in order to maintain the momentum from this initiative.
C.    Individual Awesome experiences might be replicated by competitors, especially if they are discussed widely in social media or by some other communication method. The key to remaining different from the competition is to not set the expectation of a specific Awesome experience as the competition most likely will do, but to continue to please customers through the innovation, development, and introduction of fresh Awesome experiences.

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