To disrupt the market, give your customers an unforgettable experience

Wednesday September 19 2018

Apple iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XR models rest on display during a launch event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California. PHOTO | NOAH BERGER | AFP 

By WALE AKINYEMI
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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?

Last 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.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks.