In today’s economy, the experience is key

I recently visited a great little establishment called the Brooklyn Winery in the Williamsburg neighborhood of yup, Brooklyn, NY with a friend to enjoy a few adult beverages and some stimulating conversation.  The atmosphere is welcoming with tasteful dark hardwood accents everywhere, the perfect lighting, enough noise to let you know you’re “in the place to be” without having to yell to carry on a conversation with the person sitting next to you, and a very attentive staff that is always in the right place at the right time.  In short, going there is a great experience.

The Brooklyn Winery is a wine bar – as the name implies – and they do all of their wine on tap, which is a very cool concept.  On this visit, I opted for a “bottle” of the oh so delicious Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, which was poured from the tap into a decanter that looked like a beaker that you’d find in a chemistry classroom, and then served into glasses at just the right time by that oh so attentive staff without having to ever ask for more.  The cost of the wine… $42, which was actually $10 less than the regular price, because it was happy hour.

Now, being as all of the wine is on tap, the winery also sells growlers of wine to go, just like many pubs are doing with beer nowadays.  The cost of the same wine in a growler to go… $24.  That’s $28 cheaper than buying the same exact bottle of wine and drinking it at the bar!  So of course nobody was at the bar drinking, and people were just coming in to get a growler and leaving, right?  Not even close.  The place was packed.  Why on Earth would people willingly pay twice as much for a product?  The answer, of course, is the experience.  People aren’t interested in just purchasing products; they want experiences, and they are willing to pay for them.

You may be asking, “How does this relate to technology”?  Well, the days of wooing customers solely on specifications are long gone.  In the hosting industry, no more can you win customers by having the most RAM, biggest hard drives, fastest connectivity, or the most 9’s in your 99.9999999% uptime claims.  You have to attract customers through promoters, not through your own marketing materials, and you can only create promoters of your business by delivering great experiences to your customers.  Likewise, you need those amazing experiences to keep your current customers from doing business with someone else.

So how do you create memorable experiences for your customers?  The best way is to take a vested interest in the success and satisfaction of your customers.  Communicate with them openly and often.  Ask for their feedback, and communicate to your customers what you are doing with that feedback.  Figure out what your customers really want, and give it to them.  Find out where the issues are in your products and systems — and fix the ones that will make the most positive impact on your customers.

So if you deliver great experiences to your customers, does that mean that you can skimp on product quality?  Not at all!  Remember that product quality is part of the customer experience.  Look back at the example I mentioned earlier with the Brooklyn Winery.  If they had terrible wine, then no other part of the experience would have mattered.  Your customers expect quality.  In today’s market quality is no longer the differentiator it used to be.  It’s game stakes. If you don’t have it, customers quickly disappear.  The businesses that deliver quality products have two choices:

1. Commoditize your product and compete on price, or

2. Deliver great experiences for your customers and compete on loyalty.

Just remember, customers attracted to lower prices always look for the lower price, but customers who want an experience will stay with a company that gives them one.

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