Friday, February 18, 2011

"On-stage" or "Off-stage"?

I just got back from speaking at an event with a few hundred people in attendance. All the details were covered. The stage was arranged well. The materials and lighting were set "just right". Seating, programs, music, coordination and timing, the service team's attire...everything in the ballroom looked/sounded great. The event team was excited to create an experience that was memorable.

Well, it was. For the wrong reasons.

Just after lunch, everyone was re-seated and listening to the speaker before me, when the side of the room we all heard...snoring. From the AV technician!

The whole room began to shift around uncomfortably and murmuring/snickering traveled around the ballroom for a loooong 20 seconds until someone walked over to the technician and finally shook him awake.

Guess what ended up being the most memorable moment from THAT conference?

More importantly, what do you think people are saying about the event company? The same event company, by the way, that went to all the effort and care to make sure "everything was perfect" - failed to focus on the team's behavior as a part of what really mattered.

Anything people can sense in any way during your event will either add to or take away from the value they perceive. ANYthing. As we used to say at Disney, if they can see, hear, taste, feel, or smell it, then it is "on-stage" and we should manage it to ensure a great experience. Consider, not just the "things" in the room, but the people as well, and ask "are we sending the message we want to send?" and "How will this impact our customer's experience?"

After all, you want to be remembered for the best reasons, right?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are You Free Or Fantastic?

Have you noticed that, these days, your customers are more demanding? The recent economic challenges have caused us all to be more thoughtful and demanding when it comes to spending our hard-earned dollars. How do you compete when, more and more, people expect something for nothing?

As wonderful as the Internet can be, it is also the source of easy access to the lowest price option. In fact, "the low, low price of FREE" is becoming a common goal in the race towards commoditization. Bottom line: When there's nothing special/different/better about your product or service, why should anyone pay more for it than the cheapest source?

The only time it makes good business sense to offer something for free (or even at no profit) is if there is strategic value. Either 1. To entice your customer so they do business with you and you can sell them more items where you make your (ultimate) profit; or 2. to use it as a tool to gain exposure/awareness for future sales.

Otherwise, the "strategy of free" is, ultimately, a default strategy for going out of business.

The only other strategy is to be "fantastic". Designing your product or service so customers experience a "WOW" means you can charge (and they will pay) a premium. (At Disney, we used to call this "pixie dust" - you can do it too!) Not only do you get a buzz of publicity (happy customers tell everybody!), but you earn profit that actually keeps your business in business.

Wouldn't you prefer that scenario?

What does the "strategy of fantastic" require? Simply adding value at every touch point of your customer's experience. Exceed their expectation (by being different/better) every step of the way and they will come back - AND tell all their friends/family to do business with you too!

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!