Biographical essay 1
Biographical essay 2
To understand the historical figure who is the subject of each biography, wouldn't it be important to focus on these five characteristics? To understand what makes each person different from the other, would you start with these words? These five characteristics would influence much of what defines each person.
The same holds true with your customers. To understand what makes an individual customer unique, you need to focus on the blend of characteristics that distinguish him from other people.
But this is not how most companies work. Traditional methods of customer segmentation and procedure-driven service models teach us to look for what makes groups of customers the same, so we can make the process of marketing to them and serving them easier. It's as if we're ignoring the five words that are different, because it's too hard to keep track of them.
Flip it! Focus on the unique details, not just the shared characteristics.
At Yastrow & Company, we refer to these details as the "spices" that define a customer. Just as a small amount of spice can flavor an entire dish, a seemingly small detail can have a major impact on your customer's uniqueness. Notice the spices!
Finding the spices
One of the very most important things a front-line employee of your company can do is spot a customer's spices (By the way, "front-line employee" doesn't just have to mean an hourly employee. The top lawyer in a law firm, the top surgeon in a hospital and the top sales person in a company are all front-line employees, because they meet customers face to face).
Does your company encourage front-line people to spot customer spices? Do you tell your employees that identifying the unique characteristics of individual customers is one of the most important job tasks they have? Are they trained to do this? Do they have time built in to their customer interactions to learn about customers, or are they only taught to talk about the company's policies, products and procedures?
Customers show their unique characteristics most readily during one-on-one interactions with your company. Just imagine if your front-line people were ready, willing and able to take note of what customers are showing. Just imagine if this were your most important - and most successful - training initiative.
Remember the spices
If a front-line employee learns something about a customer, is there an easy way for the employee to record it, so the company has a way to remember what has been learned?
"Corporate memory" is critical to doing differentiation differently. Do your systems and processes enable your corporate memory? In many companies, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems become nothing more than databases used to accomplish the same-old marketing segmentation trick of lumping people into big groups for the purpose of marketing initiatives. How can you use these systems for their best purpose, remembering the unique spices of individual customers?
Retrieving the spices
I was interviewed by a magazine a few years ago and was asked to talked about the challenges of merging the CRM systems of merging retail companies. I said that the merging of software and hardware was the relative easy part, and that the IT geniuses would figure out how to get the information to travel thousands of miles to each store and back again to a central server. The hard part of CRM in a setting where front-line employees meet customers is the last 30 feet, getting relevant customer information out of the store's point-of-sale (POS) computer system and into the mind of a sales clerk.
Put customer spices in the hands of your front-line employees! Make it easy for employees to know what makes individual customers unique.
Sprinkle the spices
There is a reason that a spice bottle will last a long time in your kitchen cabinet before being finished: You don't need to use much at one time to make a big impact. Take a bland pot of soup, add a small measure of spice, and - voila! - the entire pot tastes better.
The same holds true when you use the spices you've learned about your customer. Sprinkle in just a little bit, and your customer will sense that you really understand her.
To recap, use the following steps in your company to do differentiation differently:
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Do Differentiation Differently: The first newsletter on this topic.
Meeting a Potential Client for the First Time: Amid other useful tips, Steve explores the concept of using "spices" in a first encounter.
The Differentiation Ladder: Steve asks, "What do you want to know about your customers?" and gives advice for moving up the differentiation ladder in your customers' minds.
The connection between customer beliefs and profit: It doesn't matter what you do. It matters what your customers do.
Your Brand Can Only Be As Good As... No matter what you do, your external brand can only be as strong as your internal brand.
Buy Steve's book, We: The Ideal Customer Relationship
The best way to differentiate yourself in your customer's mind is to develop a relationship with her - where you recognize what makes each of you different.
Praise for We
Steve Yastrow writes, I pay close attention. He is at once a wonderful
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agent. I think We is a superb book-and I am mesmerized in particular
by Yastrow’s critical differentiation of ‘experience’
and ‘engagement’. Bravo!”
- Tom Peters
"This is a fundamental shift in thinking that offers up a what's-next-beyond
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"Steve Yastrow is at the forefront of the next evolution in marketing"
-Mike Depatie, CEO, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Learn how to communicate with your customer about her "uniquenesses." Read Steve's ebook: Encounters: The Building Blocks of We Relationships
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