Perhaps, you’ve read some of our earlier DISPATCHES’ articles about delivering meaningful experiences to build a brand relationship with customers. They have typically called-out poor performers, their missteps and suggested actions for marketers who wish to avoid the fate of those who “don’t get it.” This article features those that deliver winning experience.
When it comes to bonding with customers – creating the kind of loyalty where customers go beyond preferring to insisting on your brand of product or service – it’s their experience that is the critical and deciding factor. Far too often we marketers overlook the experience of the customer – bringing our marketing effort to an end at the point of delivery of the basic product and/or service. This is a sure path to undermining the development of “brand” loyalty, leaving the product vulnerable to inroads from competition and becoming a commodity. We need to get beyond the product we market and think about the experience we deliver.
When we think about “experiences” most of us don’t think too fondly of our experiences with the airlines. We have to deal with baggage fees, overcrowded aircraft, lost luggage, delays and cancellations, surly flight attendants, poor (if any) food, overbooking, long security lines, the need to strip down to get through security, limited seating area, limited overhead space for bags … the list goes on. We endure rather than relish the experiences of air travel.
Yet, American Airlines provides special services to its elite customers (i.e., those that fly and/or spend the most) in order to deliver a more pleasing experience to keep them loyal, beyond the miles they earn towards upgrades and free flights. American Concierge Key is an “invitation only” program to their most elite flyers. It offers a plethora of airport and airline services to make the air travel experience special. Among its many services are:
Dedicated check-in kiosks- In Chicago and Los Angeles Airport this is “Flagship” Check-In. It is a special area where you are greeted and escorted to (and even through) security leap frogging TSA approved fliers.
Escort onto the plane before anyone else boards so that you can get your bag into the overhead before they become full.
Free up-grades to the next class of service when flying domestically. While this service is offered to other frequent fliers the Concierge Key members go to the top of the line.
8 VIP upgrades wherever American Airlines flies. So, you might use a VIP upgrade from Business to First Class on a flight to Asia.
Complementary drinks and snacks (even if you are traveling in coach).
A dedicated telephone number to call for assistance.
Free membership to the American Airlines Lounge.
No baggage fees.
Being met at the jetway and escorted through customs and into baggage claim.
Imagine landing at London Heathrow en route to St. Petersburg, Russia, and being met on the jetway and personally escorted (i.e., driven by car) to the appropriate terminal for the flight to St. Petersburg. No rushing through the terminal. No busses. No waiting, but concierge service.
Or imagine checking-in at Los Angeles airport, separate and far from the maddening crowd. Greeted by someone in a top hat. Escorted via private elevator to security. Whisked through security, ahead of those who have TSA clearance.
That’s American Concierge Key. That’s a remarkable experience. (By the way, United Airlines has a similar program called United Global Services.)
One final note, American Airlines staffs its program with their best agents who are pre-disposed by personality, eager and trained to assist you in having a favorable experience.
American Express Platinum
American Express cardholders are “members.” In addition to meeting financial criteria you pay a fee to become a member. There is American Express Green, Gold and Platinum (maybe even “Black”) with different financial criteria and fees. (Hmmm, sort of like Johnny Walker Red, Gold, Black and Blue.) The fee to be a member for the American Express Platinum card is $450 per annum. If you think about these credit cards they are identical in their physical makeup, with the exception of their color. Basically, they are the same size, made of the same material and work in the same way. What makes the American Express Platinum card warrant $450. It’s the privileges and experiences it affords.
Some of the services one receives with being an American Express Platinum card member and experiences include:
One Year of Amazon Prime (discussed below).
No Foreign transaction fees.
Membership Rewards Programs where you get points for spending that can be used for air travel and hotel stays without blackouts or travel restrictions.
Airport Club Access and Priority Pass Select that provide access to over 600 domestic and international lounges where you may chill-out prior to boarding for your flight.
International Airline program that enables you to enjoy savings on a companion ticket when you purchase Business or First Class travel for yourself.
$200 Airline Fee Credit annually for incidental fees charged by the airlines. It can be used for baggage and flight change fees, etc. By the way, some of these services do not amplify an experience but alleviate or forestall what might otherwise be a poor or irritating experience.
$100 credit towards the Global Entry program that provides for “expedited clearance” through customs when entering the U.S. (This is actually a rebate of the $100 application fee.)
Fine Hotels & Resorts Program that includes availability-based room upgrades, early check-in and guaranteed 4:00pm check-out, complimentary breakfast, credits for expenses like meals, beverages, spa treatments, etc. Booking through American Express will also get the card member the best room rate.
Purchase Protection up to 90-days after date of purchase if your merchandise is lost, stolen or damaged, throughout the world!
Platinum Card Concierge (there’s that word again, “concierge”) staff serves as a personal resource to provide advice on selecting the right gift, selecting a restaurant (which comes in very handy when you are in a new city), etc.
Entertainment Access provides exclusive access to ticket presales for concerts, sporting events and Card Member-only events.
American Express Platinum offers so very many additional services. This is not so much about making your card usage experience a favorable one but, instead, providing meaningful life experiences.
Amazon.com is a Godsend. They have scores of titles from which to choose. Based upon your purchasing history they recommend books. You can also read from others and tap into their recommendations for books. The books are delivered to your doorstep.
Amazon Prime is a relatively new service from Amazon that costs $79 per year. What might you get from it?
Free Two-Day Shipping. My wife has an Amazon Prime account. She did much of her holiday shopping (and shopping throughout the year) through Amazon with her Amazon Prime account. It saved her time and money. Importantly, it helped her complete her shopping early and get our gifts out to family and friends well before the holidays. This two-day shipping is not just for books but all the merchandise that is offered through Amazon. I think the only thing that can beat this for speed and instant gratification is downloading e-books (for books) and drone delivery (when it becomes available) of merchandise.
Unlimited “instant” streaming of 41,000 movies and TV episodes. “Instant” provides immediate gratification. The wide selection of titles pretty much ensures that what you want to view will be there.
Borrow one book for free each month from more than 350,000 kindle titles. You not only save money but a trip to the library.
One of our friends needed a wheelchair for a family member during a vacation. At the vacation locale wheelchair rental was going to cost $250 for the week. As a member of Amazon Prime he bought a wheelchair from Amazon for $150 and had it shipped to the vacation site. He received it in two days, exactly when he needed it.
Amazon Prime is about the ease of the shopping experience, virtually unlimited selection and near instant gratification with its delivery of your order. It is an online or digital business that attempts to make, what has been traditional delivery, approximate the gratification of online ordering.
Apple is not without its flaws. It doesn’t always play nice with non-Apple products. Sometimes too when new software is launched it requires patches (but then that’s the case with virtually all software providers). BUT, Apple has focused on the user experience with its products. For one, the Apple products are optimized for performance. Keynote works superbly with your Mac. iTunes works better on a Mac than with a PC. Neither is compromised in order to work for a PC. Additionally, Apple hardware products work seamlessly with each other. My Mac is connected with my iPad, and iPhone, and Apple TV. Even if a competitor were to develop better technology it would take a lot more to move me from Apple given its ecosystem of interconnected products and devices that serves to deliver a seamless user experience.
Additionally, Apple has wonderful support for its products. The Genius Bar provides you with real people, who speak your language, whom you can deal with face to face, versus over the telephone with someone thousands of miles away, to help solve any technology problems you may experience with one of their devices. Recently an Apple Genius assisted me with a problem I’m having with the Maverick operating system and use with PowerPoint (a Microsoft product). While he was unable to fix the problem (that will be with a future Maverick patch) he developed a work around that’s easy to apply. Then there’s Apple’s One-to-One instruction that one may schedule to create a video using iMovie or podcast using Garageband. These are additional services that ease migration to Apple and make the experience more rewarding. They are available at Apple retail stores where the help is not only knowledgeable about Apple products but huge fans. They share the passion of Apple users for Apple products.
The world’s most popular soft drink is focused on the user experience. Enjoying Coca-Cola is more than a taste sensory experience. When we were young marketers at Coca-Cola, some 30-years ago, we felt our mission was to put smiles on consumers’ faces with Coca-Cola. The brand is all about creating a joyful experience as celebrated in key advertising campaigns such as “Things go better with Coke,” to “Coke adds life,” to the present day “Open Happiness.” But Coke is about more than slogans. There’s been the “Hug Me” talking vending machines which implored passer-byes to stop and hug the machine. Now there’s the Coca-Cola Freestyle Fountain vending machine. Rather than 6 – 8 beverage choices the Coca-Cola Freestyle has an easy to use screen that dispenses more than 100 individual brands, some of which aren’t available anyone else. It must be a positive experience otherwise how would one explain the increase in traffic and sales at the restaurant locations that carry it.
Coca-Cola distribution has enhanced life moving from “around the corner from everywhere” to “arms reach from anywhere.” It is “ the pause that refreshes,” going beyond liquid refreshment to bodily and mental refreshment.
One of the latest developments to attempt to create a positive user experience is the Coca-Cola Sharing Can. The can is actually two half-size cans that can be detached for sharing. As they say, “Half the size. Twice the Happiness.” Click this link to see a video about the Coca-Cola Sharing Can. www.bdn-intl.com/podcasts.php
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
Please share with us brands and businesses that you believe provide a positive experience to customers that make a difference in driving preference.
Studying and deriving implications from the brand builders who appreciate the importance of creating a positive experience can help all aspiring brand builders. Accordingly, we’ll do a follow-up to this article in two-weeks regarding learning and recommended actions (Boats & Helicopters) from these, and other positive experiences, that will help you get beyond the product you sell to deliver an experience that will make a difference in creating brand loyalty.