The Art of Hyperdifferentiation

“Make the customer ditch the brand she’s about to try and run back to your store.  Make her forget about the price as her major yardstick to purchase.”

By Justine Castellon

eggMost marketers are busy working on their brands’ competitive edge. They study the competition and constantly benchmark their brands and often wonder,”what will make me standout from the pack?”.  That’s the most valid question for any marketer.  What will make them (customers) choose you from the array of choices?  Remember, customers are hardwired to notice what’s only different.

Competitive marketers have a hard time switching gears and forget that they need to take a break . . . and work on the most obvious needs of target audience. Yes, it’s alright to study your competition, but don’t dwell so much on what they do, instead, focus on what you have and what you can control. For starter, get off that ‘marketer gear’ and be a customer for a while.  Then ask yourself . . . what will make me buy? How will I base my choice from the brands presented to me? There are too many choices and majority comprises the same qualities. Even price disparity is no longer present.  The USPs (unique selling propositions) is no longer unique. Then you notice that point of differentiation lies on how they (sellers) treat you –  we call it CUSTOMER SERVICE.

But even customer service sounds cliché. Be different. Better, go beyond that and leap frog to hyperdifferenciation.  Make the customer ditch the brand she’s about to try and run back to your store.  Make her forget about the price as her major yardstick to purchase. Make use of the hyperdifferentiation tactic – the art of reducing the importance of price as the principal determinant of customers’ selection among alternative goods and services.

That is, hyperdifferentiation helps you to encourage your customers to select goods and services based on deepremembering delight that provides value sufficient to distinguish one offering from all of its competitors, so that they are less concerned with price differences between the selected product and the available alternatives. The idea of differentiation itself is not new; it is as old as marketing, a tactic used by commerce decades and eras ago. Perhaps, the fresh deal is the degree and value of differentiation. It is very important to note that hyperdifferentiation is not about being better in any total sense (which requires you to spend more to produce the desired outcome); rather, it is about being better (if not superior) for each customer, thus making your business more profitable.

Here are a few simple ways to affect customer preference in your favor:

Go beyond customer service – work your way to delight each customer.
Customer service that is “good enough” just isn’t good enough any more. To retain customers and grab them from your competitors, it is mandatory to excel at providing customer service. More than just hoping to achieve customer satisfaction, you must think in terms of true customer delight. Always remember that delight is personal and much better if this will be given when least expected. At Parco Supermarket in Quezon Avenue, my family decided for a short pit stop on our way to a Halloween activity. This isn’t our regular supermarket store because I love buying my groceries at big supermarket due to wider SKUs and item selections.  But that change my buying behaviour when at the end of my purchase, the store staff handed my 9-year old daughter a bag of goodies (based on my inventory of the items, it cost them roughly 30 cents – or equivalent to 15 pesos). Yes, it’s a Halloween Treat! Given at the exact moment when it was least expected.  My daughter blurted, ‘I love being a kid!’.  She was delighted . . .and so am I. It’s a check mate for Parco!

There are 5 essentials to achieve customer delights:
By adopting these ideas, you can quickly meet the service expectations of today’s demanding customer.

  1. Let Customers Define Delight
    Effective customer service teams don’t rely on their own thinking to determine what will make their customer happy. Customer service is too important to be left to guesswork. Closely monitor customer behaviours and allow those behaviours to drive your strategy in implementing your delighting method. Deploy the use of customers’ inquiries and feedback to determine what their needs, their values and preferences are. And never stop improving to reflect your customers’ ever-changing needs. Create a customer focus group. Invite ten to twenty of your most loyal customers to meet regularly to discuss about service improvements. They will give you ideas and input on how to improve your customer service.
  2.  Make Escalation Easy
    If problem or dissatisfaction present, it is important to provide customers quick and easy access to a customer service personnel in any form of communication including the electronic means such as e-mail, text chat, or their preferred medium. You should be a phone call or a mouse click away. Escalation should be a seamless in any way where customer is engaged in. make sure to find out what the customer has looked for and where they started looking for help. This accelerates problem resolution and gives the customer a strong sense that you value them and their time.
  3. Stay in Contact with Customers on a Regular Basis.
    Offer them a free printed or electronic magazine subscription with special offerings and news about your company and products. Ask customers if they want to be updated by e-mail or telephone when you make changes to your policies and other special offers. And most important, in any after-sale, follow-up with the customer to see if they are satisfied with their purchase.
  4. Master the Art of Surprising
    Everybody likes surprises. Surprising your customers is “wow”- this means you’re exceeding their expectations and guarantee your customers will return to you.  This concept is not all that complicated — it’s all about thinking differently and delivering during the unexpected. Parco knows the art of surprising.  The store didn’t make an announcement or advertisement, rather, a staff is waiting at the end of the counter to present the gift to the right target.
  5. Give your customers more than they expect.
    Reward customers a point for spend and award bonuses for those who make a big purchase. These are ways of telling them you value every cent they spend on you.  Send thank you gifts to lifetime customers. E-mail them online greeting cards on holidays or birthdays.  Invite them to company activities, advocacies, workshops or seminars. Create special events for  them – this will make them feel important when you include them in regular business operations and special events and eventually lead to stronger relationship with them.

Give the customer the power to choose – make information available and accessible.
As a result, information strongly increases the degree of differentiation possible by increasing your ability to differentiate your products and brands and customers’ ability to locate your offerings that they value the most. As a book lover, I am proudly to say ‘I love Power Books’! This retail store makes information available in all forms.  Do you need prices and book synopsis?  You go to their stores or website – everything is available.  New books, bestsellers, recommendations, authors, promos, you name it.  With easy search and easy comparison, customers determines their yardsticks in choosing which to buy and your chances to be part of the choice depend on the information you have provided.  Being different is nothing if the customers cant find you; hyperdifferenciation is nothing if no one actually knows you. Take note, that by making everything accessible and available, you are extending an exceptional service that will make you different.

Remain to be socially relevant.
In one of my conversation with a bank executive specializing in retail banking shared that remaining socially relevant, while it is already cliché, will still push the product or brand in the next level. Customers love to be part of something big, and sharing the same principle to the brand they’re dealing with.  Giving something back to the shared cause with the customers will further bolster the relationship building – a way to connect deeper to your customers. The Body Shop’s social marketing set the brand apart from the rest.  Customers flock to their stores not only for the good products but the causes and advocacy beyond the product they’re buying. Always remember that the world revolves around connections. Consumers love connections because you will always trust an acquaintance’s opinions more than a total stranger’s.  The ultimate goal of any marketer is to develop loyal customers to be their brand advocate – your best advertiser is your satisfied customer.

Customer satisfaction has always been important. As any marketing manager can tell you, it’s less expensive and more profitable to sell to your existing customers than it is to go out and find new ones. The key is to make those customers happy, and only by delighting them and making your brand totally and absolutely different in any form.

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