I dropped in on Barefoot Coffee yesterday to enjoy one of their fabulous Cubanos and noticed they had remodeled. It still feels cozy there, but it lost a bit of its independent spirit. I’m going to miss their quirky chairs. But, they still pull a great espresso drink and they still create nice latte art. And that, with a number of other touches, make Barefoot one of those sanctuaries that you seek out when you want a great cup of coffee that doesn’t come from the faceless corporate chains. I have a similar experience in one of my favorite dark little coffee houses in NYC, Caffe Reggio (image in this post). The funny thing is, I will go considerably out of my way to visit these places, when I could simply grab a drink at a place like Starbucks. Easy enough, since there is one within every quarter-mile radius.
Got me to thinking: How could this be extended to other products and services? Definitely easier with a local business, where you can create an atmosphere for your clients. Can also be more easily extended to services, where you can create that sense of comfort and trust through a personal connection. Much harder with other products and online services, but not impossible. Consider the latte art example. They don’t “need” to do that. It takes extra time. And they actually practice so that they can create some pretty incredible art and even enter competitions. It’s really about investing that extra time and, yes, costs to add delight and elegance to your product or service. Apple does it with their packaging and new buyers delight in the unpacking process. Heck, they even take photos and create videos of it to share.
Don’t you wish your customers did that? I’m sure you invest considerably in marketing and advertising, or you should be. Take some of that investment and roll it instead into making your product surprisingly delightful. Turn those customers into a grassroots channel whereby they are sharing their positive stories on Twitter and Facebook, uploading photos to Flickr, and sharing videos on YouTube.
The next time you’re streamlining and reducing costs, think really hard before you cut those delightful features and experiences or don’t even invest in them in the first place. View your product or service with “fresh eyes” or hire a research team to do it for you. Answer the really hard and sometimes intangible questions: Are you delivering delight? Do you add those extra touches that make someone smile? Are you creating a sanctuary from the chaos of your customers’ lives and the world around them, so that they feel comfort and pleasure in using your product or service? If you truly are, they are going to go considerably out of their way for you and pass right by your “Starbucks”, whoever that may be.