I’m often in Panera Bread restaurants. Usually, I’m there meeting with prospects or those in my network. On one such occasion, my appointment arrived early and selected a table near the front door.
During our conversation, I noticed customers stopping by the electronic kiosks to place their order. Then I noticed there were fewer than half the normal number of staff taking orders. Upon further scrutiny, I observed the location formerly that housed the terminals and staff had been replaced with a large area for pick up orders.
I started thinking about the contrast between the current Panera Bread business model and their former business model. Several years ago, their model was pretty simple: walk in, place your order with an employee behind their terminal, receive an electronic pager, go find your seat, retrieve your order when summoned. That was it!
Now one can order ahead, then simply stop by and pick up your food at the appropriate location skipping the line altogether. Or, you can order and they will deliver. If you still want to eat in the store, you can stop by an electronic kiosk, place your order, pick up your pager and proceed to your table.
Many of you may be thinking “What’s the big deal, I can order this way just about anywhere?” In a way that is the big deal. Most of us typically associate risk with trying something new and different. But, what if the real risk is clinging to the present out of fear or complacency?
Panera Bread, like many other establishments, is choosing to disrupt themselves. The status quo is the new danger zone. Customer experience is the new key to survival for brands. Connected consumers now function in complex ecosystems. Brands are constantly experimenting and exploring, trying to find the sweet spot of delivering the unique value proposition that will keep customers engaged.
Time is a precious commodity for most consumers. While saving consumer’s time provides a valuable utility, this new ecosystem is fertile soil for competitors who are continually seeking new ways to provide value for consumers.
If you would like more background, check out these previous posts.
First, start by identifying internal gaps.
Here are three essential practices that can help.
So how do you disrupt yourself?
Disruption begins with a customer-centric focus. Customers get to determine value and often they measure value by their menu of choices. The first step in disruption is to scan the environment. You should begin by keeping track of what your competitors are doing, but don’t stop there. Mobile apps have been changing consumer behavior for a while. When Starbuck’s developed their mobile app, it signaled significant changes in consumer behavior. Now advance ordering and curbside pickup are commonplace. Here are some effective scanning techniques
Pay attention to consumer behavior before, during and after they have purchased your product or service. Monitor frequently asked questions carefully. Pay attention to feedback, especially customer service feedback. If you have a social media presence monitor it closely for preferences, compliments, complaints. Think like a reporter gathering facts and insights so they can write a big story. What’s the story you want your brand to tell?
Map the Journey
It’s time to move beyond simply mapping touchpoints. Consumers are now very adept at navigating marketing assets. They expect a seamless experience with your brand across all platforms. Understand your customer’s journey. What problems or challenges are they solving, where do you help? Where could you be more helpful? Journey maps include touch points but they also include buying behaviors and emotions.
Create Buying Personae
One of the most effective methods of becoming customer-centric is by listening to your customers. Notice I didn’t say talk to them; instead, begin by asking open-ended questions. Our temptation is to try and lead the conversation. I’ve found these interviews extremely valuable. They help uncover insight and value from the perspective of the customer. You may have more than one persona, so be sure to identify the specific buying behaviors of each group. I would include product or service use as a significant buying behavior attribute.
If you don’t already have persona then create one or two. Once you create them share them so everyone in the organization gets to know your customers on a deeper level.
Form a Diverse Team
Delivering a seamless experience requires a team effort. Customers expect a seamless experience; however, most businesses are designed by function. An appropriately sized cross functional team is a great place to begin. The team should be large enough to represent the core functions required to provide the seamless experience, but small enough to be agile.
Experiment and Learn
Now that you have some feedback from your interviews and a diverse team, focus on some “small win” challenges. Think about creating prototypes that you can show to your customers. Getting customer feedback early and often is a key to success.
Rinse and Repeat
A customer’s journey isn’t static so keep monitoring and interacting with them. New opportunities and new challenges are inevitable. Share your learning throughout the organization. The persona doesn’t have to be an external client. If you have significant internal customers you can use this same process. Ultimately, you’ll want to connect what you are doing to your consumer, but there is great value in understanding the story behind the journey.
At a very basic level, an ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms in an interconnected environment. Don’t let the potential complexity discourage you from exploring and experimenting. Once you have the process in place and some “low hanging fruit” in hand you can begin to add scale.
What is working for you?