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What’s the difference between Payless Shoes and Zappos or a Church’s Chicken and a Chick-fil-A?

Differentiating yourself in today’s global economy is tough. Perceptions are not easy to change overnight unless you are willing be bold. The focus is usually on the product, but in a world of commodity products and services, it takes more to step out from the pack. The competitive edge comes in the customer experience.

Payless sells shoes. Zappos sees itself as a service company that happens to sell shoes. They look to build an emotional connection with each customer; a connection of likeability, trust and reliability. And what this does, is it creates loyal customers. They may lose a sale here and there because they don’t have the product the customer is looking for in that moment of time, but by building the emotional connection, the customer will still probably call them first the next time. It’s a relationship.

A fast food chicken restaurant is a fast food chicken restaurant, right? Not in Chick-fil-A’s eyes. Just like Zappos, Chick -fil-A looks through the lens of the customer and sees people who want more than a meal for their family or a quick bite to eat. So, on their website, they have customers share stories of wonderful unexpected experiences with their employees. It’s about people and relationships. Yes, the chicken is the central point, but the difference lies in the experience.

What is your organization’s focus, the product or the experience? If customers are complaining about the product, then you have a quality issue. But if you know you can deliver what you are promising with your product or service and customers are not coming back – then it is time to look at bumping up and enhancing the experience.

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