Blog 296: "At Your Service" At Your Peril


A little while ago, Mrs. MW and I were driving back from a wedding, and we pulled over to a giant service station on the highway to refuel.


I had the option of either full service at a premium price or filling the car myself at a discount. I opted to pay for full service because there wasn’t a lineup. I was buying gas but placing the value on time saved. In this case, saving time was more important than saving a few dollars.


Experience isn’t a Service


I rolled the window down, and the attendant was ‘on.’ He raised the calibre of the transaction by making it memorable. Do you have anyone doing this at your business?


Like you, I don’t even want to know how many times a year I fill up at a service station, but I can tell you that it’s never memorable. I get gas once from this guy, and I will never forget it.


He made me pay attention. When we confirmed I needed a fill-up, he said, “All right, let’s do this!” My wife was so amused that she repeated it.


He didn’t say, “OK,” “cool,” or “sure thing.” He said, with too much enthusiasm, “All right, let’s do this!” as though he were leading Seal Team 6 on an evening raid on horseback instead of pumping gas into a Jeep for a guy who either can’t wait two minutes or doesn’t want his lily-white collegiate hands to smell of gas.


The magic – the transformation from service to experience


The magic happened because he owned the moment. He had defined his stage, which was his immediate and approximate 2 x 6-foot work area, and he was using his available props – the gas pumps, the squeegee, his banter – to put on a show and elevate a simple transaction into a memorable event.


Boom. Experience achieved. Now it gets more interesting …


Remember that I opted to pay more because I thought it would be quicker, but now that I was engaged with the experience, I didn’t want it to end. The attendant could have taken longer. I wouldn’t have cared. I was no longer paying for time saved I was paying for a show.


Everyone was paying attention to him, and he was worth it. The gas was, essentially, the souvenir, like the movie program you leave with after the show. I went in for gas. I left with a memory.


On the other side of the pump, where customers pay as little as possible, all the innovation has been focused on making the transaction more convenient. You can pay at the pump, you can pump it yourself, and you don’t have to wait for the attendant to finish serving another customer to get service.


The whole point of improving service via convenience is to allow your customer to spend less time with you.


When you stage experiences, you are working to make your customers want to spend more time with you. The value you offer is no longer the goods or services but is defined by the experience you create.


What are you focusing on? Improving services or creating experiences? Goods and services are getting cheaper, not more expensive. Margins are shrinking. Being in the service business is dangerous.


Or let me ask the same question another way, of myself … Based on what I think about all day long as it relates to making my customers happy, am I trying to figure out how they can spend less time with me, or am I focusing on how I can make my clients want to invest more time with me?


Be a story that people want to share. They can get gas, investments or whatever it is you sell anywhere else.


But a surprise? Especially a good one, it is tough to come by.

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