In his landmark customer service book, Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith offers a three step approach to marketing your product or service(s). Step One is where you are trying to get what Beckwith calls, “a basic, acceptably reliable product” (or service). This occurs most often in budding businesses where the product or service is unique or new and customers will accept minimum standards. In fact, Beckwith calls this stage, the Accepted Product.
This is fine until competition emerges. Once there is competition, the product or service must evolve to stay alive. Take the Department of Motor Vehicle in most any state (or as Rodney would say, “take my DMV, PLEASE!”). Here is an establishment that has the corner on their market. Routinely customers are placed on hold for LONG periods of time, take a number to be granted the privilege to wait for HOURS more, and if they survive long enough to have traversed the gauntlet of time marking tedium they are greeted with someone who treats them like intruders (and that’s when it’s a good experience) .
Step Two is where competition has entered the scene. Competition creates a need to listen to the customer, listening creates refinements and improvements. Beckwith says answering customers needs is the driving force in this second step. Unfortunately, this step represents the top rung on most companies service ladder. Most will tread water here forever.
Disney, Lexus, the Ritz Carlton and Nordstroms are some of the few that have ventured into Step Three. Here is where the company has created products and services that have gone beyond meeting customers expressed needs. How can we improve is no longer the question because the customer has run out of ideas for refining. If a company dares to soar into this airspace, they must be prepared to surprise their customer. Surprising the customer is the driving force of Step Three.
This only sightly charted territory, is the domain of the few. You get there by looking to do things that are GASP-worthy. And once you have the customer’s GASP, you look for ways to get it again. And again, and again.
You and/or your company must go, as Barney Stinson, of How I Met Your Mother, said, to “the place where the possible and the impossible meet to become the Possimpible.” Beckwith has identified the progression, Stinson has provided the vision. Only we can take our businesses into Possimpibleness.
Beckwith said, “Create the possible service; don’t just create what the market wants or needs. Create what it would love.” Stinson said, “Nothing and everything is possimpible.” Here’s to them both…