“See the Whole Board. Think Several Moves Deep”: Why Improving Your Customer’s Experience Will Improve Your Own

Perhaps it’s the fall—with that back-to-school feeling—but I’ve been in a chess-playing kind of mood this past week. I’m not good, but as I play I try to keep in mind some advice from Garry Kasparov  (the greatest chess player in the history of the world): see the whole board and think several moves deep. (Warren Buffet, by the way, agrees, saying that the key question in Economics is “And then what?”)

How can you apply this idea to your business? By taking an expansive view of your responsibility to your customer’s experience. 

One of the best examples of this idea comes from Virgin Atlantic Airlines. One of the ways they did this was by considering what the flying experience was like outside the airplane: what could they do to improve the way people felt about both their trip to, and their time in, the airport? Some of the ideas they implemented include offering passengers a limousine service to pick them up at their home and drive them to their terminal. Another was to institute more luxurious lounges, and make them available to premium flyers both coming and going.  (After all, one needs a shower a lot more on arrival than before takeoff!) Their ability to consider the entire travel experience—not just the portion they were technically responsible for—is one of the reasons they’ve led their field.

With this in mind, what are some questions you might ask yourself, or some tools you can use to elicit what it’s like to ‘walk a mile’ in your customer’s shoes?

  • Consider not only how the competition is doing business, but also how your favorite businesses are engaging you—and why. Are there elements of their customer experience that you can tweak to improve your own?
  • Organize a focus group with your best customers. In exchange for X amount of free product or service, ask them how or what they might improve about your business or service. You can create your own at www.zoomerang.com
  • Include a “suggestions for improvement” section on your website. (This should include an automatic reply thanking them for their input. If their suggestion is implemented, I would further follow up with a note letting them know that, too. It’s a fantastic, easy, way to help your customers get invested in your success while improving your own business. The ultimate win/win.)

As you can see, no matter the size of your business, considering the entirety of your customer’s experience is likely to end with you saying, “Checkmate” to your competition.