You obsess on product, tweaking it to perfection.

You slave over your service, honing it to deliver a razor-sharp slice of delight. 

You market your goods, crafting the most inviting offer.

You think you’ve nailed the customer experience.

Not so fast, Timmy.

No nutritional value

Jeff Smisek, United Airlines’ CEO, spoke at me from the screen. He labored on about the improvements his airline is undertaking just for me.

It was all talk. 

Gate 16 had one electrical outlet — a droplet for the dozens of thirsty travelers in need of juice. Boarding was painfully slow. The cabin reeked of locker room sweat and mildew.

The onboard service ran out of real food by the time they reached my row. I was offered Pringles. I passed. They had the same nutritional value as the scuzz caked onto my seat.

The week prior I was on a Virgin flight. It was heaven. This week, I was in hell. 

Virgin created heaven by attending to the simple things. Things they know turn us on. Things attainable by United — or any airline — if they reached high enough.

Brand vibes

Ever walk into a place and it just feels wrong? Think Rite Aid. Radio Shack. Payless Shoes. Toys R Us. Denny’s.

Each of these establishments offers the things you’ve entered to acquire. Yet something about the vibe is off. The way things are laid out or designed or the aura the store projects just doesn’t play to your sensibilities. Or to your desire to feel special as their customer.

Instead, you feel like a number. Part of a faceless herd.

Ever go somewhere you never wanted to leave? We all have. These are the places that attend to those little things that make us feel special. The details add up.

For example:

Whole Foods. You shop for more than food at this grocery store. You go to rediscover sustenance. Meet new brands. Local purveyors. Secure the finest ingredients. You leave with items that were never on your list.

Car2Go. It’s transportation, environmental commitment and personal convenience. Avis tried harder for 66 years. Car2Go is trying a lot harder. And they’re winning loyal fans wherever they go. They’ve simplified process and price and made it easy to be environmentally responsible. That feels good.

Four Seasons. Enter the front door. Serenity. Their service bar is high. And it’s consistent. You expect to feel good during your stay, and you leave happy.

Virgin. Their presence is an oasis in the middle of a harsh airport desert. Calm. Convenient. Designed for modern life. People wait at their gates to pass the time until their United flights board. Soaking up the good vibe.

We respond to the simple things these brands do. Time and time again. 

Love your customer

Everyone wants unabashed loyalty from their customers. To get that, you’ve got love them in lots of little ways.

Some examples come to mind immediately:

Voice mail. You have an ambiguous, sterile or long message with endless menu options. Fix that. People call you because they want to speak to a person and get information. Make it easy. Personable. And to the point. No one wants to call a menu system so remove it if you can. A friendly, helpful voice that greets people every time and provides them the information or the direct line they need right away is a small thing that goes a long way to getting them to call you again.

Website. Busy websites stress visitors. The more choices, options, images and elements you place on a page, the more likely it is users will bounce or get frustrated trying to find the thing they came to the site for. I know about the pressure you’re under to place everything on the home page. Resist it. The simpler, cleaner and more user-focused the site its, the more of a calm, engaging and clear vibe it gives off. You can scream at the user, or whisper gently. Choose wisely.

Office space. Brokers: Spend a few grand sprucing up your office. Pop a coat of fresh color on the wall. Here’s another idea: Design some of your retail space like rooms in a home. A den. A Finished basement. A bedroom. A man cave. This could be a cool, feel-good environment for agents to meet with clients. Especially if these rooms are staged beautifully. Maybe a local furniture store or decorator could curate and design in exchange for free advertising. Make them want to come for a visit.

Aftercare. None of us do enough to service people post-sale. Asking customers for referrals or sending them holiday cards is OK. That’s touching them. But in a creepy sort of way. People yearn for something more meaningful than a touch. They yearn for value. Relevance. Starbucks sends me a coupon for a free drink on my birthday. That matters more to me than a Hallmark card. Conjure up something more meaningful than a turn your clock back this Sunday reminder. There are a million ideas here — too many for me to list.

Fun. Enjoyment. Happiness.

At Ikea, a color-coded path eases the ordeal of navigating thousands of products. Creatively orienting their goods inspires shoppers. Ikea makes shopping fun, which makes their customers feel good in the process. It’s the simple, singular difference between them and every other furniture manufacturer.

You will return.

Fun baked into functionality. Enjoyment at the beginning of the experience. Happiness when it concludes.

Here’s the thing to consider: The average customer in real estate doesn’t experience fun during the process. It’s clear why. Real estate is stressful. But so is flying and buying furniture — and Virgin and Ikea have taken aim right at that stress, resulting in amazing customer experiences.

While you ultimately can’t extract all the stress from the real estate transaction, you can address the simple things around it that determine how that stress is felt.

You feel me?

Marc Davison is with 1000watt, a marketing, design and strategy firm focused on real estate. Reposted with permission of 1000watt.

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