Customer Experiences: The Sustainable Competitive Edge

Posted by Bill Bain on 21/02/2019 12:50:08 PM

Customer Experiences The Sustainable Competitive Edge Bill Bain

In the business world everyone is always looking for that extra something – the product or technology that will give them that competitive edge. But no matter what is found, sooner or later the competition catches up and once again you are looking for that next thing.

I think sometimes we look in the wrong places. Because ultimately, the most sustainable competitive advantage is your people. Yes, you have to have a quality product or service at a competitive price, but those are just table stakes to be in the game.

No matter what your industry sector – law, financial, retail, restaurant or supply, it’s the experiences people have with you that make the big difference as to whether or not they will use you.

People like dealing with people they like and (this is important) especially with those that also add value.

You can be the nicest account manager but if you are not also adding value to your customer’s business, they will buy from the other nice person who does both.


Creating a raving fan – The Supermarket Story

Through my career I have worked with several leading food manufacturing companies whose major channels were supermarkets. Because I spent quite a bit of time visiting these outlets for work, the last thing I ever wanted to do was go grocery shopping. But that changed after visiting a newly built grocery store. The customer experience they provided just kept me wanting to go back for more.

One of the best experiences I had was when I went to the store to get a few items that my wife put on a list.  An employee who was filling shelves saw me looking lost and asked if he could help. I told him the name of a product on my list that I couldn’t find. He suggested I continue on to the next item on my list and he would look for it for me.

I was impressed with that and carried on my way. After a few minutes, he found me and had brought along the assistant manager. He explained he could not find the item so had asked for the assistant manager’s help. The manager also suggested I keep shopping and he would do the looking.

A few minutes later he came back with two cans of product and asked if one of them was what I was looking for. One was, and he explained the product name and packaging had changed so it was easy to miss.

Mission accomplished – thanks to the awesome efforts of the people in the store! In this example, the acts of these two employees were small and easy, yet they were so powerful. Their focus on helping me made me feel important. They cared about me.

This one above all the other experiences wowed me. New World Howick has made me a raving fan. The store is clean, the food fresh, and the shelves are always stocked. Those are the table stakes that keep them in the game.

Their competitive edge are the people in the store, who move grocery shopping from a transactional endeavour to a pleasurable experience.

Bill Bain Creating a raving fan – The Supermarket Story

Here are six ways the owners made it happen:

  1. Alignment – Staff members aligned through a customer-centric culture.

  2. Leaders leading – The store owner led the way, with team leaders side by side ‘walking the talk’.

  3. High performing teams – Teams operating at a high level and collaborating to make great things happen.

  4. Brought it to life – Great customer experience stories were often shared internally so people could better understand what great experiences looked like and see it wasn’t that hard.

  5. Empowerment – People were encouraged to bring their personality to the experience and were empowered to make decisions on the spot and not worry about having to get management approval to do something for a customer.

  6. Focus – Constantly keeping the culture alive to keep everyone mindful of their purpose.

The promoter flywheel

Key benefits in return:

If you create great experiences people will stay with you longer and be advocates for your business. Through this word-of-mouth marketing, people go out of their way to shop at this store.

Increased sales and profits through great customer experiences – It’s not rocket science.


This blog is written by Bill Bain, Business Coach at The Icehouse, and is part of his series “It’s Not Rocket Science” – business wisdom for a modern world. If you'd like to create better experiences for your customers and understand your competitive edge, contact Bill to organise a free, no obligation chat.

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Topics: Leadership, Business Strategy & Planning, Brand & Marketing, Coaching