More than ever customers expect to have their needs met as soon as they ask. Actually, they expect those needs will be addressed even before they ask! In our instant gratification, “text message me,” “give me an app for that” world – winning leaders anticipate customers needs and don’t wait for customers to identify the next problem they want your business to solve.
For example in my new book Leading the Starbucks Way, I share how Starbucks leaders knew that to be sustainable they had to meet their customers where their customers enjoyed their lives. Originally, Starbucks met a lot of us on our way to work or school in the morning. In some cities, that meant opening Starbucks stores literally across the street from each other. But that “brick and mortar” real estate strategy came with a high price tag and it still missed many of us at work, home, and all those places along our life journey where Starbucks stores had not been built.
So lets rewind back to 2009, when Howard Schultz Starbucks ceo introduced VIA ready brew in order to give its customers another way to enjoy their favorite Starbucks beverages. After only 20 years of trying, (secret taste tastings had been underway for the product at the highest levels of the company for an extended period) coffee roasters found a way to preserve the Starbucks taste, quality and freshness customers had come to expect – while offering the ease of mixing a small packet of microground crystals into a container of water. Customers can now choose from hot, cold, flavored, coffee or latte versions of VIA – making VIA literally an entire coffee shop in a small foil pouch.
VIA, which is translated from Italian meaning road, actually serves customers on the roads they find themselves – not just on the roads where Starbucks stores are located. In fact, recently I hiked a 14,000 peak. Sadly there were no Starbucks store at the summit but my VIA package was a fine substitute – allowing me to celebrate my accomplishment with a favorite beverage. No one asked me if I wanted to have Starbucks available at altitude but for 20 years a solution was being created in anticipation of unstated needs. So, while your customers are traveling the roads of their lives, ask yourself:
What products would my customers like 24-7 access to? What is my “VIA” and how can it help extend and expand the customer experience I offer?