Developing a customer led business and experience

Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts account for 60% of the US coffee market, yet their brands and approach to marketing are very different. While the Dunkin Donuts brand is closely linked to the products, Starbucks has developed a lifestyle product – a customer experience positioned as the ‘3rd place‘ between home and work. How they each created a customer led business has some important lessons for other people-focused service sectors like community sport.

Don’t just have customers, create customer ambassadors

In his book ‘Onward’, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz’s explains their approach to creating a distinctive yet consistent customer experience: “[Employees] are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance and theater, and as such the primary catalysts for delighting customers. Give them reasons to believe in their work and that they’re part of a larger mission, the theory goes, and they’ll in turn personally elevate the experience for each customer–something you can hardly accomplish with a billboard or a 30-second spot.”

So who are the true ambassadors for community sports? It’s the coaches, the club committee members, the leisure centre receptionists and all the other people a current/potential participants comes in contact with. Many feel they are part of a larger mission, but they probably define that mission in terms of their club, employer or desire for people to experience their sport the ‘right way’. But what if our ambassadors within a given sport could come together around a shared mission, one that unities volunteer and commercial aspirations? What if a sport could be developed based on delighting customers and delivering an experience that wasn’t easy to get from other activities?

Take away – sports has a head start in creating a customer led business

This might seem like a piped dream or a theoretical question, but is it? Sport can engage participants in a way that many other sectors (including coffee retailers) can only dream of. It has a workforce that volunteers to help because they want to make a positive difference. And it’s an activity that makes a positive difference to the lives of those who do it. This is a great foundation for a sports organisation to create significant participation growth. It requires a customer led approach to aligning delivery, but the pay-off is an experience that people will consistently pay extra for…

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