Now – The Customer is always right.

I’m not talking about a diner insisting he didn’t order the clam chowder. Or justifying some archaic customer service mantra.

I’m referring to the fact that nowadays, consumers are empowered and making their own decisions – right or wrong – about what they want and how they want it. And they won’t just believe what you tell them anymore, they need to hear it from someone else.

Worse still, they’re increasingly fickle. There’s arguably no brand loyalty these days – people will switch in a heartbeat if there is a better deal to be had.

At the same time, there has never been so many new ideas. This is the age of the entrepreneur, with new products, new innovations and the next team of disruptive tech evangelists arriving daily. There’s a smart everything, and an app for everything else.

You hear about something new one day – ten weeks later – there are 5+ startups fighting over the space. The pace is phenomenal.

Yet, despite the fact that many start-ups are producing great, transformational products – seemingly delivered and launched in the right way, with the a decent team, CEO and a colourful logo behind them – they still fail. Why? Because they don’t spend enough time considering how to make their would-be customers ‘feel’ something. If they can really change or improve the way people go about their daily lives – if can prove that they are genuinely beneficial to have, then they will attract attention – and loyalty – in return.

Ultimately, taking an idea to market is not simply about building a platform to promote it, it’s about delivering an experience which creates a feeling around it.

“People will forget what you said.

People will forget what you did.

But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

At The Observer Effect, before we talk to our clients about their product, pricing or communications planning – we ensure that the customer experience is locked to the brand strategy and fused to their vision. Then we build a GTM proposition and create an experience that’s not only unique but delivers to a specific need. Through our process we’ve discovered three key things that can change your customer experience for the better:

1. It’s not about you

A lot of founders and startups forget that success is not solely based on them and their idea – talking about themselves, rather than talking with their customers is a sure fire way to deliver an experience which fails to ‘delight’.

Give attention, make the effort – go find your user – they’re too busy to notice you. Get to know them, not through generalisation or assumption, but through engagement. If you’re a startup, right now you can afford to offer a level of customer service that is not scalable – to surprise and reward those first few customers to the point where they will become powerful, loyal advocates for your brand.

Take Über, the great disrupter of the taxicab industry, it has replaced the grumpy rip-off drivers with proud limo ambassadors. They put the customer at the centre of their service and built a experience which delighted – I can see myself and my cab on a map and I know the fare before I get in. I knew Uber at the beginning of their journey, and now, even though they have matured and the marketing has become ‘scalable’ they still manage to relate to me. I remain intrigued, I want them to do well and I still open their emails… Last week they introduced me to uberPOOL, their new ride sharing commuter service – they offered me a free ride. No question, I’ll take it.

2. Give and get given

People feel the obligation to give back – we feel more compelled to say yes to those we believe have already given us something. It doesn’t matter what you give during a customer’s interaction with you, but when you do, make sure it’s personalised and unexpected – a thank you, a relevant tweet, an unlocked reward, a show of real interest goes along way and it will delight in the process.

When you ask for a customer to share or commit to something – start small and build – at their pace. Commitments that begin with a small request are easier for people to adopt and build upon, it means their trust in your brand grows and that they feel in control of the relationship and the experience they are choosing to have with you.

Google are the masters of this. Like everyone else, I began suspicious and concerned that this US company were out to get all my ‘data’, now I don’t care. They started with the best email and amazing storage. They led me to ‘discover’ maps and they told me how to get around – I trust them more now than asking a passerby. Today they store all my files, personal and business. Next year, when they inevitably offer me a bank account I won’t think twice…

3. Don’t do what they did

Whilst I usually hate using Apple as an example, when it comes to a customer brand experience you can’t beat their Apple Store.

They looked at the retail presence in an entirely new way. Apple don’t have shops, they have brand palaces; where their disciples come to worship over their shiny wears. They don’t have staff, they have geniuses. They don’t sell products, they offer intrigue and excitement. They even position the screens at 90° so that you have to interact with them, enhancing your experience… clever. It’s no wonder that people will queue round the corner at 3am – they’re driven by desire and it’s entirely of Apple’s own making.

…the exception of the rule…

Even the disruptors can be disrupted. In terms of experience Amazon Prime still delivers – with one-click, I can get the cheapest product sent to me the very next day – it has got my weekly shop and with it, the business and the margin sort by the supermarkets. But what does it make me feel? Sure, it’s convenient because of range, and desirable because of the price, but this will be its eventual downfall. After killing off the high street, and putting the squeeze on the supermarkets – Amazon are now enjoying a paltry 1.4% profit margin.

Ultimately Amazon is still just a transactional experience. And when internet retailing stops feeling special, when I can get my Prime items cheaper somewhere else – and I’m bored with the cat food recommendations – just like the a startup they once were, they’re going to have to get smarter, figure out what I really want and offer me a richer customer experience.

To read more about James and The Observer Effect, visit http://www.the-oe.com/

This post originally appeared on Virgin Startup

About James Olden

An ideas man; direct my own, invest in others.