Ryan Estis asked attendees at the Furniture Today Leadership Conference to stand up and throw back their shoulders. Hundreds rose to their feet as heroic music played in the background and two giant screens flashed a picture of a man ripping open his shirt revealing Superman’s iconic chest. “Just by standing in this position, it has been shown to boost your confidence. I want you to leave here today and go back to your businesses confident you can make your customer experiences remarkable.”
Estis is a Superman in his own right, spending 75-sessions a year on stage as a professional speaker and business performance consultant. He brings audiences a clear message: it’s the era of the customer and, to win, your business must create remarkable experiences.
Remarkable Experiences Require Big Ideas (and Sometimes Beer)
A couple weeks before last Christmas, Estis’ girlfriend encouraged him to get an evergreen tree for his Minneapolis loft. Instead of driving to a store and snagging a tree, Estis Googled Christmas tree delivery service Minneapolis. A result showed Santa’s Tree Delivery. He called, asked for a six-foot Blue Spruce, and the voice on the other end said, “No problem. We can be there this afternoon.”
A couple hours later, Ryan heard a knock. He swung open the front door, spotted his blue spruce, and broke out laughing. Two grown men in elf costumes, complete with green tights and black pointy shoes, were holding his Christmas tree.
Santa’s helpers marched through the door and went to work setting up the tree. To round out the festive occasion, one elf even played Christmas carols through his North Pole issued iPhone.
Estis laughed, snapped Instagram photos, called his neighbor to come watch the shenanigans, and Tweeted abort what was unfolding in his living room. Ryan was witnessing a remarkable experience. It was so good, so memorable, and so exciting he couldn’t wait to tell somebody. This combination of elements, says Estis, is the new standard for business growth.
As a business consultant, Estis was curious about the people behind Santa’s Tree Delivery. He asked the elves to turn down the Christmas carols and tell their story. He learned three friends started the tree delivery business in college and it had floundered. Over beer one night at a Minneapolis pub, they debated shutting down the business because it was limping along with no growth. As the suds flowed, an idea popped up. Why not dress in elf costumes during delivery and create an experience for customers?
The next day, under more sober conditions, the three friends voted on the idea. In a 2-to-1 victory, the elf costumes won. Fast forward to present day and Santa’s Tree Delivery is the number one Christmas tree service in the state of Minnesota.
The Remarkable Requirement
According to Estis, between now and 2020, customers will change more than in the past 50-years. While price may be a consideration, Estis says cost is not a primary driver. “In the absence of value and differentiation, customers default to focusing on price,” he said. If you create more differentiation in products and customer experience, you can charge more money.
It may feel daunting to try and differentiate when you are selling the same mattresses and furniture the retailer down the street is hawking—this reality makes it critical to, as Estis says, live in the Learning Lane. The Learning Lane is outside your comfort zone, but out of the danger zone. One way to ensure you and your team stay in the area focused on gaining knowledge, differentiating, and elevating your customer experience is to ask one question every single day: Did we get better?
Leading in the Era of the Customer
Implementing change is a job for leaders and one of Estis’ tips for those in charge is to, “decide how you show up.” When Estis gave this advice during the Furniture Today Leadership Conference, splashed on a big screen behind him were more than a dozen different faces, some smiling, others sad, confused, and indifferent. Leaders must decide in advance how they’ll show up and what face they’ll put on. Remember, Estis said, “You never know when someone needs you to be your best.”
Before you walk the sales floor, engage with an employee, or begin a meeting, decide how you are going to show up and realize that people need you to be your best.
In the era of the customer, winning means differentiating, creating remarkable experiences, and providing leadership that brings your personal best to every situation. To get started on this new, exciting adventure stand up like Superman, throw back your shoulders, and put your hands on your hips. At the conference, as I planted my feet and looked around, I saw a room full of leaders standing in that exact, heroic position and smiles creased every face. I’d say that’s a good starting point on the path toward creating remarkable experiences. And if you need another example of how to create something worthy of talking about, look no further than Ryan Estis. After all, here I am, remarking on his event, so he must know what he’s doing.