What is keeping you from having an amazing business?

We typically categorize businesses into one of three groups. They are either poor, good, or great. Unfortunately, this simplified viewpoint limits us from going too far beyond a good business.

When great becomes anything that is just beyond Good, it's not that hard to hit the mark, and a high percentage of businesses do. This means that your real competitors all exist on the same plain as you leaving potential customers with an "apples to apples" comparison.

In this type of comparison, you can easily lose out to others who are just slightly bigger, faster, cheaper, friendly, etc.

It's better to rank yourself on a scale that adds two more groups at the extreme ends: terrible and amazing.  Good remains at the middle, but now we challenged with a goal beyond a great business.

This is incredibly important because people talk about the extremes at a much high percentage than middle three.  I call this the "Customer Experience Curve" - see below.

The Customer Experience Curve

Where do you fall on the curve?

Most businesses fall towards the middle of the curve. It's safe. It's easy. But, no one is really talking about you, which is the most powerful form of advertising and potential for business growth. With such an overwhelming amount of options today, good is clearly not good enough, and great is not that much better.

So, how do you move aways from good and great to become amazing?

It's starts with a clear understanding of the differences between good and great and amazing.  For me, TARGET is a good experience. The store is clean. The staff are generally nice and helpful. The parking is not bad. And, they usually have what I want.

However, this is just good. They meet my minimum requirements for a pleasant experience. If you are curious, I consider WALMART personally to be a poor experience because it's crowded, staff are not cheerful, and it feels a little dirty inside and out.

Sticking with retailers, I view REI as a great experience. Their staff seem to love their jobs and are well educated (and passionate) about the products. Plus, they draw me in with their 100% guarantee, selection of specialty items, and co-op membership benefits. 

Just as the chart illustrates, I am seldom motivated to talk much about my experiences at any of these stores. TARGET will get the least amount of references, even though it is the shop I visit the most, because why would you talk about what is just good and expected.

I may say more about the other WALMART and REI because my level of passion (love or hate) is higher, but again this is at a somewhat lower level. It's the extreme experiences that get the most attention. Think about how many times you have recalled to others a particularly awful experience you had at a store.

What does it take to be amazing?

To create extraordinary experiences, you have to go beyond preferences and expectations. You have to surprise them.

A friend of mine, still talks about the time a RITZ CARLTON installed an internet plug on his balcony because he mentioned how neat it would be to work outside of his room (this was before WI-FI). And, I often tell people about a car dealer who once sent me a car wash kit after I bought a new vehicle and then later a set of travel chairs that matched my SUV.

You also need to stand out like an orange among apples.

The first time I went to an IKEA, I was in awe from the parking lot to check-out. They had well designed maps of the store and directions, big bags and carts to use, notepaper and pencils, childcare and play areas, a restaurant with an interesting menu, display items and model rooms, and great prices.

CHICK-FIL-A is also borderline amazing experience but because all of the other fast-food options are generally all the same and hover between poor and good at best. In other words, the chicken only restaurant shines because their service, food, advertising, and moral foundation is a good leap above the rest. However, they will only remain there until someone realizes it is not that hard to match what they are doing.

How do you start moving towards amazing?

Good can no longer be your starting place just as great can't be your goal. You need to settle for nothing less than great in everything you do and then continually evaluate, renovate, and innovate in ways that will create the extraordinary.

You can be content with a great business, but you will work much harder trying to beat out your competition than it takes to move from great to amazing.