My friend Ivan just time-traveled from over one year ago to visit me today. And boy is he shocked! His favorite app, Secret, is out of existence. Hilary is officially running for president. But what is most shocking is the plethora of on-demand apps he can now download on his iPhone 5c.
With so many on-demand apps offering similar services to choose from, Ivan wonders, “how do people pick a favorite one?”
The answer has to do with the app’s brand and customer experience. While many startups focus on using analytical tools to drive their growth, those that also place a value on their brand and customer experiences are the ones that keep their customers. As a bonus, these customers might be so delighted with their experience that they might even tell others to use the app.
During the “Customer Experience and Brands” panel at the On-Demand conference, four panelists from startups known for their delightful brand experiences, Curtis Lee (CEO, Luxe), Tony Xu (CEO, DoorDash), Gagan Biyani (CEO, Sprig) and Kira Wampler (CMO, Lyft), took the stage to share their insights on how to create such experiences.
Creating a Culture of Awesome Customer Experience
At their core, all four of the startups emphasize a culture of creating an awesome customer experience first and they all have a systematic approach to achieve that.
Lee from Luxe, an on-demand parking and valet services company, instills this culture by investing in their valets, specifically by giving them upward mobility within the company. In fact, many valets become Luxe’s city launchers in charged of setting up and growing new markets. With their front-line knowledge of being valets, they not only understand the operation side of the business but they also make ideal mentors for new valets as they pass along insight on how to the Luxe experience.
DoorDash, an on-demand food delivery company, similarly starts with their drivers and empowering them to develop new skills, according to Xu. Their delight team comprises of many former front-line drivers since their experience delivering to customers give them an unique perspective in how to provide a DoorDash brand experience. It is the small thing that count. Xu shared a story of how once when a DoorDash driver realized that he was delivering food to a maternity ward, he stopped to get some chocolate as a surprise delight for the new mom.
Lyft, the pink mustached on-demand car service, has always presented itself as a “friendly means of connecting people and communities through better transportation, helping people get from A to B.” To provide this experience consistently, Lyft has a formal onboarding program where the top 10% Lyft drivers pass down their experience making customers happy to new drivers and get compensated for it.
“You have to find the nuggets of surprise.” [tweet this]
- Kira Wampler, CMO Lyft
Wampler recalls a story of taking a Lyft one night, just wanting to be quiet. Her Lyft driver, however, was chatty and asked Wampler if she wanted to do something “interesting.” Curious, she hesitantly agreed. The driver then opened a box and took out a journal filled with messages that previous passengers wrote to each other. She spotted an entry from a husband to his wife, expressing his love on the night of their anniversary. Wampler was touched and glad that she accepted his interesting request.
According to Biyani from Sprig, an on-demand fresh and healthy food delivery startup, it starts with the source of the food when it comes to creating the Sprig customer experience. Not any food supplier can partner with Sprig. Prior to any conversation with food suppliers, Sprig would tell them about their mission of feeding people food that’s both healthy and fast. Suppliers must first be recruited into Sprig’s mission.
“Our current service economy has kind of failed us. Everyone wants change and better services. We want better food, not processed food. And fast.” [tweet this]
- Gagan Biyani, CEO Sprig
Sprig also intensely interviewed many of their users until they’ve developed a product that actual users want and would share with others. This laser focus on their core produce paid off since Sprig did not have to promote deep discounts in order to grow their user base. Sprig’s product inherently provided such a delightful customer experience that users kept coming back for more and referred others to try Sprig.
Scaling the Brand Experience to New Markets
As startups scale and expand to new markets, often times, the unique brand experience can be difficult and sometimes impractical to deliver.
For Lyft, one obvious change as they expand to markets was its giant fuzzy pink mustache. While the mustache worked well in the early West Coast markets, it just doesn’t work for markets like Chicago, due to snow. “The brand needs to follow the business,” said Wampler. As a result, Lyft’s signature mustache transformed into a more subtle and smaller neon-lit brand identifier.
“Value human interactions, even as they become non-scalable.” [tweet this]
-Kira Wampler, CMO Lyft
When DoorDash first started, it launched in the South Bay, a more-family centered region than San Francisco. Because the audience was unlike the typical audience in San Francisco, Xu said that DoorDash tailored its messaging and delivery service to better meet the needs of their users. This experience informed DoorDash’s focus on having different messaging for different markets.
Luxe, on the other hand, wants to create a professional brand that can apply to each market, said Lee.
Best Advice for Young Startup
In the closing remarks, the speakers offered advice for younger startups.
Wampler said to “start with values. Care about the drivers, the passengers and the community. Second, practice what happens when something happens. Do emergency planning with the team.”
Biyani advises companies to “start by acknowledging the problem. Own up to it and fix it. Have a system in place that solves in real time. Have retrospective to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Find out what was wrong with the process. Then fix it.”
Lee emphasizes the importance of the hiring process and that founders should look for specific traits.
Delivering an awesome brand experience is what sets Luxe, DoorDash, Sprig and Lyft apart. What other startups do you think belong on this list?
You can find the full list of posts about the On-Demand Conference here.