Post by Frances Cole Jones, contributing Women On Business writer
Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player in the history of the world, and now a dissident Russian politician, claims there are only two keys to playing great chess: see the whole board and think several moves deep.
How does this idea apply in a business environment? One of the best examples I know comes from Virgin Atlantic Airlines, a company universally acknowledged to have changed the way we fly. One of the ways they did this was by considering what the flying experience was like outside the airplane: what could they do to improve the way people felt about both their trip to the airport and their time in the airport?
Some of the ideas they implemented include offering passengers a limousine service to pick them up at their home and drive them to their terminal. Another was to institute more luxurious lounges, and make them available to premium flyers both coming and going. After all, one needs a shower a lot more on arrival than before takeoff! They also, of course, treated their premium passengers like adults in flight, offering them the “luxury” of simply raiding a picnic basket to get their own snacks. Their ability to consider the entire travel experience—not just the portion they were technically responsible for—is one of the reasons they’ve led their field.
With this in mind, then, how can you step back from your immediate situation—take a more global perspective?
For example, if you own a business, have you considered offering free or discount parking to your customers? Working with your Chamber of Commerce to improve the lighting in the parking lot? Speaking with the businesses around you about adding trees, window boxes, shrubbery to make the surroundings more compelling?
This is in effect what New York’s Times Square Partnership and other neighborhood associations have done. They have hired their own street-cleaning crews and security guards, because they realize that people’s shopping experiences don’t start at their store’s front doors, but at the customers’ front doors (or at least, well before their individual shops). They view a purchase as a process and a relationship. In short, just as the best way to see if your house guests will have an nice experience is to sleep for one night in your guest room, one recipe for success in business is to truly “walk a mile” in your customers’ shoes. How do you think that coffee shops ended up in bookstores?
Admittedly, it’s hard to think big picture at this time—or to consider spending money on seeming non-essentials. That said, it’s at times like these that customers make choices based on the smallest of deciders. Seeing the whole board and thinking several moves deep is likely to end with you saying “Checkmate” to your competition.