Can I Help?: The Power of Inclusion

betty white cake mixIn the early 1950’s Betty Crocker was on a roll. The company’s twenty-year successful run of Bisquick (“90 seconds from package to oven”) clearly positioned the company as the partner to homemakers eager to make meal preparation quick and easy. The company (owned by General Mills) elected to expand into cake mixes with the introduction of White Cake in 1951. It was a mix that simply required adding water, like Bisquick.

However, the product failed to take off. Housewives felt no need to brag about their “made from scratch” biscuits or pancakes. But, cakes were different. After all, the colorful box promised a “fresh, homemade quality.” When the company removed the powered eggs from the mix and had the homemaker add real eggs, the product took off. The message: customers care more when they are given an invitation to put skin in the game.

On Southwest Flight 22 from El Paso to Phoenix, the flight attendant accepted assistance from two adoring passengers to help pass out peanuts to fellow passengers. The most important part of the occurrence was not the obvious fun the two guys in Bermuda shorts and ball caps had. It was the noticeable positive effect the incident had on everyone on board. Even super serious passengers could not help but grin as they received the all-too-familiar snack from the flight attendant-wannabes!

Inclusion involves finding a way to invite customers to put skin in the game. The power lies more in the opportunity to participate than actual involvement. Most passengers on the Southwest flight knew that had they volunteered, their services would have been equally welcomed. That means that they participated vicariously and had almost as much fun as the two guys with the peanuts.

Customer inclusion is tangible evidence the relationship is egalitarian and valued. It signals an interdependence that elevates loyalty. Granted, there are customers who simply want to be served with no requirement to get involved. But, most customers enjoy being treated as a partner, not just a consumer. Especially, when that invitation is issued with respect and completely voluntary. Put the icing on the cake by allowing your customers to help you co-create the experience!

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