Be Bold: It’s the Next Customer Frontier


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Just being ‘very good’ is no longer enough to stand out in the customer’s mind. In an age of over-supply, you have to be different, you have to stop playing it safe; in short, you have to be bold if you are to be memorable.

There is a great example of doing just this: the Six Senses group of resorts and their award winning property in the Maldives, called Soneva Fushi.

I visited the resort and interviewed the Chairman Sonu Shivdasani as well as the General Manager and front-line staff. The Six Senses proposition is ‘Intelligent Luxury’. Sonu said that the concept came from asking the question “What can we give guests that they can’t get at home?” as opposed to the more usual luxury hotel question “What do our guests expect or how do we exceed what they have at home?”

For example, you fly in by seaplane and your own ‘Man Friday’ meets you. The first thing he does after introducing himself is to offer a bag emblazoned with the words ‘No news, no shoes’ and he asks you to put your shoes in the bag.

You don’t wear them again for the duration of your stay because you walk everywhere with sand between your toes-even the restaurants- rather than the usual marble floors favoured by up-market hotels. Other ‘typical’ elements of a luxury hotel stay are also not included. They do not provide CNN or newspapers delivered to your room, for example, unless you insist on it and arrange it beforehand.

At the core of the company’s philosophy is their Six Senses cycle whereby they are explicit about giving priority to their ‘hosts’ (front-line employees) on the basis that they will then create a great experience for guests.

As you may imagine, Sonu and his colleagues are not your typical stuffy hoteliers as you can see from the photograph. In fact they refer to themselves as the ‘core’ rather than the Management or Executive team.

An example of their being bold? You pay $1500 a night and yet they ask you to take your empty plastic bottles and other rubbish home with you to minimize the environmental impact on the island. Another is that the tables they provide on the beach in front of your very expensive room are old wooden cable drums turned on their side and left to bleach in the sun.

So, just how bold is your business? Take part in my short online survey, which is part of the research for my new book with my co-author Andy Milligan. All participants receive a summary of the survey findings. Click here to take the Bold Business survey.

Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith
Shaun Smith is the founder of Smith+Co the leading UK based Customer Experience consultancy. Shaun speaks and consults internationally on the subject of the brand purpose and customer experience. Shaun's latest book 'On Purpose- delivering a branded customer experience people love' was co-written with Andy Milligan.


  1. That’s really interesting, Shaun, and set me thinking on Evans & Wurster’s old (old? crikey. 1999) book Blown To Bits in which they look at how the ‘richness versus reach’ equation is now, er, blown to bits, as they put it. For example, banking divides its customer experience into a ‘mass’ offer (‘reach’, as in mass reach) and an elite, exclusive offer (private banking or the ‘riches’ part of the segmentation). This divide, increasingly, doesn’t work, as the customer dissatisfaction levels with banks show.

    The arrival of mass luxury (through mass affluence) has left the old equation (the assumpton that ‘mass’ and ‘luxury’ are distinct) in tatters, argued Evans and Wurster. Quite right. Brilliant Slideshare, if you click on ‘view’, below, helps cement our thinking on how luxury ain’t what it used to be. If you think fashion, for example, it’s now cool to mix designer labels with accessories from Zara, Top Shop, Primark (well, up to a point). In the Slideshare, look out for the parallel example of Louis Vuitton setting up ten street vendors in New York; not to sell knock-offs, of course, but genuine Vuitton stuff.

    Phil Dourado

  2. Phil,

    Thanks very much for your comments and the great Slideshare link. This is a terrific example of how luxury is being redefined particularly in sophisticated markets. It is about being free to choose those things that please us as consumers rather than adhering to some ideal defined by a marketing person. So mixing Topshop with Prada is fine because I like both; I don’t need the external endorsement of a designer brand to feel good. This is not always the case in some less sophisticated markets; sometimes you will see people in China proudly wearing the tag that is sown on the sleeve of some suits when they are manufactured just to make sure that that everyone knows what it is.

    The Six Senses ‘Itelligent Luxury’ concept is all about finding balance in life and harmony with your surroundings in a world of stress. It is all very well being pampered in a Ritz-Carlton and having staff look after your every need but sometimes you just need to get back to the real world.

  3. At a meeting I recently attended in Virginia, Phil McKinney, CTO of HP’s Personal Systems Group, suggested that “the best ideas sound stupid.” He added, “If your ideas don’t sound sufficiently stupid, they’re probably not innovative enough.”

    In your blog, it’s great to read about another company that champions innovative ideas which other companies would simply shoot down in the name of “playing it safe.”

    –Andy Rudin

  4. Phil

    Interesting story.

    I guess it’s all about going back to basics. You think people always want something sophisticated, but occasionally they want to try something different.

    Similar to IKEA, what customers get is not finished products but products that require assembly. It’s definitely not convenient but people enjoy the assembly process.

    As long as the pleasure outweighs the pain, people will have no complaints.

    The question is, what’s the pain, and what’s the pleasure?

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count


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