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You're Losing Customers

The Power of Providing Solutions

It happens too often when a company offers a service, not a solution. Imagine if you will for a moment that you’re uncomfortable with leaving your home, for whatever reason it’s simply better and more calming for you to order things and have them delivered to your home.

You’ve seen that a particular item that you could use to help with a problem in your home is finally available for purchase right now. You buy it and the postal delivery service informs you that it will arrive in two days. You keep your eye on the tracking app and see that it is being packed, and dispatched and eventually, it shifts to the out-for-delivery status. As you watch the app you see to your ire that the delivery status changes to ‘unable to deliver’ and that it is returning to the distribution hub. You enquire about this and the automated response is that the delivery will be attempted again the following day. Fine.

The next day you watch as the status changes yet again to out-for-delivery and yet again frustratingly changes to ‘unable to deliver’, only this time it says it has been rerouted to a pick-up point. Well, this isn’t what you wanted, leaving your home isn’t easy, but you do need this item. You look at where the pick-up point is and it’s in a completely different city, you would need to organise a car or a train ride to get there. You decide to ring the delivery company to enquire how this happened and how this can be solved. However the company only offers a service, it doesn’t offer solutions. The delivery company acknowledges that your item is indeed at that pick-up point, which is in a completely different city than your home address. When you enquire about a solution, they suggest you complain to the company that you purchased the item from, and that they have fulfilled their service by delivering it to the best possible location. The end.

Inevitably you as the customer, the audience, are left with a bad experience. You will likely try to avoid this delivery service in the future because your problem was not solved. In the end, you are left powerless, and that is never a good feeling.

And this isn’t the only such example, unfortunately, many such stories involve delivery services, train companies, airlines, holiday packages, restaurant experiences and many more.

What your audience wants and needs is a business that offers solutions rather a just a service. Providing a solution is what an engagement strategy is based on. It is what promotes engagement, and your audience will be happier and feel more in control because of it. A solution that helps with (re-)engagement does not need to be expensive, simply offering assistance, understanding, or transparency and clarity about something is already a good start.

So, what is your engagement strategy? Have you thought about this? It’s not just about what ‘service’ or experience you are offering your audience, your customers, but what solution you are giving them.

How often are you losing your customers, your audience, by simply offering a service rather than a solution?

In this blog article, I’ll explore the distinction between offering a service and delivering a comprehensive solution and how this impacts your audience’s engagement, retention and satisfaction with you and your brand.

What is Your Engagement Strategy?

What we need to do first, before we look at services versus solutions, is to define what an engagement strategy is and what it entails. I will mostly do this from the perspective of how I craft such a strategy here at aeStranger using the audience engagement & experience (or AEX) design methodology.

The way an engagement strategy is created at aeStranger is by using the AEX 6*2 Quest design framework. It’s 6*2 because it has six stages and within each stage, there are two things that you need to achieve for the strategy to work, or rather for you to have a successful quest.

I’ll summarise the overall framework, as the complete methodology would likely require an entire book to fully explore.

The six stages of an engagement strategy are thus:

1. Discovery & Introduction

I. Objective identification

Setting clear EPICQ goals, objectives and KPIs, such as CSATs, NPS and CLTVs.

II. Research & analysis

Doing market research and audience analysis, figuring out the audience experience and doing the foundational work for determining the 3Ps in your audience journey as well as creating FABELs of your audience.

2. Novus Status

I. Planning & Preparation

Resource identification and allocation, as well as further persona creation.

II. Messaging & content strategy

Mapping the audience journey, touchpoints, emotional mapping, content creation, content alignment and content personalisation.

3. Progress & Onboarding

I. Timeline & Planning

Crafting a timeline and action plan with targets and milestones (TMRs), as well as defining channels and platforms for generating awareness.

II. Departure & Execution

Planning will be complete or near completion of an MVP experience, and all planned activities will be executed according to the timeline.

4. Obstacles & Scaffolding

I. Trials & Challenges

Here the obstacles and trials of the audience are monitored and/or adjusted, refined, and iterated upon.

II. Risk management & quest design tracking

Identifying any problems that arise from the MVP, determining mitigating strategies and tracking the progress of the experience, as well as reiteration of the experience, if required.

5. Master & Feedback

I. Engagement & Adaption

The audience has become familiar with the experience, reward structures are used and engagement and communication are promoted.

II. Monitoring & Evaluation

Tracking audience progress, gathering feedback, defining metrics, data gathering and feedback loops are established.

6. Endgame & Aftermath

I. Completion & Deliverables

Assessment of achieving the goals initially set out and delivering the final product/service. Analysis and iterations if required for continued success.

II. Evaluation & Reflection

Analyzing the data, gathering feedback, and reflecting on the strengths, weaknesses, and lessons learned. Incorporating the data into a strategic policy for continued success and/or iterating from Stage 1 again.

This is a relatively short summary and outline of the aeStranger engagement strategy framework.

It’s hopefully clear why businesses need to have a good engagement strategy. Not only because of the inherent goal of acquiring and retaining a loyal and paying audience but also because it gives you a clear guiding policy of what to do, what you are attempting to do, why you are doing it, how you are executing it and at when or which points you’re executing it. And this is different from simply just having a plan.

As Roger Martin, the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto explains, setting a strategy should push your business outside of its comfort zone.

“Plans typically have to do with the resources you’re going to spend. Those are more comfortable because you control them,” Martin explains. “A strategy, on the other hand, specifies a competitive outcome that you wish to achieve, which involves customers wanting your product or service. The tricky thing about that is that you don’t control them.” – HBR

So a strategy is an outcome or goal that you want to achieve, this goes for you and your audience. And you don’t control it, because, at the end of the day, you are interacting and essentially collaborating with your audience. Let’s have a look at an example that can better illustrate this interaction.

Within the aeStranger beginner’s course on AEX Design, I have a variety of examples of companies that have had very successful engagement strategies. One of the first examples is from GoPro and their Hero8 campaign, where they managed to successfully engage and interact with their audience. The outcome was that their audience ended up creating thousands of hours of content for the GoPro Million Dollar Challenge campaign.

In this campaign, GoPro offered a million dollars as a prize for the best user-generated content, and that content would also be used within GoPro’s continuing promotional material. In short, the engagement strategy focused on showcasing the Hero8 camera, getting their audience to purchase the camera and use it as intended, to capture amazing adrenaline-inducing action shots, and then sharing those shots with the world. And the additional perk or reward for sharing was a cash prize and recognition. The reward for GoPro was increased revenue, profit and brand awareness, along with loyalty, audience goodwill and positive word-of-mouth marketing.

And this is only one of many examples that exist, Harley Davidson, Apple, Amazon, Nike, Sephora and Spotify all have wildly successful outcomes that leverage the same techniques and concepts within their engagement strategies.

But how does the engagement strategy help you with creating a solution for your audience rather than just offering a service?

The Service vs. Solution Dilemma

We need to first really understand what the difference is between a service and providing a solution. The fundamental difference lies in the approach and outcome of each:

What does offering a service entail:

  • Transactional: When a business offers a service, it typically focuses on fulfilling a specific task or request for its audience. The interaction is often very transactional, with the primary goal being to complete the service as efficiently, economically and quickly as possible.
  • Narrow Scope: Services tend to have a narrower scope and they may only address a specific need or task. They are designed to perform a particular function or deliver a specific result.
  • Semi-Audience-Centric: While services may aim to meet audience needs, the real emphasis is on the delivery of the service itself, and the audience’s involvement is usually limited to just receiving the service.
  • Short-Term: Service-oriented businesses tend to prioritize short-term audience satisfaction, their true focus is on completing the immediate task or service request.

So, what does it look like when you provide a solution:

  • Holistic Approach: Providing a solution involves taking a more comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing an audience’s problems or needs. It looks beyond the immediate task and considers the broader context.
  • Full-Audience-Centric: Solution providers are deeply audience-centric, aiming to understand the root causes of a problem and address it in a way that offers long-term value to their audience.
  • Problem-Solving: Solutions aim to solve the underlying problem or meet the broader needs of the audience. This could involve multiple services, products, or interventions to achieve a meaningful outcome.
  • Long-Term Relationship: Solution providers often focus on building long-term relationships with their audience by consistently delivering value and support. The emphasis is on ongoing engagement and partnership.
  • Customization: Solutions are often tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the audience, providing a personalized and much more relevant approach.

To illustrate these different approaches, let’s use real-world examples. I’d prefer to keep certain company names out of it, but I’ll include the ones that (at least for me) have had a lasting positive effect.

The first example is Amazon. Amazon more often than not does provide a solution, if you have an item you wish to return, or it wasn’t delivered or is faulty, their customer service does a good job of assisting you in organising the return of the item, a replacement or simply refunding. Naturally, they are a large company with many resources, but the assistance they offer is friendly and understanding. They could have simply offered a service, which could have been a chatbot that offers no assistance and leaves you with the faulty item that you have to pay to return, and no idea if you get a refund. But they opted for one that leaves a positive experience with a struggling customer.

Another example of providing a solution rather than a service is with Virgin Atlantic. The anecdote is that a passenger wrote an amusing but negative review of a curry meal for a flight from the UK to India. Rather than simply offering an empty apology and leaving it at that, Virgin Atlantic (and Richard Branson) sought out the individual to gain feedback on how the dish could be improved for all future passengers. In the case of this story, the individual also ended up being on the Virgin Atlantic food advisory board.

I hope that with these two examples, you can start to see what the differences are between providing solutions over offering services. Your business should truly focus on delivering a solution tailored to your audience’s needs. As I’ve stated above, the fact that it is personalised creates a favourable perspective and an encouraging long-term relationship. It also leads to your audiences recommending you to others with positive stories.

You simply cannot ignore the consequence of not offering a solution to your audience’s specific needs and issues.

The Cost of Ignoring Solutions

A service-only method is of course a much more cost-effective approach, much of what you offer can be automated and you only need a specific focus point. Unfortunately, the consequences of this are that your audience will eventually be alienated by this cold and mechanical tactic. Your audience isn’t necessarily looking for a friendship with you, but they do want to feel like their issues and needs are being served and solved by what you are offering.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of an example, where an industry has chosen to provide a service and is suffering from the consequences of that choice and mindset. Very often the transportation industries are unfortunately stuck in the service-only mindset, I won’t go into why this may be the case, as the reasons are many and varied.

But if we look at say the train service providers in many European countries. They are a required, needed and wanted amenity, however, they have chosen to simply be a service and not a solution provider that could be a good alternative to cars or aeroplanes. I do acknowledge that the example is simplified and minimises many issues that these organisations struggle with, but from the perspective of the audience, the consequences of maintaining such a service-only mentality are very pronounced and detrimental.

Very often the train services in some European nations are not good. They aim to provide the service of a train that goes from A to B and nothing more, the idea that these trains can be counted on to run or to run on time appears to be a bonus, at least from the point of view of many customers. When these customers, the audience, have an issue, problem or complaint about the provided service, they are very often treated as an annoyance, and they should simply be grateful that there is a train service at all.

The consequences of such a mentality are that you foment general audience dissatisfaction with your main revenue creation point, your ‘service’. This leads to lower customer loyalty, where your audience will likely seek alternatives to your service. Negative word-of-mouth may occur as well, which leads to a competitive disadvantage, and you lose out on any cross- or upselling opportunities. All of this, as said, causes lost revenue, which means less funds and resources for your service, costs increase as you try to maintain your service and you are unable to adapt to the changing needs of your audience. In the end, it becomes a very vicious cycle that could spell your eventual demise.

But all of this can be avoided if you develop a strategy that ensures that your business adopts a more audience-centric approach that goes beyond just offering a service.

Embracing Solutions for Enhanced Engagement

In such a volatile and ever-changing world, audience engagement continues to increase in importance. In uncertain times, your audience wants to know that it is being heard and understood, and therefore all the successful businesses have already or are shifting from a service-centric model to one that prioritizes solutions for their audience.

Examples of organisations that have made this shift are many. Some have done it by including their audience more in their brand and goals, such as Sephora and Nike. Others have made the shift by expanding their ecosystem to offer multiple solutions such as Apple and Amazon. And others such as Salesforce have gone from simply providing CRM software to embodying customer relations itself, by providing training, data management services and more.

Each of these businesses decided to change their approach so that they could align their goals with those of their audience. So that they could engage them by providing specific solutions to their audience’s problems.

But transitioning to a solution-oriented mindset and developing a strong audience engagement strategy requires some careful planning and execution of course. If you are considering this transition, then here are a few helpful points to consider along with the frameworks given above:

  • Have an audience-centric mindset. Start by changing the language and perspectives within your organisation so that the audience is central. Encourage everyone in your business to empathise with the audience’s needs, and the challenges they face and try to gather as much feedback from your audience as you can.
  • Do a comprehensive needs analysis. When gathering feedback, discover what your audience’s 3P’s are, their points of purpose, interest and pain.
  • Changing organisational perspective may require some change management by breaking down silos, promoting collaboration and culture change. Offering solutions requires cross-functional collaboration and a business-wide holistic approach from the ground up.
  • Tailored offerings. What you offer must be specifically tailored to the niche needs of your audience, and this is done not by targeting a persona but by rather a collective motivational driver and/or emotion.

The benefits of changing your organisational mindset are many. You will gain an increase in your audience satisfaction, as your now-tailored service will help to solve your audience’s issues. This means that they will be more loyal and will also recommend you to others.

Your audience will recognise the value that you are offering because they feel understood and heard. This means naturally that will stay with you for longer, which in turn also means more long-term revenue growth for you as a business.

Final thoughts

To summarise what we’ve covered in this blog article, a service is essentially something that typically only involves fulfilling a specific task or a request. A solution on the other hand takes a much more audience-centric and problem-solving approach. Solutions have the aim of addressing the underlying issues and needs of your audience. And this does often require a broader range of resources and a long-term perspective but it is worth it. Businesses that provide solutions are better positioned to build lasting relationships with their audience, which fosters a strong loyalty to your brand. And this is all because you have gone beyond simply a transactional model to one that creates meaningful and value-adding experiences.

Some of the key takeaways for you are:

  • Understanding and resonating with your audience. A strong engagement strategy starts with a deep understanding and empathy for your audience’s needs, purpose, preferences, interests and pain points.
  • Service versus Solution. All the services do are to fulfil a bland, standardised and immediate need. A solution tackles the root cause and ensures long-lasting satisfaction with your audience.
  • A service-only approach has many consequences with points of no return. This mindset can lead to alienation, dissatisfaction, loss of loyalty, negative brand recognition and missed growth and revenue.
  • The benefits of offering solutions reverse many of these consequences, creating long-lasting loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and everyone’s favourite, increase in revenue and profit.


In today’s audience-centric landscape, prioritizing solutions is not a choice anymore; it’s an absolute necessity. Audiences expect businesses to go the extra mile for them by understanding their needs and providing comprehensive answers to their problems. It’s not merely about meeting a demand; it’s now about forging meaningful relationships, providing value, inspiring loyalty, and ensuring long-term success for both you and your audience.

As such, I urge you and your businesses to reflect on your current engagement strategies. The path to improved audience engagement and retention lies in reevaluating and adapting to a more audience-centric model. Cultivate a culture change to one of great audience empathy. Research your audience’s pain points and personalise to your audience’s needs. Embrace the shift from service to solution.

The era of engagement is one where businesses not only fulfil their audience’s requests but also anticipate and provide solutions to their (unspoken) needs. This is where relationships flourish, loyalty is born, and sustained success is achieved. By prioritizing solutions and adopting an audience-centric mindset, your business can thrive in this new era of engagement.

So, my dear reader, the time is now. Adapt, evolve, change and embark on the path of audience-centric solutions and an improved audience engagement strategy. Your audience, your brand, and your bottom line will thank you for it.

If you found value in this piece, then I recommend that you click the button below to sign up for our email list. This way you can always be the first to find out when aeStranger releases a new piece of content in the field of audience engagement.

And very soon aeStranger will be releasing a beginner’s course on AEX Design, with which you can learn more about how to craft an effective audience engagement strategy. What tools and techniques you can use to provide audience-centric solutions. As well as a variety of case studies you can learn from about how highly successful businesses created their audience engagement strategies.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æ, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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