“Excellence requires underperforming on the things your customers value least, so you can over-deliver on the dimensions they value most.” This quote by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss comes from one of my favorite books, “Uncommon Service.”

Take IKEA for example. They underperform AND over-deliver. Most furniture stores have salespeople who help you choose high quality, expensive furniture that will last for a very long time. You might be able to pass it along to your children. Once you commit to the purchase, your selections will be delivered to your home and assembled for you.

IKEA is purposely not like the ordinary furniture store. Compared to traditional furniture stores, IKEA underperforms. They have a lot of weaknesses:

– They don’t have salespeople and it’s hard to find what you need in their gigantic warehouse.
– They don’t have high-quality furniture.
– It isn’t expensive.
– It won’t last for generations.
– They won’t deliver it.
– You assemble it.

It’s easy to see how IKEA underperforms, but it’s hard to see how they over-deliver. This is crucial. They discovered that many customers saw a traditional furniture store’s strengths as weaknesses. And those same customers saw IKEA’s weaknesses as strengths.

For example, salespeople can be helpful but they can also make customers feel uncomfortable and pressured. Ikea doesn’t pressure you.

Purchasing lifetime furniture is expensive and a big commitment. IKEA furniture is inexpensive and it isn’t a big commitment. You can just replace it when it goes out of style or breaks.

Furniture delivery takes days and sometimes weeks. Furniture from IKEA goes home with you today.

Traditional furniture is assembled for you. When you assemble your IKEA furniture, even though the process is frustrating, you have a sense of accomplishment from the process. This feeling is so powerful, and seemingly universal, that it has been confirmed in repeated research studies. It is called the IKEA effect. 

IKEA discovered what customers value most and then over-delivered in those areas. They also discovered what customers valued least and underperformed in those areas.

Takeaway – If brands want to attract the right customers and repel the wrong customers, they need to spend significant time answering these four questions.

1. Which customers love you?

2. How can you create even deeper connections with them?

3. Which customers hate you?

4. How can you make them even more unhappy?