When I ask business owners what sets them apart from their competition, about 90% of the time I get one of two answers, either “I don’t have any competition” or “Our great customer service.” The first answer is one I will address in a future article, and the second one is well almost laughable. Thirty years ago, when customer service was usually an afterthought, great, even good customer service could set you apart. In the year 2017, good customer service is the minimum acceptable level and great is the norm. What I am saying is that the bar has been raised 10-fold or more in the last 30 years, and what used to be great customer service is now just the minimum acceptable.
Do you have an incredible customer experience?
When I ask owners what’s so great about their customer service, they usually can’t tell me. The first thing I explain to my clients, and anyone else who will listen, is that it is no longer about great customer service, it is about a great customer experience. The difference is that we give service, but our customers receive the experience. It is all about perspective, and the only one that matters is the customer’s.
In his book “Take It To The MAX”, author and speaker, Jeff Peden explains the need to create an Incredible Customer Experience as a way to differentiate yourself in today’s competitive marketplace. Peden sums up his customer experience philosophy in one simple statement: Always Do What is in the Best Interest of the Customer. He identifies the following five questions that customers ask themselves about you every time they consider doing business with you.
1 – Can I Trust You?
Your customers want to know that doing business with you is safe and reliable. When they know they can trust you, they are more than willing to take your recommendations and to do more business with you. Think about the difference between your regular car mechanic and the oil change shop at the corner of a busy intersection. They are both likely to make the same recommendations, yet you are more likely to follow through with your mechanic’s suggestions than the ones from the quick service company, even though they are probably the same recommendation. The difference is trust.
2 – Do You Care About Me?
You can only get customers to answer “Yes” to this question if you have demonstrated care for them. What are you doing to look out for your customer’s best interests? Are you putting their needs ahead of yours? Caring for your customers is like making deposits in their emotional bank accounts, which you can draw upon later. Remember that the number one reason (68%) you lose customers is “perceived indifference.” This means that they don’t think you care, so neither do they.
3 – Can I Depend on You?
Or, in other words, will you do what you say? Do you call people back when you tell them you will? Do you send them that sample promptly, or respond to the quote request in the timeframe you promised? Your customers want a partner that they can rely on to serve their needs in a timely and consistent fashion.
4 – Am I Important to You?
Do you take the time to get to know your customers? If they have a business, do you understand how their business model works? Do you understand their needs well enough to proactively meet them? How well do you know your retail clients? Do you call your best clients when a new product line comes in to let them see it first? What are you doing to let your customers know they are important to you?
5 – Are You Telling Me the Truth?
Your customers want to know that you will always tell them the truth. This means that sometimes you will tell them the bad news, not just the good news. Don’t tell them you will get it to them by Friday when you know you can’t! Tell them when you really can get it to them, learn why they feel they need it by Friday, and look at alternate ways to meet their needs on Friday and beyond!
So how would your customers answer if you asked them these five questions? What would you score? If you don’t know, you could be missing the greatest opportunity to set yourself apart from your customers, and you may be letting current and future business walk out the door.
What are you doing to create an Incredible Customer Experience?