A few weeks ago as I sat down to put my marketing plan into place for my business for 2013 I started to look at the services I was offering and what it meant to my customers. I was looking for that angle that would help me differentiate my business from my competitors. I thought about my existing customers and what they have wrote about my business in the past or just what many of them said to me in the course of our conversations and decided they all said the same thing,
their customers were getting excellent service and they had peace of mind, so when I put my marketing campaign together I had many different campaigns all ready to go, and all had the same message, we give excellent customer service.
Then I started looking at some of my competitor’s and guess what? They all had the same thing! I subsequently ended up spending some time doing research and I came up with a startling revelation! Many different businesses out there are sending the same message! So I thought to myself are we all lacking in that creativity to come up with something unique to sell our business, and as such is the phrase or variations of the phrase “we offer great customer service” a point to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Well guess what? It’s not.
These kinds of statements are so overused; they are the marketing equivalent of wallpaper, i.e. they are designed to be ignored. Everybody claims to serve customers well, but not all companies actually do. So not only do you have an identical point of difference, with your competitors, well….nobody believes you!
Great service is defined by the person receiving the service, not the server. Two people may experience the same service, and one will walk away totally captivated while the other is completely underwhelmed. So what one person considers being pushy another person might consider attentive.
In fact, the business is the only entity that should never claim to offer great customer service; this can only work if others put that label on you. The moment you claim it yourself, you come off sounding desperate — or just boring.
So what do we do about it?
Find something that meets two criteria: (1) it makes you unique, and (2) customers care about it.
It’s true that customers care about the service they get, but because everyone claims great service and there is no universal agreement on what it looks like, it’s not differentiating. To find a point of differentiation, you need to go a level deeper. Ask yourself what you do in tangible, concrete terms that make your service better than your competitors’. For example:
Enterprise Rent-A-Car does not claim to provide “great customer service;” it offers to “come and pick you up,” which is a concrete and tangible way it differentiates its service level from that of Hertz.
In a crowded hyper-competitive market, it may be something very small and subtle that makes you unique. That’s OK, as long as it is truly yours and your customers care. For example, if you ask a staff member at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel for directions, he will not point toward your destination; he will accompany you there. Guests — often late and lost in a new city — tell friends about the Ritz because of the experience they receive, not because the hotel talks about great service.
So stop saying you offer great customer service. It’s not doing you any favors. Figure out what it is about your service — in concrete, tangible terms — that customers value and start talking about that.
Two years ago, I went to a trade show at the NEC in Birmingham. A friend kindly gave me her apartment to stay in, along with the use of her car. She was gone on holidays so it suited her to do so. Whilst at the trade show we were given some very good presentations on various aspects of business and proper customer service etiquette which was all very compelling and inspiring stuff.
But as good as these presentations were, they didn’t show me anything different about customer services, that I really didn’t know already.
I learned about excellent customer service from a set of car keys. And a lady called Sarah.
Minutes before I was due to fly home, I realised that I had my friend’s car keys in my handbag. I had to get on the plane – it was the last one flying to Ireland that day, I panicked I couldn’t leave my friend without the use of her car! I raced frantically through my options and spotted an airport information booth. I ran up to it and through gasps of breath explained to the woman behind the glass that I needed to find somewhere safe to leave my friend’s keys and still make my plane.
“Here,” she said, immediately extending her hand. “Give them to me. Here’s my name, and mobile phone number. Call your friend and explain where the keys are.”
I was floored.
It’s the easiest and the quickest way” she replied, “all it needs is someone to take responsibility for the problem.”
That was it! All it needed was someone to take responsibility for the problem! That’s all you need for great customer service. Not a huge presentation or a huge viral video. Just the willingness of a lady, who was Employee of the Century as far as I was concerned. It’s a lesson that all business owners and their staff can benefit from. When my plane arrived in Dublin, I immediately rang Inter Flora to arrange for a bouquet of flowers to be sent to my lifeline.
Believe it or not, 80% of companies think they have good service, but only 8% of their customers agree (this is according to a survey prepared by Business Management Ltd.).
When a customer comes to you, they have a problem they need you to solve. You can decide to take ownership of the next problem that lands in your lap, whether it’s from a client, a colleague, or just a frazzled, crazy lady.
It may not revolutionize your business. But at the very least, it might inspire a grateful stranger to send you flowers.
To see if we can help you to increase your customer service level to your clients why not contact The Virtual Office on 051 351286 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org