3 Ways to Distinguish Yourself from Your Competitors
In today’s world, everyone is fighting for customers. Your competitors are trying to lure your customers away and you should be trying to attract their customers as well. But how can you set yourself apart from the competition and retain your customers?
There are three ways to distinguish yourself from your competitors –
Price – You must be competitive, however, this usually will bring you into a bidding war with every transaction
Product – If you have the time, money, and research teams available to you, this will support many businesses.
Service – The fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to impress your customers and cultivate loyalty for life if done right.
The nice thing is that delivering excellent customer service is simple. Note, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but most of the time it is far easier than we think.
As in any relationship, it is the little things that make the biggest difference. Customers appreciate the basic common courtesies of smiles, eye contact, “Please and Thank You,” and any small gesture that treats them as a valued part of your business.
Customers today feel as though they are processed through our systems. The majority of face-to-face contact they have with companies are perceived as inconsiderate and aloof.
Customers are craving to feel engaged with us, not as a cog in the wheel or a problem that gets in the way.
Just the mere fact that you are concerning yourself with delivering excellent service puts you ahead of 95% of your competitors. They are too focused on the logistics of their business. You have the mindset to focus on the customers. Customers notice and appreciate that. Sure, they are always looking for a good deal and, occasionally, you will lose a customer over price. Most of the time, however, you will find that they will come back to you because the level of service you provided gave them the connection that they were looking for with a service or product provider.
Consumers make their buying decisions based on emotion and back it up with logic. The customer is NOT buying your product or service. They can buy that from any of your competitors. They are buying the relationship you are promising them.
Kristina, Service is really the only differentiator. We're living in an experience economy. Products are commoditized faster and faster. I just got the new iPhone4 yesterday, the Droid comes out next week. Its probably a "better" phone (4G blah blah), but I stuck with the iPhone because of the integrated experience. My phone, my Mac, my iTunes create an 'experience platform" that helps me run my life. I would differ with you on the notion that delivering excellent service is simple. Unlike lowering your price, or adding a feature to your product and releasing v2.0, delivering excellent service to the level that creates a competitive advantage requires dedication, long-term executive commitment, organizational and cultural change and a performance management system that aligns expectations, capabilities and reward systems to drive the desired experience. So, while making changes to your service delivery model don't require the capital investments associated with a product R&D cycle required to create v2.0, the incorporation of those changes is a big effort. I also think mission and culture can be a differentiator as stand alone as well. Think about things such as social or environmental responsibility (Seventh Gen). That company exists on the basis of a commitment to protecting our environment. Their value proposition has nothing to do with price or service (maybe product. but that's a result of the mission). Thanks for the post. Barry
You picked up on a very good point, Barry. Customer service certainly is simple. In the words of Joe Calloway during our interview, "Simple doesn't always mean EASY." It does require effort to create a customer centric culture, getting buy-in from everyone involved, and implementing the process and programs. My point is that it is a simple concept and mindset. Like you pointed out, achieving the desired Customer Centric Culture does require long term commitment and effort. As I always tell my clients, Customer Service Culture and Training should never be treated as a "One Time Event" but as a "Committed Process." Thanks for your comment. I truly appreciate your candor to delve into the point of it being simple or not. That dialogue is what keeps it interesting to everyone.
Good analysis of how buying decisions take place Kristina. It seems that service is often overlooked as a selling point. We encounter this a lot at my company too; it's easy to focus on features and price instead of long term partnerships and great service. Have you seen Chris Reaburn's post this week about Zappos? My comment there backs up the point you make here. http://servicemarketer.blogspot.com/2010/07/zappos-is-just-okay.html
I did and made a comment as well. He brought an interesting perspective to it. While they did everything they promised and lived up to the hype, the hype was so big that it is almost impossible to exceed the expectations. Like he pointed out, since they did everything he believed they would, that was still a good thing. I'll bet that more companies wish they had that issue - their reputation being so stellar that to improve upon it is baffling. Thanks for the comment. Always glad to have you stop by.