"Good" Is Not Good Enough

When the customer has lots of choices, you need to be better or different than the competition.

Customers are exposed to thousands of sales messages every day. They’re exposed to e-mails, billboards, newspaper ads, radio spots, and television commercials. It seems like everyone is trying to grab the customer’s attention and hopefully his business.

Because of the onslaught of messages, it’s no wonder that so many places of business are simply forgotten. You know what I’m talking about.

You may have had the experience of discussing with someone where you might go to lunch. After several suggestions are made, someone says, “What about Kay’s Diner?” And you say, “Oh yeah. I forgot about that place. They’re pretty good.”

You see, “good” is not good enough any more. Customers have to remember you before they can come back and spend more of their money. What are you doing to make sure your customers remember you? And once they remember you, what are you doing to make sure they return?

I’ve found a simple formula that really works. It says “Better + Different = Memories = Customer Loyalty.” In other words, if your product or service is better than your competitor’s, if it’s delightfully different, the customer won’t forget you. They’ll come back.

How do you do that? How do you create that kind of customer enthusiasm? I made one suggestion in last week’s “Tuesday Tip.” I said LEARN FROM THE BEST.

A second thing you can and should do is REMOVE FRUSTRATIONS. Make sure all the irritants are removed from the customer service process.

Just follow this two-step process. First, list all the things that bug you when you’re a customer.

Personally, I hate it when I can’t find a clerk when I need one. I hate it when I ask to see a manager, and no one knows where he is at or when he’ll be back. I hate it when I call a place of business, and I get three different people who don’t know the answer to my question. Or I get three different answers to the same question. And I hate it when I wait on the telephone “helpline” for thirty minutes.

You get the point. So go ahead and make up your own list of frustrations.

Then, after you make your list, take the second step. Ask yourself a very humbling question. Do any of those frustrations happen in your organization? Are you guilty of doing any of the things you hate? Be honest.

To create positive memories in your customer’s mind, you’ve got to remove his frustrations. I experienced that a while ago at the Opryland Hotel. After staying there and speaking there for a couple of days, I was anxious to get outside and try a new restaurant. And to me that’s a big deal.

Because I travel so much and speak so often, I don’t always have time to sit down to a nice meal. So I carry Labrada nutrition bars in my briefcase and eat those much of the time. When I get time for a meal, however, I really look forward to it, and I want it to be a really good meal. I’m very frustrated when the meal turns out to be mediocre at best.

The Opryland Hotel took away that possible frustration. When I asked for a restaurant recommendation, they did more than mention a place. They did more than whip out a basket of menus they had collected. Anyone could have done that.

This hotel went one step further. They told me they had personally checked out several restaurants. They had tasted the foods and thought they were excellent. They even made sure the prices were fair. And they totally removed the possible frustration of a poor dining experience. And I became one of their “enthusiastic” customers.

A third thing you can do is RESCIND OUTDATED POLICIES. Some organizational or departmental policies and procedures no longer make any sense. They don’t add value for the customer, and they may actually hurt the customer.

Take the old policies of hospital visiting hours and hospital food. There isn’t much research to support the notion that restricted visiting hours leads to quicker patient recoveries. And there isn’t much evidence to convince someone that hospital food is actually good for you.

So the Mid-Columbia Medical Center rescinded those policies. They revolutionized patient care, as Roger Dow and Susan Cook report in their book, Turned On. Mid-Columbia’s new goal was to make their patients feel special. So they instituted 24- hour visiting hours. They let their patients choose the gowns they wanted to wear. And they allowed the patients’ friends and family members to cook special meals for their loved ones by providing a kitchen on every floor.

The Mid-Columbia Medical Center realized that their old policies were made for the convenience of the staff — not the healing of the patient. What about your organization? What’s the real reason behind your policies and procedures? To make your life easier? Or to create a truly great experience for your customers?

A lot of organizations need to take an honest look at themselves. For example, I find it somewhat annoying to make a major purchase and then be told by the company to make sure I’m home all day the following Thursday when the delivery will be made. That’s not customer service. That’s customer abuse. In other words, I spend my money so the store makes a profit, and then they want me to spend my day off waiting for the purchase.

One furniture company realized that policy was fifty years out of date. Such a practice, delivering items between 8 and 4, went way back to the 1950’s when someone was almost always home. Now, no one’s home. Everyone’s working.

So this company decided to rescind their old policy. They started delivering between 4 and 8 pm and Saturday mornings — if that’s what the customer wanted. And their customers are delighted.

You may or may not have the power and authority to remove some of your old, outdated policies. However, Customer Service Champions learn to work around those policies. They find ways they can appropriately and creatively help the customer without hurting the company.

Try these two strategies — REMOVE FRUSTRATIONS and RESCIND OUTDATED POLICIES. You’ll be paid back with more loyal, enthusiastic customers.

Action:  Which of your policies may be outdated and actually get in the way of serving your customers? Write them down.

Then list some things you could do to make your department easier to do business with.