I imagine myself sitting in a room with a 1,000 other small business owners. The speaker has just finished a talk on the competitive advantage of a clear and compelling point of difference for any business. Everyone in the audience is nodding. You can’t argue with his perspective.
In my daydream, we all have a way to electronically submit answers to the speaker’s questions. He turns to us. He asks the question. He is challenging all of us head-nodding-acting-like-we-already-have-the-answer participants. He says, “Off of the top of your head, name one clear-cut point of difference your business has that would be a compelling reason for your target audience to buy from you rather than your competitors.”
The group doesn’t even pause. They begin to type furiously as if they finish and submit first, they get to claim this all-too-common, feel-good point of difference for their business.
As we begin to see the submissions rolling onto the big screen at the front of the room, one after another says the exact same thing:
- We provide the highest level of service around.
- We have the best customer service; our customers are family.
- We are #1 in customer service.
I envision around 900 of the 1,000 all answering with a variation on this theme: #1 in Customer Service.
I snap out of my daydream and giggle.
Everyone Doesn’t Have the Best Customer Service
When we ask small business owners what makes them different than their competitors, we almost always get the answer, “We have the best service.”
Everyone can’t have the best service or be #1 in service in any given industry. Only one business in each industry can really claim being the best.
But, more important than claiming it, doesn’t it have to be true?
Honestly Assess Your Customer Service
Here is a quick private test for you to truly assess your businesses service:
(I will give a disclaimer here for everyone: These answers should pertain to how your company and each person in your team, including you, provides service to your target audience. What I mean is, it doesn’t count as a “No” if you ignore the copy machine salesman who calls you three times per week.)
- Do you, or someone you designate, call customers and prospects back within a few business hours of their call?
- Do you provide a quote or an estimate to a customer within a reasonable time frame that you committed to?
- Do you show up when you say you will?
- Do you do the work on the schedule you committed to?
- Are you friendly and personable to every customer every time?
- Do you do the work per the specifications you agreed?
- Do you keep your clients fully up to speed on the status of their product or service?
- Do you commit and communicate a completion date?
- Do you do great work every time?
- Do you confess and own up to legitimate failings or misses and work even harder to make it up to the customer?
I Rarely Experience WOW Customer Service
As a consumer, I can honestly say that at least 90% of the vendors, suppliers and services we contract with, personally and as a business, do not do these things even 50% of the time.
Only Jesus is and will ever be perfect. So, “100% of the time” will probably never be claimed, however, if we are claiming customer service as a point of difference, or even just stating we have a customer-centric philosophy, then we should be able to say yes to all of these questions at least 90% of the time, or more.
And this is just the bare minimum to good customer service. None of the above is the WOW stuff of customer service. What is over-the-top, make-a-customer-for-life customer service?
- Responding immediately to questions, requests, and concerns? (Immediately = within the hour)
- Following up after the work is done to make sure the client is happy and has everything they need?
- Conducting training to ensure your customer can use their new purchase effectively?
- Sending a birthday card, Christmas card, etc…?
- Doing exactly what you promise in a manner and with quality that would glorify God as often as you possible can?
Take The Challenge
Regardless of the type of business you are in or your claimed point of difference, we all know that truly excellent customer service can set us apart because it is so rare in business today. I want to challenge each of us who work in a small business to:
- think of ONE thing you can do consistently and frequently that could provide a WOW moment for your customer or client
- commit to doing that activity on a schedule (i.e. “I will respond to all customer inquiries within 2 hours of receipt,” or “I will call every client at the end of a project and ask if there is anything else we can do before we close out the project”)
- find someone in your organization to be accountable to and review your progress regularly in tangible measurements
Then wait a few months and give yourself the assessment again!