Many of us in our respective businesses are well aware of our competition. We may have similar products and services which serve the same function or meet the same need. We may even utilize similar equipment and technology to do so. So the challenge is how can we create an edge in the minds of our customers in which they perceive greater value in the goods and service which we offer as opposed to a competitor down the street. Creating this difference, and implementing it is called a value proposition - its not just what we tell our customers about how we are better, but what the customer actually believes!
"Equipment and other resources are available to all competitors. The place where you differentiate is your people. " - Ray Jackson, Associate Dean of the leadership school for Unisys Corp
A key area of strategic advantage we can leverage is the experience your customers and potential customers have when they interact with you. What message do you communicate and do your actions match your words? Some my clients recognize the value in establishing a sincere relationship with your customer. This is not simply something you put on your web page or in a brochure; rather it is a fundamental value of those who lead your company.
Relationship is a value which doesn't skirt things like a quality product or service, or knowledgeable and competent staff. Nor does it compensate for poor ethics. What a relationship effectively does is provide that X factor - the certain something which people may not always be able to put their finger on but is amazingly effective at enriching the experience customers have with our organizations.
Relationship by nature is authentic. People can see through the schmoozing in a heart-beat. Authentic relationship genuinely values people as people, not as another sale. It is genuinely interested in the success and well-being of their customers and communicates that from the way they present their products, address the customer's concerns, close the deal and follow-up.
People can tell when they are truly welcomed as a customer on the telephone or in person. Do your employees greet and relate well and naturally to the customers? Are they empowered to make decisions to accommodate legitimate customer issues? Do your employees understand the value of what they are offering to meet the needs and wants of the customer? Can they communicate this in a genuine way?
Customers who feel good and appreciated, who are treated with respect and feel they have been listened to and understood are far more likely to do business with you, return to do business with you and are more likely to refer their friends. Genuine relationship cultivates positive customer experience.
A Coffee Roaster in our community is truly masterful at this. Each person who enters the business is greeted warmly and pleasantly by name if possible (and they work hard to remember your name). They are asked if they need any assistance and if not, left to browse. The sales staff look for touch points to engage the customer being careful to read the customer's body language and receptivity to a conversation. The staff is trained and knowledgeable about the goods and services they provide. They provide excellent products.
When you leave this place of business, you leave feeling that your business was genuinely appreciated. You leave feeling as you just visited with friends. This company has been able to thrive in a very competitive business environment while keeping their values up front and primary. They have consistently, year after year, been able to capture greater market share and a $1.50 to $3 premium per pound of coffee sold! Did I mention, they also create fiercely loyal customers who in turn are the missionaries producing more customers!
Consider the following:
- Even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority for consumers, with 60% often or always paying more for a better experience. Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report
- 81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition Source: Peppers & Rogers Group, 2009 Customer Experience Maturity Monitor
- 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report
- For every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who have remained silent. Source: Lee Resource Inc