Don’t ever say your business’s competitive advantage Is “quality customer service”.
I’ve worked with dozens of small-to-medium sized businesses who struggle with the following question, and always, always, come up with the same answer.
“What makes you different or better than your competition?”
Some businesses have really unique and powerful differentiators. Google’s extreme commitment to simplicity and organization means I’ve given that company almost everything I’ve got: my calendar, my documents, my search, and my mail. Dollar Shave Club has my business for life because they flipped the razor model on its head. I get a free handle, and then pay only $5 a month for razors shipped to my door. It’s convenient, extremely inexpensive, and simple.
But the default answer of every business is “quality service”.
And you need to be really careful if that’s all you’ve got, for 3 reasons.
1. Everyone says it, and nobody means it.
When’s the last time you returned a product for a customer past the return policy date because you knew that person needed help?
When’s the last time your business gave truly free content to it’s audience, without even asking for an email address?
When’s the last time you spent an hour on the phone trying to help a customer who is clearly incompetent?
If you really want to have “quality service” be your differentiator, you better mean it. You better take a product back at any time, pay for a 24 hour support staff, and spend as much time as you possibly can helping and educating current and potential clients. Then you have to do more. And that’s pretty difficult. But if you’re ready to take that risk, be prepared to develop a cult-like passionate following of customers who buy anything you put out and preach about your business to friends and family.
2. It’s kind of a basic necessity.
If quality service isn’t an absolutely integral part of your business plan, mission statement, and everyday purpose, you’re going to get smoked. Sometimes businesses forget that they’re powerless without the consumer. They become too big, or too profit hungry, that they forget about service.
It’s simply a matter of time before the “paid subscription cable model” is destroyed. It violates all sorts of “quality service” fundamentals: long contracts, poor choices, delays in installation, lawsuits over data, refusal to innovate. All of those things hurt the customer. That’s why you’re not raving about your cable company, but will let friends and family use your Netflix account because it’s an awesome service that you can’t wait to share.
Businesses without quality service will become obsolete; we have too many choices.
3. It’s not an irresistible offer.
Companies that thrive make irresistible, win-win offers.
When asked the question, “What makes you different?”, they have an answer that makes you say, “Wait, what? Really? Sign me up!”
Here are a few examples.
Macy’s will return almost any product you’ve bought ever, even since before all the dinosaurs flew away in spaceships, without a receipt.
OtterBox will replace any broken case and sometimes even fixes your phone for free.
Vanguard offers the lowest fees possible and has the highest performing ETF’s and mutual funds. Why would you invest anywhere else?
Walmart has everything under the sun at the lowest possible price. I’m not saying it’s good, I’m saying it’s irresistible.
You need to ask yourself what your irresistible offer is. And if you don’t have one, you have to create one. All of your instincts will tell you that this kind of offer will lose money, but there’s all the proof in the world that it can skyrocket your success.
Before you go, make sure you’ve got a good answer to the questions in this post if you have a business. And if you’re a consumer, make sure you only give your money to companies that go above and beyond.