Ask Andi: If You Build It, Customers Will Come
By Andi Gray
Dilemma: Forget about the chauffeurs in black suits and luxury sedans; everyone provides that. We need to differentiate ourselves in our customers’ eyes. How do can do that?
Thoughts of the Day: Know how you can meet your competitors’ offers, then plan to exceed them. Look around at what your competitors aren’t doing to meet your customers’ wants and needs. Try to introduce something new every year—innovation can be one of your differentiators as you focus on keeping up with evolving customer needs. Do some good in the world and people will notice. Tell a compelling story about your service, company, and/or mission—and do it in 30 seconds or less.
Be the best at what you do. Vehicle details (and detailing), employee presentation and skill at doing their jobs, use and availability of technology, and no-excuses attitudes with the ability to save money by doing it right the first time by your staff all add up to a compelling offer for your potential customers. Sometimes owners forget about the standards in pursuit of the next best thing. Pay attention to the basics and do them better than anyone else. That, in and of itself, will make your company stand out. Many customers are willing to pay a premium for the best service and quality possible—but you have to deliver every time.
You should also know what your competitors do well—and where they fall down. Where they are lacking you can be there to fill the gap. Experience their (and your) service firsthand to see where you can do better, but also tap into other service experiences in other hospitality-oriented industries. Find ways to solve customer problems that your competitors can’t or won’t address. Talk about your company’s ability to tune in to customers. Know what your customers want, better than anyone else. And then supply those wants—but don’t bad-mouth the competition to your potential customers.
Don’t overlook your employees: They serve as the frontline for your business and are in tune with what customers want or need, so ask them and implement their best suggestions. Teach everyone in your company that “the customer comes first” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life. Always ask what else the customer needs, and give your staff the freedom to go outside the box to supply those needs. If in doubt, do it. If really in doubt, check in and then do it. Teach your company to be nimble and customer centric by encouraging innovation and problem solving—but always with consistency and uniformity.
Keep track of regular customer requests, and turn them into new product offers if the demand and infrastructure are there. Make your company super-relevant by launching a new (and probably researched) service every year, whether it’s shuttle work, a niche tour, or a fleet vehicle. Edit and refocus as needed.
Package into a standard offer things that your company has done to serve customers throughout the year. Teach people how to deliver that new offer. Tie products together under a strong brand that says what your company represents. Pay attention to entry price points and online offers to draw in new customers.
Make it really easy for customers to do business with your company. Build a relationship with customers by being predictable and always reliable. Tell customers what you’re going to do to take care of them, and then do exactly that. Saying what you do and doing what you say builds trust. Script it out for employees and then practice until everyone who interacts in any way the customer, and the people behind them, know how to say, and do, what’s expected.
Think about how to make the world a better place, or at least your customers’ slice of the world. Listen, listen, and listen again to your customers. Then talk about your company’s role in making that happen. Build a team of believers whose mission is to deliver a superior experience to every customer who comes in contact with your company. Get vendors to promote your company because they, too, have a superior experience when they work with you.
Teach employees stories of heroic performances as examples of jobs well done. Use case studies and customer testimonials to be relevant. Talk about being on a mission to serve your customers in every way possible.
Distill customer accolades into a few words that describe what your company stands for. Use your customers’ words to explain what makes your company a stand out. Once you think you have a 30-second elevator pitch, try it out on current clients to see if they bond to it. Then go to work building buzz about what your company does.
Looking for a good book? Try The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service by Jeff Toister. [CD0320]
Andi Gray is the founder of the Business Consulting Firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.