“What makes you different from your competitors?” I asked. “Well that’s easy..it’s our awesome service!” Said the struggling sales rep.
That conversation has always been the kiss of death, my friend.
“Wait, Joe! But we DO have great service!” you say?
Let me tell you why your customers eyes glaze over when you tell them that.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new age of selling. The place where you need to TRULY understand what makes you different, why the heck anyone should care, and how you can position yourself more effectively.
(click here or the play button below to listen to this post)
Grab some popcorn, it’s story time
Can I tell you a story? Well of course I can…you’re reading this.
Okay, so a few months ago we moved into a new apartment and had to get our TV and Internet service moved over. Where we live in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, we have a provider called Telus. Now, if you are like me, you most likely get that sinking pit in your stomach when moving thinking about all the stuff you have to do, and especially transferring all your services, payments, addresses, etc, right? Moving = headaches.
Why? Well mainly because it NEVER GOES SMOOTHLY. A few months ago, that is exactly what happened. For some reason, Telus mixed up the order, and I wouldn’t get my internet services until the 10 days after we moved in. And since I work from home, that is not really an option. “But that’s the only time we can send someone to your place” said someone who really wasn’t that concerned. Also, there were some issues with my bill and charges that needed to be removed…you know, the usual stuff.
Let me pause for a moment and ask if you think that great customer service was a top priority at this point? No. I wanted solutions.
And what did I get? Here is the shocking part. I got a phone call from a guy named “Jeff,” who said that he has been personally assigned to me to make sure this all gets solved. He would call the tech team, the service team, the billing team, and he would be the only one calling me and who I should call directly. (Was this the same Nigerian Prince who I should send money to to get my billions, I wondered? hmmm…sounds fishy…)
Jeff was great! I got a call from someone on the setup day saying they were going to change the date, and he called me right away letting me know that he took care of it, the appointment was still on, and I didn’t have to follow up with the other guy. In the end, there were some hiccups, but it was all solved. I loved that there was someone who actually was on my side in this big company.
This was a far cry from the typical, “Sir, what seems to be the problem. Okay, hold on, I will pass you over to that department.” And then you explain it again…and again, and no one seems to take notes. You sit on hold and get even more mad. the more chipper they are, the more infuriating it becomes. You with me here? How many times has that happened to you?
I asked him about this special attention I was getting and he explained that it was a VIP pilot program where they assigned reps to customers who experienced difficulties and they were responsible for getting problems solved. What an awesome idea! And I was absolutely happy with the way everything went down.
So big shout out to Jeff Turner and the team at Telus!
I don’t want service, I want effortless
Previously I wrote about a great book called The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty where they talked about exactly this. The key to service is not to create a WOW experience, but one that actually helps your customers solve their problems. Read that post here.
In the example above, it didn’t matter if everyone I dealt with was awesome, super nice, and offered me all sorts of bonuses. I would have been angry because they weren’t solving my problem. And here’s the interesting part. Even if my assigned support rep was not that nice, I would still have been happy because he was helping me get what I needed.
Do you see the difference?
How do you apply it to your business?
Do you ever go in somewhere as a customer and you get the feeling like you are being a nuisance? How does that feel?
Take a look at your business. I don’t care if you are the janitor, the sales rep, the front desk, or the owner. Take a real hard look at the FLOW of service your customers receive. Now put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How well would YOUR needs be met?
Have you been endlessly training service teams to be happy and helpful? Or have they been empowered to actually solve problems?
I also see that many companies have added features like online chat or automated phone systems to try and “help” their customers better. But you have to make sure these systems actually help your customers, not drive them crazy. I had an experience with one such system where they had ZERO information and just tried to book me to talk to someone else. Why was I talking to them, then?
The biggest litmus test is to see how many times people say phrases like:
- “That’s not my job/department”
- “I’m not sure who you need to talk to.”
- “I don’t have the authority to…”
- “That’s the earliest we can do it.”
- “You’re just going to have to wait…like everybody else.”
- “Sorry, that’s just policy.” (That is the one that kills me the most)
And I especially HATE when they tell you they’re sorry, when they really aren’t.
Now, I know that there are rules, policies, and processes that enable your business to run smoothly. But the lifeblood of the business is always the customer. Ask yourself if you are trying to run a smooth business for YOU or your CUSTOMER? (TWEET THE HECK OUT OF THAT ONE)
Sometimes, I think we forget that the entire reason we are in business is to create that effortless experience.
Review your processes with your teams and if you really want to get bold, start doing some customer service feedback reviews. Are they simply satisfied, or are they loyal raving fans?
I suggest mapping out your ideal customer flow and then having someone anonymous come in and mystery shop you to see if you follow that flow.
Also check out my post on Customer Service +2 as a reminder.
More importantly, how do you sell it?
You thought I forgot about sales, right? NEVER!! Mwwwwuhhahahaha! Last week, I told you to stop chasing and start helping your customers which is exactly what we should be focusing on.
See, your customer service CAN be a feature or benefit, but you can’t sell it like that. As I said at the beginning, people’s eyes glaze over when you tell them you have awesome customer service. I mean, go on any website today and look at all the businesses promoting service as one of their top features. Does that make you want to buy from them? NO.
And think about the Telus account rep story I told you about at the start of this post. I would not say the customer service was a feature or a benefit. If I was selling that, I would call it: “VIP, personal concierge reps for headache-free support: if you experience any account problems, you are immediately assigned an account representative until it is solved. No more waiting on the phone or being passed around. Your time is valuable.”
- Feature: VIP, personal concierge reps for headache free support
- Benefit: No waiting or being passed around
Now the big question is:
What makes you unique and why should they care?
That is the real question. Do you know the pains of your customers? Can you see where the service gaps are? Can you then create a service feature that fills the gap and sets you apart? And I’m not talking about one more service option either. I mean something that locks your customers into becoming loyal, raving fans. ***Something they write blog posts about and share with others. wink wink***
Something you do that when your competitor calls, they say, “On no thanks, I love the company I’m with. Let me tell you why!”
And if you have something like that already in place, how are you selling it to your potential customers? Are you simply calling it “customer service” or are you showcasing a REAL competitive advantage that eliminates their fear and heals their pain?
I see too many sales reps or pretty much anyone who talks about their company miss the mark here. When you talk about your service, what do you say? And does everyone in your organization say the same thing? In today’s noisy, competitive world, are you taking advantage of the opportunity to stand out with your service?