I have been reading and hearing a lot about the human genome lately. How four letters in different combinations create the 3.2 billion patterns that make up each one of us. With more than 7 Billion people on the planet, there is some likelihood that someone (other than twins) has your exact pattern but it is remote. Even if that were true, that is just the beginning. Our beliefs, our experiences, our environment, our friends and family also shape who we are. This is how we differentiate ourselves and how each one of us is truly unique. It is highly improbable that another human being has the exact biology, experiences, influences and other factors that you have.
My research leads me to believe the same goes for companies. Books like Uncommon Service, Turn the Ship Around, Team of Teams, Founder’s Mentality and First, Break all the Rules show how great companies and organizations break from tradition and lead their industries and peers. They do this by looking relentlessly and tirelessly inward to find what is best about themselves and accentuate those differences.
They show that if you deliberately look for the differences you can make in the market, within your organization and its people, the way you treat and manage customers and how you build your solutions, there are countless combinations (like DNA) that can make your company different from others. Here are four ways to get you started:
Let’s take them one at a time.
Accuracy is one of the basics that you have to have in order to be successful, really, to just survive. Your customers want to see evidence that your product works as advertised, your service will produce consistent results, that your food will taste as expected, your bank statements are correct, your financial results are correct, your product will arrive on or before you say it will, etc.
Here are just a few examples of companies that missed this fundamental requirement:
- Baring’s Bank
For brevity sake, I will stop here but I am sure you can come up with many on your own as well.
The bottom line is that it does not matter how great your customer service or product is, if your company consistently fails this test, your business is in trouble. Maybe not now, but eventually.
People expect that when they go to their favorite restaurant that they will be able to park nearby, when they want to travel their favorite hotel chain will have options at their destination, when they sit down at that favorite restaurant the waiter will greet them in a short amount of time, when they need cash, there will be an ATM nearby….
Accuracy and availability are two chips in the ante to the game of business. They are usually easy to meet but also easy to steal. These are not differentiators themselves as they only prevent customer dissatisfaction. As you know, you are not going to give a server a big tip because she brought your food on time, it was the expected temperature and exactly what you ordered. That is expected. You will tip her well when she goes beyond your expectations. This is where Partnership and Advice come in.
Here is where things get interesting. Cognitive research shows that people are more trusting of those that think, act and/or look like them. That the other person “gets” them.
This is why you can now order your own custom pair of Levi’s online. Also, why Snapple offers college students the ability to get rent or car payments or phone bill free for a month. They know that their core customer cares deeply about these things and Snapple is showing how they are partners together with their customers in this phase of their life.
Most businesses, whether in the service, manufacturing or packaged goods sectors, now realize that a customer who feels understood is a step closer to real satisfaction and genuine advocacy.*
How does your company show your core customers that you “get” them?
This is the most advanced form of differentiation and one where you can clearly separate yourself from the pack. If you can help your customers learn something new and useful as part of your relationship, their loyalty will skyrocket.
This is why Home Depot has classes to show DIYers how to grout or build a birdhouse or take care of plants. Why many financial institutions give you advice on how to best take care of your money. And, why Samsung holds workshops around the world on how to use their products and ecosystem.
In a few cases, this can be met with technology. Amazon has done a great job of this but these are the rare special cases. In most businesses, the more advanced examples of Partnership and Advice are at the ground level where a front line person is interacting with a customer one on one.
Providing the authority, the values and a safe environment to that employee to make her own decision how to best serve that customer is where companies and managers, especially leadership, should devote a large portion of time. It pays huge dividends in the end but not where most time is spent. Here is a great 11 minute video from Rory Varden, Best selling author of Take the Stairs with his take on why this happens.
Spending time constructing and teaching optimal customer outcomes to your employees that they keep in mind every day will help you find a way to differentiate yourself. An additional benefit is that it creates an army of customer advocates that will sell your products or services for you. According to Nielsen, 83% of respondents trust recommendations from people they know and trust -friends and family primarily. These same advocates will also help you to grow and learn how to serve your customer base even better further separating you from the pack as their feedback and suggestions are like gold.
These discussions can be hard and daunting but always pay off in the end as it is in our DNA to react positively to those companies that care enough to show that they understand us.
If you spend time making sure you are accurate, available, a good partner and you offer meaningful advice to your clients, your business will grow at an accelerating rate as proven by companies like:
- Whole Foods
Good luck in scaling up!
Most of this is from the book from Gallup called First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently. I highly recommend this book to all managers and leaders.
I look forward to your comments. If you found this post useful, please share, comment and/or like.