This is a question we ask our clients when we work with them to scale and grow their Companies. When new businesses start up, they often provide outstanding additional customer services that separate them from their competition, these become their Unique Selling Points (USP’s). The business owner has probably spent a lot of time working on their USPs and are quite rightly proud of them, they WOW and draw customers back to them time after time.
The challenge, as they grow, is to ensure that the USPs remain in the business as they add additional headcount to their team.
Let me give you a personal example. A few years back we needed to find someone to look after our kitty family when we travelled for business – I wanted the kitties to able to stay at home rather than in a cattery so was delighted to find advertised in my local vets a pet sitting Company. They were a small start-up and were based locally to where I lived.
The owner came to see me before we booked the service. Each pet had their own customer sheet, she wrote down their routines, feeding times etc and I was very comfortable to hand over my pet family and house key to a total stranger.
Whilst we were away, I received daily WhatsApp updates with photos of the cats so we knew all was OK at home. Whilst away there was a storm and she cleaned up an outside flower pot that fell over and broke into many pieces. When we returned there was a hand written note telling us stories of how our kitty crew had behaved whilst we were away – we were blown away by the service and continued to use them.
Unfortunately, as the months and years went by, each time we used the service, the outstanding customer service we have previously received slightly decreased. First the handwritten letter disappeared. We had a different pet sitter who continued with the update photos and then when she changed, these stopped as well unless prompted. Interestingly though, the costs increased as time went on. I have now found another cheaper solution with the same reduced level of service I was receiving towards the end - the WOW service would have been worth the additional fees, however as the reduced service became the same as cheaper options, so why pay more?
If you are going to make the effort to give exceptional service USPs to your clientele, then you need to make sure these remain in place as you grow and as you increase your prices.
Think of these USPs as your Companies core competencies, what makes you different and superior from the others, the operational activities that you do exceptionally well and that give you a competitive advantage.
Your core competencies need to embed into the Companies processes and operational activities of the Company, so that they remain resilient as the Company grows. Your core Competencies should be reviewed often to make sure they are still relevant, making improvements as and when required.
Check your core competencies with your clients to make sure they are still positively WOW’ed by their experience with your Company. This goes beyond a basic customer feedback survey, best practice says that you should try and personally meet one customer/client weekly or monthly (depending on your Company size) for a one to one. This conversation will allow you to get valuable feedback and allow you to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. If the vet siting service has asked me why I was no longer using them I would have been able to tell them all the little reasons I now used a different service, possibly they could have retained my business had they asked.
Over coffee, ask your customer 4 key questions:
- How are you doing? Make it about them, you want to hear how they are doing, they are likely to open up and you could discover more ways in which you can help them.
- What’s going on in your industry? They are likely to have their fingers on the pulse of their specific industry, if you work across many industries, its hard to keep up with all the development and changes
- What do you hear about our competition? Obviously good to know, the data discovered here will allow you to review your services and keep ahead of the game
- How are we doing? Finally ask them about how your Company’s services are and gather feedback on what you should keep doing, stop doing or improve
Your core competencies need to be real and valuable within the Company. The need to be something that your customers/clients understand the benefits of and mean they are willing to pay extra for.
Don’t start off offering exceptional service only to slowly remove the WOW from the customers experience. Competition is tough, customer / clients are not as loyal as they used to be and will be looking for better service standards always.