Many of my clients compare themselves to their competition. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to know what they are doing that you might not be doing, but there’s more opportunity if you look beyond the competition. The focus of this article is to get you to think about what it will take to get your customers to come back. If all you do is compare yourself to the competition, you may be missing the best opportunities to create repeat—and even loyal—customers.
In my newest book, I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customer to Come Back Again and Again, I cover a six-step process to create an experience that gets your customers to say, “I’ll be back.” I’m going to share the process here, so take out some paper and something to write with, as you will want to take notes on how you’re going to implement this in your organization.
This exercise is not meant to be done by yourself. You’ll want to assemble a team to work through the six steps. Leadership should be involved, of course. You’ll also want to bring in members of your organization who have varied responsibilities, including the front line and behind-the-scenes activities. The more varied and diversified the group the better. My suggestion is to divide this into at least two meetings. In the first, go through steps one through three, followed by a second meeting to cover steps four through six. After that, you’ll want to take action. My goal today is to get you started.
Step One: Ask yourself and the team, “Why should people do business with us?” What makes you different? What makes you stand out? Answers like, “We have great customer service” are too vague and also something the competition is likely to say. Get the most concise and compelling response you can from the team that reflects the best current answer to the question. In the perfect world, you will have something unique to you that your customers can’t get anywhere else.
Step Two: Check out the competition. List your direct competitors and then ask two questions: First, “What are we doing that they don’t?” Then follow it up with, “What are they doing that we don’t?” If you come up with some good answers to the first question, you’ll feel good about yourself and the company. That ties into Step One. The answers to the second question may sting, but that’s where you’ll get some good competitive baseline ideas.
Step Three: Keep pace. If you discover ideas that the competition is doing that you’re not, don’t plan to copy them. Make them your own. Give them a twist. Otherwise, you’ll be just like them, and that puts you at risk of being a commodity.
Step Four: Move beyond your industry. Gathering the same group together, start with another discussion question. “What companies, not including the competitors, do you like doing business with the most, and why?” Answers could include well-known brand names or a small business down the street. List as many specific reasons as possible. Everything is important. The more you come up with the better. And details are important. Make good notes for the discussion you’re going to have in the next step.
Step Five: Compare yourself and borrow from the best. This is similar to Step Two, but you’re not comparing yourself to your direct competition. Looking at the list you’ve created in Step Four, make note of what you already do. Find ways you match up with some of these favorite companies. Feel good about it. Then, look at what is on that list that you don’t currently do. What are they doing that you could start doing? This is an amazing way to find ideas outside of what is typical in your company—and maybe even your industry—that can improve the customer experience, in a way that dramatically sets you apart from your competition.
Step Six: Revisit your value proposition. Building on what you’ve learned so far, ask yourself the question you started with in Step One, “Why should people do business with us?” Find the answers that feel right for you and your organization. The goal is to create an experience that is considered excellent both inside and outside of your industry. Stay away from generalities such as, “We are committed to quality.” You probably are, but that’s already expected and is the same as what your competition may be bragging about. Instead, focus on what is truly different and could make you stand out from your competition. Be sure it’s what the customer wants. It has to matter to your customer. These are going to become your new customer service and experience initiatives.
This may seem like a simple process, but that doesn’t mean the exercise will be easy. While there is more detail in the book, this will get you started. Take the time to do it right. Take action and work your list of opportunities.
Repeat customers are gold. Loyal customers are sacred. Do it right and your customers will come back again and again. Put this six-step process into action. This is exactly what it takes to get your customers to say, I’ll Be Back!