Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is adapted here with permission.
I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you no longer have to keep up with your competition. The bad news is that now you have to keep up with your customer — meaning your customer’s expectation of the service that makes you competitive.
Perhaps you just heard that your competitor is working hard to take away business from you — maybe they’re announcing a new product, or advertising a major sale or even opening a new location. Will any of these decisions cause your customers to leave you to do business with them?
Perhaps. After all, that is their goal. But what if you heard that your competition wasn’t competing with you on product, price or location? What if you hear that they’re implementing a new customer service initiative? Their goal, you heard, is to have the best customer service in the industry.
Good for them. Let them go head-to-head with customer service and experience expectations based on the existing industry standards. I have a better idea: Don’t let them set your bar. Let the best of the best, regardless of industry standards, set your bar.
What company do you think has the very best customer service? Is it Nordstrom, Apple or Zappos? Is it the restaurant down the street that knows you by name and makes you feel like a guest in their home? Is it the inside sales rep from one of your suppliers who always accommodates your deadlines and special requests, and always does so with an amazing attitude?
None of these companies or people may be in your industry, but they can be your benchmark for amazing customer service — service that is not based on customer expectations for your industry, but expectations from the best people and companies they’ve ever encountered.
The best customer service sets the bar for all customer service.
Customers know what good service is and their expectations today are formed by whoever gives them their best service experience, whether in or out of your industry.
So, back to the questions: What company do you think delivers the best service? Is it one of the iconic brands previously mentioned, or that local company? What is it that this business or person does to make you think they are the best? And, here is the more important question:
What do they do that you don’t do that you can do?
That’s where you start. Maybe it’s something you can copy although my suggestion is not to copy but to adopt and adapt. Adopt the strategy, but change or tweak it to make it uniquely yours. If you’re open to the best customer service practices from every industry, then you will spot trends and strategies before your competition. At that point, keeping up with your customers will be nothing but good news for your bottom line.