Note from Mack: This is a guest post by my pal Jay Baer. Besides being recognized as one of the top experts in digital marketing, Jay also has a new book called Hug Your Haters (check it out on Amazon) and this post is drawn from that book. Enjoy!
Whether you work for a mom-and-pop store or a global brand, you do have haters — and you can’t afford to ignore them. By embracing complaints, you put haters to work for you, and turn bad news good.
So few companies hug their haters today that those that make this commitment are almost automatically differentiated and noteworthy when compared to their competitors.
Customer service and customer experience matter. And they’re going to matter even more in the future. The world is inextricably linked now, by transportation and technology that was unthinkable twenty years ago. This global interconnectivity mutes the advantages of price and location that businesses formerly used to create market inefficiencies and gain a disproportionate share of customers.
Why I always order from the same pizza place
Take Bloomington, Indiana, for example. There are more than one dozen banks in this modest-sized college town where I live. All of them offer almost precisely the same core services, at fees that are not appreciably different from one another. From the perspectives of product and price, they are nearly indistinguishable.
There are even more pizza places nearby, and they all offer roughly the same thing at the same cost, partially because they are buying ingredients at the same price from the same global suppliers, and are tapping into the same labor pool, where what you pay a college student to make pizzas is essentially the same for each restaurant. Likewise, my accountant and your accountant and my barber and your barber are doing almost the exact same things for approximately the same fees.
In today’s world, meaningful differences between businesses are rarely rooted in price or product, but instead in customer experience. How does each provider make you feel when you interact with them? It is in the provision of standout, noticeable customer experience (the real-world embodiment of the brand promise) where great companies shine and mediocre companies shrink.
Why do I always order from the same pizza place in Bloomington? Because I live on the outskirts of town, and they cheerfully deliver to my house. Most of the other pizza places give me the terse “outside our service territory” story and refuse to bring me pizza.
Customer experience will be more important than price by 2020
The winning companies of tomorrow will be those that make their customers feel the best, even if those customers are paying more for the privilege. This isn’t just a circumstance that’s true in consumer products, travel, and hospitality either.
The customer intelligence consultancy Walker released a research report that stated that in business-to-business scenarios, customer experience will be more important than price by 2020.
“The B-to-B companies that will win are beginning to prepare now by recognizing the shift that’s taking place, aligning the right resources, and focusing on the right metrics. Enlightened companies must view the customer experience as a strategic initiative. And, in the future, the responsibility of a ‘chief customer champion’ will become more common, serving one purpose-to create an unrelenting focus on the customer,” states the report.
Outlove your competition
John Di]ulius, a well-known customer service consultant and adviser and author of The Customer Service Revolution, describes this differentiating factor as “outloving your competition.” As he writes in his book, ‘”Outlove your competition’ is one of my favorite sayings. Think about it. Nearly everything can be copied: the products or services that you sell, your decor, website functionality, menu, and prices. Can you really outwork your competition? Outthink them? Maybe not, but the one way you can get a distinct competitive advantage is by outloving the businesses you compete against. The only way to do that is to stop the typical squawking that goes on about how difficult customers can be, and just start appreciating them.”
Realize, however, that to truly differentiate your business with customer experience, you have to clearly outpace your competition in this regard. Making a commitment to “be better at customer service” isn’t going to get the job done. Instead, as Walker suggests, you need to “create an unrelenting focus on the customer.”
There are many elements of a comprehensive customer experience program. The first step in differentiating your business with customer experience should be to be demonstrably better than each of your competitors in how you embrace complaints.
Start there, and if you can successfully hug your haters, you’ll be on your way to a full-scale customer experience advantage that can literally be the difference between a flourishing business in five years, when price and location are no longer deciding factors, and not existing at all.
Customer service is the new marketing
Dan Gingiss, formerly of Discover, says, “We firmly believe here that customer service is the new marketing. Discover put its flag down on customer service since it started in the 80s. Discover was the first credit card company with 24/7 service. It pays attention to service and it’s good at it. It talks about it on TV—the last two main television campaigns have been about service. And to me a complaint online is an opportunity for us to show off amazing customer service in a public setting that can’t be done on TV and can’t be done in any other channel. If somebody is having an issue with their product or their card that I know can be fixed, to me it’s an opportunity.”
Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: “This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.