March 13, 2013

Your strength is in customer service? (Sorry.)

Once, in a speech to 51 CEOs, all from the same industry, I asked for a show of hands “If your company is differentiated by better customer service.” Every hand went up.

I pointed out the, um, mathematical paradox: all of them couldn’t be better than all of them.  I wasn’t surprised, though, because every CEO believes they offer Customer Service (CS) better than, well, anybody.

The source of the delusion? They know, like, talk with and entertain customers. With prospects, upon whom exponential growth depends? Not so much. Communing with the already-convinced leads to self-congratulation.

Customer Service is the weakest brand claim in captivity, because it’s staked out by e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y. Not to mention impossibly high customer expectations, where any flaw in CS provokes outrage. Certainly, you must do CS well to even survive – but to think prospects will be impressed is a non-starter. Can anybody credibly claim it? Well, Nordstrom’s and Zappo’s come to mind, but that’s because customers say so, loudly and often. It’s not an empty boast for them.

The moral of the story: if you want to differentiate your brand meaningfully, it shouldn’t be CS. Choose some other position.

Unsure of what that more effective differentiator might be? Glad you asked. It’s what we can help you do. Call us.