I’m sure you’re well familiar with the old saying, “Nobody plans to fail; they just fail to plan.” You’re running a business, so you undoubtedly do lots of planning, for things like marketing, staffing, scheduling, inventory — and the list goes on. But this week’s Business Success columnist, John Tschohl, president of Service Quality Institute, stresses the importance of planning something you might not have thought about before: Customer service. Sure, you know how important it is; your staff is trained to greet customers and keep them happy. But have you really planned a strategy for customer service? If not, you should — Tschohl says it’s the key to making more money and dominating your competitors.
Want to Dominate Your Competitors? Focus on a Customer Service Strategy
If your company thinks “customer service” is limited to greeting a customer and dealing with their complaints, you’re missing the big picture — and tremendous profits.
The reason most companies are weak on customer services is because they don’t understand the financial impact a strategic customer service plan can have on the bottom line.
Make no mistake about it: The customer experience is the one true way you can dominate the market, crush your competitors and have money flow from the sky.
It is the only strategic weapon that cannot be copied – and you’ll have a 10-year lead time before your competitors figure out how to duplicate your success.
For example, many companies overlook customer service and take the easy way out. They might discount their product by 50 percent for the month. But their competitors will copy that within hours or days.
If you have a new store design that works, your competitors will copy that within 12 months.
But if you have a strategic customer service plan, you can dominate your competitors for years to come. The customer service strategy is the only tool you can use to dramatically undermine your competition and create a brand that is hard to compete against.
Let’s look at the numbers:
Amazon is ranked number 1 in customer satisfaction. Company president Jeff Bezos is obsessed with customer service. That’s one reason the company had a 27 percent increase in sales last year.
Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, not just because they have great products, but because they created a great customer experience. Their products and technology might be under attack from competitors, but they lead every retailer in sales per square foot. The average sales per square foot is dramatically larger than other retailers. The average Apple store sells $7,000 per square foot. Compare that to JCPenny’s $156 per square foot, Macy’s $171 per square foot and Kohl’s $194 per square foot.
In fact, Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York generates an astounding $35,000 per square foot – the highest in the world! It is harder to get a job at that Apple store than it is to get into Harvard.
Apple understands the customer experience. Everything in the store is built around the customer experience. They make it easy to buy. A sales associate has an iPad to check you in, track you and capture your name. They use the technology. They don’t have a cash register. They slide a credit card onto the iPhone. They email the receipt to the customer. They get technology. Apple faces competition on products, but they are light years ahead of their competitors on customer experience.
There’s another way to look at how customer service impacts the financial well-being of a company.
Let’s look at stock price as a metric to show the true value of the customer service experience. If you invested $1,000 in Amazon in May 2003, you’d have $9,129! If you invested $1000 in Costco, you’d have $3,838. But if you invested in their direct competitor Sam’s Club, owned by WalMart, you’d have only $1,569.
What do these companies have in common? They provide an exceptional customer experience.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t look at customer service as a strategic issue. The few companies that do might focus on it for 60 days or maybe 6 months.
That won’t cut it.
Creating and implementing a customer service strategic plan that increases sales requires focus by top management. If you’d like to have a better return on your money, you have to focus on the customer experience. If you do, customers will spend money with you and will come back more often. If you want to own the market, crush your competitors and reap financial rewards, then you must create a strategic plan to improve your customer service and enhance the customer experience.