(My column as it appeared in Upmarket Magazine week of Feb. 19th)
If there is one thing that is overused, overrated, and down right foolish is when I hear anyone regurgitate the mantras, “We give 110% effort” or “We go over and above.” Then my next experience is to remember all of those wonderful clichés as I’m being put on hold and hear my wait time will be approximately 35 minutes due to heavy volume. I guess that’s because of giving everyone that “little extra.” The latter expression must relate to how many hurdles they themselves were able to clear before they thought it safe no customer with any complaint could follow, or to make them tire and give up trying. It’s bad enough the “big companies” do this all the time. However what’s worse is that most budding entrepreneurs do it but say they don’t. Most kid themselves but it’s really no laughing matter.
One of the first things when someone enters into a marketplace of any size is to differentiate themselves from the competition. The two most dominating factors are price or customer service. At times price can not be massaged, but customer service is always malleable. It’s so easy to say “If there’s a problem I’ll be there!” Some of you will go on to say “With bells on!” and even more. You’ll add-on as many tired mantras you can think of to close the sale. Why? Because the sayings are free and more importantly they’re malleable. If you don’t show up with bells on, am I now wrong if I’m disappointed? Or do you now get to say I was an “unreasonable customer” or had “unrealistic expectations” because I was looking forward to telling my friends about the bells? Of course my example is outlandish, but it’s not off the mark.
Once you decide you are going to enter the entrepreneurial mind-set whether you are striking it out alone or you are employed by someone else you realize it’s not the “extra” that gets you ahead of the pack most times. It’s the doing what You said You would do that is the main differentiation between the good and the great. Forget about the bad, they’re not your competition to start with.
In today’s world of being accessible anywhere at anytime the notion that I can’t get a call back from you because it’s 5:05pm and now have to wait till 9:00am the next day because it’s “family time” is not only ridiculous, it’s stupid. If you think that because you decided to go on vacation for 2 or 3 weeks and now I’m going to have to wait that long when I have an issue that needs You because you’re “recharging the batteries” is suicidal to your business. But many of you will do it. This is not to say you need to be accessible 24/7 to anybody. But if you want to be an entrepreneur 24/7/365 comes with the territory.
If you tell me that in an emergency I can call you then you had better be there when the phone rings or someone who can act on your behalf. If you tell me if it breaks you’ll replace it, replace it. No hims and haws, no song and dance it costs more now than then, replace it. If you tell me I’m a valued customer, don’t ever let me find that you’re charging someone else less than me without a real, true, understandable explanation. If you can’t live up to what ever it is coming from your mouth, than you’re over promising and you should stop. Period.
Trust me when I say, It will be you that gets the “extra” business when the sales manta your customers say is “They do or did what they said they would, every time!”
© 2012 Mark St.Cyr