If we strive to only be as good as our competition, we are doing a disservice to our customers- and setting ourselves up to lose some of them. What is needed is for us to go above and beyond what our competition is doing. This may be easier if our product is unique in some way but it is much harder when we sell EXACTLY the same thing that they sell. If we’re selling the same thing, the only way we can separate ourselves is either with a lower price or better service. And with profit margins continually being squeezed, a lower price is rarely the answer.
How do you know if your service is as good as your competitor’s service? The best way is to begin with some research then to actually go and shop at their store. Be sure to do it a few times, using all of the contact methods available. As you probably know from your own experience with customers, it would be a mistake for customers to form a judgment about you based solely on one interaction. What about the quandary of giving your money to your competition? Doesn’t that boost their business? It may be somewhat helpful, yes, but in the long run it is a business investment you need to make to grow.
Is it good enough? While you’re shopping at your competition’s store, ask yourself if your service exceeds, meets, or falls short of the standards set by your competition. Perhaps in some areas you’ll find that you excel while in other areas you may fall short. In the long run, you’ll want to definitely shore up any of the areas where you fall short, but don’t try to just attain your competitor’s level of service.
Why it’s not enough: Using your competition as the standard to measure your business will fail to differentiate you from your competitor. If your customers get exactly the same product with exactly the same service at exactly the same price, there’s no difference and they’ll just go wherever it’s convenient. You do not want a clientele whose reason for shopping in your store over the competition is based on convenience. Instead, you want them to be loyal patrons who will drive past the competition to get to your store.
What to do about it. If your competitor knows their customers’ names, you should know their names and their birthdays. If your competitor knows their names and their birthdays, you should know their names, their birthdays, and their children’s names. If you want to make a preemptive strike against your competition, make a list of the many things that you’d want a good friend to know about you and start learning that about your customers. Move them out of the zone of “customer” into the zone of “trusted friend.” Go above and beyond what you’re expected to do and you’ll find that your customers will drive past the competition to come to you.
Is it a lot of work? Absolutely it is. But the sooner you catch it, the more likely it is that you can turn it around and take your business to the next level. If it’s left too long, your customer base will erode to a state of “convenience shopping” and you’ll have to work doubly hard to get them back.