Leadership Advantage: An enduring differentiator

December 18, 2017 -  By

The differentiator in highly competitive industries often comes down to one thing: customer service.

In a competitive marketplace, we generally see one or two providers rising to the top. Consider the fast-food industry. There are fast-food restaurants everywhere and many players in this market. Currently, the leader in this industry is Chick-fil-A. This chain generates more revenue per store in a year than any other fast-food chain in the nation. It also experiences the lowest employee turnover and highest customer loyalty of any other fast-food brand.

How? Hint: It’s not the food, and it’s not the price. Chick-fil-A separates itself from its competitors through superior customer service.

Price and product quality do matter. If the chain’s prices were not comparable to its competitors, or its food was no good, it couldn’t compete. But these are not the things that separate Chick-fil-A.

Consider the convenience store industry. A chain from Oklahoma called QuikTrip (QT) leads the industry. It posts better revenue per “person-hour” than any other convenience store chain surveyed. Fortune has ranked QT America’s favorite convenience store for five years in a row.

Why? Same hint: It’s not the sodas and M&Ms, and it’s not the price of gas. Once again, the company separates itself from its competitors through superior customer service.

This same dynamic is found in many industries. We also can name competitive industries where a leader has not emerged. In these situations, competitors are forced to compete on price, driving down margins in ways that take the fun out of doing business.

In the landscape industry, leaders differentiate themselves in the same way. They acknowledge that there are many competitors who can provide a comparable product at comparable prices. Their strategy is to provide a better experience for their customers. This approach does not happen through good intentions or hope; it happens through preparation, planning and training.

Plan for better service

This preparation involves proactively planning for routine service, valuing relationships and anticipating service recovery.

What concepts, phrases or prompts can you empower your team with to ensure a good experience for your customers during routine service interactions? Start by asking what your customers value.

Understand that ours is a relationship industry, as opposed to a transactional one. Relationships need management as much as landscapes do. What are the dynamics of great relationships as opposed to those that are not so great?

And finally, have a plan for when things go wrong. A disappointed customer doesn’t benefit from blame or condemnation. He or she benefits through a well-thought-out service recovery plan. It’s no secret that things will go wrong from time to time, so draft a plan to anticipate it and train your team to the plan.

Customer service is the enduring differentiator in our industry. Use it.

Photo: istock.com/jetcityimage

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