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How to Profit from Being the Underdog

In any market the little guys can quickly dominate by using their opponent’s size to their advantage. That’s because giant-killers can afford to shake things up and take bold steps.

Monique Verduyn

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Pharma Dynamics, 1time Airlines, Capitec Bank – these are just some of the well known local companies that have taken on the big guns and won.

In his thought provoking and insightful book Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry, strategist and marketing consultant Stephen Denny describes how a small new player in any industry can topple the giant industry leader through a combination of brains, street smarts and agility.

It’s an interesting take on a familiar scenario:

“A competitor with more people, money and resources than you can ever hope to match. A household name. They have more people in R&D than you have in your whole company and they spend more on off-site meetings than you do on marketing. Where they seem to have no limits, you have constraints. Good,” says Denny. “Your best work comes from constraints like these. And frankly, although it feels counter-intuitive right now as you stare straight up at the mountain-sized problems that confront you, it’s never the giants that control their own destinies.“

It’s the insurgents, the ‘giant killers’, that really hold all the cards. Giant killers are the ones who can launch surprise attacks, pick unfair fights and hijack the conversation, stealing the customers right out from under the giant’s nose. That’s the message behind Killing Giants.

The new normal

Denny builds his position on an elemental concept – the new normal. The business landscape has changed fundamentally; tomorrow’s environment will be different, but no less rich in possibilities for those who are prepared.

Here’s how Denny describes it:

“Conspicuous consumption has given way to consumers bragging to their friends that they’ve made good choices. Importantly, there’s an increased degree of vigilance to this new feeling of smart consumerism. The definition of value has become more complex. It’s not that people won’t spend money – we will – but the way that we look at everything has changed.”

Smart consumerism is what it’s all about. The age of the Hummer and lavish personal spending is over. The same sentiment holds true in the business-to-business scenario. How then should marketers capture the attention of their customers when fewer resources, reduced budgets, and customer scrutiny are also part of ‘the new normal’?

Related: The #1 Reason For Failure Of Businesses Over Two Years Old

Only ten strategies

Denny’s approach is simple. There are only ten strategies to learn. Some you’ll be able to apply, some you won’t. However, simply by understanding them you’ll be able to stretch your mind and broaden the way you think about strategy.

1. Thin Ice

The Thin Ice strategy is about making the giant compete on ground where its size and relative strength no longer matter. It’s where giants fear to tread. Thin ice is dangerous to companies which are too big to venture far from the relative safety of familiar ground.

When the giant shifts, Denny says, the ice groans and cracks under its feet. “But you know the ice can support your weight,” he explains.

“You made the patch of thin ice in the first place. So taunt the giant all you want.”

By creating your own thin ice, you change the environment to suit your needs. You move the public dialogue to a place where the giant is unprepared to go because it’s dangerous. Rather than risk losing the fight, it may well choose not to fight at all.

You may think there are few areas beyond the reach of a giant but, as Denny notes, nimble brands choose to fight against “busy and arrogant” giants daily. Giants have other fights to fight and often prefer to deal with whatever else is on their to-do list.

2. Speed

Giants have a culture of process; Davids have a culture of speed.

While giants are conducting a first-phase evaluation, says Denny, you’re launching a product. They form a steering committee, you launch a second-generation product. And so on.

“They can’t hit what they can’t catch. Win on speed,” he says.

Denny describes the attributes of a culture built on speed. “They give rise to the teams that not only accept the need for speed – speed in decision-making, alignment, and execution – but thrive on it, requiring it for their own job satisfaction… Faster is better.

This does not imply that corners are cut; as a matter of fact, speed cultures are often more rigorous than their alternatives, precisely because they have found processes that eliminate or discourage time-wasting detours.”

A speed culture encourages making decisions and executing to the best of your abilities toward that goal. You will be required to put your opinions aside and row with the rest of the team.

3. Winning in the Last Three Feet

Winning in the last three feet is a reminder never to assume that a customer has already made up their mind. It’s not over until it’s over and the last three feet is where giant killers find success.

There’s a gap between when the giant thinks it’s got the sale and when the customer hands over the cash.

Giants are giants because they have the market heft to get the attention of lots and lots of people. But here’s the flip side. They also have the bureaucracy that you don’t – meetings, management layers, deeply instilled corporate cultures.

Granted, that culture may well be an advantage, but your counterpart has to succeed within that culture. While they are mastering bureaucracy, you have the opportunity to take advantage of their distraction and win with a strike just when the giant thinks it’s done its job and has moved onto the next item on that long to-do list.

And here’s the kicker: you don’t have to spend the money needed to drive customer demand for a product or service; you just have to spend enough to switch the customer when they are ready to buy.

“So let the giant pay for getting your customers off the couch, through the parking lot, and ready to buy. When they’re standing in the aisle with their wallet in hand, they are the most qualified they will ever be.”

Denny reminds us never to assume that your potential customer has already made up their mind. Where the giant has marketing, you may have a face-to-face opportunity.

Another point Denny makes, is that in a culture rife with invidious comparison, we love the newer, the more exclusive, the more esoteric. Simply, we like to have what our friends don’t, yet. To catch the attention of potential customers, you just have to be there, ready to do business. Even if you take away 10% of the giant’s customers, you will have done your job.

4. Fighting Dirty

Fighting dirty is about making strategic shifts that no one else can see and turning everything your opponent believes upside down. Don’t think you can’t pick on someone just because they are bigger than you. However, says Denny, when you choose to fight, fight dirty. He also adds a cautionary:

“Fighting dirty is dangerous. Tread carefully.”

As we’ve already noted, competitors have an almost endless supply of money and people. Trying to compete with them on an equal footing, and playing by the same rules, is a losing game. The correct move, says Denny, is to shift your perspective. See things from a different angle, do things that might upset the balance of power.

Question your assumptions and what might happen if you change them. How do things look from your opponent’s perspective? “Fighting dirty is about making those strategic shifts that no one else can see, turning everything your opponent believes upside down.“

He offers a fascinating example of fighting dirty. In the early 90s, Pepsi launched ‘Crystal Pepsi’, a clear cola. Coca-Cola ambushed the launch by doing a kamikaze. The company created Tab Clear, positioned it next to Crystal Pepsi and killed both products in the process.

The Tab Clear strategy was to muddy the waters and make the category look far less sexy than Pepsi had planned for it to be. It sank the concept of clear cola and killed both products within a year, which was the plan all along.

Remember that it’s not only about how the giant looks to you – it’s also about how you look to them. Where you see a giant with unlimited resources, they see a scrappy competitor with nothing to lose. Both are daunting, so the playing field might be more level than you think.

5. Eat the Bug

’Eat the bug‘ is exactly what it sounds like. Doing what is taboo and unthinkable to the Goliath in your industry.

Much of what giants do is given. They do things this way and never like that. What they consider taboo, is where opportunity resides for you. Be willing to do what they aren’t and you can build a business out if it. “Go ahead,” says Denny.

“Do the unthinkable. Eat the bug.”

Denny notes that senior managers in large companies are paid to say no to risky ideas – they fear change and resist it at all costs. He calls this ‘loss-based framing’, a psychological principle which says we feel the pain of losses more acutely than we do the pleasure of gains.

It’s a principle that’s amplified with each additional person, which means that large companies feel it most. But when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. It’s like a game of chicken in which you continue to drive while the giant swerves out of the way.

Think of things you can do that giants can’t. They have to work with channel partners and resellers, for example. They have to negotiate with unions. You don’t.

Remember also that public opinion tends to side with the underdog. Giants will not often publicly pick on a minor player and will be more conservative in the type of risks
they take.

6. Inconvenient Truths

Giants are masters of assumption. They assume every sale is theirs for the taking. An inconvenient truth is about throwing a monkey wrench into their process by making customers pause to consider how your solution might just make more sense.

Make customers think for a moment. Get them to realise that your offering makes more sense than the giant’s. Denny calls this ‘making the inconvenient argument’.

It comes down to your ability to move customers off their established anchor point and throw the psychological switch in their brains that allows your argument to be heard.

You have to flip the emotional polarity of your customers. Some have to move from the emotional to the rational, others from the rational to the emotional. In the first instance, Denny notes how US company Zipcar got Americans to think differently about cars.

Zipcar convinced customers that having transport does not mean owning a car. It made the public move from an emotional desire to own a car to the rational view that a vehicle is only necessary when you need one.

7. Polarise on Purpose

You aren’t like the giants and that’s okay. No one chooses your brand by accident. They are either with you or against you. Force people to make a decision, it’s okay.

Unique brands, says Denny, force people to make a choice. How can your brand achieve meaningful separation in the eyes of your customers and the general public? This is not a question of being different for the sake of it.

“Differentiation without discipline is self-indulgence,” Denny warns.

Successful brands that have achieved separation have avoided becoming exaggerations of what differentiates them. You don’t want your brand to become what he calls ‘a caricature brand’.

Brands that successfully put meaningful separation between themselves and the giants in their industry have done so by chipping away at the non-essentials.

Distilled and refined, they have polarised their markets intentionally and strategically. By getting customers to make a polarising choice, they enable them to separate themselves from the herd, feeding into their sense of identity and desire for exclusivity.

Denny notes how Mini achieved this in the US market, known for its love of huge cars. The company targeted 5% of the population, it’s message being clear that Mini is not for everyone.

It’s for people who separate themselves from the herd of SUV drivers. Within that small group, the brand created a sense of exclusivity, of living in a post-material world, and of being self-actualised enough to be able to make decisions that are unlike everybody else‘s.

8. Seize the Microphone

Being fast and nimble gives you the advantage of being the only one talking to customers and anticipating their next need. Keep being unavoidable while the giants rest on their marketing laurels.

Take up all the oxygen in the room, says Denny. Your competitors may be big, but that does not mean they have to lead the conversation.

Size, revenue and market share do not equal personality and emotional connection, so don’t be afraid of grabbing the microphone and speaking for the whole industry. Being polite and standing back will not get you anywhere.

Denny stresses, however, that you need to seize imaginations before you can credibly seize the microphone. The right ideas will set your audience on fire. Not only are they more powerful than money, but they will also attract money.

Put forward ideas that make you become the conversation. If your industry is dominated by giants who focus on each other, talk to your customers.

Interact with them and speak their language. We are living in an age where social means personal, so create bonds. This takes meaningful interaction over a long period of time, but the results can be remarkable.

9. All the Wood Behind the Arrows

You can’t win everywhere, but being one-dimensional is also a losing game. Have more than one arrow and be the best at what you do, where you want to do it. Dig in deep and make the giant afraid of the fight.

There’s always an opponent, even if the giant does not want to fight. By creating specialised weapons, you become an opponent the giant is even more reluctant to face.

You always need more than one arrow, Denny says. “Develop primary strengths in a pair of important areas and you become the competitor the giant is more than happy to avoid.

Denny notes how everyone thought Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry were crazy to start Method, a new cleaning products company. The category had long been dominated by Procter & Gamble,  Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive who had so much clout with the retail chains that their soaps barely needed updating.

But, by taking advantage of its underdog position, Method carved out a very profitable niche: environmentally sound products in stylish, innovative packaging. With a far smaller marketing budget than their competitors, Method connected with a substantial minority of people who wanted to ‘buy green’ but also high-quality products.

The core of Method’s business, he says, lies in the deeply felt belief that there should be a better way to clean. Today, the company lives in the shadow of larger brands but is competitively insulated because the giants can’t afford to spend too much time fighting a fight that will not have a massive payoff for them.

10. Show Your Teeth

The giants in your industry are boring and fearful. No giant wants to be called out in public and forced to fight against an upstart.

When you know you are better – and can prove it – say it early and often. Promote your advantages to core stakeholders. Sometimes, says Denny, the secret to winning is not to get out of the bully’s way. If your customers say you are better than the others, it does not matter if experts disagree.

Let’s say you have a quality product that you supply to retailers at a price that enables them to make money. That means they can promote your product heavily without alienating their customers.

“If you can win in the soft drink aisle, or at the reseller level, or in the minds of your independent field sales representatives, you’ve done well,” says Denny.

When you are better, tell everyone through every possible medium of communication and industry forum.

Related: Extreme Customer Service Makeover

Case Study

The right medicine

How a generic drugs company took on the giants of the industry and grew into a R350 million business.

Challenging the big guys is something that Paul Anley has heartily enjoyed doing. The CEO of Pharma Dynamics, one of the fastest growing and most progressive pharmaceutical companies in South Africa, founded the business in 2001 after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer staged a hostile bid against his former employer Warner Lambert.

A pharmacist and MBA graduate, Anley founded Warner Lambert’s generics division in 1992 and had grown it into a substantial business by 2000.

“Pfizer was the largest drug company in the world and was known for its anti-generics stance,” says Anley. “Its strategy was aggressive. It was often involved in patent litigation and it was simply not in Pfizer’s corporate culture to accommodate generics.”

After it acquired Warner Lambert, Pfizer put the brakes on the generic pharmaceuticals division and Anley was told no new products were to be launched.

“I knew the writing was on the wall, so I left. I was lucky in that I had a number of existing contacts and I was well known in the industry. I went out and secured a pipeline for Pharma Dynamics through those contacts.”

Cheekily, Anley took on board the products that had been terminated by Pfizer. “They gave me a hop up, if you like. Approval and registration of drugs normally takes three years, but these products had already been registered. We also took on herbal products because these contributed to the funding of our sales force while we grew the generics range.”

A healthy outlook

At the core of the new business was Anley’s passion for generic medicines. “They broaden access to healthcare, especially important in a country like ours, and also in an economy where consumers are very cost-conscious. Some drugs that were priced at R300 ten years ago cost R50 today. We pride ourselves on providing a product and a service that was not available previously to patients.”

It’s this uniqueness, an ability to understand what Denny calls ‘the new world order’, that has set Anley’s company apart and enabled him to compete against the colossuses of the industry.

He was fortunate that the bulk of his former management team and employees were equally unsure of their future, making it possible for him to cherry pick the best for his new venture.

Market conditions were also in his favour. As a Warner Lambert director, he had been given share options which were worth a significant dollar amount after the Pfizer buy-out. It was 2000, and the rand had plummeted to R12 to the dollar. He used this money and an additional bond on his house to get the start-up off the ground.

The business broke even in its first year, which was most unusual for a pharmaceutical company. “I put it down to a ‘pay as you go’ strategy. We reinvested everything in the business. Also, I had employed only six sales reps. Although we could probably have grown faster, there was no way I could afford to run the business at a loss.”

Industry knowledge

Anley says he believed from the outset that he was going to build a multi-billion rand business.

“I was going up against Pfizer, but also against other giants like Aspen, Adcock Ingram and Cipla Medpro. The advantage I had was that I knew their strengths and weaknesses because I had been in the industry for so long. I have never allowed them to bully us into submission. We compete with them head-on.”

Part of the reason that Pharma Dynamics has succeeded, Anley says, is product focus. “We have a small portfolio of products, but we are nimble and able to move quickly. If there’s a price change, we can make a decision and implement it in a day. The bigger companies can take months to do that.

Added to that, the greatest opportunity for Pharma Dynamics lies in new generic product launches, with the company having proved its ability to outsell its competitors time and time again. Today, track record and personal reach are the company’s biggest advantages.

“Our culture is one of innovation,” he says. “We’re always looking for a gap, a new marketing opportunity. Some work and some don’t. We never punish ourselves, we just move on and do something else. We don’t have millions to spend on market research in an industry that changes so rapidly. Our approach is that if our team believes something has legs, we go for it.”

Anley says that in an industry that is enormously competitive, Pharma Dynamics punches well above its weight. “Our competitors take us very seriously, but there’s not much they can do about us, except drop their prices every now and then. As a result, we have built respectability, which means we often have medical reps coming to us for jobs. This has enabled us to develop a great team.”

Pharma Dynamics’ business model is different from the norm. It does not own a factory and instead licences the majority of its products. That means most employees are in sales and marketing. A total of 35 products are marketed by a team of 60, an excellent ratio in anyone’s books.

Anley initially chose to focus on cardio vascular drugs, the largest therapeutic area in South Africa, and is now expanding into other chronic areas because, he says, this is where branding opportunities lie.

“With antibiotics, every pack is sold to a new patient so brand switching is easy. When people take chronic medication, they take it for life and are far less likely to change brands.”

Today, Pharma Dynamics is the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the country. It has grown by an average of 30% to 40% year on year since it was launched, and currently employs 100 people. Its projected turnover for 2011 is R350 million.

“I’m a competitive guy and I like taking on the giants,” Anley says. “Being able to take a proven product to market against global blockbusters at a significant price difference really excites me.”

It doesn’t hurt that generics and herbal medicines have become the flavour of the decade. Where they were once viewed with scepticism, generics are now accepted, and generic companies have put an enormous amount of work and money into changing the perceptions of doctors and consumers.

“It’s almost rational for people to think that because something is cheaper it’s inferior. Luckily we have very advanced regulatory bodies which ensure that generics and brands are of the same quality.”

His advice to entrepreneurs? “The biggest and most important recommendation I can make is to learn the business on someone else’s ticket. That will give you the opportunity to know your market and be known in it.”

Shift your perspective

The mouse fears the elephant, says Stephen Denny. But the elephant fears the mouse. That’s why he recommends looking at your battlefield from a different perspective, as that can make all the difference.

That’s what Paul Anley did when he realised his generics division was doomed. He swung his viewpoint around completely and saw that there was a healthy gap in the market for a range of generic medicines.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What vantage point can you climb to survey the field from a different angle?
  • What ‘givens’ can you question that might upset the balance of power?
  • What assumptions are you making? What are the ‘facts’. What if you change them?
  • What patterns of behaviour, structure or timing do you see?
  • What does the situation look like from your opponent’s point of view?

Strategic shifting gets you to a vantage point where you can look at a problem and see things other people miss. You see how and where you can shift the odds in your favour.

Case Study

Built For Takeoff

Low-cost airline 1time has 15% market share and a turnover of R1,3 billion.

Rodney James, founder and CEO of JSE-listed 1time airlines was brave enough to start a budget airline in 2004, pitting it against kulula.com, which had taken to the skies just three years earlier and dominated the market. He proved to be an expert at ‘seizing the microphone’ and ‘showing his teeth’.

James, who qualified as an aircraft engineer and had owned his own aircraft maintenance company since his late 20s, had contacts. One of his former partners, Glenn Orsmond, had worked for Comair and was employed as kulula’s financial director.

Together they hatched their plan for a new ‘true’ low-cost airline. “At that time, kulula was pricing itself at about 15% below the premium airlines, which is not low-cost in my view,” says James. “We agreed on two things: South African passengers needed to pay less to fly, and my existing business was a great platform from which to launch a new airline.”

A marketers’ dream

In the initial budget R3,4 million was set aside for marketing, not much compared to kulula’s budget of R10 million for 2009/2010. But it bought some TV and radio advertising and a few billboards. Competitor, kulula was not impressed.

“Quite a few of kulula’s senior people had moved across to us and the company was emotional when it came to 1time. They knew about us from the start, and told us that if we started an airline, they’d come after us. And they did.”

James is sanguine about what he believes was the relentless persecution that followed. If their competitors were so disturbed, he said to Orsmond, they were obviously doing the right thing.

“Negative press began to appear about the safety and reliability of 1time. Suddenly we had the media all over us. That’s actually what launched us, countering the message put out there that we were unsafe. There we were hoping that our marketing campaign would get the press interested enough to come and talk to us, but we were everywhere already, long before the launch.”

The first customers started coming in. “The first flight was full, and the second and the third. With that one DC9, 1time ran three return flights a day from Joburg to Cape Town. We came in and smashed airfares by 50%. Our tickets were half the price of even the so-called no-frills airlines around at the time.”

James thinks consumers are pretty smart and that they understand the sparring that goes on between businesses. “Their attitude was ‘how do you know these guys are unsafe? Give them a chance.’

People are always keen to try something new and if your business lives up to its promise from day one, it’s easy to nab your own share of the market. And we had a lot of fun too. We actually laughed about the bad stuff a lot.  Luckily, we could laugh because we were packing the planes.”

Causing a disruption

Not every business can compete on price to the extent that 1time did, but James and his team took the gap by offering something that was desperately needed at the time, disrupting the local airline industry in the process.

“There were 50 flights a day between Johannesburg and Cape Town at the time. With our one plane, we brought fares down dramatically. The whole scenario changed overnight.”

Surviving in a cut-throat industry

Competition between the budget airlines has not let up and it remains fierce and dirty. “We don’t like each other and we don’t talk to each other. I think our competitors are kicking themselves because maybe they could have taken us out of the market when we had one aeroplane, but now it’s impossible because we’re on all their routes. We’ve been the fastest growing airline in this market for seven years running.”

Not even the launch of SAA’s budget offering Mango in 2006 had an impact, probably because it was largely SAA passengers who switched to Mango, according to James.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dumisani Khumalo

    Oct 12, 2011 at 00:25

    GREAT INSIGHT……….

  2. Aki_Kalliatakis

    Mar 29, 2012 at 08:08

    Loved this article, and in particular the 3 South African case studies. When will the big companies realise that their customers are mad as hell, and they are vulnerable to little businesses that simply focus on getting the basics right?

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Compete to Win

Who Are Your Real Competitors?

Do you know who your real competitors are, and why they’re winning business you could get?

Ed Hatton

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When entrepreneurs talk about their competitors, the talk is usually disparaging rather than admiring. The competitor gives bad service, they cheat, they only get business because of bribes or political connections, they deliver inferior products and do not pay taxes to reduce their prices. We seldom hear that their technology is great, their service levels enviable and their legendary efficiency allows them to sell at great prices. Yet many competitors must be as good or better than you; they are making sales while competing with you.

We want to see ourselves as better than our competitors, so we focus on their faults. Instead, rather develop your own value proposition, one that really does offer something special and preferably unique to the market. Then see how your value proposition stacks up against theirs. Doing this can be a sobering experience, you may find that you are not the greatest after all.

You then have the opportunity of improving your products, customer service, pricing, communications and customer relations to become competitive.

Five forces

So far, I have talked about traditional competitors selling similar products and solutions to yours. Prof. Michael Porter produced a neat model, the Five Forces of Competitive Position, showing that aside from traditional competitors there were competitive forces in the power of buyers, the power of suppliers, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes.

In many industries the buyer-seller relationship is a very unequal one, especially if the buyer is a large organisation and the supplier is an SME. The buyer may allocate delivery slots, dictate pricing and terms and generally be in a position to give advantage to certain suppliers and make life difficult for others. Equally, where the supplier is extremely powerful they may dictate to their resellers.

Typically, the franchisor or supplier tells you how and where you may trade, forbids you to sell other goods and influences your pricing. In both these cases the imbalance of power means the rules may change adversely at any time.

Related: Competitor Analysis Example

The really serious competitive threats are of new entrants and substitutes, and these two threats are sometimes combined. Large local and international operations looking for growth could see the sector you occupy as an attractive opportunity. New disruptive technologies can change the rules and immediately capture large shares of the market. We may think that these trends will not affect our SME but there are numerous examples to show that is not true.

Simple ‘mom’s taxi’ school transport operations have been badly affected by Uber in wealthier areas. Precision engineers find themselves in hot competition with nerds equipped with 3D printers, legal and medical advice is dispensed online and even long-standing NGOs find themselves in competition with international apps. No one is immune from all the changes coming.

Competitive strategy

It’s a good idea to figure out a competitive strategy in advance. Business conditions are tough, and competitors will do everything in their power to take business away from you. Research and make notes about current competitors. Look for the things they boast about, their unique values, their strengths and weaknesses.

Place them on a position map so you can see which competitors are strong on experience, which boast about technology or customer service, and what type of customers they have. Then work out where you want to be seen in comparison to them. What do you have to do or fix to get to that position? Look for new technologies and trends that could affect your industry.

Examine big international players operating in the same product space in other parts of the world, and keep an eye on their expansion plans. Update your product and customer strategies to cater for what you have found. This is actually easy; almost everything is available on the Internet. The hard part is making your company less vulnerable to competitors.

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Compete to Win

How Excellent Customer Service Affects Your Business’ Bottom Line

Business owners say great customer service is important. In fact, it’s so important it can make or break your bottom line. Here’s how to make it work for you.

Peter Davidson

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Business owners say great customer service is important. In fact, it’s so important it can make or break your bottom line. Learning how this works will help you make improvements to your customer service that will bring more in to your business.

Why Customer Service Matters So Much

Bizness Apps says there are several reasons why your customer service matter so much, including:

  • This is how your customers remember you. Having a positive reputation is great, but customers tend to remember negative customer interactions more. Research shows that you’ll need 12 positive experiences to make up for one bad one.
  • Your customer service says a lot about your business. Customers often base the quality of your product on this interaction. This is why you should spend as much time and money on your customer service as you do on your products or services.
  • Customers want to feel like you care about them. By playing to their emotions and treating them with genuine courtesy and respect, they’re far more likely to invest their faith in your business. Pause for just a moment to think about how they pay your bills and that should help you genuinely appreciate them.
  • Good customer service honestly makes everyone’s lives easier. When it’s easy for your customers to contact you, it’s also easier for them to buy your products or services. This is why you should add contact forms and a FAQ page on your website and include customer service tools in your custom-built app. While offering other forms of contact are great, you don’t want to make it impossible to find your phone number.
  • Offering great customer service is a profitable marketing strategy. Word-of-mouth marketing does more than most A+ marketing teams can. Start by getting your customers raving about your company’s customer satisfaction standards then include customer testimonials and happiness ratings to show potential customers how much you’re there for them. When you tap into this and have your customers start your praises of their own accord, you’re tapping into a gold mine.
  • Don’t undervalue customer service because your clients always have alternatives available. It’s relatively easy for them to go to a competitor who’s offering them what you’re not. In fact, studies show that about 78% of consumers have backed out of transactions or failed to make an intended purchase simply because they received sub-par customer service. In today’s global marketplace, businesses that don’t have the tools to make it easier for their customers to do business with them get left behind.
  • Maintaining your customer base will cost you significantly less money than you’ll spend trying to attract new customers. Loyal customers are typically worth as much as ten times more than their first purchase. However, you won’t cash in here if you don’t prioritise customer success. If you’re wondering what the value here is personally for your company, stop and consider the money, time, and other investments you place in onboarding new clients. You’re guaranteed to save in all these areas by having your clients stick around.
  • While it’s important to drive traffic to your business, if you can’t transform this traffic into leads then the sales really aren’t much use. This requires a careful balancing act that you’ll grow better at as time goes on.

Related: Improve Your (Superior) Customer Service By Focusing On The Little Things

To Improve Your Customer Service, Choose the Right Phone System for you and Your Customers

Forbes says a cloud-based phone system helps with improving communication. In many cases this will help fix any problems you’ll experience in providing great customer service because now you can also provide over-the-internet support services. This is beneficial for your customers in several ways, including:

  • Maintaining consistency in customer interactions and minimising the number of touch-points or different contacts that are involved in each customer’s interaction with your company will improve both their satisfaction and their loyalty because fewer transitions between customer service providers means there’s fewer opportunities for an error to occur. Not only is this something research shows, but the same research also shows that each touchpoint in your customer chain must be held accountable for the end result of your customer’s interaction with your business.
  • You need to simplify and clarify any support text that’s on your website. If you can’t do this, they you should get rid of it altogether.  These small changes can help your customers help themselves so they won’t send in as many support requests. If you choose to get rid of your support text altogether, make sure you instruct your customers to email you for help. This may make it easier for you to keep track of your customers’ issues so you make changes that eliminate them in the future.
  • Listen to what’s being said about you on social media then respond appropriately. Every complaint or concern that’s raised online is an opportunity for you to win over additional customers while also solving your customer’s problem and increasing their satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Show your customers that you always put them first by checking with them throughout the onboarding process. Sending an email or a handwritten note expressing your appreciation goes a long way.

Related: When It Comes To Customer Care – Don’t Be Good, Be Awesome

Forbes continues on to say you never know when a complication with your product or service may arise. When it does you’ll want to work quickly to solve your customer’s problem. Even if they simply don’t understand how to use your product or service, it’s still up to you to fix this issue. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a simple solution available. Many times, you can fix it by offering exceptional over-the-phone or over-the-internet support though.

One Last Thing…

While you may feel like there’s a lot of information here to remember, Talkdesk says the most important thing to remember about this topic is it’s really hard to make up for a bad customer experience. Sure, we all make mistakes, but when it comes to customer support you really can’t afford to make them. Remember, it’ll take 12 good experiences for your business to make up for one lousy experience, which means you could lose out on a lot of money.

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Compete to Win

How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage

Go over and above for the people you serve, and you will enjoy the benefits of an abundant relationship.

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Wise, established entrepreneurs know that over-delivering value — which simply means going above and beyond for the people we serve to deliver more satisfaction for our service and thus exceed expectations — is crucial to a business’s survival, growth and future. It represents the core of a company’s foundation. And without a solid foundation, a business is always vulnerable to a person or company that does over-deliver.

To ensure you don’t ever forget the importance of over-delivering value, here are three ways it will give you and your company a distinct competitive advantage:

1. Creates abundance

Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. When you over-deliver value, people may be sceptical at first, thinking that you are expecting something in return, but when you are consistent and genuine with your intentions, they begin to trust and appreciate that you are just thinking of them.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

You never know the value of the value you are delivering. But I’ve learnt that if you are consistently delivering greater value to people, your value becomes more and more aligned with the immediate needs of the people and companies you are serving — and abundance in the relationship is created. This is what over-delivering value is all about.

2. Earns respect

Entrepreneurs who take the time to over-deliver value are the ones who earn respect. Typically early-stage entrepreneurs tend to find ways to be the recipient of someone else’s value in a search for momentum.

You never know which transactional seed is going to grow, but when adding value to others, this type of seed is never forgotten.

For example, every quarter, I deliver a white paper to clients with the intention to challenge their thinking. My goal is for them to know that regardless of whether I am conducting business with them or not, I am thinking of them and thus strengthening our long-term relationship. And since my white papers focus on predicting future leadership trends and business strategies, when a related topic arises in one of their strategy meetings, they don’t hesitate to call me to discuss an opportunity for us to engage.

3. Enables distinction

Entrepreneurs who add value to others create and sustain a distinction in the minds and hearts of those they are serving. After all, most people are simply doing what they’re told to do inside the box they are given. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We are the originators, the innovators and the opportunity seekers. We live our lives constantly in search of ways to add value to make things better. We disrupt the status quo. We are not in the business of fixing the old ways of doing things. We create new ways of doing things. If entrepreneurs are technically the experts at adding value through our products, services and brands, why can’t we add value through the people we depend upon most for our success?

Over-delivering value is the key not only to being a successful entrepreneur but also to the entrepreneurial mindset we must continually cultivate in ourselves and others. No one is successful alone. We must see the value in over-delivering value by being other-directed and connecting dots of opportunity with focus and purpose to become smarter and wiser, while making ourselves invaluable to the people and businesses we serve.

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