Take a moment to consider the following question: who are your business’s competitors?
If you take the question at face-value, you can probably give an instant answer: ‘My competitors are companies x, y and z, who operate in the same marketplace and geographical area.’
But viewed another way, the answer could be, ‘My competitors are anybody that my customers also deal with.’
Everyone is a competitor
People’s expectations are changing: they are becoming more discerning and more demanding. Your customers might buy goods online from Amazon, bank by telephone and compare the services of gas and electricity providers as a matter of course.
This has implications for any business. If you offer an online ordering system, your customers will naturally compare the experience of using it to that of buying from Amazon, no matter what product or service you sell. If a customer calls BT to deal with an issue, and then calls your business to deal with another, they will inevitably compare the two experiences, even though you operate in an entirely different marketplace to BT.
Looked at in this light, your competitors are anybody with whom your customers can have a comparable experience.
Managing the experience
You may already have defined what it is that makes your product or service better than those of your obvious competitors. You may offer a lower price, or specialist knowledge, or you may have an unrivalled ‘brand’. But if the customer does not have a positive experience of dealing with your firm, they may not be inclined to come back for more.
If you want to ensure customer loyalty, you should consider such questions as:
- What is it actually like to deal with your sales and customer service teams?
- How are customers greeted by switchboard operators or receptionists?
- How user-friendly are our systems?
- What happens when things go wrong?
The key is to imagine that you are a customer and ask yourself: what would it be like to do business with me? You might even want to pose as a customer and try to buy a product or service, in order to evaluate the experience first hand.
Remember that customers will not always tell you when they are unhappy with the experience of using your services. It’s up to you to ensure that you continue to exceed their expectations.