Along the lines of my last post, a great service truly does alleviate a discomfort/stress/anxiety for an individual or company.

A GPS device is sort of a hybrid of a service and a product, but the service is really what sells it. Keep that in mind as I describe a recent example that caught me off guard.

My wife does many things better than I can, but getting to a particular destination that she is not familiar with is not one of them.  This is so challenging for her that she spends a good 20 minutes before any trip to an unknown place writing down directions, putting highlights on a map, tracing the course on a map, creating post-its, etc. She has done this since I’ve known her. Does all this really help her get to where she wants to go? Maybe, but I think most of it is her trying to alleviate the stress she is feeling. Because of this stress she has mentioned getting a GPS device on more than one occasion. We’ve just never made the effort to do the research and buy one.

So the other day I see a TomTom One on Amazon for $199. Perfect.  I place the order and the package arrives to our house within a few days. We go through the whole “Oh my gosh, you bought me a present? What is it?” conversation as she is opening the Amazon box. When she finally realizes what it is she actually starts to cry. The fact that she now has a device that can potentially reduce, and maybe eliminate, her stress over driving to new destinations is somewhat overwhelming to her. There is nothing more powerful than relieving someone of a stress or discomfort.

Figure out  the discomfort your service relieves and leverage it.


Ask them what they hate

Today I was doing some research on customer satisfaction surveys. After looking through a number of examples it was clear that for the most part all the surveys I looked at were pretty much the same. They went something like this:

 Please rate the following on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.

1. Overall, how satisfied are you with the service(s) you received?

2. Considering all of the expectations you may have had about the service(s), to what extent have the service(s) met your expectations.

3. Considering the ideal service(s) for employers in your circumstances, how well do you think the services(s) you received compare with ideal services?

And I could go on but I think you get the idea. So my question is, what does a survey like this tell you? Say you get a 2 from one of your customers on the first question, what does that tell you? Not a whole lot from my perspective. All you know is that particular customer, assuming the didn’t fill out the survey anonymously, wasn’t very satisfied with the service they got. Same could be said for question 2 and question 3.

Let me propose a different approach. Why not ask “What one thing about the service you received did you dislike the most?” or for question 2 “What one expectation did you have that we didn’t come close to meeting?”

Questions like this can give you incredibly powerful information. The best services out there remove discomfort from the customers life. Think about the services you use and how much discomfort you would endure should you stop using them…dry cleaners, house cleaner, massage therapist, taxi driver, auto mechanic, etc. If you can find a discomfort that your service did not remove, or maybe even caused, you have an action item that can provide immediate results among your clients.

Skate to where the puck is going to be

Keeping with my ice hockey them, Wayne Gretzky was once asked why he is such a good player. His reply?

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Make sure your company is not simply chasing where other companies in your industry have been. The true ability of a successful company is to skate to where the industry is going to be.

Awareness of the play

I play ice hockey on the weekends as a way to stay in shape and indulge my delusions that I could have been a professional athlete had I chosen that path. One thing I’ve noticed is that certain people on my team seem to have a better sense of the ice and the development of a play than others. There are certain teammates that I know will see me when I am open and others that I am certain will not. This ability often has nothing to do with skill. In fact, one of the worst skaters on my team has an incredible sense of the ice and the play as it develops. He always seems to find an open spot when he doesn’t have the puck and always seems to pass to an open teammate when he does.

This applies to the world of marketing as well. Some people put their heads down and focus on their immediate surroundings. Gotta build this website, gotta make this brochure, gotta come up with a slogan…head down, focus on the task. Others have the uncanny ability to see the entire landscape including what is happening in their immediate presence. They view it as…how do the website and brochure interact to create the message I want my target audience to see. Is this appropriate? Is there a better way to get my message across? engage my target audience?

Therein lies the difference between someone who plays the game and someone who understands the game.

Am I allowed to blog?

A colleague of mine wondered out loud recently “Am I allowed to blog?” She was worried that her Career Blog had too much personnel information in it and certain members of management might not approve of blogging as a work related activity. My comment to her was that business is not always about business. When a sales person goes on a sales call do you think they spend 100% of the time talking business? I sure hope not. Blogging is about being authentic. Authentic thoughts, authentic ideas, authentic exchanges. If being authentic isn’t good business we’re all in trouble.

One Single Solitary Person

Service companies rely heavily on their employees, much more so than companies that sell a product. Customers are buying something that is intangible, they are buying a promise.

Think about it, when’s the last time you bought a car from someone that you liked. It doesn’t happen too often. Most car purchase are made through a sales person that we simply put up with. The salesman is simply a necessary evil in the purchase process. But since your purchase is something that is tangible (presumably you’ve sat in it, driven it, looked it over, etc.), most of the time you simply put up with the sales person to get to the final goal of owning the product which is a car. This is not the case with a service.

How often have you gone back to a doctor that you don’t like? How about a dentist? or maybe took lessons for something from someone that rubbed you the wrong way. It just doesn’t happen. Customer contact with a single solitary person within your organization can make or break the entire purchase process for a service company.

“The” or “A”

Paul Williams over at Marketing Profs makes a very simple but powerful post on how the use of the word “The” over the word “A” can make all the difference.

Do you want your plastic surgery done by “A” plastic surgeon or “The” plastic surgeon? Do you want to go to “A” steak house or “The” steak house? Do you want to go to “A” must see movie of the summer or “The” must see movie of the summer?

“The” is the best…”A” is not. These are very small words with very big implications. Thanks for the post Paul.