Compete on Experience not Price
A quote that defines a struggle in today’s photography market. “No matter what product or service you provide, you have two options: compete on price or compete on experience. When you compete on price, you attract customers who are opportunistic and looking for the best deal. Margins are too thin today to compete on price. On the other hand, if you choose to compete on experience, you eliminate over 80 percent of your competition, who are cutting costs and service trying to be the cheapest.” page 454 What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience
John DiJulius wrote two of my favorite books on Customer Service and Customer Experience. Both are a must read:
- What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience
- Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service
Great Customer Service Actions Create Outstanding Customer Experience
Customer Service works in two ways. One is proactive the other is reactive. Both are important.
Waldorf Estoria: I will never forget my first trip to the Waldorf Estoria in Chicago. The catch, I wasn’t even a guest. I was photographing a rehearsal dinner Friday night. It was one of those dreadfully humid midwest days. You know, sweat beading down your back standing in air conditioning. I enter the hotel and the bell man asks to take my bag. I mention I’m photographing an event in an hour and I’m not a guest. He says, “No problem if you don’t need it I’ll take care of it for you.” I try to hand him a tip. He says, “No thank you sir, it is my pleasure.” I try harder, he says, “I’m happy to help.” Huh, this is new. I haven’t experienced this before. I take a step toward the lobby and I’m greeted by a hotel employee offering me and everyone else entering the hotel a bottle of water. Remember it’s stifling hot. This water felt life saving at this point. 55 minutes later I stand up to get my bag, the bellman is standing 10 feet away from me with it. Seriously I can’t make this up. Again, I am not spending one night in this hotel and they are this accommodating.
Day two, I return to shoot the wedding. Doorman says, “I liked your brown suit yesterday but I love this one.” He remembered me? How many people walked through his door yesterday. I am now in love with this hotel. What did they do right? They looked for opportunities to help and executed. Do you think many hotels in Chicago were handing out bottled water to guests as they arrived. As a photographer most hotels don’t give me the time of day. The bellman tried to become my personal assistant and get me anything I needed. The Waldorf Astoria room rates start at $400 per night. That’s a lot of money and certainly not what I would normally spend on a hotel room. Guess where I will spend my next special occasion with my wife. Hands down, The Waldorf Astoria.
W Hotel “Whatever, Whenever”: My wife and I stayed at the W Hotel for her birthday a few years ago. We planned to go out to dinner then return to the hotel that night. I’m an idiot and always forget something when I pack. This time, my contact case. Great, I’m in The Loop, meaning a contact case could be pretty hard to find. I ask at the front desk, “We’re on our way to dinner, where can I get a contact case?” The lady at the desk replies, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll get you one and have it waiting in your room.” Not sure what my face look liked but I know I was surprised. Was she going to charge me for it, maybe. The idea that she didn’t even start down the path of giving me directions to Walgreens still blows me away. She saw an opportunity to help and executed. My wife and I like W Hotels and stay in them whenever we can.
Finao: I called Finao to check on an album. It has been six weeks and it usually only takes them three or four to get me an album. I talked to Crystal and explained my problem. She explained that I ordered it when they were moving to their new space and some albums ordered at that time are taking a bit longer. Immediately I think, “Wait, I don’t care about your move. I want my album.” She followed with, “I’m really sorry for the delay. I will go to production right now and expedite your album. I will try to have it out by the end of the week. I’ll also upgrade shipping to overnight free of charge.” In four sentences she took complete ownership of the problem and offered to personally take care of it. She set new expectations and told me she would take care of it. Crystal could have easily passed this off to someone else. Did she owe me a trip to production or free shipping? No. There is an album company that I have worked with that I would have expected a sorry you’re out of luck response from. I am moving my business away from them. Not Finao. They make a product that I love and for the first time I have experienced a service defect with them. They made it right and will continue to get my business and praise.
ACI: I have been using American Color Imaging for years now. Their product and customer service have always been outstanding. I must say though in the last two years I have noticed an increase in communication from the customer service department. A few weeks ago I ordered a large quantity of 5x7s and a gallery wrap. They shipped the 5x7s but forgot to ship the gallery wrap. Later that day they called to let me know they made a mistake. The 5x7s would arrive first and the canvas would be sent overnight and I would have it the next day. I still can’t really believe they called me. It would not have been a big deal. They knew that the next day when the 5x7s arrived I would be wondering where my gallery wrap was. I’d then have to call. They took care of the problem before it became one.
A week ago they sent half of a drop ship order to my client and the canvas print to me. I called to let them know so they could credit my account for drop shipping. Michael, apologized profusely and said he would credit the drop shipping and pay for my FedEx label to send the canvas print. No questions asked. There is no way he had time to look up if I even drop shipped the order in the first place. I almost never have issues with ACI but on the off chance I do all burden is removed from me. They take care of me and I love it.
America’s Collision: The day after my wife and I bought our new minivan someone rear ended us. I had finally come to grips with driving this thing and bam, I have to get it fixed. I take it in to get it fixed, leave it, and head on vacation. When we get back the car is ready as promised. I drive it off the lot and immediately noticed there’s a strange noise in my front tire. I look but I can’t figure it out. I forget about it until the next day. The tire pressure is now low and a warning light is going off. I find the culprit. A huge bolt sticking out of the tire. So here I am, two days after picking up my newly fixed car and it has a giant bolt and a soon to be flat tire.
Now I’m pissed thinking there’s not a chance that America’s Collision will fix this. I’m ready to fight and lose and shell out money. I’ll make the call tell the story. “Wow, I’m so sorry. We’ve got bolts everywhere. It’s entirely possible it happened here. Take it down the street to the tire place. I’ll call and tell them you are coming. They’ll get you a new tire by lunch. It’s on me.” I admit I was so prepared for a fight I was a little disappointed. I sheepishly said thank you and got it fixed. While waiting at the tire place I pulled out my phone and wrote my first online review ever. Just like Crystal from Finao, the body shop took ownership of the problem and fixed it. Apply this idea to your business. Do you make mistakes? I do. People may not write a review when you do things well. They will definitely write a bad review if you have a service defect. What if you could have a service defect and get them to write a raving review? That will only come with World-Class Customer Service.
Words/Actions of Experience: Free samples, extras—the bakers’ Dozen. The big piece of cake. DELIGHT. Frippery. Bonus. Boon. Premium. Charm. Captivate. Mesmerize. Enchant. Gratify. Fulfill. Pull/Draw/Hold. Magnetism. Appeal. Allure. Charisma. Personality. Distinctiveness. Dear. Worthwhile. Significant. Indispensible. Key. Priceless. Precious. Prized. Treasured. Cherished. Inestimable. Dazzling.
- Authentic and Genuine
- Uncommonly attentive
- Deeply engaged
- High in emotional labor/low or free in actual cost
- Listening with all you’ve got. If you’re not exceptional at listening, learn to be. Don’t go forward until you have the skills to make people feel seen, understood, and interesting.
- Honesty: especially when they expect you to sugar coat.
- Do the little things differently.
- The Details: look to the details for ways to thrill.
- Help: find ways to to be helpful, give knowledge or catch details that save—even when it’s not “your job”.
- Engage: be interested in more than what you’re selling to them. Every now and then, cover off on your stuff quickly, and be a resource for what they need.
- Establish your signature: vary details and give individually, but develop something that you’ll become known for.
- Ignore the standards: set your own. Doing things a little bit better than everyone else limits you to perform just well. enough to beat everyone else, and it ties you to an utterly stale framework for how to delight people.
- Hold Hands: educate them before they ask questions.
- Feedback: ask your clients what they think. Learn from it.
- Execute/Make Promises: Deliver what you promise and better