The thing that distinguishes us from our competition is service. How do I make our service more tangible to our customers?


This is a great question because it is so common.

Let’s put it into perspective.  Believe it or not, almost every company I deal with claims to give better service than their competition.  Interestingly, if you talk to the competition, they also claim to give better service!

So who is right?  From my experience – generally neither one.

Here’s the problem.  Nobody seems to be able to clearly define what “better service” really means.  And since the definition is so fuzzy, it’s easy to claim to do it better.

If you ask every single salesperson, both inside and outside, if they provide good service to the customer, you’ll find every one answering YES.  I have yet to meet a salesperson who has taken me off to the side at a seminar or training program and confided in me that he/she really gives very poor service to the customer.

Create a Definition for Tangible Service

The starting point then is to define what “better service” really means.  And the best way to do that is to ask the customer.  Do several things:

  1. Go visit some good customers. Go alone, without salespeople or anyone else, and ask your good customers what they want in service, and how they would define “better service.”  Then ask them to rate your company on their criteria, not yours.

That exercise will be very revealing.

  1. After having gathered this information, turn it into a survey or questionnaire. Keep it short and anonymous.  You may want to have a professional market research firm or consultant help you with this.
  2. Now get it into the hands of your customers, and ask them to rate your company and each of the key contact people. Have the surveys returned to an objective third party.
  3. Use the information thus gained to make changes within your organization. Train the salespeople, both inside and outside, on what the customers want, and how to provide it.  Make changes in your processes to fall into line with your customers’ expectations.

At this point, you will have made major progress toward really and truly providing “better service.”

Communicating Your Tangible Service

Now, let’s assume that you are now actually providing “better service.”  How do you communicate that in a way that provides you a bit of an edge in the minds of the customers?

The answer?  Tell ‘em.  But don’t just tell ’em.  Tell ‘em over and over, with substance, in a detailed, specific, convincing way.

Create a one-page sell-sheet.  Detail specifically the things that you do to provide “better service.”  Explain the benefits to the customer.  Turn the “service” items into economic benefits.  For example, if you individually expedite backorders so that no backorder is over two weeks old (remember, this is just an example), what does that mean to the customer?  How much money does the typical customer save because of that benefit?

If there is no discernable benefit to the customer for your “better service,” then that service means nothing to the customer, and you are wasting your time providing it.

Once you have your sell-sheet printed, then call a sales meeting, and have the salespeople practice using that sell sheet to communicate your “better service” to the customer.  Salespeople, both inside and outside, should make that presentation to everyone, over and over again.  It should be a part of every formal presentation and part of the introduction to every new person.  It should flow naturally out of everyone’s mouth, all the time.

At that point, you will have made some significant progress toward making service tangible to your customers.

But don’t stop there; think of other creative ways you can communicate your “better service.”  For example, I have one client who prints a “report card” on every packing slip and invoice.  There will be a statement printed that says something like this:  “On this order, we shipped 94 of 100 line items complete, within four days of receipt of your order.”

That’s a great example of applying the principle that you should “Tell ’em over and over, with substance, in a detailed, specific, convincing way.”