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The Advantage Of The Incumbent


It’s a well-known fact of politics that the person currently in office has a distinct advantage over his or her challenger. We’re seeing a clear example of that in this year’s presidential race, where despite a mediocre-at-best performance over the past four years, our current leader is likely to keep his job.

Another even-clearer example is our own Illinois Senator Jesse Jackson Jr., who is poised to win re-election in a landslide, despite not even showing up for work for months while undergoing both medical treatment for a psychological disorder and multiple investigations for financial and ethical violations while in office. Is this simply an absurd travesty, or an indication of a universal human behavior?

A study of human nature reveals that people don’t like to admit to themselves that they had made a mistake with their original choice, so they tend to be overly forgiving of under-delivery and still want to believe that their original judgment was sound.

So what does this mean for you and your business?

The good news is that once you acquire a new customer, client or patient, you should be able to keep them from ever going to one of your competitors – as long as you don’t grossly under-perform or mess up the relationship in a major way.

You don’t have to think too hard for many examples of this. Just think about how many people (maybe even you?) complain about their phone or cable TV providers, but never go through the hassle of switching to a competitor.

In hundreds of talks and seminars I’ve given over the years, I’ve stated that it’s a “basic requirement” for small business owners to deliver an excellent product or service — the ante to get into the game. I explain that the strategies and tactics I teach won’t work nearly as effectively for fly-by-night or otherwise shoddy operations. Providing an excellent experience to your buyers is one way to ensure you keep them away from your competitors for their future purchases.

Good customer service is another area that can make or break your business.

Consumers have little patience for lousy customer service. They easily get tired of waiting in long lines, trying to get a live person on the line, going through an interrogation to return something or trying to communicate through a language barrier.

If you provide them with a simple, efficient, pleasant experience they will revisit your business over and over – and they’ll rush to tell everyone they know!

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, the first step is to know exactly what YOU want. You are the captain of your ship, and the visionary for the future of your business. That’s why you need to have a clearly-defined plan for your business – and that includes customer service.

There are three main goals you need to consider:

  1. You must make it easy for your customers to do business with you. This includes offering advertised specials and discounts and providing convenient physical and/or online locations – including the use of technology – to help them shop.
  2. Doing business with you needs to be a warm and pleasant experience, which means that your staff has to be knowledgeable, approachable, warm and patient and your customers need to feel like they’re always getting a good value for their time and money. Keep in mind that perceived value goes beyond merely the price of the products or services, and extends to their entire overall shopping experience.
  3. Avoid the trap that almost all struggling and soon-to-fail business owners fall into of looking for the cheapest way to reach their goals. Instead, continually ask yourself “How can I NOT afford to do these things?” To keep your competitors away, you need to recognize the vital importance of investing your time, energy and money into making your customers happy, and keeping them feeling that way during and after the sale.

Which these thoughts in mind, you also need to take a few things into consideration when deciding on the actual programs and standards that you’ll use in your business:

  • Share your customer service vision with your entire staff
  • Connect incentive programs and bonuses directly to customer service
  • Monitor the level of customer service your staff provides
  • Know when you can safely ignore what your customers want – and when that’s a dangerous mistake
  • Continuously focus on your goals

By keeping these principles in mind, you can start to put a complete system into place to create consistent, positive customer service experiences to maintain your edge as “the incumbent” whenever you acquire new customers by having them vote for you with their wallets.

If you’re having a hard time putting all of these pieces into place, the tools, resources and coaches in our FREE test drive can help you create your own effective system by taking into account the wants and needs of your company in relation to the all-important long-term success aspect of solid customer service.

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