Often, when you set out to improve your own business offering, your instinct is to do so by borrowing (or, as Picasso was said to recommend, stealing) the innovations of your competitors.
And this makes sense, because your customers do judge you in comparison to what they’ve experienced elsewhere. United offers passengers a choice of beverages before takeoff in first class, which means a later flight on USAirways, where they don’t, will feel weird. (For a more budget-minded example: McDonald’s gives you napkins with your sandwich, so Dunkin Donuts had better follow suit. )
But while benchmarking is important–within your industry and across industry lines–sometimes you can get even further by improving on the competition: specifically, by eliminating the annoyances your competition has overlooked that are driving their customers to distraction. This is an effective and economical way to improve, often costing nothing more than the attention the exercise requires.
I enjoyed the results of this approach recently as a guest at a lovely hotel in Bend, Oregon. The hotel didn’t feel like a knockoff of its more famous competitors. Rather, it had the feeling that hotel management had spent long hours eliminating everything they didn’t like about competing hotels, wrapping the improvements into their own offering, even when doing so meant exceeding or disregarding current industry norms.
These improvements will seem mundane, but when you’re a guest, they’re anything but:
• Room doors that unlock with a languid wave of your key card, rather than requiring split-second-timed insertion and retraction
• A refreshing lack of signage warning and threatening you not to smoke/steal/break/drown
• Unique lightweight microfiber robes instead of the normal heavy, scratchy, generic terrycloth
• A room safe actually sized to fit an oversized laptop (like the one I still lug around)
• An actual french press with fresh ground coffee and real half and half instead of the usual “I know this stuff is free, but the aftertaste isn’t worth the savings” in-room coffee supplies
• And about 28 similar annoyance-eliminations that I won’t bore you by enumerating here.
If you took a mindset of being better, in small ways or large, than even your best-funded, most experienced competition, what would that look like?
“Micah Solomon conveys an up-to-the minute and deeply practical take on customer service, business success, and the twin importance of people and technology.” –Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder
Micah Solomon • Author-Speaker-Strategist • Customer Service – Marketing – Loyalty – Leadership
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