2 Assets which Lead to either Differentiation or Risk of Extinction

There are always certain aspects of every business, when not integrated, put them at high risk of not surviving…and they are what keeps CEOs and Business Owners up at night. When a business has lower quality products, inefficient services, poor customer experiences, or a variety of other items, they are putting the business at risk. But now there are 2 items, in the current Internet Revolution, which have become so critical that they can take down a company even when they have high quality products and services.

These two critical items are directly linked to your customers…TIME and TRUST…and if they are missing today you are at high risk of becoming extinct. I call them the “Twin T’s”. But if you have them, you can lead the competition and become much more differentiated in the eyes of your customer.

Every business leader should do an in-depth analysis of their own business to see how they are doing at managing these two critical assets…today. I guarantee you will find some amazing answers (some good and some bad) to why your customers either love to buy from you, why they may be shopping around, or why they are leaving.

TIME…according to Forrester Research (and others), is listed as the most valuable asset people have and want today. They all want more of it…or at a minimum they want to make the best use of it. We all know we have the same 24 hours in every day but it’s how it is being used that is concerning people more and more. Think of it in the reverse direction, people want to either “make better use of it” or “not waste it.” This is how people are thinking about time and how they are thinking about your business.

Customers are rapidly choosing companies who they feel help them maximize their time.

So the question to ask yourself as the CEO or Business Owner is, “Are we helping our customers make better use of their time when they interact and buy from us or are we costing them time?” If you ask this question in every aspect of your business, you will find out very quickly if you are on the path to extinction or if you are on the path to differentiation.

You might answer the question with a resounding YES and say your sales people and customer service people are very efficient at helping them get what they want when they interact with us. I would challenge you to look further into the process to see if this is actually the case. For example, many sales and service departments in businesses are predominantly “order takers” because the customer calls up with a specific request…I need XYZ. The sales department says great, I can get that for you and have it to you by Tuesday. Seems efficient, right? It is as long as all you care about is taking the order and “assuming” the customer knows everything about it and its use…many actually don’t.

How many times does a customer buy something only to find out it isn’t the right product or service? If you have zero returns or issues, then you could say 100% of the time…very few can say this. Instead, they got the wrong product because they thought this is what they needed…now it gets returned and they start over with the buying process…a huge time waster. But if during the interaction with your people, they had asked some simple questions, such as “Why do you want product X?” or “Out of curiosity, what are you planning to use Product X for?” or “What issue are you trying to solve by using Product X?” or a host of other probing questions, you might just find out they don’t need Product X and they need Product Y.

When this happens for a customer and they realize within a few minutes you were able to save them a ton of time because they were going to buy the wrong product and now you have steered them to the right product they love this interaction…and are much more likely to both shop with you again and tell others about you…the two key goals of delivering an awesome experience.

Looking at TIME in a slightly different way, what if you knew your customer and that based on their buying patterns they always call within a certain time to get the same product. Why would you wait for them to call and waste more of their time ordering the product over and over again? What if you put in an automatic ordering function that shipped the product to the customer when they usually need it again and then just invoice them on a certain date…with the understanding if they didn’t need it they can return it without any cost? And explain to them the purpose is to save them time so they don’t have to continually call in for the same product. You just helped save your customer more of their most valuable asset.

There are plenty more examples of how thinking creatively about the customer can change your relationship with them to one of LOYALTY and ADVOCACY. This is at the heart of why it is so critical to become CUSTOMER OBSESSED in today’s economy. This is at the core of helping your customer be more efficient with their most valuable asset…TIME. If you don’t have a Customer Obsessed strategy, you are most likely a “product/service centric” organization. When you implement a Customer Obsessed Strategy, you change the benefits your customer will get from you…and they immediately start thinking and seeing you as being different.

TRUST…we are now living in the “Trust Economy.” Because of the factor of TIME and commoditization in the market, customers are looking for those they can explicitly TRUST. They don’t want to worry about all the details and increase their risk. Trust lowers their risk and gives them peace of mind. And when someone interacting with you has peace of mind, they want more of it and avoid others that don’t give them this calming emotion.

Trust is a huge DIFFERENTIATOR for a company…possibly the most valuable asset a company can own.

Trust is earned by keeping the promises you make to your customers. When customers feel like they trust you, then they will tell others about you…but not until they trust you. NO ONE wants to tell someone about a company they don’t trust for fear of losing credibility with their friends or colleagues. And if they aren’t sure if they trust you yet, they will tell others that they bought from you but then qualify it by telling them they don’t know that much about you yet.

“Trust is so valuable today that a business should do everything they can to earn it and twice as much not to lose it.”

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Trust starts at the CEO. If the CEO wants a company that is known for keeping its promises, then it starts with two primary components…processes and the customer experience. BOTH have to be in alignment to be able to deliver on the promises made by their employees. If the processes and customer experience are designed to do whatever it takes to keep a promise, you will build trust…and your customer will see it and feel it with every interaction. You can’t fake trust!

TIME and TRUST are the reasons why Word-of-Mouth is so Powerful today…more than any other time in history. People consider Word-of-Mouth to be a “time savings” rather than a “time waster.” And people only talk about the businesses they “trust”.

For example, you are looking for a great restaurant in either your current city or a city you are visiting. One approach is to go to Google or Yelp or Open Table and do some searching…this takes TIME. You have to do the research, compare reviews, look at the menus, check out the location, and a host of other “time consuming” activities to find something you would feel good about. The alternative is to simply ask your “TRUSTED network” of friends and colleagues what restaurant they would recommend based on your criteria. They shoot back some suggestions with personalized comments about their experience and you pick one that sounds the best for what you want…a significant “time savings” and from a source that is “trusted”.

As a leader in your business, take the challenge and honestly assess how you are delivering on TIME and TRUST to your customers. I believe this will be an eye-opening experience for you and help you see your company the way your customer sees it every day. And as always, if you want to gain more insight into this area and learn more, I’m happy to sit down over coffee and share some additional thoughts.

Amplifying these two key assets could be the game changer you have been looking for to finally differentiate your company from the other businesses in your market…and put you on a path to growth, not extinction.

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