We live in a competitive world. We spend our careers educating ourselves and working year-after-year to make a difference for those around us. As entrepreneurs and businesspeople we commit everything to the bet that we can provide a compelling service to our customers. Through all of these areas, we find a core principle of performance; and from it comes a primary lesson for being successful. It is called the Platinum Rule, and it stands as the root and foundation of the most successful things you will achieve in your career. This rule recognizes that we operate in a complex, and crowded world. We live in a sea of options for the people we hire, the goods we consume, companies that we work with, and in most areas of choice in our economic and personal lives.
And competing in a crowded world is necessary for all of us. Squeezed in a crowd of competitors, what are you as an individual or a company supposed to do to stand out?
The Platinum Rule is the yardstick that measures the three levels of relationship you can build into personally and professionally – the full range of relationships from ‘in’ to ‘indespesible’, with an ocean of difference between them.
Level #1: Just Another Capable Company – A customer looks at your business and decides you have the capacity to do the desired work; your offering meets a need. This is the most basic of customer relationships. This means there’s lots of competition, and little means to ensure customer retention. At this level, repeat business is at best a matter of convenience for your customer. As simple as this type of customer relationship seems, many companies spend their time at or below this standard of confidence. While getting in front of customers, performing, and being perceived as capable is indeed a difficult challenge, it is a brief starting point to the real objective. In business, earning the business of customers is hard work. Customer acquisition costs being so high, we quickly learn that customer renention is key to our business – once you have a customer, you always want to keep them and continue to provide for them into the future. At this level of being ‘just another provider’, customer retention is a long-shot. Companies operating at this level will often resort to competing on price – a ‘race to the bottom’ on margin. Awful.
How can we do better than this?
Level #2: Standing Out Among Stand-Outs – At this level, your customer knows you provide the service that they need, and do it in an excellent fashion. The customer has either heard from others or knows from personal experience that you are good at what you do, and that you are better than many of the alternatives they have available to them. It’s a vote of confidence. Your communication, performance, follow-up, and attention to detail are spot-on at this level. When you perform at this level, customer retention becomes more likely, however there is still room for substitutes to enter the picture and create competition. At this level the choice of you versus competitors is still a matter of convenience for the customer, and pricing pressures are still a powerful factor. The difference between this kind of business and being ‘just another provider’ are clear and powerful.
Amongst the few providers that operate in this way, most are content to stay put and continue to operate at this level; and they will miss out on the game-changing benefits of doing even better.
Level #3: You Become An Indespensable Partner – When your customer knows you can do the service or job, that it’s done exceptionally well, and the delivery is so good, so personalized, so exceptional that they believe that no one else in the market can provide the same experience, you are now an indespesable partner for them. This is the level of true customer retention. At this level, your customer doesn’t think about going anywhere else. At this level of relationship the magical transition from push to pull occurs. No longer are you trying to push your services to your customers, but your customer base actively pulls you to them. The implications of this are very powerful. Operating at this level, your customers worry about what would happen if they they lost you as a provider. Compared to businesses operating at lower levels of service, this is almost unimaginable. What about all that concern about how ‘crowded’ the market is? The crowd disappears for your customers when you find a way to connect with them that is unique, tailored, and superior to all other options.
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