Trick or Treat? The Choice is Yours.

This is an example of an article written by Jim Feldman for a publication or newsletter. Jim is an author, keynote speaker and consultant who writes and speaks about Change Management, Customer Service and Innovative Problem Solving. Contact us about using Jim as an author, interview or speaker at 312-527-9111.
choosing pumpkin
photo credit: Kalexanderson

In a few days, we will “experience” the results of the Presidential election. “Trick or Treat” has never been more relevant than today.

One of the treats of the election season, however, has been the gentle ribbing of our Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates by Saturday Night Live (SNL). No matter who wins, SNL alumnae Tina Fey said she would not continue to impersonate Sara Palin. If that is true, our “Treat” is now ending.

But things always change, and these last months have shown just how much they can. Our experiences are less amicable and more disruptive than anytime in recent history. Plunging stocks, increasing foreclosures, tightening credit and dismal customer service are constant reminders that our worst nightmares are now reality.

While we all evaluate our futures, we must remind ourselves that our customers are continuing to make buying decisions. So, how can we be the one place that our customers want to do business with now and in the future?

I had a meeting a few days ago with one of my clients and the discussion turned to his customers. He referred to the difficult “never satisfied customer.” We talked about “service” and “quality” as important attributes, from our perspective, of value-added. When I asked what he thought his customers valued, he said PRICE was the most important concern of his customers.

You No Longer Can Compete on Price and Succeed Price?

How can you compete on price, I asked? The less profit you make the fewer services you can offer. Soon your profit margin erodes to the point where you have nothing to offer in the way of service and quality.

Self-service and poor quality is not what most of us want. We are not do-it-yourselfers. Many of us are old enough to remember the time when “service stations” cleaned our windshields and checked the oil. Service with a smile is now a distant memory. Service is a “treat” that we all desire and deserve, but seldom get.

In our discussion, I reminded him of the skits on SNL. He smiled and laughed out loud at the memories. We both agreed that SNL did not focus on the differences of the candidates. Rather, they focused on making us laugh.

We put on our marketing hats and agreed again, this time that SNL clearly understands that their viewers – their customers – want to laugh. But it is more than that.

Did SNL just want to make their viewers laugh? Did they ever want just a “satisfied” viewer? No. They wanted to give us an experience we would not just enjoy, but talk about and remember long after the show ended. They wanted to make the “EXPERIENCE” of SNL so compelling that people would drop whatever they were doing Saturday night and watch their show.

Starting today let’s work on create a similar “EXPERIENCE” for our customers. We still need to do something so profound that it re-shapes our customers’ perspective as to what is now acceptable performance from a consultant/vendor/supplier/partner.

Each of us needs to create an “EXPERIENCE” that redefines both our businesses and our industries, an experience that does not rely on price. You can never compete on price. You cannot win the price game. If you do “win” it means you have lost the profits that allow you to stay in business.

How Toyota Does It

One of my clients, Toyota is struggling to sell trucks and SUVs, just like all car makers, Unlike its competition, however, no full-time workers are getting laid off from stalled factories. The 4,500 workers at idled plants are instead taking classes.

Toyota is using this time to train and educate their production workers in anticipation of the future. The workers will be learning how to work faster and smarter during the down time. They’re also doing community service while on the clock.

Of course, you can’t please everyone and the plan isn’t sitting well with all of Toyota’s workforce, as workers at running factories don’t like the fact that laid off workers are getting a leg up on training. A more skilled plant could have an advantage over others in being earmarked for future products, so unaffected workers also want the extra training.

While expensive and a bit of a logistics nightmare, Toyota’s plan is a good one for those that can afford it. It should help create a more loyal, better-trained workforce that also forges ties with the surrounding community. Either way the “experience” has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Can you imagine the conversation in the town, the media, and the rest of the world? While some companies are laying off their loyal workers, Toyota is using the down time to create a “new future.” Suppliers, workers and customers are talking about it on blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Linked In and other social media. Like SNL, Toyota has offered a “treat” that makes customers look beyond price when making a buying decision.

Each of us has a choice during these uncertain times. We can be like SNL and Toyota, and make the best of it. Or we can be like Lehman Brothers, who put greed ahead of value, then failed and had its assets sold for pennies on the dollar when greed turned out to be not such a good strategy.

Each example triggers a deep emotional response (E.T. reviving vs. Bambi’s mother getting shot). This type of “EXPERIENCE” is never forgotten. It becomes an indelible memory. We won’t soon forget SNL or Lehman.

Today, more than ever, we need to create a positive feeling that goes way beyond satisfaction. We all need to create a full-fledged “EXPERIENCE” that exceeds our customers’ expectations.

When was the last time that you had an “EXPERIENCE”? What have you done to create an “EXPERIENCE” for your employees, suppliers and customers?