Article published by Philadelphia Business Journal on September 19, 2022.
As a business leader, your holy grail should be to differentiate your business so that customers and clients will want to buy from you rather than your competitors. How to do so is not rocket science. It requires building loyalty by delighting your customers.
The best advice I’ve heard on differentiating your business comes from Warren Buffett in a speech he made in April 2021. Buffett, legendary investor and Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and CEO, tells the story of Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Car Rental which grew to be the largest rental car company in the world.
Enterprise did not compete directly against entrenched Hertz and Avis, which had the best airport locations sewn up. Enterprise focused on an unmet market need—renting cars to people whose personal vehicle was in for repair, or to use for a trip from home as an alternative to using a personal car.
Taylor built customer loyalty through how he treated his customers. Buffett said, “You long forget about the price but you never forget whether you had a good experience or a poor experience. You will have a hard time finding a person who has had a wonderful experience who isn’t going to come back. If the memory is of rudeness [and indifference], they will never come back.”
Buffett also commented on the need to build a customer experience culture within you organization and by treating your employees in the right way. He said, “As a small business owner and as you grow, not only do you need to affect that interest in people’s wellbeing by yourself, but you have to do it through other people. You won’t do it through other people who do not feel they are being fairly treated or their views aren’t being appropriately considered. We need to learn to multiply ourselves through other people.”
In March 2015, I wrote about a great customer experience I had at an Apple store. I had purchased an iPhone for my wife online, and wanted to buy her a protective case for her new phone. When I entered the store, I was greeted by an Apple specialist who after personally showing me available phone case choices, asked if I would be interested in trying Apple Pay to purchase the case. She set up my own iPhone to do so.
I left the store with a feeling that I was treated with patience and respect for my simple purchase, and that the Apple specialist was genuinely interested in helping me. Whenever I call Apple for tech support, my customer experience is the same. I am able to speak to someone on the phone at Apple who cares and understands the issue I am calling about, and effectively addresses it in a timely manner.
Apple realizes that by providing a world-class customer experience, they can charge a premium for their products and services.
Why don’t all businesses strive to be the preeminent provider of a great customer experience? Those that do will find it to be a significant competitive differentiator.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.