Innovate, Don’t Imitate


One of the most effective ways to keep a competitive edge is to think like a prospective customer and compare your business frequently to your competition. What does your competitor offer that your business does not?

While it’s helpful to stay informed of what your competition is doing, you should avoid copying their ideas. Rather, if you see a good idea that you’d like to implement, find a way to add more value and make it an even better idea. For example, if your competitor offers free shipping on purchases of $100, you could provide free shipping on all purchases and possibly even returns, which removes potential risk when placing an order.

If your competition sells a comparable product, an easy way to add extra value to your business is through service. Whether you have longer business or customer support hours, free shipping, a better warranty, free training, or live phone operators (no automated phone service), it’s often these types of value-ads that really stand out when customers compare businesses.

Another great way to gain customer perspective is with a customer survey or questionnaire. Ask your audience how you can improve, what new offerings they wish you provided, and what they like best about your company. Their answers could easily point to innovative ideas that will give you a competitive advantage.

Things to Avoid Saying to a Customer

A big part of customer service excellence is saying the right thing to customers. Here are a few phrases to avoid, since they may cause you to lose a sale…and possibly even a customer:
“That’s our policy.” This is a frustrating response that’s aimed at shutting down conversation and shows no interest in customer satisfaction. It can be just as maddening as hearing someone say “tough luck.”

“No.” Nearly everything is possible for a price. Respond to unusual requests by telling customers you will check into it. Then get back to them with a cost.

“Check our website.” Instead of making customers hunt around, offer them a direct link to the page or file they are looking for.

“We’re closed.” Customers may not be aware of store hours or what time it is. So rather than turning away a sale, try saying, “We close at __ o’clock and reopen at __ o’clock. Is there something I can quickly help you with now?”

“I don’t know.” If you don’t know an answer, tell the customer you will find out for them.

“That’s not my department.” Instead of pushing customers away with a vague answer, try saying, “I’ll find someone who knows more about that department.”

“No problem.” By saying “no problem,” you are implying that customers are causing a problem. Remember, customers are not an interruption of our work; they are the purpose of our work.

“It’s out of stock.” If you can’t tell a customer when an item will be restocked, they will likely buy it elsewhere. Try saying, “That item is currently out of stock and will be back in on _____. Can I get your name and number to call you when it comes in?”
Customer issues arise occasionally at all businesses. However, it is the way your staff handles those issues that determines if customers will return to your business or take their money elsewhere.

Six Steps to Handling Mistakes at Work

Mistakes are a natural part of life… and business. How you handle those mistakes will go a long way in turning a dissatisfied customer around. Here are a few things you can do when mistakes occur at your company to help resolve the issue and make sure it doesn’t happen again:
Acknowledge the mistake. When someone brings an error to your attention, own up to it. Apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused, and get to work (with the customer) to resolve the situation. We at Print & Copy Factory, work very hard on procedures to avoid any mistakes at all.  But sometimes a misunderstanding or equipment will malfunction and we want to make it right. Our commitment is 100% satisfaction for our customers.

Act swiftly. As soon as a mistake comes to light, get to work fixing the problem. If it’s a quick fix, all that much better. However, if resolving the issue will take more time, let the customer know that, too, and set a realistic timetable for reaching a resolution.

Keep the customer involved. Ask the customer what you can do to make things right, and keep in close touch with them until the issue is resolved. This will help the customer see how seriously you take the situation… and their business.

Follow up and follow through. After the situation has been resolved, follow up with the customer to make sure everything is now okay. Follow through on any promises you made, and let the customer know how much you appreciate their feedback.

Schedule a postmortem. Once you’ve had a little time to breathe, gather together the key members of your team who worked on resolving the problem. Figure out what caused the initial error, and decide what can be done differently in the future to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Shore up your processes. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step. With the team’s recommendations now in hand, start implementing the changes you think will help your company move forward into the future.

We at Print & Copy Factory for 2012, have started the LEAN manufacturing program, where daily, we work on improving our processes.  Stay tuned, we hope to add more information as we progress, using videos as well as blogs.