Friday, August 27, 2010

How to steal customers from your competition (or in this case, how NOT to)

If a competitor of yours screwed up and that customer came to you looking for help in fixing the mistake, what would you do?

Today I was getting a haircut and I overheard (not that it was hard - they were NOT being discreet... that's a whole other issue) the staff talking about a person that had their hair dyed at a competitor, but it turned out green by mistake. I gather that the competitor couldn't fix the problem, so the customer - let's call him/her Kermit - called the barber shop I was in looking for help.

Each staff member was quite adamant that they did NOT want to try to fix Kermit's problem, citing the potential damage to their reputation if they were unable to fix the problem.

Come again?!?!?

Let me see if I got this straight: A potential customer has come to your door, asking to give you money and be the hero that your competition couldn't be... and you turn them away?

They were worried that their reputation would be tarnished if it didn't go well, and that it would be a waste of product.


Tell the customer you will do your best, but there are no guarantees in a case like this, then give it a shot! If it doesn't work, it's not your reputation that's tarnished. It's still the competitor's problem (which they couldn't fix either). Sure, you used some product and some time, but Kermit PAID FOR THAT! You're no worse off then before you started. And in fact, TURNING THEM AWAY IS THE BEST WAY TO RUIN YOUR REPUTATION! That would be admitting to this potential customer that you are just as inept as the first shop.

Imagine if it works and you fix the problem! You can't buy that kind of press!

Now think of what Kermit is saying to his/her friends right now: 1) Barber shop A screwed up. 2) Barber shop B wouldn't help me. Do you think that's doing you any favours? Nope. Now think of what Kermit would say if you were the hero!

In an economy that's so tight, you have to fight for every last customer.

  1. Do a better job than your competition.
  2. When a potential customer comes to you asking to give you money, say 'yes'. Even if you don't want to. The downside of turning them away is FAR greater.
  3. Empower your employees to think up reasons to take on more business, not shoo it away.

Your turn: You know where I stand on the issue. How about you? Do you think the risk is greater than I do?

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