Creating A Win-Win Relationship With Your Competition

By Donna West

“Telling you my success secrets is one thing; I’m glad to do it. But telling everyone in a presentation is another thing. I don’t exactly want my competitors to know what I’m doing, ya know?” Too often this attitude rears its ugly head; and not only is it bad for the industry, it is even bad for the speaker’s business. Let’s look at how shortsighted this philosophy can be. Let’s assume that there are three message centers in a medium-sized town–one is excellent, one is average, and one is pretty bad. If I am a customer of the excellent center, I am accustomed to a high service level; I expect it, and I don’t necessarily think it is something I need to shout from the rooftops. I will probably be very loyal unless the quality of service drops dramatically.

If I use the average center, I am less impressed with my service, but I think they’re all about the same. Inertia probably keeps me with this center; but if someone puts some effort into winning my business, I will change.

If I am a customer of the pretty bad service, my experience is one of disappointment. I probably think there isn’t a good service out there, and I stick with the devil I know. I stay, that is, until a final straw breaks my back, and I go looking for another alternative! Not another service, another alternative. This is where I look for a voice mail machine or a cell phone.

Remember how conventional wisdom says one dissatisfied customer tells five or seven or fifteen other people how upset they are? Well, in this scenario we have one customer of each of the first two centers who probably tell one or two people at most about their good service. Then we have the third customer who is going to tell a lot of folks about his service, and it won’t be complimentary. If this happens over and over, and it will, pretty soon half the potential customers in town are going to believe all services are as bad as the third call center.

The moral of that story is, if you are the best and you don’t help your competitors to be better, you all lose! Conversely, if I am as good as I can be, and I teach my competitors to be as good as they can be, we create a larger demand for our services. Pretty soon all kinds of small (and not so small) businesses are looking at what we can provide for them–what solutions we have to their problems, and how we can help them stretch their labor dollars.

If teaching your competitor how to market to your niche is a little too progressive for you, begin by showing them how to make their training better or share an account set-up or specific protocol. We provide a necessary and valuable service to other businesses. Help your competition reach higher standards, and you all can reach higher profitably.

Donna West is President of Focus Telecommunications, Inc., www.focustele.com.

[From Connection Magazine – July 2000]

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