Your People: The Competitive Advantage
Posted by Becky Carroll on May 23, 2007
One of the many benefits of blogging kicks in when I hear great stories from my readers. On Monday I received a fabulous email from my new friend Scott Westerman. Some of you may remember Scott who commented on a story Sandy Renshaw of PurpleWren posted a few months ago, which I followed up on as a great example of listening to customers. Scott is now with Comcast and is the Area Vice President for Comcast Southwest (New Mexico and Arizona); he is also a blogger! He will be a competitive advantage for Comcast in the southwest as he is so focused on listening to customers.
Apparently, Scott liked my post so much he was inspired (his words, not mine!) to send me a Customers Rock! story from the cable industry. Scott has given me his permission to share it here with my community; thank you! It is a great example of how the connection with people truly makes all the difference, even to the point of creating a barrier to exit. It is also a good example of the personal touch, which wrote about in my post on Customer Language.
The Ultimate Competitive Advantage by Scott Westerman:
In three decades as a telecom guy, I’ve enjoyed both technological and price advantages… and disadvantages. I’ve learned the most about customer loyalty in the situations where we’ve had intense competitors, some of whom appeared at the time to have the better value proposition. I always found it possible to win if we remembered one thing:
It always comes back to customer service.
Here’s a great example. At one point, I had responsibility for a rural system that had been bypassed for the upgrades that would have kept it line line with the plethora of channels offered at the time by the satellite guys. Even though the competition offered more stuff at an arguably lower price, this little team seemed to have an iron lock on the market.
All you had to do was to visit the local system office to see why. About 80% of the customers paid their bill in person, just so that they could say hello to the women who worked behind the counter. Although we had a toll free phone number to a well equipped call center, the ladies routinely gave out the local office number and the customers had the technicians’ cell info taped to refrigerators with post-it notes. Our employees were scout masters, PTA officers and school board members. They weren’t afraid to wear their cable sweatshirts to the grocery store and would happily take a bill payment in the ice cream aisle. When there were questions, customers would say, “I have to call Bonnie at the cable company.” The relationship was personal.
When I asked one of our 20-year-plus front counter people why so few people went to satellite she put the secret into a single sentence:
It’s always harder to say goodbye to a friend than it is to say it to a company.
I tell that story to every new employee orientation class that comes through our doors these days and recommend that they read Bob Greenleaf’s terrific monograph, “The Servant As Leader”, to really understand what business is all about.
Like any habit, service excellence is something you don’t always get right, but if you practice it with a passion, the rest of the numbers take care of themselves.
Amen, Scott. You rock!
(Photo credit: redbaron)