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ARTICLESPersonality & Attitude

GO THE EXTRA MILE

Today’s business has become so competitive that the only way to get that cutting edge is to go the extra mile. We have almost exhausted the direct methods to compete such as price reductions, promotions, raffles etc.

Even innovative and creative ventures have had competition close to their heels. Thanks to technology, a customer can sit in Sweden and get a product from New Zealand. To add on, customers today are fully aware of satisfaction and service aspects.

Given the situation, what something special can we offer the customer that would put us ahead of the rest? Something that he would remember us with and call us again should he need our service?

It is going the extra mile. Give him something more than he expects. Give him a surprise. Keep him thinking and wondering about the unexpected extra. This would require one to be observant in his line of business and come with ways and means to exceed customer expectations. Identify problem areas and come with solutions that would make the customer more than happy. Understand his need of the hour and do that little more.

My previous Finance Controller who was transferred to Singapore early this year told a personal experience of going the extra mile. It is best read in his own words..  

“When we moved here, Allied Pickfords was the moving company we used. The unpacking of the container into our apartment in Singapore started early one Friday morning and as you know, after an hour it was a complete chaos inside the apartment, with all sorts of items lying here and there and more boxes flowing in. In walks a lady with few paper bags and says, "Hi, my name is X and I'm the customer service officer of Allied Pickfords. Welcome to Singapore, here is some hot coffee and warm muffins for you". Sitting down, having that cup of fresh coffee and a warm muffin, in the middle of that chaos, it was very easy for us to decide that, they will be the ones to take care of our next move also. When you think of their product, it can be difficult to find ways of differentiating yourselves from the competitors. Coffee and muffins have nothing to do with the product, but by putting themselves into the customers' position and into the customers' mind at that moment and by investing only few more dollars, they have created a repetitive customer.”  

Just as he narrated it to me, I am sure this is an experience worthy of recommendation to others who are moving. Getting that edge with an extra service is not determined by the size or structure of your business. You need not be an MBA from a recognized university to identify areas of improvement. You do not need professional consultants to work this out for you. You might not even have to spend a dime to go the extra mile as can be seen from the following incident.  

It was Friday afternoon 1315 hrs and we realized that there was no bread at home. We call our friendly neighborhood superman ooops supermarket. Our lifesaver. Unfortunately he would not answer the call, as he has still not opened for a Friday afternoon. I try the supermarket from the next building and the response is similar. Not having got through to either of them we wait and continue watching the cricket match between India and New Zealand. After 15 minutes the phone rings and on checking we realized that it was the supermarket from the neighboring building enquiring whether we had called and what did we want. I asked him to bring up bread (pronto) and continued watching the match and feeling relieved that I would not have to venture out to get it.  This did not seem a chance happening as we received callbacks on later occasions as well.  

Underlying this little incident, what was amazing was that the supermarket from the neighboring building was one up in using technology such as the CLIP and had the customer focus to call and enquire. Having done so he definitely snatched business from the guy in our own building. Whether he was customer focused or shrewd in capturing business, he got the business and I got what I wanted not having to venture out for it on a Friday afternoon with the Cricket World Cup on TV.  Let’s further assume with all certainty that there were other customers who had called, did not get through earlier and who got a call back from the same supermarket. I am sure they felt relieved in getting their emergencies delivered. The supermarket was now ten up on the other supermarket.  

Go the extra mile and voilà, there you are with a string of loyal customers behind you, and with many more coming along with them and you go merrily playing the pipe away. Be it a global organization or a local supermarket - most of the profound rules are basic, simple and direct. Focus on the customer, keep him more than happy and your business is bound to grow.

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