9577189707_84a8eb7eaf_zConsumers no longer compare your business only with its competitors. The PA Consulting Group put it perfectly: “Your customers compare your performance with their insurance company, their supermarket, their holiday company. If one company exceeds the customer’s benchmark of what ‘good looks like,’ they will expect the same from you.”

Of course, this statement is not suggesting that consumers foolishly believe there’s no difference between these businesses. Clearly an insurance company fulfills vastly different duties than does a grocery store—no one would argue that. The point I believe this statement makes, however, is quite perceptive: that what modern consumers value or regard as “good” is something all businesses have in common—the customer experience, whether online or offline. And these days, more and more, the experience is happening online (or even more realistically, on a smartphone).

  1. It’s a business’s mobile-optimized website where customers browse for helpful information on their smartphones.
  2. It’s useful content like articles, infographics, and powerful images being shared on social networks that help consumers connect with a business.
  3. It’s a library of videos on YouTube explaining how a business works and what steps a customer might (or should) be taking at any given moment.
  4. It’s tools or resources a client is provided smack in the middle of working with a business to remain productive and in-the-know at all times—like an app or a spreadsheet, even.

Once again, consumers no longer compare a business only with its competitors. Think of it like this: offering the best in-grocery store shopping experience may not be enough to truly delight customers if what the customer really wants is the power to order groceries from a smartphone for pickup or delivery.

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For example, Rocket Mortgage (by Quicken Loans), in its recent Super Bowl ad asked, “What if we did for mortgages what the Internet did for buying music, plane tickets, and shoes? What if you could turn an intimidating process into an easy one? You could get a mortgage on your phone!”—the ad exclaimed.

Now it’s worth including that after the ad aired there was a pseudo uprising against it on Twitter. In fact, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau spoke up and tweeted, “When it comes to #mortgages, take your time, ask questions and #know before you owe.” Sound advice, if I do say so myself. Notwithstanding, web traffic to the Rocket Mortgage website spiked during the Super Bowl. So like it or not, it struck a chord with some consumers.

Now, it’s important to note, the comparison game consumers play doesn’t pit one whole company up against another whole company. Rather, it pits one particular part of a customer’s experience working with a business against what their experience was with another business, even if totally unrelated. Make sense? Not whole numbers, but fractions, so to speak.

Let me illustrate this concept with an example. Whenever I visit Kohl’s and stand in line to check out, I find myself hoping and wishing they’d modify their checkout process to be more like it is at the Apple Store, which has no lines, ever.

At Kohl’s, everyone stands in one, solitary line, and when a customer reaches the front of the line, he or she looks out across a crowded space filled with dozens of registers and paying customers and is expected to quickly catch sight of the one-and-only open register, which usually occurs after an aggravated cashier begins jumping, shouting, and arm-waving, trying to get said customer’s attention.

At Apple, there is no line, never ever—excluding product launch days, but even then, it’s incredibly well-managed. You just checkout with whomever is assisting you on the sales floor.

My point is, I’m not wishing Kohl’s would be more like Belk, one of its competitors. Rather, I’m judging their checkout experience based upon what I think “good looks like,” period.

In our businesses, what are the pain points our clients (or prospective clients, even) experience for which they might compare us to something they believe is superior? Perhaps these will get your mind rolling?

  1. Why can’t you tell me my exact costs for closing or my monthly payment at any given moment? Whenever I’m shopping online, my cart always calculates my balance and adjusts automatically.
  2. Why isn’t there a mobile app on which I can simply schedule home tours by myself, at my convenience—like hailing an Uber? Of course, my agent would still open the door (I don’t expect to drive the Uber do I?)—I simply want the power to make the appointment.
  3. Why can’t homes be sold with no-haggle pricing, like cars at CarMax? Of course, I still want the best deal possible—the fair deal. But more than that, I don’t want to feel ripped off.
  4. Why is working with my inspector, appraiser, and mortgage consultant such an affair? Why can’t I hire one company that does or at least handles all of it—like a general contractor, perhaps?
  5. Why is the process for buying or selling a house so cumbersome—such an intimidating process? Why can’t it be more streamlined? Say like what the Internet did for buying music, plane tickets, and shoes, possibly?

Whether or not these “why not” and “why can’t I” statements appear valid to you isn’t the point. The point is that consumers no longer compare their experiences working with a business to only its competitors. They say things like, “I can walk onto the car lot and drive off with a brand-new car in less than an hour. So why does it take me weeks to buy and close on a house?” Perhaps this question strikes you as being completely invalid, but that doesn’t prevent it from causing your customers to wish for something better. Show your customers what “good looks like.”

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Photo by the talented, Nicolas Alejandro

Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact