Sunday, July 12, 2009

Terrible Service as COMPELLING Differentiation

I was recently pondering how effective an attempt at differentiation like this would work:

"You should choose us because we aren't like everybody else: we have terrible customer service."

Hey, at least there's an attempt to create a compelling differentiation in that statement. It certainly has a greater impact on the prospect then: "We're different because we have excellent quality and superb customer service." Oh really?

This problem, an inability to have a compelling message for the prospect, is rampant throughout the business world.

Here's an example from Dan McNicholl, CIO of General Motors, referring to IT VARs:

Don't attempt to offer every kind of solution to his organization or sound like any other solution provider, McNicholl says. Like most other CIOs, McNicholl says he's heard the same lines time and again. "We have the most innovative people; we have the most dependable methodologies; we have the most competitive prices. It's like a record after a while," he says. "None of them have created a reason, other than price, for me to choose them. Pick a dimension you want to compete on, and build your brand and focus on it. Otherwise, I'm going to pick you on price."

P.S. While my opener was meant as tongue-in-cheek, there is a restaurant, which sadly I can't track down the name of at the moment (yes, even via Google), that I recall reading about a bit back and is known for good food and absolutely horrendous service. It has turned the latter into their badge of honor (and which inspires word-of-mouth I'm sure). They intentionally make the service as horrible as possible because customers actually come to see if the stories are true (to be treated poorly). Customers would actually be disappointed if they didn't leave with a waiter telling them to "piss off", etc.

The point: The important part is that, whatever your compelling differentiation is, it ought not be half-ass or you risk diluting (and maybe even destroying) its effectiveness. It also needs to be congruent with what you actually are (and are not). It matters less what it actually is and more that it is real, noticeable, and intriguing.



Josh Richards said...

btw, the quote from Dan McNicholl is from the following article:
Five Things CIOs Hate.

Unknown said...

It may not be the example you're looking for, but Durgin Park in Boston is famous for its surly waitstaff. The food, of course, is excellent.

Josh Richards said...

Jake: I like how on the Durgin Park web site it says in big letters "ESTABLISHED BEFORE YOU WERE BORN". :-)

Nah, that's not the place but, from some of the reviews, it may be a fair example.

The place I'm thinking of makes it particularly dramatic. As in, there is no such thing as good or polite service at all, ever. They go all out to make it (seem) as if you're getting no respect as the customer, period. You go there to get mistreated because it's, uh, fun. :)