Who Does It Best?
The Question that Fueled My Passion for Authentic Concern
Some 20 years ago, when I had more hair and much less wisdom, I had the great privilege of going to work for one of the largest publicly traded companies that no one had ever heard of. The name of the company (IMS Health) is not important, what is important is that my first day on the job happened to be the day I discovered that my customer hated my company.
You see, the first day I set foot on my customer’s sprawling and majestic campus in Indianapolis coincided with the day that we were conducting our annual client satisfaction surveys. As it turns out, Eli Lilly and Company was not happy with IMS, and when all the scores were tallied, I was now the proud account leader of the lowest scoring client in IMS Health’s long history. Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending, but first I’d like to share how one of the questions on the survey solidified my passion for doing it best. Ready?
This question was asked at the beginning of each new survey section… “when thinking of X (customer service, quality, integrity, etc., for example) how would you rate IMS Health? Now, when considering X, who does it best?” The beauty and simplicity of that “who does it best?” question opened a whole new window into the mind of our customer, and it was the PERFECT way to elicit the actions we could take without asking them a direct and mundane question.
It was brilliant, and it gave me tremendous insight into the work that we must do for them and the mountain we had to climb to get better. The answer to that question that rattled me to my core is that my customers did NOT confine their responses to my closest competitors or, frankly, to companies within a country mile of my industry.
You see, their reference point was a global reference because my customers did not differentiate the type of customer service they received from their vendor at work, with the type of customer service they received in their personal lives.
Oh crap! I realized that people don’t separate their lives into neat little buckets like “my competitors” or “my vendors” – they compare the best service they’ve ever had with the service they receive from me.
That eureka moment shaped a guiding principle that is alive and well in my leadership philosophy today – it’s not good enough to beat your direct competitor, you must beat the “best ever” to occupy a special place in your customers’ minds.
I’m sharing this story with you hoping that you appreciate that your customer is not comparing your service or experience with the garage next door or the one they parked in last week. They are comparing it to the best experience they ever had six months or six years ago.
As JVH and his team at Parking Today Media make it their mission to raise the profile of the customer experience, my job is to get you thinking about and suggesting ways to improve your customers’ experience.
The focus of this column is two-fold: to drive home the message that your customers’ reference point is NOT your competitor’s service delivery; and to give you a roadmap to build a customer experience you can be proud of by thinking about “who does it best” and emulating the things that impressed you the most.
In fact, I’m not the only one who believes that – we need look no further than Ralph Waldo Emerson himself when he penned his essay “Self Reliance” and wrote:
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, —that is genius….”
I will tell you, that those four words “who does it best” uttered 20 years ago ignited a passion in me to fully appreciate that my “opponent” was much bigger than my closest competitor, and that if I wanted to win my customers’ hearts and minds, I needed to be the best on their global scale.
I told you my story at IMS Health had happy ending. Four years later, a subsequent series of customer satisfaction surveys revealed that I had climbed the mountain from last to first. When I left Lilly as the leader of their account, they scored higher in customer satisfaction than any other IMS Health customer.
As technology, and the power of choice that comes with it, forms its grip around parking, know that you’re only as good as the company that “does it best,” not simply the parking company that does it best. You, as a consumer, are in a great place to form an opinion about what makes for a great customer experience. It’s up to you to see, learn and apply that to your business.