Customers patronize many different companies, some small, some large.  But customers do not differentiate between them when comparing their experiences as customers: every company is measured against the performance of all the rest.  This means it is especially important for us to not only compete against our marketplace competitors, because every industry is our competitor in service.  Compare and contrast these two cases:

Felicia had a few Grohe faucets in her home that she bought over a decade ago during a remodel.  Recently, she noticed that the sprayer button on the kitchen faucet was deteriorating.  She tried to find a replacement online, but couldn’t even remember the name of the faucet’s style.  Looking up the customer service section of the website, she noted that there was a lifetime warranty if she had the original sales receipt (which she’d misplaced ages ago).  She decided to contact service anyway, hoping they could sell her identify her faucet and sell her the proper replacement parts.  She was nearly instantly connected to Rick, to whom she explained the problem and how she had no documentation for her purchase from 2007.  Rick immediately offered to help anyway, asking for her to email photos of the faucet and the broken area.  Felicia fired off the email and heard back from Rick immediately that an entire faucet head replacement would be in the mail to her the following day, free of charge.  “I couldn’t believe my good luck in dealing with this company.  Sure, it’s a higher end brand, but they’re often the worst about offering help if you can’t provide tons of documentation and a promise of your first born.  I really couldn’t be happier with Grohe and can’t believe they turned down the opportunity to take more of my money.”

Ryan didn’t have as much luck when he reached out to a company for help.  He had ordered an expensive pair of shoes for his wife, but when they arrived, there were some flaws in the leather.  He wanted them to be perfect, so he contacted customer service to see about rushing out a replacement pair.  Rather than being met with an apology and efforts to make things right, he received pushback and blame.  “The representative first told me that ‘it’s the nature of this particular leather to look worn’.  I pointed out that it didn’t look distressed, it looked damaged, like poor quality control.  The representative then, after requesting and receiving pictures of what I was referring to, had the nerve to suggest my wife had worn them and walked on something sharp or rough.  I hadn’t even given her the shoes yet!  I ended up going from wanting a replacement to scrapping the whole thing, demanding a refund after threatening to go to my credit card company, and coming up with another gift idea.  So much for service.  I really expected more.”

No matter our industry, no matter our company size, we need to compete for our customers’ loyalty and satisfaction against every company they’ve ever done business with.  They are constantly collecting data points on what good service looks like and how positive interactions feel, and then measuring us against those experiences.  Let’s not get complacent because we offer the finest service when compared to our direct competitors.  Rather, let’s continue to more the goal line until we can confidently say that we offer the best service, period.