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Monday, November 21, 2011

While We Were Sleeping©

By Guest Blogger Jeff Nischwitz, Think Again! Coaching

For years businesses have been searching for what we considered to be the holy grail in business … satisfied clients, and mountains of information, hundreds of books, and thousands of hours of videos have been dedicated to providing the ideas, tactics and strategies for achieving this objective.  While all of these ideas are worthwhile, the problem is that while we were sleeping the target moved. Satisfied clients (or even clients that like us and our work) are no longer good enough; and perhaps were never good enough. In today’s business environment the only “good” client, is a client that loves us and our products or services. Today’s business truth is that if we only have satisfied clients or clients that merely like us, then we’re losing the game.

“In the beginning” (of business thought) the concept of creating satisfied clients made sense because the bar was artificially low due to limited competition, which allowed for easier differentiation. As a result, businesses could just do the bare minimum (and achieve satisfied clients) and rely upon their other differentiators to create and sustain their revenue models. But as competition improved and increased, the prior differentiators became less and less real or valuable. We all started looking alike, which meant that merely satisfying a client was not enough to differentiate our business or to provide a strong foundation for sustainability (let alone growth).

What’s “wrong” with merely satisfied clients? First, satisfied clients “fire” us (often without warning) and leave us wondering “what did we do wrong?” In truth, we often didn’t do anything “wrong,” but we did fail to understand their needs and deliver the type of value and experience that makes us memorable and indispensable. The problem is that because these clients are only satisfied, they are likely to move to one of your competitors who happen along with a better price or which talks about a great client experience. In fact, it’s often the case that merely satisfied clients leave us, while clients that are unhappy or even dissatisfied choose to stay and make our lives miserable, distracting us from our good clients.

Second, satisfied clients are silent – they don’t talk about us with anyone. While we could fashion a story that makes this sound not too bad (after all, it could be worse – they could be proactively complaining about us), a silent client is a hurtful client. This is especially true when they’re silent (or neutral) when our business or our industry comes up in a conversation. Imagine that a group of business owners are talking at a business event and you or your business comes up in the conversation. The good news is that one of our existing clients is a part of this conversation. The bad news is that this client is only satisfied and responds with a neutral and non-committal statement (e.g., “They’re okay,” “They’re pretty good,” “They do a nice job,” etc.) While not negative, these neutral (at best) comments are the kiss of death for our business because not only was the opportunity lost to have a raving fan endorsing you in the conversation, but the neutral response is heard by most people as a quiet complaint.

Being “okay” is not good enough and certainly will not differentiate you or your business. Instead, we must commit ourselves and our teams (in words and actions) to delivering a client experience and exceeding expectations so that our clients actually love us and are “Wowed” by us (which is usually more about the experience than our actual products and services). Clients that love us will pay for our value (often significantly more than the price they could get with our competitors). Clients that love us will talk about us (when asked and especially when not asked) and endorse us to other potential clients. What we call Raving Fans! Clients that love us will also usually stick with us even when we make a mistake or drop the ball because their prior experience (that created the “love”) built up a reserve of good will with the client. Most important, clients that love us will help us grow our business beyond surviving to thriving.

The bar has been raised on the client experience and whether spoken or not, our clients and potential clients are making it clear that they expect to be more than just satisfied. While the bar has been raised by clients, we must continue to raise our own internal bars so that we continue to focus our efforts, energy and tactics on wowing clients and building the “love.”  Like so many aspects of business life in our culture, the game and the rules have changed and we must change as well. Otherwise, we’ll all wake up to find that our clients and our business have disappeared … while we were sleeping.

Jeff Nischwitz is a speaker with The Expert Speakers. He can be reached at

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