So what I’m suggesting to you is simply this. If you can differentiate a dollar, if you can differentiate coffee, if you can differentiate water, please don’t suggest to me that you cannot differentiate what you do. I believe that all of us can find a way to stand out and move up, to separate ourselves from the pack, to stand above our competition. We just have to know the strategies and the formulas of doing so. That’s what we’re going to be about …
What we have to do is to break it down, separate it, because there are three distinct levels at which all of us here interact with our customers. The reason this is so important is because we need to pull them apart and work on each of these three levels as opposed to lumping everything together and saying, “Oh, that’s a customer experience, that’s customer service, it’s all the same.”
The other important aspect of these three levels is that they are progressive. So in other words, if you haven’t taken care of me at level one, what do you for me at level two and three has no traction. You’ve got to get level one down before I consider what you’re doing at level two. So here are the three levels and think about how we can pull them apart and what you need to do to make your business more distinctive in each of these three levels. Level one is what we call processing …
So notice what we’ve got going on here. We’ve got copycat competition where we’re paying more attention to our competitor than our customer. We have more and tougher competitors that the internet is dropping in, and this global competition is changing for us so times have gotten tougher, and we’ve also got the fact that we take our best customers for granted and they seem to take us for granted. Individually, each one of those creates a difficult challenge for business, but collectively they create a collapse of distinction.
What we have to do are to find ways that we can stand out and move up. So one of the things that I did was to study the businesses that I’ve had the pleasure of working with or working for and talking to them about their customers, and interviewing their customers, and working with their customers to try to find out truly what customers really want. What we found was pretty interesting. There were six basic dimensions of what customers seek in today’s marketplace, but here to me was the most astonishing aspect of the study that we did and that’s simply this. Customers do not …
So I fly into Newark, I rent a car from Hertz, I drive up to Princeton, give them a speech. The next morning I wake up, I become a Manhattan rush hour commuter. How these folks can drink their Starbucks, talk on their cell phone, drive with their knees, honk the horn, and give me the finger all at the same time, I don’t know but they found a way to do it. It was incredible.
I finally find my way into the building in Manhattan where I’m speaking, park in the parking garage, go up and give the speech; and they a were a terrific group, just like you folks. It was just a great mountaintop experience. I finish the speech, go down and pay the $300.00 to get out of the parking garage, and now I’m driving back to LaGuardia airport to check my rental car in, and fly back home to the Midwest. As I’m driving, my adrenaline is pumping. I’m thinking about how great the speech went, and the skyline of Manhattan is so powerful and so impressive. It’s one of these things you never think is going to happen to you. It’s always somebody else.
Auto insurance companies call it stop and squat. Two crooks work together. One pulls up beside you, another is in front of you; and as traffic is moving normally, the one in front of you stands on their brakes. There is nowhere to evade, and these two crooks split the money that they make from the settlement on a rear end collision.
Well here I am driving along thinking about the city, thinking about the speech, and all of a sudden the guy in front of me just stands on it. Bang! Fortunately, my car wasn’t damaged, but the one from Hertz was totaled. My car was home. The airbag went off. It sounded like somebody shot a shotgun there in the car. Have you ever had something like that happen? I think we go on automatic pilot. You know what I mean? We start responding by instinct rather than thinking, we’re so disoriented and shook up. I pry open the door of my rental car, I run up to see if I guy I hit was okay; police later told me his 11th rear end collision of the month. I go back, I find my cell phone under the deflated airbag, and I called 911. I’m still on auto pilot; I’m still operating robotically, instinctually. I realize there is another call I’ve got to make.
If you’ve ever rented a car, you’ve seen it on the ticket jacket. If you have an accident, first call the police and then call Hertz. I’ve got to call Hertz and tell them I’ve crashed their car, but I’m still not all together yet. I’m shook up, I’m flying on auto pilot. I dial the number. I’ve got my rental record number. She answers on the first ring. “Hertz, how may I help you?” Robotically I read my rental record number. I tell her I’ve been involved in an accident at this mile marker. I need to get a wrecker. I need to process the accident claim. I hope to get a ride to the airport, take a later flight home.
She interrupts. She says, “Mr. McKane, is it?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Well sir, I’ve got all your information from that number you gave me, but first are you okay?” I’m still on auto pilot, “Yes ma’am, I’m fine but I need a wrecker at this mile marker. I need to get a ride to the airport to take a later flight home.” She interrupts again and says, “Sir, excuse me for saying this. You don’t sound all right. Are you sure you’re okay?”
For the first time since the wreck, I took a breath and kind of got my wits about me, my legs underneath me, and I said, “Ma’am, I gotta tell you. I am really shook up. I am not injured. I’m physically fine. I’m okay.” She says, “Oh, that is great. For you see, Hertz can always get another car. We can never get another Mr. McKane.”
At that instant, I became a Hertz customer for life. Forever, exactly. Avis is a dollar cheaper. I don’t care. Hertz has told me I’m more important than their cars. I’m not going anywhere else.