In business, when asked what differentiates you from the competition the most common answer is “Customer Service”  We’ve got the best customer service!

….I bet you do.

Here’s the thing. If everyone is saying that, including your competitors, who’s correct?  Only one of you can be the best.

Customer service is many things to many people, and it happens at many stages during the process of the business relationship. Handling your customer service correctly can often mean more word of mouth referrals for your business, and to the contrary, handling it wrong, can result in no one referring you, or even worse, base word of mouth.

Recently, I stopped into the local propane office to set up an account for the propane I use in my house to operate my gas fireplace and a backup generator. I hadn’t actually purchased propane yet since living in my home, so I needed a new account. When I set up the account with the staff, it was the day before I was leaving on a speaking tour and I wouldn’t be home for another week. I didn’t want the propane filled while others were home because I didn’t want it to be their concern about turning on and testing the gas fireplace, so I set up delivery for the day after I would return home.  I was clear with the propane company and they noted it in my file.

When I returned home, I found the delivery ticket indicating that propane has been delivered 2 days before the agreed upon date.  When I called the company to find out why they transferred me to the owner to speak with me. I could tell he was completely confused as to why this was an issue. I explained to him that I was clear with his staff and that they properly noted the ticket and the order for the correct delivery date, however, the driver filled the tank 2 days before the agreed upon date.  He was so perplexed that he said “Well, I have to tell you that this is the first time someone has not been overjoyed with an early delivery.”

I then gave him more context related to the home, the fact that we hadn’t had propane for over a year since we moved in, and the stress of turning on gas for the fireplace was not something I wanted anyone else in the home to be concerned with.  He then understood that.

As a business owner, you need to ask the right questions, to be sure that when you make a promise you keep it.  In my book, I talk about overdelivering, including delivering before your customer expects their purchase to be delivered. In doing so, you need to be sure that you aren’t uprooting someone’s life or messing with their schedule which would ultimately inconvenience them.

Think about this. If you own a kitchen design and installation company, you can’t deliver the kitchen early, if the other subcontractors are not done with their work!

If you are an attorney, you can’t show up to court before your appointed date!

There are however many other ways to over deliver…but always do your research through appropriate questions with your contacts to ensure that you aren’t messing anything up.

Had the propane company simply texted or called me to check on the possibility of delivering early, I would have declined and asked them to keep the date so I could be home and turn on the fireplace while they were there.

What is of utmost importance when delivering your products or services is that you keep your promises, because that WILL result in more word of mouth referrals.