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Borders versus Notting Hill

Borders versus Notting Hill
If the people in your organisation aren’t adding value, why do you need them at all?

That’s the clear takeaway message from this mornings news that two brand new banks are setting up operations in the UK where not only will there be no branches, there won’t be any people to speak to either. Wow, that’s brave move you might think, but think a little deeper and it makes perfect sense.

For many people, a bank is just a commodity to have transactions with. With the technology we now have available, frankly you might as well just formalise the arrangement and have no customer contact staff at all. I have a mortgage, current account and a credit card with my bank and I have never spoken to a single person in 10 years. I don’t even know if they really exist. I click some buttons when I need to and stuff just happens!

Iv’e been saying for years that if you are in the business of purely satisfying needs (logical, transactional, “surface level” desires) then a business model built around human contact is redundant. The greatest need satisfaction machine on the planet has already been invented and it begins with www. If you are in the business of needs satisfaction and don’t adapt, then sooner or later, somebody is going to come along with far lower overheads, a fancy IT system and take you out of business. Need a book at 3am in the morning, Amazon. Not sure what to buy aunt Dorris for her birthday, Not on The High Street. Car insurance up for renewal…you get the picture.

The smart business owners of course recognise that you can have a perfectly viable business model by satisfying what customers want (emotionally driven desires). Need a book at 3am in the morning, sure go to Amazon but want to have a general natter with a real person, chew the fat, sip coffee for an hour and oh, buy a book or two as well, then you need to go to somewhere that can actually give you what you want (for me, that’s something like the bookshop in the film Notting Hill). Most of all this type of interaction is fun. On the flip side, take the same idea of a book shop, but make it a sterile environment and take the passion out of selling books and look what happened to Borders!

As more and more things become available online (we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg) I think we will witness a polarisation of customer service. Needs based transactions will shift to the needs satisfaction machine and servicing WANTS will require a reconnection with traditional service values (trust and genuine intent to care and serve).

This means that some businesses will struggle, in particular large organisations that are unable to replicate the service standards that they were once built on, when they now have hundreds of stores and a colossal infrastructure (hello Tesco). The consumer will be left asking the question “why can’t I just buy this online?” and that will create opportunities to give people what they want.

It’s a reminder of how we have to adapt to the increasing requirements of the customer service savvy. The polarisation of customer service will simply exaggerate those that can and can’t deliver. There will be no place for “just good enough service” if there are online alternatives. This is a problem and an opportunity for dentistry because dentistry is for the foreseeable future not going to be an online purchase. The problem is that if service is poor, the only option is to go somewhere else or not bother at all, which creates resentment and dilutes trust. The opportunity is that if we give customers what they want, they will value it and won’t look elsewhere. This builds loyalty and trust.

This is why I am not convinced that supply of private dentistry will be as aggressively taken over by corporates as some predict. Sure, there are economies of scale to be had from being part of a small group but businesses that consistently get the basics right, keep costs lean, deliver on promises, satisfy WANTS rather than just needs, build trust and loyalty…well they tend to survive, they always have.

So, if your people aren’t adding value, it’s time for a rethink. It’s Borders versus Notting Hill

If you would like to discover how you can lead your business and develop a team that add value, then we have some reading for you. It’s called The Coffee Break Series and your first download is part of a series that we will be sharing in 2015.

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