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3 Things to Consider About Your Competition

I have been trying to get back in shape. That is, assuming, I ever had a shape worth getting back into.

That said, I've spent a lot of time recently at my local gym - a chain called Planet Fitness. I enjoy this brand as they don't take themselves too seriously, have all the equipment you'd ever want, and are open 24 hours. The other thing I enjoy is that with my membership I can go to any one of their 1,700 locations.

Recently, I was using something called a TRX strap during my workout. These attach to a large structure in a gym and allow you to do different kinds of body weight exercises. They are beloved by trainers and work out enthusiasts. Following my workout I snapped a photo of these straps and sent out a funny comment on Facebook about how much I hate them.

And then it happened.

A few of my Facebook friends who are also members of this chain saw the photo and realized that I had something in my gym that they did not. So with the lightening speed that only social media can muster, they reached out to the business via social media using the photo that I had posted.

It felt a little like being hunted in the Hunger Games.

Most of the reports came back that their locations had added the TRX bands and all was right in the world of fitness.

But if you are doing the math at home, you'll realize that Planet Fitness just competed with itself. And thankfully, it won.

This is a meaningful example of the state of competition we find ourselves in with customers, guests, and consumers. It is easy to think that if you are a restaurant, that you're competing with the deli across the street. However, you're being compared to anyone that touches your guests on a daily basis.

So consider these three points when it comes to competition:

You are competing with yourself As we discussed with the Planet Fitness example above, if you have multiple locations, you'll be in a constant state of comparison about which one is best. But even if you operate a single site, you are being compared to the last time someone visited your store or location. This is a test of consistency. If your service is great one time, but choppy the next or if you bounce from organized to disorderly, that erodes your brand overall. This is where training is key, as it is the best way to reinforce your service standards, executional processes, and organizational values.

Your competition isn't limited to your market segment So often I see organizations silo themselves with their direct competitors when they think about the competition. This just isn't practical or effective. Your customers and consumers interact with thousands of brands every month - even if just peripherally. Whether through advertising or direct engagement, your customers are more informed than ever. Just in your social media feed today you saw ads for a dozen brands that you tucked away in your memory. Whether or not you ever order that robot bartender, you may compare your coffee maker, drone, or cashier at the grocery store to it in the future. You may run an airline ticket counter, but your service is being compared to what your guests experienced at a grocery store, restaurant, or furniture store. These comparisons are only going to grow as customers continue to interact with more brands each year.

Geography is meaningless The wealth of information available for consumers at a moment's notice has made location irrelevant. I spent a lot of time working in higher education and it used to be that students could only compare universities by brochures or visits to campus. Today with detailed websites and virtual tours, students can compare any college to any other with a few clicks. Same has become prevalent in healthcare, where satisfaction scores, reviews, and ratings are online for the public to examine. This means that a world view is needed when it comes to changing guest and customer expectations. The other piece of this is the evolving supply chain that allows customers to receive items from greater distances more quickly than ever. Customers can order gourmet ice cream from across the country, a cheeseburger from across town, or groceries from a block away - and the speed, convenience, and cost effectiveness must be considered by every business as these continue to reduce friction for consumers.

So take a moment today and really consider who your customers are comparing you to - and more importantly, how are you stacking up?

Never miss a chance to learn something from another business or industry that can make you more valuable to your customers.

Thanks for keeping your guests top of mind and center stage. Tony

Tony Johnson, CCXP

Customer Service Leader | Author | Speaker

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