Grant Leboff: Andy, in your book you talk about thinking in 3D. I like the idea and the concept, but just explain it a little bit more what that means.
Andy: Thinking in 3D is being dramatically and demonstrably different. What we actually identify, if you look at most businesses, there are a number of levels it can go to. We talk about minus 1D is worse than your competitors. I’ll stress that it is it worse in the areas that your customers say are important. Zero is the same as, as good as or as bad as. So Management consultants are all as good as or as bad as. The best businesses, at a minimum, are better than, and they’re better in the areas that customers say are important. 1D is just being slightly better than. By definition, if you start doing things well, there’s a fair chance your competitors will start copying, so they’ll catch up very very quickly.
2D is being dramatically different, and 3 is dramatically and demonstrably, doing everything that you can. It’s often a mix of things, we talk about a bundle of skills, methods, practices that differentiate your business. The key things to me, there’s got to be things that customers want, that customers recognize, and in an ideal world, customers will pay more for, but at the minimum will pay for.
Grant Leboff: In your book, it’s interesting because you quote Richard Branson. He’s someone, and Virgin is a business that are recognized as going into marketplaces and disrupting them and doing things differently. Of course, people find that exciting. If you know Virgin are doing something new, you often want to check it out whatever market.
How does you know, for normal people sitting at home trying to run their business, who are in the day to day. You’re an accountant, you’re a solicitor, you’re doing bog standard services. You might be doing them very well, how does someone get into that mindset to start to actually think about how they think differently to deliver something better?
Andy: I talk about breaking the rules. The key thing is saying, “What’s happening in our industry that maybe irritates or annoys clients, or maybe more importantly we could do differently. It’s the law firm that has a direct line to the partner. You can get straight to him or her, but they’ve actually got caller ID, so that when you ring them they know it’s you. Simple stuff, whereas a lot of law firms I see, people don’t return calls.
Or the accounting firm that, after the budget, we always get a little brochure from them – it’s the same brochure that everybody sends – well why not just a little few key points saying – a bit more effort – but these are the key bits for you and in your business from this budget, any concerns you give me a call.
It’s little things that actually, I want to say, break the rules. I think for me very often it’s actually saying, what are the things that irritate or annoy our clients and customers in our industry? How can we do the opposite?
As I say, it’s little things. In the large businesses, yes, it’s the, Amazon I would argue is one of the first ever that dramatically, just completely changed the way we did things. Uber, completely changing the whole ethos of how you hire a cab or a taxi. But in most small businesses I think very often it’s actually working on; what are the things that we can do that our competitors aren’t or even better, can’t do?
Grant Leboff: Are you saying the best place for a business to start, if someone’s watching this today, would be to start to look at the customers and say what are the things that we think irritate them? Would you suggest go and speaking to customers about it?
Andy: Absolutely. Ask your customers what irritates or annoys you about us and/or about our industry. A couple things for me also is how do we compare to our competitors, if they know. Again the downside is sometimes if you’ve got ongoing relationships with customers, they’re not comparing you with competitors because they’ve never used them. What they’re comparing them with is your past experiences. You’ve got to keep building on those and get better at doing them. I think sometimes it’s about being brave and actually just saying, let’s try this and then see what our customers think.
Grant Leboff: I understand. One of the things I always say to my customers in some of the seminars that I give is; people aren’t good enough normally at looking at their service or product through their customer’s eyes. They get very bogged down with what they’re doing. Is that in your experience?
Andy: I talk to people and say, stand in your own queues, which is about going on your own website, ringing up your own business. Even simple things like listening to your own answering machine. When was the last time you listened to your own out of office answering machine? Out of office email, you know people have standard things or even worse, three months out of date. It’s just this whole idea of I say to people, ring up your own business and just see what happens.
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