Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families

What drives customers crazy about businesses like yours?

Most of us can think of things that drive us crazy about dealing with a certain type of business.

Here are some examples:

  • Have you ever been to an emergency room in a hospital? You can sit for hours waiting to see a doctor. Your idea of an emergency and theirs are obviously quite different.
  • Have you received a bill from an attorney specifying a small charge for copy charges?
  • Have you been put on hold for more than five minutes when calling a business?
  • Have you been in “auto attendant hell” when calling a business?
  • Have you had products die just after the warranty expired, or within a year when the product had a 90-day warranty?
  • Have you hired an appliance repair person who left a mess?
  • Have you had an automobile repair done and it wasn’t properly completed? (A classic example is not replacing the engine plug after an oil change.)
  • Have you delivered the information to prepare your income tax returns and two months later they still aren’t done?
  • Did you buy a car and the next day you saw an advertisement for the same car for considerably less?

For a business owner, anything that annoys a customer is an opportunity. Another name for these annoyances is key frustrations. Almost every industry has them.

A fairly straightforward way to create a competitive advantage for your business is to identify the key frustrations for your industry. Then create systems or staffing in your business to eliminate them. Then publicize this difference for your business, possibly with a guarantee.

If a hospital advertised, “When you come to our emergency room, a doctor will see you within 30 minutes or the service is free”, would you prefer that hospital?

If an auto dealer advertised, “If you bring an ad for the same model of car with the same features as we sold to you for a lower price, we’ll refund the difference plus $200,” would you prefer that dealer?

If a television manufacturer offered a three-year warranty when an equivalent brand offered a 90 day warranty, and the manufacturer highlighted that fact, would you prefer the longer warranty?

For years, American automobile manufacturers sold cars that customers felt they had to trade in every three years because they believed the cars were unreliable. Then Japanese manufacturers built more durable and reliable cars at competitive prices. As a result, customer bought a lot more Japanese cars. Then American manufacturers improved the reliability and durability of the cars they sold. Now people drive cars with mileage up to 200,000 and more!

Dominos pizza built an empire with “Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”

Federal Express’s business was built on “Absolutely, positively overnight.”

Have you asked your best customers what drives them crazy about doing business with you? Why not invite them to lunch and ask them?

It’s fairly easy to survey prospective customers about their frustrations. People are hungry to be heard about what drives them crazy. Or go to a trade show and ask some of the attendees what drives them nuts about a product or service that they use.

But don’t disappoint your customers and fail to keep your promises. You will lose your customers’ trust and they might not want to deal with you again. (I have been surprised to see many businesses do just that, including some banks.)

Would you like my help identifying your customers’ key frustrations and working with you to create a competitive advantage for your business? Send me an email at to schedule an initial consultation.

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Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families