Roy H. Williams, The Wizard of Ads, wrote this week about what he calls The Extraordinary People Myth:

“It’s like you’ve asked him to defend his religion; the business owner who believes in growing his businesses through exceptional service delivered by extraordinary people gets testy when you ask him to name a business that has successfully employed this strategy. It’s like trying to convince a believer there is no God. I’ve encountered dozens of business owners who believed in their hearts they had extraordinary employees. None of them ever did.”

I’ve killed far too many brain cells this week thinking about this post, because I completely agree and have experienced what Roy is talking about with our own clients. I don’t want to feel this way. For many years I railed against the super negative quote from a former boss and partner who had reached the highest levels of the furniture industry, who said, “If you want loyalty, get a dog!” It’s painful how many times I’ve watched this quote come true.

Never, nada, zilch, not a single time have I talked with a store owner who acknowledges they have anything other than exceptional service delivered by extraordinary people. Anytime these owners have been pressed even a little it feels like I’ve just asked them to share their political party affiliation with the entire world.

Roy wrote, “It’s like trying to convince a believer there is no God.” I agree. I say, “It’s like getting a Palin hockey-mom to vote for Obama.”

It ain’t happening.

Van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
He was right then and still is today.

The Wizard points out that proper strategy, defined and followed procedures, processes, systems and methods position a company for exceptional action using mere mortal people. Don’t bet the ranch on the greatness of your help.

McDonald’s delivers consistent products and service around the globe using low paid help. Systems, not people, cause this to happen. (Side bar: I’m not arguing that McD’s has great food, so don’t waste your time trying to get me to fight with you on this one.)

Then there is this one: “If we give our customers exceptional service, they’ll tell all their friends.” Be serious, how many times have you heard it, or maybe even said it?

It can’t hurt. But again I wonder if it’s really worth betting the ranch?

Roy says, “Good service leads to loyalty but doesn’t breed word-of-mouth.” Yep. Does anyone really believe you or your competitors could stay in business by providing lousy service? I typed bad service stories furniture in Google and received 450,000 hits in .025 seconds. This is an astonishing 27.77 complaints for every single furniture retail company in The United States. If you really want to know what your customers think you should try our exclusive Ask Ms. Jones customer service survey. You’ll get answers to the questions that bother you so.
Don’t get me wrong. Good service is demanded everyday by every customer. If you are open for business, they rightfully can expect you to fulfill your basic promise, whatever it may be. For example, furniture retailers must be able to sell furniture, deliver, and repeat.

The last area Roy talked about, and I’m really tired of hearing is, “But our competitors are dishonest and incompetent and we’re not!”

I believe you. I really, really, really do.

One last time, don’t bet the ranch on this one either!

It doesn’t matter if you can convince your friends and your paid advisors that you are the best in your town. Seriously, all that matters is whether or not your customer base believes this assertion. If your competitor has been in business for several years, regardless of the number of stories your customers supposedly are telling you, there is a really good chance they are at least reaching the lowest common denominator.

So what then, you ask?

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.” Discover your untold story. Write highly pervasive copy or hire someone who can write it for you. Spend 100% of your advertising budget regardless of media telling your story exclusively.

Oh yea, then repeat.