Are you good enough to even try it?

Shutterstock_32406070 I've been both hustling and bustling to get my Christmas shopping done.  One of the items I have purchased at many different retailers is a gift card.  I'm guessing most of you have bought more than one this holiday season so you know how easy it is.

You select the card design of your choice, you carry it up to the check out, you request a dollar amount and voila, you have a gift card.  Pretty standard.

But not always.

I was at my bank earlier this week, making a deposit when I saw a display for VISA gift cards.  I needed one for a gift so I thought…great, I'll just get it here. 

When I told the teller what I wanted, she was more than happy to sell me the VISA gift card.  Here's how the process went.

I pulled my credit card out of my wallet.  "Oh no, sir.  We can't take a credit card for the gift card."  Turns out they could….but it had to be a cash advance.  So I had to sign a form for that.  I smiled and said, "no problem."

Then, I had to fill out a different form with my name, address, etc. on it so they could register the gift card.  I smiled and said, "no problem."

Then…I had to read a 2 page disclosure and sign it.  I smiled and said, "no problem."

10 minutes later, I had my $50 gift card.  I could have bought the exact same card at my local grocery store or Walgreen's in 30 seconds.

I kept saying "no problem" but — for that bank, it was a big problem. 

  • A problem of lost esteem.  (I'm a good customer and I had to sign 3 different forms to buy a stinking $50 gift card?)
  • A problem of changed perception. (if it takes them that long to sell a gift card…how long would it take them to make a house loan?)
  • A problem of a bad association. (Every time I see that particular teller…what do you think I will remember?)

And they probably made $1 on the transaction, if that.

Many businesses, in an attempt to be everything to everyone or perhaps to squeak out yet another few pennies of profit — do things that they're not good at.  If you're guilty of this — stop it.  If you aren't great at it, don't do it.  And if you know you can't at the very least — be as good as your average competitor — for the love of God, don't do it.

Whenever we step away from our sweet spot — the thing/things that we excel at (and that our brand should be associated with) we do damage. We damage our reputation, we damage our relationships and we damage our ability to be perceived as the best.

Next time you want to add a product or service to your offerings…ask yourself the very difficult question.  Are we good enough to even try this?

If you can't be better than most — don't.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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31 comments on “Are you good enough to even try it?

  1. Hi Drew

    Once again an excellent post.

    There were many services I could have offered as a VA, but took them off the menu when I realized that I really didn’t like doing them, and others were doing them much better. We cannot be, and should not try to be, all things to all people.

    I focus on what I am very good at and leave the rest to those who can do those tasks justice.

    Kathleen

  2. Kathleen,

    Ahh, you made an excellent point. It’s not just what you are only so so at — but also, what you don’t like to do.

    I don’t care how professional, dedicated and committed you are — it’s tough to deliver 110% on something you don’t enjoy. Yes, you can do it now and then. But almost impossible to do consistently.

    Stick to what you love and what you rock at. That’s my prescription for success!

    Drew

  3. Mark Price says:

    Drew: Excellent post about the challenges of managing customer experience. Many companies do not even know about the customers they lose “passively” — those who do not complain, but privately vow never to have such an experience with that company ever again.

    The only way I have seen to discover such passive attrition is to conduct experience research, at the individual store unit level and identify and measure the key differences between high retention stores and those with lower performance. Several of our clients are doing that sort of work religiously, and after they get over the shock of the results, have seen meaningful changes over time with extra training and focus.

    During the holidays, issues that may have been minor become larger, with seasonal staff and crowds in the stores.

    Thanks for an excellent post highlighting a key issue.

  4. Amy says:

    Interesting story. I had to buy two VISA gift cards the other day and the Walgreens charged $5 each above the value of the card. Yes, it only took a minute, but I would rather have gotten them at the bank for free even at a cost of some time and inconvenience (within reason). There must be a difference in the way they process them. But if you are buying many, it would be MUCH better to go through the problems at the bank rather than spend $5/each extra.

  5. Hi Drew,

    Wonder what the bank has as a USP?

    I find USP a very focusing exercise for such problems because as you suggest I suspect they weren’t thinking value to the customer. They were wanting the profit on the upsell.

    Ah well. More fodder for blog posts.

    Hey, maybe you could have gotten some attention if you’d tweeted about it right away. Wonder what their Web 2.0 policing is like. Hmm.

  6. Martin,

    They are primarily a business bank — so that’s what their USP is wrapped around. So the gift card is “just something they do” but not a core competency or focus.

    Drew

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    But if you are buying many, it would be MUCH better to go through the problems at the bank rather than spend $5/each extra.

  9. austin hotel says:

    But I think in the United States uniform standards about gift cards do not exist.

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    Interesting story. I had to buy two VISA gift cards the other day and the Walgreens charged $5 each above the value of the card. Yes, it only took a minute, but I would rather have gotten them at the bank for free even at a cost of some time and inconvenience (within reason). There must be a difference in the way they process them. But if you are buying many, it would be MUCH better to go through the problems at the bank rather than spend $5/each extra

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    Ahh, you made an excellent point. It’s not just what you are only so so at — but also, what you don’t like to do.

  15. Free Blogs says:

    I don’t care how professional, dedicated and committed you are — it’s tough to deliver 110% on something you don’t enjoy. Yes, you can do it now and then. But almost impossible to do consistently.

  16. A gift card is a restricted monetary equivalent or scrip that is issued by retailers or banks to be used as an alternative to a non-monetary gift!

  17. In Canada, $1.8 billion were spent on gift cards and in the UK, it is estimated to reach 3 billion (GBP) for 2009 whereas in the United States, about $80 billion were paid for gift cards in 2006.

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  23. It’s tough to deliver 110% on something you don’t enjoy. Yes, you can do it now and then. But almost impossible to do consistently.

  24. Taller Shoes says:

    The only way I have seen to discover such passive attrition is to conduct experience research, at the individual store unit level and identify and measure the key differences between high retention stores and those with lower performance.

  25. It means tossing an idea or program out into the social media space and inviting other people to pick up the ball and run with it.

  26. During the holidays, issues that may have been minor become larger, with seasonal staff and crowds in the stores.

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  29. Several of our clients are doing that sort of work religiously, and after they get over the shock of the results, have seen meaningful changes over time with extra training and focus.

  30. Ahh, you made an excellent point. It’s not just what you are only so so at — but also, what you don’t like to do.

  31. sort of work religiously, and after they get over the shock of the results, have seen meaningful changes over time with extra training and focus

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