The trucking industry is extremely competitive, and shippers have lots of choices when it comes to getting their products to market. If you are going to capture business, you need to stand out from the crowd.

So said Scott McKain, author and expert who helps businesses deliver “The Ultimate Customer Experience,” who recently was the keynote speaker at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week in Las Vegas.

McKain says it is the business owner’s job “to create a customer experience so compelling that getting their business is assured.” He believes that if companies have been able to differentiate coffee and water, trucking businesses should be able to do the same.

“If customers don’t see a difference, they will look at price.” Alarmingly, 60% to 70% of front line employees at most businesses can’t explain why you are a better choice than your competition, McKain says.

He explains that there are three things that impede differentiating:

  1. Copying your competition. Focus on what your customers want, not on what your competitor is doing.
  2. Competition has gotten tougher because of the Internet, which has fundamentally changed the sales process “from delivering information to providing wisdom.”
  3. Familiarity breeds complacency. Avoid taking longtime customers for granted.

According to McKain there are four cornerstones to distinction: clarity, creativity, communication, customer-focused experience.

Clarity: In order to distinguish yourself, you must be clear about what your advantages are and what makes you stand out.

“Know who you are and who you’re not. Emotion precedes economics and mindshare precedes market share.”

In order to create clarity you need to develop a High Concept, a short and powerful statement about who you are and how you are better or different.

“It should move the listener to want to know more about you,” McKain says. He adds that the statement has to be “brutally brief” because you only have six seconds to grab someone’s attention.

Once you have developed your high concept, you need to use it repeatedly and integrate it into everything you do.

Creativity is the next cornerstone, but the good news is you only have to use creativity to change one thing about your business. McKain used the example of Enterprise. The one thing the rental car company changed about the way it did business was to pick up and drop off customers. Other aspects of its business remained the same.

Communication: The way people learn has changed as well. People today want more than the recitation of facts and figures. McKain says you need to change your communication style so that you interact with customers by using compelling stories. You can do this by telling a story about how one of your customers improved his business as a result of something you did for him.

Eyes on the customer: The final cornerstone is being customer-focused. Do you know what it feels like to do business with you? McKain suggests you audit your own customer experience. “[Business owners and managers] focus on transactions, but it is experiences that bring customers back and create referral business.”

The way to audit your firm is to ask yourself what if everything went exactly right for the customer. Determine what that would look like and then define the steps you need to take to get there and the roadblocks you need to eliminate.

“Your goal is to deliver ‘the ultimate customer experience’ for every customer and prospect, every time,” he concludes.