Successful entrepreneur and international customer experience expert John DiJulius refuses to compete on price. Instead, he competes in “experience wars,” where his customer service is so superior that customers don’t think about what they pay.

DiJulius has been winning experience wars for decades. Years ago, at one of his John Robert’s Spas, a chain of upscale salons repeatedly named one of the top 20 salons in America, a new salon moved in a few doors down. While his salon charged between $100–$150 for a haircut, the new salon put a sign up that said, “We do $10 haircuts.” After his worried staff wanted to offer discounts, DiJulius said no. He told his team to focus on their customer experience and non-negotiables and said, “Make sure you are brilliant at the basics.” Then he put a sign in his salon window that said, “We fix $10 haircuts.”

DiJulius is also the founder of The DiJulius Group, a customer experience firm that provides consulting, training, and executive education to help simplify, systematize, and create accountability for the experiences companies deliver. Working with Fortune 500 companies including Starbucks, the Ritz-Carlton, and Nordstrom, DiJulius maintains that customer service is the place to compete. “There are a lot fewer people who don’t know how to do it as well,” he said.

During a private training, DiJulius taught people how to create a customer experience revolution, which he defines as a radical overthrow of conventional business mentality designed to transform what employees and customers experience. “This shift produces a culture that permeates people’s personal lives at home and in the community, which in turn provides the business with higher sales, morale, and brand loyalty,” he said. “This is our value proposition, thus making price irrelevant.”

DiJulius explained that your perception is flawed when it comes to how good your customer experience is. Citing a survey where 300 leaders from 300 different organizations were asked if they thought their company provided superior customer service, he revealed that 80% of the leaders said they believed they did a good job. But after sending the survey to their customers, they discovered that only 8% of their customers agreed with them. “Your employees need to understand they are in the customer perception business,” DiJulius said. “What customers think is their reality.”

Despite the IT industry in general having a 90% retention rate, he cautioned MSPs not to get too comfortable. “There is a difference between customer loyalty and retention rate,” DiJulius said. “I deal with IT services for my company, and I don’t change my phone provider, my cable company, or my IT services even though I hate some of those because of the learning curve and the fear.” By focusing on customer experience, you can “create clients so loyal that they don’t even know how you compare to their competition,” DiJulius said. “They brag about you. Your customer should not be able to imagine a world without you and your brand in it.”

Here’s how to improve your business’s customer service.

1. Invest In Customer Experience

Training. Hiring is critical, but culture and training are even more important because customer service is not common sense. “A customer experience comes down to one thing and one thing only: your average service aptitude from the CEO to the janitor to the newest employee,” DiJulius said. “Service aptitudes are a person’s ability to recognize and exceed a client’s expectations regardless of the circumstances.” People are not born to serve. Service aptitude comes from three places: previous life experiences, previous work experiences, and current work experiences. “The only leaders who don’t invest in customer experience are the ones who don’t realize the financial impact it has.”

2. Avoid Policies. Make Guidelines Instead.

“Policy is the worst word you can have or use with your employees,” DiJulius said. Policies punish the masses because they force your employees into making decisions that are “black and white with walls” and stifle your employees’ creativity, empathy, and innovation. Years ago, DiJulius banished policies after a client called him about a salon policy that charged people if they didn’t show up for their appointment. DiJulius discovered a manager who wouldn’t refund a client even though the reason the client missed her appointment was because her husband died that morning. DiJulius promptly refunded her money. “People get afraid to go against policy,” he said. “Change the word to guidelines, because policy punishes 98% of your clients for what 2% might be trying to get away with … I’m okay if 2% take advantage of me or my company because of what I get back from 98% who can’t believe how we handle it.”

3. Love What You Do And Make It Obvious.

Get people excited when they hear the passion and the expertise you have for working in your niche with your clients.

4. Help Them Solve Their Problems.

Your client should never meet anyone smarter than you at what you do — this goes for anyone your client encounters at your company.

5. If You’ve Got Bad News, Open With It.

“Don’t disguise bad news, hope it doesn’t come up, or try to squeeze it in at the end,” DiJulius said. “Open with it, then talk about how you can fix it.”

6. Be Committed To Their Success.

Know what your client’s top three goals are for 2024. “Whatever their theme or goals are, send them a book on that, an article on that, and introduce them to whoever can help them.”

7. Educate, Then Sell.

Don’t just sell them something because they ask for it. Educate them instead of sell them what may not be in their best interest. After an Apple employee discovered that DiJulius didn’t need the extra functionality in the iPad 2 that DiJulius asked to buy, the employee advised DiJulius not to buy it. “He educated versus sold. I didn’t buy it, but as a result, I’ve bought anything he’s told me since because I trust him so much.”

8. Develop A Customer Bill Of Rights.

One of the easiest things to implement right away is a Customer Bill of Rights. “World-class brands have non-negotiables things you would never see an employee do,” such as never point, show them; never say no; and never do a cold transfer when handing off a client. The Customer Bill of Rights also includes things your employees should always do: Always introduce yourself, deliver at least one compliment, and remember you’re on stage. Choose 8–10 items for your Customer Bill of Rights, train your employees on them, then roll out your new plan in a soft launch so your employees can practice.

9. Create A Day In The Life Customer Video.

Help employees be more empathetic and compassionate when dealing with clients by creating a video that takes them on an emotional roller coaster to demonstrate what is happening in their customers’ lives. “Compassion and empathy — those are the two most powerful things your employees can have,” DiJulius said. Become a partner your client can’t live without. Make your employees realize everyone they come in contact with has an invisible sign above their head that says, “Make me feel important.” Obsess over and invest in the customer experience just like the leaders of Disney, Zappos, and Nordstrom. When you do, you’ll create a customer experience revolution and be known for world-class customer service.