Why Help Your Competitors Clean Your Clock?

September 10, 2011

I stopped by the Port-of-Subs (POS) restaurant on Sharlands yesterday at 9:02 AM hoping to by one of their breakfast grillers. I ate one a week ago and thought it was a great value, so POS was in the right place at the right time yesterday when I was hungry.

Unfortunately, even though this store advertises opening at 9 am, the doors were still locked at 9:02 and as I stood peering into the restaurant I did not see any sign of life. I got back in my car and drove a half mile down the road to Subway to give their breakfast sandwich a try. I’d seen them advertise serving breakfast sandwiches but had never tried one.

It was a winner. For just $3 I got a decent sandwich and a cup of coffee. That’s hard to beat.

If POS had simply done what they advertised they would do – open at 9 am – I would today still have no reason to ever eat breakfast at Subway. Because they were not open to serve me, I now know that Subway offers a similar quality product cheaper and faster. Oops.

If your business is in a competitive market segment, you simply must sweat the small stuff. By design, you need to intend to impress every single customer, every single time. Sure you will fail sometimes, but don’t lose because you got sloppy on a simple detail that was totally under your control – like hours of operation. When you do fail, make sure you have a system to learn how you failed and a system both to recover impressively and to fix the root cause of the failure.

Why help your competitors clean your clock? Wake up and spend your time retraining their customers that you are serious about earning the privilege to exceed their expectations.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (12)

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  1. Bret,
    This is such a sad story for a company that was a darling of the area. I have to say I laughed out loud with the shortening of the name Port of Subs….I have something different in mind with the letters POS. Seems like my definition was more appropriate.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    what is the other thing POS stands for, Sharon? Thanks! Bret

  2. Jim Taggart says:

    How true, Bret. In your example, it appears an employee slept in. That small incident produced a potential lifetime loss of hundreds of dollars of revenue from just one customer – you! Yes, indeed, companies must sweat the small stuff. I recall the tagline of RBC (Royal Bank of Canada): Building business, one customer at a time.”

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Great point, Jim. It’s not just a revenue loss for that business because it is also a revenue gain for a competitor. Double whammy as such. Thanks for sharing. Bret

  3. Kurt Althof says:


    I’m sure we can all relate to this story. In basic marketing classes “brand loyalty” is discussed a lot. But what may be overlooked is just how fragile brand loyalty can be. It only takes one oops, especially if the competitor delivers on your expectations.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Very fragile, Kurt! The sad part is one group of folks built the brand loyalty, and another group erased it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Bret

  4. Jesse Stoner says:

    Great points, Bret. The gift of feedback would be to leave a copy of this post taped to their door.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Sorry to be so slow replying to this, Jesse! I never considered taping a copy of this to the door. I have, however, strongly considered never returning to that location. They taught me to feel that way. Thanks! Bret

  5. Janet White says:

    I worked for Nordstrom for several years, and every morning (when the mall doors were due for opening at 10:00 a.m.) the store manager would personally open the doors at 9:50 a.m. if folks were standing outside, waiting to come in and buy. This small gesture built SUCH loyalty and respect for valued customer’s busy schedules and busy lives. Management lesson: Most last-minute opening duties can be completed with a few early shoppers on site.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Janet. I was thinking something similar while I was waiting for an appointment to have my car repaired. I was there at 7:20 and even though all the staff was on site, they did not open until right at 7:30. I guess it’s better than being late, but when you can do better, why not? Thanks for sharing! Bret

  6. Hanna says:

    I find this sort of funny you wrote about that particular store. I actually used to work at another Port of Subs location owned by that store’s owner, and I can tell you first hand that she has horrible work ethic and management skills, and a high turnover rate. She is one of the worst employers I have ever worked for. I’m not by any means trying to bash on her and her store, I just found it a little entertaining that that is how the store was being perceived.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Hanna. Unfortunately with a franchise that’s the way it can go. Some owners are sharp and on the ball, while others don’t pay attention to small but very important details. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret