Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

In today’s hyper-competitive, commoditized world, everyone needs a point of difference.

In the absence of unique products or a cost advantage, many businesses point to a commitment to “service” as their competitive advantage … although in truth many more companies talk about exceptional service than actually deliver it.

That’s why I was struck by a financial advisor’s story about a shopping excursion for hiking boots, with a key message about delivering service that truly stands out.

Preparing for a hike up Kilimanjaro

For the past three years, I’ve co-chaired a Toronto fundraising dinner for Amani Children’s Home at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. As an extension of that, in July I’m helping organize a fundraising climb up Kilimanjaro involving members of the financial industry.

One of those climbing is Murray Morton, a 37-year industry veteran in Toronto. Given the importance of the right hiking boots, on a Saturday in January he went to Bass Pro Shop, a sporting goods superstore north of the city.

Murray talked to a salesperson named Chris about his need for hiking boots for the trek up Kilimanjaro.  The tour company he’s going with is Tusker Tours, which takes a few extra days to help climbers acclimatize to high altitudes and has a 95% success rate of getting to the top.

“I haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro but I have hiked in Kenya,” Chris said. He then explained that Murray needed waterproof boots for the low-lying wetter terrain as well as boots providing warmth for early and late in the day at high altitudes, all without being too heavy. 

Chris pulled out several pairs, recommended one in particular, asked Murray to wear them for 15 or 20 minutes to ensure they were comfortable, and asked to meet with him afterwards.

After his trial period, Murray was happy with the recommendation, but when he went to leave he found that Chris was on break, so he paid for his purchase and went on his way.

So far: a satisfactory experience, with attentive service from someone knowledgeable and interested – but nothing especially extraordinary.