Have you ever considered that you appear to be exactly like your competitors? They hire the same kind of people. They teach them the same things. They deliver the same product. Most customers would be unable to articulate how your company is different, besides the signs in front of your office and your plants.

But it gets worse. You know better.

You know that to excel in the ready-mix industry today you must be different. You know that the people you are hiring are sometimes recycled, and if you're going to step up your game, it all starts with hiring. You know the processes and protocols you have in place are the exact same as your competitors. And you continue to use them anyway.

Why? Because that's what you know.

To be distinct in any business it is imperative to look outside the industry. When Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A entered the fast food industry, he borrowed from the fine dining industry. He put flowers in the bathrooms, had servers refill drinks and offer fresh pepper to customers for their salads, and hired people who cared about people. Unheard of in the fast food industry, this phenomenally successful company decided to not play by the same rules its competitors were playing by, but to be distinct.

Ready-mix producers can learn from this example. Unless a producer decides to do something radically different, there is no perceivable distinction between his company and any other. This makes them a commodity where price becomes the only bargaining tool. Since all producers are selling pretty much the same products, customer service is the obvious way to distinguish producers.

Customers form expectations around industry norms. Customers expect the same experience from one producer to another. What if you would not give customers what they expected, but what they wanted?

What is the difference between how your customers expect to be treated and how they want to be treated? Answer that question and just like Chick-Fil-A and you will unlock the chains of commoditization and become distinct for your customer service.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Telephone 513-793-9582 or email joan@joanfox.com.