Businesses in the retail and hospitality professions have two things in common with those trying to sell their homes. The first is the importance of location; the second is the importance of what realtors call "curb appeal". Businesses in these categories need to create a warm inviting exterior that entices potential customers to enter. Having an uninviting exterior or poorly displayed merchandise in store windows is the same as a homeowner with weeds and trash in his front yard. People just keep on driving by assuming that it´s the same inside.
The customer service experience is not just about how well you greet and wait on customers. It also includesadvertising, price, marketing, quality, the amenities, if any, you offer your customer as well as other factors. It can start when your customer identifies a need you can fill or when he first notices your store.
I spent more than four years working in a jewelry store located on the main concourse of a mall. Our door was flanked by two large display windows, which we changed out on a regular basis and decorated with seasonal themes when appropriate. During the summer one year, we were bored with the same old displays so I brought in my old Parker Brothers Monopoly game and set the game up in the window. Instead of tokens, we used pieces of jewelry. If you looked closer you would have seen that of the four players, one was bankrupt, one was clearly the winner with hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk; and the other two were somewhere in between.
People would be walking by the store, glance into the window, and many would stop dead, pointing out the display to their friends. The display usually elicited a smile or two and it definitely brought more traffic into the store. Many of them walked in still laughing or smiling at the display. Not only was it clever. It was unique. Marketing guru Seth Godin would have called it a purple cow.
In my home town there are two restaurants side by side. Each has a marquee. Papasitas Cantina, a Mexican restaurant nearly always has some funny or clever saying posted on the marquee. Next door, Owens Family Restaurant has the same marquee, usually with it’s telephone number up there. Both serve great food, but Papasitas does a much better job of using its marquee as part of its “come on” to get people into its restaurant. Owens wastes the opportunity. That’s a shame because inside that restaurant you’ll find the finest customer service and food of any restaurant in its category. (Their buttermilk biscuits are out of this world.)
What if Owens put up on its marquee, “Ignore the last sign!” Or, “We’re better than they are!” That would get people to laughing and I’ll bet a few more NEW customers would pull in and stop. Once they’re there, Owen’s legendary customer service would keep them coming back.
The customer service experience should start outside your store at the curb, in your advertisements, on your Web site, and in your blogs, not just within your store.
Go get "em!
"At Owens-Corning, we think Customer Satisfaction is more accurately defined as customer delight. It is gained through providing the highest quality, lowest cost products combined with service beyond comparison. The business cycle begins when the customer places an order. Customers do us a favor when they place an order with us, and we must delight them in order to earn their repeat business.
–Glen H. Hiner, Chairman and C.E.O.; Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation. From the book, "The Customer is Always Right!" by Armen J. Kabodian