Friday, January 23, 2009

At the end of the day…it’s all about the customer!

The straight talk is -- If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. Many of you are probably saying of course. But at the same time, many of us forget that fact while we are busy living our lives. We get caught up in the day to day grind of business, family … making sure the kid’s lunches are packed, picking up the dry cleaning, ordering that inventory we just ran out of…. Take a step back and look at the experience we are providing through our client’s eyes.

I recently read Starbucks is losing profits and closing many locations. How can this brand giant fall? This downturn is not all economic related according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and Chairman. He stated Starbucks had “watered down their brand” and “no longer had the soul of the past”. Starbucks made changes to their locations to move people through lines quicker. They stopped grinding beans on the spot. They took away seating areas with cushy couches and overstuff chairs to make more room for customers to line up. These changes took away the essence of the “Starbucks Experience” which made them a household name. It was the “experience” they were selling –the chatting with friends, the smell of the freshly ground beans, the homey feeling as they coffee-clutched in their cozy couches. Starbucks over-commoditized their product to the point customers were high tailing it to the small coffee shop down the street.

What’s the lesson here? Be true to your brand and your customer experience. We all want to cut costs, but if those cost cutting measures turn away customers -- you won’t be in business to worry about costs.

I challenge you to take a step back and look at your business through your client’s eyes. From the moment they set an appointment on the phone, walk into your salon or spa, when they meet with their stylist or esthetician….what do they see, touch, smell? What is their customer experience? A good way to do this is enlist the help of a friend outside of the business to mystery shop your location. Have her report back on what she liked and what she didn’t. It might surprise you what she says.

Remember the message or feeling you want customers to leave with. Envision the experience you want them to have. Don’t water down your brand. Make sure you have a strong and meaningful brand that clients want to participate in. Keep your customer in the forefront and your sales will follow!

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