MSQC Series: 5. Customer experience
Chick-fil-A is a name that is well known. Not countrywide, perhaps, but across a large swath east of the Mississippi. The company’s reputation is sometimes called into question because of their unabashed conservative Christian principals. Most people who know the company know that they are not open on Sunday–even in malls which require the rest of their tenants to be open that day. I have no direct knowledge, but I suspect the reason for the company to move out of malls and into stand-alone stores is related to this issue.
Other than that refusal to open one day a week (an idea that has real merit, but not the topic here) when you go into their stores there are no overt religious symbols and certainly no proselytizing. In Indiana a year or so back, when the issue was serving the needs of same sex couples, people ganged up on Chick-fil-A as though they had done such discrimination. Guilt by reputation, for the company had done no such thing. People–Christians and non-Christians alike–rallied to the company’s defense by buying their products to show support. Even without the extra boost of controversy, the restaurants are crowded every lunch time and many evenings. They pioneered the double drive through line, and they deploy crew with tablets to take the orders of the droves waiting in their cars. Even at that, the drive through lane is often backed up around the building.
What causes this kind of customer loyalty? It isn’t the food. Don’t get me wrong, their food is good, but not generally better than say Zaxby’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Well, I guess in the name of full disclosure I should admit their periodic offering of peach milk shakes is sure to get me there regardless of other circumstances. Their prices are certainly not cheap, either. It’s things like greeting the customer, offering to carry the tray when the customer may have trouble with it, the ubiquitous “My pleasure” as a response to a thank you. And yes, their reputation as a principled business is part of it, too.
So how does that play out at Missouri Star Quilt Company (MSQC)? I’ve already mentioned several examples, both in the area of organization and systematization. I’ve pointed out the way MSQC makes it easy for the customer both in person and on line. The extra services like custom cutting charm packs and the ongoing instructional videos.
You see, everything the company does to make it easy for the customer, makes it more likely the customer will buy, again and again, more and more.
So, I think I’ve made my point with this series. Now the question is, “What are you going to do about it?” How can you implement these ideas in your business?
- Niches–interview your five favorite customers and ask what bothers them most about your industry. Notice it is not your business, but your industry you ask about. People are reluctant to say something negative about an individual, especially one they like. But they will tell you what they’d like to see done if it is just a faceless industry under scrutiny. Then you need to work hard at providing the very thing they talk about. Don’t be obvious about the connection. Develop a product or service or method that answers their complaint. Then introduce it as a logical development of what you do to serve them better. Let those five best clients be your source of information about how to do your business. If you like to work with them, and you satisfy them, then they will bring more customers to you who are just like them. Soon all your customers will be ones you want to work with.
- Unified business practice–Make sure you just have one core business in your business. If you sell fast food, sell only fast food. If you do Financial Planning and investments, stick to your specialty. Review what you sell or what service you provide. How do all of the individual products and services hang together? In that review consider that your business is to satisfy customers, so if you find another product or service that your clients want when they come to you for whatever you do, decide if your business model is too narrow. But let your customers tell you when that happens, don’t try to sell them something. We’ll talk another time about what to do if you really want to do another business. I suggest you become the dominant business in one niche before you start another business, however.
- Systematization–Have a written procedure for everything. I mean everything. This is hard to do, and most of us, myself included, don’t fulfill this piece of advice 100%. But I speak from personal experience when I say that as I create more and more systematic procedures, my work becomes easier and my customers multiply. This seems obvious, but most of us have to work at it to “get it.” When someone wants something done, all you have to do is follow the steps. If someone wonders if they would like to do business with you, all you have to do is take them through the steps to find out if you fit together.
- Responsibility–Try new things but own up to the failures. The failures teach you things. Whether you have employees or not, give them responsibility to carry things out based on your business and existing systems. Systems are important, but people (customers) are even more important. Never chastise an employee for doing something to please a customer that was not “by the book.” And if that unusual solution worked, then consider changing the book. And if that same employee tries something outside the book and it doesn’t work, find out everything you can about what happened and learn from it.
- Customer experience–if you are working all of these things right, your customer’s experience will be the thing that brings them back to you. They will be happy that you have done what you do in the way you do it. And, as they see you get better and better, they will come back again and again. Remember, too, that the customer is a partner in that experience. You deserve to work with people who want to work with you, not with people you have to bribe to work with you. Sales and special offers show customer appreciation, but if there is a constant “sale” then you are just buying the customer’s loyalty. That is hard on you and makes your end of the customer experience a bad one. Usually those who only respond to cut prices are also ones who want even more, and complain that they don’t get it. Fire those pain in the ass customers. (At Profit First Professionals we call them our PIAs. Remember those initials, I’ll use them again.) If you feel you can’t afford to lose them, then start a list with the most painful first and knock them off one by one as you grow a business with the customers you want to work with.
As I write this it’s the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year. It’s the time that traditionally businesses start their plans for the next year. I recommend that you use these five ideas as the basis of your planning. If it’s not that time of year when you actually read this, don’t wait. Start using these five ideas to remake your business into the model of the business you’ve always wanted. That’s what the Missouri Star Quilt Company did.
Please give me some feedback on this series. Was it useful? Did you implement any of the suggestions? How did they work out?