I've been in retail since I started selling Camp Fire Girl candy door to door in elementary school. For me, customer service, has always been the most important part of the transaction. In the optical world, it was the optician who understood the benefits of customer service that created an enjoyable experience out of a necessary purchase that can be intimidating.
Customer service – good and bad – can be what makes the difference between shoppers who return and refer and those who bad mouth your location.
So it was with interest that I read the article The Customer Comes First in the Magazine as I was flying over the holiday. the author, Dayton Fandray is a regular columnist for the Ideas @ Work column and he tells a fairly typical story about a guy who goes out of his way to breakfast at the same place, even though it isn't near his home, because of the service he receives from a particular waitress.
It's all about relationships, and I have talked about that before, but in the article Dayton gave a little different comment that really painted a picture of meeting the customer needs better than I've seen recently. He quotes Roland Rust, chair of the Department of Marketing at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business who said this:
"What's really important is taking a look at how the population of customers is different, taking a look at the heterogeneity of the group," explains Rust. "It's the old idea of if you have iced tea and hot tea and average it, you get lukewarm tea. And you think that's the optimum tea. Well, it's not. Half the people like hot and half the people like iced."
How many times have we tried to serve all customers by offering a watered down compromise instead of meeting the needs of a niche? In his article, Dayton goes on to say:
You discover your customers' preferences by using every channel at your disposal – be it surveys, focus groups, Internet chat rooms, or feedback from frontline employees. And once you have this information in hand, you should focus your marketing efforts on the narrowest niches that are economically feasible.
So rather than offering luke warm tea which satisfies no one – learn from your customers what they need and want most and then focus on providing superior customer service hand in hand with the products and services they are looking for.
Deborah Chaddock Brown