I remember it like it was yesterday. My friends Jack, Bert and I (we all owned small businesses) were having lunch at the Steak House across from the new, first combination gas station / mini mart to come to the area. It was the first day the Quick Fill was open.
I think I was the first to say, “They will never make it.” After all who is going to pump their own gas? I felt I was an expert on the subject of customers getting out of their automobiles and pumping their own gas, as I owned and operated a gas station. It was all we could do to get the people to roll their windows down when it was raining to tell us how much gas they wanted us to pump into their vehicles. There was no way they would get out and pump it themselves even though they would save a few cents. And there was no way people would pay twenty cents more for a half gallon of milk and thirty cents more for a loaf of bread. By the end of our lunch we all agreed the Quick Fill would be out of business in 3 to 6 months.
It is no secret we were wrong. Totally wrong! But why do people who will drive twenty five miles to use a coupon to get a free four dollar appetizer constantly overpay at these type of stores?????
You know the answer as well as I do. Convenience! And when I figured it out in the mid 70’s my businesses soared in sales and profits. I saw my customers, who beat me up for a discount on everything they purchased, parading in and out the mini marts and thinking nothing of over paying. I figured out that I needed to be the one providing convenience. I figured out what every customer is demanding:
1.MAKE IT QUICK. I do not have time to waste.
Business names with words like “Quick,” “Jiffy,” “Instant,” “One-hour,” and “Speedy” are common. Jiffy Lube International, which offers a ten-minute oil change, has grown to over one thousand outlets. Even overnight mail is not fast enough for the buying public. Facsimile machines and email are now widely used to transmit documents across the country in seconds. Your customers constantly patronize fast food restaurants, drive through banks, and drive through car washes.
2.MAKE IT EASY FOR ME TO UNDERSTAND THE BENEFITS
Listen to me. Listen to what I want the product to do. Listen to my problems I want solved. Tell me the benefits I will obtain from buying your product or service. Tell me why I cannot live without your product or service.
3.MAKE IT EASY FOR ME TO BUY
Be flexible with options for me to pay by cash, financing, using charge cards or lay-a-way. Have flexible delivery schedules to accommodate my schedule.
4.DON’T LET ME DOWN
Do what you say you will do. Deliver on time. Make the paperwork easy. Be easy to get in touch with. Give me the good service you promise.
5. BE 100 % CUSTOMER-CENTERED
Make it all about me. Give me your full attention when I am trying to buy your products and service. Don’t answer your phone, talk to others or even look away. If I am not important enough for you to disregard everyone and everything else going on around you, I will take my business elsewhere.
Here is what you can do.
1. Shop your competition. Not just the businesses that sell what you sell, but everywhere your customers buy. Every business is your competition. You are competing for the dollars your customers spend. Your customers only have a limited amount of money to spend. If they spend it at other businesses they cannot spend it at yours. Shop your competition to see what they are doing to meet the customer’s demands
2. Shop your business. Walk into your business, call your business on the telephone and shop it like you are seeing it for the first time. Are your people providing the customers with what they demand? Watch your customers. Ask them if they are satisfied with your products and services. Of course the best way to get the answers you need to know and not the ones you want to hear is to have an independent person or persons survey your customers and people who do not buy from you. All they have to ask is one question, “What do you think of (your business)?”
Grocery stores figured it out in the 60s when they put in the ’10 Items or Less’ line. Just go and look at those lines. You will find honest people cheating. I have seen people in the ’10 Items or Less’ line with as many as 50 items in their carts.
And now you can even check yourself out. Scan your items, pay in cash or credit. Why does it work? Because you want it quick and easy. They figured out how to give you want you want and lower their operating cost at the same time. Figure out how to create your own ’10 Items or Less’ convenience for your customers. Your sales and profits will increase.