What there was:
- 9 separate lines out the door,
- One cash register in the building with a process that required 2-3 visits to the “register line” when someone used a credit card,
- 5 calculators to share among the 9 “cashiers” (miscalculations resulted in repeated visits to the register line)
- A police officer to manage the grumpy customers and protect the single cash register and
- Customers who had pre-ordered and others who were “walk-ins”.
What there was not:
- No “take a number” system so you either lucked with your pick of a specific line or not (more often “not”),
- No differentiation between lines so if you pre-ordered and had your number, you wouldn’t be stuck behind someone who had no idea what they wanted and
- No music or distraction from waiting in line anywhere from 45 min to well over an hour.
All this at a company who knows Christmas is its second-busiest time of year.
When do you think this business last shopped itself during its busy season?
Later that day, I went to another store to purchase a pair of “hiking in the snow” boots for my husband. Now, to be fair, I know pretty much nothing about “hiking in the snow” boots.
The gentleman in footwear asked me some questions and narrowed down an extremely intimidating wall of boots to 3 styles which would be appropriate; he then shared reviews and made a recommendation (which was not the most expensive pair).
I went with his recommendation and my husband was thrilled with the choice, wondering how I managed to make such a great decision about something I know nothing about.
While it was also one of the busiest times of the year for this business, notice the difference in my experience. This company knows who their customers are and values them (and yes, I gave the store and the employee specifically a glowing testimonial).
And a third tale from this weekend:
A colleague recommended an online business plan tracker, something I’d been looking for. I noticed their plan was $99/month and signed up.
After doing a little work on it, I shut down. Next day, I checked emails and saw that I’d been charged $599: $99 monthly charge and an automatically-applied negative $500 discount which resulted in the system adding $500 to my purchase and not showing it until the receipt was issued.
Checked out the site: no address, no phone number, no email. Just a contact form on which none of the subject choices applied. I completed the contact form and asked for a refund; turns out I had committed to 12 months when purchasing, but would be refunded the $500 which was the result of an “upgrade” to their system.
When do you think this company last acted as their own client and tested both their shopping cart and client service systems?
MY REQUEST TO YOU
When was the last time you spent some time in your client’s shoes?
- Experienced your business through their eyes?
- Listened to your answering machine and asked if that’s the message you want to put out there?
- Ordered one of your own programs or products to see if any part of the process could be simplified or improved?
And since we often “fill in the blanks” for things we know should be there, this exercise works even better when you have a friend or colleague do it.
The great news? As small businesses, we can adjust and adapt quickly when needed.