Back in the early 1980’s a US sit com hit our screens and almost immediately became a hit. Centred on a small bar in Boston the show introduced us to a series of characters who were the regulars and staff of “Cheers”. The theme song was catchy and used the phrase “Where everyone knows your name”. One character personified this tagline more than any other. A large chap with ill-fitting suits, tie almost always askew and mop of curly hair, his name was Norm Peterson an *accountant played by the wonderful actor George Wendt. *In later episodes Norm becomes a house painter.
Each time Wendt’s burly frame stepped down the stairs and came into view he was met with a chorus of welcoming voices “Norm!”
That friendly welcome became one of the most popular aspects of this hugely successful show which ran continuously from 1982 to 1993 and produced a number of spin offs including Kelsey Grammer’s “Frasier”.
But rather than offer up a history of popular US sit coms I’m highlighting this specific element as an example of how we should be looking after customers.
Business owners and managers in the hospitality sector appreciate all too well the importance of knowing the customer and making a personal connection. Restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs they all rely very heavily on the power of personal recommendation and with the advent and growth of TripAdvisor they know they cannot afford to let standards slip.
Just for a moment put yourself in the role of a customer looking to use your business to buy or enquire about a product or service. If you’re a first time customer it’s highly unlikely that the communication is going to be as warm and familiar as that enjoyed by Norm but the objective should be to get to that level. Who wouldn’t want to feel that they’re recognised, remembered and ultimately valued by the establishments they frequent?
At a time when business is becoming ever more competitive and the winning of new customers more complex and costly, it’s logical to invest time to understand their experience, their needs and without being too intrusive more about them as individuals.
Starbucks are a great example of a business that invests in exactly that element of their marketing. You can buy a decent coffee in any one of a number of nationally branded and local establishments in most towns and cities. Why would you choose one shop over another? Some may genuinely prefer the taste of Costa coffee but the vast majority of us weigh up the overall experience.
The simple task of taking your name for the cup makes you feel as though the staff are taking a personal interest in you, yes it has a functional purpose but I suspect it was introduced for more reasons than you may think. Trying to remember hundreds of regular daily customers by face for the average person is quite a task but if you take their names you are adding a neat memory aiding process to the task and chances are they’ll not need to ask after one or two visits. Then how good do you feel when your name is remembered? Would you want to return to such a store? Of course you would.
Keeping with Starbucks their attention to customer’s behaviours extends to the queues waiting to place their orders. Ever noticed what most of us do when we’re waiting to be served? We reach for our smartphones, check our social media accounts, e-mail and then when we’re ready to place that order we scrabble for a wallet or purse. Noting this behaviour Starbucks developed a function of their smartphone App which enables customers to not only earn rewards and get free food and drinks but essentially pay using those phones they already have in their hand. Just look around at your average Starbucks and count the Apple Macs and smartphone usage, they understand their market and how best to engage with them. What I like about the Starbucks example is that they took the time to consider the customer experience and find a way to improve it. I also like the fact that it’s a great combination of offline and online but at the heart is the desire to make that trip to buy your coffee and snack that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt Starbucks to have an app that requires your personal details to register and use it but by now you’ve built a level of trust having been a “regular” and happy to share a little personal data.
For those of you now complaining that you don’t have “Star-bucks” to throw at such projects (see what I did there) don’t worry it doesn’t need to be expensive.
The best marketing and customer service solutions are often simple, common sense and can be implemented without breaking the bank. The essential part of this process is to initiate direct action and start taking a greater interest in that over used phrase the “customer experience”.
Here are 10 suggested steps to get things underway
1. Take time to stand back and become a customer of your own company, be honest and objective.
2. Look at what you’re delivering, break down the elements into stages.
3. How are customers responding?
4. Become more familiar with competitor approaches but avoid following their lead.
5. Build on the positives of the current offering.
6. Address the negatives.
7. Adapt to take advantage of the intelligence gained from the exercise.
8. Train staff to become more aware and develop empathy with the customer.
9. Introduce communication channels to keep feedback flowing.
10. Review and refresh regularly.
If this is an area that interests you or you would like more information please feel free to drop me a line.
We all need a virtual or actual boost in our businesses now and again. It’s too easy to become complacent, comfortable or afraid of making any changes that might make things “different”.
What many successful businesses do is harness a culture of continual evolution never settling for the status quo. This can be massively helped by recruiting staff who don’t fear change and have their own streak of entrepreneurism. If this is harnessed to a leadership team with clear goals and a strategy to enable attainment of the objectives the future will look bright.
Unfortunately certain sectors contain more than their fair share of risk averse personalities and they can in turn keep a business locked into a mode that ensures it fails to capitalise on new trends and seek out opportunities.
Smaller organisations can rely on the owners far too much and expect them to feed the company through their efforts to win new customers. For a large number of proprietors the challenge of running a business alone is enough to fully occupy them and the additional responsibility of bringing in revenue gets consigned to a “to do” list that rarely gets actioned.
So what can be done for these many ambitious but largely stagnant businesses? How can they rekindle the pioneering, energetic and challenging spirit that formed them?
There are any number of resources available to the average business – but this in itself can prove to be an inhibitor as too many options can prove confusing and ultimately fail to deliver the desired result.
The same may be said of certain third party agencies who approach business owners direct and feed their anxieties. They make promises to provide the solutions sought but end up costing the company an expensive fee and wasted time in pursuing false hopes.
On a more positive note I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with the Growth Accelerator programme. The phrase “Growth Accelerator” for some seems to conjure up rather dubious pills that might be promoted via spam e-mail but I can assure you it is no quack solution. This is a well organised and effective initiative for commercial enterprises covering three core areas:
Growth Accelerator provides access to finance to assist the companies in achieving their agreed goals.
What is reassuring about this programme is the assessment and selection of coaches and clear focus on quality service and the ultimate delivery for the businesses taking part.
Growth Accelerator is available to businesses registered in the UK who have fewer than 250 staff and a turnover less than £40m. Essentially they must be looking to grow their business by 20% – turnover or profit.
The Growth Accelerator process uses template guides that are introduced by experienced coaches offering a highly visible and effective tool to help the business see their future growth over a 3 year period.
It’s certainly not the only option but it is currently one of the most popular initiatives sought out by businesses wishing to grow but to do so in a manner that is both practical and sustainable.
If this is something you would like to explore further please feel free to drop me a line and we will put you in touch with your regional Growth Manager.
It’s been quite a year, busy with plenty of work, close encounter with reality TV, first appearance on Radio 4, 20 year wedding anniversary, surgery and first child in University. Blink and 2013 seems to be almost over so time to put the brakes on.
A last minute decision and possibly one of the best this year, a week in Italy.
There are times when we need to step back from the moment and take that opportunity to re-charge the batteries. After a week in Puglia with Azzurri skies, stunning scenery staying in a 400 year old Trullo villa the power levels are back to normal.
Whether it’s Italy, Indonesia, Islington or the Isle of Wight a break is a break and we all need one to put life back into perspective.
Giving ourselves that chance to leave the laptop and smartphone alone and experiencing real peace and quiet is not suprisingly a key to improving our quality of life.
Of course travelling can also deliver experiences and bonding with my flappy stick Fiat 500 was right up there but meeting new and interesting people such the fabulous Jane our American abroad tops that. There were the 3 weddings the last setting off in their classic MG, the beauty of Locorotondo, discovering the cheap local wine in plastic bottles was actually the best to buy, steeling myself in readiness for the “oh so fresh” feeling of diving into the unheated pool, truly the best Pizza I’ve ever tasted, scene from a Rock Hudson & Doris Day movie watching yachts and speedboats from the cliffs at Polignano a Mare, memories a plenty.
We deserve to give ourselves the chance to capture such moments and put them to work when we get back to the cut and thrust of the day jobs.
When someones ready to “blow the bloody doors off” I’ll just dip into those stolen treasures and get the very most from my own Italian Job. Here’s a brief flavour of that trip. Italian Job Flipagram