I am noticing a trend in various industries and it is something we in our service industry should be mimicking and taking notes on. American Express has been pushing their 'Support Local Business" programs and I am getting the impression it is having an affect. I'll give a couple of examples of what I have picked up on recently.
#1, Last week while watering my garden the nozzle on the end of my hose cracked and I had to add a new one to my list of things to pick up. While at the big box stores, Lowely Home Suppository, I found a selection of 3, all basically the same style and priced from dirt cheap (plastic) to expensive (brass). None of them were what I was looking for so I went over to my local hardware store and they had an assortment of nozzles (6 different) and exactly the type I was looking for with 20 plus settings with everything from shower, soak, jet, wet T-shirt contest, stop the dogs, mist, fan etc... AND it came with 2 extra rubber washers for when I forget to disconnect the thing from the hose until January and the current ones are all cracked.
Our Lesson-- diversification and product offering. We need to be like the local hardware store, offer more variety of services and at a higher quality then the big national companies or Jani-Fries. None of the nozzles at the big box stores came with extra washers, did I pay an extra few bucks for it at the local store? Yes, but I was happy to do it because I felt I was getting more for my money.
#2, I have been getting my DDD's at Walgreens ever since the little episode in 08, ( DDD's are what I call my prescriptions-Delay Death by a Day). With the Walgreens prescription plan at less than $25 per year, I get them at a deal and better than the pricing at WallyMart. I picked up my refills last week, same courteous service at the counter, Julie the pharmacist always asks if I have any questions etc... But then, 3 days later I get a phone call from Julie at the store, asking me about my experience at shopping at Walgreens, any issues with my prescriptions etc..... A new twist on customer follow up, I was impressed.
Our Lesson---How often do you blow your own horn? We all do a good job, it's expected and it's what we promised but how often do you call your customer and ask them " What's your perception of our service?" ---Notice: I did not say : "Have any complaints?" YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK THAT QUESTION because they will feel obligated to go find some. The Walgreens experience left me feeling like I wasn't shopping at Walgreens but rather at Julies pharmacy and that will keep me coming back. Think about it, are your customers, account number #33071? or are they Bill & Sally at ABC Manufacturing? To the big service firms, they are acct #33071. I know, I used to work for them and this is one of the angles I use to take clients away from them.
#3 There is a railroad crossing a couple miles down the street from my home, I pass through 2-3x a day. Last week, temps in the 100's, I am driving through the little series of shops and restaurants when a train comes, as the crossing gates come down, out comes 2 women with trays and they start going up the line of cars offering ice tea and coffee from the local restaurant along with a menu and coupons. Absolutely brilliant! They are taking advantage of an imprisoned audience and marketing to the max. I was so impressed I brought the wife there for lunch 2x now.
Our Lesson---how much did they spend in coffee and ice tea? Probably less than $50 if they did that every time a trian went by, once a week. Impact? the outdoor and indoor seating has been packed lately and that was not the case in the months leading up to their train stop promo's. What are you doing extra to attract or retain customers? How difficult is it to toss in cleaning some windows in key areas? Or maybe encap some carpeting while doing floor work you are being paid to do? It doesn't have to be a big ticket service but any little extra service can be marketed to your customers. In our industry it is not the 1000 things you did right, it's the one thing you did wrong, last March on a Tuesday that they remember.
more next week.