Service continuity, customer expectation and being as comfortable as an old shoe


Think about the customer's needs!

Think about the customer’s needs!

Our regular clients expect from us an excellent service and it is up to us to live up to their expectation. That does not mean that we never change what we do for them. In the last decade, advances in technology have allowed us to make improvements. We can email documents (in my case accounts and Tax Returns) which means we can be even quicker, and to use nineties jargon, provide a smarter service.

Of course not all clients are computer literate, so we still provide them with paper copies of what they need, and even if they do like to communicate by email but want us to provide paper copies of everything, of course we oblige. We have to sacrifice the odd tree to keep the customer satisfied, but it is our business and therefore in our best interests to do so.

What clients do not like is change. I do not like it either when new Government impositions oblige us to involve our clients in red tape, but we have to live with it.

What the customer does not like to experience is a change of service where they do not get what they had before, but something different. It is rather like I feel in the supermarket when I enjoy a new range of tea they have or like their bran flakes, and then suddenly they no longer have those lines and I have to buy something else. There is a feeling of dissatisfaction, and I look in other supermarkets to get what I like. So clients might look to another provider to replace what we might have stopped giving them and which they really liked.

Clients do not like change. They like the comfort of being able to rely on a service like an old shoe.

We should not be resistant to advancing our business practice, but don’t you agree change should not be for the sake of change?

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Uncomfortable market positioning

The Waitrose store in Peterborough, Cambridges...
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Price wars

Writing the other day about supermarkets and what one in particular can teach us about comfort reminded me that our up-market supermarket in the UK, Waitrose, is now competing on price, or at any rate telling us that they are no more expensive than Tesco on a range of products. I think this is a big mistake though understandable in a time of austerity and a depressed economy.

Perceived quality

As many would know, Waitrose is the supermarket offshoot of the John Lewis Partnership, which is a chain of stores renowned for the quality of its goods and the quality of its services. I know a few people who swear by John Lewis and wouldn’t do their birthday or Christmas shopping anywhere else, or indeed buy their TV or dishwasher or pashmina scarf from any other shop.

Waitrose has always carried this ethos through to the supermarket environment. The Waitrose image is of quality and while customers always understood that they might pay more, that cachet of comfort has always ensured loyalty of customers who like to feel different. I hope the chain management doesn’t lose sight of this in their desire to compete with the big players in food retail. After all, a lot of people buy into image when they are shopping, otherwise Gucci wouldn’t be such a successful brand, and IPhones and Macs would be less popular given that there are cheaper quality smart phones and computers on the market which deliver the same services. Of course the loyal Apple following might see this as controversial, but I am complimenting Apple on their image, market positioning and closed exclusivity of software and apps management.

Know our minds

I believe we in business all need to know where our place is in the market, and indeed to work at our positioning. If we are providing a service we need to make sure it is distinct from and better than everyone else’s and in my view the last thing we want to do is be cheap.  We just need to be different and high quality as Waitrose has always been, and if they have any sense, will continue to be.

What do you think?

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Southern Comfort is what I’m selling

A view down the beer and wine aisle of a super...
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We are constantly assailed in the TV ad breaks by supermarkets essentially arguing and bickering with each other. “We are the cheapest on 500 products”, “we have these special deals on essential products”, “we will beat any other supermarket’s price” and so on.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. If we go to one or other of the supermarkets, aside from the different signage and logos they mostly seem much the same. We are bathed in bright fluorescent lighting, and while in the bigger shops the aisles are wider, we still seem crowded in by piles of food and goods stacked high. The experience is pretty much the same and not the best either.

Being different

Well, it’s nearly always the same anyway. We have a new Co-Op which has taken over many Somerfield stores including ours. They have refurbished the shop and have done a great job. Given there is no more space and they have wider aisles, they probably carry less variety of stock. They have more diffused less harsh lighting and even the signage seems less in our faces.

Our new shop gives more of a feeling of comfort and peace. It may be a supermarket version of feng shui for all I know, but it works. It is almost a pleasure to go shopping for our essentials.

Comfort zone

In my business, I believe what I sell is peace of mind, and I try to deliver it in the most comfortable way. I add-on little extras that don’t cost me anything but show that I care, which I do. I don’t give away what my business could charge for, and no business should. Mostly the extras comprise making suggestions about how my clients might source services I do not provide, such as web hosting or printing. I get to refer my friends but at the same time I am providing added value. People appreciate the thought and they will remember to refer business to those that help them.

Whatever the business we are in, whether selling groceries like the local Co-op or providing a service of any sort, that comfortable experience provides added value. Do you deliver Southern or even Northern Comfort?

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