Amsterdam, 2nd August 2008
Do’s and Don’ts for Entrepreneurs is a regular column on www.efactor.com
DO: THINK!!! (like your customer)
It is the small things that count – to start with a cliche. But it is so very true!
This week I went to a meeting in the Hyatt in New York. At some point I had to visit the bathroom – and as every cubicle bar the one for handicapped women was occupied, I entered that one. Don’t worry – I won’t be going into any further details on that visit bar to say that something odd struck me which led me to writing this week’s blog on a specific topic : Thinking like your customer.
Here you are in a cubicle where everything has been adapted for wheelchair access, the space is much larger, the seat is lower, the washbasin at wheelchair height, a bar along the wall for grip and balance. But some idiot had put the hook where you hang your handbag (this will strike a chord with all ladies out there, perhaps less so with the gents) right at the very top of the door – same as in every other, non-handicap equipped cubicle you might ever use. How stupid is that? If I am in a wheelchair, there is no way I could reach up this high to get my handbag on the hook. And even if I am of Olympic fame and can sling my handbag to land precisely on that hook – how on earth am I supposed to get it back again?
These things always strike me as being the work of someone who is not using their braincells – or a supervisor who is simply being careless. You are probably all sitting there nodding in agreement, or shaking your head at so much stupidity – but yet, this is only one small example of companies that are not paying attention to the little things. Take for example airlines, the bane of our travelling existence – you fly business class, but then they make you wait in a queue endlessly to get to security, or the example of my co-founder Adrie who got doused in soy sauce during a business lunch by a careless waiter. The restaurant refunded everything including dry cleaning and the repair of his blackberry (now a soy-berry) but then still made him pay his bill for the food (and soy-sauce). All of these are about not controlling your entire process. And to me it is about also not understanding what your customer is actually buying from you. The airline may feel you are buying a flight – and hey, it’s getting you there, isn’t it? And the restaurant is selling a meal – which you got a little more of then you wanted. And ofcourse the toilet in the hotel functioned perfectly well….. but what is a customer really buying from you? Why do they buy from YOU rather then from your competitor? It is because you provide an overall experience, you are selling more then merely a product. I can tell you flat out that if you think you are selling paperclips, flights or meals – you will lose out.
You should look at your customer and understand what it is you are providing to them beyond simply another product that they might be able to use. They are buying because they like you, because you give them the feeling you understand their business (rather then your own!), you make them feel that you have thought about what it means to them. So you may be selling a seat on an airplane to one customer, but the next will want to feel that you understand he/she hates to fly anywhere for work, leaving the family behind, being in a boring hotel for the next 3 nights and therefore if you greet him/her with a magazine and a cup of tea when they get on the plane, and whisk them through check-in and security with as little delay as possbile – it is worth spending a little extra. That is what selling is all about – and in the end, any business owner – be it from a small one-man shop to a large corporate – should always be involved in the sales process. Think like your customer – be like them and make sure that you "sell" them what they are looking to buy.