Jul 06

Keeping the Customers Coming Despite the Recession

Merchants such as department stores, groceries, and shopping malls spend millions on advertising with the intent to draw more customers in. With retail shopping on a downturn due to the recession, it becomes more critical for these stores to get bulk of the market share and get ahead of competition. Most of them realize that aside from offering good prices on products and service, a customer unconsciously notices other factors that can affect her choice. Most of the time, stores disregard cleanliness, courtesy of salespeople, and other minor details that can affect customer choice. A cheerful and courteous parking attendant can sometimes make a difference whether a customer returns to your store or not. Note that the customer is usually unaware that the choice was prompted by that smiling valet that greeted her with a sincere good morning the last time she visited. These likewise lead to word of mouth marketing that can sometimes be more valuable than that commercial a merchant pays for with an arm and a leg for televiewers.

To cite an example, we recently had dinner in a restaurant recommended by a friend that she claims serves excellent food. It turns out that getting a reservation can be difficult as it is a restaurant that serves only about 50-60 guests. You have to get a reservation a few days in advance just to get in. The difficulty is not due to the diner’s policy but rather the number of customers that dine on a daily basis, especially over dinner. When we finally got one, she was right about the food being excellent. Nevertheless, I realized that there are other restaurants that can match the taste and quality of what they serve. Still, I left the place more satisfied than I had ever been dining elsewhere. I kept thinking what it was that made me so happy to have dinner at their place.

Upon evaluation, I realized it was the waiters and the doorman that I found satisfactory over and above the meal. The doorman helped us get a good parking spot because of the difficult location and the small area. When we got in, we were greeted with warm smiles that did not come out of a training book. The waiters had perfect memory and remembered our orders flawlessly. There were about a dozen of us but he knew exactly what kind of drink each one ordered and placed them neatly in place without asking where which went. Waiters in other restaurants would usually ask the table where the drinks go or who ordered who. Before the main course was served, a waiter came to us with the broth in his hand asking us to taste it before it was served. According to them, the chef will adjust the spice according to our preference. I know we were all staring at him while he talked wondering if we can afford to pay for the meal with this kind of service. We were mistaken when the bill came. The cost was well below the worth of the service we experienced. To this day, I have not eaten anywhere finer. Not even 5-star hotels that cost a fortune can match the service we received that night. No wonder the diner remains packed to this day even with the cost of living going over the moon. It was a luxury customers were willing to retain because the experience was worth more than the cost itself.

Most merchants are unaware of these factors and end up losing their shops when the hard times start coming. There is only one thing a merchant should have on his mind to make it in the business — keep the customers happy. This is more important than security or financial strategies. I will not return to a bank that will strictly ask me to turn off my cellphone when I go in or one that will keep me waiting for a full one hour just to make a deposit. The chances of the bank getting robbed because a cellphone was used is too remote to inconvenience your clients by asking them to turn it off. The truth is, most businesses are so focused on making money with their money and trying hard not to lose any that they forget about the customers that bring it in. Customers are the reason they exist — not their financial planning or cost-cutting measures. Customers give value to a business. They will make or break any business no matter how financially stable or how smart the management team is.

Keep us happy and you not only keep your business, but we will also bring you more money and make you grow.

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