Grass or Paving?

“Find it out what the customer he wants and give it to them” - is a line we invariably use at some stage during our retail training sessions.

Typical reactions are:

  • “it is too difficult",

  • “It is not cost effective",

  • “we work with tight margins”, and my personal favourite...

  • “they don't know what they want",

and so it goes....

This 'customer first' philosophy is big and bold – but it is very OLD! (I am actually amazed that we can still earn a living explaining something as fundamental as how to execute customer service.) Yet, so many companies still struggle with it. And this gap is getting bigger and bigger as the social media wave gains momentum and the consumers become even more powerful.
The reason for all this difficulty? I have two observations:

1. Firstly, I suspect people are so familiar with the 'words' around customer service, that they are stale and they fail to really think about what it means. (Too many trainers who told them the customer is always righ...)
2. Secondly, because it means letting go. It means abandoning control of your preferences, your strategies and your pet ideas and letting the customer dictate how to run your business.  To illustrate it perfectly, read this blog post by Paul Williams. In brief, a developer planted grass (soft landscaping) instead of soft and hard landscaping. Some time later, he added the pathways. His rationale was that the walkways would emerge where the customers walked. Now, THAT is customer orientation.

Are you brave enough to let the customer roam in your shop, and then you 'pave' the store accordingly? Or do you rely on a designer to make it look good? Or even worse, do it the way it was always done? Or execute the 'brand'...

For example, if you cater to mums with prams then you have a decision to make: do you create a power display at the entrance (install the paving), or do you create a “landing space” allowing them to put their keys away and settle the kids (plant grass first)?

A little analogy worth thinking about, don't you agree?