Failure is our just desserts

I went shopping for a dress (actually my wife did, but I had to tag along) as you do. What I saw was funny if it wasn’t so sad: four businesses that are struggling and rapidly heading for the scrap heap. The headlines will blame the ‘recession’ – but these businesses did it all to themselves without the assistance of the global ‘crisis’ and they will deserve to fail.

They had three (3) things in common.The three A’s of failure. (Hey, I am a consultant; creating these sexy acronyms is practically a job-requirement.)

Sin #1: Acknowledgement -  Despite all the lip-service about how important the customer is, every one of these businesses failed at the first hurdle. They failed to acknowledge the customer appropriately. Ah, well. Must be a Gen Y thing. Chin up and on with the shopping.

Sin #2: Approach - My beloved started shopping and sent out buying signals that would make the stock exchange floor sound like a graveyard. Not once was she approached. (I kid you not.) They kept themselves busy with ‘other things’. This is enough to cure even the most determined shopper. But we had a party to go to and she gritted her teeth and kept going.

Sin #3: Attitude  - If a girl’s gonna party, she’s gonna party, right? So off to the dressing rooms she went. As she emerged from the dressing room the sales assistants all responded in the same way. The actual words were slightly different, but in each case there was a presumption of a ‘non-sale’. Their attitude was that assuming that the sales was not going to happen. The classic response du jour was: ‘No good?’ (How much was said with those two words – she was a real poet.)

Hard to believe, isn’t it? After spending all the money on opening the store, marketing it, running it, and the staff members first words to a customer is ‘no good’! At that point even the bravest shopper will wonder if they are indeed doing the right thing and we abandoned ship. No more time left, so we went to a party, and she wore an ‘old’ dress – that is, a dress that had been worn once before.

The moral of the story? All of the work you do as a business owner: CRM or Social Media, Market Research, Quality Assurance – everything you do to find customers and build relationships with them - counts for nought if the people at the coalface cannot do the basics right. [At this point, feel free to nod your head in agreement.] The person walking onto your business is… wait for it … a person! Not a ‘customer’ not a consumer, not a slice of market share; just a person who should be acknowledged as a person. But if you think this is a sorry saga about customer service, just hold your horses.

The (pending) failure of these businesses can not be attributed to poor customer service. Despite what your favourite marketing consultant might tell you, poor customer service is not the cause of poor performance. All of these ‘sins’ I listed above are merely the symptoms. (And in these cases the malaise ran deep.) The questions I have for you, dear reader, are:

  • If these 3 As are symptoms as I claim, what would be the root cause of the problems I described above?

  • And given those problems, what would you do if you were the owner?


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