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Just some observations

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by Tiggy, Sep 3, 2005.

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  1. Tiggy

    Tiggy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Hi All

    You know it's striking me lately just how many businesses there must be out there who are failing, not because there is anything wrong with their product or service etc, but because they seem to be overlooking something which is just basic common sense.

    Some of the examples lately I've noticed:

    1 - A stall set up in the middle of a busy shopping mall selling an anti-aging skin product. The stall is managed by a young man and a young woman, both looking to be about 21 years old at the most. They stand by their wares watching the hoards pass by and pounce whenever they see a lady whom they deem to look 'mature' enough to need their product. This seems to me a terrible approach. There are not many women who will take kindly to being singled out as looking old enough to need anti aging creme, especially by a couple barely out of adolescence, especially as many of the women seem to be only in their middle thirties.

    I noticed after a period of about 3 weeks this stall packed up and disappeared. I would think they would have had much more success if they had chosen representatives on the stall who were more mature themselves, whom their target audience would relate to and who are experienced enough to know how to approach and handle a potentially tricky subject without causing offence.

    2 - A very smart young man in a dapper black 3 piece pin stripe suit with a big white 'trust me' smile plastered on his face and a clipboard under his arm hanging around the shopping precinct on a lovely sunny Tuesday afternoon. I have no idea what he was selling as, like the other hoardes of people, I went out of my way to avoid him. It seems obvious that whoever has sent him out there has told him to look very sharp, business like and professional. Let's face it, when you're out shopping on a nice afternoon, trying to forget your worries, the last thing you want to do is stand and talk to someone who looks like a stereotypical bank manager. His attire just alienated people from the start.

    3 - A cafe which sells very nice food and has very pleasant staff and a very efficient service. It became more apparent as the months went by that they were failing to attract anywhere near the amount of necessary diners. Eventually they closed down, no doubt shaking their heads and wondering where it all went wrong. None of them seemed aware that grey walls, black and white flooring and black plastic tables and chairs are not really conducive to a pleasant dining experience. I can't help thinking that had they spotted their monochrome mistake and injected some colour and warmth into their decor they would have faired a lot better. The sad thing is the front of their cafe was one great huge big picture window, a perfect showcase to utilise to tempt rumbling stomachs inside. Instead it achieved the opposite.

    It's so sad!

    Tiggy :)
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Tiggy Member since: Jul 14, 2005
  2. Jayne

    Jayne UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Many people have good ideas, I have seen many shops open and close within a year now. People think that being in business is a get rich quick way to earn money. It isn't, it's hard work and you have to give up many things to make a go at it. People just start a business now without thinking about it, research before-hand is important and they must think what would have to be sacrificed to do this. Things like holidays, nights out, in my case I had to sell my car to start up our first business and we were in business for 6 years before we had our first holiday. Being in business is not for everyone and it's sad some people have to find out the hard way.

    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Jayne Member since: Aug 6, 2005
  3. Julie

    Julie UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    131 4
    There's no doubt that you have to be a very particular sort of person to run a business. You have to be able to keep going when it's hard, when most people would just give up; you have to be able to take criticism full on and put it to positive effect; you have to be able to work long hours, as Jayne says; and you have to learn to live with delayed gratification!

    Plus so many more personal characteristics. Too many to go into here...

    As Tiggy says, so many people have a 'great' idea for a product or a service and then launch into business without any understanding or knowledge of the basic skills you need to run a business: marketing, selling, accounts, forecasting and planning. You can have the most fantastic product or service in the world, but if you can't tell people about it -- or deliver it to them on time and for the right price -- then you're going to struggle.

    It's not that you necessarily have to have those skills yourself, is it? But a business owners needs to understand how important they are in running a business. I think it's a very rare business that can keep going with those skills missing. Somebody has to have them.

    I feel sad when I hear of a business failing. I really identify with that loss of all those plans made, those exciting possiblilities... When our export business failed, after the World Trade Centre attack, I felt low for months afterwards. It was the loss of the possiblity that really got to me; the loss of our dreams; of all the things we hoped might happen...

    Getting back up and fighting again was hard. But perhaps it's that ability that characterises business people. We know that if you don't try, then it *definitely* won't happen -- but if you try... just might!

    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Julie Member since: Jul 17, 2005
  4. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve UKBF Newcomer Full Member

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    Ken Blanchard's book Raving Fans is also a very readable and thought-provoking book. His first recommendation is to just sit back and imagine the experience you would like your customers to have. This step alone might have helped these three businesses.
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Cornish Steve Member since: Jul 4, 2005
  5. Tiggy

    Tiggy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Hi Julie and Jayne

    Agree with all you're saying. In a weird kind of way seeing these failures can sometimes be quite encouraging!

    I mean if you're thinking of starting a business and you get to meet someone who starts doom mongering and giving dark dire warnings it can really give you the wobbles; especially if you can see that the person in question is intelligent, bright and enthusistic etc. You start to think 'gosh, if they failed what chance have I got?'

    But many times they just are totally unaware of the blind spot that caused their down fall. I think one common mistake is the over emphasis on looking 'professional'. Obviously I'm not saying you shouldn't be professional as being professional is a must but often professional translates to the customer as being cold, impersonal and frankly quite scary if it's used in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

    Some business owners seem obsessed with how they appear and what impression they are making when they should be looking at the situation from the point of view of the person who may buy from them. They should be asking themselves 'what is it that inspires me to part with my hard earned money? What must I be thinking and feeling to get to that stage?' and then set about creating that same emotional environment and approach for their own would-be customers.

    If you're trying to sell in a shopping precinct its your job to have an appearance and an approach that fits into the mindset and mood of the people in that particular situation. Shopping is a leisure activity and the last thing I want when I'm out is someone coming toward me brandishing a clipboard because it's like being expected to come out of a warm bath and jump into a cold shower!! The person selling has to be there in the warm bath with us before we even want to relate then they have more chance of leading to wherever they want us to go.

    I remember a brief stint as a barmaid when I was 23. The owners had just taken over the pub and were desperate for it to be a success. They were very keen on giving the right impression. Hence, we barmaids were instructed that the punters wanted to feel that they were in a clean, organised and well run establishment. We were told to always be cleaning something in between waiting for the next customer, even if it didn't need cleaning, an extra polish of the counter or the pumps wouldn't do any harm. We must not just stand around chatting but always look 'occupied'.

    It seemed to me, even as green and clueless as I was, that the last thing I would want to see when I popped down to my local for a nice relaxing drink was people polishing and scrubbing. Surely that would just remind them of the work they had waiting for them at home? Also, I would think people want to go somewhere where they can have a laugh and a chat , with the bar people as well as the other customers and feel basically like they are in a friends living room and enjoying the ambience and hospitality that that entails.

    The landlord and landlady lasted less than 12 months. No doubt they couldn't understand how even the regulars could drift away from such a ship shape environment!!!

    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Tiggy Member since: Jul 14, 2005
  6. Tiggy

    Tiggy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    187 0

    We must have posted at the same time.

    Ken Blanchard is obviously a man after my own heart!!


    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Tiggy Member since: Jul 14, 2005
  7. Julie

    Julie UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    131 4
    Hi Tiggy and Steve

    Another thing I've noticed is those people who try and make the 'perfect' business before they open their doors -- letterheads, logos, beautiful furniture, glossy brochures, plants, uniforms, etc -- without knowing exactly what the perfect business is, at least as far as their customers are concerned. My design company grew around our clients, and was a more robust company because of it. We responded to what was asked of us, rather than trying to drive the process.

    As you say, perhaps it's one of the biggest mistakes people make when starting out -- not taking the time to discover what their customers *really* want; instead of what the business owner *thinks* they want. I believe it's called 'market research' <grin>

    I'm off to Amazon now to buy that book, Steve...

    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Julie Member since: Jul 17, 2005
  8. MichaelG

    MichaelG UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    464 16
    To add to your comments - let's not forget personalities. It is VERY important to understand your customers - how they think.

    And for SMEs, have people skills, manage relationships and go that extra mile for your clients.
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: MichaelG Member since: Sep 1, 2005
  9. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve UKBF Newcomer Full Member

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    The examples in that book are based on real companies, even though the author doesn't mention the fact.

    In real life, the author visited a Neiman Marcus store seeking an item that was out of stock. The store assistant asked how long he would be in the store and then asked him to come back in 20 minutes. She knew of another store in the shopping mall that carried the item, went there and purchased it, then took it back to Neiman Marcus and gift wrapped it. It was waiting for the author when he returned; he was charged no more than what the store assistant had paid for it.

    Now that's service. It's also incredible marketing because many people have since heard about what happened. The author became a raving fan, which is the title of his book.
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Cornish Steve Member since: Jul 4, 2005
  10. Tiggy

    Tiggy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    187 0
    Wow Steve,

    Fantastic story - I love that. I will be buying that book myself.

    You know what the crazy thing is? There is so much mediocrity out there it really is not that hard to stand out by going the extra mile.......or even the extra step!

    Typically I think the standard of customer service ( god I hate that phrase but don't know what else to call it)in this country is pretty dismal. I'm sure we could all fill a thousand forums with our own personal experiences.

    In fact I would go so far as to say some people are so clueless about what customer service (ugh!) is about they should be banned from having a business!!

    It even involves paying attention to words used; eg most hairdressing salons refer to their female customers as 'madam'. They no doubt think it is polite and and yet I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't feel somehow rankled by being addressed in such a fusty way.

    I think the first big mistake is actually thinking of people as customers. In my mind this immediately turns them into a sort of faceless mass of potential cash cows, rather than thinking , feeling, passionate, complex human beings with a myriad of unfulfilled needs, dreams and desires. That's what to concentrate on.

    Tiiggy :D
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Tiggy Member since: Jul 14, 2005
  11. clickprofits

    clickprofits UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    164 2
    Thnaks Steve, that sounds like a great read - I have added it to my amazon wishlist. :) I can also recommend another book on customer service (which sounds similar to the one you recommended) - it's called Hug Your Customers: Love the Results and is written by Jack Mitchell:

    His definition of a 'hug' is going the extra mile to satisfy, amuse or delight a customer. He also has plenty of examples in the book and says that selling is about much more than just about the product - it's about the relationship with that customer and their experience - customers can be expensive and time consuming to acquire, so if you make their experience special they are more likely to return to you and/or refer others. (An obvious point, but as pointed out above many UK businesses don't seem to grasp this!

    "When you have strong relationships, customers will do more of their buying from you. They'll refer other customers. They'll communicate with you better and tell you what they like and what they don't like, in turn making your business more efficient and effective."
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: clickprofits Member since: Feb 24, 2005
  12. Cornish Steve

    Cornish Steve UKBF Newcomer Full Member

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    Thanks for the recommendation. I shall order a copy in time for my next flight.

    Now, this is another interesting topic. On my way home from Puerto Rico yesterday, I read a couple of books by Harry Beckwith: Selling the Invisible and What Clients Love. He suggests that customers will NOT tell us what they really think - but they will tell others. Here's a brief quote:

    "A basic principle in life applies to surveying clients: Even your best friends won't tell you. But they will talk behind your back.

    "Make it so your clients can talk behind your back, and that you can learn what they're saying. Have your clients send their completed surveys to a third party. Have the third party assure your clients that they can leave their names out, and that their names won't be revealed. Your clients will give far more candid answers."

    What do you think?
    Posted: Sep 3, 2005 By: Cornish Steve Member since: Jul 4, 2005
  13. SmallBizSoftware

    SmallBizSoftware UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    136 1
    I am a Blanchard fan. Also worth checking out Jan Carlzon as well and his scribblings on Moments of Truth. He suggests that everytime your business interacts with a customer, the customer experiences a moment of truth that can be good, bad or indifferent. The MOT could be making a purchase, an enquiry or simply bumping into the cleaner on the way into the store and the experience of each MOT will colour the customers view.

    I believe that Carlson revolutionised Scandinavian Airline which his approach. Also has an interesting approach to management in which he says that the customer facing staff are the most important in any organisation and if managers are not supporting customers then they must be supporting someone else who is (i.e. turn the org chat upside down so that the manager is not there just to delegate and direct staff but to support and assist them as they deal with customers.

    Anyway, worth a read and another subject that I could rant on about all day! (Anyone need management consultancy?)

    Posted: Sep 4, 2005 By: SmallBizSoftware Member since: Jul 8, 2005
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