‘Service’ defines ‘Brand’

I’m often asked ‘would you have to be brave to start a business in this ‘declining market’?’

The answer is a resounding No; the caveat is, providing you understand that sectors change and only those who drive that change or ride its crest will enjoy the success.

The key is to know your market and develop a realistic business plan; research the location carefully and really understand your potential client base, before you start to develop your ‘brand’.

One of the most common mistake I witness is businesses failing to recognise that it is their customer’s opinion which counts and not their own. From your first trading day, aim to consistently exceed your customer’s expectations and continue to re-evaluate those expectations as your business progresses.

Too many businesses spend big on refurbishment, design and innovation, but fail to invest in the training which ensures their levels of service exceeds those of the competition; often that ‘investment’ is required in time rather than money.

The UK is ripe for businesses which offer great service to flourish. Too many existing businesses run as if the customer owes them a living and prosperity, rather than focussing on the real value each customer represents.

Take coffee as a prime example; the marketplace is saturated, but its size has also exploded over the past ten years and is now valued at nearly £1.5 billion a year.

Last week I sat down for a coffee in an outlet belonging to a national chain, on the table was the ‘traditional’ coffee shop tray full of the last customers empty mugs and a half eaten muffin. Twice while I was there the same member of staff walked past without acknowledging me or noticing the empty tray.

When I was up at the counter, I had asked if they could turn the air-conditioning down from the sub-zero setting, the clue being that not a single customer had removed their jacket. It was explained to me that with the coffee machine and the dishwasher it got very warm behind the counter and that it was unpleasant to work at that temperature.

Any businesses which places the comfort of staff over the customer experience is never going to reach its full potential; it’s a clear sign that most common mistake, ‘over-familiarity’.

In contrast, I was delivering training at a hotel recently and while walking round the hotel each member of staff greeted me on ‘first contact’, even if that first contact was when we walked past each other in a corridor.

Why am I greeted in the hotel and ignored in the coffee shop? What was the cost of the greeting? In monetary terms £0; in effort, just the desire from the whole team to deliver exceptional service.

The importance of service to your business (brand) is often underestimated and the consequences of great / poor service can only be measured in the ‘life-long value’ of the customer; not a missed individual sale.

I drink about 5 or 6 coffees a week in retail outlets, my annual value to the sector is therefore approximately £750, my life-long customer value over 20 years in excess of £15.000; that is just my contribution, there are 62 million of me in the UK.

Where I spend that £15k will largely depends on my individual brand perception and brand is much more than a logo, it is an experience; positive or negative.

Building a brand is difficult enough, one bad experience can damage that brand irrevocably.

Image will get customers in; exceptional service will keep them coming back.


Source - Bar Magazine (January 2012 Issue)

Author - Peter Mayhew is the Managing Director of Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy and a contributor to Bar Magazine’s ‘Expert Advice’ section. 


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