Convenience still key to customer's satisfaction

score Question:
What can I do to ensure, to some extent, that customers return to my shop for their needs?

In today's complex world, nobody can master everything. Everyone is looking to accomplish more in less time with fewer hassles. Nobody has time for shopping; we all have too many commitments. The lack of convenience can spell the difference between success and failure.

From one-hour photo developing to one-hour optical service to immediate Internet shops to 24-hour catalogs, the customer's definition's is continually changing. And this craze is expected to continue. With both spouses in most families working, there is far less time for shopping, which means customers will be measuring your store performance by the time it takes for them to find the item, find a clerk for needed information, check out and be on their way.

Let's call that "convenience quotient." Every time customers complete their visit, they calculate your quotient by dividing the desire for fulfillment by the hassle and annoyance they endured to complete the transaction. This may be done consciously or unconsciously; it still counts. If the quotient is high, customers are apt to continue doing business with you; if low, they look elsewhere.

Because of the increasing desire for convenience, I suggest that you perform a convenience audit on your store. This involves taking a fresh, objective look at your business from the customer's viewpoint. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and make the evaluation.

Imagine what total convenience would be like. Now look for an area where it's frustrating to find what you're looking for, whether it's a clerk or a product.

That's an opportunity just waiting for a solution. Ask, is this purchasing experience as convenient and satisfying as it could be? If not, change it.

Here are some areas that may require action to keep your firm ahead of your competitors:

  • Are you constantly training and coaching your people to think about the customer's convenience rather than their own?
  • Are your employees consciously thinking about the impression they make with the customer in person or on the phone?
  • Do you have knowledgeable staff available to answer questions and assist the customer? Do you have enough staff?
  • Are your shelves and display areas arranged so that "like products" are in the same area?
  • Can your customers achieve satisfaction with a minimum number of contacts with clerks?
  • Is it convenient for the customer to find "the right person in charge?"
  • Is the staff trained to automatically open additional cash registers when checkout lines become long?
  • What about your after-sale assistance? Return policies? Are they convenient for the customer?
Convenience and innovations often pay for themselves by stimulating additional sales. Make it easy for the customer to do business with you, and they will return again and again.

Convenience is an important part of any marketing or sales program. Shouldn't it be an important part of yours?

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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