By Ron Kustek
Each business should always try to differentiate itself from the competition. There are many ways business owners can use experience to be “different” instead of just focusing on quality and price.
When many businesses owners are asked what makes them different, many respond with ‘we have the highest quality at the most affordable prices’. But if every business is promoting quality and affordability, then by definition, there is no differentiation. Quality and affordability are ‘givens’ to be in business and promoting the same ‘quality and affordability’ as everyone else puts you in a ‘sea of sameness’.
In a post-COVID world, we have the chance to ‘re-launch & re-position’ ourselves to be truly different! And remember that being ‘different’ should be based on what excites your target customers so that it impresses them (not you).
Regardless of the business you’re in, what matters to the most customers is their experience. The ‘experience’ is often a missed opportunity to be better, special and different! This allows you to a) satisfy your customers better for improved loyalty, b) establish a true point-of-difference that can’t be easily duplicated by your competition and c) get some ‘buzz’ that customers talk about and share on social media!
If you own a restaurant, brewpub, coffee shop or retail store, it’s most likely you’re already providing high-quality food, beverages and/or items at competitive prices. But what do your customers experience the minute they exit their car or walk in your store? Are they welcomed with music outside or the enticing smell of food and beverages to cater to their mood? Is your parking lot clean and easy to navigate, free of litter or weeds? Is your entry open and welcoming or just a door that’s possibly dirty and difficult to open?
Once inside, does the lighting fit the mood you want your customers to feel? Many businesses have bright and offensive lights that shine directly into the eyes of customers. What about the sounds inside — is there music that your customers want to hear, or do they hear the banter of your staff, or the clang of plates and glasses being shuffled off tables?
Do you actually think your ‘table service’ is comforting, especially when you have customers walk up to a counter to order and/or have them wait in another line, being called by a number, to pick up their cooling food off a cold counter to then find their table? That’s worse than take-out!
Do you AND your staff greet your regulars by name, making eye-contact or asking how their recent vacation was, or how their kids are doing in school? If you have customers that are from out of town, do you know where they’re from, or why they chose to be in this area, or what they’re looking for or needing from your business? Do you thank them for visiting you even before they make a purchase?
And remember: ALL these areas to provide an impressive experience ALSO pertains to your website, not just your physical brick & mortar business!
Each of these small but important facets combine to form a customer experience, one that they will talk about to others. Think Disneyland. The prices are high, the crowds can be overwhelming, and the quality of food and beverages isn’t that great. But it’s the ‘Disney Experience’ that they’re providing to the majority of customers who pay high prices and are smiling in the park and after they leave, still talking about it positively with their friends.
You now have a chance to re-position your business to past and new customers!!! Take advantage of this opportunity!!! Giving customers the most unique and best experience possible will set you apart from your competition and give you more loyal returning customers who provide the word-of-mouth that’s critical to every business’ success!