Thursday 19 September 2019

Problem Solver: It is critical that every business keeps the customer as the central focus

Feargal Quinn

Senator Feargal Quinn in 2008.Pic Tom Burke
Senator Feargal Quinn in 2008.Pic Tom Burke

Q: How important is the location for a retail shop? I have a choice between a high-cost busy street, or a lower-cost street which is slightly off the beaten track?

A: Certainly there is a school of thought which says retail is all about location, location, location. There is no doubt that if your business is on a busy thoroughfare, and you are running a good operation, the chances of you attracting some of these customers is strong.

What you describe is the age-old challenge for retailers. The less busy street is going to offer you far more attractive rent and rates, which might lead to a very profitable business if you can encourage people to make the extra journey to your door. That 'if' is where the problem lies. I can show you plenty of businesses which have made a great success in remote locations, and I can show you others which have catastrophically failed because they didn't have the footfall passing their door. Certainly a business in a less busy area will take far longer to establish than one in a busier location.

You will also have to be a master at marketing and invest more money in this area as your first challenge is to get people to know you even exist. If you are confident of your business model and have identified a clear gap in the market, then it may be the right decision.

However, if this is your first location you could argue you need to give the business every fighting chance and you have no choice other than to locate in the busier areas. You may well say to me you don't have the budget for the busier areas and that may be part of the decision-making process. You may well want to locate on the busy street, but simply can't afford it. So be it, but now you have to become the marketing guru.

Q: You wrote a book many years ago which I think was called 'Crowning the Customer'. Do you think customer service is better in general than it was when you wrote that book?

A: THERE certainly seems to be a lot more focus on customer service today and I read on a weekly basis of some company or other launching an initiative in this area. Recently I even read that Cork city centre as a whole has launched a customer service charter.

From what I understand, that involves many of the businesses in Cork city centre committing to putting customers first and creating a sense of pride in their city, business owners, employees and the general public, and that should be applauded.

Around 12 months ago, I read that one of the discount food retailers was spending a very large amount of money bringing all their staff to one central location to upskill them further on customer service initiatives. That certainly creates a new dynamic if the discounters are now positioning service as a core part of their offer. The market place is changing rapidly and it is critical that every business, big and small, keeps the customer as the central focus.

Of course, there are periodic statements from one of the larger airlines that the customer is not always right and I cringe when I read deluded commentary like that.

The market place is now highly competitive in most sectors. As businesses become closer to each other on the price of their product and service there is little to differentiate them there, and they all have strong innovation calendars, so service starts to move up the ranks as a potential way to influence more and more consumers to do business with them.

In summary, yes I do believe service is now better than it ever was and to the forefront of many organisations where it might not have been as important in the past.

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