I put huge emphasis on customer service and while we get recognition for this, I also get criticised from my customers that my prices are high. I am beginning to question my rational.
Feargal replies: Customer service doesn't have to cost extra money and I am not quite clear why you are linking the price comment to the topic of service. It may be that you have invested in extra people to deliver a higher level of service which would be a valid point.
On the wider front great customer service is all about enhancing the customer experience through genuine staff. If you can achieve this level of service in any business then it is a definitive competitive advantage. Of course consumers will respond to it.
If that service is causing your business model to be unsustainable, then that is a different matter. Could it be that you have confused running the business efficiently with providing world class customer service?
You will often read about the value proposition of a business and that is the relationship between what you are offering and the price. Clearly your customers like the service levels but something seems to have gone wrong with the price relationship and customers appear to feel that even though you are providing above-ordinary levels of service, that the price required to do business with you is greater than the additional service benefit.
It is not your customer that is the problem, it is the commercial model. I accept that these can overlap and in the earlier years of Superquinn we had additional staff members like trolley hosts to greet customers but we were careful we didn't allow this investment to push the value proposition beyond breaking point. My advice would be that you might need to tweak slightly the relationship between the cost of this service and the price you are charging for it.
Q Do you miss interacting with consumers or are you glad to be away from it all?
Feargal replies: Honestly, I do! I got so much inspiration and great ideas from consumers, I found it inspiring. You can run all the focus groups you want, and read all the reports that are printed, however you cannot substitute standing face to face with a customer. I never tired of hearing feedback, even when it sometimes wasn't favourable. I viewed it as an essential part of our quality control and I often used to measure how effective our strategy was.
I would encourage you to spend quality time with your customers as it will yield you nuggets your competitors will often miss. Your customers are often as passionate about your business as you are and want to see it succeeding. Of course listening to what people say is one thing, but hearing them is a different matter. You need to take action once the customer has spoken!
Do you have problems with your small business? Email Feargal at email@example.com