December 04, 2013

The Gift Of Giving (What People Really Want)

Despite the years spent in recession, there's something remarkable still happening in business today. And it doesn’t add up. On the one hand, business-owners are struggling to attract customers. On the other, when customers do turn up ready to buy, they’re often being given the cold shoulder and told to take their business elsewhere. They’re not being told directly, of course. But all the signs are there and customers are getting the message loud and clear.
Wasting Precious Time

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.
Recently, I went online to choose a gift for my brother and his wife who were celebrating a special anniversary, and selected a popular, upmarket Dublin hotel. I called to book the package and was told that the person handling package sales was unavailable but would call me back. They didn’t.
I rang the following day. Yes, I was told, they had my details; hadn’t someone called me back? No, they hadn’t, but could I book the package now, please? I was told the person handling package sales was on leave today and they would have someone call me back the following day.
The next day, I finally spoke with the person handling package sales. She took my payment details but when I asked to have the voucher made out without the value written on it (as it was a gift), I was told no, all vouchers were made out with the cash value.
I grew obviously irritated then and asked whether the hotel really wanted the business. She checked with her manager and returned to tell me that exceptionally they would make out a voucher with just the package details but it would be valid for three rather than the usual six months. Under some time pressure now with the anniversary looming, I agreed but was left with a bad taste in my mouth and a determination never to give business to this particular hotel again.
What I Really, Really Want

What kind of business can afford to disappoint a willing customer in a struggling economy?

I believe I can answer that one. Despite common sense suggesting that business-owners are prepared to work doubly hard to generate business in challenging times, the evidence tells us that their hard work is often in vain. In my recent experience, this is down to business owners forgetting the business they are really in.
In the case of the hotel, it’s likely they believed that they’re in the business of selling accommodation. Well they are, in a sort of a way. But that’s not the real business that they’re in. The real business they’re in has something much more to do with the reason that brought me to their doors looking for a gift voucher.
Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, likes to say that “we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee”. When I called, the hotel should have been in the people business preparing gift vouchers but proved distracted and in being so sent out a message to me that they didn’t want my business.
Give Them What They Really Want

We must step out from behind the counter to properly consider what our customers want. This is the time to focus again on what lies at the core of our exchange with our buyers. At the heart of every business, there is a simple transaction that is the basis for our brand. If we can repeat that transaction over and over again, to the satisfaction of our customers, then we are truly in business.
We cannot afford to turn people away or leave them standing neglected at the counter. Instead, we must demonstrate that we are not only open for business, but actively welcoming people to buy with us and keenly aware of what they want and need from us. 

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