A few years back I wrote a blog about how to treat your customers. While some things have changed, it’s just as true now as it was then!The most interesting thing looking back at this is the fact that it’s describing a business that failed. Most of you will know what happened to Borders after the original posting of this blog. I feel like I should address that, but I don’t completely know how. I don’t know what decision really cost them the money to stay open, because I don’t know what their fiscals were like in those last few years. What I do know is that they were too late to take advantage of new technology (both the internet and ebook readers), and when they did, they set up competition against their product on their own website. Free shipping may or may not have been a poor decision, I don’t know. I still maintain that the cafe and the opportunity to read things was more of a help than a hindrance. It certainly got more money out of me than they would have otherwise.
This article was originally published for MiBreviews on Nov 8, 2010.
Customer Service is my profession, so I do tend to keep an eye on it, but this rant is more about something that I’ve observed as a customer.
The economy is weak, and with it, a lot of companies are gaining a newfound respect for the often forgotten issue of Customer Satisfaction. After all, when your potential customers have enough money to be regular customers, it doesn’t matter so much how happy they are with your service. These days, though, plenty of people are willing to go without.
At my local Borders, I’ve been known to go in, pick a comic to read, and sit with a Borders-bought cup of coffee and my laptop until I’m ready to go home. You’ve already seen some of the fruits of this; more is on the way. Considering that what I do essentially amounts to promoting these books for free, I could claim that I deserve the special privilege, but as a legitimate business, Borders shouldn’t (and, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t) look at it as requiring such a privilege.
What’s the most important thing for a store like Borders in a poor economy? Getting the customer into the building. I can speak from experience that not only have I bought something almost every time I’ve been in a Borders, I also avoided them for over a year because Ebay and Amazon were just cheaper. Borders has proven themselves good at this- how many other stores send you coupons of upwards of thirty percent on a regular basis?
Any bookstore, then, that will not encourage a customer to make their store a regular place to be, is fighting a losing battle. There are bookstores out there that will frown upon you reading anything- even a chapter- that you haven’t purchased yet. Here’s the thing: want me to pay $15 for any comic before I read it at your store? Not interested. Not only do you lose the $3-6 that comes with my coffee or cold drink, you also lose the sale of the book I bought this week after spending two hours in your store. And the three DVDs I bought the month before that. And the comic that I read for a review but enjoyed and might think about buying if I can afford it. And the list goes on. All it costs you is letting me take something off the shelf for a couple of hours.
So far, my local Borders seems to have caught on. If you manage a business, you should too.