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Friday, July 16, 2010

The Wrong Tool for the Job.

I left my drycleaner for Tide Cleaners, and haven’t regretted it in the least.

Master of the product world, Proctor & Gamble also knows how to produce a service encounter using process, people and the physical service environment as effectively as they use promotions in a retail environment.

Still, when my old cleaner sent me a handwritten note to let me know that they have missed my business and asking that I call, I felt compelled to talk to them – to give them a chance or just some advice.

My conversation with their district manager was pleasant. She wanted to know why I had left and what they could do get my business back. Solid business fundamentals - when previously loyal customers leave, work to understand why they did and try to win them back.

I told her I wasn’t dissatisfied with their core service or price, but for me, Tide was providing a better experience by putting more convenience into a service I see generally as an inconvenience. I referred specifically to using the drive thru, as well as the off-hours drop box for times when my only available time was after close-of-business. She was aware of Tide improving on the convenience aspect of the experience, and told me she was looking into ways they could be more convenient themselves.

Then as we wrapped up, she offered me a store credit if I’d use them again.

I reiterated that I wasn’t dissatisfied with their prices - that I was looking for something else - thanks but no thanks. Still, she insisted they apply a store credit in the event that I would try them again. I told her what I really wanted was improvement on attributes not related to the price or the actual drycleaning service.

At its most basic, value is what you perceive you get, relative to what you perceive you give. A company can improve it for a customer by increasing perception of what they get or by decreasing their perception of what they give.

My ex-drycleaner did what so many businesses do when competition changes a customer’s perception of their value. Almost reflexively, they improved value in the easiest way possible – by reducing price, even when it wasn’t merited and wouldn’t be effective.

When someone tells me how difficult their business is / industry is and how tight margins are, I can’t help but wonder whether things really are that tough, or whether they choose to make it tough by following the easiest-yet-most-vulnerable path to gaining or keeping a customer.


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