What you’re really selling: the customer experience

Over the past few months we’ve made some interesting observations here at the Consultant’s Corner. In our first column, “The Five Pillars of Growth,” we discussed the dismal statistics business owners face if they wish to survive and make their businesses thrive. We also introduced the Five Pillars of Business Growth: 1) The Customers Experience, 2) Make a Profit, 3) Own a Business – not a job, 4) Manage Systems, Lead People, and 5) Make Time for the Business of Business. In the next two columns, “Owner Time Choices” and “Investing Time – Three Steps to Growth” we discussed the most valuable tool on the owner’s workbench: time and the choices made for its use.

Now we are ready to begin the next leg of our business-growth journey – the customer experience. If you’re like most business owners, you probably believe what your customers buy is simply the product or service you provide. Although this is certainly true, it glosses over a far more important fact: customers have many options available when it comes to fixing the problem your product or service solves (all products and services fix a problem). So the question is, why do they choose to buy your product or service? What is the “tipping point” that causes customers to call your office or grace your store with their presence? It is called The Customer Experience – the First Pillar of Business Growth.

The First Pillar of Business Growth states: Customers do not buy your product or service. They buy the experience of purchasing that product or service you’re your business.

The Customer Experience is the central pillar of the Five Pillars of Business Growth. It is the central theme, the core tenet of a philosophy that alone can completely change the direction of your business. Your customers do not simply buy the product or service your business sells. They buy the experience of purchasing that product or service from you and your business.

To illustrate, let’s take an imaginary stroll down Main Street USA. The street is perfect Americana – paved, side-walked and maple-lined. There is, however, one oddity to this nostalgic paradise. Instead of a butcher, barber, grocery, and pharmacy, all the shops in this small town sell the exact same product or service – the same as your business and all for about the same price.

Do you manage a bank? Well, so does every other business person on Main Street. Own an auto repair shop? Your Main Street has at least 12 others who do the exact same thing. Maybe you’re a retailer, physician, realtor, electrician, plumber, journalist, painter, or accountant. If so, you’re in good company. Every other owner is in the exact same business!

So, here’s the question: Why should shoppers buy from your business? All the stores on Main Street sell the same product or service as you. The inability to compete on price — generally a horrible idea anyway — means a fire sale cannot steal business from others.

This imaginary Main Street paints a precise frame of the reality in which your business exists. When customers have many options available to purchasing a product or service they are no longer purchasing that product or service, per se. They purchase the experience of buying that product or service. In other words, the “tipping point” causing a customer to choose one business over all others is no longer the tangible product/service but the intangible, “value adding,” experience that business provides.

Do you want customers to call your phone or grace your store with their presence? Then add value to each and every customer’s experience. The Customer Experience is the First Pillar of Business Success.

In our next Consultant’s Corner we will share some steps that will help you create positive and lasting customer’s experience.

— Brett Hersh is the owner of Growth Strategies, LLC. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss your business, he can be reached at (304) 267-2594 or hbsbusiness@aol.com.

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