February 15, 2013 No Comments

Choose Customer Service

In today’s news, Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees transit planning in the Greater Toronto Area, stated that it was considering charging for parking at the GO Transit parking lots.  Publishing this possible action is a clever move — it allows them to gauge customer reaction and get feedback before taking any action. If you’re planning a major change to how you to do business, finding out what customers think about it ahead of time is a sound idea.

As the comments to the news story show, customers are overwhelmingly against paying for parking at GO Transit lots. They feel they are already paying for parking in the price of the fare. Some have noted that ridership will go down as people seek to car pool instead of pay an additional $100 to $200 a month. Alternatively, some people will abandon public transit and drive their cars into the city, an activity GO Transit was designed to reduce.

While the 65,000 parking spaces at GO Transit lots can rightly be seen as an untapped business asset, instituting a parking fee for those spaces will hurt business growth. Customers see it as “double-dipping” into their pockets, and have clearly expressed that they don’t like the idea.

This is a case where the customer backlash will be far greater than any benefit from charging for those parking spaces. Business growth at the expense of customer satisfaction is false growth, and will not last. There are other ways of increasing revenue; choosing a course that turns your customers against you is never the correct one.

February 14, 2013 No Comments

Eliminate Barriers to Small Business Growth

In my analysis of the exotic furniture shop that felt it couldn’t compete with “the big boys”, I mentioned the concept of an “anti-USP”. This is any factor that works against your Unique Selling Proposition. Your USP is one of the most valuable aspects of your business. It clearly states why customers should choose to do business with you instead of your competitors, and it emphasizes the value you offer your customers.

When you have any anti-USPs, however, all the good work you do in your business can be negated by one or more simple things. For the exotic furniture store, the used look of their furniture negated the value of these high-priced pieces.

Sometimes even the business name can be an anti-USP, as in the case of a former client who had the word “Kwik” in his business name. That particular spelling of the word “quick” indicates a low-priced, lower value service so sets up a customer expectation that yes, they’ll get something fast, but it is going to be inexpensive. Sadly, that business owner’s services were not inexpensive at all. Potential customers who invited him to give them a quote got immediate sticker shock as the price far exceeded what they were expecting to pay. His business suffered accordingly. (more…)

February 7, 2013 2 Comments

When Small Business Fails to Grow – Part 3

Used FurnitureSo here’s the final word on what I think happened to this great little business. We’ve already established that the business owner was capable and knowledgeable, adept in most areas of running his store. The business was capitalizing on multiple marketing pillars and was taking advantage of many of its marketing assets such as owner expertise, location, publicity, unique product, and community relationships.

If so much was going right, what went wrong?

As I mentioned in Part 1, the owner felt that he was squeezed out because he could not compete with “the big boys”, notably Ikea.

Yes, the business could have had a more compelling USP (Unique Selling Proposition) but it was not far off. Most of the messaging about the store in some way captured how this shop was different from its competitors. It had a distinct advantage over competitors like impersonal big box furniture stores. When working with any small business client, our first step is to ensure they have a solid USP in place, because that is the foundation upon which all other aspects of the business can be built. (more…)