There are some companies that are recognized for their customer service.
It’s their focus, they have built their brands around it, and they’re good at it. You could say they “stay in their lane.” Some examples would be Ace Hardware (think helpful), Nordstrom and Zappos. Are these companies known for being the low price leader? No, but that doesn’t mean that they are overpriced. They compete fairly on price, but they deliver added value with their customer
service. They are in the customer service lane.
Of course, these companies do have
promotions and sales. I have found great buys at Nordstrom’s semi-annual sales.
But their main focus is not on sales and discounted items. It’s the experience,
and whether you shop during the sale or any other time, you get the Nordstrom
On the other side of the spectrum, you
have Dollar Stores. Their main goal is to offer an incredibly low-priced
product. What you don’t find there, though, are sales experts greeting you at
the door like you would at Ace Hardware, for example. The people are friendly
as you interact with them at the cash register where they take your money and
bag up your purchase. And that’s OK. It is part of their plan. Low prices are
their focus, and they too, stay in their lane.
I started thinking about all this when
I heard that Radio Shack had decided to close about 20 percent of its stores.
Closing low-volume stores could be a savvy business move for a retail company,
but it has been reported for some time that the business is struggling. Radio
Shack was once a retail industry icon, so what happened? I may not have all the
answers to that, but I do have a theory about what contributed to its current
First let me say that I love Radio
Shack and have great memories of going there as a kid to get items for cool
projects (OK, maybe I was a bit of a geek). I still visit Radio Shack on
occasion to purchase electronic accessories. Something has changed though. When
I visit their store in the mall today I don’t get the same impression that I did
as a kid. You know, that they sold things that weren’t available anywhere else
– batteries, wires, cables. It was a cool place to find just what you needed.
Do they still have that “cool” factor and offer hard-to-find items for electronics,
phones and TVs? Are they the stores that come to mind when you are in the
market for electronic items? Somewhere along the way, they switched lanes, but
I’m not sure what lane they’re in now.
This is just an observation that made
me think of companies that struggle because they can’t choose a lane and stay
in it. Radio Shack may struggling to find its lane, and this just highlights
the importance of that focus.
The companies I mentioned earlier – Ace
Hardware, Nordstrom, Zappos – are not weaving around in traffic, shall we say.
There is no confusion. We know what lane they are in and what they stand for.
The same goes for the Dollar Stores and Walmart. Whereas the customer-service
focused companies are firmly in their lane, the low-price stores are as well,
and it works for them. There are yet other companies that stick to their chosen
lane of industry-specific merchandise or very high-end merchandise.
So, what lane are you in? Did the
answer come to mind easily? Hopefully it did for you and would for your
customers as well. You can change lanes in business. It isn’t illegal and you
won’t get a ticket. But it must be done with caution or you will confuse the
customer. This remind me of the saying: “A confused customer won’t buy.”
(By the way, if you know who said, “A confused mind won’t buy,” let me know. Our search for the source of this quote didn’t give us a definitive answer.)
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, which was also recognized as a New York Times bestseller, and, his latest book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset.