Delivering the Promise

There was an interesting feature this week on AOL about frozen entrees.  The article compares the picture on the box with the contents of the box of twenty different frozen dinners.  I’m not sure anyone really expects the "Savory Beef with Cheesy Broccoli" to look as good as it is on the box, but some items scored better than others.

Most of us baby boomers remember the first frozen "TV Dinners".  They were pretty awful.  The mashed potatoes had a consistency that’s hard to describe, kind of like hot salty pudding.  The meat was usually rubbery.  And the peas were a color that doesn’t actually occur in nature.  It always seemed like the "desert" would escape from its cubicle and ooze all over the rest of the meal.  Maybe the younger generation has higher expectations.

The whole idea of customers’ expectations certainly applies to retailing.  Most consumers are smart enough to know that when they shop at one of the "Marts" or "Depots" they’re going to get little, if any, service.  But they go there anyway.

But what does the customer expect when she shops at an independent retailer?  The expectations are definitely higher.  The question is, Does the experience of shopping in your store exceed her expectations?  If it doesn’t, there’s a chance she may not come back.  If she’s expecting Salisbury steak and you’re delivering rubber meat, you’re disappointing her and cheating yourself.

If she knows that she can return an item to Wal*Mart and get her money back and your store has a gigantic sign that says "NO REFUNDS!!!", you’re not delivering the promise.  If she expects knowledgeable sales assistance and your best salesperson is talking on the phone and ignoring her, you’re not delivering the promise.  If your display models are dirty and don’t work properly, you’re not delivering the promise.  If you don’t take checks, or if you won’t accept her credit or debit card, you’re not delivering the promise.  If you don’t deliver the best shopping experience the customer has ever had, you’re not using your competitive advantage.

Let’s be honest.  You can’t compete with the box stores on price, but you can kill them with service.   They can’t deliver the level of service and quality that you can.  Even if they could, their employees aren’t motivated or trained to do it.  You’re the expert.  You have a stake in the business.  You have to deliver the promise every single time to every single customer.

What steps do you take in your store to ensure that you deliver the promise?

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