Be a customer service hero - save her money
Especially in today's economic environment, it's very easy to just cut your prices to improve your competitive edge. But doing it destroys your margin and, over time, damages your brand. It takes discipline and creativity to find innovative ways to save your customers money that don't involve cutting your price. But they're out there and when you find them, you'll have a far healthier business. Here are four ways this can be done:
(1) Improve or alter what you sell to be more efficient or more convenient for your customers.
For example, by adding more rows of perforations per roll, Bounty paper towels allowed consumers to conveniently tear-off smaller sheets for small messes, thus creating less waste and making each roll last longer.
(2) Offer your customers tips, information, coaching or added service that saves her money while making you an indispensible resource and building a value-added relationship. Here are three examples of how this has been done in three very different businesses.
(a) A tire dealer - a client I know well - saves customers money by offering driving and tire maintenance tips that will lengthen tire life. They also offer to check and correct your tire pressure any time you're in the neighbourhood at no charge because he knows proper tire inflation is the single biggest factor in extending tire life.
Thirdly, they store your out-of-season tires, for a reasonable fee, to save you the bother of storing them yourself and lugging them back and forth each spring and fall to have them changed over.
(b) A manufacturer of construction fencing recently coached one of their biggest retail customers on how to reduce their in-store selection of fencing from 32 stock keeping units (SKUs) down to six, thus reducing the inventory investment, retail and warehouse space required and category administration costs. In the process, two competitors were cut out of the program and my friend the manufacturer got more business as a result.
(c) Our insurance agent recently sent us the renewal policy for our cottage insurance along with two simple suggestions to save money that didn't involve him cutting his commission rate.
(3) Especially during tough economic times, saving the customer money might come in the form of a simple act of kindness. At the Harvey's Hamburger drive-through in Parry Sound, Ontario, folks who don't order a beverage are offered a free cup of water. The owner understands that some of his customers are struggling financially, and he wants to help.
For similar reasons, many grocery stores are beginning to offer smaller pre-packaged food portions to suit the needs and budgets of senior citizens. What might simple acts of kindness look like in your business and how could they be sensitive to your customers' needs to save money?
(4) Find ways to make what you sell more affordable. When Xerox developed the first high-speed photocopiers, they were so expensive that most businesses simply couldn't afford them. So, Xerox leased the machines for a fixed monthly fee, plus a few cents per copy produced - a very clever that paid off in spades.
(5) Save your customers money by getting other businesses in your community to cut their prices in exchange for an introduction to your customers.
Grobe's Garden Center in Waterloo, Ontario very cleverly saves its customers money by getting neighbourhood businesses to offer discounts to members of its Preferred Garden Club. They've negotiated special discounts on hot tubs; garden furniture; garden pond equipment; barbeques: meat; and, lawnmower repairs among others.
So, there you have it - five ways to creatively save your customers money without cutting your price. Which of these ideas could work for you?
Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability. For more information, or to subscribe to Donald's thought-provoking free business E-Newsletter, go to www.donaldcooper.com.