The days when the only competition to your business was a token offering of local sausages tucked in amongst the result of a billion-pound animal agriculture industry in the supermarket meat section are now a distant, vague and fond memory - like recalling the days of being offered tea in china cups when meeting with your bank manager.
While the supermarkets themselves have rapidly caught on to the demand for artisan, locally produced products, the retail ripples have turned into crashing waves with the arrival of Amazon's 130,000 plus line of home delivered groceries. And let's not forget their same day delivery options and excellent customer service rating. Now if that doesn't shake the independent sector into some serious action, then I don't know what will. It really is a case of hit your A game - or be damned.
This is the kind of retail insight that can easily send you into a bit of a tailspin. Before you know it, the headless chicken scenario has set in and you find yourself unfocused and attempting too many things at the same time in a desperate, but unfocused bid to try in vain to keep up. It's time to stop, breath slowly, and focus - on the one most important thing: customer satisfaction.
Here's a very useful little bit of insight to help do just that: According to the January 2019 Customer Satisfaction Index published by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), companies whose customer satisfaction was at least one point higher than the sector average, earned average sales growth of 6.9% compared to 1.5% for those with lower than average satisfaction. This is exactly the kind of thing that can stop unproductive worrying about what the competition is doing and bring the focus directly on what can be done that will have, unquestionably, a positive impact on business: happy customers.
The ICS outlines a number of recommendations in its report in order to help organisations demonstrate an authentic customer ethos. Firstly, they recommend: "Publish the organisation's customer service strategy, objectives and results". Although this advice appears to be directed at the bigger corporates, it can be easily interpreted and adapted to the small independent retailer. Essentially, the advice here is 'have a strategy and write it down, and then you can gauge its effectiveness.” And it's precisely this kind of thinking that focuses the mind and galvanises action. The strategy could be anything from offering loyalty cards, to putting on a courtesy bus for a wine tasting event. The point is, it forces creative thinking and action.
Another salient point in this list is: ‘Select suppliers and partners that share and demonstrate a commitment to the organisation's customer ethos.’ Developing the examples above, this might involve persuading suppliers to offer some kind of incentive if the loyalty cards were linked to their products - such as supplying a free hamper for a Christmas draw of completed loyalty cards, or a wine supplier providing a guest speaker and product to conduct a particular tasting.
The point is, these are things that Amazon - with all its power, pricing, delivery possibilities and customer service rating cannot, as yet anyway, provide. Aiming for a well thought out and coherent customer satisfaction strategy gives you the focus to keep your head when all around may be losing theirs. It gives you the chance to identify what is unique about your business that can be embraced and nurtured to deliver genuine, measurable customer satisfaction. Nail this and you don't have to worry about Amazon, drone deliveries, or robots taking to the streets. You've got something that people want, and you're going to make damn sure they know, and enjoy it. And the really good news is: this year's live speaker stage at the Farm Shop and Deli Show is jam-packed with acclaimed industry experts to give you all the inspiration you need to take your business to the top.
Richard will be hosting the Farm Shop & Deli Show’s live events programme taking place at the NEC Birmingham, 8 – 10 April 2019.
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Take a look at our other FEAST articles here.