Is Customer King?

Millie, The Cheese MallAs always when assessing our own business, we tend to read the papers, particularly the business pages, and see how other businesses are doing.

One famous store that has been in the papers quite a bit over the last weeks is Marks and Spencers.  Marks and Spencers is a famous brand in so many countries and always seemed to have connotations of quality. Reading the articles reminded me so much of what our ‘sales and marketing’ mentor says to us so often – that we have to ask the customer what they want, we must ensure that we are stocking what our customers are looking for, we must continually ask for feedback.

According to India Knight’s article in Sunday’s Sunday Times, Marks and Spencers is no longer one of the UK’s three most trusted brands.  (You’ll never guess what is the 14th most trusted brand, well, maybe you will. Yes, it is a cheese called Cathedral City).

Knight claims she misses the feelings of cosiness she used to experience when walking into a M&S store, the assurance that she knew she’d find what she was looking for, that the clothes would be well-cut and of good quality.  It had a narrow focus and looked after that customer very well, that customer being a middle-aged clientele who were prepared to pay a little bit more for good quality, well-made, well-fitting clothing.

As our mentor The Beacon Coach tells us, we can’t attempt to be all things to all customers. We have to decide on our target market and ensure we meet their needs. According to Knight, M & S is trying to be all things to all customers, it is trying to provide clothing for young and old, slim and obese, fashionable and old-fashioned and sexy and it is spreading itself too wide and too thin. Knight argues that M & S needs to go back to giving their customers the quality items that they also relied upon this shop for – the navy jumper that wouldn’t bobble and would hold its shape, a decent mac, great T-shirts, good underwear – the sort of garments that everyone buys now and then.

Knight’s closing lines are worth quoting:

We all know how to make it better. The odd thing is that apparently M & S doesn’t. It could always ask us“.

I know it can be very difficult to stand back from your own business and think outside the box.  It can happen that you can’t see what is right in front of you, can’t tell the wood from the trees.  The number of newspaper articles at the moment on this topic are a good reminder to all businesses that ‘customer is king’. According to an article in Forbes, 60% of all companies surveyed encourage customer input in order to gather information and ideas for innovation.

These articles have reinforced this for us. We do have feedback forms available instore but perhaps we should be doing more to ask our clientele what they want from us.  Do you have any ideas to share with us? What do you use to gain feedback and ideas from your customers?

As we are at the planning stages of thinking about franchising the Cheese Mall, we really need to ensure that everything in our own store is in tip-top shape. We hope you will follow our blog, read our book and share our journey with us over the coming months as we near our first anniversary of our first year in business.

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