Four Principles to a Customer Focused Business

Hangers Cleaners in Kansas City was featured on Cool Runnings for taking a different approach to a pretty boring business segment – dry cleaners.

Joe Runyon, the owner of Hangers Cleaners shares his thoughts on making a business successful. And in his case – being successful in an industry that is declining.  Watch the video, but here are the four main ideas:

  1. Define a powerful competitive advantage. In Joe’s case it was using an ecologically friendly solution to cleaning clothes.
  2. Be convenient for your customer. Again, Joe determined that pick up and delivery service, as a complement to his brick and mortar, was a convenient and welcome solution.
  3. Save customers time. He also developed a computer tag for clothes of regular customers which includes their cleaning preferences so that the customer doesn’t have to continually repeat their starching requests. This leads to better quality and higher satisfaction.
  4. Let your brand reflect your personality. He is a little quirky and that shows – in a good way. Employees wear shirts that say “sniff me” and the hangers have a message that inform customers that hangers can also be a spare car key.  Let your personality shine in your business and customers will gravate to you.
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Kindle: The Backward Approach to Customers

So I’m going through my stack of articles that I rip out of magazines and save for the “some day” that I’m going to do something with them and came across this article about the top 50 Innovative businesses of 2009 that appeared in the March 2009 issue of Fast Company.

Amazon comes in at #9 with a tagline piece of advice “what’s dangerous is not to evolve.”

The article is about the incredible sales of the Kindle.  Of course, almost a year later, the Kindle isn’t new news but there was a statement in the article that was important enough for me to circle it and save:

“There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you’re good at and extend out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills.  Kindle is an example of working backward.”

It is rare that a company begins its life or expands its offerings by first asking the customer what they want or need.  If we start with the customer first – how would that change what we offer or how our business evolves?

I talk with many entrepreneurs who ask “how many years did it take you before you refined your niche market.”    Or other veterans of business who say “my business today isn’t anything like what I thought it would be when I started.”

If we started with the customer first…would we get to our ideal business sooner? Do you have a customer focused business?

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