Norma set up a new business in a busy suburban retail area. The business offered a massage service but the massage was delivered not by the traditional hands-on approach, but by a computer programmed massage bed.
Ten massage beds were purchased and set out ‘dormitory style’ in rented premises with soft lighting and music. A customer would be shown to a bed, asked to lie down face up, covered with a sheet and a bank of warming ‘therapeutic’ lights would be rested gently on the chest.
The bed would be programmed at the bedside control panel and the customer left to relax. Although this type of massage is very relaxing, the computer guided padded fingers were nowhere near as soothing as the hands of a trained massage therapist.
With some deft marketing, new customers kept coming and they were rewarded for bringing their friends. The problem was that repeat business was very low. Customers would come in once or twice and never return. It took a little while to realise what the problem was.
Norma, the owner, was a very stylish middle aged woman who was always impeccably well dressed and well mannered. On the other hand, the customers were the local residents, typified by shorts, denim skirts and thongs.
To Norma’s eyes, there was an obvious perception of class difference and the customers felt it. Whilst she was friendly and helpful, it wasn’t hard to sense the distance that she put between herself and her customers.
At times when Norma was not in the shop, casuals were employed. Typically they were young and were more focused on the customers and their enjoyment. This pleasant change of atmosphere and lightening of mood saw customers flocking back with repeat business. But as soon as Norma returned, the ambience reverted to that of a funeral parlour.
This issue was pointed out to Norma and, once her shock and anger subsided, her choices became clear. If she stayed in the shop she would go broke. Instead of selling what she thinks her customers want, she needed be more empathetic and provide what they really want. That meant either changing her stand-offish approach or replacing herself in the shop.
Norma thought about this and finally responded by saying that she felt uncomfortable allowing herself to become closer to her customers and that to employ anyone who could do that for her would be to unnecessarily increase expenses when the business was only breaking even. She elected to do nothing but continue on as before and steadfastly remained as the face and personality of the business.
So what happened? Yep, she went broke; her health suffered badly and she closed the shop as soon as her lease expired.
Business building tips Brisbane – make a connection with your customers
Until next time!