Where Rex isn’t the local dog, but a pedigree in giving the right service…

What are the two main business drivers that determine most sales deals?

Price and service!

Neither are straight-forward – the price is easy to get wrong, because you can be obviously too expensive, but also you can be too cheap.

However, good service is something that many businesses think is easy to get right, but so many get it wrong, even when they think they’re getting it right!

It isn’t as confusing as you think – this is the trick: it’s not always about giving a good service; it’s more about giving the right service to your customers. Let me give you an example…

If you like going to the cinema, the chances are you’ll watch most of your movies at one of the big multi-screen complexes in the middle of an out-of-town retail park. Each time I go, I always find myself mumbling about the cost of the tickets, and the cost of the bucket-sized fizzy drinks, yet I always go back. Why? Because they have the largest choice of movies, the most screenings, and they have the movies I want to see on the day they are released. So the service they offer has me hooked despite, not because of the other parts of their offering that make me grumble (price etc.)

However, I discovered the flip-side of cinema-going the other day – and it made me realise how effective offering the right service can be.

Since the advent of the multi-screen monoliths in the late 80’s and early 90’s, most of the traditional single-screen cinemas of my youth have unfortunately gone by the way-side. However, one or two of these privately-owned old palaces have bucked the trend and are proving to be a success, even when lost in the huge shadows cast by their digitally-enhanced cousins. How do they manage to do this? By offering the right service to their customers.

I had the happy experience of visiting one of these tiny shining lights the other day with my better half and her little boy. It would have been easy to let misty-eyed nostalgia effect my observations, so I tried to be as hard-nosed as the ice-creams during the intermission would let me!

So, how do they compete with the might of the multi-plex cinemas? Well, they don’t even try – which is brilliant.

Their admission is cheaper, and their drinks and ice-creams certainly are – but that isn’t the reason for their success. They don’t even get the big movies on the day they are released, because the one we saw the other day had probably been showing elsewhere for a month. So what exactly have they got?

Well, for starters a nice line in homeliness. The place actually felt welcoming instead of clinical and efficient. There was an aroma of polish and bees-wax rather than air-freshener.

Next, the staff all actually looked like they were genuinely interested in the running of the cinema and giving the customers a good time – the young guy serving the pop-corn actually explained to the kids that he had to make some more, rather than saying they had sold out.

They also chose the movies they were going to show, rather than being told by share-holders what block-busters to have on the screens. This meant they could hand-pick the films their customers actually wanted to see, rather than being forced to see. They even run successful retro film nights, which sounds like a great idea.

Basically, I felt my custom had been actually appreciated. Of course, I had paid my money and I had got what I was buying (which is what big cinemas trade on) but in reality I had got so much more. I had got an experience of being wanted, which was the right service for me, and one that I will be repeating soon.

Take a look at your business – are you offering what you think is a good service, or is it the right service for your customers?

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