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Posted on May 28, 2011

Your Customers Change, Do You?

Excellent Customer Service - Franchise HelpHave you ever compared the thought processes of today's consumer and yesteryear's consumer?

There is normally a disconnect between what a business owner perceives as the customer's motivation to buy and why customers actually do buy. That lack of a connection is cause for a major problem for many business owners who are not generating enough leads or struggling to turn those leads into customers. This happens because many business owners are still caught up in an antiquated way of viewing customers.

There was a time when most consumers were price-driven. Decades ago, you could not get away from price-conscious shoppers. But today these are exactly the types of people business owners should avoid.  They are the penny-pinchers who phone around to get five quotes on a minor purchase or the hagglers that force you to bargain on every item they buy.

Back then there was little to no competition and businesses were not necessarily looking for ways to add extra value to their customers’ experience. So price was the most important, if not lone, factor.

Things began to change in the 1970's when the average consumer started to take an interest in the quality of the products or services they were buying. Cheap was no longer the overriding factor. Consumers were finding that if they got the cheapest price, the product was almost guaranteed to be of poor quality and they would not get their money's worth in the end anyway.

Consumers were also looking for better quality products, but still wanted to pay a reasonable price. As the speed of society increased, most consumers became busier and led more hectic lifestyles. The average consumer had to be conscious of price and quality as well as the time involved in using that product or service.

These days, the average consumer’s lifestyle is not only hectic, but stressful. Decades of change has forced consumers to adapt a very comprehensive decision making process regarding what they buy. The consumer has to consider:

  • The quality of the product.
  • The enjoyment or entertainment value of the product.
  • The time it takes to purchase or receive the product.
  • The energy needed to use the product or service.
  • The stress involved with making the purchase.
  • The price of the product or service.

Business owners must evolve with the consumer. Ideals, values and beliefs change. But the modern day business owner has to ask, "Am I changing my products and services to meet with the changes in consumer values?" Giving benefits or special attention to make consumers think they get better value from you than just a low price is key. When selling products or services, business owners need make sure potential customers understand the benefits of the entire package and consciously make the decision based on every value -- not just price.

Franchise opportunities are great examples of this principle, especially the sandwich franchise Subway. The first Subway franchise opened in 1965, and over the years the company has had to navigate the changing personality of the consumer. And they have done it as successfully as anyone.

Subway did not reach its current success by rigidly following the price-centric model. Instead, management has learned to incorporate all aspects of pleasing today's consumer into its system. Yes, price is a consideration, as evidenced by the $5 Footlong. But the Subway menu is not for price shoppers alone. The menu appeals to the health-conscious people on the go or just people that want a simple yet tasty meal. Its menu has a reputation for being healthy, fresh and inexpensive. This is why it is currently the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

The decision making process people go through to make purchases today is not as simple as it once was. People’s lives are busier, their expectations higher, and there is competition for their dollar everywhere. Customers want advice, support, and ease of information when making a purchase. They do not have the patience for poor customer service, poor follow-up, poor quality products and services and their needs not being met.

So in today’s competitive environment customers' attention has turned from the price to the experience -- what they get from their purchase. As a business owner, once you make that change, you will find connecting with potential customers to be what every business owner in the world aspires to make his or her job: easy.

Brad Sugars is the Founder, Chairman and President of ActionCOACH, the world’s number one business coaching and executive coaching firm, with more than 1,000 offices in 32 countries. ActionCOACH specializes in coaching small to medium size business as well as executive teams and group coaching. You can follow Brad on Facebook and Twitter.

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