Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thinking About Customers: The Pink Bicycle

V Manninen, Creative Commons
One morning shortly before Christmas, a man and a young girl entered the bicycle shop. The owner of the shop greeted them and asked how he could help.

"I'm getting a new bicycle!" said the girl.
"You've come to the right place," said the owner, looking from the girl to the man. 
"She has a December birthday," said the man, smiling.

The man and the girl began looking around the shop at the various sizes, shapes, and colors available. After a short time, the owner of the shop noticed that the girl was spending some time looking at a blue bicycle, while the father was carefully checking out a pink one.

"Come look at this one, sweetie," said the dad.
"I kind of like this one, Daddy," replied the girl.
"They are both really nice bikes, and suitable for someone her age," said the shop owner to the man.

After a fair amount of debate, the man and the girl left the shop, with the man telling the shop owner that he would call later in the week. He did call, and he talked over the purchase with the shop owner, who wanted to know the outcome of the pink-versus-blue debate. The dad said simply that he had decided that the pink one was the right one, and put a hold on the bike by making a deposit with his credit card. The pink bicycle went to its new home the following day.

A few weeks later, the girl came to the shop with the pink bike.

"I was wondering if I could trade this bike for the blue one," she said.
"I think I have to talk to your father, since he's the one who bought the bike," said the owner.
"Oh, OK. Never mind then," said the girl. She turned and rode away.

The pink bicycle wound up staying in the garage. The girl almost never rode it, despite expressing gratitude to her father for the gift.

What had happened?

If we consider the dad--who paid the bill, after all--as the customer, the shop owner did everything right. If, however, we look beyond the payment, the person who would actually use the bike didn't really want that one, but a different one instead. So, rather than a great gift, the dad wound up with a disappointed daughter and an unused bike. There would be no word-of-mouth about how great the bike was, and no friends of the girl would be buying from this shop.

The shop served the wrong person. The owner could have said to the father, "I think your daughter would be much happier with the blue bike. It has all the features she wants, it's safe, and she really likes it." Instead, he listened only to the man with the money.

Is the customer you are are serving the right customer? Will they benefit from the product or service you sell, or are you just making a sale?

Give it some thought.