We’ve heard this statement / cliche’ many times in our life, but what does it really mean?  And what is the meaning of it as it relates to word of mouth marketing, networking, and business.

Recently I was in the market for new furniture for my vacation rental property in Fort Myers Florida. During that search, I visited about 6 different furniture stores looking for something that fit my criteria and needs.  I had 3 primary concerns:

  1. The style and comfort had to be nice and overall pleasing to the eye.
  2. It had to fit in my budget range
  3. It had to be able to be delivered to my home within 2 weeks. This was the time I was in town, and I didn’t want to have to return to Florida to accommodate the delivery schedule.

During the shopping experience, I struggled to find the right set, for the right price, that was in stock and could be delivered on time. In a number of cases, I offered to buy the living room set off the floor but in every case they refused, indicating that if they did that it would leave a hole in the floor decor.  I was surprised by this approach. The furniture store was willing to let me leave rather than make a sale to me. I visited a total of 6 stores, all of which carried Ashley Furniture, or a similar competitor, so the styles were similar in nature and the prices were very close to each other.

But then I visited the 6th store!  Price Cutter! As I pulled into the parking lot, I looked at the storefront and thought that it wasn’t worth my time. It appeared dirty, and I was the only person in the parking lot.  I think I even said, I’m not going in there, it’s a waste of time! Then I thought, well, I drove 40 mins to get here, I might as well just enter and see what I’m in store for.

As I entered, I noticed right away that this store was set up like a warehouse. I mean a very large warehouse.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to find the quality, price, and certainly the availability that I needed. As I looked over the first couch I saw, I noticed the tag was Ashley Furniture, and the price was drastically less than the other 5 stores I visited that day.  I look at the next couch, same thing. I then approached a staff person to talk about their store. There were only 2 staff in the entire store, and 1 of them was the owner. In speaking with the salesperson (really just a customer service person) they confirmed my thought that this store could offer the same products from the same manufacturer’s as the other 5 stores, for less money because they don’t have huge marketing and real estate costs.  During the discussion, we talked about a specific couch and the availability of that couch, and when I asked if it would be available the owner said if it’s not we can order it, to which I replied, can I just take this one? To my surprise, he said “Of course you can”. See how different he was than the other 5 stores. He didn’t care about an open spot on his floor. He was much more interested in having his customer become a happy customer.

I went on to purchase a full living room set from Price Cutter and while checking out at the counter I shared with the owner my skepticism on entering the store.  He indicated that he was aware that customers from time to time have a hesitation and he is working on sprucing up the outside so that people don’t judge the book by the cover!

But we do!

Are you seeing what your customers are seeing?  This experience worked out for both the business owner and the customer (me), but it doesn’t always work out like that.

Make sure that you are looking at your business, your customer experience from the eyes of your customer to be sure that they aren’t deciding to do business with others because of the cover of the book!