In Alaska where they use dog sledges for travel, there is a saying "unless you are the lead dog the view is always the same.” That view is the unpleasant one of looking at someone else's rear as you follow them because they are ahead of where you are.
In today’s economic environment, it is important to ask yourself, “Am I the lead dog in my industry in my community?”
What it takes to be the lead dog is to have a clearly defined point of difference. The question is, what is your point of difference? In other words, why should I come into your store rather than any of your competition to purchase a watch or jewellery? If you say "we give better service, we look after our customers and we are more friendly" then I must tell you, I ask this question at least once a week to different jewellers worldwide and get told "we give better service, we look after our customers and we are more friendly." So from this you could say, "well, we cannot all be wrong", but it means you don't have a point of difference.
I have never been told, "our service sucks, we don't look after our customers and we are not at all friendly."
My question is do you really give better service? Do you offer men or ladies who are purchasing a wedding anniversary gift, a reminder service whereby you contact them this time next year to remind them of their upcoming anniversary and make suggestions of a beautiful piece of jewellery to compliment the gift they have just purchased? Do you text customers when their repair is ready? Do you contact customers if their repair is not going to be ready by the promised date? Do you offer a service to customers to email them details of new releases of the brand of jewellery they have just purchased? Do you phone each diamond ring purchaser a week after they have purchased the ring to ensure they are happy?
Unless your answer is yes, yes, yes, yes and yes then you are not giving better service, you are not the lead dog. You do not have a point of difference.
Let’s for one-minute step outside the jewellery business and look at the airline industry, a highly competitive industry. For the most part, they all get you to your destination and land the right way up, so why is it Air New Zealand is highly profitable when competing airlines such as Qantas are struggling? They both have modern planes, land on time (and the right way up). The answer is simple. It's the culture that comes from the top. Simply put, Air New Zealand sets out to make its customers flights a good experience. From the check-in counter, the customer’s first point of contact with Air New Zealand at the airport, staff smile. Airline counter staff are smiling when they are dealing with weary travellers, grumpy old men, harassed ladies with 4 screaming kids who missed their connection and so it goes on. Smiling counter staff, now that's innovation!
For me, as a 60 to 100 flight a year traveller, having flown on over 30 different airlines, it’s easy to see when an airline culture is one of being in the people business rather than just getting bums on seats business. Southwest Airlines in the USA is another prime example. While all around them airlines are merging to survive, they continue to grow. Why? Because they put people first (and they are no longer the lowest priced airline).
So back to the jewellery industry. I walk into jewellers stores to be greeted by ill-trained staff who have not been taught they are in the people business. They couldn't care less attitude reflects the business culture and then the store owners tell me “our point of difference is that we are friendly.” Often the very worst part is management knows they have a pull the company culture down staff member/s and do little about it.
I am sure you do believe you give better service, look after your customers and are more friendly, but compared to who? Can you really say you are the lead dog in town? I know when I start working with clients, our starting point is the company culture and it’s amazing what can be achieved when a company set its sights on being the lead dog.
The hard part is to truly determine your point of differences, starting with you appreciating that you aren't in the jewellery business, you are in the people business and just happen to sell jewellery. Just as Air NZ recognised they are in the people business.
Bottom line. You can settle for just being one of the pack, or you can strive to be the lead dog. It is not easy to be the lead dog as it requires change (and we all know how humans resist change) but someone in your area is the lead dog, and if it’s not you then you can go after the title....if you so desire.
When considering change, one very vital bit of information to take into account. Until recent years the jewellery industry mainstay has been the baby boomers (born before 1963 making the youngest of them now 50). If you were to chart the average age of your customers, they would have been getting older until between 5 and 10 years ago at which time they started getting younger. Generation X and generation Y are rapidly becoming mainstay customers. You need to look at the differences in their thinking and plan your marketing and service provided to meet their needs if you want to become the lead dog.
ARMS has clients who have identified their point of difference and have exploited this difference to become the lead dog, enjoying a new level of business success. You can too.
Good luck as you change your business to enjoy an all-new and improved view.