Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart had said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Giving the customer what they want is something virtually all landlords will agree on in principle, but in practice, does it happen? Different customers want different things. Tastes vary and to satisfy everyone is impossible. Trying to find that “happy medium” is as difficult. Consultants will advise that one has first to define one’s target customer and then cater for them and accept that there will be a range of people who will fall outside that specific target market.
Take the patrons at the College Arms in Birmingham, for example, whose new host is 75-year old Bridget Ware. She has established a rapport with her customers that ensures they know and understand what she can offer them and she knows and understands what they need. It’s the classic win-win scenario, but Tony Jennings points out that this doesn’t seem to be a strategy followed by many in the pub trade. He hints at the question those in the industry might ask, “what does someone who’s 75 years old know?” And answers it by pointing out that her successes with 55 years in the industry reveal that she does know a lot!
I wonder if Bridget Ware had read what Robert Craven wrote on how to keep customers happy? Points one and two in his article are: Understand what people want and Engage your customers! Stocktaking teams, like those operating out of Rutters, will confirm that by following the same principles their many satisfied customers get what they want: comprehensive reporting, specialist service, fast and effective problem solving. They have their needs met.
Pub landlords, restaurant owners, club managers, tea house proprietors are all targeted with information about new trends, products, advice, hints, recipes and strategies. While all this information is important and also relevant, the ultimate “target,” the customer and information about their needs are generally relegated to the back-burner. You can have the best venue, the fanciest menu, the largest range of real ale and the most attentive staff, but if the customer’s needs aren’t being satisfied and if they’re trekking down to the greasy spoon on the corner, the question is that what the “spoon” has got that you haven’t? Possibly it’s a better rapport? Maybe the customer feels more welcome there? Who knows – but it’s becoming more evident that a successful establishment is that way because of whom, not what, takes first place.
And those who have lasted in the hospitality industry will also testify to the fact that success today doesn’t guarantee success tomorrow. If something is all the rage this year, it might be old news and out of fashion in the next. Who would have thought that WiFi would be so important to offer customers at some venues, like busy city centres. But at others, like in country garden settings, its availability is frowned on because it keeps people from conversation and enjoying the surroundings?
In one of 99 Legendary Customer Service Quotes, Robert Half sums up when he indicates, “When the customer comes first, the customer will last.”