Regarding the customer experience, a friend once told me about a legendary shop in her neighborhood—legendary not because it was beautifully run, filled with bargains or fun to visit. “It’s a miracle she stays in business,” my friend said, describing the dusty store, tucked on an out-of-the-way street. Only a tiny, hand-lettered sign indicated that this plain stucco house was actually a business “open since 1947.” Each room was overcrowded with stock, some still in original, yellowed cellophane wrappings. Boxes and picture frames obscured a tall window, where winter sunlight strained to beam through. The owner was a stern woman who repeatedly and loudly told her few customers “don’t touch!” I wondered how she’d react to such treatment if she were on the other side of the counter, planning to make a purchase. How did she turn a profit? Well, she didn’t: she ran it strictly as a hobby, reluctantly serving those who braved her stony stare. Why open the doors at all?
The store is still there, now run by the late owner’s daughter. She cleared out the clutter, rearranged the stock and held a grand re-opening; hoping some of the loyal, longtime customers would come around. “My mother never looked at her store from an outsider’s eye,” she told my friend, who was amazed at the transformation. “If she had, she would have seen how tired the place looked, and how she could have treated people better. But she always said she did everything her own way, not someone else’s, and she didn’t care what it cost her.”
Imagine running a business with such arrogance. By ignoring the absence of customers, the outdated materials and even her own negative energy, she lost every opportunity to make her business thrive and grow rather than stagnate. Opportunities lost, since 1947! It takes such a small effort to walk around to the customer’s side of the counter. Do a little window shopping in your business. Are you in the “don’t touch!” category with customers, or even employees? Instead, invite them to share what brings them back to you—and what you could do that would inspire others to do the same.