In Charing Cross Road, in the heart of London stands Foyles. It’s London’s largest bookstore. I love reading and buy far too many books. So why haven’t I been in there for years?
The answer is , quite simply, the way the shop conducted its business.
After selecting the books I wanted to buy, I had to go through Foyles’ amazingly inefficient process for paying for them. First I had to queue at one counter where an assistant wrote out a ticket for each book I wanted to buy.
Next, with tickets in hand, I would have to line up to pay at a wooden cash booth. Cash or guaranteed cheques only. No credit cards.
Then once I had had the ‘honour’ of handing my hard-earned money over to Foyles, I was required to join the queue for the original counter. I would finally be given my books.
This stupid system wasn’t helped by the sneering attitude of the staff. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy waiting for American tourists to stand for ages in the queues and then tell them that Foyles did not accept credit cards.
After witnessing one such incident, I finally decided that Foyles did not deserve my custom. That decision has probably cost Foyles thousands of pounds in revenue from just me over the years.
Foyles’ crazy system meant that although it couldn’t afford credit card processing fees, it could afford to employ two people to do the job more slowly than one person!
I wasn’t prepared to waste my time with their stupidity.
At this point, the comments section will no doubt fill with comments telling me that the old lady who ran Foyles has died and that her descendants who took over have revamped the business model ( and moved the store a few doors down the road).
But the point is that Foyles’ past business model has created such a Pavlovian response in me that I just don’t go in there – or the new branches on the South Bank and St Pancras International Station.
And I don’t need to.
Its massive range of books is far larger than Foyles. I can read reviews and read pages within the books. What’s more, its Kindle e-reader means that I can download books in seconds and don’t have to buy shelves to store them. Brilliant!
The lesson is that customers will move from where they receive a consistently bad experience to those businesses where they receive a good experience and feel valued.
Are there any parts of your business model that are driving customers away from your business?
A common problem that dissuades customers from buying is the design of some online shopping carts. When I’m ording an product, I want to know what the full price I’m going to pay is, including postage and packing. Usually the website puts me on notice that there could be delivery charges by telling that there’s free delivery if I spend over a certain amount.
Sometimes there’s a link to the delivery charges. But what stops me dead in my tracks is if I have to fill in my personal and credit card details and before I the website will tell me what the delivery charges are. There’s an online bike shop that didn’t get my custom yesterday because it did this.
Don’t turn away customers from your small business without knowing it!