I was reading an article recently that referred to the success of companies like Apple and Starbucks and how that success is due to the fact that these retailers have made purchasing/using their products an "experience".
I have been pondering how this applies to a small bakery like mine and wondered what some of you folks thought about it. How can we make coming into our shops or doing business with us an experience?
IMO it comes down to targeting the right market segment, and providing the customers in that segment with timely, thorough, and respectful service. By necessity, this will involve turning away customers that aren't in your target market (i.e. those who can't or won't pay premium prices for baked goods).
The trick is delivering a customer experience that both you and your customers agree is an excellent one, and that's easier said than done. If you have a retail shop, this will hinge on the competence of your front-line employees -- they can make or break your business. If you don't have a retail shop, your web site is typically the first point of contact for customers. Just as you would interview front-line employees, you need to "interview" your web site by performing usability testing with customers in your target market.
Market research is also critical to determine what types of products and services local customers find the most valuable (and the least valuable) so you know what to focus on.
Here is a relevant article from Harvard Business School about customer experience, and it includes a bakery as an example.
Thanks Jason, that was an excellent response. And the link was great. It's relevant to all customer service businesses. I especially liked the section "Thinking Clearly About Customers."