The Mrs. had an interesting experience this morning. A new Whole Foods opened up nearby and after running some other errands she went in to shop on the early side. In fact, she was just about the only customer in the place.
As she walked in she sensed a different kind of energy and asked a staff member if something was going on. It turned out that something was indeed going on: a visit to the new store by the corporate CEO and other higher-ups. And that’s when the interesting experience began.
This was not her first visit to the store. She did notice that the produce, which is normally displayed beautifully at Whole Foods, was even more prefect. There were more tasting stations than normal as well, and they were available even at the early hour. When she had a question, the department manager was available and not just a worker bee. Of course, the store was all hands on deck and putting its best foot forward and that’s perfectly fine since it actually wasn’t a huge departure from the norm.
The bus pulled up and disgorged all the corporate types, who began their tour. They spoke to the folks manning the tasting stations, some of whom had developed the recipes they were serving. They spoke to the meat manager, the produce manager. Curious, I asked my wife if they spoke to her. “No.” “Well did they chat up other customers?” “No, they kind of walked around in a pack.”
That’s my point. The most important thing about the store – the customers – wasn’t their focus. It’s really easy for the store manager to shine everything up and make sure the food tastes good, but he can’t control the customers’ feedback and that, therefore, is exactly where they should have started their inspection. How else would the CEO know if he was seeing a Potemkin village or the real deal?
Your customers can’t be invisible in the information-gathering process. Otherwise, they might just be when you try to sell to them. You with me?