I’m a huge fan of small businesses and the amazing people who make them work. That’s why I love it, when I see a small business using the strengths to successfully compete against national and multi-national companies.
This morning for example, I visited a Costa Coffee shop in North Lincolnshire. I love the coffee they serve at Costa and their lemon tea too, however, I couldn’t help noticing that there were just 8 other customers (excluding me) in the place, during the 25 minutes I was there. A little further along, I visited an independent coffee shop and it was a lot busier, with 23 customers.
The independent coffee shop did a few things differently to their nationally respected competitor, and I wonder how much of an impact this had on what I saw.
The independent coffee shop offered table service
So, people with babies and toddlers did not have to stand in a queue waiting whilst everyone in front of them had their orders taken and then prepared, as they did in Costa. They were able to walk in, sit down and relax as their order was taken at their table and then delivered to their table. Table service also meant that people like myself didn’t need to pack away their laptops, every time they wanted to order another drink; or risk leaving it unattended whilst they queued downstairs to get served.
The independent coffee shop offered free, secure wifi
Costa did not. In fact, the lack of an Internet connection is what prompted me to leave Costa! The guy that served me there, said this was “patchy” and that some branches of Costa do offer wifi, but this branch didn’t. When I asked why they didn’t offer wifi, he said he had no idea and that people requested it all the time. Little surprise that I saw so many laptops being used in the independent coffee shop and none in Costa.
The independent coffee shop’s prices were higher than Costa Coffee
…and I think Costa provided slightly better coffee too (their coffee is extremely good!) However, in my opinion, when it came to the overall customer experience there was no competition. The independent coffee shop did many of the most important things extremely well, and as a result, I was happy to pay a small premium for a premium level of service.
It has to be stated that my experience was just a snap-shot, based on 1 visit to each coffee shop, however, I would be very surprised if the little guy in this story wasn’t punching WELL above it’s weight.
The little guy may not be able to compete on price.
The little guy can’t even hope to compete when it comes to marketing budgets.
But when it comes to customer experience, by listening to the marketplace and working hard to deliver what the market wants, they CAN succeed against the odds and build a very profitable business, even against really good quality competition.
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