As most people know, Whole Foods has the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” I mean, even they know that. Why else would their carts be so tiny? Because no one would ever buy all of their groceries there! For years I was actually terrified at the thought of buying an entire week’s worth of Whole Foods groceries. What in the world would happen?!! How much would it be? Would somehow meat, fruit, veggies, and eggs somehow miraculously cost $250, $400, $500?! The ultra financially conservative monster always lurking inside of me couldn’t even begin to fathom what horror we would meet at the register. I literally shuddered at the thought.
Serve Your Customer Well and They’ll Never Leave You
But after numerous issues with other local grocers selling organic food that literally smelled like old garbage, we decided to do an experiment. Buy the same groceries at Whole Foods that we do normally, and see just how crazy that bill is. So we did. And not surprisingly, it was more expensive, but not that much more. Not so much more that we ran away shrieking in fear. Not so much more that we pleaded with them to take it all back. Not so much more that we swore up and down to never return. But my point isn’t that Whole Foods isn’t as expensive as you think. My point is, that yes they are more expensive (even for the exact same item you can buy at a regular grocery store) and they’re still in business. People everywhere know they’re charging more for the same item, and yet still they come. In droves. Here’s why.
The other day we were having a torrential downpour. Weston and I raced through the parking lot and once inside noticed that yet again he’d lost his shoe. I looked here and there hoping and praying that it wasn’t where it always is, right outside the car door. Alas, I couldn’t find it. I saw an employee by the carts and asked if he saw a baby shoe next to him. He didn’t, so I said, ok thanks, must’ve fallen off when we got out of the car. And turned to go ahead and shop.
He asked where I parked. He would go look. I tried to talk him out of it. It really wasn’t necessary to get drenched for his shoe! But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He ran out into the parking lot, found my car, frantically searched, and came back the kind of wet that takes days to shake off, smiling, with the baby shoe in hand. I didn’t ask him to do that. Who in their right mind would?! He did it on his own. He saw a customer in need, and he did something about it. A need that didn’t even have to do with shopping for groceries. Now that’s a great customer experience.
Treat Your Customers As Well As You Treat Your Friends
During another Whole Foods run, my husband and I were going back on forth on whether we should buy some mints sitting at the register. The cashier heard our conversation and said, it’s on me. Try them, and if you like them, you can buy some more. So we did. Simple and inexpensive, but memorable. That was probably two years ago and I’m now telling you about it. And the butchers, the deli people, and the cashiers are all friendly with us, remembering our family, our likes, our dislikes. And they treat us as friends – a free shrimp skewer here, a free 1/4 lb of cheese there, etc. And one cashier basically followed through my entire pregnancy with us. Every time we came through, she wanted an update. How many weeks, how big is the baby now, how are you feeling?! We sought her out every time we could. When her schedule got changed and we didn’t see her anymore, we were truly saddened.
We know that Whole Foods is more expensive, and we’ve thought about cutting back and switching to another store. But time and time again, we decide that that’s one place we just don’t want to cut back on.
Happy Customers Means Higher Profits
When you’re consistently making your customers happy, it’s just a fact that you can charge more. And it’s literally just profit. Being kind, truly serving your customer well, helping in a way that’s not directly related to you designing their home, being thoughtful in how you treat them, doesn’t cost you money. And any money that you do spend giving away “free treats” can be extremely minimal. The money that the different employees have given away to us probably adds up to no more than maybe $10-$15 over a three and a half year period. That’s nothing when compared to the thousands we’ve spent. But it’s just a kind, memorable gesture that shows customers they’re not just there to take your money.
But what if “free treats” aren’t in your budget? No problem. Our absolute favorite bakery in the world was the one I chose for our wedding. We’re incredibly loyal to them. No matter what event we’re having, or bakery item we’re craving, we go there. Every single bakery item they sell could win any competition and the owners who we’ve known since their very small beginnings are just incredible. They’re good, kind, caring people who genuinely work to make their customers happy. But we’ve never once gotten a “free treat.” And that’s absolutely fine with us. Because we care for them as people, we are more than happy to pay full price, buy way more bakery items than any two people need, watch their business flourish, and spread their name around to anyone and everyone we know – because we just want them and their business to succeed.
Great Product or Service AND a Great Customer Experience = MUCH Higher Profits
Now of course, you can’t just provide a great customer experience and then charge people 400% more on the exact same item as someone else is selling. But, you absolutely can charge 10-25% more just for great service. And when you have a superior product or service AND an incredible customer experience, that’s when your profits can really take off.
And good news for you, as an interior designer or decorator, no one is selling the exact same item as you. Your designs are unique, your pieces are mostly custom, and your vendors are not the same as everyone else’s. You have the unique position of providing an entirely customized design, and an entirely customized customer experience. When you can deliver fantastically well on both, your clients will happily pay a higher price.
Just like I pay $4 for “conventional raspberries” at Whole Foods instead of $2 at the store around the corner, over and over and over again. There’s no hiding that they charge more. It’s obvious. But I’m happy to pay. And your customers will do the same for you. There’s no need to hide that you charge more. Because having someone else understand you, care for you, look out for your best interest, and genuinely try to give you a great experience and product or service, is just worth so, so much more.