How an Ice Cream Shop Used a Crazy Tactic to Win Customers Over

By Vitaliy Verbenko

There are some things worth remembering about your first job.

stevepb / Pixabay

When I was in high school, one of my early stints in the working world included helping out in a small ice cream shop while I was staying with my grandparents.

A small, mom-and-pop place, it really came alive during the summer. One strange thing about our store was that there were no cash registers, just a money drawer and a calculator. As a result, there were numerous “cash only” signs, including two at the counter and one in every window and door. That’s in addition to signage on each side of the store.

Some people (especially those who weren’t regulars) routinely expected to pay with a credit card because they didn’t have enough cash on hand. Most had no issue with going to an ATM outside of our store, but some were annoyed that they would be charged a fee.

Our boss took the unusual practice of giving ice cream for free to the odd customer without enough cash on them – something that confused me at first. Yet for the short time I was there I constantly saw people coming in just to put money into the tip jar, leading me to think this is how they were paying for previous purchases.

Until that moment, I’ve never witnessed this level of customer service before. After all, this small ice cream business could be losing money especially if others caught wind that free ice cream was being given away. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case and our sales were growing steadily.

So why did this strategy work? Perhaps my boss knew more than I cared to admit:

He understood what made customers unhappy.

We certainly took note of what customers were doing in our store. If they didn’t have enough cash on them they felt let down and looked disappointed.

Still, the decision to let customers go without paying wasn’t a popular one. As a result, there were some objections, since other customers (ie. those standing in line) could interpret this however they liked. This could mean a drop in customer confidence, and by extension, sales.

Ultimately however, this was a decision that had to be made because my boss understood what set of behaviors his customers were looking for (convenience and a sense of trust). He also understood something else.

In a fast-moving, technology-saturated and rapidly changing business climate it’s difficult to accurately predict customer sentiment. Even if you have all the information needed to make an educated marketing decision based on past experiences and future intent.

He didn’t assume or jump to quick conclusions.

It would have been logical for us to insist that customers pay for their ice cream no matter what. It would also be fair to assume that no one would object to this, either. Yet making the opposite decision is what actually led to a boost in sales at our store.

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Source:: Business 2 Community

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