Breaking Down The Walls
I stopped at a local eyeglass shop this afternoon to begin the arduous process of shopping for new specs. There was really no time for this indulgence in an already busy day packed with wall-to-wall meetings, but I felt like stopping, so I did.
This was a relatively new neighborhood store and one I’d not visited before. The young man in charge was waiting on another couple and they were clearly fully engaged in the shopping process. (Translation: They were going to be awhile).
I started browsing the glass cases and found a few things that caught my eye. After a few minutes of browsing, from across the room the manager asked if I was in the looking for new glasses. I smiled and nodded. But I said “I don’t have a ton of time, so I’ll just look and come back another time – I can see you’re busy.” To my surprise he said, “Make yourself at home. You can look at anything you like. Just step behind the counter and try on whatever you like. And if you need me, let me know.”
Color me shocked. In all my years of shopping for glasses, I’ve always found myself at the mercy of salespeople. It’s just the way it is. If you happen into a store at the wrong time, you’re in for a long wait just to get a chance to try something on, because the staff are waiting on other customers. And we won’t even discuss all the helpful folks who want to draw out the process by forcing you to try on things that you know you’ll hate. But you do it to just to appease them. To further compound things, in many upscale stores glasses are often kept in glass display cases, requiring the assistance of a salesperson just to try them on. All in all, it’s a pain in the neck shopping for glasses, especially for a time-starved person like me — and that’s why I keep putting it off.
This little gift? This was like getting the secret passcode to the cookie jar.
So you know what I did? I dove right in. I forgot my time constraints and indulged myself by trying on more glasses than I normally would and, in the process, found several that I really liked. And you know what happened when the couple the manager was waiting on left? Well, he saw that I was doing just fine on my own and let me be.
Here’s the thing. For a customer like me, a purchase of a new pair of glasses is easily worth about $1,500 to an eyeglass shop. And if I manage to find more than one pair I like, I’ll buy them both, so you can double that number. Before you think me a spendthrift, I have horrible eyes, I buy amazing frames and even more amazing lenses because my eyes are worth it. I may skimp on some things, but never, ever on glasses. I wear them every day of my life, so, for me, this is an investment well worth making.
I’m the customer an eyeglass shop wants to have. But the manager didn’t know that. And what he did was so simple, but something that doesn’t occur to so many. He let down the walls. Instead of keeping me at arm’s length, in front of the case, biding my time and waiting for it to be convenient to him to help me make a purchase, he just opened the door. He gave me the keys. He put me in charge. He got out of the way.
He made my user experience so amazing that I not only stayed longer than I imagined I would, I’ll probably go back and buy the $1,500 pair of glasses that I liked. And, even better than that, I came home and wrote a blog post about it.
What about you? What kind of user experience do you offer your customers and prospects? And don’t get hung up thinking it matters whether your business is a brick and mortar location or an online one – it doesn’t. Do you build walls to keep customers at bay, always making them jump through your hoops and adhere to what’s convenient for you? Or do you consistently look for ways to break down the walls and allow them to create experiences that work for them? It can be as easy as designing your website with your users’ experience in mind – or doing what Joe did, and inviting me to step behind the counter and help myself.
You might be surprised by what could happen if you considered breaking down a wall or two. You might even sell more stuff to more people. Imagine that.
And, for the record, the eyeglass shop was Brookside Optical, located in Prairie Village, Kansas. The manager’s name was Joe and, he doesn’t know it yet, but I’ll be back. I’ll definitely be back.
Oh, and Brookside Optical, if you’re reading this, your website stinks. I can fix that for you.