In a pickle

Departments - Business Minds

Improve the customer experience for higher prices and recurring sales.

November 24, 2015


Sunday morning in the summer, a farmers market occupies the church parking lot in Sykesville, Md. The locals bring their wares to sell, and the warmth of small-town America pumps pride into your heart.

After the third weekend this year, foot traffic became somewhat light and the feedback became somewhat heavy — “same old, same old;” “nothing new;” “market shmarket.”

And then, enter the pickles.

On the fourth weekend, a vendor set up with about 10, 5-gallon buckets of pickles. There were garlic pickles, dill pickles, sliced pickles, whole pickles. There were hot pickles, sweet pickles and sour pickles, too (in your best Dr. Seuss). Oooohhh the places you will go with pickles at the market.

The parking lot was abuzz, the pickle line was long, the cash was flowing and the farmers market was back!

Week five: Sold-out crowds and sold-out pickles.

Week six: Standing room only as the pickles took the stage.

Week seven: Two trucks of pickles and a traffic jam in small town America.

People patiently stood in line for at least 30 minutes. Why did people drive far distances, stand in line for a record amount of time (for a farmers market) and pay $25 for a few Mason jars of pickles?

Let’s look at the four reasons people buy.

1. The brand: 19 percent of people buy an item (car, jeans, phones, flowers) because of the brand associated with that item (Mercedes, Levi’s, Apple, etc).

2. The product: Another 19 percent buy because of the actual product (C 300, 501 jeans, iPhone).

3. The price: Only 9 percent of folks buy based on price. People may buy fewer things, but they'll pay more for them. This economic change and the lessons from the past were, “you get what you pay for,” and some folks are still paying for the savings they tried to create years ago. Tough lesson!

4. The experience: A whopping 53 percent will pay more and come back if you offer an experience worth coming back for time after time.

Creating the customer experience, as described in my last article, is where the money is. Consistently creating the customer experience earns new fans of your business.

As for the pickles at the farmers market, they had long lines of folks paying more than they are used to because of the experience they received. Not only from the pickle purveyors, but from the entire farmers market experience.

How can we get a pickle experience?

Create a culture of ownership where every employee is at the table and held accountable for his or her behavior, actions, ideas and outcomes.

Set standards to drive customer experience within your organization (response time, satisfaction, quality, quirky methods to bring fun into the equation, etc).

From there, you deliver the standards, set up a method to track them and measure the standards. A short list of things to measure is helpful to keep the momentum going such as a perfect delivery day, order fulfillment, productivity, etc.

Next, invest time to remove the barriers. Look at some of the things that are getting in the way of “your pickle” (could be people or processes).

And finally, you need to drive consistency.

So the lesson of the day is to challenge your team to figure out “What is our pickle?” What separates you from the competition? What can you do better and more uniquely than anyone else, and how do you deliver that consistently?