When I think about convenience, there’s one story that epitomizes convenience. Convenience score: 10 (on a scale of 1-10). The story:Maze

In Atlanta (and maybe even in other bustling metro areas) there’s this guy who’s known as the traveling barber. His M.O. – he comes to you. His target market – doctors, lawyers, and other elitists. His prices – well, let’s just say the price matches the pockets of his clientele. Simply put, this guy can charge $100 for a haircut that would normally cost the average person between $13 and $20. That’s a $76 dollar premium for something as basic and everyday as a hair cut. (Numbers estimated)

Convenience Is Part of the Product

In today’s society, the hustle and bustle of life seems to catch up with us, making us movers and shakers. With all the moving and shaking, we indulge in much more than basic necessities, and thus, begin hearing ourselves say things such as “if I had the luxury of time.”

The reality is that as life becomes more complex, we as humans find ourselves stretched to the core. (And right now I’m preaching to myself.) Since we are stretched to the core, we’re constantly looking for avenues to simplify and alleviate the complications of life – or, on the other hand, we avoid things that make life more complicated.

I say all this to say, if consuming your product or service is seen as inconvenient because it’s out of the way, it’s time consuming, it doesn’t fit into the schedule, or the value doesn’t otherwise outweigh the cost, you may not be maximizing or meeting customers’ needs. Thus, leading to lost customers.

Think about it…how many times have you driven by a gas station simply because you didn’t feel like it. (Hand raised. I do this.) Or how many times have you chosen a doctor, dentist or veterinarian partly due to the fact that their hours of operation meet your schedule? Exactly. Now you’re getting it. Today convenience is just as much part of the product as the product itself.

Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

Let’s be real. How many times have you patronized an organization thinking “I gotta help Company X meet it’s goals.” Yeah….maybe for a non-profit or some local org that you’re trying to help, but even in these situations, there’s still some type of personal gratification if you’re honest with yourself.

If, as a customer, you’re not thinking about helping other organizations meet their goals, why would you approach your goals based on your needs. Your customers aren’t. When operating an organization, the best thing to do is to think oas a customer. If your customer desires convenience, then that’s what you need to provide or someone else will. If you are able to meet your customer’s needs and desires, your needs and desires are met in return.

Convenience and the Small Business

Providing convenience doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Simply get creative.

Let’s take a gander at some creative and some maybe no-so-creative ways of providing convenience that even you would approve:

Your Website. Start by creating a company website. Then let your website be your hub. From making a purchase, to finding or requesting information, filling out forms, to some other task self-service isn’t a foreign concept anymore. Take advantage of the fact that consumers are looking to do things on their own. Note the site must be useful, intuitive, fast and easy to use. Otherwise, this too becomes an inconvenience, and they’ll go somewhere else to have their needs fulfilled.

With self-service options it’s very important that the organization doesn’t totally negate the need to have friendly people who can assist your customers if they’re having difficulty accomplishing the task at hand. (Remember how frustrated you get when you cant’ get to a live person)

Phone Appointments. So this is not groundbreaking. However, when scheduled as an appointment vs. a fly by night phone call, phone appointments become a very effective and convenient means for conducting business. With phone appointments, you avoid traffic, the need to find parking, and you can do it from just about anywhere. The con is lack of face-to-face interaction.

Appointments using Instant Messenger. Chatting via instant messenger is no longer just for the teeny bopper. Many companies have adopted an instant messaging platform for internal communication, and with Google Chat, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger, you too can conduct instant conversations. This can be used for one-on-one conversations as well as discussions involving multiple people.

Video Chat. Who’s heard of Skype? If you haven’t, shame on you (smile). After you finish reading this article be sure to look up Skype, and then add it to your arsenal. It’s a great way to have a virtual face-to-face meeting where business is conducted without the nuisance of travel time, traffic and parking . In order to take advantage of Skype, you must have internet access, download Skype software on your computer, create a Skype account, and have a webcam and microphone. Many smartphones also have access to Skype mobile.

Evening & Weekend Appointments. Maybe your service requires an in-person appointment. This is definitely true for doctors, dentists, tailors, seamstresses, and veterinarians. However, anything between the hours of 8 to 5 and even 8 to 6 is just inconvenient for many. Offering evening or weekend appointments may be the perfect solution. And if you don’t want to be in the office all day, think about altering your hours of operation to begin maybe a little later in the day.

I Could Go On

I could go on devising ways to up your convenience factor including:

How easy is it to get in contact with you? What forms of payment do you accept? Do you offer a home/office delivery service? And finally, have you employed an automated phone system or phone answering service.

I’ll stop there.

The moral of the story is…if you’re serious about your organization, then you must become serious about your convenience. Otherwise, your customers may become serious about switching to another provider or just forgoing the service altogether.

Regina R. Patterson, M.B.A.

Marketing & Web Content Consultant




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