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Keeping Up With Vigilante Consumers

By: Patricia Fripp
Posted: March 28, 2011, from the April 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

It’s a fact: The number of new clients is dwindling, and this is why customer service is today’s competitive advantage. If you don’t have masses of potential clients to choose from, you had better keep the ones you do have happy.

What is a vigilante consumer?

First, a little historical perspective. Conventional marketing wisdom always urged selling either to the classes or the masses. If you’re selling $100,000 cars, you appeal to the classes; and if you you’re selling economy cars, you appeal to the masses. That’s simple enough. But then came retailers such as Walmart that are known for good buys with the hallmark of superb customer service. “Now the masses know class,” says futurist Faith Popcorn, who also coined the term “vigilante consumer.” Vigilante consumers are not as dangerous as they sound; they just want value, service, convenience, choice and lots of attention. Don’t think of all this as bad news; quite the contrary. Armed with the facts, drive and an open mind, you can begin planning strategies that will bring challenge, fun and profit.

Start at the beginning

What is your philosophy? Examples include: “We treat you right” and “Solutions not problems.” Think it through carefully, and when you’ve decided, design your spa operations and activities to support that vision. Now, state your product or service in one simple, short sentence that everyone will understand. People do business with people they know because they’ve heard about them from a friend or read about them in a magazine. So your job is to make yourself known to prospective clients. What you need is an unfair advantage—doing every tiny little thing better than your competition. In this instance, your competition can be your best teacher.

In your role as an unrelenting self-promoter, start off in your own backyard. How many people in your area know what you and your business are all about? Let everyone in the immediate vicinity of your spa know who you are and what services your facility offers.

Exceed expectations

You have to exceed vigilante consumers’ expectations. For example, Gary Richter runs a small boutique bank in Naples, Florida. At 5:20 pm one Friday afternoon, the bank received a call from an elderly woman who needed to cash a $200 check. The bank closed at 5:30 pm and she was 20 minutes away. Many would say, “Of course, please come over, we’ll stay open for you,” but Richter’s bank believes in giving exceptional service so they told the woman that one of their employees would bring her $200 on his way home and would pick up her endorsed check. As it turned out, the woman had her extensive financial holdings at a large national bank and, after her positive experience with Richter, she moved all her assets and investments to his bank.