In the 1990’s, a retail bank known as Commerce Bank transformed the retail banking industry. They did it, plain and simple, by thinking outside of the box. They kept their branches open seven days per week—previously unheard of in the banking industry. They offered free coin-counting machines in their lobbies. They often utilized “greeters” to meet customers at the door, similar to what you’d see at Target or Best Buy.
And… over a period of ten years, they grew their net worth from $400 million to $8.5 billion.
Remarkably, they achieved this success in a market that was already mature. There have been retail banks on every corner for the last 50 years – so it’s not like Commerce Bank came up with a brand-new business model and took advantage of an untapped market. They found success by looking at a familiar business model in a completely new light. They thought outside the box. For decades, the notion of a bank keeping its doors open seven days per week was unheard of, even heretical! But the leadership at Commerce saw that the approach was popular for customers of retailers like Target, and they asked themselves “why not?”
If you’re like most business owners, you have built up a large encyclopedia of systems, procedures, and best practices for your business. And don’t get me wrong, systemization and documentation is a good thing!
But, if you aren’t careful, “the way we have always done things” will become a mantra that will hold your business back.
So, take a moment and perform the following exercise.
Clear away, temporarily, your years of experience and your knowledge of the industry. Visualize your operation from the perspective of your customer. Walk through the process from the moment of first contact to fulfillment. Can you identify any frustrations or inconveniences? (You can also ask this question of loyal customers, “Are there any frustrations that you have with our process?”) Look for opportunities to streamline your procedures and make them more customer friendly.
Develop a habit of constantly analyzing businesses, whether in your industry or another, and looking for good ideas. You never know, your local gym may have come up with a great new approach to customer service that can be adapted to your business.
Don’t let “the way we have always done things” stifle your creativity and keep you from delivering an exceptional experience to your customers. Think outside the box.