At BrightHouse, the customer is at the centre of everything we do.
Many retailers would, of course, say the same.
However, while many of my peer group might think of their customers in terms of large cohorts defined by socio-economic factors – millennials, families with kids, silver spenders, etc – that only goes so far with us.
Yes, our customers have one thing in common – that they’ve been turned down for mainstream credit and don’t have access to the ready cash to buy the things they need and want for their homes.
Our customers come to us when others haven’t given them a chance. What they can afford, however, is a regular fixed amount for which they can budget.
“Whenever I’m reviewing customer and sales data, I remember some of the amazing men and women I’ve met. They have such different needs and situations”
Beyond that, customer segmentation favoured by market research groups and corporate consultants doesn’t work.
That’s because our customers are unique. Often misrepresented, they refuse to be pigeonholed simply because they’re on lower incomes and don’t have the luxury of savings. They’re all different and they come to us for lots of different reasons.
When I can, but not as often as I’d like, I get out of the office to meet customers and store colleagues. To hear directly from them about the things we’re doing well, and where we can improve.
Earlier this month I was in Slough and spent a few hours in our store on the high street to meet some of them.
There was a couple who ran a sanctuary in their home, currently looking after 17 disabled dogs. They needed two large washing machines to cope with their precious charges.
Next was a single mum of four kids. She’d been homeless, then found a flat – but without a stick of furniture. She now tells all her friends to come to BrightHouse.
Some truly defy any attempt to categorise them. And that includes an 82-year-old busker who’s such a regular visitor that his karaoke machine is often plugged into one of our store’s electricity sockets as he performs out on the street!
Whenever I’m reviewing customer and sales data, I remember some of the amazing men and women I’ve met. They have such different needs and situations.
“Because we treat them as an individual and with respect, they now choose to shop with us”
Our customers may have low incomes, but the household items that many of us take for granted should definitely not be beyond anyone’s reach. That’s a point I’m passionate about and it’s upsetting when some imply that those on lower incomes shouldn’t have the same aspirations as anyone else.
Two things struck me as I drove home from Slough that day.
First, although the majority of the news recently has been about restaurant and store group closures, the high street still has a big role to play in the lives of many people.
Secondly, our customers are making an active decision to come to us.
When they first came through the door it might have been because they didn’t seem to have had many other options. But, because we treat them as an individual and with respect, they now choose to shop with us because they like how we make them feel.
One other thing. I regularly speak to customers who are bemused at the way they’re portrayed in parts of the media.
They’re all different. They all have their own stories.
What they have in common is they all want someone to give them a chance so they can enjoy their lives, just like the rest of us.