Are You Experienced?

Thank you note, handwritten


The featured image above isn’t from a stock photo website. It shows a thank you note received by Mark Hedge, Director of Cookes Band Instruments, and serves as an important reminder to everyone working in our sector. What do visitors to your shop experience? Are you making them feel like your place is also their place?

One of the most valuable assets in MI retail is the passion and knowledge of those working in the sector – passion which can be infectious, and knowledge which empowers a customer to choose the right instrument or product for their needs based on a two-way human interaction. It’s a selling point which is becoming ever more unique to specialists given the increasing use of self-service tills in a whole range of high-street retailers, now extending well beyond the supermarkets.

Hall of fame displayThe note received by Mark is from a guitar player who visited Cookes with his wife whilst on holiday from Minnesota. Their experience of visiting the store was so memorable that he made a point of marking it with a handwritten card, highlighting the ‘…art gallery vibe…’ as well as ‘…the terrific store and your hospitality’. Mark tells me that the gallery comment comes partly as a result of their wall of fame displays which feature customers stretching right back to 1965. These displays don’t take the form of complicated or polished point-of-sale, rather they encapsulate the character and history of the store, making it a unique and tangible part of the customer experience. 

Of course, anyone with an interest in any instrument is going to want a good selection to browse, perhaps mixing the makes, models and finishes already familiar to them with alternatives they haven’t considered or even been aware of before. Mark refers to a conversion of Cookes’ old drum room into what he calls ‘…an electric guitar and bass heaven’. Yes, most instruments can be viewed on retail and manufacturer websites across the internet, but it’s a different experience altogether for the customer to see them in a space where they are tangible and playable. In my (very brief) period in car sales the daily message from management was that ‘bums on seats sell cars’, and it’s one of the more useful things I took from the experience. Qualify the customer’s needs and preferences, get the right instrument(s) into their hands and give them the opportunity to fall in love. I can think of plenty of MI retailers who do just this, but do we shout enough about the fact that this is part of a special experience, one that is different to viewing multiple photographs and even video clips on a screen? 

You’re likely doing all these things in your own store(s), and you don’t need me to remind you but perhaps it’s worth taking a moment, inspired by Mark’s Minnesotan visitors, to walk through your store with a customer’s perspective, to think about the things which make the customer experience you offer special and to put them upfront. I’ll leave that one with you.

It’s great to share the positive as well as the challenges, so if you’ve got stories of interactions or customer feedback to share, let me know. I’d love to put together a collage of customer experience stories from as many MIA members as possible. Drop me an email.



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