Making it Easy for Your Potential Customer to Use Your Service

This is the first post in a while that deals with the topic of business…this is a subject I want to start to explore more on this blog. I don’t feel blessed with much spare time at the moment, but it’s important for me to continue to write somewhere, lest I become too rusty. So here goes…

I was in Mexico recently on vacation, and on the way through the airport in Puerto Vallarta I was reminded again what a clever design the airport has for encouraging people to spend their last few pesos. You literally have to walk through several stores on your way to your gate. Not near them, but through them. It’s less obnoxious than it sounds, and it’s effective. The point is, by the time you get to your gate, you’ve probably spent your last bit of cash. There’s also the thought that most travelers have of not wanting to return home with useless paper currency they can’t spend unless they come back.

After passing through these stores, you finally make it to your gate. In this area there’s a small, two-chair massage station business that offers travelers 15 minute back/neck massages. If you’re sitting at the gate and you’ve got the time, why not, right? That was my thinking, and having a pre sit-on-my-butt-for-five-hours-massage seemed like a great idea. I was practically relaxing already as I walked up to the two massage chairs. The women greeted me with a smile, I smiled back, and before I could say anything my eyes caught a fairly large sign that read:

CASH ONLY

I was quite taken aback by this. Cash only? Really? People are getting ready to board their plane, have walked a gauntlet of stores designed to coax the last pesos out of their wallet, and this business is expecting people to pay for their service in cash? I felt a rush of disappointment come over me, and to my dismay I practically scowled at the woman as I said “Do you think most people have cash on them as they’re about to get on the plane?”. I threw up my hands and walked away, no doubt leaving her somewhat stunned. Anyone who knows me understands that hiding my feelings is something I’m rather poor at.

In that moment, I was a customer who was excitedly looking forward to paying for a service and in an instant I became someone who was turned away because of a poor decision the owner made. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the woman working, but she lost a paying customer and the tip she would have pocketed.

The lesson here? Meet your customers where they’re at in every way possible. If you set up your business in a location where people are unlikely to have cash, take credit cards. Be flexible. Don’t let payment terms be the thing that gets in the way of you making a sale. You’ve done your work, you’ve paid for a prime location, you’ve trained your staff, you’re ready to make some profit. Why destroy all that by being a cash-only business in a place where people are unlikely to have cash?

On the flip side, there was a great business that snagged $25 from me easily: it was a small, tastefully designed kiosk with a large flat-panel TV, and small but powerful Bose speakers playing music from a violin/piano duet called Arcano. They seem to do strictly covers, mostly pop/rock (like this), and since I’m always looking for good music to serve as a back-drop to periods of focus, I handed over my Visa and walked away with two CDs in less than two minutes. That’s how you run a business!

  • john robinson

    While I understand your frustration at the whole cash thing… I am a freelance web/graphics designer/programmer and I’ve almost switched my entire business to cash the last two years. I even give a 10% discount for cash. Even Jim Cramer (Mad Money) has noticed that a significant portion of business is moving to cash. The reason is simple: the economy is tanking, government is growing, and people are flying “under the radar”. You’d be surprised how many “reputable” companies will hire me for a project precisely because they can pay me out of petty cash. Don’t knock it.

  • An interesting perspective – I hadn’t thought about that much. I kind of doubt that was at play here, other than the normal angle of not wanting to give up any profit to the credit card company.