Bill’s Customer Experience: I preferred them before they were famous


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I was on the train the other day when I noticed a review in The Metro as I was flicking through it. Now, I don’t spend too much time reading The Metro but this article – Bill’s Cafe And Produce Store offers style over fab sustenance – caught my eye as it was about a business that I am familiar with and have written about before in Customer retention: How do you make your customer waiting experience sticky?. The Metro article was a review on their new store in London.

Here are some extracts:

“Way to rip the soul out of somewhere, guys.”

“As soon as you sit down, you’re encouraged to order items from the groaning shelves: ‘a bag of Bill’s’. “

“There’s nothing farm-y about the place now: no earthy potatoes, little evidence of seasonality or locality; nothing on those blackboards ever seems to be scored out.”

“But I’d happily eat in the shonkiest East End kebab joint if the food is great and not dictated by the spreadsheet.”

“The hand-knitted shop in East Sussex was the real deal: naturally evolved, run by an individual, a stranger to the stylist. The roll-out is the polar opposite. Even if Collison (Ed. Bill Collison – The Founder) is still involved, it’s now a corporation-managed machine masquerading as something warm and loveable, like a Blade Runner fembot. It’s just a big, fat fake.”

The thing that concerned me was the ‘transformation’, according to the reviewer, of the Covent Garden experience from that of the original stores.

It made me ask myself: Why do new ‘owners’ or managers of businesses insist on ‘adding value’ to something that is already great?

Thinking about this a bit more, it occurred to me that this seems to happen a lot. Here’s some examples that I thought of:

  • You really like an act you saw on Britain’s Got Talent (or, at least, you thought they were talented and I admit that I do watch it sometimes). But, when you see them again on the live shows you didn’t recognise or, even, like their sound as it feels like they’ve been drowned out by a big production?
  • You experience a small company, like Bill’s, doing great things. You love them and tell all of your friends. You rave about them. Then they are bought by a larger company and the business loses it’s heart and soul as it is ‘integrated’, where they are encouraged to focus on value drivers that have been identified by the Corporate strategy team?
  • You are invited to see a new band by a friend who raves about them. You go along, love their show, go and buy their record and watch them grow in popularity. Then they sign for a major label and lose their edge and you find yourself saying to your friends that you liked them before they were famous?

Is it me getting old and cantankerous? But, why do people insist on trying to improve on something that is already great? Isn’t that a case of diminishing returns?

If you like something so much that you want to buy or invest in or sign them up then why mess with it just to make it mass market or to ‘extract’ additional value?

For my part, I’ll take a rather contrary view and think there is real value, lessons and sustainability in experiences and businesses that are not ‘famous’.

What do you think?

Thanks to for the adactio image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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