Hangin’ by a String

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I’ve heard it from Dan Gilbert, Magic Johnson, Dave Bing, and many more: Customer service is a must. Everyone says how important it is, but Mike Himes can vouch that customer service is the only thing that has kept his business from going under.

Between the very steep discounts from big box stores and the music downloading over the Internet, small record stores have been struggling to stay open for years. It is continuously becoming more and more difficult. According to the research group Almighty Institute of Music Retail, over 2700 record stores have closed since 2003. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press last month, over 70% of music sales now take place in big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which have a much more limited selection. Himes has used this information to focus on some of the best practices he have recently learned about. Himes has acknowledged the brutal facts and applied his energy toward getting to know his customers, offering excellent customer service, and re-framing his target market.

First Himes really stayed close to his business, noticing certain purchasing trends between his two stores. His Ferndale locations attracts Detroit techno fans, meanwhile his Roseville location attracts the rap and hip hop lovers. So, as Dave Bing suggests, Himes gives the customers what they want, so they don’t go elsewhere. Himes says he looks beyond what he can’t control and focuses his attention on who comes into his stores. And as we learned, it’s a lot easier to retain your current customers than to attract new ones.

Once he gets his customers in the store, he always provides an experience with great customer service. “We do the song and dance and treat people the best we can,” he said. He went on to talk about how you won’t get that over the Internet or in Wal-Mart. He personally makes sure his customers leave happy.

And finally, Himes restructured his target market. His target market, once being the average music lover, is now the “super fan.” The super fan is someone that still loves music in its physical sense. These serious music fans “want to own everything, even the hard-to-find music that chain and big box stores don’t carry.”

Himes realized that his market was quickly being introduced to more appealing options. So focusing on customer service and the appropriate target market may have been the wisest decision that he could have made. Himes now not only offers music, but he offers a great experience. He has also realized that the Internet is soaring, and in turn expanded its web presence, now offering a web based store. Himes in now looking for a smaller location, due to his drop in sales, however he is still hangin’ by a string.

. . . . Replacing the guest speaker from September 25, 2007 . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . Source: Oakland Business Review . . . . . . . . . .

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