No more business, no more customer
For me a business exists to serve others whether direct or indirect. A key connection is the customer or client. The depth and continuity of this connection depends on the type of service. For most retail and service businesses the customer is limited to a transaction based exchange. For a local shop or business the relationship might extend to a longer term relationship. Depending on staff turnover and owner involvement in the business, a customer will be known to the business. This is the ideal place for a business and a customer. So for many it is about keeping the customer happy with ideally an investment in long term loyalty. Yet like any relationship, the customer and business one eventually changes.
We see what we want to see
In this customer context I find it interesting to observe what happens when a business closes. The surprise comes to the customer. The customer assumes that the business will always be there to serve it's needs. But then the business owner decides to change. As a customer we do not see the change going on within the business. We just see the world looking the same on the outside.
On another level as a customer we avoid seeing change. If we did then we would acknowledge that the world we assume is secure because it is the way it is now no longer has that certainty. So a business closing becomes a reminder of life’s uncertainty. The change pushes and confronts us with reality that nothing is for sure - even our local cafe.
Change creates good discomfort
Sometimes though a change is coming in a bigger picture sense and we likewise avoid seeing it. Take for example the shift away from DVDs to online digital download of movies. Where we live there is now only one local DVD store. (We even still called it the 'video store'!). There used to be two more we visited that are now closed. When the store closed we were disappointed but not surprised. Why? Because we built up a family ritual of all stopping by the store after dinner on a Friday night to get a couple of movies. This family ritual was simple yet a nice way of sharing an experience. Then the place we relied on to make this ritual possible was gone. We still drive by and reminisce. But again the change is good. We were in a comfort zone. So was the business in the midst of a product with decreasing demand.
Torn between two sides
I keep reflecting on these experiences and the relationship they have with change. What is it about these sudden stop starts that I am struggling with? I think it is two sided. There is a part of me that embraces change - absolutely 100%. I am the first person to say what if we could do something differently and better. I am always investing in and gaining from personal growth. I am forever reinventing my business and offering new and evolved services. I live a very different life than I did ten years ago and a dramatically different life than 20 or 30 years ago. If I did not I would be bored and frustrated. That’s just me.
Yet at the same time I feel resistance. Resistance to change. I want to hold onto the old because it is familiar. I know where I have been and what I can do. The physical places in the world serve almost like anchors of this certainty. They become repositories of memory and association. In a way I live my life a little bit in the past by relying on my connection to these places. Without such connection then I feel I may lose my bearings.
So whilst embracing change and all associated with newness there is an equal tension of nostalgia and desire for familiarity. Both are good. Both are right. There is no judgement in having a connection to the past. There is however an observation that sometimes we can be dependent or attached to the past. This is what I work on moving from. I consciously enjoy and honour my memories and at the same time love what is here now and where I am going. And when this shift is from the perspective of customer then perhaps it is time for me to adjust as well.
Maybe it is just me. Maybe you also feel the impact when a business you frequent changes or closes?