Costa and Caffé Nero strike me as a great example. It’s a mixture of strategy and luck. Of all the major coffee chains, Caffé Nero is my favourite. I like their coffee and the Italian feel. I’m told I am their typical customer. (I was told so by one of our law firm clients, who does Caffe Nero’s property work). However, it would appear to me that Costa have had a better business strategy, which has prepared them better for the pandemic (the luck bit).
Both sell pretty much the same things – coffee with something to eat. I have seen, however, over the last 4 or 5 years Costa has transformed its method of delivery. Both started off from the same position: selling to customers who came into their café. They did sell some takeaways, but the main thing for them was to have a café full of people – the café culture. I remember in about 2015 or 2016 going to some trade show and being told by a rep how Costa was trialling out this new machine that allowed you to get your costa coffee auto-dispensed. More recently others (Starbucks in particular) have followed them, but Costa led the way. These machines proliferated across the country, in other shops, such as service stations which allowed Costa Coffee to extend their reach without having to take on new property and staff. New Method of Delivery 1. Then they started to build Drive-Throughs, mostly at the side of their existing cafes. New Method of Delivery 2. That has placed them well to extend their reach to passing trade. Costa were always more widely dispersed than Caffé Nero around the regions and on the outskirts of towns as well as the centres, whereas Caffé Nero largely appeared to me to stay in the centre of towns. That also added flexibility.
Along comes the pandemic. Caffé Nero has struggled and gone into a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement). Although Costa has announced redundancies, it seems to have coped a lot better.
So why am I writing this, when HCL’s focus is providing Business Support to the Legal Profession and other Professional Services firms? I am a great believer in learning from all types of business. There are things in one sector that may serve as lessons for another. I don’t think the customers/clients make quite as much distinction between one sector and another as the people in them do.
So, what comparisons can we draw from this? Is it worth asking yourself how you deliver your services to your clients and potential clients? Most law firms and indeed other professional services firms give a tailored service to their clients but the services themselves are pretty much the same. The connection that the business has with clients and how they deliver distinguishes them. Traditionally clients would visit the office for meetings and then there would be correspondence and phone calls to move things along. Emails came along and the speed of response picked up. Instead of the 2 week window for a reply, the reply could come back the same day. Before the pandemic some firms were using video calls with clients, but it was not mainstream. Some were using text and social media to communicate, but again it was not mainstream. Some case management systems offered a portal through their website for clients and some firms adopted this, or had their own developed. The pandemic has speeded up adoption of these technologies. However, I suspect we are only in the early stages of where the professions could go in diversifying delivery of their knowledge-based services to their clients. Technology is becoming a huge facilitator. The clients have also been affected by the pandemic, which has changed their attitude and created a willingness to consume professional services electronically and remotely. This offers opportunities and dangers. Will the professions squander their position as trusted advisers through 121 attention? Will they engage in a race to the bottom? Will they realise that their potential market is limited only by regulatory and jurisdiction boundaries? Also, the talent pool is now limited by requisite qualifications & experience, but not so much by location. The legal profession has been poor at devising retainer and repeat business. It is mostly transactional. It is even poorer at devising passive income streams. Without these partners will continue to be disappointed by the valuations of their firms when they look to sell.
So, back to Methods of Delivery. What are yours? Look at it from the client’s point of view. What would they like? What would make a difference to the speed of matters from enquiry to cash in the bank. What would cause them to sing your praises to family & friends? Crack that and your business will be humming.