This is a great example of how quickly business assumptions change, and how badly we can screw up just by assuming the status quo. I just read Coffee Shops are Taking Wireless Off the Menu. It reports how coffee shops are turning away from free wireless. It’s an interesting commentary on changing times, but, much more important, a really good business reminder. The LA Times reports:
Coffee shops were the retail pioneers of Wi-Fi, flipping the switch to lure customers. But now some owners are pulling the plug. They’re finding that Wi-Fi freeloaders who camp out all day nursing a single cup of coffee are a drain on the bottom line. Others want to preserve a friendly vibe and keep their establishments from turning into “Matrix”-like zombie shacks where people type and don’t talk.
That shift could gather steam now that free Wi-Fi is less of a perk after coffee giant Starbucks stopped charging for it last month.
Put yourself in the place of coffee shop owners. Just yesterday, free wireless was a feature, a sign on the outside window, a customer lure. You just blink, and now it’s no wireless instead. Business climates, competitive environments, customer loyalties, and customer preferences changed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, what worked isn’t working anymore.
Think about the rise and fall of direct mail marketing, Web banner ads, V8 engines, artificial sweeteners, TV dinners … we’ve all seen that happen so many times. In business, you keep your mind open. Revisit your assumptions as often as you can.
Because something similar is about to happen in your business. Or maybe it already did. Maybe what you think works, what used to work, isn’t working anymore.