Borders: Lessons In Customer Expectations

by Jeannie Walters

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A few weeks ago, I penned a post about how Borders may have missed the boat on innovating quickly enough. I wish now it wasn’t quite so prophetic as Borders plans to liquidate.

We have a nice Borders here in my town and I’m sad to see it go.

When considering why Borders is shuttering while Barnes & Noble seems to thrive, I believe there are some lessons:

1. Don’t bank on the device, tool or tactic.

Borders invested in music and movie products in the 90’s. Selling DVD’s is not a strategy. It works pretty quickly against you when we all start streaming video. This is happening all over the place with companies popping up relying completely on the platform of Facebook, Twitter or the like. This is not a strategy. It’s a way to follow a tool for a while. Tools fade away when new tools appear (Google+, anyone?) Rely on a strategy of serving your customers with bigger ideals.

2. Innovate, innovate, innovate.

What have you done for us lately? If you are not providing the “next best thing” then you will be passed by with the real next best thing. Don’t become complacent because you won the “best startup” prize of 2004.

3. Go where your customers are going; don’t force them to follow you.

Borders didn’t see the e-reader as competition soon enough. They still didn’t have a strategy for e-readers being integrated with their inventory during the holiday season of 2009. By this point, Barnes & Noble was seeing “huge demand” for their Nook devices. Borders failed to see where customers were going. They didn’t pay attention to the their road, and as a result allowed their customers to go elsewhere without much of a fight.

Closing up shop, especially one of this size and stature, is never easy. Perhaps we can all learn something for our own businesses and look for ways to go where our customers are going. Start thinking about it today so you don’t regret it tomorrow.

Photo Credit: ScottSchrantz via Creative Commons license



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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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