Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is an American retailer that focuses on stylish and highly sought after casual wear. It has over 325 stores locations and operates internationally. In 2010 A&F had a turnover of 3.47 billion dollars. They’ve achieved great success using a business model that flies in the face of many well-accepted retail business practices.

If you’ve visited an A&F store, it’s more than likely that a buff bouncer will prevent you from going inside! In this video customers are forced to wait in the rain even though the store is not full to capacity with customers inside:

Once inside customers have to contend with lights so dim you can’t even see the merchandise being sold! There is also music playing so loudly that you can’t hear what the shop assistant is saying. And to top it all you choke on an overbearing smell of perfume being sprayed out through the ventilation. What’s pleasant about this experience? In fact there are aspects of this customer service model that are a real inconvenience for the customer and yet this is a model that has made A&F very successful.

Of course this experience is designed and appeals more to a younger generation but A&F is also a sought after brand by adults thin enough to fit their apparel. The business model works well because A&F understand the moment of truth is in the exclusive atmosphere and experience on offer.

Like IKEA (see case study), Abercrombie & Fitch have identified a business model that does not always delight the customer. They have created a successful business around building distinct differences (even inconveniences) into the customer experience. Pure genius. You don’t always have to delight your customers, sometimes well thought out “inconveniences” can have them wanting more.

This has important implications because it means that customers have certain thresholds where they will accept a degree of inconvenience as long as they get the moment of truth they are looking for. And this means that you can identify significant cost savings in your customer experience journey. It also has huge implications for training of staff and identifying where they should be provided with complete levels of empowerment.

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