Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

Everyday Champions

June 12, 2013

We have champions in our midst!  They are bagging groceries, making beds and installing faucets, blinds and more.  Yes, there are championship competitions for all sorts of jobs many of us take for granted.  Typically they are sponsored by national associations such as the National Grocers Association.

BaggingChampMy local Metropolitan Market boasts the 2013 National Bagging Champion.  They put up banners and dedicated space on their electronic reader board to his accomplishments.  Even though I’m in the store a couple of times a week, I have never met Andrew (the champ) and I haven’t been fortunate enough to have him personally bag my groceries.  However, his influence is reflected in the bagging prowess of every team member of this store.  He has raised the bar and it shows.

Angel_WinnerThe National Apartment Association sponsors Maintenance Mania and we have a finalist from our area going to compete in San Diego later this month.  Angel Munoz of CTL Management was named the Region 7 finalist out of over 4,000 participants in over 60 competitive events held throughout the 2012-2013 season.  The Washington Multifamily Housing Association did a press release and has him featured on their website.


Are there competitions held in your industry or area?  Check with the national association to find out if you aren’t sure.  Once you get the information, encourage your team members to participate.  There are always plenty of prizes to provide incentives well beyond bragging rights.

Why do you want your team members to spend the time to participate in such competitions?  

First and foremost, it elevates what are often considered mundane and lowly positions in the eyes of customers, team members in other departments and the employee along with their family and friends.  This renewal of respect for  essential services will encourage pride among departments, improve morale, reduce turnover and encourage others who strive for excellence to seek employment on your team.

Secondly, it raises the bar for your entire team.  Even if no one earns a spot in the finals – or if only one person does – everyone benefits from the spirit of competition and the encouragement to strive for excellence.

Who benefits?  Of course the winning employee benefits in terms of prizes and recognition, but other team members benefit as well.  Pride in one’s work cannot be measured but should never be discounted.  You customers benefit from the emphasis on excellence.  And of course, your company’s reputation benefits as well from the publicity that accompanies such a “win”.

Be sure to post updates on your website, your Facebook business page and send Tweets to both encourage your participant and maximize the positive exposure for your business.

We have everyday champions on our teams.  Competitions are just another way for owners and managers to encourage them, help them grow and develop as well as give them well deserved recognition for a job well done.

Color Me Interested

March 13, 2013

When I started my business and was developing the logo, SCUSAI started with the neon sign maker.  Knowing I had a limited budget to devote to critical expenses such as advertising,  I needed the signs on my stores to serve as much of an advertising beacon as possible.  My question; what colors and font styles are most legible from the greatest distance?   The answer gave me my primary color and font used in the Sleep Country USA logo later designed by an artist at my local newspaper.

Years ago I had read the most universally wearable and desirable color to women around the world regardless of age or skin tone was the robin’s egg blue used by Tiffany & Co.  As a result, when choosing a gift for a woman I may not know very well, I will pick something in this iconic shade of turquoise blue.

Beyond that, I had not given much thought to how color influences decisions or even how color could enhance a customer’s experience.  A brief tidbit in the Wall Street Journal in January cited a study which found people who drank hot cocoa from an orange or cream mug found it more desirable than those drinking the exact same cocoa from a white or red mug.

That peaked my interest.  Could we really enhance a customer’s experience simply by the colors we choose?  Not an isolated incident, the same researchers found the strawberry mousse was described as “sweeter and more intense” when served on a white plate over a black one.  A valuable piece of information for restaurants, coffee shops, caterers and even hostesses who want to wow guests!

Jan McLaughlin is a professional speaker and an expert in spoken, written and visual communication.  Color was one of the critical design elements she covered in a seminar on visual communication recently given to attendees of the NSA-NW Speakers Academy.

Color-for-influenc-infographColor Matters has a wealth of information on color and how it influences our decisions.  My Social Media posted a great quick reference guide using Color Matters research that summarizes how different groups react to various colors.  Use this guide to be sure the color you are choosing helps convey your message effectively.

We all have to select colors many times in countless areas of our business from logo and branding to displays to merchandise to desk accessories.   Why not chose colors that help us communicate effectively, enhance customer experience and accomplish our goals?  

Fresh Face of Business

January 23, 2013

For over 20 years, I’ve been skiing almost exclusively at Deer Valley, Utah.  The past 12 years my husband and I have bought season passes.  We’ve also introduced both family and friends to this mountain resort.  Their legendary service has also been the subject of several of my business blogs over the years.

Would you like that sort of loyalty from your customers?  How do you stay true to what made them customers in the first place while evolving to remain fresh in the marketplace?


New Year’s Eve

That balancing act should be the New Year’s resolution of every business not only for 2013 but every year beyond as well.

First, do you know what your loyal customers value?  Are you sure?  Have you asked?  Do an annual survey asking what they like and what they’d like to see.  It will provide you with valuable insights and remind the customer what they love about you.

In the case of Deer Valley, its no snowboarders, immaculate grooming and stellar service.

How do they stay fresh?  This season they replaced a slow chairlift with yet another high speed quad.  They changed the chair line entrances for smoother entry in several places around the hill.  They’ve also continued to improve the interactive features of their website.

Sure, the chairlift was a major capital expenditure but the line entry routing were not.  That was mostly a matter of where the poles and ropes got positioned.  The website enhancements could have been done in house though I’m not sure.

My point is that each of these new features keeps a 30 year plus business fresh, relevant and competitive and not all were expensive. 

What about your business?  Are you continuing to offer new features and benefits?  If not, you may find customers being lured by a flashy competitor just because you are perceived as old fashioned or out of date.

Do a survey.  Look for commonality in both likes and dislikes.  Post “what you said you love” on your website, Facebook page and tweets.  Make a plan to address the unmet needs looking to offer the most bang for the buck.  As soon as you are ready to offer new features or services, announce each “because you asked” or “to serve you better” in email blasts, newsletters, social media platforms and perhaps even news releases to traditional media.

Make 2013, and every year after, the year your business puts on a fresh face to the marketplace.

Handle with Care

June 20, 2012

For me, like many others, shopping is not only necessary, it is also therapeutic and recreational.  The stores where I like to shop are varied, both high end luxury retailers, mass markets stores such as Target and discount stores (TJ Maxx and Marshalls) or factory outlets.

Regardless of where I shop or how much or little I spend, each purchase is important to me.  If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have invested the time, energy and of course – money – to make the purchase.  That means I expect you to take the few seconds to neatly fold soft purchases (clothing), wrap fragile items and bag it all carefully.

From one retailer to another – PLEASE, today, take the time and impart that bit of wisdom to your staff.

On a recent visit to the Seattle Premium Outlets my experiences ran the gamut of   exceptional (Nautica and Kate Spade) to horrible(Banana Republic).  Repeatedly throughout the day I said to cashiers “Here, why don’t you let me fold that so I don’t have to iron it or send it to the cleaners for pressing when I get it home.”   Some had the good sense to thank me for doing their job for them – others remained clueless.

A bargain is no longer a bargain if I have to invest time or money to be able to use it once I get it home.   These experiences cause customers to shop elsewhere.  Next thing you know, enough people go elsewhere and stores close – people lose jobs.  

Most of the cashiers looked surprised, some even seemed annoyed.  No one had ever told them to neatly fold items, had not showed them how to fold at the counter and certainly had never explained why they should.  

I find this shocking in factory outlet stores where a large percentage of their inventory is neatly folded and in stacks on display tables.  How can you possess the skill (or the folding board) on the sales floor but not at the counter?

Is it not just as important – perhaps even more important long term – how I feel about the purchase (and your store) once I get it home as it does when I’m browsing?  When I pull out an item to show a friend or spouse my “find” and it’s been wadded up and thrown carelessly in a bag, it no longer has the “wow” factor it had when I selected it.  Now that makes me – and everyone I show it to – doubt my decision making ability.

Understanding the psychology of shopping – and imparting a little of that to your floor and counter staff – can go a long way towards saving the brick and mortar stores.  With such haphazard service, is it any wonder Amazon is an increasing threat to retailers everywhere?

It’s In the Bag

November 30, 2011

Did you know there is an annual competition held in Las Vegas for the nation’s “Best Bagger”?  Did you know the Washington State Bagging Champion works at the Metropolitan Market in West Seattle?  Yes, grocery bagging.

You may be thinking, “so what?” but in fact, as a customer I care about how my purchases are bagged.  I want to be asked if I want paper or plastic.  I don’t want the bags so heavy I can’t lift them or so poorly packed that they flop over from improper weight distribution.  It’s not just groceries I care about.  When I purchase clothing, I want it folded neatly – not wadded up and tossed in a bag.  I don’t want to have to iron a new item to be able to wear it.   Lest you think it’s just me –  this is actually a common complaint topic among my peers.

You may think that’s why I would know about the Bagging Championship but in fact, I only became aware of the competition a week or so ago when I drove by my neighborhood Metropolitan Market on my way home.  There on the reader board was a message which read:

“Andrew Borrachini Is WA State Best Bagger!  Nationals Are Next!”

The Metropolitan Market has 21 “frames” they can use for promotion and 3 of the 21 (roughly 14%) are dedicated to applauding the success of one of their baggers.  It wasn’t just up there for a day either.  I first noticed it more than a week ago, saw it a couple of more times and finally took my camera to capture it.

Did YOUR grocery store even enter a contestant?  

Growing up, my dad always said “I don’t care if you are the garbage collector, just be the best garbage collector you can be.”  As a retired business owner, I can assure you that a company is more successful when everyone, right down to the lowest member on the pay scale, all strive to do their very best.

I not only applaud Andrew for his impressive win and daily dedication to “being the best” in his current position – but I applaud the Metropolitan Market for seeing the value in having a participant in such a competition.  And of course, I stand and applaud their enthusiastic support and praise for a hard working team member.

This emphasis on excellence extends to every area of the store.  The result is a consistently “wow” customer experience and countless  loyal customers – including me.

Are you doing all you can to promote excellence at every level within your organization?  Where do you focus your time and energy?  Do you have contests and recognition awards for each area of your company?  How could your company improve if each team member were to improve even 1%?

The Next Generation

October 12, 2011

McDonald’s has been creating lifetime customers through Ronald McDonald and the Happy Meal for as long as I can remember.    Many other businesses find their customer base growing increasingly older and struggle to attract a younger demographic without alienating their bread and butter established clients.

This is probably most true in the field of the arts.  Whether a museum, ballet, symphony or opera, introducing fine arts to the next generation has to be a priority for all fine arts groups.  That is why symphony orchestras offer “Pops” series and ballets make “The Nutcracker” part of their seasonal programming.

 On a recent trip to Kansas City, my husband, my mom and I all toured the just opened Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

What an impressive addition to the Kansas City arts!  Beyond the beautiful building and breath-taking acoustics, I was most impressed with their “Children’s Wall” – “In celebration of tomorrow’s audience”.

This program lets parents – or grandparents – purchase an actual hand print of a child on wall of the new performing arts center.  The hand print includes the child’s name and age at time of purchase.  What a great way to give a young person a sense of ownership in a privately funded arts facility!?!   The “gift” can even be paid for in installments over 5 years!

Genius!  Pure marketing and legacy building genius!


What can you do to insure YOU will have customers not only next month or next year, but into the next generation as well?  

Utilizing social media, creating YouTube videos and other technologies which haven’t even been invented yet will all help attract a younger demographic.  As a leader you must lead your business into the next decade and beyond.  Staying current with technology is one way – but don’t overlook the opportunity to perhaps let young customers leave their fingerprints – maybe even literally – on your operation.




Websites Made Easy

May 11, 2011

Would you consider opening a business and having an UNLISTED telephone number?  If you are self-employed or run a small business without a website, that’s essentially what you are doing.  The internet has replaced the telephone directory for how most customers find us.

Consider your own patterns for a moment.  When you hear of a new local hot spot with great music, you probably go to their website to see the schedule of upcoming musicians.  If you need work done around your house from dog-walking to gutter cleaning, you typically type those phrases into a search engine.  Then you also probably read on line reviews before hiring them.

Having a website is Business 101 in today’s world.  Not having one makes it harder for customers to find you and sends a message that you are not serious about your business. 

My 75 year old mom could not find a medical facility’s website.  She  had agreed to take Aunt Pat there and was trying to get directions and see the building before she got there to insure she could find it easily.  After searching, she called me for help.  I did my own search and eventually, I found a phone number listed on an affiliated doctor’s site and called them.   I asked for their web address and they said “We don’t have one.” 

I called mom back to tell her that was why she couldn’t find them and give her the phone number to get more information.  Her reaction was a surprise to me.  “What do you mean they don’t have a website?  Who doesn’t have a website these days?  I’m not sure I want to take Pat to a medical facility that far in the dark ages.  What are they going to do?  Treat her with leeches?” 

I have friends from professional speakers like me, to authors to consultants who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on their websites. You don’t have to do that to have a footprint on the internet.  This recent article in the  Wall Street Journal mentions several alternatives to having a website built  that are worth checking out.

Personally, I would start with a Facebook Fan Page for your business.  This is NOT your personal page with pictures from your last birthday party even though you need a personal page in order to build and manage the business page.  It’s a separate page and every business should have one.  I have 2, one as a speaker and the  other as the travel queen.  You can use the links provided to check out each and see the way I use them.   That may even be the way you are reading this blog post.

If you think you might want to blog,  several of the services such as WordPress (my provider) not only let you have a  FREE blog, but you can use that as your website as well.

Your internet provider may even offer free or low cost, easy to use, templates for making your website. 

Any way you do it, you need a pressence on the web.  To not have one says you are not serious about your business, makes it harder for customers to find you to do business and may be unwittingly sending a message that what you offer is not relevant to today’s consumers.

Peace of Mind

April 22, 2011

I heard a radio ad this week for Safelite Auto Glass which peaked my interest.  No, I don’t need my windshield replaced but the ad mentioned a service I thought had a lot of applications for other service businesses that send workers to your home.  They email you a PHOTO of the technician scheduled to do your work.

I would have thought the logo van would have been enough to give customers peace of mind that the person at their door is who they say they are but staying true to their name, “Safelite” takes this extra step which inspires confidence.

Information on the company website shared valid reasons for considering this practice for any service business:

“A recent survey conducted by Safelite found that 80 percent of respondents liked the e-mail they received and 85 percent said they felt more comfortable with the technician coming to their home once they had received the e-mail.

“I appreciated the photo of the technician so that I knew the person who was taking my car key was the proper person to have it,” said one Safelite customer.”

Uniforms and identification cards help inspire confidence in customers who open their homes to service technicians but these items can be faked.

Some businesses hire independent contractors to provide services so there is no logo vehicle provided and no requirement the workers wear uniforms.  This has been the case for the cable repair people who have been to our home over the last few years.

Can you use the Safelite practice to inspire confidence and provide added security for your customers?  Can you add a digital photo to the file of each employee or contract provider in your database?  When your dispatcher assigns a job to a worker, can you email or text this information to your customer?

Even if you are a sole provider of your service, why not email or text YOUR photo to customers so they will recognize YOU when you arrive at their home?

In the service industry, much of the success or failure of the business comes down to the customer’s experience with the service provider.  What can you learn from this “Best Practice” of Safelite to provide YOUR customers with an improved customer experience and greater peace of mind?

Coffee…or Iced Tea…to Travel

April 1, 2011

At the risk of being forced to move, I live in Seattle and I don’t eat seafood nor do I drink coffee.

That being said, Starbucks is a locally based company I am always amazed by.  Not only are their products great, their team is consistently of the “can do” mindset.

Despite not being a coffee drinker, I am a very regular Starbucks customer.  I have patronized Starbucks all over the world.  You see, I drink iced tea.  LOTS of iced tea and they have mastered the perfect glass of iced tea.

I also travel regularly and more and more hotel rooms have gone to single cup coffee makers in the rooms which makes brewing my own tea more challenging.  In Las Vegas, finding a coffee maker of any kind in a hotel room would be the equal to winning the lottery.

Last year, it occurred to me that since Starbucks makes both great iced tea AND had these nifty “Coffee Travelers” that maybe I could get a “traveler” of iced tea.  I called the Starbucks in the Hughes Center at Paradise & Flamingo in Las Vegas figuring a location near office buildings would likely have the “traveler” boxes.  Essentially, they are a foil bag filled with beverage and then put into a box with a spout for easy pour.  Each “box” holds about 95 ounces making it perfect for meetings or iced tea junkies such as myself.

I opened the conversation with “I know this is going to be an odd request but…”  The person on the other end of the phone paused for just a moment and said, “I’m not hesitating because we can’t do it, I’m just thinking what I will use for a funnel to get the tea into the pouch since it’s designed to be put under the coffee urn tap to fill.”

She then asked how many I needed (2), what variety of tea (black), sweetened or unsweetened and when I wanted to pick them up.  Sure enough, a few days later I stopped in on my way to the hotel from the airport and there were my iced tea “travelers” all ready to go.  They gave me cups, lids and straws and I was a happy, well-hydrated camper for the several days I was in Las Vegas.

Three times since then I’ve visited Las Vegas, each time with family or friends who also drink iced tea and the same location has been wonderful about making my special boxes of tea.  I call a couple of days ahead and tell them when I’ll be in and it’s ready.  By the time you are reading this, I’ll be sipping tea from yet another box of tea by the wizards at Starbucks.

What is brand loyalty worth to your company?  If you are part of a large organization, what is branch loyalty worth to you and your career?  I continue to call this particular store for my special order each visit not because no other location could or would do it; rather because we now have a history.  It’s that history which retains long term customers.

You Snooze, You Lose

March 2, 2011

“I’m never staying in a hotel again!”

Those were the first words out of my assistant’s mouth when she came in after her getaway weekend in Port Townsend, WA.

Having read all too many articles about the bed bug epidemic in hotels; both around the country and the world, I feared the worst.

But no, she did NOT have a bad experience at a hotel – quite the opposite.  She had a GREAT experience at a Bed and Breakfast!  Her experience at Holly Hill House was so wonderful, she has vowed to only stay in Bed and Breakfasts in the future.

What did she love?  “The pampering.”  – Quite a compliment from a woman who earns her living pampering others!

“The table.  The parlor.  The food and wine.” She gushed about the attention to detail, the cozy atmosphere, the peace and quiet.

A visit to the website of Holly Hill House will give you comments from other satisfied guests; a testament to the ongoing great customer experiences they deliver.

What intrigued me was not just the experience Diana had at this particular Bed and Breakfast but rather the reminder all business people need:  One bad customer experience can lose a customer for life.  Also true, a great customer experience can change the consumer’s buying habits for a lifetime.

Every day, with every customer, you have the opportunity to change perceptions of your business, your industry, your community. Let’s take this example and use it to remind our team members how critical each and every customer encounter is not just to our bottom line today, but to the long term health of our businesses and industries.

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