Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

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%?

Dispensing Convenience

April 8, 2011

Vending machines used to sell sodas. Then snacks were added along with waters and a host of other consumption items.  Many of these machines are still devoted to candy and soft drinks, but innovative business people are finding  many other great uses for these 24 hour, unmanned stores.

Smaller hotels without sundry shops often will offer items travelers often forget in their vending machines.  You can find a replacement toothbrush or some much needed pain relief in the same machine with a package of M & M candies.

The introduction of credit card technology to the vending machine has also opened it up to bigger ticket items.   Best Buy has “Express”, kiosk style vending machines in busy airports such as LAX and McCarren Airport in Las Vegas as well as in places such as the MGM Grand.  They feature items travelers might want such as noise-cancelling headphones, a cellphone charger, video games and more.

A recent trip through the airport in Las Vegas found a Clinique vending machine filled with skin care and beauty products.  Sephora also has introduced beauty vending machines.  Even the Washington Lottery offers instant-win game tickets in vending machines at SeaTac Airport!

What do you think about when it comes to restroom vending machines?  What about this?   It’s called “After Heels” and they are ultra compact ballet style flats you can buy from their website or from vending machines in some hip clubs.

 

Retail is ever-changing. If you have a product you make or represent, would it sell in a vending machine environment?  Do you need to repackage or suggest repackaging to your company to fit in this new, evolving selling format?

Reaching out to companies who provide and  stock vending machines may be an innovative way to get your product in front of millions of customers without the expense of a storefront.

Would your business benefit from ADDING one of these new vending machines to your location?  Would it allow you to offer YOUR customers more products, greater convenience and some additional revenue to your bottom line?

As business people, we are always encouraged to “think outside the box” but in this case, maybe thinking of a way to get INSIDE the box would be a boost for your business.

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.

“Trade”-offs

January 26, 2011

Trade shows can be a great way to promote your business, show your products to a host of potential customers and sell your merchandise.  It’s also expensive! First there is the obvious, the cost of the booth space.  This varies by show and is often dictated by average attendance, booth size and placement within the show space.

Then there is the cost of display you buy or rent.  I’m always surprised by how many people make the investment to have a booth and then have NO signage or banners on the curtain walls of their booth and just a simple table with some items.

Others invest in more elaborate displays but staff with people who are not outgoing so their eye-catching booth doesn’t result in the sales it could have if staffed properly.


Some have found catchy ways to get attention such as the live alpacas at a recent outdoor show in Salt Lake City.  The company sells items made of alpaca wool and walks the “mascots” through the show several times a day.  Specialty features such as food, live animals and music often require special permits and in the case of live animals, can “leave behind” some messes for the staff to clean….

The show may be in your city, such as the Northwest Women’s Show, but others are in cities around the country; Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta and more.  If you plan to attend a show in another city, you have to factor in the cost of airfare, hotel, meals and other travel related expenses.  Hotel rooms typically go for premium pricing during show periods but part of your booth registration may include a pre-negotiated rate at a nearby hotel.  Any way you add it up, these are very real costs.

Are you going to work the show yourself?  Are you the right person to work the show?  Do you have a “show personality”?  If you are out of your business for the several days of a show, what cost does that have for your business?  Would it be more productive to recruit someone to work the show on your behalf?  If so, be sure they have all the information they need; brochures, price sheets, show specials, delivery dates for orders and instructions for collecting and passing along potential leads for follow up after the show.  You may need to compensate your booth worker for their time and effort which adds to your overall show cost.

If this is discouraging, it is not intended to be.  However all of these costs should go into determining if a show is right for you and your business.  Vendors at the Seattle Wedding Show credit their presence at the show with a large percentage of their annual business and the show represented the largest “advertising” expenditure of many of these businesses.

To find the right show for you, first go as an attendee.  Take some business cards in case you meet potential customers or other vendors you could partner with to share booth costs.  Pay close attention to the other attendees, what booths they visit, how much time they spend.  This will give you an idea what attendees to this particular show are looking for so you will know what you need to do to be successful at the show.

When you do attend a show as an exhibitor, be sure to keep track of what percentage of people stop by your booth rather than just pass by.  Of those that stop, roughly what percentage are people interested in buying from you versus curiousity visits or those wanting to sell something to YOU.  Keep track of the leads which originate from the show and the total amount they buy from you over the next year. 

By tracking the data on leads generated and resulting sales, you will be able to weigh the costs to determine if trade shows are right for you.

100 Ways

January 21, 2011

The post on Wednesday marked my 100th blog. I wanted to take a minute to thank you for your loyal and ever-growing readership.  When I started to blog last year, I wondered what would I ever find to fill this space every Wednesday and Friday.  It was important to me that it be useful and worthy of your time.

I want to thank all the great businesses out there who have provided me with wonderful examples of outstanding customer experiences.  You have not only helped to fill my blogs, you have given me an ongoing stream of new examples to cite as I speak to businesses and organizations on this vital topic.

I also hope we have all been able to learn and grow from the examples of what NOT to do – those times when the customer experience has been far from stellar.

But today, I thought I’d just have some fun.  Some reflections on 100 in our lives and culture.

100 yards in a football field – even when my Cowboys are not Superbowl bound.

 

100 is the number of tiles in a standard Scrabble set for all my wordy friends.

The United States Senate has 100 Senators.  The number we actually like is another matter entirely.

In Celsius it’s the boiling temperature or the average temperature in Las Vegas for the month of June.

The Night of 100 Elvises was held in Baltimore in December.

Bangkok, Thailand is located at the 100 degree longitude.

And of course, perhaps my personal favorite:

100 – the number of calories in an average glass of pink champagne.

Thanks again for your readership.  I’ll be back on Wednesday with more ways to make your business 100 times better!

 

A Hand Out

December 22, 2010

Tipping in the service industry is the norm.  I realize that.  Both my husband, John Murphy and I tend to be generous tippers.  We not only appreciate the service we receive, but we’re also mindful of both the low pay and challenging customers most in the service industry encounter.

That being said, I will tip when I feel it’s appropriate, not because it’s expected.  In fact, if I can tell you expect it – I will not tip even if I had intended to!

Most of you know the situations I mean; a delivery person or hotel staff person who lingers too long, the cashier who automatically gives change in lots of small bills so you can easily feed the tip jar… You can just feel their hand out even when it’s not in the literal sense.

The worst example to date happened on Friday. I was in Las Vegas with my husband for a few days.   My game of choice is blackjack.  Most players tip when they win.  Personally,  win or lose, I will tip my dealer provided they have been friendly.  It’s a game – I want to have fun.  I’ve even lost and tipped generously because I still had fun playing with a dealer who enhanced the entertainment.

But Friday, I was playing a table with 3 other people.   The dealer was sarcastic. One snippy comment after another.  Then he chided the 2 smoking players by saying “Oh, go ahead, I don’t mind.  After all, chemo treatments are getting so much more affordable.” HELLO! This is Las Vegas.  Smoking is common.  I don’t smoke – don’t like smoke – but I know this is a smoking establishment and I chose to come here so I don’t complain.  Dealing cards is not the only career choice and Las Vegas is not the only card table in the world.  If you don’t like the working conditions – work somewhere else!

The jab was lost on the 2 smokers but the comment took away from my enjoyment of the game.  I was thrilled when a relief dealer came for his break.  The fill in dealer was great!  She laughed, cheered for the customers, looked chagrined when we lost a hand and generally made the game more fun.

When the regular dealer returned, we were all laughing.  He asked if she had treated us well.  Everyone said yes.  I added “We really enjoyed playing with her” as a hint that he should lighten up.  His reply; “Did you let her know how much you liked playing with her?” In fact, I had tipped her.

He then looked at the couple of chips in his tip pile and said “That’s okay.  I have some money saved up.  Don’t worry, I’ll be able to get my 1 year old baby girl something for Christmas.” Really?  He’s been snarky and sarcastic and now he’s layering on guilt?!?

I had enough of his drama and moved to another table where I generously tipped my dealer.

The moral of the story; if you have tip positions within your company talk to them candidly about the “invisible hand out”.  We can feel it when they are fishing for a tip.  It  makes customers feel uncomfortable.  Feelings linger.  We avoid what makes us bad and gravitate to what makes us feel good.  It’s human nature.  Concentrate on the customer experience and the tips will follow.

Make us feel bad and we will go elsewhere.  Make us feel good and we will make you successful!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

June 23, 2010

I’ve seen most of the Cirque du Soleil shows both in Las Vegas and the traveling tent shows which are their roots.  The Las Vegas shows benefit from having permanent theaters designed to accommodate their show.  The Beatles Love at the Mirage have high tech projection screens, “O” at Bellagio has a 1.5 million gallon water tank as its center point, KA at the MGM Grand features a stage floor which moves from horizontal to vertical – none of which would be possible to do in a traveling show under a tent!

However, on Father’s Day we went to see Kooza, the traveling Cirque du Soleil show set up at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA.  Over the years, I’ve seen at least a half-dozen of these “tent shows” and Kooza is a wonder!

Where the Las Vegas shows are as much about the “features” as they are the performers, the tent shows are ALL about the performers.  Sure, the tent shows still feature live music, great costumes and a heavy dose of theatrical staging but without the “features” of the permanent shows, the performers are even more critical.

In the same way, if your business is not a big, flashy, national company – if you don’t have a premium location, lots of money to devote to marketing – YOUR “performers” are even more critical.

No, I’m not saying you should recruit contortionists, acrobats or aerial artists – though that would make for an interesting workplace….  But it’s important that not everything that “wows” a customer requires a death-defying act.

As a small business who moved into a market dominated by a major department store, I understand the challenges and advantages of competing with the “big dog on the street”.  Small businesses can interact more closely with customers learning how to better serve their needs.  Small businesses can also make changes quickly and more easily. Think of the steering differences between a cruise ship and a speedboat.

Most important to remember though is that when you don’t have “flash” to distract, your substance has to be not only solid, but dazzling. It’s not enough for your team to do “okay”, they have to “wow”.  They are all you have but the good news is, they are all you need to succeed!

Serving up Customer Satisfaction

June 9, 2010

Anyone who knows me already knows I am an iced tea junkie.  Not the “iced tea” from a soda gun, cans or bottles but real, brewed iced tea.  As a result, Starbucks gets a lot of business from me – not coffee – iced tea.  They have mastered the perfect glass of brewed iced tea.

My mom is an addict also.  She and I are taking in some in Las Vegas.  Several things about Vegas; it’s hot – even things that appear to be just across the street are 1/2 mile away and I don’t know of a hotel on the Strip that has a coffee maker in the room.

What that means to iced tea fanatics is it’s a long way between much-needed iced teas and there’s no convenient way to just brew your own tea in your room.

To solve this dilemma, I called the Starbucks at Paradise & Flamingo – near where we are staying and spoke to Christine, the Manager there who just happed to answer the phone.  I asked if they offered the cardboard boxes of brewed coffee I had frequently seen in conference rooms.  “Of course”.  Then I said, “Okay, this next part will seem a little strange.”  Her reply, a pleasant “Maybe not.”

I told her what I wanted was one of those boxes, but instead of brewed coffee, I wanted their magic formula of brewed iced tea but without the ice.  Ice I can easily get at our hotel – brewed tea, not so simple.  She said she didn’t know of a reason why that couldn’t be done but asked me to hold a minute.  It wasn’t much longer than a minute before she came back and told me sure, and even gave me a price that was more than fair.  Seems the only reason she had to confer with her team was that the fill opening on the top of the box is designed to fit the coffee tap.  To pour tea from a pitcher would require a little creativity but she was sure they could use a funnel to accomplish my request.

I was so thrilled, I ordered my “box of tea” – in fact, I ordered 2.  It worked so well, this will become a normal event for me whenever I’m in Vegas.

The best part; Christine’s can do attitude. There was no “Well, we don’t normally do that” just a willingness to explore a new way to serve the customer. Logically, it wasn’t that odd a request, they have the boxes, they make the tea but often I find employees aren’t open – or empowered – to put components together in ways other than the “standard issue”.  This is why we love our Starbucks and gladly stand in line to do business with them.

Are the members of your team empowered – and encouraged – to serve customers even beyond the confines of your “menu” of goods or services?   Shouldn’t they be?

A Little Bit Country – Part 1

February 10, 2010

This week the National Speakers Association (of which I am a member) is having their conference in Nashville.  

Enjoying my first trip to Music City looking forward to the show Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry has put me in a country music state of mind.

Growing up, my dad listened to Big Band music and didn’t think a decent song had been written since 1949.  My mom was a lifelong fan of country music which probably accounts for my hard left turn AWAY from this American art form in my teens.  My record collection (yes, they were records in those days) included, Chicago, Three Dog Night, The Stylistics, Donna Summer and of course, David Cassidy (OMG – David Cassidy!).  John Denver was as close to country as I got.

Then I moved to Dallas. That sentence should explain it all.  The office where I worked played country music over the PA system.  There was no avoiding it – even the bathroom had a speaker!  I spent the first month or so cringing at the twanging.  Then, like water on a stone, certain songs began to make inroads into my heart.  I went from begrudgingly admitting, “That’s not too bad” to “Shhhh, this is my song.”  I have to attribute my conversion to George Strait’s “Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her”, still one of my top 10 country songs.

If you don’t listen to country music, or think you like country music, you might want to give it another try.  There is a reason the country music station is the top music radio station in every market.

Just TRY to get good seats for a major country music concert….first time my husband, John Murphy and I went to a George Strait concert, our seats were up against the ceiling in the very top/back row of the MGM arena in Las Vegas.

When the George Strait CD came out a couple of years ago titled “50 #1 Hits” his comment was, “Wow, 50 #1 songs, you’ve got to be doing something right”.

Yes, country has some twang, George Strait’s current hit is even titled “Twang”.  There is a fair portion of “honky-tonk” “boot-scooting” tunes.  I know the joke, “What do you get if you play a country song backward?  You get your dog back, your truck back, your job back, your wife back…”  But the words and music of country songs will make you laugh, cry and love if you are willing to give a listen.

Friday I will give you a few of my favorites to get next time you are on iTunes including GREAT music to say “I love you” on Valentine’s Day.


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