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Business Success and The Basics

I have been hard at work editing a series of video "Success Tips" from Tom Peters (more on that in a later post). These video clips cover everything from strategy to service to personal development, and one thing has struck me: So much of what Tom has uncovered in his years of research and analysis boils down to very basic ideas.

For example, Tom speaks about the power of communicating all the time (that includes MBWA - Managing By Wandering Around - and Listening). He also speaks about the importance of experimentation and willingness to learn from mistakes. He tells people not to get trapped by "best practices." He loves the power of thanking, apologizing when things go wrong, and simple courtesy.

I know, this is so basic, but it is also really great advice. We all need to be reminded about the power of apologizing. We all can learn more from our colleagues, if we only listen. In a way, Tom’s simple message reminds me of something that a friend told me. He said that he went to a speech by Miss Manners (Judith Martin). In the speech, she was asked about discrimination and sexual harassment in the office as well as nasty office politics. As I understand it, her reply was that if people tried to be more courteous to each other and more considerate of each other - that if they had better manners - then many of these costly and demoralizing office issues would go away. I’m not sure if she is totally right, but it sure does seem to make sense.

So, I think both Tom and Judith Martin are right. Perhaps one of the key ideas of success does boil down to common sense and manners. Maybe a lot of success comes from simple courtesy, thanking, listening, apologizing, showing, up, and smiling.

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Tom Peters by Stewart on Aug 18, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

More Customers Service Thoughts.... GREAT SERVICE!

OK... I know, I’ve been writing a lot about my customer service experiences on the Cape.... and here I go again...

There is a small wine shop near my place in Provincetown. It’s called Perry’s Liquor. Perry’s has been in Provincetown since the 1920’s, but recently it has undergone a transformation...

About three years ago, new owners purchased Perry’s and last year, they refurbished the store. I love the new store! It is nicely laid out, attractive, and well organized. For people who have a love of trivia, the planks on the floor used to be part of the timber piers that supported the legendary Boston restaurant, Jimmy’s Harborside. But all of that pales next to the unbelievable customer service.

We could make a film about Perry’s. Everything about the service is fantastic.

First, the owners have taken such care choosing the wines in the store. They know wine and are enthusiastic to share their thoughts and feedback on any wine. They offer recommendations and friendly advice if you ask. More importantly, they do this in a way that is fun and friendly without being pushy. It’s amazing.

Second, they have a great diversity of prices. They have a lot of wonderful wine that isn’t too expensive. OK, everything is relative. The wine is probably more expensive than if I purchased it at a superstore. But Perry’s is a block and a half from my home, so I pass it when I am walking onto or back from town. It is so convenient.

Third, the owners really (and I mean REALLY) care what you think about your purchase. Come to think of it, they REMEMBER what you’ve purchased. For example, I was in the grocery store in town and ran into one of the owners. He asked me, "What did you think of the Box Car?" (Box Car wine was a red wine that I chose because I liked the label. Actually, I seem to do that pretty often with wine - that is choose the wine based on the look of the label. I know it isn’t really a good way to choose wine, but it can be fun! I guess I still have a lot to learn about wine... but I digress...) OK, back to the story about Perry’s: think of it. The owner recognized me, remembered the wine I purchased a few days before, and then cared enough to ask what I thought. WOW! Now that’s the kind of service you’ll never find at a superstore!

Fourth, this is a community store where I seem to run into many of my friends. The owners are welcoming, so often people just pop in to comment on a wine they purchased or to say "hi." I leave the store with a smile on my face (and often a yummy bottle of wine in my hand).

So, what is the lesson here for all of us in business or service? Know your products. Welcome and genuinely care about your customers. Find managers or supervisors who share your passion for customers. Make your business (or government agency or bank) friendly and welcoming. Remind your team about the importance of customer service regularly (through storytelling, training, and public celebrations of customer service successes). I think it is pretty hard to do all of this successfully, but we can all learn from Perry’s.

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Jul 17, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

More Customer Service Experiences...

Two weeks ago, I was on vacation on Cape Cod. The weather was rainy (as it has been for over a month in Massachusetts), so my friends and I did a lot of cooking. That necessitated going to the grocery store - several times.

The old grocery store in my town was recently sold to a new chain. I welcomed the change as the new store was to be significantly expanded. But I did notice one thing... every time I asked where I could find something in the newly rearranged store, I got one of two answers. The first was, "I don’t know." The second was, "Over there somewhere."

I don’t need to be personally escorted to the correct aisle to find the item I’m seeking, but it would be really helpful if the people in the store knew where the products were located. It would also be helpful if they knew what the store stocked.

What made it worse was that no one seemed to care. It seemed as if we (the customers) were an inconvenience. We just didn’t matter.

So, after the third time of getting the unhelpful run around, I went to a smaller (and a little more expensive) store for my groceries. At that store, I was not only welcomed but several sales clerks who I’ve seen over the years in town recognized me. These clerks knew what was in the store and where to find it. They even made recommendations of new and interesting things that they’d added to the inventory. I felt helped and appreciated. It was a refreshing experience - and a lot more fun.

Now, I know our business is training, but I couldn’t help but think that a little customer service training for their staff (combined with some basic instruction on the layout of products) would have paid off and help them deliver a much better experience for customers at the new grocery store. Why didn’t they do it? Basic customer service training isn’t a huge investment of money. It could pay for itself VERY quickly. I wonder why the managers of the new store didn’t even try.

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Jul 10, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

Great way to say "Thank You" and our raffle WINNER!

Recently, Amy noticed this... well, fabulous e-mail that was sent out from a company that distributes CD’s of independent music groups. The company is called CD Baby and here is their e-mail:

Thank You Note form CD Baby

So this fun and fantastic note got me thinking.

1) If you can show appreciation to your customers and give them a chuckle at the same time, then that is something worth doing.

2) In these (frankly depressing) times, it is great to pass on some good will and cheer.

3) At the core, this message says it all. It says, "we value you as a customer!" I know the e-mail is over the top, but the sentiment comes across. And it is so important to tell customers that we value them...

And so, here is our message. We REALLY value you... our customers. In many cases, you are our friends and fellow travelers on this journey called business (and, for that matter, life). I think we share one overriding goal: we are all trying to make everyone’s business a little more successful and every employee’s work a little more enjoyable. And why not have fun while at work? I am not sure we say thank you enough, but I do want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Exciting News!

Our Raffle Contest has ended and we have picked a winning raffle number! Just to keep everyone up-to-date - we have been running a raffle contest. The only thing you had to do to enter was preview a program through our website (or request a raffle number). The winner will receive a FREE Enterprise Media produced training product!

The winning number is: 134544

If you have the ticket with the winning number, here’s how you can collect your prize: Call us at 1-800-423-6021 or send us an email by clicking here.

If you didn’t win...stay tuned...we’re doing more contests throughout the summer!

And... THANK YOU!

Posted under Corporate, Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Jun 12, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

A customer service story...

Sometimes you don’t know why you shop at one company over another. In my case, I shopped at Herb Chambers dealership (here in Boston) but never really thought about why I liked to shop there over other dealerships. Then I came across an article about the philosophy that Herb Chambers brings into his dealerships. I was curious. The article spoke about Herb Chambers and his commitment to the customer. Here are just a few highlights that I want to share with you.

Herb Chambers got his start in the photocopy business, first as a technician and later as a leader of its #1 sales team. He later started his own company selling and servicing copiers. He built a very successful business called A-Copy by focusing on fast turnaround and good service. After many years of growing A-Copy into a big and successful multi state organization, Herb sold the company.

Any other person might be ready to retire after building one successful business, but Herb wanted to do more... and so he turned to something he had loved since he was a child... cars.

While he always had a love of cars, he never liked the experience shopping for a car. So, when he started his first dealership, he decided he wanted to change the customer experience to something he would like more. He wanted to make the experience pleasant - even fun for customers. He wanted every customer to be treated the way he wanted to be treated... So what did he do?

First, he invested a lot of money on training. All the associates in his company received intense customer service training. They also got regular refresher sessions.

But training is only the beginning. Herb also worried about the corporate culture. He strived to build an organization where people liked coming to work.

Corporate culture can be tough. You have to pay attention to the big stuff and the small stuff... Herb he is obsessed with the small stuff. For example, he wants to make sure that the rest rooms for the maintenance staff are as clean as the customer bathrooms. Why? Because he says that it’s all about employee morale and motivation. "If they don’t have good morale, then they may not fix the cars right."

Now I know why I shop at the Herb Chamber dealerships. Here are at least a few reasons why I remain loyal:

1) When I walk into the dealership, they don’t attack me. They are polite and helpful and not pushy. They are patient with my questions and treat me like an adult. Imagine that!

2) When I bring my car in for service, they are speedy and polite. They greet you when you pull in and whoosh your car away. You go right to the repair consultant and they are helpful and informative. Again, it is seamless and friendly.

3) When Herb was starting his career, he took a Dale Carnegie course so he could improve his confidence when selling. Today, he believes that the real key to successful sales is simply being nice to people. I think that this message is what it is all about. Isn’t that what we all want? For people to be nice and respectful?

4) You know that Herb Chambers has committed and motivated associates when you come into the dealership. It shows in the way they interact with you. And as a result, I want to go back.

Now that is a strategy that anyone can use! I know as a customer, I really appreciate it!

BINGO: N31

Posted under Customer Service by Stewart on Mar 25, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

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Fresh, delicious, crisp...

Yes, we do still include a popcorn package with each DVD purchase. It’s our way of saying "thank you" for being our customer!