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Great Customer Service Often Comes From Small Things

The gloomy weather this weekend prompted me to pull out a Bloomingdales gift card that I had received last Christmas. I thought why not look for something that I can wear in the cold (it has been extremely cold for October here in New England)? So off I went to our local Bloomingdales in Chestnut Hill, MA.

Now, in the past, my experiences at Bloomingdales have been mixed. Sometimes, I wander around the store and can’t find anyone to help; and even if I do find someone, they often don’t seem very interested in helping me. But not this time!

I saw a really nice sweater at the Ralph Lauren section. I went to the sales woman and... WOW...I had a terrific customer experience.

Let me explain. Seven months ago, I went shopping for a pair of jeans with my mom. We went to the same Ralph Lauren boutique. And to my amazement, seven months later, not only did the sales associate remember me; she remembered almost every detail of my visit in April. She asked about my mom. She also asked me how I liked my jeans. She even noticed that I had lost more weight!

OK. I was blown away. I thought to myself, "This sales associate is amazing! She is so knowledgeable and helpful and genuinely cared! What else can I buy today - or how can she help me?" So I asked her about winter shirts. Once again, she jumped into help me. She seemed to understand what I liked and didn’t like, so the suggestions were very helpful.

Really great customer service often occurs when people truly care. This sales associate genuinely cared - and it showed.

I have certainly watched a lot of videos that teach about the importance of creating a great customer experience (and I’ve even worked on a few), so I know this is important. But every now and then the message hits home with such force that it literally blows you away. And that happened to me this past weekend. Even though Bloomingdales is a little out of the way for me, I know I’ll go back. And when I do, I’ll visit my friend at Ralph Lauren.

Think about your own customer service. Do you also try and personalize your relationship with the customer? Do people care? Do you make customers feel welcome? I can tell you; it makes a difference (or at least it made a difference to me). And that is something that can make a difference to your bottom line - now and for years to come.

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Oct 21, 2009 | Comments: 1 | Post a comment»

Missed Opportunities

Several friends of mine recommended that I watch the program "Drop Dead Diva" (A new Lifetime series featuring Deb Dobson, an aspiring model who begs to return to earth after being killed in a car crash. Deb gets her wish, but is horrified to be brought back to life in the body of an intelligent, overweight lawyer named Jane Bingum.) They told me the show was smart and funny, so I programmed it into my DVR. I watched my first episode the other day entitled "The Dress." The protagonist, Jane was unable to get a dress because the store had decided that they didn’t want to sell to "Plus Sized Women" (even though this segment of the market represented the majority of the buying populace). It was a great episode.

That probably would be the end of my story, but....

I recently had my own "Drop Dead Diva" moment. I was shopping for a new suit for a special event at an organization where I serve as a volunteer. Since I have lost a lot of weight recently, I thought it would be a nice idea to treat myself to something new, so I headed to Banana Republic. As I was searching through the racks of clothing, I noticed that the largest size was a 44 regular. Now, I am almost a 44 regular, but it’s still a little tight. I asked the sales associate if they had anything larger. The answer was, "No. If you want something larger, you’ll have to shop online." Wow, that was discouraging. The sale associate was informative, but I also felt that he wasn’t really interested in helping me. Maybe I was also too large for the store? Just like the episode of "The Dress."

Well...the event was in a few days and I don’t like to buy expensive clothes on line since I think it’s important to see how things look when you put them on. Plus, I had procrastinated and needed to get this suit quickly, so Banana Republic was out. I left the store and went to Neiman Marcus, which is of course a more expensive store in the mall. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire," I thought. Will this place be too expensive?

Neiman Marcus (as you can imagine) had a great selection. Many of the clothes were too expensive but the sales associate was fantastic! I told him my budget and how quickly I needed the outfit. He was creative, proactive, and very helpful in suggesting items that could work within my budget... and I did get that new outfit. When I wore it two days later at the event, I have to confess I looked great and what a fun way to celebrate the weight I’ve lost!

But what about Banana Republic? Well, Banana Republic lost a big sale. And I am not sure how willing I’ll be to spend more time in the store. Now, I wonder: How many other people have had the same experience? How many retailers are dropping the "Drop Dead Divas" and losing out on customers, goodwill, and sales? Probably more than they’d like.

What does this have to do with business, service, and you? In the new series with Tom Peters that I have been editing, Tom goes into great lengths to point out the obvious. He tells advertisers to pay attention to people over 50 (as they represent a huge market). He reminds businesses not to ignore women as customers - after all they do represent 51% of the buying population. Maybe Tom should also remind retailers that they should consider being more thoughtful to customers who are taller, larger, or shorter. Maybe stores should be more welcoming of anyone who walks in the door because we all come in different sizes and most of us have money to spend!

Just a thought...

Posted under Customer Service, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Tom Peters by Stewart on Sep 24, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

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»

Stress Relief for HR Professionals

I recently read an article in Business Week that spoke about the high stress levels experienced by HR professionals - particularly during this recession. The article (which was in the BTW section of the magazine), mentioned that 50% of HR professionals have experienced sleepless nights, 35% have considered changing careers, and 23% have occasionally used a "substance" to cope.

This has been an incredibly stressful time for every HR professional and I don’t have a comprehensive solution I can offer to you. I can, however, offer a something that might help a little: Laughter. We offer several programs that are very funny. More importantly, we offer free online previews of these programs. If you are feeling stressed, why not take a few minutes out of your day to take a look at one of these and laugh. It will release endorphins and might just help alleviate a little of the stress... So without further ado, here are some programs that might give you a chance to chuckle and, I hope, reduce anxiety:

If you need a good laugh, take a look at Loretta Laroche in "STRESSBUSTERS!"

Our new series with Sam Glenn is also very funny. In particular, I love the stories in "A Kick in the Attitude". (If you like that, you can also get a good dose of humor from Sam’s other programs, "Who Put A Lizard In My Lasagna?" and "When Change Happens, Adjust Your Sail").

Finally, you can get a mini dose of humor from some of our meeting videos. Take a look at "Customer Service to the Rescue" or "The Meeting That Would Not Die!" or "Let’s Have the Dam Break" from the Muppet Meeting Films. Well, come to think of it, take a look at any of the Muppet Meeting Films.

We hope that the economic situation continues to improve and that there is a lot more time for joy and laughter for all of you in the future!

To view the programs, simply click on the links above or type the name of the video in our search-o-matic. It will take you right to the product page. There is a preview download section over to the right. As an added "stress relief" bonus, you will receive a $50.00 coupon in the mail off your next Enterprise Media order just because you previewed online. So you can relax, laugh a bit and save the company money on your future purchases. PERFECT! Now where is that coffee coolatta??

Posted under Miscellaneous Thoughts, HR and Training by Stewart on Jul 24, 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»

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