Melody Practically Sings Her Menu

Had a business lunch at the Crooked River Grill on Thursday. Melody was our waitress and she greeted us with warmth and enthusiasm. She engaged us in conversation and her interpretation of the menu was nothing short of epic!

I had to stop her half way through her explanation of the menu that she’d interpretated as “really hungry” food and “not so hungry” food – I had to stop just to tell her how much I adored her. Anyone who can embrace their role with that kind of passion truly loves her work. She’s selling salads and burgers – not diamonds and furs and yet she made the experience fun and energetic and we left sated, happy and  smiling!

Here’s the gig – the place was hopping and she was the only waitress. She greeted everyone that way. What a difference! What an example of how you can take a regular day-to-day job and make it fun for your customers and yourself. She surely sets herself apart.

Great experience – the littlest effort set her apart but what an impression she made! I wish I approached every day like Melody – with a song in her name and in her heart.

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Customers Look for Personalization

IMG_4564I was at lunch today with another woman business owner and we were talking about the different generations and their approach to communication, business and customer service.

She’d read that this newest generation was taking on traits of their grandparents; embracing the homemade handicrafts.

“They are looking to learn how to make or purchase things made especially for them,” she said.

Well, you know how sometimes you hear something and then later in the day it is confirmed by a different source?

I was reading the posts over at Small Business Trends (something I highly recommend you do) and ran across an article by Barry Moltz entitled the 10 Customer Service Trends of 2010.

One of the trends is called All About You:

It’s All About You. Technology has allowed companies to personalize my visit when I go to buy from their web site. When I visit Amazon’s site, they welcome me back by name and suggest things I might want to buy based on what I bought in the past. This is the type of personalization I come to expect when I go to any face to face retail establishment. When I check into a hotel, I want them to greet me by name if I have been there before or I am a member of their frequent buyer program. This always happens when I visit the Portland Paramount but at The Nineshotel in the same city, they never remember who I am.  With the immediacy and personalization of this fast paced Internet world, great customer service is only what the customer says it is at a particular point in time.

Not homemade, but still that warm and fuzzy feeling of a simpler time when we knew our neighbors and the grocer greeted us by name.

I agree with Barry about the whole personalization thing.  I know that when I go to my fitness center I’m going to be greeted by name at the front desk and in the workout room by the trainers.  The swimming instructor knows my name too and makes you feel at home; like family.

I take advantage of the caller ID on my phone to greet my customers by name rather than with my standard “Thank you for calling AllWrite Ink, how may I help you.”  Instead – with joy in my voice and a smile on my face – “Hi Chris!  How are you?” hopefully makes my customers feel glad they gave me a call.

In what way can you add personalization to your relationship with your customers?

p.s. I made the little bear above using scraps from one of my father’s old shirts – a wonderful keepsake of someone I’ve lost – speaks to the desire for personal handicrafts.

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Greet Customers Like a Dog

Yesterday I was sharing Jeff Nischwitz’s thoughts on networking to build relationships in which he said it is more important to be INTERESTED than interesting.

I was reminded of that fact when thumbing through an old, worn copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, copyright 1936. In the section Six Ways to Make People Like You, the first chapter is called Do This and You’ll be Welcome Anywhere:

“Why not study the technique of the greatest winner of friends the world has ever known? Who is he? You may meet him tomorrow coming down the street. When you get within ten feet of him, he will begin to wag his tail. If you stop and pat him, he will almost jump out of his skin to show you how much he likes you. And you know that behind this show of affection on his part, there are no ulterior motives: he doesn’t want to sell you any real estate, and he doesn’t want to marry you.”

Imagine if we greeted every prospect, every customer, every new connection as if we were a happy dog wanting nothing more than to please?  Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  How would it feel to be greeted so warmly and with such genuine interest?

Dale goes on to say:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Give it a try today.  Greet the next person you meet with enthusiasm and see if it isn’t contagious.  Remember, people buy from those they like and trust.

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Building Relationships through Networking

Do you still view networking/after hours events as a race to see how many business cards you can gather?  I just recently went to such an event where the host gave a gift to the person who’d obtained the most cards.  How can you build relationships when all you really want is the card.  And then what do you do with the card?

Jeff Nischwitz of Think Again Coaching shares his thoughts on how you can turn a networking event into a relationship building experience in this short but helpful video:

He offers three main points:

  1. Be committed to helping others or giving back to the person you are talking to.  Learn enough about their business that so you can offer a lead or a suggestion that can help them grow.
  2. Be interested not interesting.  I love this point and how he expands.  It reminds me of those times when I’ve been having conversations with someone and asked them one question and they proceeded to talk for the rest of the evening.  At the end they say “wow you are the best conversationalist.”  I barely said a word, just listened, interjected occasionally and was genuinely interested in what they had to say.
  3. Get rid of the question “what do you do for a living” and instead ask the person to talk about themselves.  Jeff says “change the question to ‘what do you do for your customers.'”  

Great ideas.

How do you build relationships at networking events?

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Please Excuse Me For a Moment

There is nothing that makes me angrier than being ignored.  Well, there are a few things but as a CUSTOMER, being ignored is unforgivable.  It’s rude.  It makes me question my loyalty.

Yesterday I stopped by the local Wal-mart where I’d ordered photo prints via the Internet.  The pictures were supposed to be completed by 5:30pm.  I arrived at 6pm. As I entered the department I made eye contact with the single associate who was helping a woman make a camera purchase.

He didn’t greet me.  He didn’t acknowledge my presence.  He just continued to talk to the woman, leaning against the counter and answering her questions. 

She was still in the decision-making process. 

I watched as he unlocked the cabinet and retrieved different models. 

THIRTEEN MINUTES LATER.

The woman walked away without purchasing and he asked me “Picking up? Name?”

“Brown.”

He walked over to the counter, retrieved the package and handed it to me.

Our transaction took less than 20 SECONDS.

No apology.

No thanks.

No personality.

No relationship building.

Is it a training issue?  Is it apathy? How hard is it to ask the first woman “Please excuse me for a minute?”

You may be thinking “It was Wal-mart – what else do you expect?”

But I’ve experienced this same scenario at a variety of businesses. We are failing to teach our sales associates how to manage more than one person at a time.

My ex-husband used to tell me that he believed asking to be excused was rude to the first person.  Here’s why he is wrong:

  1. Customers understand that you have more than one customer in your life.
  2. Often customers appreciate the break in your interaction to think through all you’ve told them.
  3. Customers know that if they were the second person coming into the department – they’d like to be acknowledged rather than waiting indefinitely.

It isn’t rocket science.  It is COMMON COURTESY.

Think about hosting a party.  The doorbell rings with the first guest.  You invite them in.  Take their coat. Offer them a drink. 

The doorbell rings again.  Do you wait to answer the door until you’ve seated the first guest and fed them the first course? 

No.  Of course not.  You say “Please excuse me for a minute” and you answer the door inviting in the next guest.

Target refers to their customers as GUESTS.  Their training views customers as guests in your home.  That’s what our customer are – they are guests to our business. 

When you think of it that way – it is easy to see how simple it becomes to manage more than one customer at a time.

By asking to be excused – you can ask the second customer “how may I help you today?”

If the customer’s need requires a lengthy experience you can get them started and then return to the first customer.

However, you may find that the second customer only requires a 20 second pick up – like me. 

One simple question – how many I help you – and you’ve taken care of a person satisfactorily and can return to the first customer.

Instead – you run the risk of ticking off all of the customers.

Think of it this way.  The first customer isn’t blind – they can see you have more than one customer waiting.  They become uncomfortable.  Maybe even guilty for taking so much time to make a buying decision.  Rather than be uncomfortable – they may say “thanks – I’ll need to think about it.”  Now you’ve lost the first customer and ticked off the second.

Bonus.

What is your thought on handling more than one customer at a time.  Do you agree with my ex-husband – that it is rude and you should focus your entire attention on the first person – or do you agree that managing more than one customer can be done effectively, smoothly and in such a way that you endear yourself to everyone that comes to visit your department/store?

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Two Sides of Pricing

I need to move two pieces of furniture from the basement to a room on the first floor.  I can’t do it alone and my son has gone to college.  The last time I moved I used Two Men and a Truck and wondered if they would come and help me out.

Conveniently they have a location within one mile of my home.  I gave them a call and explained my need.

“Absolutely we can help,” said the cheery receptionist.  “We charge $93 for an hour.  The time starts when they leave our office and stops when they return.  Plus there is a one time $35 fuel charge.” 

Oh.

So it would cost around $130 to move two pieces of furniture. 

AS A CUSTOMER my first thought was – is it worth $130 to move the furniture?

AS A BUSINESS OWNER my second thought was “wow – they sure don’t have any problem assigning a price to their value, do they?”

Current gas prices are $2.51 a gallon.  Their round trip will be under two miles.  Even with the worst gas mileage of a large truck – they are making quite a nice profit from their initial fuel charge of $35.

It will take them three minutes to get to my home.  Maybe 10 minutes to bring up the furniture and three minutes to drive back.  16-20 minutes tops.

I’m not argueing their pricing structure or criticizing their rates – no, I’m in awe of their ability to understand the value they bring and attach a price tag.

Do you struggle with pricing your products and/or services. I do.

I think we have more of a struggle pricing services.  With products there is a clear wholesale cost and a desired margin, but with services you are charging for your time and knowledge.  Not so easy to assign a dollar amount.

Alan Weiss offers great advice in his book Value-Based Fees.  He talks about the VALUE of what you provide.

I can’t move those two desks up the stairs by myself.  Oh, maybe I can but I will most assuredly damage the furniture, the walls and my back.

Of course I could leave the desks where they are.

Alan suggests you ask the customer:

1.  What will happen if they DO hire you – additional profits, bigger market share, sales growth?

2.  What is that result worth to them?

Conversely  – 

What will happen to their business if they DON’T have the services you provide.

I haven’t get decided if I’ll hire Two Men and a Truck, but exercise of calling them has been a value lesson requiring that I hold a mirror up to my own pricing structure.

What tips do you have for pricing services?

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Do You Match Your Message

I was just attended a fair at which a number of people sat at a series of long tables advertising workshops and classes they were going to be teaching this week.  There were classes on philosophy,scrap-booking, yoga and sailing.  They ran the gambit of education to entertainment; crafting to communication.

My Mom and I walked slowly past the tables reading the mini-marketing signs, listening in on conversations and viewing samples.  We stopped at the table with notes cards and listened to Elaine talk animatedly about the class and the different types of stamping,embossing and glittery cards the participants would make. 

Mom was engaged in a conversation, considering taking the class (she did eventually sign up and is thoroughly enjoying the class) but I noticed that next to Elaine was a sign for THE HAPPINESS CLASS.  What a clever idea.  In this day of job loss and stock market challenges, we could all use a little happiness. 

Then I looked from the marketing sign to the teacher. 

(This isn’t the teacher, but she had a similar look. This is the food critic from the Disney movie Ratatouille)

I CRACKED UP!  I couldn’t help myself.  Later I said to my Mom – who is going to take a Happiness Class when the teacher looks like she ate a bowl of green apples? 

Then I got to thinking about our business.  In the eye glass business, do your associates wear the latest eye-wear?  In retail, do associates dress a cut above, sporting your best fashions? In health-care – are your associates healthy – or are they smoking out back? 

As customers we make assumptions BEFORE we are even greeted by the associate and if our first impression is in conflict with the branding/marketing message you wish to convey – you will be hard pressed to win them over as a customer.  Later in the afternoon, as we walked again by the tables of teachers, the Happiness teacher was the only one without a potential student asking questions.  I wonder if she realized why?

That’s the biggest hurdle.  Most often we don’t see the inconsistencies ourselves.  It takes an unbiased eye – someone not attached to our business to see the opportunities we have for presenting a professional, consistent image. 

Have you come across a similar inconsistency that kept you from becoming a customer?  Oh, please share it here!

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You Had me At Hello: Greeting Customers

Remember this scene? Tom Cruise’s self-absorbed character in the movie Jerry McGuire has finally realized what is important in life.

Renee stops him before he cries her a river and says “You had me at hello.”

Don’t we wish our customers would feel the same way? The first impression we give; our location, our merchandise, our staff, and their initial greeting – that MAKE OR BREAK MOMENT is so fantastic that when they look back on the experience they say:

“YOU HAD ME AT HELLO.”

On Friday I wrote about an unfortunate restaurant experience in which I waited in vain to be seated at a table. At one point an employee came within speaking distance to fill the salad bar but chose not to speak or acknowledge our presence.

It makes me wonder at the focus that is put on greeting customers in our company training programs. We worry about making sure the employee knows how to clock in and out, how to make the widgets we sell, how to fill out paper work and other task oriented assignments, but how much time do we spend on HELLO?

Do we assume people know how to greet effectively?

Here are just a few tips for greeting customers in person (please comment with your additions and together we’ll create a tutorial for how to say “hello”

  1. greet within 15 – 30 seconds of their entrance to the business (think that’s too fast?  Raise your arm up high and now count “one, one thousand, two one thousand” up to 30 and see if your arm gets tired – that is about the length of your customer’s patience
  2. Put a smile on your face – even a fake one is better than none
  3. Make eye contact – eye contact coupled with a smile sends a message that you are happy to see them
  4. Say “HI WELCOME TO XYZ, HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”
  5. If you are busy with another customer, excuse yourself for a moment to look up and say “hi” with a smile and eye contact and mention that you’ll be right there
  6. If you know you can’t be right there – grab the attention of another associate or manager to help
  7. Keep the person informed (I’m tied up but Sue will be right there)
  8. If you are busy with a task (like the salad bar guy) ask yourself this question: who pays my check, this broccoli or the customer at the door?  Then give your attention to the person or vegetable most likely to use cash

It’s that simple.  Each company will have their procedures for after “hello” but everyone – even the person who has only been working 60 minutes – if they are visible to the customer – should confidently greet and welcome each person entering the business.

We’ll talk about the phone greeting another time.  But remember this:

A potential customer greeted warmly is immediately made to feel valuable and that is the beginning of developing a relationship you hope will be lifelong.  How long does it take to say hello?  Just a second.

How long is the damage you can do to your business if you fail to greet promptly and warmly?

Never ending.

Add your hello tips here!

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