Customer Recommendations Politics and Prose Style


There is a bookstore called Politics and Prose located in a neighborhood of DC that opened almost 30 years ago. The founder, Carla Cohen, truly understood the value of being connected with her customers.

In an article in Inc Magazine a few months ago, the bookstore and more importantly, Carla Cohen, were featured. There was a paragraph in the article that struck me as profound and yet many readers may have skipped over:

Cohen read in the morning, then went to the store, then read at night. “Very disciplined,” says her husband, David. At the store, Aaron Cohen says, she asked customers, ” ‘So, what do you like?’ They’d tell her, and she had read it. And she’d go to the shelf and say, ‘What about this?’ That’s merchandising.”

Carla knew her customers and knew her products so well that she could carry on a discussion and then make additional recommendations for her customers. It is really more than merchandising. Making recommendations to our customers is a powerful tool that helps build our brand and our customer relationships.

Remember, customers buy from those they like and trust. Imagine how much they must have trusted Carla when they knew she’d read the same books they had, and more, and could make recommendations of something else they might be interested in. I am sure they would have jumped at the opportunity to take her recommendations.

Kinda like being in a restaurant and being torn between two entrees; you ask the waiter/waitress for their recommendation and you can tell when they are really familiar with the food and have an opinion. I almost always take their recommendation. After they deliver the meal and ask how I like it – there is an investment in my enjoyment – a comraderie between us; both lovers of the same chicken piccata or whatever.

Sadly, Carla Cohen passed away this past year, but her legacy and the customer focused experience she created with hundreds of author interviews and book recommendations, lives on.

Ask yourself – do you know your products or your industry so well that you can converse with your customers about anything related to your business? Do you make recommendations for additional purchases based on the information you’ve learned about your customers and the industry knowledge you have? Powerful stuff!


Missed Opportunity at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort Bar

After our six minutes of Sweet Adeline’s fame, I hopped a plane and flew to Kauai to stay at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort. I WOULDN’T recommend the place. The island was wonderful.  The resort was beautiful, newly renovated and clean.  So what went wrong?

It’s all about the service.

Four days at the Hilton in Kauai afforded me lots of examples of missed opportunities.  The first that comes to mind happened during the 4-6pm Happy Hour at the poolside bar. 

I was enjoying a frosty beverage when a woman approached the bar and flagged down the bartender.  The bartender, a twenty-something girl lacking any visible personality greeted the new customer:

“Do you make Bahama Mamas?”

If you have ever been to the Bahamas or Cancun you may be familiar with this luscious but dangerous beverage. They taste like fruit punch whose punch will knock you on your tush.  But we aren’t in the Bahamas, we are in Hawaii.  So the bartender responded to the customer’s request with a firm:


And then…

and then…

the bartender turned and walked away!

She came back a few minutes later with a beverage menu and without a word, slapped it on the bar in front of the bewildered customer.  Again,  without a word, she turned and walked away to polish the already clean glasses.

I wish I could say the bartender was swamped with hordes of customers to care for, but this being the winter season in Hawaii – there was just me and the under-served customer sitting at the large square pool bar.

The customer flipped through the menu, pushed the laminated paper aside and left without something to quench her vacationing thirst.

Missed  opportunity.

What could the bartender have done differently?  I won’t even start with the rude and abrupt greeting – but couldn’t she have made a suggestion of a drink she did make that tasted similar?  How about the fact that from 4-6pm the local beverage Mai Tai is on sale for $3.00 instead of the shocking $8.50 price at other times. Frankly, she could have done ANYTHING and it would have improved the first impression the customer received.

What would you have done differently? 

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