Are You A Personal Check?

What’s it feel like to be excluded?

Unable = choice. Everything is possible.

Unable = choice. Everything is possible.

This clipping shouts NO WAY loud and clear. So imagine if you’re a check. Or a woman. Or whatever… Communication that states you’re distinctly unwelcome is discouraging at best.

As I get close to completing my first book on marketing beer to women, this little slip of paper I have kept for a few years seems to have jumped out at me today. “Use me!” it screamed….and aptly so.

Some establishments that serve beer welcome women. In fact some don’t look at “who” at all. Kudos to them.

Others judge us when we walk in; female, male, whatever. And that sets an unhelpful, disrespectful tone which holds us all back – and very much on purpose. If you’re plainly advertising that some element of society is not just unwelcome – that you’re excluded on purpose, then hell. It’s time to immediately turn around and find an environment with open arms.

Last week I was delivering a very lively and interactive presentation on the customer experience. At one point I told the audience, “Look – change is coming at you every day, no matter what you do. You may as well open up your arms and welcome it.” With a big nod to Mike who shared this brilliantly right insight years ago, it’s so damn true.

The choice to adapt – aka Change – is yours. The choice for beer makers, sellers, and purveyors to welcome women is theirs. Yes, we can scream bloody murder, we can rant, rave & protest.

Change will happen when the powers that be realize that change is marching forward whether they want it to or not – and then open their arms.

The place where I got this snippet of paper is closed today. While it might perhaps be a stretch to say their demise was based on not welcoming personal checks, I do believe that any time you choose to put up barriers to customer engagement, you’ve intentionally shot a hole in your own balloon.

Besides, checks are still very easily navigable at your banks. Sign your name, cash it – and then deposit the cash. (props to Mike Wagner for that tip). No risk, all deal, easy. Plus they’re not “unable” – they’re choosing not to. Big difference here.

Welcome your customers and how they transact. After all, what’s next after no checks?


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Where’s the Service? What’s the Experience?

Remember the “Where’s the Beef??” campaign? Today I’d say, “Where’s the Service??”

Service is a funny thing. So many people Want It. Too few people know What It Is. Lots of people practice What It Isn’t.

Service = what you give.

The key here is that we often mistake service for experience.

Experience = what we get.

Are you ready with the Servant Mentality?

Are you ready with the Servant Mentality?

They are vastly different and still very much related. Round and round they go. For example: if someone is shopping at a store, say for a pair of trousers, a sales person approaches (hopefully) to inquire as to how they can help. True service and servant mentality isn’t “are you finding what you want?” Servant mentality is service focused – how can one serve another. What can I help you find, what it is you are looking for today, and ‘these whatevers would be very sharp with the pair of slacks you picked out.’ It’s help at its core: service.

Experience is the result of being served. A woman walks into a bar….

She is seated or seats herself (being greeted and seated is the best service) and awaits a beertender to assist. An in-tune and well-educated tender will introduce themselves (starting a relationship), inquire as to what they may be in the mood for (making suggestions so the guest doesn’t have to do all the work herself), and also makes recommendations to complement her choices (beverage, food, both). Providing an experience is what creates a meaningful memories. Memories drive people to want to repeat their experiences, the business sees the customer again – perhaps with friends they brought along – and round it all goes.

Service Tips Today:

1. When serving the female customer, ask open-ended questions. Service inherently starts with genuine conversation (not hollow, the real stuff).

2. If she gives you a closed return comment, then give her space, let her know you’re available, check back and ensure she’s finding what she wants and needs.

3. Offer appropriate recommendations and suggestions per the conversations you are able to have with her. If she’s rather tight-lipped, simply pointing our features and specials can engage her in a professional and polite way – you’re sharing what’s new, improved, in season and available.

4. Give her space.

5. Thank her for her business and visit – whether she buys now or not. Her experience of your service will greatly affect her support of your business.

Smart service leads to a positive experience. Get it right and thrive. Get it right and she’ll help you.

Resource: Paul Paz, Waiters World is an excellent Servant Leader.

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Connected To The Experience: Put On A Pair Of Customer Shoes

“Remain connected to [the] experience. Be a generous host.”

These are wise words that apply to just about every business circumstance, driver, and mission statement. If they don’t, they need to.

When’s the last time you put on a pair of Customer Shoes? Walking in the shoes of your customer is critical before opening a business as well as regularly during the life of the operation. Literally walk through the spaces, calling the phone numbers, navigating the website and online tools, and visiting and experiencing the facility with customer eyes and sense.

  • Does it all flow easily for them?
  • Does it cover common questions that will arise?
  • Does it match the brand name and image?
  • Does everything make sense?
  • What can be improved, streamlined, and better?

These are really straightforward and fruitful exercises to conduct when you’re honest with yourself and can be constructively self critical towards improvement.

Put on some Customer Shoes and see how you're doing.

Put on some Customer Shoes and see how you’re doing.

Too many establishments of all shapes, kinds and sizes neglect this element of doing business: The Customer Perspective. A recent hotel stay brought this to the surface for me. I’m truly curious how many hospitality lodging businesses book themselves a room, go through the entire process of staying, paying and being in the facilities they try to sell to others.

Here are just a few things I encountered at a recent hotel stay:

  1. The bed was a Sleep Number bed, with a broken mechanism. So the mattress was semi-inflated, differently on both sides (queen bed) so it felt like I was rolling around on a squishy water-bed, with a noticeable trough in the middle. It made for poor sleeping.
  2. The room temperature regular system was confusing at best. With a wall unit and its own operating panel plus a wall thermostat 15 feet away with no indication they were connected or how to coordinate and regulate, it was frustrating and cold (!).
  3. No recycling. Anywhere on premise. In this day and age, this is unforgivable.
  4. The curtains didn’t fully close to block light for sleeping and to ensure outside privacy, they weren’t designed to either. Indeed, the hotel had a trades person suspended from the top of the building doing some sort of work right outside my room at one point with an easy view inside.
  5. The bathroom door was awkward at best, opening in to block access to the shower tub, which meant in an otherwise nicely appointed bathroom, you had to shimmy around the door, half closing it to navigate to get in and out. Why don’t more hotels utilize the brilliant idea of pocket doors?
  6. The in-hotel restaurant needs special attention. “Only One?” – what kind of greet is that?! Do hosts/servers greet “Only 5?” The size of a party should be acknowledged with open arms, never “only” or “just.” For the solo traveler it’s especially irritating.
  7. The restaurant was silent but for the regular voice level gossip of the staff. Some soft music would be in order to make it feel more welcoming.
  8. The oatmeal was soggy and the plate on which the bowl was perched rose ever so slightly in the middle. So when I poured in a bit of milk, it was lopsided and very close to overflowing.
  9. The “seasonal fresh fruit”….I didn’t realize melons were early summer seasonal fruits. Because they’re not. Nor was the watermelon or anemic honeydew. This is just plain lazy. A small-sized “cup” of this seasonal fruit was $2.75, which was also totally overpriced. Don’t hold hotel guests captive if they choose to eat in-house.
  10. Last was the exposed outlet under the desk in the room. Not only unprofessional and unsightly, also potentially dangerous.

What did I like about my stay? It was literally blocks from where I needed to go to and fro, the bellhop was helpful, pleasant and friendly; they offered complementary newspapers and airport shuttle; complementary wi-fi (which every hotel should offer and build into their rates); the room was clean and otherwise comfortable.

If the staff, from bellhop to the president of the establishment, walked through the process from booking to checking out they’d develop a much greater property and therefore business. It’s a crying shame really and completely avoidable.

Will I stay there again? That’s a toughy, though most likely not. When the time comes, I’ll remind myself of these facets of the place and see what else is available.

Get a pair of shoes. Customer Shoes. Try them on and walk through your business with them. See what you notice and make positive changes. If you need help and find this exercise tricky, then hire a mystery shopper or customer service pro who will give you an audit.

Every business and organization that wants to stay alive and thrive should be doing this, at least once a year, better 2 – 3 times, with various people chiming in.

Now get out and go for a walk.

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Customer Service, Customer Experience

I’m constantly reminded that Customer Service and the Customer Experience are entirely different things, misunderstood, and one seems to be the ‘pour over everything’ sauce for most businesses.

  • Customer Service: What someone gives you, the service delivered by one person to another
  • Customer Experience: What the customer gets, the service experience delivered to the customer by another person

Make every assumption that they are different and of equal import.

  • Customer Service = greeting every customer every time, with a genuine smile and verbal greet. Taking care of the needs of the customer. Serving.
  • Customer Experience = the take away feeling and value of the experience and encounter. Takes into account value of the time invested, educational component, and social interaction.
Cheers to solid and focused service

Cheers to solid and focused service

If you get greeted and walked to the item you’ve stated you’re looking for by a sincere and helpful person, the service was top of mind and part of the culture, the experience was one of time well spent (value) finding what you need or want, and positive impression which amps up the likelihood of a repeat purchase.

If your head wasn’t up to greet every person who walked by you, if you think the task is more important than the person, the service was devoid and not top of mind. If you decided that it was more important to finish the conversation with your colleague than it was to greet and assist a customer, then the experience is negative. The person is always more important than the task.

Know the difference. Know they must work in harmony.

You can have the most beautiful store or pub in the world. And unless the service is indelibly and obviously part of the culture of the people who make the business run, then it’s a fool’s errand.

Conversely an ill-kept ‘hole in the wall’ place can have raving fans because they get treated well and the attention to them is top shelf.

Service can save a less than desirable atmosphere, crappy service can never be saved by excellent atmosphere. You must have both to be successful for the business and the customers. And remember: there are always internal and external customers. You should work on securing a business that serves, delivers and has integrity all the way around.

2 Resources:

  1. Waiters World (widely applicable principles)
  2. Sullivision (yes…yes this is a good site – are you nodding too?)

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Fixing "Small" Things = Big Rewards

What annoys you, perturbs you, irritates you or otherwise bothers you? Are they everyday things or things that you notice and when you do – every time – you think ‘why doesn’t someone else notice this/fix this/I need to fix this‘?

Your doors are open - are you paying attention?

How often does this happen at restaurants and bars? You notice how you always get the table that wobbles (or maybe they all do) and you think – why hasn’t the manager/owner/proprietor done something to fix this?

How about: do they even know it’s an issue? Do they visit the tables to check on you where you can have face to face interaction and share this info – or do they seem to care and/or do they even really want to know your feedback. How many empty “We  Care/Want To Know What You Think” slips of paper have you filled out in your life to no avail?

So when you notice these things, it’s time for you to realize this is the exact same concept for marketing beer to women. It’s the things they notice, over and over and over again because they matter to them.

For example, do you have purse hooks under the bar top, in the bathroom and in others places where they’d be convenient for women? They can double as coat hooks and umbrella hooks too.

What about how chilly or warm the bathrooms may be? For women the temperature of the bathroom is important. I can think of two places immediately that I used to patronize whose bathrooms were like braving Antarctica. Good grief!! Pay attention and set it straight (and it’s so recklessly wasteful – which is another sent message).

Or how about the retail choices. Do you only have men’s shirts – if so do you only want to sell to men? Or worse yet Unisex. What is “Unisex”?? Women make 80% of all purchasing decisions and over 50% of the global population. If you’re a man, let me ask you: Do you shop in the women’s section at the store? Of course not. Then why do you expect the women you care about to shop in the men’s section? And don’t tell me because women still buy the shirts anyway. You’d eat rotten food on a deserted island too if it was your only choice.

Small detail? Absolutely not. Here’s the deal: They do have choices. And to make your stand up and out front you must notice and make changes to welcome them in.

These thing matter. Start paying attention and making corrections, you’ll see rewards pile up.

A purse hook takes 3 minutes to install correctly. Isn’t 3 minutes worth the investment for a happier customer?

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How Important is Training?

Jim Sullivan has it dead on in his newsletter this month:

“Diminishing returns: When times get tough the first thing inept operators do is penalize the customer by cutting labor or training. If you’re “saving money” by not training and then seeing your sales shrink, remember that it’s not what you pay people, it’s what they cost you.”

Training your people – from the CEO to the floor sweeper (sometimes one and the same!) – is critical to the success of you and your consumer. When you don’t invest, you don’t get the return. And they certainly get way less than they want and what you (hopefully) want to deliver.

Train your people (you too)

Yes, some investments take longer, have a slower upward trajectory and take a while. Regardless, when you’re training, you’re moving forward. A long term investment is the one that will yield the best results.

The message you send as a company to your people and to your consumers is powerful. It tells them “we want to be successful through our people.” Not “we’re too stingy so the same old crappy service will be here for you indefinitely.”

If you were the consumer, which kind of place would you pick? Always remember to put your selves in consumer shoes when making impactful consumer decisions. You are not the consumer.

Start your training plan today. If you have one, reexamine it and refresh it for relevancy and accuracy and appropriateness. Bring in a fresh perspective to help by hiring a knowledgeable consultant, inviting other members of the industry you respect to review your program or help develop one, tapping into your professional industry organizations, and asking your consumers.

Consumer science is what we’re talking about, not rocket science. Frankly rocket science is way simpler – rockets don’t have opinions and thoughts. And consumer science is sitting right in front of you, waiting for engagement.

Consumers want to buy from engaged businesses – from their beer to their widgets to their socks. Give them a reason to patronize you and they’ll reward you over and over and over. Train your people.

Now, back to that training program review…

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Standing Amazed

p1030175An enormous and humble THANKS to Alex, Danielle and the entire crew at Standing Stone Brewing Company for their hospitality, attention and good humor. They invited me to come to beautiful Ashland, OR last weekend on the trip to do some work together.

The crew, lead by Alex & Danielle, was very receptive, open, had great questions and in general it was a smashing success (ask them – they’re honest folks).

We covered:

1. The Customer Experience – customer service refresher & reinforcement; development of a Customer Service Committee (brilliant idea)

Sustainability wheel at Standing Stone

Sustainability wheel at Standing Stone

2. Beer – Women & Beer (educational beer dinner for female staffers and a few select guests only), Beer education for the whole company (FOH & BOH with a professional brew master as well), and a Beer Advisory Panel.

3. Long range planning

The facility is quite lovely, a comfortable size and has generous outside seating. Their sustainability practices are many and pride in what they do shows.

Are they perfect? No. Do they know that? Yes. That is exactly why Alex invited me in. To help the upward curve – to better serve the customer and in doing so, they better serve themselves.

The original Win -Win.

My stetson tips to Alex, Danielle, Diane, Rachel, Matt, Ashley, Michael, Anna, Javier, Carlos, Alberto, Erik, Adam, Alicia, Lindsey, Alison, Mike, Tim, Andy, Melza, Jeff, Ken, Rob, Karen, Don, Thomas, Meg, Sophie, and the rest. Hope to see you all again soon.