Influence

For those of you who didnt take any psychology classes in college or somewhere else, this is the book you need to have read before buying a car:)

Seriously, this book is a gold mine for understanding the sales process, commonly-used (but often not understood) ways to influence or motivate decisions, etc.

A few dogears here and there, but this one gets a different grade because its a different sort of read. Recommendation: Read it at least once a year just to remind yourself. If you happen to be in sales or marketing, well, all the better. You’ll definitely get your time and money’s worth. This is one of those books you might be tempted to keep to yourself.

DogEars

I do a lot of reading, both of books and business/marketing newsletters. I dont get rid of the books I read, unless they stink.

One of the things I noticed a while back is that the books I refer back to the most years after Ive read them are the ones that have the most pages “dogeared”. For those who are not as cruel to books as I am, “dogears” means folding over the corner of the page. Often, my reading places are in spots or at times where I cant take notes, so I dogear the pages that I want to refer back to.

The more dogears there are, the better the book, generally speaking.

How to keep a bookstore from being sticky

Here I am, sitting in the Hastings book store coffee shop in Helena, waiting for my son’s trombone performance with the All Montana Jazz Band.

The coffee shop has no wireless.

The clueless retailer looks at wireless as an expense. The smart ones look at it as one more reason for their customers to enter their store. People are habitual creatures. They get used to going to store A, regardless of the reason, and before long, store A is all they go to until store A finds a way to tick them off. Then the process starts all over again.

Back to Hastings…it’s mid-afternoon on a weekday before school lets out. Prime stay-at-home mom time, yet they cant even manage to keep someone at the counter. Management has them running all over the store, doing other tasks. Customers come into the coffee area, stand around for a bit, start feeling stupid, then get annoyed, then they finally make them ramble around the store until the find someone who looks like a “coffee dude”. OR THEY LEAVE.

Roughly 1000 square feet of store space, dedicated to this coffee bar and they cant even have the foresight to staff it and make it “sticky” by offering wireless (just one example of what they could do).

Clueless.

Pulling your hair out over no-shows?

One day last week, I decided to work at home since I had to head over to Rotary at noon. No one was home but myself and Blondie (the Golden Retriever/Husky mix), so getting work done was not a problem.

A little bit ago, a lady from the place where my wife gets her hair cut called to see if she was here. I told her she had left to go get her hair cut, then laughed and commented that my wife had indeed remembered the appointment this time.

You see, the last few times she had a hair appointment there, something happened and she forgot to show up at the right time. Rather than continue to tolerate that behavior, the hair place invested 2 minutes of their time to call an hour before the appointment to remind her.

Should they have to do that? Not really.

Is it smart business? Absolutely.

Why? Its your job as the business owners to groom your customers, train them and adjust their behavior as necessary.
How? Make them an offer that makes them want to be on time, or set things up so that missing that appointment is something they simply cant tolerate, or wouldnt dream of.
Any business that is paid for work done in appointment slots (like a hair salon or spa) has to do whatever they can to decrease the number of no-shows, or late arrivals because they cant get that time back. Sure, they can rebook that person, but the original slot still sat there unoccupied and that time was not purchased. Photography studios (a niche I spent quite a few years working in) struggled with this for years until it was suggested that they could get their customers to pre-pay for the sitting fee in order to hold an appointment. This sitting fee is not refundable if you miss your appointment, but it sometimes is credited against portrait print purchases.

Once people started paying for sitting fees (some call them reservation fees), they suddenly started showing up on time because they didnt want to lose the money they paid in advance. Now all of a sudden you have a more predictable income, because you know how much on average each family will spend on prints and other products once they’ve actually shown up and had their portrait taken – and you’ve gotten your customers to behave a lot better – because they actually show up for their appointment.
A little bonus thought
The sitting fee is an amount charged for the activity of coming in and having your portrait photographed. It DOES NOT pay for the printed pictures, just for the time (if justified poorly), equipment (ditto) and experience/expertise (BEST) to have the photographer there to make you look great.

Notice how I worded that. The photographer isnt there to take your picture, any more than the hair stylist is there to cut your hair. They are using their training, specialized equipment and experience to make you look great, not just catch you however you look that day and make the best of, uh, what you brought.
Feels different than a “hair cut” and a “picture”, doesnt it?

Train your customers to be better customers. Both of you will be better for it.

Corporate “I dont get it”-itis

Last week, a newspaper story recounted how a local grocery store’s customer noticed a shoplifter, chased him out of the store, pursued him for 20 minutes, and finally caught and held him till the police arrived.

It turned out that the thief was serving a 3 year deferred sentence and a 5 year suspended sentence, both for burglary convictions.

The store promptly rewarded the man who caught the thief with a coupon for free coffee.

DUH.

Did they need to write a big check? Nope.

Did they need to give him free groceries for life? Nope.

All they had to do was be a little unique. Put a little thought into what they did to thank this guy.

Instead, he gets some free coffee and they get “We’re cheapskates” publicity in the paper. They turned a positive into a negative.

The possibilities are so obvious. What are you doing to send a message that you dont get it?

Think about it, then fix it.

Getting it in Vegas

You are soooo bad. You never expected this to be about customer service, didya? 🙂

A while back, I took the family down to Vegas to meet the in-laws. They were at a convention, so we shacked up at Caesar’s with them. This was kinda last minute, so of course, when I made reservations I got puckered up for $800 for 5 days of hotel room. We don’t get to see the in-laws all that often and they’re pretty cool, so I got over it (plus I planned to visit a client).

So I go to check in, give the nice lady my card and we’re off to find my wife’s parents. Not 10 minutes later, they tell me that they already had a room for us right next to theirs. Paid for.

Expecting to get little or no consideration, we go down to the counter and explain to the lady (same one) that I had just checked in (not even visiting our room yet) and found out that we already had a room. At first, we got a little bit of push back when asking to check back out with no repercussions, but the lady figured out that if she forced us to accept our mistake (caused by our own lack of communication), three things would probably happen: 1) my father in law’s company wouldnt likely ever book rooms at Caesar’s again, 2) neither would I, and 3) both of us would probably tell everyone we knew about how Caesar’s screwed us around.

Neither of us threatened any of those things, but we didn’t act like we wanted 2 rooms either.

She got it. Killed the charges on my card for $800+, had someone haul our stuff to our real room and swapped keys. And smiled and wished us a great visit to Vegas. AND she didn’t feel the need to contact 3 supervisors to make it happen. Caesar’s had trained her and empowered her to make decisions to keep their clients happy.
So…I got it in Vegas:) Good, conscientious service, that is, and from an “evil casino hotel” as some call them.
Our stay was uneventful, pleasant, clean and fun. Good job, Caesar’s.

Upshaw and Owens: Losers no matter what the score

Someone needs to give Gene Upshaw and Terrell Owens their own personal DVD copy of “Coach Carter”. Upshaw wants to remove an approved arbitrator because he “piled on”. Peel away the rhetoric and he’s really saying that he wants to remove an arbitrator because he lost the case.

Its too bad they don’t have the cojones to keep TO on the roster, pay the $5MM roster bonus in the spring of 2006, pay his salary and sit his snarky backside on the bench for the 2006 season.

A perfect storm of follow ups

This week has been a surprising one in the land of the follow-up.

First, after noting a while back (here and here) that my local golf club wasn’t taking the steps they should be in contacting me for the upsell regarding the golf shop, the restaurant, real estate investments, etc…..I received an order form for a 2006 twilight golf membership.

Now, to be sure, there was no brochure, info about the restaurant or other facilities, but AT LEAST they sent it. Improvements are always appreciated. Lets see more.

Next up – Katrina.

A friend of mine lives about 2 hrs NNW of New Orleans. He is pretty well connected with the governor’s office, so right after Katrina finished tearing up the state, I asked him who I should contact if I had some resources to send to Louisiana. He text messaged his guy during a press conference with the governor and got a phone number for me. I called, left a message and a few days later received a call to discuss the situation (an offer of 150 helicopters based in Montana, by virtue of an associate of friend of mine).

As it turned out, Louisiana never ended up utilizing the helicopters, but I was invited to contact FEMA a few weeks later to sign up to provide further services.

The follow up? Yesterday morning, someone from the Louisiana Governor’s office called my cell to thank me for offering help AND asked for my mailing address so the Governor could send a thank you letter. Major league. Lots of things went wrong in her office (and elsewhere) during Katrina, but this was something done right.

These are the kinds of things that you do to make yourself and your organization memorable. It’s not that hard, folks.

Kudos.

No news is good news?

Yesterday and again this morning, I was having a conversation with some friends about continuous improvement. So few businesses practice it, which is really a shame. Earlier this week, former LSU/Miami Dolphins coach Lou Saban lamented a culture that cares only about results, not about the process that produces them. He was clearly annoyed with players, media and others who shrug off poor performances that result in a win, because he knows that continuous improvement wins big games, and championships. Luck rarely does.

Because someone has been taking my paper, I called today to have it cancelled. When I called, the phone was answered on the first ring by a pleasant voice.

I indicated I wanted to cancel delivery and provided my account number as requested. In just a moment, a company lost me as a customer and in just a moment the call was over. It surprised me that they asked no questions about why I was cancelling, or if they could do anything to keep me as a subscriber, etc.

How does this paper’s management know why people cancel? If they dont know, they dont know what to do in order to improve the ratio of people who keep their 4 week free trials, which absolutely impacts their bottom line.

Amazing that they don’t seem to understand this.

Success, 37 cents at a time

Remember the movie where Kevin Costner builds a ballpark in the middle of his corn field, prompting his dead father to play catch with him? Eventually hundreds of others to come to visit him, the presumption being that those visitors mean his family’s money troubles are over.

Get over it. It’s just a movie, albeit a fun one.

While it worked for Costner, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. You need to WORK for them. Even Walt Disney had to work to get people to Disney World (and the Disney folks still work at that).

According to statistics, a fair percentage of the new businesses opened in the U.S. are restaurants. One might speculate that this is because people think it’s about the recipe they have (it typically isn’t) or because they’ve have always wanted to own/run a restaurant because it looks like so much fun (more likely).

Word has it that about 80% of those new businesses fail in the first 5 years and about 50% of the rest fail in the next 5 years.

Wonder why?

There are typically a “popular” short list of reasons, usually most of them are not the root cause of the problem, but they all add up.

One of the big ones I see all the time. “Build it and they will come” syndrome.

On the other hand, there is my friend Pratik, who owns a gourmet pizza restaurant in New Joisey. One of the ways he has grown his business substantially is by increasing his catering revenue.

How did he do that? Putting his face on his business. Making sure his people get it. Getting rid of the ones who don’t and taking care of the ones who do. Delivering catering orders as if he was the “delivery boy” as often as possible, where he will get feedback that he might not get as the owner, simply because his customers assume he’s just a delivery boy.

Other times, he’ll visit as the owner in order to thank the customer, ask how their service and food were and see if there are any ways to improve their service.

And one of the most insidious, competitive, sneaky things he does? He sends a hand-written card to every catering customer, thanking them for their order.

Wonder of wonders, he almost always gets a 2nd and 3rd order shortly thereafter. All for 37 cents, plus the price of a card and 2 minutes of his time.

Who do you think that catering client is going to remember the next time they need to cater a meeting? The real person who sent them a hand-written card to thank them for their business, or the faceless business who sticks copy paper under the windshields every few weeks?

Many business owners wouldn’t bother to buy a card, much less write one. Maybe they think they deserve the business (“I earned it”, or “We work hard”). You don’t. You earn it, every single day.

Get out there and work. And remember the little 37 cent things that mean success.