Where’s my concierge?

One of the rungs on your ascension ladder should include cater-to-their-every-whim service – within the context of your business.

Audible has figured this out, as you can see from the screen shot above.

I’ve told you about my use of it in the software business (“done-for-you software setups in 7 days, guaranteed”) as a way of getting new users started quickly as a way of increasing sales, improving our percentage of sales closed and improving our service so that renewal / maintenance agreements were a non-issue.

Have you figured it out? If so, I’d like to hear what your “cater to their every whim” concierge service is like.

Help your customers become better buyers

Better, more knowledgeable buyers tend to spend more, but they often need help doing so.

Who hasn’t looked at a restaurant wine list, and then thought it’d be nice to have the Wine Spectator articles (or a similar resource) on those 2 or 3 bottles you’re trying to choose between?

Until recently, restaurants would have a hard time doing this, if nothing else for logistical reasons.

Bone’s Steakhouse in Atlanta went one better, creating iPad-based winelists.…and increased sales by 25%.

They invested in 30 iPads and custom software in order to sell more (and better) wine.

Spectators

Even smartphone toting patrons with Wine Spectator’s VintageChart+ app on their iPhone don’t have the details at their fingertips that would help a novice (or even moderately experienced) wine lover make a great choice.

While the VintageChart+ app can tell you whether or not the vintage on the list is a good choice, it currently shows nothing about the winery, the wine, reviews or any other details.

I expect WineSpectator will be leveraging that app or companion apps for a long while.

Sitting with GaryVee

Your method doesn’t have to be quite as fancy or technology-oriented as Bone’s, but it could be.

It might be your favorite wine expert and a bucket. That’s what wine retailer Gary Vaynerchuk does on his show, Wine Library TV.

In his case, the education he provides is intended to produce a better wine buyer, and of course prompt a retail purchase. You get his fun, gregarious personality as a bonus. After watching one show, who wouldn’t want to sit down with Gary and taste some wine?

That’s almost what WineLibraryTV allows you to do.

Where Bone’s might be heading

Imagine if the iPad app linked to a clip @garyvee‘s show that talked about that wine?  And the app went from there, providing links to Parker’s coverage of the wine, links to the winery’s website and info on the vintner and vintage, Wine Spectator reviews and so on.

I haven’t seen the Bone’s iPad app, but I suspect it gives the diner info of this nature so they can make a better choice when selecting a wine.

Now, with that in mind, how can you help your customers become better buyers?

PS: Think about how you’d feel at another restaurant when presented with a typical paper wine list (even if bound elegantly, etc), after having experienced what Bone’s offers. This isn’t just about selling more and better wine.

A bus of a different color

Post-Katrina School Bus
Creative Commons License photo credit: laffy4k

When I say “bus travel”, I’m guessing that many / some / most of you think of things on this list (and maybe some others):

  • Greyhound (et al)
  • Tour buses full of senior citizens
  • A noisy school bus full of kids
  • people of lesser means
  • panhandlers
  • bus terminals
  • when will it arrive?

Here are a few things that I’ll bet you don’t think of when it comes to bus travel:

  • Comfort
  • Productivity
  • Care-free
  • Customer service
  • Wireless
  • Convenience
  • Safety

Red Arrow Motorcoach in Canada thinks a little differently about bus travel. For starters, they don’t even use the word “bus”. Like most companies of their type, they call it “motorcoach service”.

Because they know that you don’t want to sit around their bus terminal waiting an extra 30 to 300 minutes for your friend, family or colleague, they offer visual location tracking of their bus on their website, PLUS they will email and/or text you when the motorcoach is between 5 and 20 minutes (your choice) of reaching its destination.

Think about that benefit. It isn’t for the customer. It’s for someone who hasn’t even bought a ticket: the person meeting the customer at their station.

Not your grandpa’s bus

The customer isn’t ignored, however. Red Arrow’s website includes online reservations and a virtual tour of their coaches, which include a complimentary galley with drinks and snacks.

Their motorcoaches have a choice of plush or leather seats and they are careful to point out that they offer 30% more legroom than on a typical airliner.

For travelers with laptops, their coaches include pulldown tables, electrical plugs and wireless internet. Compare that to an airliner, which is often too cramped to use a laptop unless you’re in first class.

Their on-board magazine points out that you never have to turn off your cell phone and that the positive amenities of air travel (such as they are) are met on their motorcoaches as well.

Things the website missed

  • What’s the environment like at their drop-off/pickup points? Is it well-lit?
  • Does the place look safe if I step off the bus at 10pm or if I have to wait an extra hour due to weather or other delays?Do they have 24 hour security personnel on-site? Cameras? Yes, I know it’s Canada, but bear with me anyway.
  • Which stations have a nearby car rental?  (they do have car rental partners)
  • Do the stations offer wireless?
  • How does the station differ from typical bus stations?

You get the idea.

And the point of all this?

Cracks in the plumbing

What do people automatically think when your type of business is mentioned? Looking for an example? Think “plumbers”.

What are you doing to counteract and/or take advantage of that image? What sets you apart – and not just a little.

What are you doing that will completely change your prospective customer’s perception of your business?

What should you be doing that you just haven’t gotten around to?

Does that romantic iPod Touch make you swoon?

candles
Creative Commons License photo credit: Claudia Snell

In a recent email, Apple Corp positions the iPod Touch as just the right personal, possibly romantic touch on Valentine’s Day. 

While they apparently never heard of “never buy a lady something that plugs in” as a holiday gift, they’re trying to span the chasm between romance and something that plugs into a computer. 

On the other hand, an iPod Touch that just happens to have your special someone’s favorite romantic music, videos and a movie or 2 on it…very easily fills the bill.

What are you doing to inject a little romance into your product line?

Is a clean car romantic?

Maybe not, but taking care of your spouse’s car by buying them something as seemingly boring as a car wash gift card is one way to take better care of them (work with me here, will ya?<g>).

If you run a retail store, restaurant, cafe or what not – how can what you do be positioned as a way to care for a spouse or special someone? 

You have 9 days.

Did management learn anything after 246 years?

Poor management can crush something as big and strong as Wal-Mart.

Today’s guest post comes from NY Times contributor Judith Flanders, who writes about the failure of the current owners of Waterford Wedgwood to continue the legacy of Wedgwood’s founder, Josiah Wedgwood.

While brief, it contains several nuggets I’d categorize as “instructional”.

Packaging and perception are important in any economy, in any time.