Experience Design

Are You Terrible at Keeping a Secret?

The Kid, 2nd birthday. What a cutie.

Yes, that was The Kid back on her 2nd birthday. She chose these photos, to help out with today’s post—and of course even she can’t believe that’s her. Wow, time flies.

It’s MCE’s 2nd birthday today, and I admit it, I’m hoping you’re terrible at keeping a secret, because this is NOT going to be your typical blog-birthday roundup post.

First and foremost, I’d like to stop for a minute and thank you for being a part of the last two years.

It’s no secret that I love talking about ways we can all improve our revenues by delivering Maximum Customer Experience to the Ideal Customer.

When I’m writing here, I’ve got an Ideal Reader. I don’t write for the Big Boys, the CEOs of huge corporations. I write for and about the small business owner, the entrepreneur, and the employee hoping to help your company get an edge; for the dreamer, the do-er, and for the insightful observer of what can go right and wrong in customer experience all around us.

To all you dreamers, do-ers, and observers, a huge thanks. Writing for you over the past 400-plus posts, hearing from you in comments and in emails, getting to know more of you as time passes, makes this gig rock.

I just had to think of a way to thank you that’s as big as my appreciation. So after checking with several folks who are sure I’ve gone crazy…

I’m going to try very hard to give what I do away to you.

You’re giving it away?

That’s right, I’m hoping to. You probably know that here at MCE I offer a Web Audit package, an in-depth assessment of your website from both the eyes of an expert and the eyes of user testers, and a complete Web Experience Solution, combining that incredibly detailed assessment with the focus and retooling that’s a cornerstone of Maximum Customer Experience. It’s different from work I do with (forgive the tired term) traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses, where we may get into working on their physical space and their customer service as well. Here I can offer web-only Experience Design, exclusively for my loyal MCE readers.

I’ve been told I don’t charge enough. Maybe that’s true for working with the Big Boys, but for the small business owner whom I love to help, I’m glad to provide a great value that can help move your business forward quickly.

Pass it on!

For the next two months, I’m going to try something wild for our great community of readers.

First, are you subscribed to the blog? Go on, get free updates by email or RSS over in the top left of the sidebar. That’s important. If we’re going to get wild, I want to know you’re with me.

1. Send me a screen shot of your subscription confirmation, or forward the email confirm to me, or if you’re already subscribed and you want to be part of this wildness, send a screen shot of MCE in your RSS or your email. My email: kellye (at) visionpoints (dot) net

2. Head on over to the MCE Web Audit/ Web Experience Solution page. Read all about it, decide how you want to work with us, click one of those charming “email me” links, and let me know you’re ready to go. I’ll invoice you and we’ll get to work on the Audit or full Solution for your website or blog. You get an awesome audit and you’re ready to d-i-y or plug in and go.

So far, cool! but business as usual, you say.

Ah, yes. The title is, Why *you* should work for free…

While we’re doing our work, *you* get as busy as you like.

Talk to your friends, your blog-buddies and Twitter pals, the folks you know at the chamber of commerce and your networking groups; email the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. Easiest work you ever did. Tell them working with VisionPoints will breathe new life into their website and help them connect with customers better than ever before. Send them a link to the Web Audit/ Web Experience Solution, and tell them about this wild deal.

3. For every new client who signs on for an Audit or a full Solution, using your name as a reference, from now through 16 January 2010 (two months from today), and becomes a paid client, you get $100 of your paid price back.

Up to FREE.

Yep. If you sign on for the Audit at $449, and five friends at the skating rink need their websites assessed and overhauled, tell them to mention you when they sign up and pay in full by 16 January 2010, and you’ll find your $449 back in your pocket.

If you need the full Web Experience Solution for your site, starting at $1149 (size of site, complexity of Solution can vary the price), and you know twelve folks who were downsized from the Quik-E-Chem and started their own businesses last year, who want their sites to convert more visitors into loyal customers, dial them up. Your $1149 will come back to you in $100 chunks, every time another buddy pays in full.

Isn’t that crazy enough?

Maybe not quite.

So tell your buddies to come on over to MCE and subscribe to the blog.

Then back to #1 up above, buddies—send me a screen shot….

That’s right. If your friends and fellow business owners want to work toward getting their work for free too, tell them to refer their friends to our Web Audit and Web Experience Solution. They’ll get the same $100 of their paid price back for every new, paid-up client who uses their name as a reference from now to 16 January 2010. Up to free.

The small print:

I’m crazy enough to try this enormous thank-you to my dear readers, but not nuts. I have no idea how this will go! Our small team has loads of energy, but there’s only 24 hours in the day. While I will honor all who take me up on it, getting your project scheduled works the same as it did yesterday: first come first served. So if you want your project done *soon,* you know what they say—don’t delay.

So we’re clear:

You must be subscribed to the MCE Blog, via RSS or email, to take advantage of this refund offer, and you must send proof of that via email when you are ready to hire us for your Audit or Solution.

You must be a client of VisionPoints—Website Audit or Web Experience Solution ONLY. Sorry, no refunds to folks who haven’t done work with us—there’s nothing to refund! and sorry, I can’t do the interiors of your corporate headquarters for free, even with loads of referrals. ;)     You must be paid in full in order to receive a refund of your purchase price. You do not have to wait until you’ve paid in full to refer new clients.

New client referrals must mention your name when they email about having their own Audit or Solution done. That’s how I know who to thank with a refund. For every client you refer who has paid in full before 16 January 2010, you will receive a $100 refund of your purchase price, up to free. If you refer all 2,000 of your Twitter followers, you have my undying gratitude. You have my Kid’s undying gratitude. (You have 1,895 Twitter followers who may wait a little while to get their finished Solution.) But I can not make any refund beyond your purchase price. No exceptions.

PAST CLIENTS: Yes, I would love to give you your money back! Please do accept my thanks and have fun with this offer.

If your work is not a good fit for VisionPoints, we do reserve the right to turn down a project. All other terms of working with VisionPoints apply, as always. And folks, if there’s a way to game this that I haven’t thought of—don’t. Be nice for everybody’s sake.

Last, while I hope you will love the work we do for you so much that referring folks to become new readers of MCE and happy clients of VisionPoints will become a lifelong habit, this offer will end two months from now, on 16 January 2010. No exceptions.

 

The Kid with cupcake. Yum!

Even back then, The Kid suspected I was overly generous with the cupcakes…

Thanks again, dear reader. You’ve made the last two years a wild ride. I’m just returning the favor.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. In case you missed the link, just click on over to the MCE Website Audit/ Web Experience Solution page right now to hire us for your Audit or full Solution. We’ll start working for you. You start working toward free!

P.P.S. As you might guess, if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and many more here at MCE, today I’d be extra-grateful if you’d consider Tweeting, Stumbling, or otherwise spreading the word about this wild blog-birthday offer using the Tweet This and the Share links. Our community always has room for more fans of Maximum Customer Experience!

Did you notice?

Imagine’s a mighty powerful word.*

In copywriting class, the professor reminds you to get your reader to imagine the successful outcome of purchasing from you. Funny thing is, first you have to do the imagining, in order to write the copy that helps that reader’s imagination.

In every self-help book you can pick up, you’ll be advised to imagine you already have (the lady, or the career, or the healthy lifestyle, or the cottage in the mountains, or the productivity, or the empty laundry basket, or the Rolex and the chauffeur and the private jumbo jet with male models serving your rum and cokes… *ahem*) that you desire. It’s the first step in getting what you want.

Where would poetry, plays, art, film, and music be, if we didn’t imagine ourselves in the shoes of the narrator, the hero, or at least the fly on the wall?

For your business: Put on your imagining-cap today, dear reader. Imagine you had hundreds of articles at your fingertips, all ready to help your grow your business, and you wanted to read just a few… ones that can kick you into action or spin you into fresh thinking about what you do and why.

I hope this little round-up of goodies from the MCE vaults will help you imagine your business, thriving. Click around, catch up, leave comments, and come on back to discuss.

Imagine you need more sales right now. Would it be worth 30 minutes of your time? If you missed it (just this past Wednesday), DO make this quick post the start of your imaginings. Guaranteed to help you out.

Imagine you’ve got an idea that nobody’s ever tried for your business. You’re halfway to real innovation. Time to decide whether you should go your own way, or go the customer’s way.

Imagine your idea’s in place and you’re wondering—what’s the very the most important ad I’ll ever write, the one that will make everything else an easier coast or an uphill climb? Find out what it is and get tips on outdoing the Big Boys with yours.

Imagine your business growing without ever having to feel slimy about “being in business.” Can it be done? It can if you know a little something about the tides.

Imagine there are simple ways to extend your reach into your community without spending vast sums of money. Let Charlie show you how to get personal and have fun with it.

Imagine you’re scared. We all are at times. Believe it or not, that fear can power you forward. Embrace it!

Imagine your Ideal Customer. Oh, sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Need help imagining him or her? Read the three-part series that starts here.

Imagine you’d like to know where I go when I need snappy perspective as fresh as the waters of Nova Scotia. The whole Round Table series is filled with great inspirations, but I’d be pleased if you’d imagine a place in your email or RSS feed for these excellent writers. (Bonus: Imagine you were in on a bit of my summer fun when you click through.)

Imagine you—with fewer limits. Maybe all you need is a little help from Curtis Armstrong. He still helps me out several times a week.

Imagine you write a blog. Or you read blogs, and you want to know whether they’re any good for business. Or, heck—just imagine you want to know what it will take to get me to shave my head. If your imagination is running wild now, then this post’s for you.

If all that imagining got you wondering how I can help your blog or website, just click this link, where you can imagine what it would be like if your website actually did what you thought it would when you sprayed it out of the can of Blog-Wiz.

(No, I don’t know why that funky image came to my head at this moment. Maybe I’m working too hard…)

Imagine you work hard. REALLY HARD. Every. Doggone. Day. And right now, you need to see why someone else does it, because it just might remind you of why you do it. This post is my virtual hug to you, because we can’t be all go-go-go all the time, even when we’re after Maximum Customer Experience.

And if you’ll indulge me, while I imagine that may not have been enough to set your imagination on fire: here’s just a little bit more to help you kick ass.

Wow. You’ve got a heck of an imagination. No wonder you’re so good at what you do.

To keep this topic going a bit longer—I’d love to hear your tips or stories of business breakthroughs you’ve had when you let your imagination run free!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

*It’s amazing how that word “imagine” got you to click through! I promise not to make a habit of drawing you in with such strong language too frequently. The Kid is going to give me such a hard time if she spots this one!   ;)

I couldn’t possibly let this go without a special musical guest: One who at times in his career would have hated being a part of this, and at times, might have gotten a big kick out of it. (Plus it’s one of The Kid’s favorite songs and it might help me get out of trouble when she reads the aforementioned title of this post.)

Imagine, 1971. The inimitable John Lennon.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll subscribe by email or by RSS (it’s free), and please tell a friend! Give it a Tweet, a link, a Stumble, or otherwise bookmark using the “Share” button below.

… Are they hoping that I’m not typical?

If you’re working in a “typical” business, you think the rules that govern your firm are special. I’m guilty of it myself. (Whoo-ee.) You think your mileage may vary from the way other businesses have to pay attention to the entire Customer Experience. Because of all that specialness, of course.

Sorry. The rules that govern your business’ growth are the same as the rules for the businesses you do—and don’t—buy from when you’re the customer. Which means this Customer Experience stuff should be easy! Just turn this thinking around so you’re on the other side of the sale…

If you’re a “typical” customer, wouldn’t you like to tell a few businesses about some of the dumb things they do? Try out a few of these:

I don’t see your website’s banner. Neither do user testers, time after time. Don’t even remember the name of your site unless you repeat it in your body copy a couple of times. So if you put critical info up there, just know that I’ll never see it.

Your mileage may vary.

I don’t notice your customer service until the day you screw up. You know how you brag about having friendly people who make my day so sweet? Don’t remember any of them. I’ve got things to do when I’m at your store. Your staff are there to make things pleasant. If they can’t manage that, then at least make sure they don’t make it unpleasant. I’ll forgive or forget the rest.

Your mileage may vary.

I still read my mail. The snail variety.

Except the big envelope full of offers from 63 companies. “VALUE-MAIL!” you scream, but I can’t hear you.

Unless I’m in the mood to get something for nothing.

Because I think the desperate people stick their leaflets in those envelopes.

Your mileage may vary.

I’m judgmental, superficial, and lookist, and I don’t even know it. Don’t hold it against me; I’m here to pay your bills. I decide in less than 30 seconds whether I’ll stay on your website, whether I’ll buy from your ill-dressed salesperson, whether I’ll purchase what’s in your fancy packaging. I think I’m rational, logical, and well-educated. I think I’m reading, listening, thinking it out. But I’m really a mass of consumerist prejudices, and I’ve already made my decision.

Your mileage may vary.

I’m all about me. You’re talking about you! You have experience, capabilities, power-performance-and-whoop-de-doodads. All I want to know is how my day will go better once I say yes to you. In detail. Me-me-me. With a smile (that I’m sorry, I won’t remember later).

Your mileage may vary.

If you call me on the phone and I didn’t ASK you to, GAME OVER.

Ditto email.

Your mileage may vary.

I didn’t hear you. Mostly because I’m not listening. There’s stuff going on around me and inside me that is just… more interesting than you. So repeat yourself. Sorry you’re sick of it. Rephrase it now and again. Then… repeat yourself. Seems that you think I am paying attention. Dude, I’m way, way busier than that. And I think I’m becoming just a little bit bored—NOT because you’re repeating yourself—because I forgot why I’m waiting around to GET THE POINT.

Your mileage….

What would you add? What other dumb things do you see companies doing, figuring the rules of great Customer Experience don’t apply to them?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

It’s time to put the bread on your table

Profiling for Maximum sales

Three customers step into your store. All of them seem ideal. RH was so interested you thought he was a sure thing. After wasting a lot of time and energy serving him, you realized you are never going to get his business, but you sure have made it easier for him to shop at amazon. Oh, well. Now the Red Herring is a lot easier to spot.

One guy’s already become your favorite face at the shop. He loves to look around. He says Hi but doesn’t demand a lot of time. Once in a while he makes a small purchase. He seems to have friends everywhere, and they never fail to mention his referral with a smile. They come in pre-sold on the word of BFF, your biggest Propheteer.

The last customer walks in, head down. He looks around quickly, sees the sign for the department he’s interested in, and beelines over there with seemingly no interest in the store at all. If the staff tries to help, they get a gruff “no thanks.”

Meet your Ideal Customer.

This week, Experience Design 201: a special series on profiling your customers to increase your sales.

Part Three: Mr. E, the Ideal Customer

What’s eating Mr. E? He walks into your store as if he owns the place. Strides to the aisle he wants without a word or a smile. Not that he doesn’t have a smile, just that he doesn’t have time for that right now.

He’s easy to recognize. You’ll even hear other customers mumble, “looks like he’s on a mission.”

Leading characteristics:

Laser focus

Has no time

May have a written list; definitely has a mental agenda

Little interest in price

Ready to buy but impatient

Seen more often in business-to-business transactions (B2B)

Unlike everyone else in the store or on your website today, Mr. E is shopping for a current need.

What brought him here today?

Simple. (You sped right past it a second ago.) He’s here because he’s ready to buy. Mr. E is your Easy sale.

What can we do for this Ideal Customer?

Catching his eye:

Your business’ name is the most important ad you’ll ever write. If you’re at the beginning of your plans as you read this, make your name rock. It’s an unbelievable leg-up on your competition, especially for Mr. E(asy sale).

Ultra clarity. Mr. E is impatient. It’s an easy sale, but not a sure sale. Mr. E wants to make his purchase, not guess whether soap is in “body” or “cleansing.” No jargon, no overlapping or confusing navigation (in store or online!), and no cutesies. Cutsey is for wanderers, and wanderers are someday-purchasers at best.

Task-oriented efficiency. This applies to everything from getting around your place to how your staff is trained. Like BFF, functional groupings can work wonders. What do people come to your store to solve? Get the nails with the hammers, get the soap with the scrubby-thingies (??), sell the business cards when they’re ordering stationery. And your staff—make sure they are looking at the business from that customer’s task-oriented point of view. Answers. To problems. That your products solve. Which they can explain quickly to the prospect.

Great search on-site. This customer will not see your navigation. That’s right, he won’t even see it. Time and again, I see Mr. E go straight to the search box and type in what he needs. If the term doesn’t come up with any results, he may rephrase. Once. Then he’s gone—impatient, remember? So make sure you are thinking like the Ideal Customer, writing from his point of view, and packing your site with words that speak to his needs.

Home page is critical. He has to be sure you have what he needs right away. If you do not explain what you sell or at least describe your Ideal Customer perfectly on your home page, go right now and fix that. Even one click is too many for your Ideal Customer. (“But c’mon… if he clicks, where will the one click be?” you ask. To the page that appears to be the next in the sales process. MAKE IT CLEAR. If he gets it wrong, you lose.)

Loyal?

Yes, loyal. With a twist. Mr. E is rarely the guy who will spread word-of-mouth for you. You’re this guy’s “secret source” and he’s happy to keep it that way, thanks.

Designing Maximum Customer Experience for Mr. E involves:

Pinpointing his needs and speaking to them

and

Valuing his time above everything else

Think like a fast-food worker. How fast can you serve Mr. E the certain knowledge that he should buy from you?

Now do what they do. Aim to cut that time in half.

Pros:

He wants to give you his money. ‘Nuff said.

Cons:

1. Because he’s usually not a chatter, he can be misunderstood. You’ll have no trouble spotting him, but you may not believe he’s the Ideal Customer at first. You’ve been letting him get away every single day since you opened your doors.

2. Being crystal clear from the customer’s point of view is A LOT harder than it looks.

Best bet:

This guy is one you may not enjoy, but the one you need most. Mr. E will buy, from you, or he will turn on his heels. It’s what he’s here for. Go overboard in your efforts to make the transaction easy for Mr. E.

Make his goals yours and you have a customer for life.

Great! Now I want to make more sales, Kelly!

This part knocks us all for a loop now and then: We want to induce sales; we want to “sell” customers; we want to get our prospects to buy.

It can’t be done.

You can encourage.

You can entice.

You can remind, rephrase, maybe even repackage.

You can prod at a need or a pain that is there, but doesn’t seem urgent enough.

You can’t “make” a sale.

When the customer has a need— when the customer knows that you have the Ideal Solution to that need— not only can’t you “sell” him or her, you won’t need to. Like Mr. E, the customer who has a need that he knows only you have the Ideal Solution to, has already sold himself.

So you can’t make more sales, but you can help more buyers feel like Mr. E. I promised you that Experience Design 201 would teach you to turbo-charge your sales. Let’s do it!

How to turbo-charge your sales with buyer profiles

Drop the Red Herrings. Unless you want practice, or enjoy giant time-sucks.

Enjoy and nurture your relationships with Propheteers, even though their own purchases may be small.

Be bold, be direct, and focus the entire Customer Experience on Mr. E’s needs. Demonstrate the you are the Ideal Solution from every possible angle. Make it impossible to make a wrong turn, from your front door (or homepage), to the sales counter. Other buyers, with other profiles, will be just as pleased with this Pinpoint precision, even though they’ll use your store or your site in different ways.

In ads and other marketing materials: Forget “branding.” Never, ever, write an ad of any kind where you don’t ask the prospect to say Yes to something. Buy this item. Sign up for email. Call today. You aren’t doing this to make people warm and fuzzy, you’re doing this to grow your business. Insist that every dollar you spend does just that.

In store: Signage. More than you want is less than they need. Color to orient the customer, if the store’s large. Lighting, especially lighting focused right on your key products. You do NOT have to light your store like a hospital to make sales.

On the web: Bigger (type), bolder (navigation to key sales pages—let other nav take a quiet back seat), clearer (clever, jargony language is instant sales death), less (fewer choices = more yesses), more (links within text to guide the sales process), none (ads to other sites—when your customer is gone he is GONE).

At every decision-point, shout clearly: “This is the next step!”

Never be afraid that you’re overdoing it. I guarantee you’re not.

Congratulations, dear reader. We’ve gone through some very advanced lessons this week, and you’ve made it to the finals of Experience Design 201.

I bet you know how we check your exam around here—in dollars!

Go forth. Maximize your sales.

 

Graduate and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

P.S. If you missed the links above: please click to read Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Wherein Kelly gives away the big trade secret you can’t afford to go one more day without!

Profiling for Maximum sales

Three customers step into your store. The educated, involved red herring, RH, was the guy you noticed first. I don’t blame you. He was talkative and even fun. There’s also a guy walking around with his head down, no fun at all. Doesn’t want any help.

One guy’s strolling around, looking at a bit of everything, familiarizing himself. Right away he says “just looking” when your friendly staff steps in to guide him. Yet he spends much longer than your average customer in the store (or on the site).

Is he your Ideal Customer?

This week, Experience Design 201: a special series on profiling your customers to increase your sales.

Part Two: BFF, the Little Surfer Boy

BFF’s not the obvious choice when you’re deciding who needs help in the store. He’s got a vague interest, but he takes his time. He’s not seeking attention. Doesn’t seem to require immediate help. BFF’s content to read every sign, look at all the merchandise, and get deeply into your aura—all on his own. He doesn’t want to push you into helping because BFF knows what you don’t know.

He’s probably not going to buy today.

No need to monopolize your time. Now that he’s getting interested, he’ll read all your product descriptions online; he explores every new item that comes in to the store; he’s up-to-date on the parts of your your brochures that you thought only your mother would read; he’s becoming an active commenter on your blog or a buddy on Twitter. BFF has no real need, though he may have a growing desire to work with you. Very often, BFF knows he has no money.

One day, you captured him with your remarkable story, when he was reading or strolling; the next thing, he’s exploring and fascinated; then one day you realize he’s your Little Surfer Boy, delighted to surf the website or roam the aisles, not causing any headaches; he rarely, if ever, contributes to the bottom line.

Surely, this can’t be the Ideal Customer.

Is that a problem?

A resounding No.

RH, who we talked about in Part 1 of this series, was a classic time-waster—and off to waste someone else’s time as soon as he’d wasted yours. In contrast, BFF rarely demands your time or efforts. He knows he’s “only” a fan and his mama raised him not to lead you on.

He’s only a what?

Dear reader, BFF is a fan. More—he is in fact, your Best Friend Forever. And BFF is about as valuable as it gets. Yet he gives you very little business, either because your field is more of an interest than a need, or because he simply can’t afford you. Either way, he thinks you rock!

What can we do about our Best Friends Forever?

Let ‘em surf to their heart’s content. Nurture them. Appreciate them out loud. These folks may, one day, have needs or circumstances that change, but that’s not what you’re counting on. Without any change in his buying profile at all, BFF is gold if you treat him right, because BFF—if you enjoy him as much as he (obviously!) enjoys you—will become:

The Propheteer.

What’s a Propheteer? As we discussed way, way back in Experience Design 101, a propheteer is a cross between a prophet (someone who preaches) and a volunteer. A Propheteer is out preaching about you, without any compensation at all, right now while you’re reading this article. How cool is that? And I know I said “no jargon” in part one of this series, but I’m breaking my own rule for BFF. He deserves the special recognition of a little jargon. Propheteers are the raving fans we want you to have more of.

Propheteers may be your number one source of word-of-mouth referrals. Whether they’ve bought something small from you or never purchased from you at all, they become so well-versed in what you offer that they’re an extension of your sales force. There’s a little guilt mixed in with it: they feel funny that they’re not big purchasers, so they look to spread the word to connect big purchasers with you. There’s a little hero-complex: they want friends to be impressed with the quality of their advice, and they want you to feel as great about them as they do about you. Sending business your way is bound to achieve both.

If this sounds like Kelly’s gone a bit cynical, I haven’t at all. Here’s the big secret that I promised not to tell when I graduated from Experience Designer University:

Not everyone can be your customer.

I know, I know! I think you’re awesome, too. It’s hard to believe, but not everyone needs what you’ve got. Some, not right now. Some, not ever. So what to do when you discover that some of the billions of people on this planet will love your company without forking over cash?

Love ‘em right back. Be awed that they’re your Propheteers. Plenty of folks would kill for that fan base!

Ease the guilt at every turn by telling BFF how much you value him. Make sure he knows that he is, in fact, one of the heroes your firm relies on for growth, and that you’re proud to know him. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to ask this guy for a thing.

Say it. And MEAN WHAT YOU SAY. That’s it.

Changing “I think you’re so killer rockin’ great” to “I’m ready to buy”:

He walked in without a clue about you and over time he’s come to care about you and your company sincerely. If his circumstances change, fear not, he’ll let you know. Right now he doesn’t need you, or can’t afford you, and you can’t change that, but you are top of his mind.

Why would you want to tamper with someone who’s scouring his friends and colleagues looking for someone to introduce you to? Embrace him!

Catching his eye:

Remember that the Little Surfer Boy has time to read. Relevant text links to your products and services—at a moment when he’s thinking, “hey, I know someone like who could use this”—help BFF to be the hero to his colleagues (and a hero to you!).

And while we’re talking about text: write a blog. There’s no better way to energize BFF than to let your story emerge over time through blogging. After all, blog readers and commenters make the most wonderful, smartest, friendliest, most welcoming group of singing and dancing referral machines…

Anybody think I’m going too far with this?

Nah, because it’s all true. Blog readers are slick, savvy, loyal, word-of-mouth gurus…

and handsome, too. You, for instance, are looking gorgeous today. I noticed.

Feeling energized? So energize your BFF, and write a blog already!

*ahem*

To continue…

This guy will never fail to read your About page. Not everyone wants to know about you and your company, but BFF thinks knowing the history and the details that brought you to where you are is cool.

Clear, compelling navigation will get further with surfers than the best site search in the world. He doesn’t have a precise objective on your site, so navigation tabs or buttons that guide him along your sales path (even if he never makes it all the way to the sale) are the way to go. BFF might be one of the few site visitors who actually follows the path you expected all your visitors to take!

In-store, make your layout tell a story. Showing items in use, giving suggestions that encourage more exploration, creating functional groupings, and holding in-store events all encourage lingering and telling the story of you later. BFF enjoys spreading word-of-mouth. Make it easy!

Loyal?

To the core. BFF is someone you’d have to work to shake—and friends, that’s a rare commodity.

Designing Maximum Customer Experience for BFF involves:

Personal touch

and

Long-term delight

To get the long-term rewards, you’ve got to put in the effort.

If it’s an effort to be sincere, appreciative, and to enjoy BFF’s company, that is.

No fancy techniques here. BFF is not a chain yanker and would never expect you to take time away from paid clients. But don’t neglect him, either: know any ball players, singers, or actors famous for not signing autographs? Yeah. Word gets around. A BFF spurned can be a thorn in your side.

Pros:

I can’t say this strongly enough: this could be your biggest source of revenue, whether he ever hands you his own dollars or not.

If that’s not enough of a “Pro” for you, BFF may, in fact, become… a very good friend. Ah, personal warm fuzzies right here in the middle of our 201 class!

Cons:

Give me a minute. I’ll think of something.

Best bet:

Learn to recognize BFF. Nurture your relationship, deliver delight, and give him a story to tell to others. He’s on your side and pulling for you all the way. This is what you hoped for when you started your business, all starry-eyed, in your garage late nights after work.

Propheteers like BFF will help you create maximum sales in minimum time.

When you’re the BFF (we’ll all fall into each buying profile at different times and for different items), how far will you go to spread the word about the company you’re a giddy Propheteer for?

What’s your favorite way to let a BFF know how much you appreciate him?

Go grab your cap and gown, dear reader. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll wrap up Experience Design 201 in MCE-style. Please take a moment today to subscribe to the Maximum Customer Experience Blog (at top left, it’s free) so you can have updates delivered to your RSS or email inbox as they happen!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Three customers walk into a store…

Profiling for Maximum sales

Three customers step into your store. One’s brought a few magazine clippings. He’s interested, engaged in the shopping experience, talking to your staff, taking notes. He knows quite a bit about what you sell from the minute he walks in (or clicks on the link to your website).

One’s strolling around, looking at a bit of everything, familiarizing himself. Right away he says “just looking” when your friendly staff steps in to guide him. He spends much longer than your average customer in the store (or on the site).

The last customer walks in head down. He looks around quickly, sees the sign for the department he’s interested in, and beelines over there with seemingly no interest in the store at all. If the staff tries to help, they get a gruff “no thanks.”

Who’s really your Ideal Customer?

This week, Experience Design 201: a special series on profiling your customers to increase your sales.

Speaking to the right people

We’ve talked before about narrowing your Ideal Customer down to one, exact person you can speak to in your store layout, your marketing materials, and your website. As your intrepid Experience Designer, I’m here to remind you: to deliver delight to the Ideal Customer, you can’t talk to everyone.

Say you’re an expert in small animal care and you decide to run a website. You can aim everything from your colors to your layout to your language to your advertising, at an eight-year-old trying to learn more for a school project, hoping later to convince Mom to buy him a ferret; you can take crystal-clear aim at 23-year-old guys with pythons, wanting accessories and cool reptile-related clothing; or you can plan to attract little old ladies who want advice on saving money by grooming their pets themselves.

You’re still that same expert in small animal care, yet we’ve just created three wildly different sites for you, because you know exactly who you’re talking to in every way. You can do the exact same thing for three retail shop designs, as well—and a half a dozen others, just as distinct—without changing who you are and what you want to do in your business at all.

None of those folks are going to walk in to the store aimed at the other guys. Not ever. Some authors call this creating a persona, but here at MCE we skip the jargon and call this your Ideal Customer. Knowing your Ideal Customer is a long way from the old “target market,” a way of segmenting folks into age groups, genders, geographic regions, and income levels. Now with your exact Ideal Customer defined, you will never send a postcard to the young, single exec living in a new condo development next to the lady who downsized when her husband died, even though they live in the same area and have similar incomes. You know their needs go a lot deeper than this.

Experience Design 201: Advanced techniques for delighted customers

But suppose three “ideal” customers walk in (or arrive at the website) at the same time? Three python-lovers, three kids with their Moms in tow, or three ladies who own parrots? Who will buy? Who will—dare I say it—yank your chain? Who will be your biggest fan and spread the word for you, far and wide?

We need more. We need to know their buying profiles: in other words, what brought them here today. Now. How do we keep ‘em, do we want ‘em, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of dealing with these different prospective customers?

When you know how to profile the buying needs of your Ideal Customer, you’ll have a path to turbo-charging your sales that will guide everything from how you arrange your floorplan to how you write your blog.

Part One: RH, the Red Herring

There he is, with those magazine clippings. He’s educated about your product. He loves talking to you, emailing you, getting down to the details of what you offer.

I thought we’d talk about RH first because, gosh, he’s so much fun. He wants what you have. He knows all about it, but he’s still curious. You and your staff enjoy selling to him.

But it seems to take him a few trips to the store…

Or he abandons his shopping cart online, only to return a few days later…

You’ve emailed back and forth for weeks without a commitment to work together…

Hey, what’s going on?

RH doesn’t need you.

He’s only at the “want” stage. RH is a classic window shopper,* or comparison shopper. He walks out because he’s off to see what your competition’s got. He’ll never tell you that, of course, because each of you is contributing to his bank of knowledge so he can know everything there is to know before he buys.

He’s “shopping” for a future need, and that makes RH the most dangerous customer in the store. He’s the fish you thought you had hooked, but you never did. He may even make you work like a dog to earn his money, then drop you at the last second. He’s not only not loyal, he’s definitely playing you right now.

Yes. He’s talking to other companies in the same sweet tones he uses with you. It’s true.

Here’s how you know it’s true, dear reader:

You’ve done it yourself.

We all have. The thing about these profiles is that for different products, at different times, we’ll all fall into one profile or another. You’ve gone to an open house when you weren’t ready to move houses; you’ve spent 20 minutes with your local electronics guru just because you heard LCD screen were on their way out and you wanted to know what’s next, for when your tax return comes in next May; you’ve spent hours at your favorite band’s MySpace page without ever buying their new CD, seeing their world tour, or replacing the t-shirt you got from them in 1998. Yes, I know you have. You’ve been the Red Herring, just as I have: the staff time-suck who seems oh-so-informed, polite, and interested. You are interested, but you’re only at that “want” stage. If you’re a bit farther along, you might be at the “trying to convince yourself into a need” stage.

What can we do about the red herring?

Changing “future need” to “now need”:

It can be done. RH can be won over by a super-bargain, but slashing prices to grab this customer in a tough way to make sales.

Catching his eye:

Frequent links to your products or services within the text of your site. RH is not patient enough to figure your site out for you. To hook this slippery fish you’ll need to be at the ready wherever his eye lands.

Sales, Clearances, and Special Offers—online, in ads, in-store. Make ‘em so prominent that your designer screams for artistic mercy. If RH can’t see ‘em, he can’t be moved by ‘em.

Loyal?

No. Won’t remember you in five minutes.

Designing Maximum Customer Experience for RH involves:

Catching him off balance. Unexpected “wow” factor that pushes him over the edge.

or

The dreaded deep discount.

Pros:

There are a lot of Red Herrings in the world. If you’ve got the patience to woo him, if you’ve got the Wow factor in place, or if you’re willing to make him an offer that moves “future” to “why not now?” you’ll have a big advantage over the other poor saps he’s playing.

Cons:

RH is a chain-yanker. Time, money, and heart wasted, with no sure sale ahead. Need I say more?

Best bet:

Stay tuned for the second installment in Experience Design 201. In the meantime: be nice, be helpful, be clear about what you offer and why you’re the best choice, but don’t waste your heart’s efforts on RH.

Recognize the Red Herring? Is it you, or your customers?  ;)

What do you do to move RH’s “future need” to “now”?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*In French, which I’ve been trying to wrap my tongue around for the last year or so, to go window-shopping is faire du lèche-vitrine, which translates to “to do some window-licking.” Eeew. But I never had any problem remembering that phrase! (Just thought I’d share.)

Señorita, I’m in trouble again

What do you do when you’re at the very beginning of a new hobby, a major purchase, or even a new direction for your business?

If you’re like me, you start with a little homework.

Now these days I’ll bet that you, my loyal and web-savvy reader, start that homework right here on the www. So do I, but for some things it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to realize the medium is inadequate.

Looking for a new sofa? You’ll probably want to sit on it.

A new pair of shoes? Unless you’re familiar with the brand you may well want to try it on (sorry, Zappos) before deciding.

To choose an accountant, to rent a new retail space, to hire a chef, you’re going to wind up having face-to-faces with folks fairly quickly.

And if your daughter has decided to take up her first musical instrument, and it’s one you’ve never played…

Well, you may need that same high-touch experience. Though I learned a bit about what might interest us and what price range to expect (woosh…) on the Internet, I needed to see guitars, hold guitars, and hear guitars, to see if at her total beginner level we’d care about whether we got a $150 guitar or a $500 guitar.

I can see you don’t know which way to turn

And there, dear reader, begins today’s tale. Having learned that guitars are priced from oh! to ai-yi-yi, I grabbed the addresses of the music stores near us and set out on tour. At each venue I walked in and played the same tune to open:

“Hi, I’m at the very beginning stages of looking into this. I don’t know anything about guitars. *confiding smile* My daughter really wants to play acoustic guitar. I’d like to know what she should get started with and what kind of costs, maintenance… um… anything I should know at all, I guess. We have someone who’s going to teach her the very beginning stuff but I’d like to know about your classes for when she outgrows that, too.”

Shop #1: I’m hurting long before I fly

Confession. I’m not into music shops. As in, I haven’t stepped into one since I left my clarinet behind ages (and several states) ago. So I had no idea what I’d find in the shops I’d mapped out, but #1 seemed promising. The Kid’s school always talks about the place. The store is large, it’s well-laid-out, very dark, but with a nice traffic flow through different instruments and specialty areas, all in their own intimate nooks. Considering I’m here just past lunchtime on a weekday, I’m surprised at how many customers there are in the store. I guess I just don’t get it, eh? It’s as busy as any other store would be in the early afternoon. Somehow I’m surprised.

The size of the place is a bit overwhelming, but I’ll have a look around before I bug someone with my planned intro. As I do, I see a range of prices in drums (something else The Kid was considering, before the size of our apartment and the sentiments of the neighbors was brought up), brass, woodwinds… a huge sheet music area, soundproofed practice or lesson areas that look oh-so-professional… finally, the guitar section. Where the prices range from $1599 up to $4500.

I get the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I back out of this section and look for the “hey, cheapos” section. Not another guitar in sight. Feeling embarrassed, I go to the counter, wait in line, and start my spiel to the guy at the counter.

“Oh, no problem. You want our beginner kit, it goes for $159 and has everything you need…” [lists off a bunch of stuff I didn’t know I needed]

Okay, that price is more in line with what I thought a beginner would want. Can I see it?

“No, unfortunately we’re out. They’re on order though. Hang on. [yells to office a few feet away] Do you know when that order’s coming in? With the kits?”

“No. No clue. If she wants one, she should order one.”

“Um, he says…”

I heard him. Do they carry anything mid-range? I might want to consider something that will last her a bit longer… Not in the store. They can order things, though, if I know what I want, which of course, is what I’m in the store to determine. This isn’t too useful, so I ask about lessons. Could you write me something out, or do you have a price list, something about your teachers and their lesson times?

“No. We have a book. [points behind the counter] You just look in it…”

I have to come around behind their counter and stare in their book while they stare at me, staring, not knowing what I want, not able to think about it on my own time? I sigh. I’ll keep it in mind, I say.

“Do you want to order that kit? That way it’ll definitely come in.”

Well, without seeing it, or hearing it, and not knowing a thing about guitars? No. I’ll check back. Maybe you’ll get it back in stock before I’ve made a decision.

I leave, almost none-the-wiser, and wishing I’d left before I bothered talking to him. I’m feeling poorer, stupider, and much more discouraged than when I entered the shop.

Shop #2: You turn your eyes from me

Shop #2 has such a beautiful layout I’m encouraged. The place is bright and friendly looking and though I can’t see a price tag anywhere, there are little clues in the placement of the guitars and even the music displayed near them that tell me beginner from advanced, and hey! there do seem to be beginning instruments available. In fact there is an enormous selection, maybe thirty or more guitars on display. I can get just about anything I want here, if only I knew anything about what I wanted. Super!

Now I just have to find some help…

Unlike in shop #1, there are no customers here. I was feeling so cheered by the beautifully-executed interiors, that it took me about five minutes to notice.

The next thing I notice is there is also no staff.

In a back room I can see a lady on the telephone. She looks up at me and seems to smile vaguely. After a minute of trying to smile back with “how about some help” eyes, I realize the vague smile is for the phone conversation she’s having, not for me. She spends the next 2 minutes staring at her desk, tapping with a pencil in a jazzy rat-a-tat-tat.

She may still be tapping now, for all I know. I’m here to hand over money, and once again I’m being turned down—but far more rudely. Two minutes is my limit. I walk out.

Shop #3 (why is it always the last one?): You’re exactly what the doctor ordered

I’m on one of the main drags north of Wilmington, trying to find this blasted shop, wondering how anyone gets started if folks are so determined to make this experience a misery. I’m wondering, too, how bad it would be to simply order something sight unseen from the web, if I really did my research. As a dedicated believer in supporting local stores I’m sad that I can’t find anyone I’d enjoy giving my money to, and now, I just can’t find this place at all.

Finally, here it is, behind a few other shops, squished in a small building with three more businesses, its simple, aging signage dwarfed by all the visual noise on this thoroughfare. I pull in and wonder if my car will get hit when other folks try to move in the tiny lot. As I walk up to the steps leading into the building, I get a pull in the wool of my suit from a thorn on a plant I brush by. With a sigh of resignation I push the door open, expecting little.

And little is what I get. One lady, two itsy-bitsy rooms, crammed to the rafters with instruments and sheet music and goodness-knows what-all, and not twelve inches to walk anywhere in the shop. Unbelievably there is another customer somehow shoehorned into the place, so I make an attempt at looking around while I wait.

They’re talking like they’re old friends, the owner and the customer, though it’s clear from the conversation that this customer has never been in here before. They’re relaxed and laughing and the owner (who has waved to me now, and held up one finger to optimistically suggest I may only be waiting a minute) is taking her time, explaining everything about the instrument being considered, answering every question generously.

Listening in, I begin to relax. I can’t really walk far enough to see the whole place (my daughter’s bedroom is orderly compared to this), so I stare into space, admiring the five guitars on the wall. Not much choice, but I don’t need much choice.

I make up my mind to give this store my money.

When Tracy walks out (yes, I listened in that closely, I had no choice), happy with her new saxophone, the owner beams at me, bounds right over as if the aisles are six feet wide, and walks me through everything a mama could need to know, from size to construction to steel-vs.-nylon strings and keeping The Kid’s fingers clean.

So the strings will last longer, I nod, thinking I’m catching on.

“Well, maybe it does that,” she says, “but really dirt on the strings just makes the notes sound dull. So tell her to keep her fingers clean if she wants it to sound good!”

Keep it in a garbage bag and save money on a case. Keeps the dust off, as long as your kid’s a careful one you’re fine. You won’t wear strings out as fast as people say you will, not at first. She shows me two beginner guitars and upsells me thirty bucks with ease. When I was worried about hundreds and she can explain how thirty can make the guitar sound better, why argue?

Last, she won’t let me buy me a guitar today—and that’s when I am really sold.

“Bring her back,” she says, handing me the plainest business card I’ve seen in a decade, “and let her feel what it’s like before you commit to it. We’ll set you up then. If she loves it, this is a long-term thing, you know.”

Bringing her back to involve her in the decision was my plan all along, and the fact that the owner’s just read my mind and made a decision based purely on satisfying the real customer—The Kid—rather than the one with a wallet—astounds me.

“Feel free to check out the other two stores near here, and make sure you two have found the right instrument,” says the owner as we chat before I back out of the nook I’m crunched into, to head past the thorns to my car. “How we all look at it is this. If another person becomes a musician, no matter whose store they begin at, we raise the level of water in the pool for everyone. You’ll get lessons in one place, strings someplace else, music wherever… What we all want is more musicians in Delaware. We don’t care who starts ‘em, let’s just get ‘em started!”

Having just come from those other two stores, I know too well that this is NOT how they all look at it. But lordy, I’m glad she does.

A 1, 2—and a 1, 2, 3, 4!

1. Maximum Customer Experience can definitely be about satisfying a high-end customer. Maybe that’s what shop #1 really wants to do, though I’m honestly not sure. They do cater to the school-band-rental crowd, for instance, which seems to go against a high-end image. If that is what they want, they aren’t communicating that well, except in being rather unhelpful to and uninterested in a newbie.

You can do it. But if you want to say “this shop’s not for you” to some people, you’ve got to be clear in your message.

2. MCE can set a mood (and if it’s really Maximum, it will); your web site or physical location can be darkly rock-and-roll professional, like the first shop, or laid out beautifully and simply, almost like an art gallery, as the second place was, or you can invoke a hundred other moods. Know what you’re going for and follow through in all design elements, from the practice rooms to—ahem!—your printed materials. No printed materials so I can walk away and make this big decision? What was shop #1 thinking of?

3. I’m a big believer in price tags (physically, or on your website), and if shop #2 had had some, maybe I would have waited around longer and educated myself a bit more. (Maybe three minutes. Which still wouldn’t have been enough….)

Your prospects come to you more educated than ever these days. Don’t be afraid to give them all the information they’ll need to choose you.

4. There is no getting around it—the critical element of Maximum Customer Experience will always be the human element. It’s been said a thousand times because it’s true:

People buy from people.

Yes, it will always come down to that. I’m buying from a knowledgeable, helpful, patient, friendly person, who cared more about “raising the level of water in the pool for everyone” (got to love that metaphor) than about capturing dollars.

The funny thing is, there are few better ways for a small business to capture dollars than by thinking in exactly that way.

Did you notice there’s exceptions to the rules?

Yes. I’m buying in spite of an awful location, lousy graphics, and the worst “traffic flow” I’ve ever seen outside of a basement crawl space.

So make sure your people are available, make sure they know their stuff, and make sure they are always, 100% focused, on what it would be like to be on the other side of the counter. Make sure they smile. Make sure they deliver delight. Even if that’s the only rule you follow, follow that rule slavishly.

By the way, the answer to “Why is it always the last one,” of course, is that when you’ve found what you need, you stop looking.   ;)

Hope you find the ideas you were looking for here today!

 

Shocked? Not surprised at all? Reminded of the six times this has happened to you lately?

Are there other ways for a shop to make the sale when you’re learning about a purchase that’s completely foreign to you? Please share your ideas in our comment section!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

(With apologies to the brothers Van Halen. Ooo-ooh–oooo–ooh.)

No more twiddling your thumbs—try these (mostly) easy Experience tweaks

Don’t sit on your duff just because it’s hot and business is slow! Get out and:

  • Talk to prospects
  • Host an open house
  • Start a blog
  • Revise a web page
  • Clean something really thoroughly
  • Recognize top-performing staff with a lunch
  • Add lighting
  • Call a client Propheteer and ask for a recommendation
  • Create a special offer based on a recent discussion

Without a lot of effort you can be making improvements that will position your small business for growth in the fall…

When it’s cool enough for you to think again.

What easy Experience tweaks do you recommend?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

This Will NOT Be an Insiders-Only Story

Yes, dear reader, there are essential Customer Experience tips for your small business here. You do not have to care about the overlong hair of the bon vivant M. Chartrand of Men With Pens fame to grow your small business with these five lessons. Because while I was in Québec last week, I want you to know, all I was doing was thinking about writing for you. With a glass of red wine in my hand. Somehow, always nearing empty.

And yes, it’s going to be better than the suggested post “16 Ways Poutine Can Improve Your Marketing.” Mais oui.

Put these observations from all sides of this complex transaction to work for you, today:

1. Be there when you’re needed. Simple. Know when people are going to need you most. Be there then. If his hair-chick had been available on Saturday when the royal mane needed taming, I wouldn’t have been browbeaten until I gave in.

2. Repeat yourself often. We’ve talked about repeated marketing messages before. Your first message isn’t heard. James: “I need a haircut.” Me: “Mm.” Your fifth is just softening the prospect up. But if you’re very persistent and building up with notes that resonate with your audience, somewhere between the 7th and the 20th, you’ll make that sale.

3. Track responses. Refine your message. Focus on benefits to the customer. “I look a mess” failed to present the benefits to me. “Please” was pleasant but not really motivating. Both allowed me an out: “No, you look fine.” “No way.” At last, “How can I take you to the concert looking like this?” sold me. There’s no answer for that but “All right, I’ll do it.”

4. Go way beyond expectations. “Be prepared” is nice if you’re a boy scout, but for your business, we want more than nice, right? We want Wow! After I howled that I did not want to be responsible for mangling his hair for 20 minutes in completely predictable futility, James pulled out a mangy pair of scissors that’s seen way too many of his kids’ school projects and began to attempt to remove enough gunk to make it usable. I went off to my suitcase and returned with my barber scissors and cute hairdresser-comb. (Weird fact, hidden talent (?), true story. I always keep them with me when I travel in case someone needs a trim, and yes, it happens all the time.) He nearly died of surprise. Probably mattered a lot less if I nervously buggered the haircut after that hearty laugh.

5. Never make your problems their problems. Nerves about cutting a friend’s hair aside, I was also tired (ref. red wine above), sore from a sightseeing trip the day before, and pressed for time. Okay, I tried playing the pressed-for-time card in the objections stage (when I was being sold, before I was the provider, if you follow me), but once it was a go, then it was time to crack jokes, make James relaxed, show off my scar and tell the story from chopping my finger in a long-ago hairdressing incident, and make it seem as though we had plenty of time and the haircut would look smokin’ when I was done. Not moan about my issues and induce guilt. If you’ve ever listened to a cashier gripe while you’re trying to fork over some cash, you know what I’m talking about. Your problems should never be part of your banter.

And lest you think there’s a strange meme going around the very small blogosphere about James Chartrand’s vacations, let me remind you of the post’s title: This was my vacation.   ;)

I did it all for you.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. Never dare me to write a post about your haircut, unless you’re willing to have me take you up on it.

My Pleasure

A local restaurant where I sometimes have lunch is under new ownership.

As far as I know there was nothing wrong with the old ownership, so hopefully this is just a normal, time-to-move-on being.

(A nice thought, that normal things do happen, even in abnormal economies.)

The menu hasn’t changed, but food quality has gone up. That surprised me—food quality was already very good for a quickservice restaurant.

The place was always clean, but it might be a bit cleaner now. In fact, nice, but incremental changes hardly anyone would notice were instantly everywhere, including in the smiling face of the ever present new owner. Together they do make a big difference to the Customer Experience.

The thing I’ve noticed most is a fascinating detail that I have no doubt was chosen with extreme care; one which probably required quite a bit of retraining in order to convince employees who stayed on (I’ve seen little turnover in the three or four months since the change) to implement it consistently. Yet like the cleaner floors and better food, it appeared instantly when the new owner took over and has remained almost flawlessly in place.

“My pleasure.”

At first I thought I was imagining it, or that it was a quirk of just one employee. But no, this tiny phrase is a deliberate decision, the new owner’s signature, stamped on every interaction:

May I have another Diet Coke?

“My pleasure.”

Thanks.

“My pleasure.”

It’s a little wearing, to be honest. The grand “My pleasure” every time a simple “Yes” or “Sure” or “You’re welcome” would do.

For a while I couldn’t stand it, but it’s kinda tough to complain about a surplus of manners while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handbasket completely devoid of manners, so I continue to smile and thank each person again for their grace.

How much?

“$16.56.”

Here’s my card.

“My pleasure.”

Thanks.

“My pleasure.”

Thanks very much.

“My…

Oh, somebody stop me from thanking them!

The new owner’s stamp on the fine customer service at his restaurant. It’s as distinctive as if he’d re-covered the chair—and to be honest, twice as memorable.

But this post isn’t about “My pleasure.”

In the past few weeks I’ve been served twice by one employee whose face has definitely been around for quite a while. She’s nice. She gets us our food. And this post is about her.

Because she says, “You’re welcome.” While the new owner’s signature phrase echoes from every other transaction in the store, she even says, “Sure.”

When the new owner’s got his sea legs and he’s ready to make changes, she has got to go.

Maximum Customer Experience will always require maximum staff buy-in. This guy must be a heck of a motivator because his staff is 99 3/4% behind him.

The devil is in the details. And even more, in the details of those details!

That 1/4% that I can see as an outsider may be a sign of other issues with this employee, or it may not. What’s for certain, is that 1/4% is the tiny crack in his strategy through which an army of new staff who won’t respect his policies can walk, over time.

Sometimes a hundred performance measures miss what’s staring your customers in the face. To hang on to those incremental changes that have brightened a lot of lunches, Ms. “You’re welcome” must be fired.

Sometimes, marching to the beat of a different drummer is really a middle finger to the rules in disguise.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson