What do Customers Want?

Quote of the Day: "It’s always with the best intentions that the worst work is done." – Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

Someone shared the following comments with me recently.

"I try to do a good job, but my customers seem to be more hurried, tougher and more demanding than ever!  At times, they can be so demanding that it’s downright difficult to provide "outstanding service"–or even "adequate service". Don’t they understand that I have other work to do, and other customers to serve?"

Have any of you experienced this in your place of business?

Join the Club. Today’s pace of life is faster than at any time in history, and your customers have less tolerance for incompetence than previous generations–or than what they had 10 years ago. The current generation of customers have a higher set of expectations that will take more than "best intentions" to satisfy.

What do they want? They want what they want. Once again. What do they want? They want what they want. Plain and simple…well maybe not so simple.

Business guru Peter Drucker put it this way: "Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality."

Businesses that hope to succeed well into the 21st century must prepare their service and sales staff to provide superior service based upon criteria that is determined by their customers.

We sometimes forget that customers don’t read a script, telling them how to behave and what products they should buy…and how they have to be nice to the sales clerk or service person, and to buy what we need them to buy. They are in our places of business to meet some unspoken set of needs or wants. It is our job, and the job of each service and sales person to figure out how to do this.

What do customers want? They want what they want–and, over the "long haul" will take nothing less!

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Posted in: Customer Service

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Breaking Down Barriers

Quote of the Day: "The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win." – Sir Roger Bannister (1929 – )

On this day in 1954 in Oxford, England at the Iffley Road track, some 3,000 spectators braved cool temperatures and winds up to 25 mph (40 km/h) to watch what would prove to be an historic event. What they were about to witness has since been referred to as the "Miracle Mile". British medical student Roger Bannister, at the time twenty-five years of age accomplished something that sporting experts and the medical community had considered impossible–he completed the mile in less than four minutes.

Bannister’s 3:59.4 time set a new standard by which other milers would henceforth be measured. Ironically, within months of this breakthrough, another athlete broke the four-minute barrier. In fact, at the time of this writing, more than 700 sub four-minute miles have been recorded.

In his book The Nature of Success, Mac Anderson talks about the power of belief, and how that many of life’s obstacles can be overcome through faith and persistence. He quotes philanthropist and Amway founder Rich DeVos who said "The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it is possible."

Sometimes the greatest challenge in life and work is to identify specific goals, develop a plan to reach them, and then stick to the plan and your belief in yourself until the goals are reached.

Roger Bannister was able to do this. And 51 years ago today, his name was recorded in history books as the man who broke down what seemed an "insurmountable" barrier.

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Posted in: Sports

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Cinco de Sandwich

Quote of the Day: "The power in my apartment went out the other night. I had to use the flash on my camera to find my way around. I took twenty-seven pictures of my kitchen while I was making a sandwich. The neighbors thought there was lightning in my house." – Steven Wright (1955- ) Canadian comedian

Today is Cinco de Mayo (a traditional Mexican celebration on the 5th of May). Many believe that this day marks the anniversary of the date on which Mexico gained independence from Spain. Others mistakenly assume that the first Margaritas were invented on this day.

Neither is the case.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the brave Mexican soldiers who fought valiantly to protect their homeland and defeat an army of 8,000 French soldiers who were attempting to seize Mexico City. This battle was won by the army of 4,000 Mexican soldiers on May 5, 1862.

Today is also a day to celebrate one of America’s favorite foods: the sandwich. This day has been pronounced "National Hoagie Day". And what, exactly is a hoagie? Good question. For starters, the "Hoagie" originated in Philadelphia, and was actually declared the "official sandwich of Philadelphia" by former Mayor Edward G. Rendell. Similar sandwiches are known by a number of other names, including subs, heroes, poor boys, grinders, bombers, etc.
Hoagies are built-to-order sandwiches filled with fresh meats and cheeses, as well as lettuce, tomatoes and onions, topped off with a dash of oregano on an Italian roll.

Over the years, several stories have been offered to explain the origin of the "hoagie" name. The one that seems most logical, is that "hoagie" is derived from "hoggie"…a less than complementary description of a person indulging in one of these generous-sized sandwiches.

Perhaps, in the spirit of today’s "dual Holiday", you’d like to build a couple of "hoagies" on flour tortillas with a side of guacamole…or maybe a come tacos stuffed with deli specialties. If so, I may see you sometime after 5:00 p.m.

Tacos

Posted in: Significant Trivia

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An “Apeeling” Holiday

Quote of the Day: "Reality, however Utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays." – Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) Brave New World

Holidays are a time for celebration, relaxation and gathering with friends, family and loved ones. They provide a break from the everyday routine of work and life. Employers recognize this fact, and usually provide employees with as many as a dozen "paid" days off each year to celebrate Holidays.

I was surprised to learn that there are Holidays for almost anything you can think of–seasons, people, Historical and Religious events, animals, food, drink, and so on. On this particular day, many across the U.S. will pause to celebrate "National Candied Orange Peel Day". If you are reading this on May 4, and were unaware of the Holiday, you may feel a sense of panic.Fear not. Along with the announcement of today’s special significance, I am providing a recipe which will allow you to celebrate the festivities in full.

Enjoy!

Jody Prival’s recipe for great Candied Orange Peel:

(Recipe will yield about four cups)

3 Large oranges

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

2 3/4 cups sugar

Cut the peel on each orange into quarters, then remove peel in sections (or use the peel halves from juiced oranges).

Slice peel into 1/4 inch-wide slices and remove as much of the white part as possible.

Place peels in a medium-sized non-aluminum saucepan with 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, and cook, covered for 15 minutes. Drain peels in a collander. Repeat.

Boil 3/4 cups of water, syrup, and 2 cups of sugar, stir until dissolved. Add peels. Simmer, stir occasionally for 35 to 55 minutes, until peels are translucent and tender. Remove peels with slotted spoon to a large rack placed over waxed paper. Drain for 5 minutes. Separate peels. Let dry until tacky (about 1 hour).

Place the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl. Add the peels and toss until they are evenly coated with sugar. Transfer the sugar-coated peels to racks to air-dry for about 2 hours.

Store peels in an airtight container for up to 1 month (or bag and freeze).

Optional: Dip peels in chocolate instead of coating with sugar.

Suggestion: Try other types of citrus peel for variety.

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Posted in: Food and Drink

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Working Without Wires

Quote of the Day: "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" associates of RCA chairman David Sarnoff in response to his suggestion that the coproration invest in radio technology in 1920.

Radio technology. It is at the core of today’s wireless explosion. Without radio technology, there would be no cellphones, PDAs, pagers, or a number of other communication enablers that so many of us use several times each day.

One of the most interesting things about a cell phone is that it is actually a  radio– an extremely sophisticated radio, but a radio nonetheless. The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, and wireless communication can trace its roots to the invention of the radio by Nikolai Tesla in the 1880s (formally presented in 1894 by a young Italian named Guglielmo Marconi). It was only natural that these two great technologies would eventually be combined!

I don’t know about you…but I like being wireless! I can take music with me when I work out. I can talk on the phone from virtually anywhere. It’s great to take my office on the road–here in the states, or overseas. I have the freedom to stop in a store, sip some coffee, catch up on the news–all while getting some work done.

As a young boy, I  would read the Dick Tracy comic strips–and imagine how "cool" it would be to call my friends on a wrist radio. If only I could have a wrist radio, a Jetson-style flying car, AND a "shoe phone" like Maxwell Smart…how great would that be!?

Thanks to the visionaries and risk-takers who turned a deaf ear to the nay-sayers of their day, we in the 21st century have an extraordinary number of mobile options at our behest. From a technological standpoint, we’re living in the future.

Oops! Gotta get going–late to a meeting. Now all I need is one of those flying cars…

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Posted in: Web/Tech

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Failure to Communicate

Quote of the Day: "What we’ve got…is failure to communicate." – Strother Martin (as Captain, Road Prison 36) from the film Cool Hand Luke.

It’s 2005–Do your customers know where you are?

One of the most recognizable (and often misquoted) lines in American film history serves as a reminder that sometimes, depsite our efforts, we fail to get our message across to the customer.

In our dealings with customers–successful communication is absolutely critical. In an age of "option rich" customers, those of us who make our living providing services and experiences for others will succeed or fail based largely on our ability to communicate effectively.

Take a look around you. Look at the "communication-enablers" carried by the typical business person. Cellphones. Pagers. PDAs. Wireless-enabled Laptops. Yet, even with these tools…how often do we wait hours–sometimes even days, for a response from a merchant or service provider? These and other devices facilitate communication–but it is up to each of us to use these tools to listen, speak, understand and respond on a timely basis.

From the "option-rich" customer’s point of view, "failure to communicate" is not an acceptable option.

Cellphone_conversation

Posted in: Customer Service

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Time for Play

Quote of the Day: "The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground." – G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) English poet, novelist, essayist

Play. Not the opposite of work. A way to "recharge the human battery"Just a temporary diversion from the daily duties of life. And what a great diversion it can be!

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Posted in: Life

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Talk, talk and more talk…

Quote of the Day: "Loquacity: n. A disorder which renders the sufferer unable to curb his tongue when you wish to talk." – from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914)

Talk is cheap. Talk is plentiful. Talk can be little more than noise.

If you doubt the veracity of these statements, try "googling" the word blog. I did this morning and came up with a list of 74,500,000 results (that’s about 1 result for every 4 U.S. citizens).

Talk, in the form of the spoken word is available via television, radio, casette tape(remember them?), CD, Webcast, Podcast, etc. Words, accompanied by still or moving images are available through just as many outlets. 

Talk is, and has been since the invention of moveable type, widely available in written form as well. It seems that, although public libraries, bookstores and publishing houses work in concert to make current and classical wisdom available in printed form–we often don’t have time…or make time to spend with books. It’s so much easier to "plug in" or to surf the internet than to crack the cover of some dusty tome. Besides, its much too noisy in many restaurants or coffee shops to read–over the sound of the ubiquitous television monitors blaring sitcom re-runs, or the latest "World News" from CNN.

I intend to spend a bit of time each week in which I get away from talk–if only for a short time. This may enable me to hear what I am thinking–and to think about where I am going. Perhaps you will do this, as well.

Imagine a world in which we slow down for a few moments each day to reflect, contemplate, meditate, dream–and listen.

WOW! Would you like to talk about the possibilities?

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Posted in: Life

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Quid pro Quo

Quote of the Day: "Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward us." -Earl Nightingale

My first taste of the food business came when I was a high school student. Like 1 out of 7 adult Americans, one of my first jobs was working as a counter clerk at McDonalds (perhaps you have heard of them). A group of us thought it would be pretty neat to work at a place where you could get half-price meals during your lunch or dinner break.

Once hired, my friends and I went through our first training session–something called orientation. We were taught to look every customer in the eye, to smile, be courteous, and above all…to offer a sincere thank you at the close of each transaction. In fact, we were admonished to make sure to thank departing customers as we saw them leave the restaurant.

I took this charge to heart–so much so, in fact, that on one particular occasion my manager called me aside for yelling across the restaurant to express my company’s gratitude lest a previously ignored patron should slip out "unthanked". Most of the time, however, my efforts to sincerely thank the customer met with a positive result. Over time I began to understand that the majority of our "regulars" enjoyed the enthusiastic practice of thanking them.

Thirty-something years later, I still think about some of the lessons learned as a McEmployee. It has caused me to think about my attitude toward work, family and friends. I believe that the attitude I see in others is, at least in part, a reflection of the attitude I exude.

Do I like what I am seeing?

Quid pro Quo.

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Posted in: Life

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Time for Convenience

Quote of the Day: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." – Matthew Broderick (from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

Moving fast to serve an increasingly "convenience-oriented" consumer is critical for any place of business in 2005. As the marketplace for meal solutions welcomes more and more competition, Supermarket service departments would be well served to heed the wisdom in a paraphrase of today’s quote.

"Customers today move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss them."

How do well-intentioned service people miss these customers? Here are a few of the "customer avoidance" methods I have observed in stores within the past few weeks:

  1. Task orientation versus customer focus. Or, to put it another way–making stuff instead of selling stuff.
  2. An inappropriate focus on convenience. Wrongly believing that my personal convenience is more important than that of the customer.
  3. "Off-stage" behaviors. Doing and saying things that irritate, offend or send would-be customers a message that reflects poorly on the place of business.
  4. "SAMENESS". Failing to provide anything new, different or interesting that will slow down or stop shoppers who are looking for something new, different or interesting.

As service people, we must remember that our offerings have to be refreshed, redefined and repositioned frequently. Business success is not an entitlement, it is earned by the consistent execution of smart tactics–tactics that will make us the most convenient, highest-value  provider of the goods/services/experiences we offer. In short…we must put the products/systems/training in place to ensure that we take the time necessary to be convenient.

Speedy

Posted in: Customer Service

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