Carol and Tess

Business Alignment Critical For Success

Railroad Track 1 free foto

If you’ve ever driven a car with a bit of a pull or wobble you know you’ll get where you are going but it’s not necessarily going to be as easy as when the wheels are in alignment.  You’ll be more stressed and tired as you continuously adjust for the pull while you wear out your tires at a faster rate.  It’s the same when you and your business are out of alignment too.

I experienced this as I was reinventing myself after my incentive company, Marquee Incentives, took a hit in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.  This is a business I started 13 years previously and, at the time, it provided a great lifestyle for me and my family,  gave me the travel opportunities I love, matched my obsession about treating people well so everyone wins and enabled me to be awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.  So, when our two best clients went bankrupt within a year of each other and my employees quit one by one, I was devastated.

It took me a while to get over my pity party and figure out a way to rebuild – to reinvent – and I thought I had figured it out a couple of times.   My first attempt at driving my “new car” / business was as a digital marketer, which I’d chosen because of the business opportunity and because digital marketing can provide the ability to have a two-way conversation with customers and prospects while also enabling customized messaging as a result of segmentation.  Both of these tied into the work we were doing in the field of customer loyalty and customer engagement.

After taking the new business model  “the car” for a spin, I realized a business alignment was needed because the business model did not align with my vision of an ideal lifestyle — it’s not easy to travel the world, be location independent and run a business that could change overnight due to regulations or changes implemented by Facebook and Google.

So, back to the drawing board I went.  This time I came up with a different angle and different business model.  Digital marketing was still a part of it, as was my work with incentives, loyalty and recognition and my newly acquired “designations” of being a guerrilla marketing practioner and a joint venture broker.  For sure I thought I had it!  I’d be “the leverage specialist”.  The problem was that no-one knew what the hell a leverage specialist does and I couldn’t explain it in a nutshell.

Once again, the concept was there but the alignment was out — this time it was with the message.  I took time for another pity party as I was at my wits-end.

And then it happened.  All of the things I had been doing had been taking me where I needed to go yet I hadn’t seen those things because my car with the wobbly wheels had “slid off the road and into the trees”.

I didn’t discover this alone — who ever does anything alone? — my “breakthrough” was as a result of a wonderful man, Dave Smith, who said to me “Carol, why don’t you see in yourself what we see in you?”

I do not think I’ll ever be able to thank him enough because I went to bed that night still not knowing but while I slept the answer came to me.  What is it that I’m great at doing?  What is it that people say about me all the time?  What is it that people are asking me to help them with?  And the answer to all three was “Reinvention”.

The story doesn’t end there though, in fact it’s the start of the business alignment in my own life as an entrepreneur.  I made the decision to explore the platform as a business decision and to see if it was in alignment with my skills, my beliefs, my ideal lifestyle and my core values — whew, it was!  I tested the market to see if the message would align — whew it did!

I decided to go forth and claim “reinvention” as my platform, which is something I teach all my students and clients to do — claim a platform, something that is synonymous with you and your work.  Something that when people talk about “reinvention” for example, the next connection is my name Carol Wain, Queen of Reinvention.

I took a number of steps — from starting a web-show, to hosting a reinvention summit, to writing another book, to networking and creating strategic alliances — but then something weird and wacky happened.

I was at the World Domination Summit in Portland in July when my “wheel alignment” took place — and it was MASSIVE.  I was sitting in the balcony while Andrew Warner, from Mixergy, took the audience through a meditation.  I had started to explore spirituality, meditation, self-help, personal development and other “woo woo” stuff a couple of months earlier, so I was vaguely familiar with what we were to do.

Andrew told us to say an affirmation to ourselves 10 times — each time we said it we were to put a finger down on our thigh (starting with baby finger left hand, through to baby finger right hand).  I had bags on my lap and by the time I was organized, we were on the middle finger of the right hand — uggh — I said an affirmation and went “nope” that’s not it, so I said “I’ve been chosen to help reinvent lives” and put down my ring finger on my thigh — yup that felt good.  And then I said it again with more conviction — “I’ve been CHOSEN to reinvent lives” and I put down my baby finger.

As someone who lived completely in her head and didn’t believe anything those “woo woo” people talked about, what I experienced made me burst into tears.  I had such a wave — like a tsunami — of invisible energy waves which hit me, I didn’t know what happened.   Rather stunned, I went outside to try to make sense of it all.  As an intellectual, there is “no sense”, there is simply a belief that something powerful just hit me and something shifted.

I went back inside and chose to sit up front, row 3, left side on the aisle.  Tess Vigeland was talking about leaving her position at NPR without a safety net.  She didn’t know why. Everyone (including Tess) thought she was crazy but she did it anyway.  Things were not working for her anymore.  Her life wasn’t in alignment to what she was supposed to do — although she had no clue what it was.

Carol and Tess

Tess, came off the stage and made a bee-line to me to ask me who I was and what I did.  I said to her “I am Carol Wain, Queen of Reinvention and I help people just like you to reinvent your life”.  Tess was floored, as was I!

Talk about the power of alignment — this was aligning what I believed to be a business decision with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.

So, what does this all mean for you?  If your business isn’t doing what you want it to do, if you’ve created a monster,  if you’ve gone from stressed out employee to stressed out business owner or if you’ve gone from happy entrepreneur to stressed entrepreneur you may want to check your alignment.

The way to get back in alignment starts with the S.U.P.E.R. Reinvention Process.

Stop doing what isn’t working
Understand what you want, why you do what you do and why you need this reinvention
Plan your reinvention
Execute your plan
Readjust as necessary


What lessons do you take from this experience?

Share your thoughts below in the comments …

Is Your Customer Loyalty on Life Support?

happy-customer 300x300What is customer loyalty?  Does it even exist — after all customers can be loyal to your business because of convenience only, yet given a change in their lives — whether a new job or a new home, their loyalty vanishes.  Customers can also be satisfied while doing business with you yet they aren’t loyal.

Do you do business with multiple companies that are competing for your hard-earned money?  I suspect you do, as do many of us — you may buy a book from your local book-store or department store, yet you also likely buy books online too.

So, how does one attract the right customer, convince them to buy, return, buy more and refer their friends and family?  The answer is simple to state in theory yet so many businesses find it difficult to implement because the answer is like a puzzle that requires all the pieces to achieve ultimate success.


Defining Your Ideal Customer

The first step is one that many of us fail to do.  We fail to identify our ideal customers — those people we want to serve and who are also highly profitable while being easy to serve.  Ideal customers appreciate what you offer to them and they make your lives easy compared to difficult or fickle customers.  They do not demand more than your product or service provides.

Effective marketing does not include throwing a “fishing net” out into the marketplace in an attempt to catch as many fish as possible.  Some fish will be great customers, some awful customers and the majority will be the type of customer that could go either way.

Instead we need to be very specific in who we want to attract as an ideal customer — we need a fishing rod with just the right bait.  For example, my business consists of coaching, training and consulting services with optional done-for-you services.  Although there are various divisions and a variety of products within each division, we have clearly identified who our ideal customer is for each.  We have an online training product called FORCE, which targets successful entrepreneurs, with an appreciation for the value of collaboration, and who are ready to take their business to the next level.  We also have a 30-Day Reinvention Challenge that we market to mid-life, successful, business women who are ready to put themselves first and live the life they were meant.

You need to get very specific with your own ideal customer, so that you know them “inside – out”.  Know their fears, worries, problems and exactly what they are looking for in terms of a solution.   When you speak to them in the words they use, solving problems that they have, you will not only attract more ideal customers but you’ll repel the customers you don’t want, which makes it easier to service your ideal customers in a way they will appreciate.

Making the Sale — again and again

When you have gone through the process of identifying your ideal customers and exactly how you can provide a valuable solution to their problems, the next step is to market to them.  You already know which words to use to attract them.  If you don’t, listen to what your customers are saying when they speak to you and then use those terms in your marketing e.g. our customers have “burning desires”; they are “overwhelmed”, “frustrated”, “unsatisfied”, “over worked”, “unappreciated”; they need “more profit”, “more customers”, “better employees” etc..

4 ways to increase your sales:

  1. Cross-selling, which sells a complementary product at the time of sale or shortly thereafter;
  2. Up-selling, which suggests / recommends a product or service which has a higher investment / cost yet provides more of what they need;
  3. Selling more frequently to the same customer using various promotions; and
  4. Adding more customers — preferably as a result of referrals from existing customers.

After you have attracted then convinced your customers to serve them (providing the solution they seek), the next steps are to offer an up-sell or a cross-sell at the time of the purchase.  Why?  Two reasons: they are already in the buying mode; and you are doing them a favour which saves them frustration and time.  For example, if you are selling battery-operated toys, ask if they need the batteries (cross-sell).  If you are selling a consulting package, suggest the next higher tier package if it makes sense (up-sell) or if it doesn’t make sense, suggest a complementary product or service that will make their lives even easier.

Selling more frequently to the same customer occurs when you establish a relationship with them where they will permit you to send relevant offers which they then act upon — even if they had no intention of purchasing at the time they received the offer.   Depending on your customers, you may call them, communicate through social networking channels, send them mobile messages or send them offers via direct mail.

Finally, ask for referrals — it is so easy to do and yet so many people are either fearful of asking or don’t know how valuable referrals are.  There are two great times to ask for the referral — immediately after you have made the sale and when you follow-up to ensure they are happy with their purchase.

Consider offering a “bring a friend” event which not only results in a purchase the original customer may not have made but it will also result in a referral — also remember to upsell and/or cross-sell. Creativity is the key!

Customer Experience

The absolute best way to retain your customers is to ensure their experience is exceptional — that your brand promise is delivered; your product exceeds expectations; your employees deliver consistent service and you are easy to do business with.  Invest time and energy into being your own “detective” by shopping incognito.  Test your systems, your website, your call center, your employees and be sure that you are doing everything possible to retain your ideal customers.  You’ll be far more successful in engaging your customers than businesses that don’t.

Carol Wain is a leadership consultant, trainer, mentor, speaker, best-selling author and Entrepreneur of the Year 2003.  She is the founder of  Marquee Incentives, Marquee Marketing, Marquee Experiences, Marquee Events and Carol Wain International, which provide consulting, training and related products and services that transform businesses.  

Using Carol’s F.O.R.C.E. Formula™, leaders and managers learn how to attract and retain the employees and customers they want, increase sales, reduce expenses and use their strength to make positive changes in the lives of others.  

You can find Carol on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter.  Visit her website at and reach her at

Business Transformation Consultant

1% of Wanna-Be Authors Ever Write and Publish Their Book

Guerrilla Tourism Marketing

When I wrote my Guerrilla Tourism Marketing book and published it on 12-12-12 it was an amazing day for me!!!

I had no idea that >80% of Americans would love to write a book and yet only 1% ever do. (Many thanks to Michelle Holmes for sharing that with me.) Even though I’m both Canadian and British and I don’t know the stats for either country, I’m convinced they are similar.

I wrote my book the “old fashioned way”, meaning it took over a thousand hours.

Most business people and subject matter experts just don’t have the time to devote to old-fashioned writing, which is why, I suppose, very few people achieve their goals and live their dreams.

There is another way…

YOU CAN Write Your Book Quickly, Publish it Easily and Leverage Your Book to Elevate Yourself Above Your Competition.

In fact, our mission is to hold your feet to the fire so your book is written and published within 3 weeks.

Do you think that’s unreasonable?

“Jump Start Jim” Chianese, wrote 2 books in one week…

YES TWO (2) books…

… IN ONE (1) week

…and with my help we are publishing it next week.

Then I will help him market his books in ways that the traditional publishing houses are unable to do.

“What do you mean  — market my book?”… is a question I often hear.

Well, you aren’t a subject market expert who writes a non-fiction book just because….

You write because you want to share your insight to help others … and you (should) want to elevate yourself above your competition as an author.

To do that… You need to market your book.

You need to have:

  • Promotions to sell books,
  • Promotions to get reviews,
  • Promotions to gain “best seller status”.

You need to market your book to make yourself stand out compared to the “other 1% who have written a book”.

We have a plan to do all of that… 

… And whether we help you to write and publish or if you have already written and published…

…you would be “crazy” to ignore this opportunity!

Then it’s time to leverage… ooh, I love that word… leverage!

You (should) want to become the “expert authority” whenever the media is looking for a source.

You (should) want to become a celebrity in your field.

… and we give you the tools, the training, the kick-in-the-pants and the support to

Become A Celebrity in YOUR field.

You know you want to… you really do… you really should… just do it!

Living Your Brand Promise

“How can I optimize my marketing budget?” and “How can I get more sales?”

… these are two questions that I’m regularly asked and they are not only valid questions but they are indicative of reality… we need to spend less on marketing (and other expenses) while we increase our sales (and profit).

My answer is usually the same…

  • Where do you currently spend your marketing budget?
  • What marketing activities can be proven to increase brand recognition and sales?
  • What do you spend your money on that you shouldn’t because it does not work?
  • What do you spend money on without knowing if it is producing results?

Then, I ask tougher questions, still related to sales and marketing…

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What is your brand promise?
  • What is your customer acquisition cost?

… and once we know these things… I ask the one-two-punch questions.

  • Are you living your brand promise?
  • Consistently?

If you are not living your brand promise — consistently — and your customer experience is not consistently equal to or greater than your brand promise, you are simply wasting money.

Marketing isn’t just advertising, it’s every exposure to your brand.  From the cleanliness of your premise, to your service, quality and your customer experience, you must be relentless in delivering according to your brand promise.

Put your energy and money into hiring, training, equipment, infrastructure and whatever else it takes so that you know that day-in-day-out you will deliver what you say do.

Then… work on creating and nurturing relationships with your customers (you know, the ones that love you because you do what you say you’ll do… each and every time).  Use those relationships to increase referrals, increase joint ventures, increase sales and lower your customer acquisition cost.

A significant portion of a business’ value is based on intangible factors such as goodwill, partnerships, alliances and key employees, so it makes sense to spend time, money and energy to maximize that value.

A quick example of what to do and what not to do:

We have just returned from a cruise out of the Port of Miami.  This cruise line’s branding is all about “fun” yet, on the ship we saw one lone crew member having fun (excluding the activities people).  She was a waitress that had obviously bonded with a couple of passengers.  She was laughing and interacting with them.  Mind you, she totally ignored us but that’s a different story.

The rest of the crew, except for our cabin steward, who was friendly, hospitable and called out to us by name as he saw us; the dining room hostess who was the only person to ask for feedback and provide “hospitality”; and the waitress who served bar drinks on the “Serenity Deck”, the rest of the “team” appeared to be demoralized, unappreciated and they were certainly not having “fun”.

Eager to get back to our expectation of hospitality, I arranged to visit a couple of hotels while in Cozumel.

Hotel in Cozumel

We went to the Intercontinental Presidente and we were thoroughly impressed by the property and the staff.

I loved their attention to comfort.  They were hospitable, genuine, smiling and caring.  We were invited to stay for lunch and it was delicious.

We then went to visit the Cozumel Palace.  We’ve stayed at another Palace Resort twice in the past year and we’ve visited a couple of other properties.  We know what to expect in terms of quality and service.  This property was small – wedged between the road and the sea – and I was a bit concerned because of the noise on the road side and the lack of beach on the sea-side.  However, we would stay there because of two things:  Palace’s dedication to both quality and service.

So what has all of this got to do with “Living Your Brand Promise?”

Everything actually… you see, because the Intercontinental Presidente and the Cozumel Palace both deliver what they promise, they can lower their marketing costs and increase their sales because they engage their customers.

Engaging with customers means communicating with them..

Customer Engagement is different though … it means you’ve earned their “heart”.

Engaged customers are more likely to refer people to your business, they are more accepting when things don’t go right and they are more likely to continue to do business with you.

Compare this to a company that does not live the brand promise.  They constantly have to hire new employees (after all, employees won’t stick around either if the brand promise is inconsistent with reality), they constantly have to deal with rookie learning curves, they constantly have to spend tons of money on marketing and they do not enjoy the repeat, high-profit advantage of engaged customers.

So, the best way to increase your profit, increase your sales and optimize all your expenses, including your marketing budget is to go back to your roots and be sure that you are living your brand promise each and every day.

10 Customer Engagement Ideas

Build a community… We’d all love to have the same level of customer engagement as Harley Davidson but the reality is that it’s a lot of work.  Besides, how many of us have products that are cool enough to be tattooed on your head?  When you build your community around you, your community will support you and you’ll have higher levels of customer engagement.

Harley TattooListen… your customers are trying to tell you about themselves and about your products and organization. When you listen, then act accordingly, you will work toward customer engagement one person at a time.  Social Media is a fantastic vehicle for listening and responding.

Marry the information collected from the myriad of touch points and databases with the key to customer engagement… attitudinal data. After all, if you don’t know the emotion / attitudes behind a purchase how will you gain “the heart” of your customer?

Customer Engagement Ideas:

  1. Embrace Facebook, Twitter, online opinion forums. Open your minds, set parameters and engage in dialogue.
  2. Hold a contest.  Make sure it’s fun and engaging.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to participate and the reward should be desirable.  Afterwards, ask the winner to create a testimonial for your brand.  What better way to build fan engagement and customer engagement?
  3. On Facebook, choose a Fan-of-the-week and show them some love by featuring them on your wall.  You may even choose to reward them with a gift/prize.
  4. Create your own Social Network as part of your website
  5. A traditional customer engagement tool is a loyalty program: points for purchase, discount for purchase, bonus products on purchase; reward for referrals etc.
  6. Text marketing loyalty campaigns:  ask your customers to sign up for your VIP club and then send them specials that are only available to the Mobile VIP Club through their mobile phone.  Not only will you have exclusivity, which can create customer engagement but you can also boost your sales.
  7. On the subject of mobile.  Create a scavenger hunt, using, or (this is for Garmin GPS users only).  Scavenger hunts are fun and can really build a community around your business
  8. Create a mobile app that provides content the user wants, with the bonus being that you push VIP Club promotions to them (e.g. come to the restaurant today and receive a free appetizer or dessert; Surprise guest is jamming in the club tonight, the first 20 VIP members and up to 3 guests can join the VIP line
  9. Ask your customers to provide testimonials.  Video is best, Audio is second best, online reviews next and good old-fashioned paper testimonials work too!
  10. Continually focus on your “TALK Factor”.  This are your best community building traits: Trustworthy – Accessible – Likeable and Knowledgeable

Special Events for Increasing Customer Engagement:

    1. Hold a celebration in store;
    2. Create invite-only access to lecture / conference / educational session;
    3. Treat customers to major league games, concerts, performances etc.;
    4. Host a group travel program for large volume, most profitable customers;
    5. For B2B customers, create a series of webinars for your customers
    6. Host a Meet-up, Twitter Party or Google Hangout


What are YOU doing to increase your customer engagement?  Tell me below in the comments!


Carol Wain is a leadership consultant, trainer, mentor, speaker, best-selling author and Entrepreneur of the Year 2003.  She is the founder of  Marquee Incentives, Marquee Marketing, Marquee Experiences, Marquee Events and Carol Wain International, which provide consulting, training and related products and services that transform businesses.  

Using Carol’s F.O.R.C.E. Formula™, leaders and managers learn how to attract and retain the employees and customers they want, increase sales, reduce expenses and use their strength to make positive changes in the lives of others.  

You can find Carol on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter.  Visit her website at and reach her

Avoid behaving like these retail giants to increase customer engagement

You know those days when you just want to shake someone silly… well I had one of those days.  You see I had not one but two disappointing experiences as a customer in one day.  The first one was with our local Staples store and my experience gets an A+ for doing many things wrong… or an F for actually making me happy to spend my money there.

Surprised Businesswoman - IsolatedIt all started on Saturday night when I submitted a file to two Staples stores (one locally and the other in another part of the province, both for pick up).  This file is extremely valuable and extremely time sensitive… it is the draft copy of the first part of my Guerrilla Marketing book tentatively titled “Guerrilla Tourism Marketing  – Increase your profits | Delight your customers | Inspire your employees.”  The irony, of course, being that my experience will not increase their profits, it did not delight their customer and their employees were not inspired to sort the problem.

The mistakes… in chronological order by vendor

I submitted my order on Saturday and received email confirmations (expected).  Given that my order was less than $75 and knowing that the copy center was open on weekends, I expected that the order would be processed by Sunday.  The other Staples order was completed and an email was received at  “Date: Sun, Jun 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM / Subject: Staples Copy & Print Online – Your order #xxxxxxxx is complete and ready for pick up”.

However, I did not receive an email for the copies I ordered locally.  So, I went to the copy centre just before 5pm on Sunday only to be told that their copier was broken and that the file had been sent to Vancouver.  Okay, hold on…. no-one at Staples could email me or call to tell me this in advance?  Strike one.  I was told to come back at either 10 or 11am on Monday when their delivery would be received.

Monday was a crazy busy day for me, so just before 7pm I checked online to see if there was an update and nope, there wasn’t, but I did now see a message that the copier was broken.  So I called the store and pressed the various numbers to get to the copy centre.  Hmmm… everyone was with customers and no one was able to take my call, although it appeared that the call bounced from the copy centre to another line.  So I hung up and phoned back.  This time I did not choose the copy centre option but I did choose customer service and this is when the customer disservice really kicked in.

I had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Shelley (who I confirmed today is part of the management team).  I told her my name and explained that I was trying to reach the copy centre.  I asked if they were available now.  Shelley informed me that the copy centre closed at 7pm.  I told her that I had been waiting for a copy order placed on Saturday and that I was told that it would come in at 10 or 11am on Monday. She asked for my name.   I told her that I hadn’t received an email or phone call to inform me of the status of the order.  I told her that this was a very important document and that I needed it due to a book deadline.  I went on to say that I knew the printer was broken but I didn’t really care.  Their problems should not be my problem and something should have been done (hmmm… perhaps printing it on a colour printer might have worked since 99% of the copy in the document was black anyway… now that would be thinking of the customer first!)

She asked for my name (seriously, she’d heard it 2x already).  She told me that the printer was fixed on Monday.  When I said something snarky she told me to watch my tone…. Well, that would be strike two….  You see, I don’t really care that she doesn’t know what goes on in the copy centre, nor do I care about their machine problems.  I don’t care that they have to send orders to Vancouver  “hub” in the situation where the order couldn’t be filled and I really don’t care that the copy centre person had left 2 minutes before I called the first time.

I told her that she was not at all helpful along with all those things that I really don’t care about.  I became so exasperated by her lack of … hmmm… customer service, empathy, support, willingness to do what it takes (that’s as an employee, let alone a manager) that I said to her “Why didn’t they just print my file on the freaking printer then?”.  To which she said “What did you say?” to which I replied “I said, why don’t they just print my file on the freaking printer”, to which she said “That’s not what you said” and to which I responded “Oh yes, that’s what I said”.  Okay… what was that now, strike three???… so then she asked for my name AGAIN and she told me that Ann would phone in the morning.

A short while later, a perky little voice called me to say that they had found my order in the “hub” box and that I could pick it up.  Right, that’s great that Shelley didn’t call back…. Instead she delegated.  Nice… any person that works with me (manager or not) would have their ass in a sling if they pulled a stunt like that!… strike four.

But wait… that’s not all… today I went to Staples at just before 9am to discover signs on the door that “due to reasons beyond their control it was cash only”.  Strike five.  So, I entered anyway and was greeted by the cashier who told me that it was cash-only because their machines were down.  I asked her where to go to get cash and off I went to a bank that charged me $1.50 to withdraw cash because I didn’t bank with them.

So, money in hand, I went to the copy centre.   I’ve had more than enough by now… but I kept my cool and explained the entire situation and got a better response than any I’d received so far … which was an “I don’t know why you didn’t get a call, someone obviously dropped the ball yesterday” with some concern in her voice.

However,  there was another missed opportunity… she didn’t immediately offer anything to make this up to me.  Strike six Eventually she offered a 20% discount, which was the best she could do.  I took it but decided that I’d help them to avoid this situation in the future.

6 Strikes = 6 Lessons


Lesson #1.

If the machine is broken, use another one… even if it means a colour copier instead of a black and white one.  The little “perk” would be that I got to see the coloured bits in colour and I would not be inconvenienced.

Lesson #2.

If rules are so strictly enforced that you’d lose your job or be reprimanded because you are trying to delight your customers, either speak up to get the rules changed or find another job because no business that cares about their customers has rules that will send their customers to a competitor.  Attn: Management find some common sense and give employees the ability to make the situation acceptable to the customer.

Lesson #3.

Tell your customers when things go wonky and you cannot live up to your promise.  Twice, this team failed to show an ounce of customer service let alone saying “hey, we have a problem but I’d like to do this instead”


Don’t hire people that cannot work with an upset customer to resolve an issue.  And here’s a bonus… only hire people that can remember a simple name like “Carol Wain”.


Communicate…. There is no excuse why my situation wasn’t noted on the front of my file with a message left for the employee to make things right.

Lesson #6.

If there are things out of your control (such as your debit/credit card machines being out of service) offer a token of appreciation for coming to the store.  Yes, donuts and coffee or fruit and juice are not going to make it right if I have to leave to find a bank machine but the thought would be appreciated.  However, what would have been even better is a discount to compensate me for the bank fees and additional effort it required to get the bank and back.

Now onto my next you-didn’t-win-any-awards-today customer experience

I had a craving for a Safeway hot sandwich, so at about 11:30 I made a trek to pick up lunch.  Well, Kim was a bit frazzled in the sandwich part of the deli.  I got the distinct feeling that I was interrupting her day as she didn’t smile or attempt any interaction (other than the questions “what type of bread” “6 inches” and “as it comes”). Strike 1

She then informed me that she didn’t have time to cut the onions so would I like something else.  I said sure “I’ll have the red peppers”.  Ha… good luck trying to get her to give me those coveted roasted red peppers to make up for the fact that she couldn’t make the sandwich “as it comes”.  No way, if I wanted red peppers they’d cost a dollar.   Strike 2

Needless to say I didn’t get my onions or red peppers.  Instead she worked away on the two sandwiches, told the next person in line that she’d get to her when she could  Strike 2.5 (since it wasn’t me but it was someone else) and that was that.

Eventually another gal came over and started the sandwich for the next in line but the vibe from Kim told me that she was working alone for a reason.

Kim did make good use of her time by ringing in my purchase while the sandwiches toasted.  I give her credit for that!

Kim asked if I needed a bag, to which I said “yes”.  She pulled one out, opened it and left it on the counter.   “Like I’m going to pack my own sandwiches”, said the bitchy side of me. Strike 3

Anyway, eventually the deli manager came over and asked Kim if I was rung in.  She put the sandwiches, drinks and chips in the bag… and then I told her that I was disappointed that I couldn’t have onions with my sandwich.

It was a test, I grant you that.  However, I wanted to see how it would be handled.   She turned to Kim who told her that yes, there were no onions as she didn’t have time to cut them.   The deli manager said that she would go and cut some onions for “on the side” if I’d like.  I just said “no, it’s too late” and left to come back and write a blog post.  I will give the deli manager credit, although it was most definitely too little, too late.

3 Strikes = 3 Lessons


Lesson #1.

Grumpy-pants people need to put on their happy face when they come to work.   That’s what you are being paid for.

Lesson #2.

There were 3 gals in the deli plus the deli manager.  Everyone should be helping each other.  If onions were not cut by 11:30 and the lunch rush was about to start, then someone somewhere needs to cut the freaking onions.  (yes, I said “freaking” just like I did last night!)

Lesson #3.

I know that secret shoppers shop at Safeway as I know people who work in another Safeway deli.   Every customer should be treated as if they were a secret shopper because they all are… each and every one of us has the ability to write a review and post it forever on the internet…. Whether on a blog post like this or on a review site.

On the positive side, the gal, Krista, at the liquor store cracked a joke with me.  The gas attendant at Costco waved and smiled… and held a conversation with another customer…. And a pedestrian waved and smiled as I stopped to let him cross the street….

See, it makes a difference when you smile 🙂

Let’s hear from you… what lessons would you give to the people that you bought from today?  What kudos would you give out too?  Please leave your comments below.

Is Groupon good for Your business?

At first I was completely opposed to Groupon… after all the economics don’t make sense for the merchant and, if done wrong, the impact on cash flow can be devastating.

I have heard of two stories (interestingly both were related to dental care) that used Groupon successfully.   One created an “at-home” whitening kit which they sold via Groupon.  If people wanted extra kits they were at regular prices.  They could also sell this nationally, instead of locally, yet if the buyer was local, they could also come into the office for professional treatment.  I like this example because the main cost was in creating and distributing the kits, so it was highly scalable.   The other was for a dentist that offered teeth whitening in the office and then upsold during the visit.  They would upsell to another appointment or a product.  This dentist knew that a small percent would repeat but it made sense to her to use Groupon to increase her patient count.   Teeth whitening is, apparently, a high margin product, so I can see how this would work.

I’m still not a huge fan but I can see how it could work for many business types if … and only if… the plan is well thought out, understanding that some regular customers will buy the Groupon and many Groupon customers have no intention of returning when they buy.  In this instance, using Groupon can be a very expensive branding exercise, particularly if there isn’t a plan in place to give them an offer to return. So, if I were running a Groupon, I would want to know which customers are coming to my business with a Groupon in hand as they entered my business.   Then I’d train my staff to make them feel welcome and to ask if they have spent money with us before (in different words of course!).  I would track how many are new customers versus existing customers.  In both cases, I would train the staff to explain the competitive advantages of shopping with us (how many businesses ever do that!?!) and to show them around.

At the point of sale, I’d have an offer for them to join our “Club” whatever it is called.  Capture an email or a cell phone while giving them a reason to come back.  This personalized service will blow the bargain shopper away.  Furthermore, those that liked the experience enough to consider returning will be more likely to give their email / mobile # for more value-added services, special promotions etc.   The value is always in your list and as long as you are building a list and wowing the customer, Groupon may work for you.

So how could you deal with a customer that was not a Groupon customer?  Make an offer to them too… here’s a scratch and win card, or a free appetizer card or a free alteration etc. to redeem today.  Then, also invite them to join our “Club” at the point of sale.

That said… the financial metrics are critical.  I created a daily deal calculator, which was intended for personal use.  However, if you’d like a copy of it, please insert your name and email.   Once you have done that, and confirmed your subscription, you’ll get the calculator and an explanation of how it works.

So, my long answer to the question and the bottom line is that it really depends.  It depends on the deal itself (the calculator helps to decide which one is better) and how many people you can convert to repeat customers… and to me, that is the most critical component.

Have you used Groupon for your business?  Let us know how it worked by commenting below.

Online Reputation is #1 sales engine: An interview with Andreas Schmidt

According to a recent Nielsen report which surveyed more than 28,000 global Internet users, 92 percent say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Online consumer reviews (i.e. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook, etc.) rank as the second most trusted source.

We’ve stayed at LeBlanc Spa Resort twice in 4 months and I chose this resort is because of what I found online.  As someone who has been in the travel industry since 1996, first as a retail travel agent, now as a group incentive travel and meeting planner that also books FIT trips for friends, family and reward recipients; who has been on wonderful (and not so wonderful) fam trips with tour operators, CVBs and DMCs and who has a huge network with other agents and planners the way I researched and the steps I took to make my purchase decision is telling.  Instead of going through my regular channels, I chose this resort because it was #1 in Cancun on Trip Advisor and because both positive and negative reviews were responded to by the general manager, Andreas Schmidt.

In this interview, Andreas explains his strategy for optimizing the social proof that results from Trip Advisor.

Modified Transcript

Our service is a personalized service.  We really try to care about our customers and the service should not end when the guests are leaving the resort.  We should still maintain a relationship with them.  We should be thankful for any feedback they are they giving us.  If it is good then it’s motivational for the staff.  If it’s not so good it’s an opportunity for us to improve.

So, in the past, really, if you went to Trip Advisor or something, you will never find any comments or response to the guests.  But, when a guest sits down for an hour or two hours writing a review, it really deserves some response because it’s still a service.  If you ask for something at the resort, our responsibility is to make it happen for you and if we cannot make it happen at least you expect an answer.  It’s the same thing with all social media.  You expect and you deserve an answer and we (at the resort) should be thankful for any response we are getting and you should be noted.

So basically, we started 2.5 years ago and it became really huge.  Trip Advisor for us, and unfortunately I cannot put it down in numbers, is probably the most important sales engine for us now.  Everybody is doing it, I do it, you do it too.  You make a reservation, you look at the hotel, you look for rates, you compare hotels and before you make your final decision you will go to Trip Advisor… at least 80% of the guests do.

And then it comes back to the little details which make a difference.  You get welcomed here with a cold towel, and a flower and coconut water.  When you check Trip Advisor you see that there are comments and the general manager is answering the comments.  And you say ‘Wow, the general manager is answering the comments’.  If you check, maybe, the competition and with the competition, maybe, the public relations manager is handling the comments, which is a nice touch.  But then you think, ‘They really don’t care that much.  The general manager over there does it personally.’  It’s the little details.

It is really important to answer all of them because as you said, ‘he didn’t answer mine’.  So we did not fulfill all of your expectations which is a little cross that they are doing a great job but they are not perfect, so we still have an opportunity to improve.

I talk on a daily basis to our guests and it will not happen … ever.. that I don’t meet 2 or 3 or 4 guests a day who tell me that they chose the resort because of the reviews, so it is important to handle it in the right way.

My advice is if you are doing a great service,   if you care about your customers you will do it.  People in the hospitality business always talk about ‘what is quality?’  and then they talk about ‘exceeding the expectations of the customers’… which is all nice and I agree but quality, in my opinion, is to get the ‘wow’ out of our customers and I want to get the wow out even after the guests are gone.  I want to call you and have the butler call you when you get home to make sure that you got home all right.  You are going to say ‘wow’.

With Trip Advisor if you get an answer right away you want to say “they even care even though I’m not here anymore.”  My advice is don’t stop caring after they are gone.

Mr. Schmidt said it so well, it’s all about caring and delighting customers and it’s no wonder why the property is so well rated on Trip Advisor.

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