Thursday, January 28, 2010

How do you arrange your bills?

Each of us has a certain way that we arrange the cash in our register each day. Our preferences may be dictated by personalities, store consensus, whether we are left handed or right handed, or without any structured way. I arrange mine the same way everyday - from the right facing left . . . ones, fives, tens and twenties. The coins go right to left starting with pennies, nickels, dimes then quarters. All bills are face up and everything is stacked neatly. I learned long ago that doing it this way minimizes mistakes in counting.

Up until today, I would always put the older bills on top. The newer bills have either a different color scheme from the older ones or have a larger image depicted on the face (Lincoln, Jackson, Franklin, etc.) so it was easy to find the older, worn out bills and get rid of them first by placing them on top of each stack.

Why do it differently? One of the tellers at a bank branch we use for one of our stores would always give me the best bills in her drawer. This was a common practice for her that I observed every time she took our deposit and gave us any necessary change in return. Any bills that we gave as part of our deposit that were worn out would also be separated. If we needed additional change she would only give us the best out of her drawer. I asked her once why she did it this way and she said she likes to give the best she has. Her customers appreciate it. Well, that has been several months and I'm just now getting it.

Our customers deserve our best at every level. That includes seemingly small details like money. This may be a detail that your customers may NEVER appreciate. But it is rooted in an overall attitude of exceeding the average. We can raise the bar of what is average by incorporating this attitude in everything we do for our customers. That's how we become outstanding in our industry. That's how we become the benchmark by which others compare themselves.

So, are you going to give your best at every level? How are you going to arrange your bills?

BTW . . . look at the picture above. Do you notice the bills are not all aligned alike? Pay attention to the details! Somebody is and it's best if we're the ones doing it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clarification on articles

A friend called me up the other day. He had been following the blog off and on. He asked me if I was just cutting and pasting the articles or if I was writing them myself.

I guess I need to clarify. Unless otherwise stated or quoted, I am the author of these articles. I was given a Kindle for Christmas this year and I have downloaded several books that have bcome inspiration for most of my writings. Other articles arise from the Disney Institute course I took in November 2009, Disney's Approach to Leadership Excellence.

I highly recommend one of the books, "The Last Lecture" by Dr. Randy Pausch. Dr. Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a form of cancer that has a 95% mortality rate within 5 years. For those who forgot, Patrick Swayze also had pancreatic cancer. In the short time from his diagnosis until his death, Dr. Pausch focused on having fun instead of being focused on dying. His positive approach may have prolonged his life. Maybe not. Either way, it has provided inspiration to many who have read his book, attended his lecture or who studied under him at Carnegie Mellon.

I digress. This was entry was supposed to be giving you clarification on where these articles come from. Every day life experience. And you. Stuff you do. Stuff you say. Stuff I see or hear or read.

Clear enough?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Curb Service

When you mention the words "curb service" what comes to mind? Depending on when you grew up you might be familiar with some of the old-fashioned drive in diners that dotted the highways and byways throughout the country. Most small towns at one time had a drive in diner. The image of waitresses on roller skates is even further supported in movies and television programming.

Today I had just arrived from the bank when a truck pulled up in front of the store. The way my store is positioned there is a break in the curb to allow wheelchairs, walkers or people with other disabilities to gain access to the sidewalk without having to step up on the curb. Well this man parked right in front of the store blatantly blocking that ramp. I got the lights turned on and looked out front wondering what I was going to say to this man who ignored the "No Parking" sign hanging right in front of him.

As I look out the front door he makes eye contact with me and holds up a handicap hang tag. Immediately my attitude changed from focusing on what I perceived as a rude person to one of a person in need. I walked outside with a smile on my face and I could immediately tell this gentleman was embarrassed by his situation. He was overweight and I could see a cane in the seat next to him. He told me he was scheduled for surgery and needed some items to help him over the next couple of weeks prior to his surgery. After giving me the list, I returned with a training slip showing him what his total was. He gave me his credit card . . . you get the idea. I thanked him, gave him by business card and told him if he had any questions or concerns all he had to do was call me. He was genuinely appreciative of the service he received.

We are part of a culture that expects quick, no-frills service. Drive-thru coffee, drive-thru immunizations and drive-thru weddings were unheard of a generation ago. I guess we can blame it on our parents and grandparents. . . doubt it. We have created this type of atmosphere.

A lot of people today expect curb service type attention. But to those that don't expect it, what would happen if we delivered it to them anyway?

What can you do to bring that level of service to every customer that comes through your doors?

* Smile
* Listen
* Thank the customer
* Look them in the eye
* Carry their purchase to their car, if possible
* Offer freebies

It's pretty simple. Serve your customer as if they were a guest in your home.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Continuous Improvement Process

Speaking of Disney, our visit to Textile Services as part of Disney's Approach to Leadership Excellence included a 30-minute Q & A session with a supervisor who went over their Continuous Improvement Process (CIP). The emphasis was on continuous. This wasn't a one time process to fix a problem. This is an ongoing effort to not be satisfied with the status quo.

They narrowed their process down to 6 points:

1. Listen and Learn
2. Measure
3. Act
4. Re-Measure
5. Recognize and Celebrate
6. Share insights

1. Listen and Learn - This implies that you have to be communicating with your team. You may know the jobs your fellow team members complete because you do some of the same things. But do you know how they go about their day? Do they do something better than anybody else? Is there a process that is hindering the success of their job? Listen to what your co-workers are saying and learn from their experience.

2. Measure - Track what you've learned from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. Most employees are capable of finding solutions and determining what works best for them. When written down, you can communicate what you've measured in a more efficient way.

3. Act - Put in motion some of the proposed solutions. It's the last part of Walt's Dream, Believe, Dare, DO credo. You'll never know how something works if you don't act.

4. Re-measure - Did the new process in this process work? Did it fail? Did it bring a new insight?

5. Recognize and Celebrate - When it works, recognize it. Celebrate it! Do you have a wall of fame in your organization? If you have kids you probably have one at home. Why not bring that into your workplace? It doesn't have to be out front so customers can see it. But put it where employees can see it every day and you may find a way to motivate your team members.

6. Share Insights - How often do you get together as a team? And your team can be defined by those that work in your store/organization, management team or senior leadership.

Do you have a process in place for improvement? Is it within you or do you depend on someone else for improvement?

What happens if you don't improve? Do you hear that? That sound you hear is footsteps. If you don't improve you can be guaranteed that your competition will be.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How do you want to be recognized?

As part of their continuous improvement process, Disney's Textile Services (a.k.a. Laundry) recently polled their employees as to how they wished to be recognized. The top three things were 3) Movie tickets; 2) Feed me; 1) Recognition.

3) Movie tickets - Pretty simple reward huh? It's more than just someone covering the cost of theater admission. It might be a great time for the family to take in a movie together. The time together as a family in today's dollar is still priceless.

2) Feed me - A celebratory lunch, restaurant gift card or a potluck dinner didn't matter. Employees wanted their recognition in the form of food. This can be done as a group to celebrate accomplishments or as simple as buying lunch for your star employee.

1) Recognition - Everyone likes to be recognized and validated for the work they have done. Whether it be a pat on the back, a special award like employee of the month, or a personal letter from the CEO, we all enjoy our job more if there is a practice of being rewarded for doing an outstanding job.

How do you want to be recognized? What motivates you to do your best? Is it the reward that pushes you or is it your own will and determination?

So, to get some feedback on this, tell me how you want to be recognized.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I just want one . . . Is that too much to ask?

A customer came in recently looking for a specific supplement in a specific form. He has been trying to find this item for almost a full year. Each time he came in, I asked him for information on the product since I was unable to find any information about it. He had read some obscure article from some obscure publication about some obscure product and he thought it would help his situation. Out of all the customers we had in 2009 he was the only one that asked for this product. But for this customer, this was the only product he wanted.

How many times do we look at requests such as this and 1) roll our eyes, 2) laugh at the absurdity of the request or 3) take time to understand what is behind the request? This may be the only product this customer wants from us. They may not know that alternatives exist. They may be extremely susceptible to slick marketing.

What is our role in this situation? Listen, Educate and Inform.

1. Listen to what the customer wants. Is the customer misinformed? Does the customer have some new information that we don't have? Listen and learn so that you can point the customer in the right direction.

2. Educate - This can either be on our part or on the customer's part. Either way we have a responsibility to familiarize ourselves about the latest product studies, dosage amounts, or whatever product information is relevant to the customer's needs.

3. Inform - How we deliver what we've learned is key to the whole process. There should be no secrets, no holding back, no misinformation. The slick marketing that most manufacturers pay millions for can sometimes be worthless compared to the personal approach we can offer. Having the right body language and adopting a tone or delivery that is comfortable for the guest can go a long way toward changing the guest's perspective.

To us, it's a unique request. To that customer, it is the only thing they want and they are looking to us to fulfill that request.

How will you react?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How prepared are you? Vision

It has been said that what you do everyday prepares you for turbulent times. How prepared are you? Since the end of the third quarter of 2008, most businesses across the country have experienced turbulent times. Some of it could have been avoided. Some not so much. Either way, were you prepared?

Did you know that you can create your own turbulence? For example, how many businesses out there say, "We don't have to focus on the loyal customers. They are going to come back month after month anyway."

* NOT if we discontinue their products.
* NOT if our prices are too high.
* NOT if they don't feel valued.

Business owners may never say those actual words. But their actions, their structure, and their processes communicate this type of attitude very well.

Does this type of attitude fit with your vision? Does your organization make the connection between the leader's vision and the organizational structure? It seems that most of the time it's all about WIIFM - what's in it for me. If the vision of the organization incorporates every level of the organization (structure, processes, commitment) and if the vision is true (true being defined as something that is honest, honorable and upright) then everything that is done to support that vision will reveal your level of preparedness.

Does your vision prepare you? How well does your vision do the following:

1) Create a shared and meaningful purpose.

2) Inspire passion and interest.

3) Guide decision making and strategy.

4) Convey values.

Based on these statements and your own experience how will you communicate your vision? Will your level of preparedness be frantic or constant in turbulent times?

"In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future." Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 - Exceeding the Average

Tonight we had a kickoff dinner and meeting for 2010. Everyone was there and I think we all enjoyed the time together. Food was good too. Yes, it was late on a Sunday night. There probably wasn't a better time where we could get everyone on the same page at the same time so that the same message was communicated properly. So thanks for sacrificing your night to be there.

Now what? We've been told what our key initiatives will be for 2010. We've been told what the vision is. We've been given our goals for each store. But if we as individuals and as a team do nothing with this information tonight then we are nothing but another blue in a sea of blues.

Instead, we want to be the yellow. It's easy to count the yellows in the picture above. Being just another blue is being just like everybody else. There are plenty of blues out there. Everywhere you go you run into blues.

What are you going to do to be a yellow? Do you need help getting to yellow? Maybe you think you can only make it to green . . . (yellow + blue = green). Is there another member of your team that is already a yellow? What can you learn from them so that everyone on your team is now a yellow? Is someone holding you back from being a yellow?

Blues = Average
Yellow = Exceeding the Average

I'm gonna be a yellow.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How can we use senses to work for us? Sight

How much do we pay attention to the senses when it comes to customer interaction? What we smell, what we can feel, what we see, what we taste and what we hear. How can we use the senses to work for us? How can we use them to enhance the level of customer service we already give?


What kind of impressions do your customers see when they enter your store? No, we're not talking about your best rendition of Ronald Reagan or John Wayne. What we are talking about is what your customer sees. What attracts them visually to the store? What drives them away visually? Is there a "hook" that piques their interest?

Are you sending a mixed message? If there was no verbal communication between you and your guests is there enough signage and merchandising to speak in your absence?

Everyone loves a bargain. And marketers know this. It is not a new strategy and products are often put on sale to create an impression of a bargain which activates a centuries-old hoarding instinct. We're not talking about OCD tendencies here. But when a customer sees something on sale they are more likely to be attracted to that item.

1. Are all signs correct and being utilized? Are all products sale priced and marked appropriately?

2. Do you know what is on sale around your store? Can you tell your guest what their dollar savings will be? Did you know there are applications for iPhone users where they can take a picture of a barcode and search online sites such as Google for the best price? Yes, they do exist and our customers are savvy enough to use this type of technology to their advantage.

3. What about the lighting? Are all lights working and properly focused? Are the rugs and floors dirty or in bad shape?

The "show" aspect is just one of the key components to the customer's overall shopping experience. How does your show set look?