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2 12, 2018

Why I Hate Flip Phones

By |2018-12-02T19:21:49-05:00December 2nd, 2018|Categories: beliefs, Blog, Change, Economy|Tags: , |0 Comments

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Teenagers on flip phones.

I just don’t get it. Why would anyone want to use a flip phone?

Maybe I’m spoiled; instant gratification is what I want. I don’t want to do the thing where I leave you a message and then you call me back and I’m in the shower. Then I call you back and your voice mail is full. It all makes me crazy.

Okay billionaire investor Warren Buffett says he’s not giving up his flip phone—at least not yet. The flip phone people are probably the same ones who don’t text. Do you remember texting on your flip phone? You needed 4 hands to do it! I’ve read there are lots of people who like the flip phones, It does slow you down and gives you lots of control about what comes and goes from your phone. Yes, you are in control. You are in control. Wow, I feel like I’m being controlled on some level; maybe I am.

“The flip phone is the new protest statement,” declared one article that recently appeared in several newspapers including The Seattle Times. “I don’t need that phone. I have everything I need without it,” wrote Katie Reid for The Baltimore Sun.  Kim Kardashian was spotted with a flip phone, now it’s cool! Maybe I’m just out!

I remember reading about Thomas Edison and what happened when he finally perfected the light bulb. He went to several companies to try and sell the bulbs and most companies said they weren’t interested! In order to get the bulb used, he had to give it away.

Is it that people didn’t think it was useful to see in the dark? Maybe they were right, work stopped at night because you couldn’t see. Possibly they knew if they could see in the dark, they would have a longer work day? Or was there some fear of seeing? Is it that when you removed your clothes in the dark you were less likely to be judged?

I feel like people with flip phones are the same type of people. They make excuses that smart phones are too much work, and too complicated. Somehow they don’t see the smartphone is just that; it’s smart and makes many things easier. (Plus you are connected to the internet and all that wonderful information.)

Actually I believe it’s about change. We think change is difficult. I believe change is annoying, not really difficult.

Change means we have to think and thinking requires work. Ask yourself, how much time do you actually spend thinking? My downstairs neighbor says she likes things the way they are and she doesn’t want anything to change. So she spends her time working on keeping everything the same. She rarely goes out to do anything except buy groceries, have her nails done and go to work. In the meantime, I am looking for something new to do.

Change also requires decision making. Some people aren’t good at making decisions so they just don’t bother. If you have to make a decision, it’s likely you will run into a conflict. Nobody likes conflicts.

Are these the same people who see others climbing dangerous mountains and say why are they doing this? Or am I making too much of this? I tried to coordinate the delivery of a television to a man who only used text and one who only used his phone. To me it was a nightmare.

Possibly I should ask what kind of phone a person has before I decide to get too serious.

Lisbeth Calandrino is a regular contributor to the Albany Times Union. Need help improving your business? Check out Lisbeth’s web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com. or reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

#flipphones #Warrenbuffetflipphone #Seattletimes, #Thomasedison #Lisbethcalandrino.com #redhotcustomerservice

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30 12, 2011

What’s Going on With Retail?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:07-05:00December 30th, 2011|Categories: Advertising, Blog, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Economy, Entrepreneurs, Reaching the Consumer|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |2 Comments

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People seem to be out shopping and the retail news seems to be positive. Could it really be true? I decided to call , Rebecca Marion Flach, Vice President of Membership and Communication for the Retail Council of New York State.

As Vice President of Membership and Communication for the Retail Council, exactly what do you do?

I’m in charge of all internal and external communication that supports the Council’s government relations, sales and marketing and membership functions. I’m also in charge of new membership benefit programs and services for the association.

Exactly what is happening in the retail sector, is business looking up?

We had a brisk holiday season and it appears sales grew in the 2-3% range over 2010. Our members gave the season an “A-” letter grade as part of the Council’s Holiday Sales Watch. This is all good news given the state of the economy.

What does this mean for 2012? It’s tough to say although economists are pointing to slow growth next year. Unemployment is down. The stock market is rallying. Gas prices have dropped. All of these factors and many others play a role in retail sales. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for steady improvement next year. 

How do you get your information?

My colleagues and I constantly talk with members to get the pulse of retail. How is business? What trends are members seeing? What new ideas are they implementing in their stores?

The Council also surveys its members during the holiday season. We just wrapped up the 2011 Holiday Sales Watch, which consists of one mail survey and three telephone surveys we conduct between mid-September and the week after Christmas. The mail survey measures our members predictions for the upcoming holiday season, The telephone surveys begin after Black Friday Weekend to gauge what actually happened in member stores at critical points in the season.

Rebecca. I remember when I was in the retail business we always had excuses for why customers did or did not show up. It was either too cold for them to come out,  or  so nice they decided to play golf or work in the garden.

Is there such a thing as  “good” and  “marginal ones retailers?”

The Council only reports what our members tell us is happening in retail and I wouldn’t be so bold as to try to discern the difference between a good and marginal merchant. Our members are the true experts and I’m here to support them. That being said, I’ve learned over the years from members that knowing your customer and treating them like family go a long way toward success in retail.

Successful retailers constantly survey their customers to find out what products and services interest them and what they’re willing to pay for it.  I don’t mean they send mail surveys or call their customers to collect this information (although they could). It’s asking simple questions while customers are in the store or just making observations. You have to know what your customer is thinking and what is influencing their thought process.

I’ve also learned that service makes or breaks the independent merchant. Service is what distinguishes small businesses from their larger competitors and can attract or deter shoppers from coming back. As one of our Hudson Valley member always says, “Treat your customers like family.”

How is technology affecting retailers?                                                                                               

For the last two or three years we have been talking about the use of social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Google Places. Many of our members have started to build Facebook pages and are encouraging their customers to post opinions as well as talk about their products.

Those members that use social media regularly are starting to see a difference in their referrals and customers. It takes time to stay connected but this is the new platform where the consumer is communicating with businesses and other customers. In addition, customers get information about products and reviews from each other so it’s increasingly important to monitor what’s being said about your business online.

In addition to social media, mobile technology is revolutionizing retail. QR Codes are becoming very popular ways to direct customers with smart phones to more information on a product or service. Foursquare and other check-in applications give retailers some fantastic opportunities to communicate with customers. Couponing sites might make a good awareness building tool for some merchants. The options are endless, but the struggle for the small business owner is finding the time to learn about and implement these tools.

 

Are there other events that are influencing retail?

Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express the Saturday after Thanksgiving had a major impact this year. This was just the second year for this event, but some of our members reported customer interest and increased foot traffic as a result.

Our independent merchants tell us Black Friday is a Big Box Store event and I think it was ingenious to create a holiday designed to promote small business. It brought attention to the contributions made by small businesses to our communities and encouraged a “buy local and small” mentality that lasted far beyond November 26.

We had members who capitalized on the free publicity Small Business Saturday generated by offering special in-store promotions, featuring “Made in America” products or talking about their business’ role in the community (job creation, history, etc.)

Rebecca I can only think that Small Business Saturday can only get better as we have a few years under our belt. Retailers who took advantage of it these past years will probably have some great ideas how to make it have more impact on their business.

What about the Wall Street protests? Good Morning America noted that this is starting to have an effect on consumers.

The Wall Street Protests also seem to have encouraged many consumers to reexamine how they spend their money and where. The protests against “big banks” and “big corporations” has brought new energy to independent retail much like Small Business Saturday did. Some of our members told us they had the best holiday season they can remember from a resurgence of interest in supporting local businesses.

 

You mentioned community teamwork; how would you define this?

We are hearing from our members that consumers have reawakened to shopping locally, and we’re also learning of retailers’ willingness to work together to promote each other’s businesses in a way I haven’t noticed in the past. Business owners seem more willing to cross promote with neighboring businesses or businesses with a natural tie-in.

I’ve talked to members who are sharing brochures and coupons with neighboring businesses, hosting joint events and co-branding marketing materials. It’s a great way to spread the word about these local businesses, help them develop new customers and foster a sense of community.

It certainly is good to get some other opinions from the world of retail. I hope that this continues and we continue to see growth. Maybe Rebecca will revisit us in a few months with an update.  

 

10 Tips for Revving Up Your Business for the New Year

Based on my conversation with Rebecca, here are some ideas to explore for implementation in your business in 2012.

1.      First, have an open mind. Start thinking, what are others doing that are bringing in customers? Are these good ideas for my business? Should I be joining with other retailers, sharing coupons and inviting them to share in events?

2.      Think community. Who do I know that I could “pair up with” and have an event? Is it a restaurant, caterer, jewelry store or the local candy maker?  What type of event could we hold? Can we swap coupons or give out gift cards advertising each other’s stores? How will “being green” help your community and are you doing your part?

3.      Think about what’s cutting into my customer’s spending. If food purchasing is taking a bite out of their budget how about giving grocery coupons or partnering with a grocery store? I remember when we were in business; food was always a good gift during the holiday season. We used to give out coupons of different values based on how much the customer spent. Giving away turkeys was always a big hit.

4.      Know your customer as well as you know yourself. Many retailers are afraid to ask for email addresses or if the customer is on Facebook, they feel like they’re being intrusive. How will you get know them better if you don’t find a way to keep in touch?

5.      Get involved with local activities and don’t forget Small Business Saturday.  It’s not too early to start thinking about next year, how you can market to your customers and what can you do better? Talk with other business on your block or in your neighborhood, how can you all join forces?

6.      Get moving with social media. If you’re doing social media explore how you can do it better and take advantage of new programs. Don’t forget Four Square and other programs which offer free gifts to customers. I have a friend how used Groupon and had so much success they were overwhelmed. They couldn’t believe the response.

7.      Develop your “small business hat.” Continue to talk about how shopping in small locally owned businesses and how it can help your community.

8.      Review your customer list from past years. Who are your good customers, who is giving you business and how can you keep in touch?

9.      If social media isn’t “your thing,” review the pros and cons. What are your objections, is it helping other businesses, how can you get your salespeople involved in getting your customers to “brag” about you on line. Talk with successful businesses and ask about their on line customers; what are customers talking about?

10.  Look at new ways to communicate with your customers. Are you using video regularly, are you reusing your television and radio commercials by linking them to your social media sites. Don’t forget that YouTube surpassed Yahoo for the first time in total U.S. search queries, making it the 2nd largest search engine in the U.S. next to only its owner, Google.

Have a great New Year; maybe retail is really looking up!

Lisbeth Calandrino is a retail consultant and business coach. She can be reached through her web site or at redhotcustomerservice@nycap.rr.com.

 

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9 11, 2010

Do You Know Where You’re Going?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:12-05:00November 9th, 2010|Categories: Blog, Blogging, Building a Brand, Change, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Economy, fun, Reaching the Consumer, Sales, Success|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |3 Comments

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Take a riskI hope this article is timely for you; it is for me.  For many of us the  economy is still moping along and we’re trying to figure out what to do next. Consumers are changing their buying habits, myself included. Friends are downsizing their lifestyles and examining their life choices. The recession may be over, but the landscape has changed.  In many ways it’s unfamiliar; at least it is to me.   I’m in a different place too. It’s not a bad place, it’s just a different place and different doesn’t always feel right–especially in the beginning.

Change is good. Well, change is interesting but it’s more interesting if it’s happening to you rather than me. In my case, I find when it’s time  for a change I put more hours in at the health club! Somehow I know it’s a safe place for my mind and my body. I feel less stressed after my workout and  feel I’ve done something good for me.

Each of us is building new roads, repairing our highways and hopefully avoiding serious pitfalls.  I’m convinced that sharing this journey with positive friends who have good intentions will make our journey more pleasant and safe. It’s time to re-cultivate your the garden and  get rid of the weeds that might be choking you from making new decisions. Sometimes, these weeds come in surprising forms–forms we call “friends.”

Just as I’m writing this article, I received this from Kevin Clancey a Realtor in Albany, New York from his Monday Morning Mojo:

The biggest obstacle to creating a wonderful life is self-limiting beliefs. A self-limiting belief is an idea you have that you are limited in some way, in terms of time, talent, intelligence, money, ability, or opportunity. Brian Tracy

At times we all have limiting beliefs, and there’s nothing to fear except fear itself and fear can be defined with the acronym “false evidence appearing real”. So, now what, where do you begin? It’s time for you to become your own coach, a good coach.

Speaking of coaches, one of my guests on Red Hot Customer Service Show was John Stahl from The Growth Coach of New York  serving business owners throughout the Northeast. John talks about limiting beliefs. Of course, beliefs simplify our lives but limiting beleifs dis-empower and hold us back. John talks about “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” while making changes. If you’re talking about business challenges, Johns says the biggest challenge is between the ears of the business owner. I think this is a problem that many of us share.

Coach Vincent Lombardi once said that the difference between a good coach and a bad coach is the good coach always knew what the end would look like. If you don’t know where your want to go, how will you get there? If you get wherever “there” is, how will you know it’s the right place? In Warren Bennis’s book, “View from the Top“, he examines ninety leaders and found that one of key strategies was “attention through vision.”

What’s vision you ask? Vision can be a simple act or a thought; what do I really want out of life?

What makes me happy?

What are my dreams, my goals or my purpose? What would I like more of in my life?

I know I want more time at the lake.

Sometimes visions are statement for the future, a destination that you want to achieve. Last year I joined Toastmasters. I have competed in several events and recently joined the advanced Toastmasters Group. My goal is to continue to advance my speaking craft–I love speaking. The club gives me the opportunity to test new topics, get feedback and make changes. It’s a way to continually focus on something that’s important in my life.

Your vision may be simple. If you are invested in the outcome and feel ownership over your vision, then the happiness is in the journey– the appreciation of the uniqueness of the components it takes to get there.

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9 11, 2009

The Recession is Over. So Where Are Your Customers?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:15-05:00November 9th, 2009|Categories: Change, Economy, Reaching the Consumer|Tags: , , |2 Comments

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Newsweek_recession Okay, so now you've heard the recession is over. I don't know what exactly what it means, jobs are scarce, credit card lenders are raising interest rates and banks aren't lending money to small businesses. I wonder what it would look like if the recession wasn't over? 

Maybe more of the same?

As the Newsweek article puts it: "When the economists proclaim a recession is over, they're celebrating a technicality: they mean economic output has stopped contracting. And while that's good news, you might wait awhile before adding Judy Garland's rendition of Happy Days are Here Again to your iPod."

What's the point? It doesn't matter whether the recession is over or not. What really matter is when will your customers be back and why aren't they buying from you? Most likely they're not buying from you or anyone else.  If you can acknowledge this, you"re on the road to recovery. If you're still in the unbelieving stage, your business is in trouble. There are still businesses out there that believe if they continue doing the same things the same way the customers will come. There are lots of businesses out there that believe it will all go back to the way it was. To believe this is to believe in fairies and warlocks.

Einstein's definition of success was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Many of the companies that exhibit these behaviors are companies that have been successful. They believe that success still awaits them no matter what they do. Unfortunately they are wrong. You've probably heard the expression, "what got you here will not get you there." Clinging to the past and what worked before will not move you forward. What will get you there there will be your ability to change, not your ability to cling to the past.

I speak to business owners every day; I admire the ones who call and say, "I don't know about that kind of stuff, meaning the Internet, but I hear it's where my customers are congregating."  These are the ones who will probably survive and grow to be different companies. They will be lean, mean and accountable.

I spoke with a business owner the other day who apologetically said,"When this is over, we won't look like the same company." I asked why he was upset and he said because his company was always looked upon as leaders and now they would have to  downsize. Let's face it, there are fewer customers in the marketplace and probably more businesses than ever who are chasing these customers. As a country we have never been here before and there's no blueprint for success. Smart business owners will have the guts to look the problems in the eye and say, it's time to move on. The bottom line is the bottom line and that's  pretty much it. I know that doesn't sound revolutionary, but neither does "we're waiting around for them to change" or "I'm waiting for the customer to come back." 

By the way, in case you didn't know it, customers haven't been on vacation. Customers are just apprehensive.  

So how do you change? Change is never easy; in fact, the more you know the less you think you have to change. While times are good many business owners stood waiting for their "payoff." Unfortunately it never really came. In fact, many of those who sold their businesses had to scurry back to reclaim what was left of their failing business. Why did this happen? Most of them sold the business to someone who was like the: running the business the same way. The new owner didn't think about changing either. 

One of the things that happens to owners is what Marshall Goldsmith calls the Paradox of Success: "I have succeeded, I can succeed, I will succeed and I choose to succeed." It reminds me of another powerful expression: "veni, vidi, vici" — I came, I saw, I conquered. Why doesn't it work? Because it's not that simple. What is happening in the marketplace requires a new mindset and can't be conquered by old strategies such as dropping prices or selling cheaper merchandisers. It's too late to try and do it faster and better. It's time to do it differently.

There are some things that might help but ultimately the answers to this problem have not been written.

  • It's time to seriously start talking to your customers. Ask them what do they think about the economy, how has the economy changed their behavior, are they spending the way they did prior to the recession? Everyone I know — even those with good jobs — is apprehensive about spending money. Ask what they're doing to enjoy their lives, probably staying home. This is a good reason to make some changes to the interior.
  • Ask your staff what' they're feeling: if they're apprehensive you can be sure this is influencing their interactions with the customers. It's called "misery loves company" syndrome. It feels good but neither party actually benefits. Coming up with solutions works, suffering together doesn't work.
  • If new customers are scarce, call your old customers. Offer them an incentive to make a purchase or invite them in for a party. We can all use a little fun.
  • Hold a networking party and invite neighboring businesses and past customers. I recently spoke at a networking party in New York City where all types of business people came to make new friends.
  • Meet with other businesses and find out what they're dong to get new customers. Partner with them and hold an event; any kind of event, just bring in customers.

This is the season to be jolly and raise money for your favorite charity; collect toys, coats for kids and adopt a needy family. When your customer gets ready to shop you want to be noted for something other than the lowest price. If you don't do something, you'll be out of sight — and out of mind. 

Remember that one?

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