Competitive Advantage

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19 07, 2014

“When is it ok to Yell at my Customers?” Enough is Enough!

By |2017-03-03T12:06:55-05:00July 19th, 2014|Categories: Customer Experience, Customer Retention Strategies|Tags: , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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We all have our limits; know yours!

A dear friend of mine told me she was recently fired because, in her words, “I went off on a customer.” At the time, she worked in a very stressful environment, and her mother lay dying in hospice. Apparently, she had enough.

We’ve all had those days when we literally “can’t stand it anymore.” We know that customers aren’t always correct, that’s just for fairy tales. However, as the saying goes, “If you want them to be your customers, you will make them right.” There are just some customers who know how to “push your buttons.” They key is not to get “hooked.”

There are some simple things you can do to get you through these rough times. Remember, you’re not the only one who’s been “hooked.”

1.Try not to let everyone know how much the person annoys you. If you do, you will continue to re-live the awful feeling you have about that person. If you continue to complain, your company will see you as a pain in the butt.  

2.For a minute, take yourself out of the equation and ask yourself some questions. “What has happened to me, why am I feeling so annoyed?” It’s doubtful they are angry with you; it’s likely something in the situation that is making them uncomfortable.

3.Look for the “customer’s scare.” We often use anger as a way of covering up  an imaginary problem that hasn’t yet occurred. Let’s say you’re afraid your mate is going to leave you so you get angry about them going to the movie without you. I was reading an interesting blog about a woman whose boyfriend wanted to have coffee with a female friend. The woman took the situation to mean he would be leaving her and marrying the other woman! Quite a jump you might say. He even called her when he left the coffee shop and told her he was on his way home. She still couldn’t believe it was simply “coffee.”

4.If you find yourself getting angry begin to confront your own scare. What do you think the customer is saying to you, why does it make you so frightened and what do you think you have to lose? Possibly, you can’t get the merchandise to the customer on time; are you afraid you’ll be fired?

5.  Take a deep breathe. Do you think the customer is out to get you? If so, what are they trying to gain? If they have nothing to gain, why are you reacting? My mother used to say, “Try and think before your speak.”

6.Is the person trying to get you to react? Have you ever had a customer bring up a tiny problem, like the delivery man was late and then ask for a discount? That’s a tactic to “throw you off the track” so they can get something they really don’t deserve. Okay, we’re not all perfect. The key is to separate yourself from the problem and think beneath your instinctive response. There lies the answer to your response.

You can’t keep customers if you do things to drive them away. (That applies to people in your life also.) If you want more information on how to diffuse your own anger, check out this link,http://bit.ly/1kFTG8T.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping businesses to build loyal customers for the last twenty years. To have her speak to your company or schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or check out her web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com.

 

 

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26 07, 2011

Does Anyone Care What Customer’s Think, Wal-Mart Better Listen

By |2017-03-03T12:07:08-05:00July 26th, 2011|Categories: Blog, Competitive Advantage|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |7 Comments

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No customer service

What's a customer to do?

What could be more fun than asking your customers what you’re doing wrong? Probably a million things.

It isn’t that much fun and that’s probably why most businesses don’t ask their customers what they think. If you have the guts and can listen you will learn amazing things about how your company is “perceived.” In fact you’ll  probably be able to create you company’s focus for the next 5 years.

Building and keeping a business is hard work; it’s not so hard if you pay attention to your customers.  You must  be able to  to stay close to your customers, seek their opinions, and be  courageous enough to change based on what they think.  

 This is the epitome of customer service.

Although companies should last for centuries few do, GE is one of those that has managed to survive. How have they done it? According to Jack Welch, by listening to their customers and changing. 

What should a business listen for? What would make them different   and how to use this differentiation to  build a  competitive advantage.

The bottom line, live  and breathe with your customers. Find out  and what turns them on and what turns them off.

I heard last week that Wal-Mart recently finished a survey with their customers. According to a recent survey by Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) analysts, 60% of consumers no longer think that prices at Walmart (NYSE:WMT) stores are lower than the competition. An amazing piece of information for a company who has built their brand on “everyday low prices.” As they say, “I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall” when that data was presented.

What do you do you do when your customer  “rocks”  the very core of your brand? You could ignore the data and chalk it up to a bunch of grouchy customers or you can begin rebuilding your company and choose a new course of action.

I have been doing studies like this for years. I find it very exciting and energizing; I feel like I’m helping  good customers become even better. My experience leads me to believe that only good businesses  conduct these studies; the rest don’t care so why bother to spend the money if you’re not going to change? 

Who should do your study? An outsider who understands your industry and can turn close lipped customers into “Chatty Cathys.”  The person should  design the questions to  make the interviewee comfortable  and then lead them to more uncomfortable questions.  The ideas is to search for a point of differentiation and use it to  build a competitive advantage. Bottom line,  to get a leg up on the competition. A study of about 50-100 customers will get you plenty of data.

Not sure if you want to invest? Start with a study of 5 customers and see what they have to say.I have never seen a disappointed business owner even with a study of only 5.

As an interviewer I’m always amazed at how much information the customer will share with a perfect stranger.

I think it goes back to customers  wanting to be heard and understood.  Isn’t this  the basis of customer service? Jack Welch talks about differentiation and how companies will live or die based on their differention and ability to compete on a world-wide level.

Today I had an interesting experience with AT&T about my cell phone coverage at my camp. Or should I say my lack of cell coverage? Prior to my visit I was investigating “things on line” to increase mycell coverage; investing in a land line or getting a Magic Jack. Bottom line, I didn’t like any of them or couldn’t find anyone to substantiate the alternatives other than a land line. I also thought about throwing my phone into the lake and getting another cell carrier.

I told my story to the woman at AT&T and she told me at AT&T I could purchase a micro cell!

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  For about $200.00 I can make a one time purchase, have my own micro cell and take it with me. How many of you have complained about coverage and been told you can purchase a micro cell? I’m a cronic complainer but have never been given this alternative. I asked the salesperson why they don’t advertise this solution and she said, “I don’t know why–we tell them that customers are always complaining about  “dead” areas. A lost opportunity for differentiation/competitive advantage and a really happy customer. Not listening to the customer? Maybe listening but not hearing.

With globalization and more competition,  listening to your customer is even more important. Listen through surveys at the end of the sale and listen through  a third party.

Ikea, the world’s largest furniture store has been listening to its customers. Thirty years ago, Kamprad set out the philosophy: ‘We have decided once and for all to side with the many. What is good for our customers is also, in the long run, good for us. He wanted to “create a better everyday life for the majority of people.”

Maybe more companies should adopt this philosophy. Why don’t they? It can be scary and it takes guts to change. 

Lisbeth Calandrino is an award winning author, trainer and blogger. She is  author of the book, Red Hot Customer Service, 35 ways to heat up your business and ignite your sales. Lisbeth can provide speaking or customer service/ sales training using the principles of her book at your place of business or through video conferences.

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17 10, 2010

How Much Money Are You Leaving On the Table?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:12-05:00October 17th, 2010|Categories: Advertising, Blog, Building a Brand, Competitive Advantage, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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Can you give it away and make more money?

The other day I took my video camera to Best Buy. I was looking for a microphone to add to it as well as a stand. By the way, I didn’t buy it at Best Buy but you can always find an associate that will help. I usually ask, “Who’s the  best electronic person in the store?” and someone comes running. Being confident is at least 1/2 the sales game. A confident and friendly sales person is what most customers are looking for when they shop. He booted up his computer to tell me that a microphone wasn’t available for my camera , but he offered to print me out the instruction book, which was, of course, long gone. I asked about my flip camera, which I carry with me all the time just in case. We talked about it’s resolution as well as the  new wireless flips. As a side note, if you’re doing a closeup interview the flip is great; it also takes still photos which are better than your phone photos. If you’re taking serious videoing, it should be  done with a high definition Camcorder. I asked if there were classes available, so people like me can learn how to use what they buy.  He said they tried. They even offered to let the customers shop before the store opened and gave them the employee discount. The problem? No one came for the classes.   I see different types of training in various Best Buy stores  but nothing live in  Crossgate Mall, in Guilderland, New York. Maybe they didn’t try it long enough or put out enough publicity?

The other night I awakened at 4am and turned on the television. I started watching the Home Channel Shopping and there was the best pitch man selling my flip camera. I got up, grabbed my camera and watched while they walked me through every phase of the camera; it was so close up I thought I was on the show. They also shot a video, played the sound and showed the final  so I could see how it sounded and looked. I actually bought my nine inch Dell mini computer during one 3AM show!  I love it and by the time I received it I knew about it’s idiosyncrasies.

When you call the Home Shopping Network they make you feel like family; they encourage calls and ask if you’re a “regular”. Now you know you’re family.

What does this mean for your business? Is there a market for the “do-it-your-selfer?” Can you show the customer how to do simple installations of your products?

If you’re selling kitchen appliances, can you hold a cooking demonstration show to sell your wares?

How about a design clinic for your floors, walls and window treatments?

Are you a mechanic? How about a clinic on “car noises”, what to look out for like the Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers?

If you’re in the floral business, how about teaching the customer to design a simple holiday wreath?

There’s an interesting concept called “Freemium”. The Freemium model works off the premise that you give a way big stuff.  To some extent, The Freemium business model goes against what many of us have been taught. We’ve been taught to give away “little stuff” in hopes that the customer will come back for the “big stuff.” (Skype) is the best example of this business model, connecting millions of us with online video telephone connections  around the world. The site also offers a “premium service” at a fairly low rate. This is truly a great service. How many people use Skype? According to WikiAnswers , there are approximately 480 million people using Skype and 42 million making daily phone calls! Skye sells video cameras, phones, computer-to-land minutes and tons of other stuff. They make a ton of profit just from offering part of their basic service for free!

If you get a minute check out the Freemium model and see if it can help your business.  Remember giving customers what they want is true red hot customer service and great customer service is how you  build your competitive advantage. Why not make money too?

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2 10, 2010

Funnier Than Funny, But Does It Sell?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:12-05:00October 2nd, 2010|Categories: Blog, Competitive Advantage, Customer Service, fun, Reaching the Consumer, Sales|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |8 Comments

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image of Stanley Steamer commercial with alpaca

This makes me laugh!

I have been intrigued with “Have you ever cleaned an alpaca?” a commercial from Stanley Steamer. The two cleaning guys are in the truck and one is explaining how exciting it is to clean up after an Alpaca. It is cute, funny and definitely different. I went to Youtube to  view the video and look at the comments. The comments are interesting, what they say is ,  “I want and Alpaca, they’re so cute.” So much for Stanley Steamer, the cleaning company  being cute.

It would be interesting for the franchise people to ask their customers how they came into the store. Was it a friend’s recommendation or a past experience with the company.  They may have seen the commercial but  seeing the commercial might not be connected to their coming into the store. How many commercials have you seen, and liked, but didn’t drive you to the store or buy the product?

Maybe it would have been more relevant if they went to the local Humane Society and put their products in the animal cages or used their product to clean the cages. It would mean something to me and thousands of pet owners. As my friend Godzilla said, if you have an Alpaca in your house you have more problems than most of us that won’t be solved by either cleaning or special carpet.  It would have hit home and many of us would have gone to the shelter to adopt some pets. This is another important connection to the customer.

Another commercial similar to this was when Mohawk Carpet went to the Birmingham Zoo and featured Ricko the Black Rhinoceros as the featured mess maker to see if SmartStrand carpet with built-in stain resistance would do its job. Included in this was a Save the Rhino pairing with the Birmingham Zoo. This can be watched at

I love the Geico commercials and the latest being the “little Piggy cried all the way home.” The parody at Saturday Night Live,  are even funnier.


Remember “where’s the beef?” Did it change your mind about Burger King.

Both are darling commercials, bringing in the customer  through their love of animals as well as their carpet and carpet cleaning concerns.  Differentiation is what businesses need to build a competitive advantage but not all differentiation is considered a competitive advantage. When you have a competitive advantage it’s easy to build Red Hot Customer Service.

How do you know? You may not but you should try by asking your customers.

Ask customers about your commercial, in their mind how does it connect with their problems?  Most customers probably don’t have Rhinoceros or Alpaca stains. Does the customer get the part that both of these products will solve their most difficult problems? Does the customer think they have stains as awesome as the Alpaca? Do they think this is over kill? Do they think they need a product that will prevent staining like Ricko or do they find all of these stains disgusting?

There is a commercial for Schweppes that was a take off on the old James Bond movies. this commercial starred John Cleese. It was slapstick funny, didn’t seem to fit with Schweppes and wound up on the cutting floor. Maybe too funny or just too stupid. Frankly I didn’t really get it but love John Cleese.

Fun will sell if you use it to lighten up your customer and still use it to  reinforce your important message and  the promise to your customer.

It should be funny but not too funny so the customer forgets what you’re selling–and so do you.

Funny is a way to produce emotion in your customer and emotion is one way to build rapport. Humor is a grand way to build a connection with your customer but if it’s  so funny that you can’t connect it with your product or don’t  connect it’s a problem.

Suggestion: use humor it to add a light moment for your customer rather than an out-of-this-world funny. Save the funny for the comedians.

The key to funny, the commercial should make the product unforgettable and make the customer want to buy it.

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21 09, 2010