Differentiation

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26 04, 2015

An Update on What Value Means to Your Business

By |2017-03-03T12:06:53-05:00April 26th, 2015|Categories: Blog, Customer Satisfaction, Motivation, Reaching the Consumer, Repeat and Referral Business, Success|Tags: , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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What makes you different and what is it worth?

What makes you different and what is it worth?

Everyone talks about value but what does it really mean? Simply put, it means going above and beyond what is expected. For instance, giving out cookies and hot chocolate during the holidays in your business can be considered added value. Cookies add to the festivities and are unexpected by the customers. Will all customers think they are added value? Probably not the people who are on a diet or don’t eat chocolate chips. Value added is a marketing and sales strategy for your business. It helps customers remember you, build repeat and referral business and build differentiation.

Before you can deliver, you have to know your customers, and what they expect. Yes, customers want to be treated with courtesy, feel that prices are fair for the marketplace and expect your place of business to be inviting. If you can’t deliver what’s expected, how can you go above and beyond and deliver the “added value?”

Once you know who they are, then you can go forward trying to figure out what you can do that they would like.

So added value is something the customer gets and finds delightful. Imagine giving your customers a beautiful winter blanket on a beastly hot summer day. The blanket is worsted wool, with horse blanket fringe as well as being soft and warm. Delivered in the summer, it isn’t valued, in fact, becomes a problem. You might say, “I wouldn’t care when I got the blanket, it’s so magnificent. “ Despite your excitement, many of your customers would not be feeling the same. So treating the customers using your standards may not be adding any value nor getting any points from your customers.

Instead of thinking what’s of value to you, find out what’s of value to your customers. For any of this to work, it must be determined within the context of your customers.  Of course, we all have fixed budgets, but we still have to look at the customer’s criteria. I go into the gym daily. It has become an important part of my health plan. One of the things, besides all the people I know is the coffee that is served free of charge in the lobby. It makes a huge difference to me; it’s always fresh and somehow signals the end of a good workout. So it’s a big deal to me; no, it’s not rational but value isn’t rational.

I know they make a big deal about wiping down the equipment after it’s used in the gym. (They consider this huge value.) Frankly, this doesn’t really matter to me; I know the best thing I can do is go home and change my clothes. I’ve been told the gym is one of the dirtiest places in the world so I don’t think a simple wipe down will help.

In all of our lives, it’s the simple things that make our own world special.

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21 02, 2012

Could Competition be the Best Thing for Your Business?

By |2017-03-03T12:07:06-05:00February 21st, 2012|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |1 Comment

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How much time do you spend paying  attention to your competitors?  My experience with businesses is they only pay attention when the competitor hits them between the eyes. Then it’s about reacting rather than being proactive. Sometimes it’s easier to be a follower than a leader.

Walmart was considered the worst thing to ever invade the retail market. But Walmart, whether you like them or not, opened our eyes to pricing and what was possible. Soon we were on  our way to a new phase of retailers. Sure small local businesses closed, others found their niche and  became very successful. The Home Depot and Lowe’s Companies have had the same effect on other industries. But many smaller companies have profited from the advertising done by these two.

 If you study your competition you will develop your own niche or pout and pull up your tents and move. Success is what often kills business. Rather than realize that both success and failure are temporary they miss the winds of change. The winds are often fueled by their customer who they’ve taken for granted.

The key is to always be thinking, watching and asking questions and realize there will always be someone looking to dethrone you.

I think that Albany, New York  is about to go through a supermarket renaissance.  Soon we will have our own “Supermarket Square” around Everett Road and Central Avenue. It will be comprised of The Honest Weight Food Co-op, Hannaford Brothers, Price Chopper  and the new kid in town starting the rumble, ShopRite.  ( For those of you who are fans of Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market I don’t mean to slight you but they’re far away from  “Supermarket Square.”) Besides, without “Two Buck Chuck” Trader Joe’s is missing one of its finer elements. As Gary Vaynerchuk, who reviews wines on this popular video blog said, “There’s not a doubt in my mind that the two biggest things that have happened to the wine industry in the last 10 years are the movie Sideways and Two Buck Chuck”. Maybe Trader Joe’s will open a wine store next to their market.  

Hannaford and PriceChopper have had a lock on the area for years, competing across from each other on Central Avenue. The Honest Weight Food Coop is about to move closer to “Supermarket Square.” What will happen to them remains to be seen. They have their groopies and Gustoff,  the “cheese head” has amased himself quite a following. My next door neighbor told me she couldn’t have her dinner party until she consulted with Gusfoff about the cheese and the wine.

I believe  Price Chopper with its “gas card” and  community commitment as well as their wonderful new store left Hannaford in the dust. Funny because  Hannaford started their Nature’s Place several years ago which really catered to the “natural and organic foodies” who for the first time had lots to choose from at reasonable prices. Then all of a sudden Price Chopper expanded and blew Hannaford out of the water. At this point Hannaford looks small and uninviting by comparison. Hannaford is definitely strapped by its small store and maybe by the Delhaize Group out of Belgium who isn’t familiar with the Albany market.

One trip through Price Chopper and it’s hard to go back to Hannaford–which was my favorite because of the “Nature’s Place.” One thing about Hannaford, it’s smaller and quicker to get in and out but is this enough to keep it alive? I wonder how much business they’ve lost because of the store size and shelves that often look empty. The store needs a “make over” but the employees are still friendly, look great and always have time for a conversation.

But now the fun begins. I’ve known ShopRite  for years having had a furniture store directly in front of them  in Hudson, New York. (At the  insistence of ShopRite, it was either them or us  because they needed a parking lot where our business stood.) We closed our business and watched   as  the wrecking ball sent us into history.  After 16 years it was a big change for us, but not all change is bad. ShopRite then demolished their old building and rebuilt a magnificent store. This started in 1990–ShopRite knew that Hudson was thriving and changing.

Interestingly enough, I was given an assignment by DeLonghi to be part of ShopRite’s grand opening a couple of months ago. There I was, in the middle of hundreds of people and cooking roasted pepper panini. I can’t  remember the last time there was such excitement in town; for sure not because of a supermarket opening.

The foodies were all there, this time they were  the employees of ShopRite. The cheese boys from Jersey didn’t miss a beat, giving out big slabs of cheese along with “the cheese story. ”  The employees were definitely knowledgeable. Since that time I’ve been told that part of their training is knowing everything about the various cheeses. I loved it, felt right at home, since I come from the restaurant business. You really have to have a restaurant or cooking background if you’re Italian. Up until last year, we had a Thanksgiving cook off and everyone showed off their culinary skills. It was quite intimidating but thank goodness my 85 year old cousin decided not to compete last year with her stuffed artichokes leaving the prize money back on the table. The point is that many people take their  food seriously as does everyone in ShopRite including the cooks, and those lovingly shining up the oranges.  When the broccoli rabe was on sale people were scrambling over one another to stock up.

You know you never know what you’re missing until you get a new love in your life. Once who brings you something that you never thought possible. So it is with ShopRite. Customer service people standing at the end of the checkout counters asking if you have everything. 

This is so smart, great customer service–“I’m here to help and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.” How many times have you been in the check out line, forgot something but didn’t want to lose your place in line? I wonder if they’re keeping track of how much is added to the customer’s bills at the end of the day because the customer service person has gone back to “pick up a few things” you might have missed.  “I brought an extra dozen eggs in case you need one more.” Customer service for sure can make you money.

Everyone in customer service seems to take their jobs seriously, I didn’t see anyone rolling their eyes when the old lady dropped her groceries out of her cart. You and I have both seen that in our supermarket travels.

Having culinary trained chefs in the kitchen is a nice touch; a better touch is one walking around and talking with customers. Now that’s customer service. I made it a point to talk with chef, compliment him on his tofu dishes which were very good. Cooking classes, recipes, small cafe to have lunch and the Health and Wellness Center, which includes an on site registered dietitian. My friend actually had a consult at the Wellness Center and said it was amazing; no lectures,  just a conversation–“tell me what your day is like and we’ll figure out how to work in the foods that will keep your  blood sugar from spiking.”

The amount of prepared food made me realize that ShopRite had done their homework. Yes you can get baked chicken anywhere but won ton soup? (Which was quite good by the way. Besides, what single person needs a whole chicken?) Small meals packaged,  a varied menu, lots of steamed fish and vegetables and cooking going on all day.

So what to do if you’re not the new kid on the block for some new ideas? I think it’s unwise to take your customers for granted. Some of us get out of town occasionally, have been to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  We know there’s better things out there and we’ve been salivating and waiting.

How will ShopRite fit into the community? “ShopRite Partners In Caring” supports emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and much more. Sounds like they have their niche.

Ask your customers how you could kick it up a notch and listen. Don’t laugh in the back room because the customer wants you to put in a day care center. Of course ShopRite has a day care center or two around the country.

Have a consumer advocate group for your business, ask them, what  do they see in  the future for your business? Maybe you won’t be making Sweedish meatballs like IKEA but that probably seemed pretty wild in the day.

It’s hard to remain a leader but customer retention is the key to a successful business. Talking with them regularly will  give you new ideas about how to turn them into advocates for your business. The  key is not to be on the end of the curve but to set the curve. This means always looking for the next good idea.

The worst thing you can do is behave as if your customers don’t  matter. Businesses do this by thinking  customers will remain loyal no matter how they’re treated.

Not so honey bunch, there are too many other choices to stay around and be ignored.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been a business coach for over 20 years and develops customer service and sales training programs for businesses of all sizes. Lisbeth still has her grandmother Christine’s recipes and can cook up a pretty mean anchovy and tuna sauce.

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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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20 11, 2009

Differentiation Builds Your Competitive Advantage and Delivers Customer Service

By |2017-03-03T12:07:15-05:00November 20th, 2009|Categories: Building a Brand, Competitive Advantage|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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Differentiation Flaunt It Honey!

My definition of customer service is giving the customer more than then they expect, i.e. Red Hot Customer Service. That’s exactly what JetBlue did Friday, October 30th at JFK International Airport.

Customers going through the terminal dressed in costume could show off their dance moves at the first-ever silent Halloween Eve disco. Friday I receive an excited call from Elin, designer supreme at Leader Carpet telling me about the event in J.F.K. Airport.

Elin’s comment: “Isn’t that cool?” I asked her what made it cool and she replied “It just is.” She’s right, it just is.

Here’s how it worked: When you went through security you would be given a set of headphones. Through these headphones you could hear a deejay spinning music. Of course, no one else in the terminal would hear the music.

That’s why it was called the “Silent Disco.”
“Our Silent Disco is about giving customers and crew members the chance to tune in to some great music, to burn some energy before getting on a flight or to shake out the stress of the week,” said Kim Ruvolo, brand manager for JetBlue Airways.

The event was produced by JetBlue partnership with Super fly Marketing Group.

So what do Jet Blue’s customer s think? In order to find out, JetBlue took a poll:

Disco at JFK?

Would you dance in an airport lounge?

  • No: It is way too embarrassing
  • Yes: I’ve got it and I flaunt it
  • I don’t know: Depends if I’ve had anything to drink

I checked out the poll and 41% said yes and 37% said I don’t know.

So, 80% of the customers will dance for one reason or another.

I call this customer service at its finest; assuming they got to their destination on time, no foolishness like overshooting the run way by 100 miles, or losing some serious luggage. This is just doing your job or the price of admission to be in the airline business.

Customer service is delighting your customer, making them smile, going beyond the call of duty, or doing something that makes you unforgettable. The key, as brand manager Kim Ruvolo said, is to give the customer something different.

Being different can also build your competitive advantage—but only if the customer loves it. My friend in Boston told me about an experience she had with her hair dresser of at least 20 years. It seems she showed up at her regular appointment to find the usual docile German Shepherd guarding the couch. The closer my friend came to the couch, the more menacing the German Shepherd became. She said it really scared the wits out of her; the dog had never exhibited this kind of behavior. Eventually the owner came to her rescue and asked my friend if she had done anything to frighten the dog! My friend, a little in shock, eventually got her hair done and went home. On her answering machine was a call from her hairdresser.

“It’s a good thing she called,” said my friend. “She was about to lose a good customer.” My friend, however, goes on to say there was no apology, just more defense for the dog. The dog also has a stomach problem, making it even more questionable whether he should be at the workplace.

What’s next? My friend called to tell me she has a new hairdresser, and she’s done a marvelous job!
No amount of silent disco dancing could fix this problem.
What could they have done to make it better?

  • Leave the dog home; he’s obviously too sick to be at work.
  • Leave the owner at home, she’s obviously too sick to be at work also.
  • Stop defending the customer since the dog was already defending himself.
  • Give the customer a free trip to the Bahamas; I’m sure she would have invited me to go along.
  • Give the dog a gift certificate to the vet or
  • Get someone to take the dog to the vet.

What would you have done to make this right?

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