The Sidewalk Pitch

Help us defeat George Bush.


Do you have a moment for Greenpeace?

You’re running late for a meeting, which of these lines stops you?

Political activist recruiters are on the Nicollet Avenue street corners this summer . Last week it was the Democratic National Committee and this week – Greenpeace.

One of the volunteer coordination tips I learned from Camp Wellstone:

Get potential volunteers to say ‘Yes’.

The another is be specific and compelling. The Greenpeace representatives are doing neither. They’re offering me – and everyone else an early out.

On the other hand, I congratulated the DNC rep on his compelling sidewalk pitch.

Daily Productivity Tips

We’re working with a number of clients to make their days more effective. One of the smallest, yet most profound changes is making each meeting a working meeting. Though powerful and effective, this technique does go against more than 96 years of conventional wisdom

This technique works especially well for document review meetings – have an attendee, you?, make the changes discussed as they’re decided upon. At the end of the meeting, the document is updated – no longer hanging over anyone’s head.

Another tip – before scheduling an in-person meeting, ask yourself what the quickest, easiest way to accomplish the purpose of the meeting. Can the 1o-member project kick-off meeting be handled through email? Probably. Can a decision be reached by a couple of phone calls? Probably.

Over at Worthwhile Magazine, Anita Sharpe highlights a couple other tips for getting time back on your side.

Taking Ownership

Clients, customers, collegues don’t care why there’s a problem. They just want it fixed and to move on. To do that, each person approached with a client issue needs to take ownership of problem and feel they have the authority to deliver a satisfactory solution quickly.

Take this Ritz Carlton experience for example:

At exactly 7:00 p.m. I returned. I was there, but dinner wasn’t. At 7:11 I called Gloria…she immediately apologized and said a rush would be placed on my order. At 7:22 there was a knock at the door….”Mr. Blackman, Gloria and I once again apologize that your dinner has arrived late. Tonight, your meal is compliments of the Ritz.”

Gloria didn’t need to check with her manager – the Ritz trusts each and every employee to solve their guests issues effectively. All organizations need to trust their employees to take this level of ownership.

McDonald’s Learns From Best Buy

In the Star Tribune’s recent “Best Buy Copes with Costs” article, they report that Best Buy’s customer-centric format roll-out (and here) has been scaled back 40%.

The customer centricity strategy has its costs. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue were 2.2 percent higher at the test stores, the company said. But the test stores’ sales and gross profit rates also outpaced traditional locations.

That’s right – even with slightly higer operating expenses, Best Buy has dramatically increased sales by focusing providing an excellent experience to specific customer segments.

In a related development – McDonald’s has also declared that one brand experience doesn’t fit all

“…no single ad tells the whole story,” Larry Light, McDonald’s chief marketing officer.

He continues:

“We don’t need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way.”

There you have it – 2 big names declaring mass marketing is not longer effective and moving their organizations to a more individual customer experience model. Is this the end of mass marketing and the return of local specialization and identity as Seth Godin recommends? I hope so.

The 30 Second Rule

If it takes you or your collegues longer than 30 seconds to find a piece of information, then your workplace organization needs drastic improvement.

I recently attended Minnesota Technology’s overview on Lean for the Office. The 30 second rule is a great yardstick to measure your day against.

Extend the principal a bit..if no one but yourself can find the information needed to conduct business, the office is being held hostage, and you can’t take a vacation. Two points that wear down the morale of the workplace.

You Expect What You Pay For

Recently – a collegue recounted his experience selling a fully-capable product with a price less than half its competitors.

“After the presentation, the customer turned to the sales representative and asked, ‘What’s wrong with it?'”

This, more than 78 years after J. Walter Thompson’s research for Pond’s Cold Cream proved that price and quality are directly correlated in customers’ minds

Compare the potential customer’s – “What’s wrong with it?” – with the following from JWT’s 1926 Pond’s customer research:

“Reasonable in price, used by everyone, many women had begun to think that they could not be as good as creams that were more costly or that were imported.”

This strategy also works in the service industry, illustrated by this exchange between a collegue and an industry leader:

“How to do you get clients to buy into your recommendations?”

“Charge more.”

Do As Little As Possible

How little can I do to successfully reach this goal?

Continually asking youreself that questions is the best ways to minimize rework, reach goals quickly, guarantee sustainable solutions, and design for wear.

This approach creates a functional prototype quickly, keeps stress levels down, and keeps product teams lean.

Johanna Rothman has an excellent post highlighting other benefits of this approach from the product development perspective:

  • Understanding the requirements is a scarce resource, and we should focus our energies towards delivering something that shows we understand the specific requirement and the value it has to our customer.
  • Schedule is critical and we don’t have time to do it again, or build technical debt
  • Project cost is important, and we need to manage it

and another on how this approach specifically addresses rework

See how little you can do, and deliver that much as quickly as possible. The technique I use most often is to break the pieces into groups of requirements/features and then perform iterations within whatever lifecycle the people are used to.

Thanks to NerdHerding for Beginners.

Hotel Room as Showroom

Hotels are now leveraging their experience comforting weary travelers and giving their guests the opportunity to take the hotel experience home.

Marginal Revolution points to a Forbes article documenting the Regency in Manhattan’s addition of price tags to their bath mats, pillows, and bath robes.

In a related development, Selelect Comfort recently announced a partnership with Carlson Hotels to replace 90,000 guest beds over the next 2 years with a custom-designed Sleep Number Bed.

As much as it’s a excellent way for “consumers to get a better night’s sleep away from home” it’s also a great way for consumer to have more experience with Select Comfort’s products. With the lifetime of matresses in the decades, capturing one more household is definitely benefical.

Defining On-Stage & Off-Stage

On-stage; where employees are likely to bump into customer.
Off-stage; where they are not.

It’s one of my favorite ideas from The Experience Economy is that of on-stage and off-stage.

Preventing off-stage behavior from occuring on-stage is the key to a good customer experience.

My wife has a recent example of where the two collided for a poor customer experience:

The Starbucks was busy when I got there. As I was standing in line, I overheard the barista on the phone:

“It’s real busy right now, I know I scheduled you for 6pm, can you get here by 4?….Hey, I don’t need that kind of attitude from you – especially over the phone.”

She hangs up, turns to me and smiles, “How may I help you?”

How large is “on-stage”? Big. Pine and Gilmore relay Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn’s advise that law counselors to drive minivans because, “You never know when a juror is going to see you getting in or out of your car.”

UPDATE: Perception Analyzer has also noticed inconsistencies in the Starbucks experience.