The Lost Art of Making Change

Posted on January 28, 2015. Filed under: Customer Experience | Tags: |

When did we lose the ability to count change? When we began enjoying automated checkout? When self-checkout appeared? I’m not sure, but it’s now a lost art…or nearly so.

I went back to my hometown over the Christmas holiday and I found that, in fact, in a small Nebraska farming community, the art of counting change lives on. I bought a dozen eggs for my mom one afternoon in Larry’s Market, a two-lane grocery store. My bill was a whopping $2.46 and when I handed the cashier my $5 bill, she promptly made change and counted it back to me. And she didn’t just say, “Here’s $2.54″…no, she counted up from $2.46 to $5.00! I couldn’t believe it! And I smiled, not just for the moment, but for hours, days, and now a month later.

That’s the impact a great customer experience can have. Something as simple as counting my change back made me, as a customer, feel really special. It was a connection…back to simpler days and a time when checking out at the grocery store was more than a transaction; it was an interaction.

Make the connection with your customers. It often takes just a bit more effort to show you care and make a big impact…one that can last not just for the moment, but for hours, days, months, even years.

Thank you to the phenomenal people in Larry’s Market for keeping the art of making change, and a great customer experience, alive!

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Create Memories Through Experience

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits, Practical Branding | Tags: |

Think back to one of your most vivid memories – perhaps it’s a perfect powder ski day…perhaps a special birthday…perhaps something else. If I asked you to describe the memory, I bet you could pull out the most amazing details to describe it.

Here’s one from me. It was about at least seven years ago…and it was a ski day. It was snowing hard, really hard. The sky wasn’t blue or gray – it was white. I love skiing on really sunny days and extremely snowy days – terrible conditions really challenge me and I get psyched! The snow was pelting my face, the powder was about 10” deep – right at the top of my ski boot – and it was difficult to see very far. It was silent…my skis made no noise at all as they cut through the white stuff. And I was focused. It takes some decent concentration to ski in that much powder, but I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I fall, at least it won’t hurt!” I even have a picture ingrained in my mind of the view (or lack thereof) coming down the mountain, a racecourse on my right, unable to see much farther than 20 feet ahead, and on this is overlaid the thrilling feeling of the challenge.

Do you have a memory like that – a memory about which you can pull up clear details, no matter how long ago it occurred? Most likely, that memory is associated with an experience.  That’s because experiences trigger brain memory and emotions.  And, important in business, experiences, memory, and emotions influence opinions, and opinions often define brands in our world today.

Think about those brands that really stand out for you. Is it because of the product delivered or is it because of the experience that surrounds that product…the way it makes you feel? Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Disney are all nationally recognized as providers of stellar customer experiences. But that level of experience can happen in an everyday world as well. For me, they are provided by my dentist, by one of the checkers at my local grocery store, and by my Apple store.  Those everyday brands are defined more for me by the experience I receive than by the service or product I buy. I’m not discounting function – it has its place – but the experience is what I remember.

When you think about it, the union of what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience.  And that experience triggers memory and emotion, which then serve to define your brand in your customers’ minds.  In this way, emotion and experience play important roles in defining your brand in the marketplace today. Are you focusing on what your customers see, hear, and touch, and how they interact with you? Think about your memories and pay attention to the type of details you vividly recall.

You want to be remembered? Try making memories through experience.


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News Travels Fast These Days

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience | Tags: , , , , , |

90% of online consumers worldwide trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust consumer opinions posted online.

Source: Neilson

A pretty sobering statement. But as a user of products and services, would you say the same thing?

And what does that mean for you and your business? It means you’d better have your act together! Word of mouth is becoming more and more important. Word of mouth is also becoming more and more global, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, and other online review avenues.

Certainly core product and service is important – and I’m not discounting that. But I’ve been searching online reviews and it seems to me that people expect the product or service to work…that’s no longer the issue. That’s more the cost of being at the table in the market. Rather, people now comment on how they were treated, whether their voicemails were returned on time, whether anyone followed up with them, how they were made to feel, and the quality of the interactions they had. You might remember David Carroll, the gentleman who wrote a song a few years back when United Airlines damaged his guitar and refused to pay for it. The site housing the song had 720,000 hits within four days. News travels fast these days.

Now combine that with the statement at the top of the post. Today, individuals trust recommendations from others they perceive to be peers, whether they know them or not, far more than they trust something a statement a business makes about itself, its products, or its services.

Bottom line, your customers can quickly and powerfully point prospects away from you – or toward you.

So there’s really not a better day to start focusing on the customer experience. Make sure what your customers see, hear, touch, and how they interact with you reflect the reputation you want in the market.

People listen to other people. Create advocates that will use their recommendations, in person, in print, and online, to be advocates for you.


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The Dog Biscuit Miracle

Posted on December 6, 2010. Filed under: Customer Experience, Practical Branding, Stories | Tags: , , |

The following article is from David Bond, the creator of The Wallace Street Journal. It’s a great testament that a stellar customer experience can be delivered in even the most unexpected circumstances. Read on…and thanks, David, for allowing me to share this!

Wallace, Idaho – To those in search of miracles, I give you this:

Without fail, every morning, give or take 5 minutes depending on the weather, at 0530 our newspaper appears on the front porch. Not in the weeds or the snow. On the front porch, right by the door, so a be-slippered old geezer can reach out for it without embarrassing his neighbours or getting frostbite on his toes, even in the dark.

The impeccable and predictable timing would be enough to remark upon. Except that, winter or summer, tucked into the newspaper is a dog biscuit. Whoever throws the paper on our porch has never met Chase, our dog, because he is inside the house at this dark hour. But Robert has heard a grump or a woof and figures somebody inside would like a treat.

Comes out of his own pocket, this newspaper-carrier’s milk bone. Now, milk bones are not the most expensive of things, unless you buy them 365 days a year for the hundreds of dogs who live along his route. And I know that our paper-guy does this, because at 3:30 a.m., throwing papers way up in Mullan, he is doing the same thing for the dog-people there. I have witnesses.

Now, come to find out, this individual lives in Smelterville. Smelterville is 30 miles west of Mullan. So in the damned cold and dark (winter or summer, take your pick) he departs the comfort of his feathers, picks up his newspapers in Kellogg, and by 0300 is in Mullan, throwing the day’s news and doggie goodies, and by 0530 or so is tossing the newspaper and the milk bone onto our front porch. This round-trip is about the distance between Seattle and Olympia.

And to top all of that, a couple of days ago, he dropped a Christmas card into the mix, strapped into the same rubber band as the newspaper and the milk bone. It was there on the front porch, at 0 Dark 30. The return address was, simply: The Newspaper Guy. Chase ate the milk bone and spared the card. Who says dogs are unsentimental?

I’ve caught the newspaper guy two or three times on the front porch, his beater breathing exhaust, thanked him for the good work he does every day. He respects my thanks, but he has a route to deliver, he is on his way. By looks he is an old hippie, like me, like most of my orbit. Just doing what he needs to do, except with a flair. I wonder, was he growing pot in California in 1965, or maybe just bugging out of the orange smoke at LZ Crystal on the last Huey before Charlie shot guys out from under him. Maybe, like me during those turbulent times, he was just passing through. I don’t know and I don’t care. Sacrifice is sacrifice and redemption is redemption. We all muddle through.

What I do know is that a guy gets up in the misery of the night, and goes beyond the minimum. He makes Chase, our dog, happy. And once a year thanks me for his business with a Christmas card.

If there is an America to be saved, it will not be trillions to U.S. and foreign banks. It will not be the Fed. It will not be a hideously powerful military steaming through the Straits of Formosa into the maw of an Exocet missile. Salvation will come from a guy waking up 20 miles to my West in the middle of the night, driving 30 miles to his east in a blizzard and, in addition to doing his job, caring about my dog. Without complaint, and with a great deal of grace.

Visit David’s website at

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Why Join the Navy if you Can Be A Pirate?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

“Why join the Navy if you can be a pirate?” It’s a quote from Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Jobs is universally recognized for his brilliant planning, bold statements, and charismatic keynotes unveiling the latest and greatest Apple has. (If you’ve never seen one of his keynotes, Google them; they are pretty entertaining.)

But Jobs is best known for leading Apple from market flunky status to market icon status. His willingness to be a pirate in the marketplace, versus joining the Navy, has led to Apple’s reputation of innovation. What would Apple be if it had gone the path of the PC world…if it had given up and said, “‘Me too’ is a high-enough goal for us?” I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have had the raving advocacy, the market growth, or the investor return we’ve all witnessed. It would have become one in the masses or, worse yet, gone into extinction. Instead, it’s a household name.

What is the key to Apple’s success? In my opinion, there are several:

1. Apple wasn’t afraid to be different; in fact, it embraced its uniqueness and staked a claim in its market for that uniqueness.

2. The company looked for what made it different – innovation – and used that to its advantage as a differentiator.

3. Apple made a decision to live and breathe its differentiator in every part of its company and customer experience, from its products to its advertising to its stores and employees. Have you ever bought something at the Apple store? You don’t go to a cash register…your card is swiped on a handheld device! You don’t get a mandatory paper receipt…you get an email receipt! Even the normally-mundane purchase process is innovative.

Find out what makes you or your company different. Then determine how it helps your customers. Does your speed to market give your clients a competitive advantage? Does the insight you bring to the table put your customers in a better place to foresee market changes and proactively prepare for them? Whatever your differentiator, find it, determine how it benefits your clients, then use it to your advantage…in your communications, your sales conversations, your customer experience.

Arrgh! Go on, be a pirate!


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