August 2017

Delight Your Customers: Be a Sock-Knocker-Offer

2017-08-19T19:45:52-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Have you ever wished someone… Or perhaps someone has offered you the words of encouragement… “Knock their socks off!”

It means to wow or amaze someone. To go beyond what is expected.

The saying originates from boxing – when you bop your opponent so hard, you nearly knock them out of their socks.

No Socks
Unfortunately – and far too often – experiences are delivered short of expectations.

  • The meal was tasty, but the service was slow.
  • The camera takes great pictures, but the battery doesn’t last very long.
  • I’m having trouble with my credit card – luckily they have a 24-hour service number. When I called it, the recording said it would be a 32-minute wait.

I’m sure you have many similar examples.

As a customer – we love to have our socks knocked off. And, the good news as a marketer, business owner, or customer experience manager is that customers rarely expect it.

However, fixing the restaurant service, creating a battery power system that works, or properly staffing customer hotlines is NOT knocking someone’s socks off. Those actions are simply doing your job… Delivering what you’re supposed to deliver.
Sock-knocking-offing goes beyond.

To knock their socks off, you provide more than the required “AND” – you go beyond with two or three ANDs.

  • The food was great, AND the service was very friendly, AND they knew it was our anniversary AND treated us to free wine and a dessert.
  • With this camera, it is easy to take great pictures, AND the battery lasts forever, AND it came with a cleaning kit and case.
  • The credit card company has a hotline, AND it is open 24-hours, AND you immediately reach a human.
    Here… try to complete the below sentence, and see for yourself.

“We provide ________________ AND ________________, the full experience for our customers. We don’t stop there, however… AND we ________________. That’s how we knock their socks off.”

Is your company being a sock-knocker-offer? Are you doing both part one AND part two – the necessary requirements? Do you go beyond with more than one AND?

February 2016

Starbucks App Is Slick, But Reduces Customers To Transactions

2016-02-16T18:27:35-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , |

Starbucks Vending MachineIt is an ultimate convenience that you can pre-order Starbucks from your phone. Tap your order into your phone, walk in and pick up your beverage. It is paid for and you skip the line. To some operators, I’ll bet this sounds like the perfect set-up…just take the customer’s money and hand them a product.

Starbucks can get away with this because they have 20,000 locations. They’ve established their brand, and can afford to draw from their brand with a system like this. (And, that’s what this does… it pulls from their brand bank account).

When you have 20,000 locations and plenty of collateral in your brand bank, you could consider this approach.

The “a-ha moment” is when you realize this perceived strength is actually a weakness. Starbucks has reduced this customer to a vending machine transaction.

  • Starbucks is missing out on the ability to make meaningful connections with these customers.
  • They’re squandering the time and money they’ve invested in customer service training.
  • They’re losing the chance to suggestively sell something new,
  • Up-sell a perfectly paired pastry or
  • Suggestively sell something new.

While it is neat that Starbucks has this high-tech tool. Remember it was high-touch, not high-tech that made them the brand they are today.

June 2014

12 Tips For Successful In-Store Events

2014-08-24T15:38:37-04:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

No matter what you call them… your customers, clients, consumers or participants – they are all Guests when they visit your location. Being a great host to those visiting your location is no different from entertaining friends and neighbors at your house.

While we do think about details when planning a big event at home, as restaurant and retail owners, we and our teams need to be a great host to Guests every day.

Here is our guide to being a great host to Guests – from preparation and during to after your event.

♦ Planning ♦

Have A Plan

You’ve got to prepare and plan if you want to make a great impression. You can’t just wing it and hope it comes together.

At home you’d use PaperlessPost, Evite or good, old-fashioned printed invitations. At your location, if you are hosting a special event (a sale, grand opening, seminar, etc), you’ll use postcards, social media, and good, old-fashioned printed invitations.

Plan for how many people you want and expect to attend. Plan to have enough: food, drink, entertainment, supplies, and helpers to make the experience just as pleasant and fresh for the first to arrive and the last to arrive.

Additionally, at your location part of your preparation is making sure you have enough staff, that they get time to take breaks and lunch – so they can stay fresh and “on” for your guests.

Invite People

This sounds quite basic… But, if you want Guests to show up, you’ve got to let them know it’s taking place. Give enough advance notice so your Guests can work the event into their calendar.


Sounds basic… but… put your best food forward. A great chance to do a “spring cleaning” – making your place spick-and-span.

At home you make sure at least the rooms your party guests will be in are clean. The main room, kitchen, living room and bathrooms. You vacuum, dust, wash windows… making sure your place is comfortable and leaves a great impression. At your location – it should be the same thing. Each day should be prep-cleaned. Why does dust build up on your light fixtures, merchandise shelves, and massive dust bunnies on the floor? You wouldn’t let that happen at home.

Ambiance: Sights

At home, in addition to cleaning, you may want to make sure you’ve spruced up the place with decor. Put out a few vases of fresh flowers, light candles. Finally hang those pictures, get the carpet cleaned. Too at your location, be sure you’re keeping your decor looking fresh. Maybe change out the drab silk plants. Take down a few of the notes and stickies that are collecting at the POS area.

Ambiance: Smells

What does your place smell like when people first walk in? Is it pleasant and welcoming?

At home the smell of appetizers and cookies baking may be all you need. But, your cleaning helps to rid your place of any stale smells. At your retail shop and especially at your restaurant, the smell of cleaning supplies and bleach is not a good smell. We want to see you keep it clean, not smell it! Get an outsider to tell you how your place smells. We spend so much time in our locations we no longer can pick up if there are any unpleasant odors.

Ambiance: Sounds

What sounds do you hear? Is there music that fits your event? Do you bring in live entertainment? Are there sounds guests shouldn’t hear? Employees gossiping to each other? Loud kitchen noises?

♦ During ♦

As Guests Arrive…

Greet Guests – Make sure someone is there to greet and welcome your guests as they first walk in. Make a nice first impression. This is the same at home or at your business location. A smiling, cordial, warm greeter is a perfect way to introduce Guests, and especially new Guests to your location.

Don’t Let There Be Strangers, Make Introductions

At home, you would introduce your guests to your spouse and family. And introduce one Guest to another. You’ll let them know where the bathroom is, where they can get a drink and where the snacks are. At your location…while maybe you’re not having customers meet each other, it makes sense to ensure they know who on your team is there to assist them – make their experience better.At your location, you don’t want customers to be strangers to your offerings – your products, services – and the layout of your location.
Here are the changing rooms. Here is the bar. The toilets. The coat check. Here is how you order. Here is how you pay.

As It Continues…

Re-Stock & Refresh – As people dig into your offerings, the display is going to be depleted and messed up – whether a bowl of buffalo wings, a shelf of shirts, or wall of widgets. Plan to refresh with extra supplies, straighten up what gets messy, and take away what’s finished.

Join The Fun – Make sure you mingle with your Guests. Take this opportunity to get to know who is attending and get to know more about them.

Look For Cues – Watch your guests for non-verbal cues that they may need help. Make sure they don’t look too warm, too shy to ask for help, that their glass isn’t empty.

As People Depart – As they depart, thank them for coming! Ensure they know the event was even more special because they were there. Send them home with a party favor. Perhaps even an offer to return again soon!?

♦ After ♦

Send Thank You Notes – While the Guest is typically supposed to send a “thank you” note, as a business – why not send thank you notes to your Guests? Let them know you appreciated their visit.

We hope this guide helps you and your team be the best host to all your Guests.

October 2013

Forget The Extra Mile, Just Go The Extra Steps

2013-12-04T17:17:59-04:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

Sand for Your Inbox
July 2013

We want great experiences from those with whom we do business. Our customers want the same from us. However, sometimes our focus on “going the extra mile” for our customers causes us to neglect the basics.

For example, Starbucks Coffee has gone the “extra mile” by offering a smartphone app that allows customers to digitally order and pay for products. A neat idea, but the app offers little value if Starbucks doesn’t continue to deliver the basics of friendly service and fresh, hot coffee.

We suggest, forget going the extra mile — just go two or three extra steps. Just a few extra steps are enough to delight your customers.

Let me elaborate. Here is a recent example of a restaurant going just 2 or 3 steps with the most basic products – water and bread.


Recently, at the Clifton Inn Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the waiter brought water to the table, he asked if we also wanted lemon or lime. So simple to offer and +1 step further than many restaurants. A choice of lemon and lime was nice, too.

Their lemons and limes weren’t rough-cut wedges, they were thin and even slices. Almost “classy,” if that’s a way to describe cut citrus. That’s +1 more step than those who serve wedges.

But, the Inn went +3 steps. Instead of draping wedges over the lip of our glass or delivering them to our table in a small bowl; they presented the lemon and lime slices, neatly shingled, in two even rows, on a long white plate. Using tongs, the waiter added a slice or two to our glass. That’s the +3 step.



Same restaurant, different example.

The Clifton Inn serves bread and butter with dinner. As do 60% other restaurants. Big deal, right?

Well… Clifton’s bread was hot from the oven. That’s a huge +1 step. How many times have you been served hard or stale bread at a restaurant? I get the strong (and gross) feeling, at many restaurants, a bread basket makes its way around from table to table until someone finally eats it.

The butter at Clifton? It was soft. That’s another big +1. How many times have you been served chunks of rock-hard butter that tears apart your bread when you try to spread it? How difficult is it to serve spreadable butter?

Once again, however, the Clifton went beyond butter that spreads to a major +3 step. They whip their own butter in-house. Not hard to do, but above and beyond for sure.

The Clifton delighted us before our appetizers even arrived. The rest of the meal, right through dessert, was delicious! And, while the service was awesome, none of this had to do with their service. They pay attention to details and set standards of 3 extra steps that went beyond the normal to delight us.

Bread and water. How sad is it that serving warm or hot bread and soft butter is “out of the ordinary?” These were basic basics. So “out of the ordinary” that I’ve been telling people about it. I’m telling you now in an article. Who thought bread and water would be worth remarking about?

Restaurants have removed steps and stopped paying attention. They’ve decided it is cheaper to slice bread and keep passing it around it until it is gone. And, easier to pre-portion butter in mass and store it in a fridge.

The Clifton Inn isn’t spending thousands of dollars, or investing in high technology, or even going “the extra mile.” They went a few extra basic steps – thinking about the customer experience. A few basic steps beyond minimum.

What two (or three) extra steps could you add to your business?

A Few More Examples

  • At the point of sale, Nordstrom employees walk from around the cash register and hand you your bag of purchases.
  • any retailers wrap your clothing purchase in branded tissue and seal with a logo sticker. Instead of chucked into a bag, they treat their products / your purchase with care.
  • In Amsterdam, nearly every retailer asks if your purchase is a gift and, if so, offers free wrapping. (They even remove the price sticker).
  • Two different restaurants I’ve been to, one offered a single pot of their special blend ground coffee to brew at home. Another provided a single-portion of their famous scone mix for baking at home.
  • Some hotels…
    • Provide premium, brand name shampoos and lotions.
    • Don’t charge you to drink the bottle of water they leave in-room.
    • Offer an umbrella to borrow if it rains while you’re visiting town.
  • Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco provides a gold fish for your room to keep you company if you’re traveling alone.
  • When I order pocket notebooks from Field Notes Brand they include an old-school clicky pen and rubber band.

At your company, start with the simple things… At the point of sale. In the way you print your menu. The way you answer the phone. In your “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign. In the music that plays at your location. Your take-out or delivery orders.

Next time you’re thinking you’ve got to go the extra mile to please your customers, realize you may not have to go that far. Just take the first two or three steps. That alone may be enough to delight them.

This article has been sent directly to Sand for Your Inbox members. Become a member today for free, and get sand in your inbox!

September 2013

New Seasons Market, The Best Fine Print… Ever!

2013-09-18T15:41:04-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Once in a while you come across a business that “gets it.” They just get how to make their customers happy. They cut through the red tape and bullroar because it just makes sense to put people first.

A remarkable example is New Seasons Market the Portland, Oregon-based grocery store @NewSeasons that call themselves The Friendliest Store In Town.

And, you know what? They are!

Like most businesses, they have to qualify their “claims” with fine print… Freakin’ legal departments. Here is the fine print for New Seasons Market.

The Fine Print
We’ll do whatever it takes to make New Seasons Market
the Best Shopping Experience in Town. Of course. There’s the fine print.

Open the Next Register Policy
More than two people in line? We’ll open another check stand right away.

Staffing Policy
We hire people who really mean it when they say “Have a nice day.”
We treat them as well as we want them to treat you.

Helping You Find It Policy
We’ll escort you to the spot (unless you just want directions).

Product Returns Policy
If it’s not exactly what you want or if you don’t like it for any reason, bring it back for a no-hassle return. We’ll replace it or refund your money with a smile. We promise.

Eating In Store Policy
Go for it. Enjoy yourself. Please pay for it on your way out.

Senior Discount Policy
Senior discount every Wednesday; 10% off almost everything for those  65 or better.

Military Discount Policy
To say thanks to veterans, military personnel and their families,
we offer 10% off almost everything every Tuesday.

You Break It Policy
If you break it… don’t worry. Accidents happen.

Solutions Policy
We have, find and make solutions. Visit the Solutions counter at the front of the store.

Special Request Policy

Squeaky Wheel Policy
Our shopping carts will be oiled and maintained so they
don’t drag, squeak or otherwise annoy you.

Here’s the sign, proudly posted outside the store.


Here is background about News Seasons from their website:

Three families and 50 friends got together back in 1999 and decided to open a grocery store. Not just any grocery store, mind you, but one that carried everything from the essentials to the extraordinary. It had to be friendly, fun, neighborly and supportive of sustainable agriculture. So, on Leap Day, 2000, dreams and ideas gave way to our first store opening at Raleigh Hills.

As a locally owned business, we take pride in supporting local farms, ranches and other small businesses through our Home Grown program. The Home Grown symbol points out products from produce and meat to hand lotions and scented candles that come from local companies. So, you can support the local and regional economy with your dollars. And we can further our strong commitment to sustainable agriculture.

We show our commitment to the community by giving 10% of our after-tax profits to various organizations through grants and donations. And our staff gets out there to volunteer, engage and participate!

If you own a business… this is the benchmark for no nonsense service. It has been raised. This is the height you need to meet or exceed to provide remarkable service for your customers.

May 2010

Seattle’s Best Coffee Announces Cart, But Where’s The Horse?

2010-05-14T17:39:24-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

On Wednesday May 12th, Seattle’s Best Coffee, announced the beginning of their “brand transformation” with a new logo that (as they put it) matches their “optimist outlook and simplified approach to great coffee experiences.”

Over the next months and years, they plan to “show up in new ways and different places. Places where great coffee should be.”

This tactic is premature and not customer-ready.

Starbucks purchased Seattle’s Best in 2003. It was positioned in press releases as a way to offer coffee lovers a different taste profile than what Starbucks offers.

The two key drivers for buying Seattle’s Best discussed within Starbucks were:

  • For their food service business, and
  • To have a sister brand – of a lower tier – that would allow Starbucks (the corporation) to open in sites not suitable for the Starbucks brand. (Keep Starbucks positioned as premium, yet don’t lose business in those other spaces.)

Other than opening in Border’s bookstore locations, Seattle’s Best hasn’t done much during the past seven years.

And, each time one of those “second tier” locations became available, a Starbucks was built instead.

This has also helped to create a situation where consumers no longer see the gap of service / experience / quality between Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s / McCafé.

One of the original intentions was to not broadcast Seattle’s Best as a sub-brand of Starbucks… Rather to leave them perceived as separate and even, competitors.

Other than making Starbucks seem even BIGGER and intent on taking over the world – there isn’t much value in promoting Seattle’s Best connected with Starbucks. So it makes no sense why Seattle’s Best is being promoted with the tagline:

“The next big thing from Starbucks isn’t Starbucks.”

Unfortunately, more than anything, Seattle’s Best is showing us what NOT to do.

What’s Confusing

  • Why Should Customers Care? Other than a landing page, a new logo, and a homemade video – there are no other changes. Especially none that benefit customers.
  • Seattle’s Best has killed their own thunder. When they do make a meaningful change, it will be expected versus a surprise. They will “owe it to us” versus surprise and delight us.
  • The ‘hope it goes viral’ video featuring Seattle’s Best employees breaking into the bell tower of Starbucks headquarters and covering up the Starbucks siren logo with the new Seattle’s Best logo doesn’t make any sense.

    Covering up the old logo with a new logo is what businesses do when one business buys another.

    Based on this tactic – to the average consumer – it appears Seattle’s Best has purchased Starbucks.

  • [Starbucks Bought By Seattle’s Best?]

  • Why is Seattle’s Best being promoted as “the next big thing from Starbucks?” What good does it do to promote Seattle’s Best as a Starbucks product?

    Seattle’s Best was recently launched at the coffee brand at SUBWAY sandwich shops. The ads feature the old logo. It would seem to make sense to wait to launch Seattle’s Best in SUBWAY until after the brand transformation? Especially with exposure Seattle’s Best is getting of the old log in SUBWAY ads.

What To Do Differently

Seattle’s Best has no news now. Stop trying to generate buzz and excitement for something that doesn’t yet exist.

  1. Make changes that benefit customers. (A spiffy logo is not a customer benefit). Do something new, different, or better than now:
    • Better product,
    • Better prices,
    • Better environment,
    • Better service…
  2. Relaunch this new, different, better at all locations on one day. Surprise customers – like an overnight beauty make-over.

    I visit my Seattle’s Best location today and BAM! – there is a new logo on the building exterior, new menu boards, new cups, new logo on products, on the aprons, new ads, and SUBWAY locations change as well. All this unveiled the same day – all at once. Wow!

    THAT is a brand transformation!

    Instead, they’re are doing it piece-meal. Instead of a beauty make-over, we have to watch them slowly grow out their hair… So slow, will we care that it is happening (and I quote) “over the next months and years.”

  3. Until there is anything truly newsworthy to share – keep this information internal .

    • Focus on getting buy-in and participation from your franchise team.
    • Get your employees on-board and excited.
    • Focus on whatever it is that is going to make you better than you were – other than a new logo.

What do you think?

February 2010

Environmental Integration: Satellite Dish Disguise

2011-04-14T01:53:45-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

Over the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able travel around Europe. I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures.

I love this shot below.

Terra cotta roof tiles, and lush, greens hills a patchwork alternating vineyards and olive groves. This is Vinci, Italy. Where Leonardo was born and grew up – you know – Leonardo da Vinci (of Vinci).

However, in the middle of this great shot – is a mark of the late 20th Century – the satellite dish. You can also see mid-century old-school antennas.

Vinci View

[Fig. 1 Vinci, Italy View]

You can click the image above for a larger view. Take out the tv equipment, convert to black and white, and you’d enjoy the same view from over 200 years ago.

Environmental Integration

While it’s not perfect, I spotted this solution to disguise dishes in Amsterdam. They’ve covered the dishes with a “picture of brick” to blend into the building. This is an apartment building above our grocery store. While not perfect – the dishes aren’t as obvious.

Disguised Satellite Dishes

[Fig. 2 Amsterdam Dish Disguise]

This reminds me of the “environmental integration” being used to conceal cell and communication towers are being decorated to look like trees.

Cell Tower Pines

[Fig. 3 Faux Phone Pole Pines]

I’ve had that Amsterdam shot in my pictures folder for a while – waiting to share it with you. Thought you’d find it interesting. However, there are business lessons these disguises and concealments may teach us. I’ll post another article tomorrow! Until then, take care.