May 2015

Put A Smile In Your Voice

2015-05-19T18:46:14-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

The image below is a relic from my first out-of-college job with the Disney Company. A page from a “While You Were Out” message pad. (I re-discovered this as a bookmark in my copy of George Orwell’s 1984).


Smile In Your Voice


I was a marketeer at the Disney Vacation Club (Disney’s non-timeshare timeshare) when it first launched in ’92. We call it DVC, for short.

I answered inbound phone calls about the new Vacation Club and provided guided tours of the first property at the Walt Disney World Resort DVC Preview Center.

“Put a smile in your voice” was a simply technique they taught us to ensure we sounded friendly to Guests – especially when on the phone.

While it may seem cheesy at first, it really works.

Next time you’re talking with a client (or your father-in-law) try it.

April 2015

Delivering Customer Service at Hooters

2015-04-05T20:57:58-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

On Saturday I had hot wings and a beer at a Hooters restaurant.
For those of you not familiar with Hooters… They are a US-based restaurant chain best known for their hot buffalo wings and Hooter Girls – attractive waitresses dressed in low-cut white tank tops and skin tight orange shorts. They are a privately-held company with more than 430 locations 28 countries. The chain began operations in 1983 with their first restaurant in Clearwater, Florida.

Hooters Menu Cover

E3 Service

While their slogan is “Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined” it obviously requires more than spicy chicken wings and scantily clad women to make a restaurant successful. Just like anyone else in the service business, Hooters has developed tricks and tips to help their front-line employees ensure great customer service. A “best practice” tactic in Seattle (and evidently locations along the west coast of the US) is to provide “E3 Service.”

The three ‘E’s in E3 service stand for…

  • Every Hooters Girl
  • Every Guest
  • Every Day

When I sat down, my waitress wrote her name on a slip of paper on the table… As the meal progressed, several of the Hooters Girls stopped by and wrote down their names on the same paper. The goal for Hooters is to have each waitress stop by and sign their name before your meal is over.

Printed on the backside of the paper was a service cheat-sheet for the waitresses… It’s what I’m calling…

Hooters 16 Steps to Customer Service

Following these 16-steps every day, to every guest, by every waitress is their E3 service…

  • Greet incoming Guests from wherever you are
  • Seat Guests (at the best table in the house, yours of course)
  • Greet table (within 30 seconds or less), suggest a specific drink
  • Inform Guests of a specific special or promotion
  • Bring drinks (in 3 minutes or less)
  • Suggest a specific appetizer
  • Sit down to take food order, suggest fries with every order (The men especially like this… it makes it seem more intimate with the waitress when she sits down, converses and takes the order. I’m certain this also helps increase the average cash tip Hooters Girls receive)
  • Ring, Sling, Bring Setups!(I believe this refers to a. ringing up the order, b. slinging the ticket to the kitchen and c. bringing plates, napkins, forks and knives to the table).
  • Entertain, Entertain, Entertain! (visit each other’s tables)
  • Secret service – anticipate the Guest’s needs
  • Deliver food to the table
  • Check back in 2 bites or 2 minutes and refill drinks
  • Hands Full Golden Rule: Pre-bus, help with the wait station (I’m guessing this means, don’t come back to the kitchen empty handed… bus tables and bring dirty dishes when returning to the kitchen).
  • TEAMWORK – acknowledge every guest (5 ft. rule)(Greet anyone who is within 5 feet of you)
  • Offer dessert and merchandise!
  • Present check in a timely manner

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.

August 2009

M-I-C… K-E-Y… T-H-O-N-G: A Brief About Being Brand Appropriate

2017-07-12T23:09:50-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

This past weekend I visited Disneyland Paris.


Sleeping Beauty Castle

[Fig. 1 – Sleeping Beauty Castle]In addition to themepark attractions and constant entertainment while browsing the merchandise/souvenir stores… among the mugs, hats, and shirts I came across the display pictured below…


[Fig. 2 – Mickey Knickers]

Sure, Walt Disney’s dream for the original Disneyland in California was to create an amusement park where kids and parents can have fun – but I don’t think he had this type of fun in mind.

I’m not a prude, but Mickey thongs are not brand appropriate.

Disney is all about family and magic. Mickey knickers say “if you’re not careful with these you’ll end up creating a family.”

With National Underwear Day upon us (Wednesday 5 August), this post seems all that more fitting.

Of course, the Disney branded apparel Product Manager would make the argument that European Guests have a high propensity to purchase souvenir lingerie and that Disney is simply offering legendary service by “giving the Guest what they want.”

However, one of the keys to a great brand is the discipline to not simply give the customer everything they want… To put a product in place where a sale can be made… But, to also ensure the item is within brand guidelines and guardrails.

Starbucks Connection

There was once a whole lotta hubbub at Starbucks when the merchandise team decided to play to the interests of dog-loving customers and created a line of Starbucks dog toys. In addition to water bowls and typical dog toys… the clincher was a chew ball with the Starbucks logo on it.

[Fig. 3 – Recreation of Product]

Starbucks Animal Finger Puppet

When company head, Howard Schultz found out about these products, he flipped out and had the line immediately dropped. Unfortunately, the merch team’s filters weren’t in sync with Howard’s. A bummer… as time and money were wasted on Starbucks chews when they could have been put to work elsewhere.

Although, at the same time Starbucks was carrying a line of candystick-mounted finger-puppets to ‘make the kids happy.’

These sold extremely well… which justified the reason they kept making more versions. “Customers were voting with their wallets” was the argument.

The finger puppets stuck around for years until CMO Anne Saunders had the moxie to finally kill the product line.

They were a great, quality product – just not appropriate at Starbucks.


Disney: France – Built in 1992, originally called Euro Disney – the resort was rebranded Disneyland Paris in 1995 in an effort to shake off poor attendance and some of the protests associated with the parks opening.

The re-branding must have worked as of last year Disneyland Paris was Europe’s most popular attraction – with more visitors than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre combined. In ’07 14.5 million guests visited Disneyland Paris.

Starbucks: France – The French protested Starbucks when they were opening their first location in 2004. Now it is one of the most successful European markets for Starbucks and Parisians line-up to enjoy the coffee and American-style Starbucks service.

Last month Starbucks opened their first location at Disneyland Paris… and the first “green” cafe in Europe.

November 2008

Don’t Make Your Customers Think

2009-01-03T11:40:41-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

When was the last time you walked through your business, store, location, or website with the perspective of a customer?

I’m not talking about looking for dirty spots on the floor or burned-out lightbulbs.

I’m talking about walking thru with the fresh eyes of a brand-spakin’ new customer. One who has never experienced your concept before.

Do you remember what it feels like to feel uneducated or ‘dumb’ about visiting a place?

Do you remember the feeling the first time you wanted to order a drink at Starbucks, or tried to order food from a menu in a foreign country. Or had to make your way around an unfamiliar airport.

These feelings of disorientation, confusion and “feeling dumb” may be what new (potential) customers experience at your location. (I say ‘potential’ because if they don’t get it, and are made to feel dumb, they may never return).

Try, if you can, to start from outside your location, or at the home page of your website, or on page 1 of your catalog and take it all in.

Is it easy to find your way from point A to point B to Z? If you’re looking for something specific, can you get there as quickly as possible?

It may actually be impossible for you to truly see like a newbie. You may need to find someone new to