Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't Take the Bait

Sometimes personalities clash.

You can almost feel the tension floating like foreboding fog above the conference room table. The attendees—a few oblivious but most of them in tune—are preparing to fight their own mini-battles whilst appearing to tackle the larger issues on the agenda. Alliances are created around the coffee maker or vending machine, and the aggressor is ready to launch a slight, a jab or a subtlety-veiled insult at his adversary. Those on the tertiary of the battle duck while the recipient has a decision to make.

Will retaliating make him seem petty? Will not responding make the aggressor’s comment appear valid if left unchallenged?

Department battles and peer peeves are common in every company. You can have three employees or three hundred—it matters not—because the human dynamic will always keep the sales floor and conference rooms hopping.

I’ve witnessed this countless times and have been involved in a few of these skirmishes myself. Someone has something to prove. Maybe it’s a new employee who needs to demonstrate his technical prowess or a department head who wishes to command the respect of her team. This person feels compelled to show you how smart he is, even attempting to ‘one up’ you in your area of expertise. Sometimes a person comes in with a chip on his shoulder and is just looking for a patsy to knock it off for him.

Don’t be the patsy.

Every time that I’ve been prodded to refute someone’s snarky email or subtle dig, I’ve always regretted the action. I strive to be a low-drama person because, with three small kids, I get enough of that at home. I simply don’t have the desire to fight small battles that produce negligible rewards. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted to let someone have it; I just remind myself that the price isn’t worth the prize.

Reading a little Lao Tzu helps, too.

The desire to ‘prove you’re right’ somehow becomes secondary to knowing it internally and simply pulling the barb out of your back and moving on unscathed. These ‘small-in-issue but largely personal’ skirmishes take far more mental time and energy than they’re worth.

If you’re on the defense, I advise you not to take the bait.

If you’re the fisherman, I ask you to drop the pole entirely. It’s not pointed at the right subject anyway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maybe the Customer Isn't Always Right...

Those of you who sell on eBay are likely aware of the company’s recent policy change that includes the fact that sellers may no longer leave negative feedback for buyers.

Customer wins a bid but doesn’t pay? Customer issues a chargeback or tries to blackmail you into a better deal or returns damaged product?

Seems that sellers are out of luck.
Since the two-way feedback system has helped both buyers and sellers stay honest, this one-way stripping of power from the sellers has caused a serious backlash. Sellers are boycotting this week, and some are closing their storefronts entirely.

Unfortunately, a company the size of eBay may not be affected by a limited boycott. It will require a mass exodus of Power Sellers to alternatives such as Amazon to get this online giant to rethink its policies.

Here are a few interesting articles on what’s happening in the eBay community. If you’re a buyer or seller, you may want to check out where things stand and how they affect you.
After all, it is your money.

From CNN Money:

Business Shrink:

To hear a discussion about eBay's current dilemma on This Week in Tech

Monday, October 22, 2007

Less is More When it Comes to Your Store…

While speaking at a regional PMA meeting this weekend (thanks to Jerry Sullivan at Precision Camera in Austin, Texas for all his hard work), the topic of store design came up, and it was clear from some photos depicting successful photo retail stores that less is certainly more when it comes to creating an inviting place to shop.

Today’s retailers are so aware of the cost per square foot of their stores that the instinct to cram as much as possible in each space is a strong one. It’s like watching your seven year old grab a handful of candy at the supermarket check-out counter; she just can’t help herself!

I implore you to try.

The effective use of open space and simple design can be far more appealing than trudging through nooks and crannies stacked with inventory and ‘sale’ signs. Think of your store as a stage for storytelling---what do you want to convey, and what do you want your customers to know?

You’d be amazed at what you can do with a small footprint. Find one underused area in your store and consider converting it to an open design with a colorful and thoughtful display. Then watch to see how many people are drawn to it.

Imagine a time-starved woman with two small kids in tow coming into your store searching for ideas for Christmas gifts. Is she more likely to respond to an environment that is aesthetically beautiful and colorful in design or will she prefer to search through stacks of product?

As for this mother of three?

My money’s on Choice A.

How To Turn National News Stories into Local Media Coverage for Your Business

Our previous post explains the difficulty Francis Ford Coppola experienced after a break-in last month where years of his work and favorite photos were lost when his computers were stolen from his home.

We sincerely hope his valuable equipment and the cherished information it contains is returned to him.
We can also help our customers learn a lesson from his experience.

Digital Photography for Busy Women includes the FRAME™ Method, which is a simple checklist I created to help people understand what to do with their digital pictures after the moments have been captured. One step includes archiving pictures on two formats in two different locations. This strategy can protect your customers’ most valuable photographs and data from fire, theft or natural disaster.

Taking a national interest story and tying it in to how your company can provide a solution is an excellent way to gain news coverage from your local and regional media. For example, the piece about Coppola’s burglary could be tied to a new workshop you’re introducing to help protect customers from losing digital pictures. It could also be connected to using your online digital photo storage service or other related product. You can even offer a tip of burning two copies of photo CD-Rs and giving one to a loved one for safekeeping.

Consider contacting your local reporters to let them know that this is an important issue and you’d like to offer some advice to readers. Keeping in touch with your local newspaper can provide numerous opportunities to promote your business by offering advice and guidance to readers in your community.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Francis Ford Coppola Loses Computers/Back-Up Hard Drive to Theft

Francis Ford Coppola is a man at a loss.

In more ways than one.

When it comes to valuable data, few people would argue that 15 of Francis Ford Coppola’s work, scripts and personal photographs would qualify as having substantial financial and sentimental value.

Coppola recently told an Argentine newscaster that he had lost 15 years of valuable data, including precious family photos, scripts and other works. He pleaded for the return of his computers and back-up hard drive, all of which were stolen when his home in Argentina was burglarized last week.

This is yet another reason why, when it comes to backing up our favorite photos, we need to have two methods IN TWO LOCATIONS for the best possible protection.

We hope his valuable scripts and cherished photographs are recovered and retuned to him soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Does it Feel Like Groundhog Day to You?

In the movie, Bill Murray keeps reliving the same day until he learns a valuable lesson that frees him from the maddening sentence of sameness.

Sometimes we all feel like that.

Our days run together and our tasks pile up faster than turkey leg bones at a Renaissance Festival. Our grand ideas of doing better, doing more and expanding our business are lost under the clutter of everyday tasks.

If you’re looking to break through the rut, consider creating a weekly plan.

For those of you who loathe day planners more than toddlers loathe turnips, don’t panic. All you really need is fifteen minutes, a piece of paper and a pen.

And if you want a margarita, too--well, good on ya.

Step 1:

Spend a few minutes writing down what’s on your mind. No organization needed here and punctuation is optional. What are you worried about? What ideas do you have that you wish you could implement? What nagging tasks really need your attention? Getting all this clutter out of your head and onto paper can do a great deal for your mental clarity.

Step 2:

Write a simple list of five things that must be accomplished in the coming week. Assign one task per day and tackle it first thing in the morning if at all possible. Having a nagging task hanging over your head every day can wear you out; getting it crossed off creates positive momentum that will carry you through the rest of the day.

Finally, choose one new thing that you’ve wanted to work on—such as a new workshop schedule or researching a new product line-and write down your ideas.

Step 3:

Put the ideas in a drawer.

Ignore it for a week and then pick one thing each day that will move that initiative forward. It can be as simple as a phone call or as lengthy as a report. Just pick one thing and give it your enthusiasm and attention for a half hour.

I call this the “Things I Love, Things that Nag Me List.” By getting it down on paper, I can finally break out of my rut and get something accomplished outside of my daily routine. I cross a tricky task of my list and get a new project moving forward.

Now, where’d I put that margarita?

You Can’t Be Serious….

When you’ve got a frustrated customer in your midst, you may feel the urge to duck and cover, pass her off to another employee or placate her with standard company-approved responses.

Maybe she just needs to lighten up a little.

Effectively using humor to bring down a customer’s guard can help repair a relationship that, if lost, would take future sales from your doors. Just be careful that your methods are designed to put the customer at ease and give her the recognition she is asking for.

Consider this exchange:

Anne walked through the door of her favorite retail store with a non-functioning digital camera card and a bad attitude. Her work week had already been interrupted by two doctor’s appointments, one dinner meeting and a shortened deadline; she needed her digital camera to be fully operational for a weekend filled with sports activities and a company-sponsored picnic. Simply put, she had neither the time nor the patience for one more frustration.

She made a beeline for the service counter and greeted the manager with a tight-lipped smile. Placing the card on the counter, she said, “I just bought this card, and it’s not working. I’m here on my lunch hour, and I’m not happy about it.”

The manager looked at her, looked down at the card and said, “You know, I keep telling our employees to stop jumping on these cards before putting them out for sale, but they just don’t listen.”

Anne’s stern features softened and she cracked a smile. The manager continued, “Seriously, I’m sorry you’ve had to spend your lunch hour here. Our food is lousy. Trust me; you don’t want to eat in the break room.” He picked up the card and added, “Let’s see about getting this taken care of quickly for you.”

The manager in this story used humor but did it in a way that demonstrated that he recognized her frustration. He didn’t blame her, tease her or use humor in a cutting way; he used it as a method of getting her guard down so she would be receptive to his offering.

Think of humor as an olive branch you extend to a disgruntled customer. By acknowledging concerns and even being a bit self-deprecating, you can save a souring relationship and keep a loyal customer in your fold.

Just don’t greet her with a knock-knock joke. You’ll lose her for sure.