Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Romper Room and Customer Experience

I was procrastinating one morning earlier this month which involved some twitter banter (twinter?) with @ty_sullivan and @MeghanMBiro.  It was loads of fun figuring out what our fan club names would be...  Mine was Behnia Mania and I decided that Meghan's was Biro's Heroes.  Her response (wish I could remember it) prompted this tweet back from me:

@MeghanMBiro Heh... that just reminded me of Romper Room. Always wondered why she never said "I see Parissa" lol #usguys. 

We then both lol'd a few times more and went on to more serious pursuits.  Shortly thereafter, I received this lovely tweet from @missmollynj, the last Romper Room Host:

@parissab Romper Stomper Bomper Boo tell me tell me do Magic Mirror tell me today did all my friends have fun at play? I see Parissa!

Friends, I just about passed out with joy when I saw this tweet.  When I was little, I was glued to the television during Romper Room with Miss Sally.  I played along at home in all of the games and lessons.  And I wanted in.  I wanted to be there.  I wanted to be acknowledged.  And, as a kid, I never quite understood why Miss Sally never said "I see Parissa!"

If you've not seen Romper Room or can't remember the Magic Mirror, here's a sample clip from my adored Miss Sally remote from Sea World!  The first 26 seconds will do the trick:

No, I'm not insane.

In case you're wondering if I'm the only one who felt left out, a quick trip to Miss Molly's site and a viewing of this Miss Barbara clip will show you that I'm not alone.

We want to be seen and heard.

In this post, I talked to you about some thoughts I thanks to a great #cxo chat.  Yesterday's chat about customer feedback also gave me some food for thought.  We talked about how as a company, you receive feedback, how you gauge feedback, how you act on feedback with many of the answers including vast complex decision science type of stuff.

Being seen and heard is more than just getting a slot in a decision management tree (though I love them).  It's the attention, the acknowledgement, the validation and the respect from others.  It's letting your customer know they are appreciated no matter how large or small their size of business is with us.  This is our obligation to them once we offer and they accept our services.

Be careful.

It's the offering of your services in the first place that's tricky and not to be taken lightly.  Be careful to whom you extend this offer and be realistic about your capabilities to follow through and acknowledge their needs.  This means that qualifying yourself as a service provider is a huge first step in maximizing your relationships with your customers.  Like being a Romper Room teacher, it's a huge responsibility.

Thoughts?  Please share below and if you've liked this post, please share with others.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do You Have Business Cataracts?

So, yeah, I have cataracts in both eyes. It's true. I am technically "young" (ehem!) though we won't discuss my chemical enhanced hair color.  Close friends have known about this for a while but now it's gotten to the point where I have to deal with it e.g., routine outplacement surgery. This was confirmed today.

When I was first diagnosed a few years ago, I chose to live with it because, at the time, all it meant was being careful about eye strain and wearing glasses as needed. As time passed, I stopped driving at night, my depth perception got all crazy, I couldn't recognize people that I know (some were offended), I spilled things, I bumped into things, my eyes grew tired quickly, I got more migraines... Clearly, these glasses were doing nothing for me.

Quality of Life.

So, why am I talking about this? My qualify of life (#firstworldproblem) has been affected considerably and it occurred to me as I was leaving hospital today (Hi Dr. Feder!) that as business owners, executives, managers or what have you, we deal with this on a daily basis. We accept sub optimal conditions and say we'll "deal with it" because we'd rather not undertake the time, effort, energy, resources, etc., to address a situation properly.

Oh, sure. We all have to prioritize issues that come our way just like I relied on my glasses for a while. We can't assign equal weight to all conditions in our business lives because nothing would ever get done. There's a certain amount of "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" (especially in startups) and we make resource optimization judgements all the time. There comes a point though, that we may be promising too much payment in future for the proverbial hamburger today which adversely affects our business quality of life.

Do you have business cataracts?

There's a danger in promising too much future payment because we're not seeing the situation clearly, or what I'm calling business cataracts. It takes a certain Business EQ to know that we've hit a negative inflection point in our business quality of life and to understand its impact on our operations, staff, revenues, customers, etc.

What are examples of business cataracts that could have bad results? Here are a few nuggets to chew on:
  • "You don't call, you don't write..." - In this example, not enough time is spent doing a temperature check with current customers.  Many think that as long as customers are ordering, all must be well so no need to (re)visit customer retention strategies at this time.  If we don't check in from time to time, we miss either incremental revenue opportunities or, worse, signs of switching to a competitor.
  • "Gee, this sofa is really comfy." - Let's face it, sometimes we are new business couch potatoes and we don't like to push ourselves.  It's easier to fall back on the tried and true instead of finding new channels, new customers or new revenue streams from existing customers.  The danger is that at some point, we've exhausted all of our opportunities if we limit ourselves too much.  
  • "We're only human." - A lackadaisical take on errors, especially errors that seem to repeat themselves with no correction, revised procedure, etc., is like opening the door and kicking your customers out of your business house.  It will eventually catch up to you if you prefer a band-aid style approach instead of expending resources to fix something.

Get a new lens.

What to do when you have real or business cataracts?  You get a new lens to clear up your vision and take a look at things as they really are.  Which reminds me, I need to get that procedure scheduled.  In the meantime, please comment below and share with your friends.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Your Four Food Groups

Yesterday, our latest 12 Most post was published.  Loads of people retweeted and shared (thank you all) and the awesome Chris Westfall left some comments as well.  It was his comments and my subsequent thoughts which I'd like to share with you today.  I know you're busy but, if you've a moment, I would ask that you read the original post and the comments if you've not already done so.

Do you have a balanced diet?

There's no need to tell me, the Idea Chef, you're ovo lacto vegetarian but you'll eat bacon among friends and can't stay away from grandma's brisket.  This is a question about your marketing diet.

There's a reason why my mom wants to make sure I've had milk, fruits, veggies and protein.  She wants me healthy.  So, too, with your marketing diet.  Not paying attention to your diet isn't good for your marketing (nor your business) health.

Here's what I mean by a balanced diet (see below).  Of course, everyone's got a different view of things.  This is just my take.

Be a marketing nutritionist.

Your business relies on consistent balanced ingestion and digestion of vitamins, minerals and a host of other goodies.  When we fail to take these four marketing food groups into holistic consideration, it's not healthy.  If we're paying too much attention to Competition and not enough to the other three, for example, we're missing key elements in making sure our marketing system is working properly.

It doesn't matter if Competition is first to market with something if you know it to be non consistent with your Value Proposition, your Product or your Customer needs/wants.  And yet, we often make this mistake of not looking at the big dietary picture with the net result of confusing ourselves (and worse, our customer) with doing things that deviate from who we are holistically.  And that does not make anyone healthy.

What's your food strategy?

These four business food groups must work in harmony with one another with each element influenced by one or a combo of the others at all times.   Think of this holistic view as no different from, complementary to or even influencer of your SWOT analysis that you do for new product development, marketing strategy development, etc.

So, I ask you, what's in your marketing diet?  How do you feed your marketing to make sure all of the systems are working properly?  Please share below and, if you've enjoyed this, please share with friends.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


Monday, August 1, 2011

Garrett's Popcorn and Culture

Have you heard of Chicago's Garrett's Popcorn?  If there was ever a time to have a smell-o-video widget, it's now.  The below video from FoodTV is about 3 minutes long but it gives you an appreciation for Garrett's history and process.

Garrett's is so popular that there is ALWAYS a line snaked outside of each shop.  If you've lived or visited here in the cold of winter or in the most humid of summer, you know that that is a loyal fan base.  It's an excellent problem to have.

You've got to admire the discipline, commitment and the pursuit of popcorn excellence down to the special moisture sensitive kernels.  I could write another post about focus like I did for Intelligentsia but today I'd like to talk about something different.

"It's just popcorn," she said.

So, my cousin H. visited from Paris this past week. Many things were crossed off the tourist checklist: boat tour, libations and views at John Hancock Building's 95th, museums, etc.  As we were walking on Michigan Avenue, the luscious smell of caramel caught her attention and she asked where it was coming from.  I explained it was Garrett's and showed her the line.

It was unfathomable to her that popcorn would draw such a devoted following hence her comment above. I tried to describe the what and why of it but I wasn't successful though she believed me when I said it was delicious and instantly addictive. She speaks 3 languages so there wasn't a language barrier. I realized that this was a blog post in the making.

How do you ignite cultural passion?

Not unlike expensive coffee, heated seats or the microwave oven, someone has to be taught or conditioned to want to stand in line a long time for a bag or tub of popcorn. This teaching and conditioning becomes a little bit more difficult when cultural textures or differences come into play.

Let's face it: a new culture is a foreign language. Expressions, jokes from old television shows and yes, food, can be a foreign language and awfully confusing to newbies whether they are new to a job, city, country or brand. And still, I see all of us making the same mistake over and over. We make them figure it out on their own and don't ever consider that we lose power over our narrative when we do that.

Fish or cut bait.

This expression means "you're in or you're out" which is what we do to those new to us. And it's also fitting for what I'm trying to convey in this post because it means nothing to a) people who aren't fisherman or b) people who have never heard it before.

Make a friend and reclaim your narrative.

Why talk about this at all?  I just sat through another great #cxo chat featuring Vala Afshar, CCO of Enterasys with the topic of how businesses can improve customer communications across channels.  As usual, it was a fast paced and edifying chat.

But I don't remember talking about how you check for "culture" when you monitor customer communications across channels.  I wish I had asked the question because I believe that if we're more sensitive to those who are newbies to us and cultural newbies, we'd all be better off in the short and long terms.

What say you?  Please share below and share with friends.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


P.S. Wanna know how vast the fan base is?  See this video for Halle Berry's joyful embrace of a Garrett's tub.