Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday Mishmash

A few things from the ever-growing "blog about that!" list.

Blog search becomes useless: This item from Blog Business Summit matches what I've observed: blog search tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search are becoming pointless, because all you find is blog spam. I've about given up on them, and I wish someone would create a blog search tool that was able to distinguish the splogs from the blogs.

Getting retail right: Apple's slick retail stores have been a successful part of the company's strategy, and this Fast Company piece by a writer who went "undercover" and worked at a number of retail operations shows why:

Many companies fail from the start by talking down to their new hires and using training materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Gap started employee orientation on the wrong foot by showing us a video about the perils of employee theft. Starbucks handed out Orwellian handbooks telling us to "Be Authentic." Such approaches produce cynicism and engender a fake sense of belonging, if any at all. Apple treated us like adults.

Apple does a lot of other things well. Employees are taught how to work together because customers notice when employees don't get along. Apple floods its retail zone with staff because the bottom line suffers every minute customers wait for help. By the time I got to Apple (my last stop), I knew that dress codes (like Gap's) were bogus and uniforms that match a job (like at UPS) are critical. Apple requires staff to wear tasteful company-issued T-shirts and lanyards. Employees also hand out business cards as in high-end clothing stores, an act that calls them out as individuals in a way not typical of traditional retail.

The Apple retail experience isn't perfect (I actually once stormed out of their Houston Galleria store insisting I'd never return, though I did), but it's one of the better ones.

I thought the line about Starbucks was interesting; I'm so tired of thinking, "No, I don't want the pumpkin latte they're forcing you to push today in a really "authentic" way, because I actually come here to drink coffee, not candy." I'm not a jerk, though; all I say is "No, thanks."

What do do when life SUX: The Sioux City, Iowa airport authority tried to get their three-letter code changed, but they didn't like any of the alternatives, so they're sticking with what they've got: SUX. And they're making it part of their marketing. Their web site kind of screams small-city earnest charm ("Why wouldn't ya?"), which is totally appropriate. And you can buy SUX gear. "Go SUX!"

Enjoy your weekend!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, for one, have not been impressed by the Apple store retail "experience", having visited stores in Houston (Galleria) and Seattle (Univ. Village). They seem to train the staff to have a condescending attitude towards the potential customers. Also, I was disappointed in their return policy. I was looking for an iPod speaker system as a gift for a friend. In case of return within 14 days, Apple has a restocking charge on non-Apple branded merchandise. The item was list price. I ended up buying at Best Buy (almost never a good retail experience) because of 30 day return policy and no restocking charge.

I travel a lot and think that overall Starbucks does a pretty good job with staff training and producing a customer service attitude. It's especially noticeable in small towns that have not had an upscale restaurant or coffee shop before. The suggestive selling does get old, though.