Thursday, March 29, 2007

Geek Squad offers consistent business "voice"

This pull-out ad on cardstock, from Real Simple magazine, is a great example of voice in communication with customers. Other examples of business voice: Martha Stewart, Woot, and Rockfish restaurants.

Geek Squad used to be an independent computer repair company, and were mentioned by Pine and Gilmore in The Experience Economy. They became a subsidiary of electronics giant Best Buy in 2004.

They turned fixing computers into a fun experience, by creating a uniform (Pine and Gilmore might call it a "costume" in keeping with their theater metaphor) and a quirky tone.

The first line, under "Agents are Standing By" is,
"For simulation, cut along dotted line and place on or near computer."
It continues:

Official instructions:
1) Cut out agent and stand along dotted line
2) Insert slot A into slot B on stand
3) Insert stand into slots C and D on agent
4) Feel safe and secure knowing an "agent" is near

Fine print:
Miniature scissors not necessary to cut out this stand or agent.
In the event of a computer malfunction, a three-dimensional agent will be deployed to your home or office.

From the Wikipedia entry, the job titles continue the joke :
  • Director of Intelligence - Agents in the field rely on the Director of Intelligence for support when they need to source a part, locate a driver, and research complex special requests.
  • Double Agent - These Agents work both at Geek Squad Precincts in Best Buy stores and also respond to house calls to offer in-home service.
  • Covert Operators - These agents offer technical support via the company's 24-hour hotline.
  • Counter Intelligence Agent - These Agents provide customer service and computer repairs at Geek Squad Precincts inside Best Buy stores and stand-alone locations.
While no one enjoys having a computer problem, the Geek Squad has definitely turned it into an experience that one could almost look forward to.

Tip of the day: Do you offer services that could be turned into fun experiences with a twist of voice? Can you offer something new to a service that's been around a long time?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Smiles make the experience in Bali memorable

Seminyak, Bali, 2002: My husband and I arrived in Bali late in the evening. The driver from the Villas Hotel and Spa was waiting for us with the warmest, most beautiful smile we’d ever seen.

As we drove through the dark to the town of Seminyak, a riot of sensory impressions flashed past. Suddenly the driver swung a hard left off the main road down an unpaved alley. After another quick turn we were there, at the entrance to the Villas. Thatched-roof palapas, a fountain, lovely cushions on a teak bench, and more smiles greeted us as we stepped into the balmy night air. We were checked in promptly and welcomed, and a staff member explained the accommodations and the nearby spa. A key on a hand-carved ring opened the gate at no. 29, our home for the next week.

While we were being shown the amenities, we drank in the sculptures, the pool, the garden, and the shaded kitchen. A friendly staff member showed us how to work the air conditioner in the bedroom and pointed out the menu for breakfast.

Everywhere we looked were small arrangements of cut flowers—in a circle around the soap dish, on the dining table, on the pillows. You see these meticulous flower arrangements anywhere you go in Bali.

While staying at the Villas was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, what stands out for both of us is the people we met. Everyone seemed to have a beautiful smile, with an inner light that shone through. Every morning two staff members cooked up our eggs and noodles and served everything in our kitchen with radiant smiles. The grounds crew came in to tend the garden, seeming truly happy with their jobs. The drivers we hired to take us around were amazing, answering our many questions, like why the cars were decorated with colorful baskets and woven ornaments (it was a "metal gods" holiday).

The people at the spa were truly caring. While I was basking in affordable luxury, my feet soaking in flower-petal water, I marveled at the beauty of the place and the people who made it so memorable. Is every place in Bali like the Villas? I have no idea. Bali is quite beautiful, but the Villas is very special, because the people who work there make it so. We would go back to the Villas in a heartbeat, knowing our experience would again be lovely, filled with Balinese smiles, food, flowers, and comfort.

Tip of the day: Human interaction is the key component of the visitor experience. It’s your brand come to life. Every person who interacts with your visitor has an enormous impact on his or her experience. Whether they are employees or volunteers, your security guards, cashiers, receptionists, librarians, docents, educators, curators, rangers, gardeners, and custodians are essential to your experience. Betsy Sanders, a top customer-service trainer for the department store Nordstrom, believes customer service boils down to two things: “To serve and to be kind.” The way to achieve what she calls “fabled customer service” is to meet all expectations, then exceed them.

This is an excerpt from Creating Great Visitor Experiences: A Guide for Museums, Parks, Zoos, Gardens, and Libraries available in April 2007 from Left Coast Press. You can download the first two chapters here.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The car-buying experience, part 2

After we did our test-driving, described in this previous post, we went home to figure out the financials. We also checked out a Web site called Cars Direct. The home page is nice and simple, and it's easy to get started.

You put in your zip code, the make and model of the car you want, and click.

You immediately see their price, and it tells you any style options on the car that are available. At this point, you can either click "Live Chat" to talk to someone from Cars Direct, or ask for local dealers to get back to you if they have this car. You have to put in your name, email address, and a phone number, but no more information than that. Within a few hours, I got several responses.

In this one, the representative from the Toyota team introduced himself, explained their approach, and stated that he'd assigned me a representative who would call me directly. By the time I'd read this, the rep had already made contact by phone. Cars Direct does all the searching for you, sets up the deal and the financing; you just go in, sign the papers, and drive off with your car. The line that got me, "The best part is, if you do decide to buy a car we can facilitate the entire transaction with you prior to ever stepping onto a dealer's lot and we vow that it will be the best car-buying experience you have ever had."

This one from my representative ended with, "We know buying a car can be very stressful and I pledge that working with me will be different."

Within a day I'd been contacted by three dealers who located at least one car fitting my description, and had learned their prices. This makes it really easy for me.

Just two days after my great experience with the Scion salesman, he called to ask if he could answer any questions about the Scion xA. I told him that I was going to buy a Prius. Had the Scion been the car I wanted, I would have bought it from him, because he'd created such a great experience and I felt some loyalty to him. The other salesmen were so rote that I don't feel attached; none of them have called to follow up. Since I don't feel any loyalty to them, I'm now free to find the best deal.

Tip of the day: Having a great Web site, and clear pricing, is critical to the customer experience. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to work with you. If you use salespeople, choose passionate people who can create bonds that are strong enough to withstand a customer checking around for better prices on the Web.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

First person: the car-buying experience

One of our cars died (let's just call it the expensive German sedan), and so we went test-driving today. Stop #1 was a Honda dealership, where we looked around a bit and then asked to go for a test drive. No one pounced on us, which was nice, but we were surprised to learn that we couldn't test-drive a Honda Fit because they weren't in stock.

I have only experienced this one time before, last summer when we wanted to test-drive a Prius and they couldn't keep them on the lot. But I still don't get it... how can you sell a car if no one can test-drive it? It was quick and painless to test-drive, no hard sell, and we got a cold bottled water (although we served ourselves, no one offered us anything.)

We drove a Honda Civic Hybrid, a nice car. It didn't excite me, and the salesman was good but not great. He answered our questions, but didn't offer us much extra information. It was a bit disappointing to learn that the Honda's gas engine is always on, as that doesn't seem as "green" as you'd expect.

Next we went to drive the Scion xA, which is being phased out. And here we got a great salesman, someone who was excited about the cars and his job. Really fun car, sort of the poor-girls' Mini Cooper. He directed us on a special route to showcase various features of the car, accelerating up hills, handling over rough patches, handling on straightaways, etc. He went through all the features of the stereo, the three modes it offers, etc. If I was buying purely on the experience of the saleman's pitch, I would definitely have bought the xA. But I hated the way the A/C blew right onto my right hand, and the smog rating isn't very good.

So then we went to the next counter and got a Toyota salesman, in order to drive the Yaris. It's basically the same engine as the Scion xA, but in a different-shaped car so it gets better mileage. He didn't offer any of the points that the Scion guy did, so driving the car along the same route was missing all the cool sales information the first guy gave us. He did, however, find out that we were most interested in mileage, and began to pitch the Prius. I had driven a Prius last summer and didn't like the weird rear window or the unfamiliar, high-tech dashboard and keyless start, but by the time we got back I figured, Why not drive it again? The Prius is now widely available, Toyota having finally opened another plant, so they're giving good financing and even incentives. I was excited about the car, despite the salesman, and probably will be buying a Prius. But not one of these dealerships had such a fantastic experience to keep me from shopping around for the best price.

Tip of the day: Passionate sales people really make an experience sing. For a high-priced product like a car, they don't make or break a sale, but they certainly help. Create more experience elements, like offering water or coffee, and provide more chances to touch the merchandise, so that people can picture themselves with the product.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Book review: Setting the Table

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer (HarperCollins, 2006)

Part memoir, part management guide, Danny Meyer’s latest book is an interesting read for anyone who views their job as being in the hospitality business. Meyer is the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. The first Manhattan restaurant, founded when he was only 27, has grown to eleven unique restaurants in New York. For managers, or would-be managers, there is much to learn from Meyer’s frank style and open admission of lessons learned from past mistakes.

The book is organized in roughly chronological order, taking you through Meyer’s career and life as he builds one restaurant, then another. The structure of the book helps you see how the manager Meyer came to be, building on old mistakes, taking risks when appropriate, and clarifying his vision along the way. Meyer is an excellent writer, and the book is a pleasure to read.

He begins by saying that “hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions—for and to—express it all.” He describes hospitality as a dialogue, showing the customer that you are on their side. From early on, he worked hard to hire people who shared his passion for hospitality, not just people who were technically proficient.

Meyer’s active hosting (which he calls “athletic hospitality”) involves connecting customers with each other, introducing compatible people or seating them near each other, and making sure that notes were kept on customers every time they came. He’s convinced that he built a following by creating a warm hospitable atmosphere that makes people feel connected.

Meyer’s restaurants are all different, built over a twenty-year span in various neighborhoods using unique inspirations for each. His team takes inspiration and lets it lead to something new. Why can’t we have a burgers-and-shakes drive-in in New York City?

This approach could be applied to any business, and Meyer offers five points for evaluating a possible business venture: it inspires passion; offers challenge, satisfaction, and pleasure; presents meaningful opportunities for professional growth; adds something fresh to its context (e.g. redefining Indian food); and provides sufficient potential returns for the financial risk involved. It sounds to me as if he has a strong handle on how to create authenticity, and that’s what rings true for customers.

The chapter about staffing, called “The 51% Solution” is a wonderful primer on how to hire, train, and inspire staff members. He gives some specific advice on how to interview, test, and train staff members, and how a “gut check” helps you confirm whether you are hiring right.

Meyer covers his leadership style in the chapter, “Constant, Gentle Pressure.” If the leadership isn’t constant, people won’t believe he means it. If it’s too forceful, he pushes too hard and people get demoralized. The pressure is required to keep the business growing and moving forward. It’s inspiring to read about a leader who has thought through his style so clearly and can articulate it for others to emulate. He also describes key attributes for his managers, which include an infectious attitude, self-awareness, and a sense of abundance.

I especially appreciated Meyer’s chapter on “mistakes well handled.” Regardless of the type of business you run, his approach to addressing mistakes is right on target. Meyer suggests a five-step approach: paying enough attention to know that a mistake was made, fully acknowledging it, saying you’re sorry, taking immediate action, and then offering something free in addition. In this way, nearly any mistake can be turned into a wonderful word-of-mouth story that increases customer loyalty.

The final chapter documents his company’s move into food service, as they design, build, and open all three restaurants at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at museum food service, and will be of interest to anyone in management at a cultural institution.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read, and I’ll look forward to checking out Meyer’s two cookbooks as well. Whether you simply love food and restaurants, are running a food-service operation, or want to be a better manager, there’s something for everyone in this book. Click here to see Setting the Table on Amazon.com.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Ignoring" the customer experience, part 2

In my last post, I suggested that some businesses might be able to "ignore" customer experience elements because they are well established or have such great foot traffic they are making enough money.

Let me clarify something. Great customer experiences do not require a lot of expense, remodeling, hiring a designer, or stripping out authentic elements (or staff members) to create a homogenized, designer-ey experience.

I believe that great customer experiences begin with attitude—a customer-focused or visitor-centered approach. For all of us in business (or running nonprofits), it's natural to do things in ways that are easiest for us, make sense for us on staff, and often, are the way we've been doing things successfully for years. But that doesn't always give your customers (or visitors, or guests) a great experience. You can feel the difference.

The little grocery store certainly would look better if it did some remodeling. But they could also wow us with special orders, letting us know that they want to offer us exactly what we'd like, what would be convenient for us. Yes, it would be a bit more work for them, but I believe the return would be increased profits and even more customer loyalty.

Tip of the day: Sit down and think about whether your business is customer-focused or self-focused. Are you doing business with the customers' needs first, or yours? Beginning with an attitude shift might be the most important "makeover" you'll ever do.

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When to ignore the customer experience

One reader's comment sparked this post:
"Just a note on your blog last month re: Jimmy Carter’s. The restaurant is kind of a Mission Hills icon and has been popular with locals for years! It’s close to where my husband and I live so we go pretty often.

Keep up the good work!"

The post she's referring to was called, Does Your Outside Match Your Inside? I wasn't being critical of the restaurant, but commenting on its exterior not adequately or accurately portraying what it had to offer—in this case, a cute interior and great food. Her reply got me thinking, maybe this restaurant has enough business and doesn't "need" new customers the way a younger establishment does. That led me to wonder, who else can afford to ignore customer experience elements? So, I came up with this list. Tell me what you think.

You can afford to ignore the customer experience if:
1. You are a neighborhood icon or institution, like Jimmy Carter's Mexican Cafe.

2. Your location brings you plenty of foot traffic.

3. You are the one place to go in the neighborhood.

4. You own your building and/or your overhead is low.

Here are two examples:

This little grocery store is always busy, as everyone in the neighborhood stops there for odds and ends, videos, a newspaper, etc.

The first impression, pretty much unchanged for eight+ years, is that of a run-down convenience store. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has transformed itself into an up-and-coming place, with homes selling for over $500,000, tons of young families, and well-off professionals. The store has a real butcher counter, rents DVDs, makes keys, and is surprisingly well stocked given its fairly small size. I would LOVE to make over this store, without losing any of its charm or the unique personalities of the friendly owners and staff members. I think they could be making a lot more money by selling (just for starters) flowers, the New York Times, baby food, and copier paper for home offices. Suggestions I've offered are politely ignored. Why, when they could be getting free advice from me? [For starters, he isn't asking for advice, but that's another post entirely.] The store owner owns the building, he likes doing what he's always done, he doesn't want to deal with new suppliers or vendors, and he's making enough money. He doesn't want to spend extra money; he's comfortable with the way things are. Nothing wrong with that, except that it drives me crazy. :)

In another neighborhood, this stationery store has tricky parking, and isn't busy when I visit. The staff members are often cranky, and their items are more expensive than Staples or Office Depot. While they do know their product, they aren't exactly service-oriented. I stop here for minor purchases because I like to support small businesses and it's on one of my regular routes around town. They do sell items like envelopes individually.

The store windows don't draw people in, and often look like they were designed in the 60s. I assume this store owner also owns his building. I'm not sure how they make enough to stay in business (perhaps the wedding invitations?). With this location and their knowledge base, they could be a thriving concern, but seem likely to fade away.

I have been at a loss to explain how businesses like these don't seem to want to change, but clearly the economics of their particular situation indicate that they are doing okay.

What do you think? Do you know of businesses like these that seem to "ignore" the customer experience and still run year after year? Send me an email. Am I off base?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jewel on the marsh: Chula Vista Nature Center

Chula Vista, California: Last week our local museum networking group, the San Diego Evaluators and Exhibits Group, met at the Chula Vista Nature Center. While I've been in San Diego for ten years now, I hadn't been done to CVNC in nearly that long. What a fantastic experience!

Here's what they did well. The building, which is on Federal land in the saltwater marsh, is reached by natural-gas powered shuttle bus. We got a warm greeting from the driver, several eco-messages, and the feeling of going on a special journey. The building is designed to evoke "boat house" and looks comfortable on its site.

The animals' enclosures were spotless and everything looked incredibly healthy. CVNC is one of only four nature centers in the U.S. that is accredited by the American Association of Museums; it was the first. Some highlights were this exhibit panel in the shark and ray exhibition explaining why we shouldn't dump pollutants into storm drains. If you drop a coin into the "storm drain" it rolls downhill and ends up in the fish's mouth. (Shout-out here to artist extraordinaire Jim Melli of the San Diego Natural History Museum who did the watercolors and the bronzes for CVNC.)

Outdoors, you can meet a coyote (life-size, also by Melli) and learn about their role in the habitat.

Kids no taller than that blue sign in the back (darn!) can climb in the marsh bird's nest and feel how it floats.

Animals were displayed in enclosures built into large photos of their native habitat. All signs were bilingual (English/Spanish) with each having its own color, but equivalent size/weight fonts.

Recycled benches were topped with tiled mosaics, tying them into the content as well as upgrading the look.

At $6 per adult, it's an incredible deal. And I haven't even walked out into the marsh yet! I'm looking forward to going back and spending some time there.

Tip of the day: I've said it before, but attention to detail is key. The only negative aspect of this experience is at the beginning, as the parking lot and shuttle stop are not ideal. (Neither are under the control of CVNC.) Executing your details with artistry, and caring deeply about your subject matter, create a feeling of quality that sets you apart.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth on DVD: Pro-earth strategies you can use today

We saw An Inconvenient Truth again last night, which I've posted about here and here. After it was over, I was able to open my laptop and visit their Web site (www.climatecrisis.net). Here's what I was able to do in about 15 minutes, just sitting on my couch.

I used their very cool and easy Carbon Calculator to see how much carbon I am responsible for each year (4.7 tons with my car in the equation, 5.55 tons with my husband's car.) I could also check out how buying a Toyota Prius (something I'm considering) would change that (3.35 tons). Then I went to Native Energy and chose wind power to buy "carbon offsets." This means I'm paying to help build wind power that creates sustainable energy somewhere else, since it's not currently available in San Diego (only $5/month, in our family's case) . I also got additional ideas I can use to save money and use less energy.

I went to the Arbor Day Foundation and bought 50 trees to replant our US forests (you can choose ones for the rainforest, too, or buy actual trees to plant. At $1/tree, what a deal!) Instead of sending holiday cards, or buying gifts people don't need as thank yous, consider having your business send or donate trees instead. Trees take in carbon dioxide, helping the planet breathe and cool down. More trees=less global warming.

What are some other ways your business could take part? You could offer sustainable food in your restaurant or cafeteria, have a solar-powered Web site, or provide organic cotton reusable bags for your conference give-aways or store. (Did you know that it takes 1/3 lb. of chemicals to grow one regular t-shirt? I didn't!)

All businesses use tons of paper. Choose paper that's 100% post-consumer waste (meaning, it's 100% being reused), and find a printer who can use vegetable oil inks. If your business includes travel, budget in carbon offsets to make it climate neutral (you can do this through Native Energy). Put recycled information on all your print pieces as well, to help inform whoever sees it. For more great ideas, see Andrea Learned's post here.

A while back I wrote a post about the impact global warming will have on the wine industry. (The reported response: to grow different kinds of grapes that will do well in a hotter climate. Not very prescient.) Global warming is going to affect all of us in ways we can't even imagine, if we don't act. We can make changes now that will help reduce the trend, it's not inevitable. And, with a water shortage prediction on the front page of my newspaper, can we afford to ignore this any longer? Every business depends on water. Can you afford a water bill that's double or triple what it is now? Or to have your heating and cooling bills triple every year?

We can all be pro-earth in our personal and professional lives, and educate our clients and customers as we go. If you have ideas or resources, please post them in comments or send me an email and I'll add them to a future post.

Tip of the day: Try some of the things I mentioned in this post, or contact green business consultant April Economides at Green Octopus. Tell your customers about all your green business choices and see how you can have a positive impact in your community. Working together, we can solve this.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 09, 2007

If you're pro-earth like me, send a postcard to Congress with Al Gore

From time to time I include information on my blog about pro-earth actions we can take. Between now and March 20, 2007 you can add your e-postcard to Al Gore's Web site. He will be testifying before Congress on March 21 and will show them how many people, like me and you, care. It's not a political issue. Creating action towards positive behaviors will help shift climate change back in a healthy direction.

Just click on this link, it takes less than a minute.

If we don't have a healthy planet, it doesn't really matter whether our businesses are giving great customer experiences...

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Everything speaks" at Tijuana Estuary Reserve

Imperial Beach, California: Last weekend I spoke to the new docents at the Tijuana Estuary National Marine Research Reserve. This park is a joint venture between California State Parks and a number of other state and Federal agencies to study and preserve a rare habitat in Southern California. The visitor center was lovely and I'm looking forward to going back and hiking around the trails. I'm going to highlight some of the ways that attention to detail enhanced this experience.

The phrase "Everything speaks" comes from the Disney Institute's great book, Be Our Guest. They describe how fanatical attention to detail, what author Seth Godin calls vernacular, helps create a seamless impression of quality.

The visitor center is beautifully integrated into the landscape, and welcomes you in. (Inset is the entry panel at the parking area.)

A floor map that begins outside the door gives a visual of the size of the watershed, maps the area, and can be used as a teaching tool. Best of all, in my view, is its artistry. (Inset shows one of the circles that indicate place names. The line of pebbles is the U.S./Mexico border.)

An interactive exhibit inside teaches through trial and error how the size of the bird's beak determines what kind of food they eat. When you put the beak into a hole in the "mud flat", the black bar will light up with the type of food. Deeper holes (and their corresponding food) can only be reached by long thin beaks. I've seen this content many times; this is the most memorable interactive I've seen. (Inset on right shows the full light-up panel.)

After I finished my presentation, I walked out into the foyer, where the docents and staff were busily re-arranging the front desk to make a better first impression. They pulled out this table to display some of their printed matter that had been cluttering the front desk. Instant gratification for yours truly, seeing Experienceology put to work!

On our way out, I had to get a picture of this utility box, depicting local bird life. Great way to tie in and beautify a necessary component of the hardscape.

Tip of the day: Taking the extra time to add artistic elements elevates your experience. Pull in artists from your community to add touches to your building that bring it to life. Think through all the details that enhance your experience, and take a fresh look at your first impression. Simple changes can make an enormous difference and don't have to cost a thing.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Behind the scenes at the Long Beach Aquarium

Long Beach, California: In an earlier post, I covered how the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (LBAP) communicates their green mission in their gift shop. Let's go behind the scenes to see how their business practices, some out of public view, support their mission as well. The Aquarium's mission: To instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.

A cell phone recycling program on the front plaza informs guests that recycling cell phones helps protect the ocean. While this is not an impulse decision, returning visitors can bring in used cell phones. For others, it plants the seed that recycling their cell phone is better than throwing it away. The program brings in some revenue for the aquarium, as cell phones are mined for precious metals and other components.

The recycling area in back includes a sign to tell tour guests how much material is being recycled every year. This official signage validates the program for the staff involved in the recycling effort, putting management's stamp of approval on their efforts. Great idea on all fronts.

The aquarium built a "co-gen" natural gas plant to help meet their extensive power needs. This helps the aquarium contain costs as well as freeing up power for the city's needs.

In Cafe Scuba, a variety of organic and sustainable options are featured. In addition, the flatware is not plastic, and can be composted. While the aquarium is not at this time composting the material, they are reducing the use of petro-chemicals and educating visitors, as well as supporting the market for these alternative producers.

These efforts, integrated throughout the business and communicated to visitors, show that the aquarium is practicing what they preach. This authenticity makes visitors feel better about the institution, thus more likely to support it. While a business can always do more, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific gets an A for effort and follow-through.

Tip of the day: Visitors and customers are becoming ever more sensitized to global concerns. Label everything you are doing that's pro-earth, and explore how you can shift business practices to be more green. Not only will you appeal to like-minded people now, it will set you up in the future as a role model, and is an opportunity for positive press and word-of-mouth. For consulting assistance with green business practices, visit Green Octopus.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Communicating your mission: The Green Team at Long Beach Aquarium

Long Beach, California: Last week at a conference I went behind the scenes at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (LBAP). The Aquarium's mission: To instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.

As part of day-to-day business, the Aquarium applies green practices and technology throughout their operation, spearheaded by an internal "Green Team." They also do a good job of communicating what they're doing to visitors. Let's take a look in their gift shop. This sign clearly identifies both the Green Team and items that support green efforts.

These stylish bags are made from used juice boxes from the Philippines.

The sign explains that the bags are recycled and the company provides a living for more than 200 families, adding to the feel-good message (100% Concepts, China).

These reusable "wrap sacks" replace wrapping paper and encourage buyers to pass them along around the Earth: 1-800-505-3365.

For other items like these, visit Alchemy Goods. Their messenger and tote bags are made from old seat belts, inner tubes, and billboards. Purses and bags made from recycled billboard signs: Relan Bags.

Tip of the day: When you align your business practice with your mission, your organization stands out. If you want to influence behavior, like buying "greener" items, offer them in your store and explain the benefits to the buyer and the earth. I cover mission-driven memorabilia in detail in my new book, Creating Great Visitor Experiences.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What's broken about this sign?

Mark Hurst of Good Experience hosts a hilarious blog called This Is Broken. This sign that I spotted in a radiology office definitely applies.

This particular office was remodeled in the last year and the designers/architects did a beautiful job. Lovely finishes and fabrics, much nicer check-in windows, and all the interior signs beautifully coordinated. [Note: The sign I'm about to show you was installed with a nice stanchion, a bit of a distance from the check-in windows. This is to meet patient privacy laws in the U.S.]

Then I went back. Uh-oh.


What happened here? My guess is that the sign (as designed) was too small to catch patients' attention, so they were walking past it up to the windows. So, out comes the old sign that was never thrown away, some clear packing tape and, voila!, problem solved. (This fix-it approach happened at my grocery store, too. See here.)

Tip of the day: How to solve problems like these? Test out sign size and placement as part of the design phase, and build in some prototyping time and money for fixes like these.

Technorati Tags: , ,