Is Your Business Missing Out on Checkups?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments
airplane Is Your Business Missing Out on Checkups?

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The frequent fliers who flew too much tells about travelers exploited the loopholes in the American Airlines unlimited AAirpass program. Although they paid $350,000 for the pass, they took advantage to garner millions of miles. Now the program is under review because it’s costing AA millions of dollars in revenue. “Rothstein, Vroom and other AAirpass holders had long been treated like royalty. Now they were targets of an investigation,” wrote Ken Bessinger of Los Angeles Times.

The AAirpass went on sale in 1981. The airline began investigating the frequent flyer program in 2007. Would it have made a difference on the company’s finances had it stopped the program soon after seeing the abuses? “It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were,” said Bob Crandall, CEO of AA from 1985 to 1998. “Soon” sounded like the airline recognized the problem early on.

One of the customers mentioned in the frequent flyer story bought his AAirpass in 1987. Six years after the program went into effect. If AA saw these problems soon after, why didn’t it stop offering it before 1987?

The New Deal

Sometime in the ’90s, I read a story about repealing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs because they no longer had value or applied. I tried to find something about that and the best I found was a Kansas Free Press story on how the New Deal doesn’t work in modern times. With new processes and technologies, old government programs become obsolete. Yet, some keep on churning and wasting millions of dollars that could be use elsewhere.

That’s what happens when doing business as usual without a checkup. Check ups also work for other areas in a business. For example, my manager and I led a weekly meeting with all the managers of a department. After my manager left and my team changed its direction, we stopped the meetings. Some keep on meeting without realizing they’ve strayed from the original purpose.

Phone Plans and Web Hosts

My husband took on a project that involved reviewing employees’ phone plans. He found that one traveler racked up big phone bills because his plan charged high rates for making calls in the countries he visited. Switching plans saved the company a few thousand dollars a year — all on one employee. After reviewing all the plans and making the changes, the company saw huge savings.

A review of your contracts and services is also worth your team, even for a one-person business. I signed up for my first meryl.net web host at $29.95 per month. That price was the norm at the time when there weren’t many choices. I had problems with the hosting and the customer service. Despite the effort it would take to move the website, it was worth shopping around for another web host. I signed up with a host that cost $12.95 per month. And it came with a bonus: fast, dependable customer service. They went out of their way to help with problems they could’ve easily said, “We don’t do that.”

Their service didn’t stop there. As a webmaster for several nonprofit websites, I came across another high quality web host that offered the same features mine did and for less. I contacted my web host to see about meeting the price. They did. I also signed up with the web host for one of my nonprofit organizations.

What other areas should undergo a check up in a business? Does your company conduct check ups? What results has it seen from the check ups?

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Free Samples

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 at 7:54 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 4 comments
fruit sale Free Samples

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“It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer’s market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away,” writes Seth Godin. In his post, he explains that it bugs him to see farmers giving away free samples at a farmer’s market. Instead of offering samples, they need to focus on building connections. Of course, building relationships leads to trust and eventually the buy. No argument there.

I’ve been guilty of picking up a sample and avoiding eye contact with the person at the booth. But I do the same thing in clothing stores. Two reasons for this. One: I want to make my own decisions without interaction. If I need help, I’ll seek it. Two: I don’t want to risk having an awkward conversation or embarrassing situation if I can’t read the person’s lips.

Example. Years ago, I was trying on clothes in a store with my mom nearby. Apparently, the sales person had been trying to talk to me while I was in the changing stall. She admitted to my mom that she thought I was a snob. We had a nice conversation, I bought a few things and I walked away with a good story.

If I I decide to buy the sampled item, then I’ll go back and grab it.

Granted, Godin could be speaking of farmer’s markets and not other situations. After all, he has given away many books. It’s true that free samples don’t work for everything. Writing and designing on spec has had plenty of controversy.  Yet, sites like 99designs thrive. These sites allow clients to post a project posting a fee for the winning design. Designers submit their entries based on the client’s requirements and cross their fingers. Imagine the time the designer invests in creating the work. If the designer’s work isn’t selected, that’s time wasted. And many do it again and again.

I’ve bought many things as a result of free samples. Some of these, I continue to buy. While 10 people may have sampled items with no plans to buy, the company turned me into a loyal customer. My regular purchases paid for the 10 little samples and then some.

Heck, I’ve even bought from companies after receiving their swag that had nothing to do with their product or service. The swag helped me remember them when I needed their services. Yes, I researched the company before hiring them. No one expects you to buy on swag alone.

Building relationships is important. No question. Still, free samples. They can be a good thing. Maybe not for farmer’s markets, but certainly for others.

What are your thoughts on samples? Spec work?

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Are You Memorable?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 7:40 AM | Category: Business, Customer Service, Life Tips, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments

donald duck clock Are You Memorable?Ask anyone between the ages of 13 and 30 who knew my dad to share something they remember about him. Most will reply with “talking like Donald Duck.” Walk in to the office in my mother’s house and Donald Duck greets you from every direction beginning with the large bright yellow latch-hook picture of Donald Duck on the wall.

I don’t know how Dad started this Donald Duck talk business, but it’s one of those things many people remember about him. His wife, three kids, and friends showered him with Donald Duck gifts for years.

Accidentally Memorable

I also have one thing that makes me memorable. No, I don’t imitate any famous characters. No, I don’t perform magic tricks. This one came with the package that the doctor delivered to my mother when I arrived. I was born deaf only no one knew the little secret until around my first birthday.

Despite years of speech therapy and repeating nonsensical sounds, I have a deaf accent . Whenever I met a new teacher or professor, I often introduced myself in the first class explaining that I read lips and will sit in the best place where I can see the teacher. I joked that I could never skip class because the professors would notice the deaf one didn’t show up.

In eighth grade, my drama teacher asked me if I was Michael’s little sister. This may not sound shocking … until you hear that we’re 10 years apart. Imagine all the students in 10 years who came through her door before I did. When she taught my brother, I was just three years old — not exactly recognizable from a photo. Michael showed her a photo of three-year-old me when I wore the clunky hearing aid in a box on my chest. Would she have remembered me without it?

What makes you or your company memorable?

You don’t need to run off and take lessons on how to imitate a famous character. As outgoing as my dad was, I can’t imagine him pulling out the Donald Duck trick in a business meeting. It could be a a clothing accessory that stands out, a company mascot, smashing customer service or a well-written email newsletter.

What helps you remember a company? How does your stand out?

 

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