Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hello, Spokane.

I am a proud member of LaunchPad Inland NW

Are you as remarkable as a Purple Cow?

"Cows, after you've seen one or two or ten, are boring.

A purple cow, now that would be remarkable and remembered. Is your business a purple cow, or just another brown cow in the field?"

-- Seth Godin, "The Purple Cow"

Don't miss my inaugural post (below) in this series on Remarkable Service. It began with the "flow of service" from the customer's perspective, and I highlighted a remarkable experience I had at a rental car company(!) that I am still talking about five years later.

After reading this simple story, I welcome all comments about what you discover as you contemplate your organizational business flow, from the moment a customer walks into your business until they leave. Where do service inconsistencies appear?

This is important because, whatever your industry is, I bet you are not the only ones who do what you do. Each business day, just like you, your competition is hoping to capture a larger portion of market share. They can thrive on any of your missed opportunities.

Today I ask; how unique are you? To everyone, but especially to my colleagues in the real estate industry... are you as memorable as a purple cow standing in an otherwise ordinary field of Washington dairy cows?

If, as a child, you actually saw a purple cow, I bet that today you would still be talking about that remarkable experience. As a business, you want to embed that striking thought of a purple cow in the mind of every customer.

Fields of cows. A vivid image for many of us who grew up in and around Spokane. I can remember those seemingly endless family vacation car trips. My brother and sister and I were entertained by plenty of cows as we rolled by in the family station wagon. But cows, after you've seen one or two or ten, are boring.

In the book by author Seth Godin, entitled "The Purple Cow, Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable," the author challenges you to make your choice. "Is your business as remarkable as a purple cow or just another brown cow in the field?"

Whether you are a real estate professional or financial planner, an insurance agent or attorney, a health care provider, or specifically to every retailer with a cash register, how do you differentiate yourself from your industry colleagues?

To fully answer that question, don't merely examine what your direct competition is doing. Instead, go beyond the obvious. The Purple Cow is a thin little book that will give you new ways to create a distinct and memorable brand. After you finish this quick read, you will find yourself reviewing business profiles in the news in a whole new way. By checking out today's hottest companies across a wide range of disciplines, you can gather a cross-pollination of ideas that may never hit the radar of your competitors.

This is my business roundtable challenge to all readers this week. Discuss today's leaders in completely unrelated industries:

Like Nike, are you a "Just Do It" company?

Like Krispy Creme, do you brand yourself as "sumptuous luxury in a fat-free world?"

Like Nordstrom, how would you personalize and deliver remarkable service every time?

Like the Donald Trump organization, what would it take for billionaires to bring their business to you?

Learn from any and all leaders, even global ones. Discuss their brand of excellence, and find ways to apply what you learn. Thinking from a roundtable of different perspectives can produce powerful results.

Service, across all sectors, shares the same goal: Don't we all just want to be remarkable and remembered in the minds of new and ongoing clients, each and every day?

For my local readers, it's time to do your part in creating Spokane's "New Era of Remarkable Service." Become a Purple Cow. Are you in?

Janet Bartman is the Communications Director for a large professional membership organization in Spokane. She welcomes your comments.

Next post: The Language of Remarkable Service

Introducing Remarkable Service: "Bring it, Spokane!"

"There is new momentum occurring across all sectors of business in Spokane. Its all about a new era of really Remarkable Service."

-- Janet Bartman

Hello again, Spokane. You are remarkable! It impresses me how Spokane's quality of life easily transfers into an excellent work ethic. I'd like to share why I think the business climate here in Spokane is so special, and how we are ripe for this new era of remarkable service sweeping across all business sectors.

For what I hope will be lively business discussion, please read on for highlights of local experiences that offer ideas you can apply to your specific business. I hope these stories will spark company roundtables and appear on bulletin boards around the Inland Northwest.

Let me begin by telling you the story of James (not his real name) who, five years ago, worked for a well-known rental car company at the Spokane International Airport. I don't know where James works now, but he is destined to excel in any career, with any company. He is a shining example of the remarkable service found in Spokane.

This story begins as I am planning my move back to Spokane. I am flying in for a weekend of house hunting. After the plane lands, I wheel my suitcase and walk up to the rental car counter, where I am greeted warmly by a young man who is wearing a long sleeved button-down shirt and tie. I can tell by his youth and the way he fidgeted with his sleeves and buttons that this is probably his first job requiring professional business attire. He tells me his name is James, and he politely asks for the reservation name and my driver's license. For two or three minutes he efficiently fills in the paperwork and has me sign where required.

At this point, I am expecting him to dangle some keys at me and point down the hall to glass doors and indicate a vast parking lot where I would hopefully find my rental car and be on my way. Instead, James does something completely different.

He smiles and walks around to my side of the counter. He says, "Janet, I'd like to show you to your car. May I carry your suitcase?" He takes the handle from me and escorts me down the hallway, chatting amiably and inquiring about the nature of what brings me to Spokane. The glass doors slide open and our eyes adjust to the bright June sunlight reflecting off the concrete in the parking lot. Again, I expect him to dangle keys and say "Have a nice day, ma'am." (My lowered expectations came from living in Southern California for almost twenty years.) Instead, he cheerfully says, "Right this way, please."

And then, a series of remarkable actions occur.

We approach my car. James opens the trunk. He places my suitcase inside. He opens the car door. He reaches in for a map in the glove box. He starts the car. He performs the walk-around inspection. He hands me a map and asks if I need any directions, anywhere at all. Using my name, he thanks me for my business, and wishes me a wonderful stay in Spokane. As I get seated and drive away, James warmly waves at me and then turns back into the terminal.

I had tears in my eyes. In the car, I gave a victorious little shout: "Yes, THIS is why I'm moving back to Spokane!"

James gave a memorable effort in his "flow of service," from start to finish. So memorable that, five years later, I am still telling his story.

You probably don't run a rental car company. However, you can use this experience as a "service across sectors" exercise. This week, I challenge you to consider your company's flow of service.

Does every employee perform with the polish that James did? Any one of any age, at any time of day, can deliver that "rush" of remarkable service.

Are you consistent across your entire organization, or do some forget that while they are on the clock, in every conversation, they are ambassadors of your corporate brand?

Let's begin a dialogue, Spokane. In what ways can you "bring it" in this new era of Remarkable Service?

Janet Bartman is the Communications Director for a large professional membership organization in Spokane. She welcomes your comments.

Next post: Purple Cows