Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going the Extra Mile

At Daisy Mae's Market, we emphasize to our staff how important it is to "Meet and Greet" our customers. We feel that people have lots of choices as to where to shop for fresh produce, and in order to differentiate our company from the big box grocery stores, it's extra important to show our customers that we care about them. Shopping at Findlay Market needs to be more than just hurrying in to buy groceries...It needs to be an experience.
If you saw my post from March 12, you know that I'm not only a big fan of the Cincinnati Reds, but I'm also a big fan of their customer service department. The thoughts I expressed in that piece were reinforced when I was contacted a few days later by Michael Anderson, Public Relations Manager for the Reds. According to Mr. Anderson, my blog post "was the buzz in the office." It seems that the Reds had been spending the month of March training their entire staff, over 2200 employees, in the "Reds Way."  This training program emphasized, among other things, making a connection with fans. As it turned out, timing was everything, and my blog post must have been one of those "teachable moments" where the public relations department could show that the system was working.
One thing led to the next, and I received a phone call from Craig Warman, Director of Ticket Client Services. Mr. Warman expressed his appreciation for my story, and then offered me an opportunity to purchase two tickets that had come available. Of course, I was thrilled, completed the credit card purchase over the phone, and waited for the tickets to arrive in the mail.
If you're beginning to grasp the Reds' philosophy, you'll understand the tickets didn't come in the mail. No, for an organization emphasizing connecting with the fans, you don't just lick a stamp and put it on an envelope...You deliver the tickets in person.
Today, 2 days before Opening Day when I'm sure they had a dozen other things they could be doing, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Warman came to Findlay Market and hand-delivered my tickets. They went the extra mile...Not only did I get the tickets, but we also got another example to share with our staff about customer service...our own little "teachable moment."
Thanks, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Warman. Hope you realize your training goes way beyond those 2200 Cincinnati Reds employees.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Work is Fun

Mr. Daisy Mae loves to cook. I've learned a lot from watching him in the kitchen over the years. Sometimes I take my turn at the stove...But for the most part, I prefer to watch and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of his labor.
I, on the other hand, love to play with my computer. I'm amazed by the power of this small machine. I can find the answer to any question within seconds, communicate with people around the world, create photo albums, and play music whenever the mood strikes. Needless to say, when I got an iPhone a year ago, I felt like I had another computer right in the palm of my hand...Double my pleasure!
Recently, while Mr. Daisy Mae was having fun cooking up some brussel sprouts, I was playing with the camera on my phone. Today I played a little more with the pictures, and now I have something to show for all my hard work. Isn't it great when work is fun?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Would You Care for Fries with Your March Madness?

March Madness has arrived. Somehow this little old college basketball tournament has grown into a multimillion dollar event spread over four television channels. In fact, this year, it's actually possible to watch all 67 games live from start to finish. Every office, many families, and all kinds of friends have established betting pools in every form and fashion. People who don't watch a basketball game all year are suddenly interested in the outcome of each matchup.
If you're like we are, meals seem to take a backseat when the games are on. Just like in the sports bars, the menu often consists of pizza, wings, burgers, or sandwiches. We usually want a simple side dish as well, and I've found sweet potato fries to be a quick and easy addition to any meal. (And those of you who were paying attention to our 12 Days of Healthy Foods in January remember that sweet potatoes are good for you!)
You'll find many variations, but I prefer "Perfect Oven Sweet Potato Fries." Just peel a potato, slice it and spread the slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper, drizzle them with olive oil, and pop the baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. For a little extra kick, I like to spice mine up a bit with Lain's Bada Bing from Colonel De's at Findlay Market.
Whatever your preference, food-wise or team-wise, here's hoping you bring home a winner this March.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Customer is #1

Imagine you sell something that is in such demand that people will camp out in rain and freezing temperatures for 3 nights in order to be in line to buy it. And then imagine that those waiting to spend their hard-earned money on your product actually have fun while waiting for all those hours.
That's exactly the position the Cincinnati Reds are in. They have created just such a product, but it's not all about getting tickets for Opening Day. It's not just about the game.
The owners of the Reds, led by Bob Castellini, adhere to the philosophy that the customer is the number one priority. The management team and the marketing department never forget that the success of the team is directly related to the satisfaction of the fans. This morning on Fountain Square, I witnessed the Reds customer service program in action.
I arrived a little before 7:00 am. Those who had spent the night in tents and sleeping bags were starting to pack up, and a quiet line of fans snaked around the Square. I had hardly found my place at the end of the line, when the John Morrell Rally Pack team showed up with coffee and doughnuts for everyone in sight. Reds highlights began playing on the big screen tv overhead as fans began to really anticipate the start of the 9:00 am ticket sale. Soon, the mascots Mr. Red, Rosie Red, and Gapper began to mingle among the crowd. Rosie Red and Mr. Red each spent at least 10 minutes entertaining two young boys near me in line, throwing a ball and pretending to steal the boys doughnuts. The father grinned from ear to ear because he knew, even if he couldn't get the coveted tickets, his kids were making Reds memories that would last a long time. Next the Rally Pack Team passes out Reds towels to everyone and conducted a trivia contest with autographed prizes for the winners. At exactly 9:00 am, the line started to move in a very orderly fashion. The Reds were well-staffed to sell the tickets efficiently in a big tent out of the weather. Each successful purchaser who emerged from the tent with tickets in hand was high-fived and cheered by the mascots and the Rally Pack.
After about 25 minutes, I was within a few people of the ticket tent, but unfortunately, my part of the story doesn't have a good ending. The Reds spokesman took the microphone and announced with regret that the 1500 tickets were, in fact, sold out. Sure, I was among the disappointed, but I felt my 2 hours were well-spent as I got another good lesson in customer service. The Reds didn't have to distribute coffee, doughnuts, and towels. They didn't have to bring the spirit crew and a full contingent of ticket sellers. They would have easily sold the tickets without any of the extras. However, the extras are what made me feel as if my experience was worthwhile, and the extras are what made me think the Reds care about ME.
What a good lesson for any business...Show the customer that he's #1, and you'll be way ahead of the game.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's a Nice Little QR Code Doing at a Fresh Produce Market?

Have you seen the little square bar codes that seem to be popping up everywhere? I think I first saw one in a magazine, but then I started noticing them on boxes, labels, and billboards. They're called QR Codes, and they're packed with information.
The concept of QR Codes originated at Toyota as a way to track parts used in manufacturing. It didn't take long for people to figure out the codes had other applications in fields such as marketing, education, and communication. For you newbies, you scan the QR Code with a special reader, and you'll immediately be linked to a website, photo, video, or written text. The really cool thing is that the readers are available on most smartphones so anyone can unlock the QR Code. By holding the phone over the little square bar code, you'll be taken to an expanded level of information.
We've started experimenting with QR Codes at Daisy Mae's Market at Findlay Market. We have codes that link to our Facebook and Twitter pages, and we have codes that link to "How-to" videos such as how to grill vegetables. I was thrilled last week when I saw two young customers literally "flip out" when they tried the codes. One of the girls actually said, "I feel like a kid with a new toy!" In a matter of seconds, the girls had become fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter.
We'll see where the future takes us as QR Codes become more commonplace. For now, take out your phone the next time you're at Daisy Mae's and see what you can learn from our QR Codes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Findlay Market and the Neighborhood Enhancement Program

For the past few years, the City of Cincinnati has selected several areas to include as part of the award-winning Neighborhood Enhancement Program. The Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) brings together a collaboration of city departments, local residents, businesses, and community organizations that focus on "enhancing" a specific part of the city during a 90-day period. This year the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood surrounding Findlay Market was chosen as the first focal point for NEP. Today Cincinnati's City Manager Milton Dohoney stood at the doorstep of the market house to recognize the entities involved in this collective effort and to kick off the 90-day blitz.
The Neighborhood Enhancement Program focuses on crime, building code violations, litter, and blight. Even though crime in Over-the-Rhine has decreased 50% in the last 5 years, Police Chief Tom Streicher spoke about the need to get tougher. In fact, Cincinnati Police have been working undercover in the area since the fall and had targeted 13 individuals as "Most Wanted." By Monday of this week, Cincinnati's WLWT.com reported that 9 of the 13 had been apprehended.
Also this week, I noticed that volunteers were painting several vacant buildings around Findlay Market. At the same time, a nearby alley well-known as a drug hangout was boarded up. Most of the NEP activities are similar in that the program emphasizes quick, relatively inexpensive changes such as fixing broken windows, repairing street lights, cleaning up litter, and painting. Evidence shows that these simple improvements are often enough to change attitudes and overcome misperceptions.
Today at the NEP kickoff, I was excited to see all the different organizations that care about preserving and improving this historic neighborhood. The next 90 days should be even more exciting as we see what takes shape around Findlay Market.