Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Hoffmann’

Shooting from the Hip — 13.10 (Making Customers Mad)

September 2nd, 2010 5 COMMENTS

Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

6 Surefire Ways to Tick Off Your Customer

No matter how long I’m in business, I am always amazed at the lengths some companies go to make their customers mad. I “get” the fact that you have to make money. I “get” the fact that the customer “ISN’T” always right (like we’ve been taught over and over again). HOWEVER, the customer is ALWAYS IMPORTANT!

1. Downplay their Problem. They just spent money with you for a product or service. Now there is a problem. A surefire way to raise their ire and eliminate any future business is to take their problems lightly and make them feel insignificant.

2. That’s Impossible. Tell them that what just happened is impossible. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that calling a customer a liar may not be the best mediation tactic. You can say “We take great measures to insure against that.” You can tell them that “We have processes in place to catch that, but this one must have slipped by.” You can tell them that “Sometimes good old human error occurred, and you are really sorry.” But the second you tell them that their problem can’t happen or didn’t happen is the second you just picked a fight with a customer.

3. Accept It “As Is”. Have you ever tried to convince your customer to accept the product “as is” at a reduced cost? They didn’t purchase the product to be defective. They purchased it because they expect it to look like and perform like the picture in the advertisement or the marketing material.

I was in a McDonald’s a couple weeks ago. So as I am ordering, this guy comes back to the counter with a Big Mac. He unfolds it and says to the counter person very calmly, “I’d like to show this to the manager please.”  The manager strolls over very nonchalantly. The customer unwraps the burger and shows the manager the insides. There is sauce all over everything, the lettuce is wilted, and the condiments are both on the inside and the outside of the bun. There was even a chunk of bun missing the size of my thumb. Honestly – the presentation was just awful.

The customer says, “I ordered that!” and points to the picture on the menu of a nice looking Big Mac all perfect and nice. The manager in his infinite wisdom says, “How about I give you a small fry for free?” Instantly, the customer was enraged and replied, “I DIDN’T WANT FRIES. I WANTED MY BURGER TO LOOK LIKE THE PICTURE!” The manager took out a shovel and dug himself a little deeper and said, “We don’t have time to make them like that. You have to be happy with what you get.” The customer walked away and said, “I will never ever buy another thing from MacDonald’s as long as I live.” How would it have worked if he had simply made him a burger that looked decent and not been slopped together? Just fine, I suppose. But nope . . . He decided to pick a fight with the customer instead.

4. Blame a Problem on Somebody Else. Nothing will drive a consumer away faster than to have the blame passed on to someone else. Just take ownership of the issue and correct it. Don’t denigrate another employee who made a mistake.

5. Take Forever to Correct the Problem. This is like making mountains out of mole hills. If you allow a problem to linger, you leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth that much longer. Every company has faults. None are perfect. I remember Jim Hoffmann of Optima Graphics saying in a meeting, “If something is wrong, apologize, fix it, and move on quickly to something positive.” It was a valuable lesson about problem resolution:  Fix it quickly and move on.

6.  Keep Making the Same Mistake. Customers can be very forgiving if you make a mistake and then resolve it quickly. They know that stuff happens. They are even willing to cut you a break when it happens again, assuming you have a solid relationship with them. But when it happens over and over . . . well, that’s when they recognize that despite your best intentions, your company has serious problems.

I recall asking a distributor about a display manufacturer about ten years ago. The distributor said, “They are great about correcting problems on orders. They react fast and send me a replacement or repair immediately.” I said, “They sound like a terrific company.” “Not really,” he replied. “EVERY ORDER has a problem. It’s beyond frustrating anymore. It’s a joke between me and the company and frankly, I’ve had enough “laughs” because my customers are always angry. I don’t see how they can continue to stay in business producing two displays for every one order.”

Guess what? The display company went out of business a few years later.

Please share your “Surefire Ways” to tick off a customer. Tips like dating your customer’s spouse or sending their email address to an Eastern European spammer don’t count. 😉 Those are way too easy.

Until the next time,

–Reid Sherwood

Shooting from the Hip — 7.10 (What I’ve Learned from My Employers)

June 9th, 2010 COMMENTS

Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

What I’ve Learned from My Employers

It’s official. It’s June. Looking back, business should have tapered off in May. Instead, orders were steady throughout the month, and we’re grateful as we gradually wind down into the normal summer doldrums. We’ll enjoy it for a few days (or maybe even a week) but then we’ll be antsy for the insanity to return.

Earlier this week, Mel and I had a meaningful conversation about both life and business. We talked about the influences in our lives and the wisdom we’ve received over the years from colleagues, customers, and bosses. I’ve had the pleasure of working in the tradeshow industry for almost 25 years. It has been very good to me. One of the main reasons has been the quality of the people I have worked for.

I started with Ron Armstrong at Armstrong Displays just a couple of years out of college. He is younger than me, and literally, the only paying job he has ever had has been in this industry. He started sweeping floors for his mom and step-dad when he was 12 and bought the company from them when he was 19. The road was rocky for a few years, but I have to give Ron all the credit in the world. He knew it was going to get better. There is nothing a positive attitude and some hard work can’t fix. I was there for 13 years, and there was never a cross word. It was a pleasure.

Lessons Learned In 2000, Jim Hoffmann offered me a job traveling for Optima Graphics. I enjoyed what I did for Armstrong Displays, but I LOVED what I did for Optima. Over the years, Jim became like a father to me, and we had a lot of great times. Jim is probably the most beloved guy in our industry. If you work for Jim, he’s going to tell you to “Always remember that THEY are the customer.” Yes, there are times when that can be painful, but you talk about it and get through it. My own dad had the same philosophy. He’d say, “Always and I mean ALWAYS take the high road.” Any of you who know Jim know that is the only way he does business.

In 2008, I went to work for Classic Exhibits. I had been friends with Kevin Carty for several years before working with/for him and had known Mel White as a very bright marketing guy. They continue to impress me with their solid business minds and just being fine, rock-solid people. I am NOT bucking for a raise or anything. This is just what they do:

  • Align themselves with great partners
  • Give Classic employees responsibility and independence
  • Help customers become more successful
  • Take calculated risks with innovative products
  • Communicate and market / Communicate and market / Repeat . . .
  • Always look to improve
  • Respect Classic and ClassicMODUL distributors

All in all, this life has been very good to me. Thanks to ALL of you who have helped make it better.

Talk to you next week  . . .

–Reid Sherwood

Shooting from the Hip — 4.10 (Traveling in Ohio)

May 21st, 2010 1 COMMENT
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip

Well, this week has been a whirlwind of travel and appointments with some fun scattered in. I toured Ohio all week: from Michigan to Cincinnati (Jimmy Buffett Concert), north to Dayton, over to Columbus, then Cleveland, Akron, and Canton. About 1300 total miles were driven.

I almost always travel alone. On a rare occasion, Kevin (Carty) or Dave Brown or Gina Porcaro (both from Optima Graphics) will travel with me for a specific customer event, but that is pretty rare. It just so happened that my wife was able to go with me on this trip. I am not sure she will want to go again. We did see the concert, which is always a good time, but I think she now understands that business travel isn’t leisure travel. Business travel isn’t about sightseeing. It’s a lot of packing up and moving to the next city.  Dragging everything in, setting up, and then getting it all ready to pack and leave the next morning. I am not complaining, but I hope you know this isn’t all entertainment and room service.

I want to take an opportunity to thank Vinnie Papa from Ohio Displays for taking me to the Winking Lizard in Cleveland for lunch last week.  What a cool place. Not only did he pick a cool spot, but then he (the customer) bought me (the vendor) lunch. Jim Hoffmann always says the vendor pays, but that didn’t apply this time. Sweet!

May’s business climate is certainly better than the 55 degrees and rain in NW Michigan. Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL are on track to have a solid May. Let’s just hope it continues until September when the typical busy season starts again. As always, thank you for your business and many thanks to all the folks I saw during my trip last week. You’re the best!

Until next week . . .

–Reid Sherwood