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Starbucks and iTunes and artists-added value excellence

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=starbucks+coffee&iid=6110000″ src=”9/d/e/2/Starbucks_To_Raise_f2ab.jpg?adImageId=7988679&imageId=6110000″ width=”234″ height=”154″ /]I know what you’re thinking – “Linda, you are so behind the game! This is old news!” Well, as I’ve said before, I get excited about something that is new-to-me and I think this is terrific.  It’s added value up the wazoo!

Sometimes regular good customer service gets taken for granted:

  • You walk into a retail shop and the clerk acknowledges you with a smile or “hello” – this is good customer service.
  • While looking over some merchandise the sales person offers to show you another color or something similar that might interest you – this is good customer service
  • When you pay for your purchase the clerk thanks you and asks if there is anything else he/she can do [offer to carry out to your car a large item, or double-bag a heavy item] – this is great customer service

Added value in customer service comes when:

  • while shopping you stop into the restroom and not only is it clean and supplied properly, it is decorated attractively
  • there are live plants, well tended, decorating the establishment and the background music is pleasing
  • an attendant or clerk goes before you to open the door as you leave [often Applebee’s does this] wishing you a good day
  • a wireless hotspot that costs you nothing to use and actually works

These are all examples of added value…something added to your experience that didn’t cost you a penny.

I’m not a frequenter of the Starbucks solo locations as I often get a latte at the in-store Starbucks booth at my local Safeway grocery store [which is, itself, an added value service on the part of both Safeway and Starbucks].  However, last Friday morning, I asked my husband to stop at the location adjacent to the freeway as we were heading out of town.  While standing in line I noticed a stack of business cards with the title “Pick of the Week” and was curious.

It became clear that this is a collaboration between Starbucks,  iTunes and music artists [this card had a song by James Yuill]…a collaboration that does these things:

  • for me, the customer, I’m introduced to a musician whom I don’t know yet or I’m being treated to a free download of a tune of an artist I’m familiar with; in any case this card represents a free download from iTunes
  • for me, the customer, if I’m not acquainted with iTunes, this is a great introduction – a free down-loadable tune
  • for iTunes this is a chance to intrigue a potential new customer and give added value to a current customer
  • for the music artist is is an opportunity for exposure to many new fans
  • for Starbucks this is a great way to fulfill one of the things I think every customer wants: a reason to return

Yes this is all “advertising” and “publicity” and “promotion.”  These companies and the music artist wouldn’t engage in this collaboration unless there was a reasonable expectation of return [customers/clients/profit].  However, it is an imaginative and creative way to give customer service added value.

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Cool Kohl’s and Safeway interaction

[picapp src=”b/9/a/2/Safeway_Profits_Down_448d.jpg?adImageId=7281553&imageId=4692356″ width=”234″ height=”161″ /]When I go to the grocery store I don’t expect to receive coupons to another store.  Usually when I shop at the grocery store [I shop at Safeway] I’ll get a couple of cents-off coupons for merchandise that is carried by that store chain to use on my next shopping trip.  Imagine my surprise this past weekend when I got my receipt for that night’s supper along with a “rewards” coupon for Kohl’s department store.  For some reason I hadn’t heard of this promotion.  It was  very short-lived [Nov.4-8].  For just four days at Safeway, depending upon how much you spent you got a “rewards” coupon for $10 to $50.  Then you take your coupons to Kohls and between November 9-21 you can spend them like money [certain bounds].  Wow.

To me this is an innovative and interesting way to bring in business.  Truthfully, I wasn’t planning to shop at Kohl’s this month…have no particular item that needs to be purchased now; however, because I have a couple of these “rewards” coupons, I will be going to Kohl’s to purchase something that is on my would be nice soon list.  It is important to note that the promotion didn’t draw me into Safeway because I didn’t know about it; however, Safeway is the grocery chain I use so I’m there often.

In this kind of economy, interesting business-to-business promotions that work to bring in customers to both is creative problem-solving.

Here’s an old idea become new again, and one that many businesses, even home-based businesses can use: layaway.  In my newspaper’s business section today, there is a story about layaway that takes the whole front of the section.  The article written by Eve Mitchell [BayAreaNewsGroup] is titled, ” Layway unwrapped: Retailers revive alternative to credit.” According to the article:

  • “…Layaway is here for the holidays as stores bring back the old-fashioned retail practice in response to consumers seeing reduced credit lines, rising unemployment and overall lean economic times…An alternative to using credit cards or cash to pay for merchandise, layaway requires shoppers to make a down payment followed by additional payments made in person, through the mail or electronically, until the item is paid for in full….Burlington Coat Factory, Kmart, Marshalls, Sears, T.J. Maxx and Toys “R” Us are among the retailers offering layaway programs. But not all shoppers are takers nor or all stores providers of layaway. Among retailers that don’t offer layaway are Kohl’s, JC Penney, Ross Stores, Target and Wal-Mart….”

There is a truism that if you wait long enough things come back into fashion and layaway is not different.  When my children were very young we went through some lean financial times and many of the stores I shopped offered layaway.  At that time in my life it was the only way I could shop for their birthdays and Christmas.  It allowed me to make sure I would get exactly the merchandise I wanted because I could walk in and pick it out.  Then I would go in periodically to make payments until I finally had it paid-in-full and could take it home.  It’s not an answer for everyone, but it is one way a business can help customers they might not otherwise have.  In my business I have used layaway.  I once had a customer who could not afford one of my pieces of art at the time of the show, but truly wanted it.  I offered to accept a “down payment,” then worked with the customer to set up a payment schedule.  I retained the work until he had paid it in full.

The news article also says:

  • “…Although layaway currently represents a small segment of the brick-and-mortar retail world, it has found a growing online presence with the emergence of Web sites that see the practice as a growth opportunity….”

I did a Goggle search for “layaway online” and several sites came up [note: I did not explore these sites, I only list them as examples]:

  • laymeaway.com
  • elayaway.com
  • ez-layaway.com
  • and there are others

Holiday season 2009 may just be a challenge for those of us with small and home-based businesses; however with creative thinking, we just might make it.

 

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