A tribute to Pete
Back in Perth, whenever I walked Maki (our dog) past Pete’s store, she would rush right in looking for Pete with anticipation and excitement. Then Maki would sit patiently, on her best behavior waiting for Pete to reach into his tin full of dog treats and get her reward.
Pete knows the names of all the dogs in the neighborhood and where most of the dogs live because he delivers dog food to some of the dog owners who are too old or do not have their own transport to carry the 10kg bag home. Sometimes Pete may forget the name of the owner, but all was forgiven for two reasons.
One, we dog owners couldn’t ask for a better compliment when our dog’s name is remembered. Two, Pete knows the real customer he is supposed to please. We love going to Pete’s because he knows everything there is to know about dogs. The free advice on dog care, training and the latest pet related happenings are priceless comparing to the tiny purchases for Maki along the way.
Every four weeks, Maki would have her grooming session, to which Pete would always add the final touch of a snazzy stylist; a different color of ribbon on each occasion. Pete’s business closed early this year, as the property owner decided to increase rental to a ridiculous amount. Here was a party thrown by dog owners surrounding Beaufort Street to farewell Pete. They say the mark of a great business is whether or not the community will miss you when your company disappears. It leaves a hole in the heart of Maki, Pepper, Louis, Muffin, Pippen, Lucky (the list goes on and on) and all their human companions, each time we go pass Pete’s, which has now been turned into a trendy real estate company.
I had the pleasure of working in the purchasing side of things for two years in my previous job at Cash & Carry, the biggest wholesale food distributor in Australia. As a marketing person, I spend my whole life trying to sell and convince people of my ideas and products. Being on the other end of the spectrum was a refreshing change. I moved from no one wanting to answer my phone call to everyone wanting to get back to me. I would take the purchasing job over marketing anytime.
In purchasing, I was in a position to evaluate suppliers’ offers and their service level. I have seen my share of savvy sales people pitching their products with shrewdness and excellence. I have come across some of the most masterful presentations that did not make the cut, and I have seen some not so sleek communicators that closed big deals, simply because of their good track records and in depth understanding of our needs. Amidst all that was Nick Manning.
Nick does not have any killer pitch. One thing that stands out about Nick is that he is always in a good mood. In the fast paced stressful environment we were in, we did not need a reminder that the day could get any worse when we dealt with our suppliers. Which is why I loved hearing from Nick. Without trying too hard, he often managed to put a smile on the face of everyone who did business with him.
He is always polite, pleasant, with an upbeat attitude. Did I mention, he is also funny? Sometimes we put in way too much energy on perfecting the pitch or the value propositions and neglect the fundamental reason that people decide to deal with us is because they like us. That often has to do with simply being nice to people. Whenever there is an opportunity for partnership or a request for new lines, guess who would be the first on my list to call?
The Chupa Chups Strategy
Many years ago as I was shopping on Oxford Street in Sydney, I noticed a young man holding onto a big fish bowl filled with Chupa Chups giving them to passersby. Instinct drew me near to the guy and as my hand was reaching into the bowl of free lollies, the man casually invited me to enter the shop for a visit. Slightly obliged, I entered a very crowded store full of people with Chupa Chups in their mouths.
Years later when I opened my first shoe shop, the Chupa Chup Strategy resurfaced in my mind. I had a hard time trying to convince my partner to give away 40 cents for every customer coming into the store. Nevertheless, I persevered and bought a huge can of Chupa Chups with 1000 lollies. The Chupa Chups gave me an access to customers I could never have imagined. It became an instant ice-breaker with customers and turned numerous customers into friends.
Eventually, we had kids begging their mum to come into our store, giving us the most innocent clues that they wanted our lollies. Along the way, we got to introduce to the mum and dad our latest arrivals. One day when I was on leave, I received a phone call from my partner who was in a panic because we ran out of Chupa Chups. I knew deep inside then that the strategy had worked, when the person who had opposed the ideaturned around to endorse it. As my business model changes, so does my Chupa Chup strategy. My Chupa Chup strategy now includes going around giving free speeches, sharing my experience on Customer Service. Incidentally, this free ebook too, is part of my Chupa Chup Strategy.
By giving away all I know about customer service for free, our company will achieve two things:
- Make the community a better place by giving them the tool of customer service.
- Achieve word of mouth recommendation from my audiences, so that they will engage my services when needs arise.
These principles are in line with our vision to Spark the Economy by empowering business best practices!
What is your company’s Chupa Chup Strategy?
Much has been written on the subject of Japan. The world does not need another commentary on the fishbowl, largely envied, dissected and analysed. Time Magazine recently ran a cover story describing the gloomy outlook and the failure of its leadership with the startling headline – From Dynamo to Dinosaurs, summed up nicely with the followings:
“Japan once shared Asia’s dynamism and mission. But not anymore. Today, Japan is an island of inertia in an Asia in constant flux. Japan’s political leadership is paralyzed, its corporate elite befuddled, its people agonized about the future. While Asia lurches forward, Japan inches backward.”
I recommend instead, Mark Clifford’s inside article entitled: Crisis? What Crisis? I contend not to write the Samurai off just yet, for there are more to the greatness of a country than money could measure.
My short visit to Tokyo does not make me an expert on the country, but the footprints I left behind hundreds, if not thousands of shops does merit some unsolicited commentaries, at least on the subject of service.
Friends who have been to Japan always brag about the place like a conversion experience, an otaku (cool Japanese word for obsession) which I could never comprehend.
Until last week, when I finally crossed the chasm.
Tokyo made me a believer.