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Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm positively crazy about you

Think about some of your favorite products, brands, and retailers. How do they make you feel? How would you feel if they no longer existed?

A Love Story
While visiting a few retailers over the past weekend, I noticed how differently each experience can be. And each visit led me to a decision about whether to visit there. Ever again. And blog about them (ah yes, the power of social media...).

Somebody Moved My Cheese... er, Veggie Olga
Visit #1 was to Olga's on my way home from work on Friday. I haven't been to Olga's in a really long time. And I've been an Olga's customer for years. I even worked there for a few months in high school. I love their veggie Olga's. And while I think they are a bit on the pricey side for the food you get, I was hungry and didn't want to cook. So I called in a carryout order for myself and my family. A woman answered and I told her I'd like to place an order for carryout. She put me on hold. I waited. And waited. And waited. An eternity later (probably 4 minutes when you are hungry), a man answered the phone and took my order. I ordered a fresh veggie olga for myself with an extra side of sauce. (I had learned a while back to specify "fresh veggie olga" otherwise they give you the oriental veggie olga with way too much soy sauce). Plus a few other items for my family. He told me it would be ready in 10 - 15 minutes. I'm nearly in their parking lot by this point because I had been on hold so long.

While I'm waiting, I notice that there seem to be more staff members in the restaurant than patrons. Odd considering my hold time.

When I get home, I open my dinner and dive in, starving! But lo and behold, my veggie olga is not what my veggie olga used to be. It is now covered in some salty flavoring that reminded me of a curry powder or something similar. And there is some unidentified salty paste (pesto?) on the bottom under the salty veggies. It was pretty awful considering I had my tastebuds set on the fresh veggie olga with the sliced almonds. I checked my receipt and yes, it does read "fresh veggie olga."

I poked around and ate a few veggies that were salvageable, scraped off the odd pastey substance and salvaged the olga bread. That's good stuff.

Then I did what every web-savvy, dissatisfied customer does: I went online to the Olga's website and informed them of my disappointment in the meal. I didn't ask for a refund. I was curious what they would do and how long they would respond.

A day or two later I receive an email from one of their chefs explaining that what had was "... an updated version of the Fresh Veggie with more contemporary flavors and ingredients.  The addition of the hummus adds a vegan protein component as well, making the sandwich a complete vegetarian meal."

Yes, the email thanked me for contacting Olga's. Yes, the individual apologized that I didn't enjoy my meal. No, he did not offer to issue a refund or refer me back to the store. The email ends with this individual stating, "Thank you for being a loyal guest of Olga's" which seemed  bit wrong given the email exchange we just had. I felt like I had done something wrong by not agreeing with their menu change. I'm all for change. But if you are going to change a menu item, change the description. Or train your staff to inform customers of the recipe change. Had I been informed or asked to confirm the item with the new ingredients, I would've ordered something else or asked for a modification.

What's next you ask? Well, I told my husband. And now you're reading this. I won't go back to that store and I'm not sure if I'll visit another Olga's again. I felt a bit irritated that the menu item had the exact same name although a significant change had been made to the ingredients, and that the store did not mention it to me at the time of my order. I felt even more irritated after reading the email response, which explained the menu change from their point of view but did not offer to correct the situation.

My relationship with Olga's changed. I am no longer a loyal Olga's customer. You lost me. Maybe not forever, but I will unsubscribe from your emails. Olga's, I am no longer crazy about you.

It's Cold Stone Fun
"Cold Stone ROCKS." ~ Brenda Meller
The next day I took my son to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. Ironically enough, it was the middle of a snowstorm, but I figured what better way to ban the winter thoughts than to enjoy ice cream. I used an Entertainment Book Coupon to save some cash and my son enjoyed a kid's size creation with one topping for free. And I asked the woman behind the counter if I could order a kid's size for myself, too. Sure, she replied.

Now that was pleasant. :)

If you've ever been to Cold Stone Creamery, you know that when you give them a tip, the staff will sing a cute song about ice cream or something happy. On this snowy day, it looked like the woman was the only one in the store, but since she saved me a few bucks by giving me the kid's size, I gave her a $1 tip. She saw me throw it in the jar (and I warned my son that she might not sing) but she immediately saw it and called to her coworker in the back and they began singing. I thanked her and told her we didn't think she was going to sing, but she replied that her coworker has just arrived and they were happy to sing to us.

Another pleasant surprise.

After enjoying our ice cream, I posted on Foursquare and mentioned my Entertainment Book Coupon which posted on my Twitter account and received an @ reply:

@ Glad we could help you take on the snow :)

Cure for a Cold Winter Day: Cold Stone Creamery
And yet another pleasant surprise. Both Cold Stone Creamery and Entertainment Book showed me that they care about me. They both made me feel special.

I always look forward to visiting Cold Stone because it is always a pleasant, welcoming environment. Yes, it's a bit pricier than the local dairy boy, but the staff really seem to enjoy working there. I can't help but smile when I go into the store wondering what song they will sing when I give them a tip. That combined with the big glass display showing all their wonderful ice cream flavors and clear jars of candied and nut toppings makes me feel like a kid all over again. And their sizes are called "Like It, Love It, and Gotta Have It" based on how much of their delectable creation you want. Cold Stone: I 'm positively crazy about you.

Happy Books
And my Entertainment Book? Now that's another surprise and delight moment. Who knew they would reply to my post? Not me! And their tweet was light hearted, too - showing their positive personality as a company. The result of that interaction will make me want to mention them more in my Foursquare check-ins when I use coupons, and you can bet I'll buy another Entertainment Book again.

I met their CEO once for coffee and she exemplifies true leadership and management. She even gave me a copy of a book at the end of our conversation for me to take with me. The book? The Oz Principle. I would have to guess that a CEO who reads books like these - and shares them with others - has a very strong, positive impact on her management team and employees. And those employees in turn like their jobs. And employees that like their jobs tend to be more positive to their customers. Entertainment Book: I 'm positively crazy about you.

Which Attracts You the Most?
So, which story did you enjoy reading the most? I'm sure you were hoping (as I was) that my Olga's story would've ended with a free dinner certificate or offer for a refund. But my happy story about Cold Stone ice cream probably made your mouth water and made you imagine what song they sang to us that day. And my comment about the Entertainment Book probably made you think about digging yours out to check out the coupons again.

I'd have to guess and say you like reading the positive stories. And as a customer, you probably enjoy shopping at places and dining at restaurants where you have a pleasant experience. And when you have an experience that exceeds your expectations in a very positive way, you probably tell a lot of people about it, and you visit there quite frequently. For these businesses, this means they keep our business (retaining customers) and they grow new business (referrals). When your experience falls well below your expectations, they lose your business (loss of repeat business). There are tons of stats out there that talk about the cost of gaining a new customer vs. retaining an existing one, and the lifetime value of repeat customers, but
what it means for me is love.

Have you shown your customers any love today? Start with the ones that are already crazy about you.


Anonymous said...

You haven't been to Olgas in a "really long time". What if they changed the recipe a "really long time" ago? How long are they supposed to tell their customers about a change? Maybe YOU should ask about a menu item that you haven't had in a while. Also, with the email, what did they need to change? You ordered exactly what you got. Maybe they figured that you were looking off a menu, which would have told you what was in the item that you asked for. Complaints like this are why everyone in America thinks that they are entitled to everything.

Brenda Meller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think you have touched on a significant problem with market research, at all levels, in this country. It is poor market research, conducted badly, interpreted badly, used badly, that creates companies mostly talking to themselves and not really listening to the consumers. Going back to your post about Penney's and that ridiculous shirt they offered for girls - don't you wonder about what kind of market research, if any, compelled Penney's to sell it? I have observed, first hand, how corporate management tend to go with research that tells them what they want hear, and market research companies that manipulate the research to give the management what they want to hear. The result is consumers that are unhappy and settling for what's out there.

In regard to Olga's, it is nothing like it was in the beginning. For those of us old enough to remember the original Olga's in the Continental Market in Birmingham, the highly processed, artificial product they sell now will never rate. What kind of research told them their kind of change was better? From the response you received, it's obvious that they are talking to themselves.

Brenda Meller said...

Dear Anonymous #1,

Thanks for your comments. Perhaps there is some fault on both sides. For me, it was assuming that my favorite menu item that had been on their menu for years, would never change. For Olga's, it was not changing the menu item's name. But keep in mind that Olga's is in business to sell to me, a consumer. I do not need to eat at Olga's. I could choose hundreds of other restaurants instead. My guess is that you either work for Olga's or another restaurant? Your statement of "you ordered exactly what you got" isn't true. I ordered what their item used to be. I do not think I'm "entitled to everything," however I do believe I should be satisfied with my purchase, especially since I was purchasing something I had had many times before. Now if I had chosen a new menu item, well than that is my fault. I guess we can agree to disagree, and that is another great thing about America. :)