Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Customer Service Strategies From Florida

I went to Florida for a family vacation a few weeks ago. Leaving behind the cold and snow in New York was not easy, but somehow I was able to survive walking the 84-degree, sunny, and palm-tree laced streets of The Sunshine State.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I lived nearly seven years in Florida. I had driven down 1250 miles to Coral Springs on my 25th birthday. Now, here I was, 21 years later, celebrating another one. I moved out two years prior to the state blowing the 2000 presidential election. But I come to visit, once or twice a year, especially when it offers a reprieve from the chills of winter.

On this vacation of eight days I came across a number of marketing lessons that could be applicable to the book publishing community. Here are a few:

1.                  Aim low. I bought a hotel for a one-night stay in Orlando using Priceline. I put in a price, location, and star-rating preference and they came up with a hotel for me. Start low. You have nothing to lose. This is true in any negotiation. Make a ridiculous offer. Someone may be desperate enough to accept it.

2.                  Demand a better product. At Gloria Estefan’s Cuban restaurant, Bongos, the soup was a bit salty. I ate about half of it when I couldn’t tolerate it any further. I could have accepted it was not very good or I could have said something to the waitress. I spoke up and she offered to remove it from the bill.

3.                  When they ask about customer service, speak up. I rented a car from Enterprise and all was fine but I had to wait 15 minutes for my car. In a society that demands everything now, that seemed too long for someone with a reservation to wait. Upon returning the car, I was asked how the service was. I told him good, but my wait to get the car was a little long. He asked what he could do to make up for that. I told him he should still tell me what he will do. He offered to cut $10 off the bill. Then he negotiated with himself and said, “OK. I will take $15 off. Does that make you happy?” I said ‘yes.’

4.                  Upgrade a new customer. When I checked in at the hotel. I was upgraded to a two bedroom suite. It was great. My eight-year-old son said “Wow, how did you get this? I feel like a millionaire.” It left a very favorable impression and it cost the hotel nothing extra.

5.                  Have your product available. Every exhibit or ride at Disney ends by dropping you off into a gift shop. They don’t let an opportunity to sell you something go absent.

6.                  Force customers to see your offerings. At Universal Studios the parking lot leaves you by an entrance of restaurants, and kiosks that you must be exposed to before you get to the park entrance.

7.                  Appeal to kids – they will sell it for you. The theme parks offer so many cuddly, shiny, or sweet things to hold, eat, or look at that children undoubtedly will nag their parents to buy something.

8.                  Free leads to sales. We saw a free 15-minute magic show at Universal Studios that was a great infomercial to sell magic kits. They offered one for $22 or four for $44. Which one do you think I bought?

9.                  Don’t nickel and dime your customers. I got tickets online to see my favorite sports team – the Mets – to see the opening game of spring training in Port St. Lucie. I was charged the ticket price, then some other BS fee and then a shipping and handling fee even though I was picking the ticket up at will call. But I outsmarted them. I bought the cheapest possible tickets and then snuck into the priciest seats behind home plate, at field level. I was several rows ahead of the team owner’s suite.

10.              Have customers recruit other customers. Disney held a half-marathon outside its park early one morning. In the process, they charged runners 170 bucks a piece to participate – triple what the fee is to run in the NYC Marathon. They sold food, drinks, and other stuff to spectators, most of whom came along to support their running companions.

11.              Don’t run out of product. Every day I bought out-of-town newspapers from NY. The supermarket, the drugstore, and 7-Eleven sells them at a marked-up price. But for some reason they only sell a limited quantity. By 9 am these places may be sold out of the NY Post or NY Daily News. They are afraid of getting stuck with unsold stock but it is obvious they are too cautious and far fm hitting that point.
There were many lessons on the trip because as a tourist you tend to pay more attention to customer service. Hopefully those hawking books or related products will apply some of these lessons to their sales approach.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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