domingo, 26 de febrero de 2012

Quality is the best marketing tool

In another post I reported my experience with Ritz Carlton Hotels while when I talked about the 25 components of the DNA of market oriented companies we discovered real "customer obsession" like in  Siebel Systems (CRM company) or in Newman Marcus  (luxury brands retailing) where sales assistants run the company, reporting not to their bosses but directly to their customers.

Every small Hotel, Consultant, Restaurant, café, shop, ... any service related company needs to make the personal experience its major differentiator to create satisfied, loyal customers, evangelists.

In tourism, big chains like Four Seasons or Amandari are able to create this feeling in any resort they manage; Singapore Airline, the best airline in the world but also Jet Blue and Southwestern Airlines are doing pretty good in this sense.

Apple is not an exception: on one side it is a closed, gated, high walled environment, managed by the most arrogant CEO in the world, but since Jobs return they offered great experiences and insanely great quality in whatever they touched. Quality is its culture. Quality is its brand.

Starbucks Coffee created a huge chain of smiling barista crews: "latte" was unknown everywhere but in Italy and Europe and they added quality and personal touch.

There is no further marketing tool as quality to satisfy customers and make them come back.

sábado, 25 de febrero de 2012

Do what you love

If you are afraid to start up something, it means you have no real passion for it. When you have the luck to know what you really love, you must do it:  play violin, a professional sport, cooking, ... or starting up a company to make a meaning, solve something that is wrong, changing the part of the world you do not like.

The reward is doing what makes you really happy; the risk is failing while learning and doing what you most like, if you have this luck, to know what you really love.

Steve Jobs in his famous speech at Stanford reminded us we all will die one day, thus any other risk is minimum against this certainty: nobody will escape this fate.

Thus, failing, making the ridicoulos in a public performance, bankrupting your start up, ... are all minor things versus our sure death: failing is the best that can happen to you, sometimes.

There is a famous spot by Nike where Michael Jordan, probably the best basket ball player in history, reports how many free shots he missed, how many points he failed, over and over again: this is why he succeed.

Life is too short to spend it in doubting: if you have a passion, just do it: what is the worst thing that can happen to you? Is this (low) probability worst than sure death?

You are marvellous, your life is marvellous: please do not spare it in a job you do not like, in a life it is not yours but somebody else's.

The contrary of "excellent" is not "bad", it is "very good"

The contrary of “excellent” is not “bad”: its contrary is “very good”.

This is the mantra of my division when I was in charge of the International business of Amper. We were all obsessed about performing a great service to our customers, the only thing we had to really differentiate us in a world of tech products and engineers.

We were different. We thought differently even before listening to this great spot of Apple.

We delivered “insanely great products and services” before reading Steve Jobs biography.

This allowed us, a tiny company from a small country in the tech business to win the most important contract in the payphone world in Australia.

I remember one business retreat at the Ritz Carlton: when I explained to the Hotel manager I wanted to start up a workshop for my people (Phds, engineers, phisics, …) given by their waiters, porters, room managers and assistants, he thought I was crazy.

I loved their approach of listening to each customer, collecting her/his preferences and reproducing them in every Ritz Carlton they would visit later. I loved this concept of seeing a customer as part of our tribe, of our family, globally. Thus when you enter your room in a Ritz in Rome, Paris, New York, … you find your preferite flowers, your pillow is sinthetic because they know you are allergic to duck feathers, they serve you green tee by default because they know you do not like coffee, …

They make you feel at home: only somebody who loves you remember you do not like tomatoes or you prefer your beef almost row: your mother, your sister, your fiancé, your granma, … and at the Ritz.

I married my wife on July 25th, 1997 at 12:00: all my customers were invited and knew it but the Australians could not come.

At 11:55 I received a call on my mobile phone: I was entering the church but I picked up the handset for “a customer with a problem” was my priority then; she was Janet Sayer, Australian Telstra payphone CEO. She said she just won a dinner with her boss for she bet that my mobile phone would be on even during my wedding ceremony. Then she said: “Antonio, please swithch off the mobile now or pass me through the priest in order not to marry a crazy guy like you with this poor girl”.

That was my compromise: I was happy to serve my customers. I considered a privilege and an honour to do that.
In our house in Madrid we had two spare bedrooms for hosting my customers when they visited Madrid (now they are my kids rooms). I cooked for them with pleasure, fixed a lot of problems and I considered them as partners: a sale was not good until it was good for my customers.

It does not really matter if your business is small or big: your company, your brand importance will be proportional to how big are your promises, the ones you respect and deliver, even though you have to loose some money sometimes.

The Chinese say:” If you can not smile, why are you opening a shop?”


I lived in Asia few years and we opened a subsidiary of my company in Bangkok: one day the CTO went to see me almost crying; he said to me he loved me, the company, his job, ... but he wanted to use his right to be on leave (for up to 7 years) to become a monk.

I was furious and delighted at once: then in Italy you had to make military service for at least one year: in Thailand companies had to respect their employees wish to meditate and live like a monk for up to 7 seven years, while keeping their jobs for them ....

In another occasion I went to Bangkok from Jakarta to buy antiques with Sergio, an Argentinian diplomat: we found a beautiful, 16th century, human size wooden Budda and Sergio bought it immediately.

At the airport he refused to send his Budda as a wallet and we moved to the check in: we were flying Thai Airlines; the officers did not know what to do for it was impossible to pass the Budda through the scanner machines.

Sergio asked for to talk with the captain of our flight: after negotiations, the captain asked for his assistant if there were available seats on the plane and when he knew there was a first class seat available, he said: "Please bring the Budda on board, seat him and fasten his seat belts: he will protect our flight".

So we came back to Jakarta in our couch seats while our beautiful Budda made his trip in first class, enjoying the legendary great service of Thai hostesses. I love this country.

I will never forget that experience: I thought what would have happened if I would have bought an old cross and flying to Rome with Alitalia instead, ...

Picture by Dennis Jarvis