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Making Nice

By Dian Vujovich

Times are tough. Business is off. Customers are hard to come by. So what’s an employer or company owner to do? Looks as though doing something positive makes good sense.

Recently I’ve run across a number of online stories about how businesses are dealing with these challenging economic times and thought some of the ideas presented were worth sharing. So here goes:

• Feed’em. Restaurant goers who were victims of Bernie Madoff’s scandal received free meals this week at Nino’s on East 58th Street in New York. All they had to do was mention their “victimhood” when making reservations and their meal was a “no charge” one. No such luck for drinks, however, but the food offer was certainly impressive.

Or, you could take a tip or two from Phil Vettel’s Chicago Tribune piece on March 5, 2009 titled, “Restaurants, thou shalt heed these tips.”

Vettel spoke with a number of restaurateurs around the Windy City and came up with 10 Commandment-type tips that focused on keeping the customer happy. Included are: Assign not the job of the hostess to the unworthy; Expand thy horizons beyond the dining room; Prepare for guests a pleasant table; and Honor thy regulars.

The full story is at:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/chi-0305-commandments-vettelmar05,0,5943482.story .

• Try a different strategy. According to a recent BusinessWeek story, Best Buy is expanding its tech service. Its CEO said that customers don’t just want a product, “They’re interested in who is going to help them get the benefit of what they’re buying over the life of it.”

• Start a new business. From The New York Times/Room for Debate blog on March 13th: ” Some of today’s famous brands — Brooks Brothers, Heinz, Libby — were born during times of economic hardship…”

“The deck gets reshuffled in a recession as habits are re-examined and patterns of behavior are broken,” says Columbia Business Professor Amar Bhidé.

• And from me, how about reminding your employees of the very important use of words like “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. If ever there were a time to be grateful for your customers and shoppers it’s now. And I can’t think of an easier, no-cost-involved way to do so than to remind your employees about the virtues of proper sales etiquette. Expression like the three mention are oh-so important and when expressed sincerely, leave a positive lasting impression. In other words, they’re good for business.

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