Monday, May 30, 2011

Screens for our perceptions

Memorial Day in the USA today. For this Canadian it's another chance to feel grateful for the opportunity to experience life in this country. So similar in many ways to the country of my birth, and still so different. This is a recurring theme I spend a lot of time thinking about.

We have the same language(s) for the most part. We both use the dollar as our currency. We share a continent, and a couple of seas.

In the US the November 11th holiday is called Veteran's Day. In Canada it's called Remembrance Day. Same basic reasons, and not too dissimilar from the reason for today being Memorial Day - to remember and honor those who served.

So here's something I think a lot about... where you are from, how you are raised how you see yourself, and how others tell you you are all contribute to how you construct your reality. Mine is different from yours. And yours is different from the person you live with. Not wrong, just different.

As we remember those who served today I'm offering up the idea that we also remember and honor the ways different cultures, and different regions construct our individual reality and remember that is what acts as a screen for our perceptions of the world.

Happy Memorial Day all. To all our differences that make this world the engaging place it is. Thanks for sharing yours with me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Starwood Preferred Guest Card - making it my own

I signed up last week for a new Starwood Preferred Guest card when staying at their downtown Phoenix property. Seems my old card was one of the casualties from my move to San Diego from Vancouver, Canada. I received my new card in the mail before I returned from my 2-night stay, personalized, even with the correct spelling of my name.

A day later I received an email offering me the opportunity to visit this site: and customize my card. I could choose a resort destination photo, a completely individual quote of my own, and a vacation icon or flag and make this newest travel loyalty card my very own.

I did it, and they promised to mail me my card version in a couple of days.

I travel a lot, and notice the little things hotel brands are doing to differentiate themselves. It's no secret that on check-out I told the front desk person that my stay last week was one of the best in a hotel anywhere this year. Their attention to detail, to personal service and to making every attempt to ask and listen to my comments was top notch. So while I was somewhat surprised to be offered the chance to personalize a card I likely won't use as much as my Starbucks card or iTunes card, it was a totally on brand move by a company clearly trying to deliver authentically personalized service.

And there's the potential now that I'll use it more than originally thought...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is community more than physical?

At the ULI Spring Meeting in Phoenix and I joined in a brief conversation tonight about this very issue. If we are the "Community Development Council" that means we develop community. There is apparently some debate as to whether this is the right name for this group of esteemed and experienced real estate development professionals. At the root of it - whether or not it connotes the fact that community is a physical thing that is created.

There is after all only so much land, and what does it mean about the future of our business if there are no more communities to develop?

Good and interesting discussion for sure. I think we need to broaden the view and the lens through which we look at what we do. Community is more than master planned greenfield developments. It can be vertical community, in the form of a highrise. It can be urban renewal communities in the form of regenerated urban infill. It can even be something more than physical completely.

It can be those of us on the bus this evening who began the discourse of looking within our industry and asking ourselves what it is we believe community to be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday shopping conversations

Every week, on Sundays, I do my weekly shopping run. It usually involves at least three stops: Trader Joes, Stater Brothers (grocery store) and Pet People. Today was no different. First stop was Pet People and it was here that I realized I was about to participate in a store clerk-customer-ritual, talking about the weather.

It usually starts with, "How's your day going so far?" or the simple, less committed, "How are you?" and then it goes from there very quickly to the weather. I know these people well, I see them every Sunday morning. Today, Darren at the pet store lamented that the sun had come out only briefly and then gone away behind the clouds. He then proceeded to further lament that we can't have another summer like last (no sun, plenty of gray, and too much rain). He'd clearly been thinking about it though, and compared early May weather this year to last, coming up with a formula in his mind for why this summer was sure to be a better one.

We talked for a few moments after he'd bagged my tins of dog food, like we knew each other (we kind of do) but still about the weather and his forecasting system.

On to TJ's and the same thing - talking about the weather with the clerk as he scans and I help bag. He caught me off guard though, which I loved, with a question so personally specific I wasn't ready for it. Maybe that's it - the weather is safe, and though specific, not so in a personal way. It's generic in its specificity. Anyone can talk about it without needing to go into the personal details of one's life, and still make a connection. And specific enough that you can both relate to it.

My friend at TJ's asked me, "What's been the best thing about your weekend so far"? Wow. Did he really want to know? Seemed so. I told him it had to be that my 13 1/2-year old dog who'd been sick since Thursday seemed to be a little better this morning. She's a precious soul, and that was the best thing by far. He asked more and I told him. Then I learned that today was his Monday, and he apologized for being a little dazed as he got back into the swing of a new week. He seemed on his game to me, and I left having had the chance to make a human connection over something deeper than just the weather.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Salesman tries the cram down and loses any chance

Acute back pain that becomes chronic has to be among the worst things in life. It affects everything. You can't sit. You can't sleep. You can't do much of anything. Trust me, Pam's had this now for 6 weeks. It's not pretty.

Since her life involves sitting in her chair at work for 11-12 hours at a time, last week we decided to explore the idea of a special supportive office chair at Relax the Back in Encinitas. Sunday morning, two sales guys are on - one sitting in a massaging chair and the other greeted us, reeking of stale smoke and seeming a little pissed he had to be there.

Here's an account of customer service that I thought
I'd never have to suffer through again, with all the focus on the customer, and the importance of any customer and any sale during this economic hazing. He went from standoff-ish and impatient to trying to help. Showed Pam many chair options from $600 to more than $1,200. All the while, we discussed the fact she'd need to get our employer's approval to bring a new chair to work, for WCB reasons. HINT: not likely to walk out of the store with one today, but could be a returning customer.

One was too short in the seat. One had a back support that worked, but an angle that didn't. And so on. There was no one else in the store. Still, we were aware of the fact the sales guy was hot on a sale and we weren't going to deliver, so didn't want to waste his time. About 8 minutes in, Pam spotted an ergonomic seat cushion on the wall. Price? $60. We discussed buying it, since she'd need chair approval anyway, maybe this was an interim option.

Sales guy, after doing nothing to offer her the chance to try it, and doing all he could to not tell us the price says, "It might work, but if you ask me, really you should invest in a good chair for the long term." No kidding. He's paid to sell. What he forgot in that critical moment was that includes the $60 seat cushion. And it includes listening to and understanding your customer's constraints so you can be there "for the long term".

We walked out of the store, and Pam said, "I think that cushion might have helped, but there's no way I am buying it from that guy." Wow. He lost the sale. And that store forever lost two customers in a textbook example of not listening to your customer.