Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speed. On Sale.

“Special promotions” are effective marketing tools companies utilize to lure consumers into ownership.

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I chuckle every time I receive a Comcast mailer for high-speed Internet. In today’s economy, everyone’s looking for quick ways to save. Sale! For a limited time, get High-Speed Internet for just $24.99 a month for 6 months*. Candidly it is the asterisk that amuses me. If you read the fine print, after the six-month promotional period to which you have subscribed, Comcast’s service charge increases to $41.95 to $59.95 depending on area and level of service. Comcast’s sale is officially over.

Reminds me of a principle outlined in Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational ( In his chapter The High Price of Ownership, Ariely details how companies utilize “special promotions” to entice consumers into ownership. High probability once the offer expires, users will not discontinue their high-speed service and revert back to dial-up. Instead the emotions of ownership will cause people to rationalize spending the additional money for the Internet time savings they have enjoyed during the promotional period.

Clever marketing. Makes me wonder what people do with the time they saved by subscribing to high-speed Internet. Conversely, what they could do with the additional $16.96/month, $203.52/year before taxes if they did not subscribe to high-speed Internet. Personally, I would take the discretionary money and buy a dozen shares of Comcast stock at today’s market price.


*Take time to read the fine print.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It takes discipline to ask questions, but it takes greater discipline to listen to an individual’s responses to the questions you asked.

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Following-up on my February 2nd entry entitled LEARN:

“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen."
- Margaret J. Wheatley (writer and management consultant)

Conducting what I call an archeological dig by asking questions to learn more about the individual you are interacting with is a discipline. It takes greater restraint to listen to their responses without being distracting by something going on in the surrounding area or thinking about what you are going to have for dinner that evening. Listening is an art, another gateway to learning.

Remember to listen!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Marriott’s customer service acronym is LEARN: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, React, Notify.

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Asking questions is one gateway to learning. Let me share a story.

I was boarding a plane to the Left Coast when I said good morning to the flight attendant. I detected an accent, made inquiry and learned that the woman was from Brazil. Later in the flight while stretching my legs, I could not resist but engage the flight attendant in a conversation about her country thanks to reading positive of things about BRIC, an acronym that refers to the fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. My opening question was about the leadership of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: Is everything I read about your President true, have you seen change in your country? She explained that under his regime Brazil has cut unemployment in half from 15% to 7.5%. To achieve these amazing results his focus has been on education. He even subsidizes families the equivalent wages their children would earn if they worked in the mines, thus enabling them instead to attend school. No surprise, with unemployment reduced, crime has also declined, and tourism has increased. It is also a blessing that Brazil is an agricultural power that has balanced the amount of products it exports in exchange for imported products which strengthen the infrastructure of the country, including technology.

Our conversation/exchange really began to flow:

Me: Do you still have family there?
Flight Attendant: My entire family still lives there. Once I complete my studies at the University of South Florida, I am going home.
Me: What are you studying?
Flight Attendant: Psychology.
Me: What do you plan to do with your degree?
Flight Attendant: I want to work for a company in customer service.

Being a student of customer service, I could not help but share some one of the better experiences I had at the Newport Beach Marriott. I concluded by telling her I wrote the GM of the hotel complimenting his staff and how every time I visit the property I am now treated like a VIP. She proceeded to tell me about a study she just read – individuals that have a bad experience tend to spread the word ten times more than people who have a good experience.

The best part of our encounter occurred as we were approaching our stop over in Salt Lake City. She handed me a piece of paper detailing Marriott’s acronym for customer service to cap off my morning of learning.


Listen – Listen to what the customer has to say identifying the problem.
Empathize – Empathize with the situation.
Apologize – Apologize.
React by giving an efficient solution.
Notify – Notify the rest of the team about the problem so that can follow-up with the

Remember to ask questions!