Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Costless ToGo

Some of you who know the history of Costless Express will know I actually started the company delivering furniture and appliances for Costco Wholesale. After ten years and 30,000 home deliveries later, I turned Costless Express into the Internet and Catalogue retailer we are today.

We actually stopped delivering Costco furniture for several years, until recently, when we were approached to start back up the program for their new downtown warehouse. I decided it was best to keep the new service separate from our current business model, so a new company — Costless ToGo — was created. A sign was placed in the warehouse ,and brochures were printed and voilà, we were back in the home delivery business.

This week we have added 4 more warehouses onto the service, and Costco has been very pleased with the results. They are a sharp organization and see where the service has benefited their sales. Members spend more in store when there is a way to have large items delivered. Even when there is a fee, members know they are still saving over shopping at another store.

Costless ToGo will deliver over $2,700,000 in merchandise this year in the Lower Mainland, sales that Costco may have missed out on if there were no delivery service.

I want to pay a big thank you to Vicky Johnson, our inside Costless ToGo manager, and Tal, our newest Home Delivery Driver.

Great Job!!


Friday, June 20, 2008

A Lesson In Poor Customer Service

Nordstrom'sRight on the heels of some World Famous Pike Place Market service during my Seattle trip, I was quite taken aback by some poor service at Nordstrom's.

Nordstrom's has been known as the pinnacle of customer service in the retail industry for decades, so when my wife wanted to pop in to the store, I was all ears, looking to be blown away. You see, for many years, new employees were given a copy of the famous Nordstrom's Employee Handbook -- a single 5 x 8 inch grey card containing 75 words.
We're glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.
WOW! I couldn't wait to see Nordstrom's spectacular service.
My wife shopped around, and in short order found something to purchase. She had been given a Nordstrom gift card and was finally able to use it, since there were no stores in Canada. Unfortunately, while making a purchase using the gift card, the teller accidentally blanked out the balance on the card, and it was now reading as empty. The teller was not sure what happened, and we assumed there possibly was no actual amount on the card. We left the store disappointed the card did not work. As we went back to our hotel, I called the support 1-800 number on the back of the card and the customer service person assured me the money WAS on the card and had been debited to the store. So we now had no purchase, and they had our money.
This is where the service fell apart. The phone operator said I needed to go back to the store and explain the issue - she could not help me. I called the store and spoke to the manager who assured me they would look into it and call back the next day. 3 times people at Nordstrom called - once from the "Data Center" in Colorado - to let me know they were looking into it. After a day of wasted time and cell charges, the manager offered to mail me a new card in 5-7 days once they were sure the money cleared their system - whatever that meant.
Humm, how hard can this be? We just wanted our money back on the card, so we could spend it while we were in Seattle. I decided to stick to my guns, and after complaining to manager after manager, I finally reached someone who was able to make a decision. At this stage, I wanted cash back, and no more gift cards. The manager agreed, and asked us to come over to the store. We said we would be there at a certain time, but when we arrived... she was on a 1 hour lunch!
In the end, we received our cash from the gift card, and walked over to Banana Republic and spent it. Tough luck this time, Nordstrom. Time to take some customer service lessons from the small shops in Pike Place Market! (Read my June 19th entry below)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pike Place Market

The original Starbucks mermaidToday, Friday and Saturday, I am in Seattle. I drove down with my wife for a meeting with Starbucks, and I decided to stay for a few days extra.

Costless has been a Preferred Starbucks supplier for many years, and strong supporters of the brand. While in town for the meeting, we had to stop by the First Starbucks store near Pike Place Market. As we walked close - there it was, complete with its original logo of the bare-breasted mermaid. Starbucks changed the logo from brown to green and went with a PG mermaid when the company began to grow. Amazingly, the store was jam packed, with customers spilling out into the street. A jazz band was blasting away right out front on the sidewalk.

Pike Place Public marketI love visiting Pike Place Market for another reason, and if you have never been there, it's truly a world in itself for the best of the best in retailing.

I'm sure you've heard of the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market, where the guys toss the fish to each other. It was another location where people packed in just to see the show and take pictures with the staff and some giant fish or crab. How did a bunch of fish mongers become so famous?

John Yokoyama purchased Pike Place Fish in 1965. At that time, John was one of several employees of the quiet, unassuming little fish stand. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to sell the business, John’s employer offered him the opportunity to purchase Pike Place Fish. As a young man of 25, John was at first hesitant to buy the business.
The first step was for them at Pike Place Fish was to decide who we wanted to be. In the words of John Yokoyama: “In one of our early Pike Place Fish meetings with Jim (our coach from bizFutures), we began an inquiry into "Who do we want to be? We wanted to create a new future for ourselves. One of the young kids working for John said, “Hey! Let's be World Famous!” At first he thought, “World Famous…what a stupid thing to say!” But the more they talked about it, the more they all got excited about being World Famous. So they committed to it. They added “World Famous” to their logo and had it printed on the shipping boxes. Amazing how things turned out!

I've seen John and some of his staff do an inspirational talk about their company at a conference a few years bac,k and I have to say they are a true inspiration to me. I have a World Famous Pike Place baseball hat in my office that brings me great confidence and inspiration. If you have time in Seattle it is a must see as are all the retailers in the market. The "game" has really been set at a new level.

Before I wrap up I must give mention to a fruit stand not far from Pike Fish. They too are world class in my books! You can't step foot in their store, because all the staff is right out front waving you over to sample their fruit. "Hey you, check out these Fuji Apples, just picked yesterday! Have a slice! You ever tasted anything so juicy?" The staff just carve off samples with a small knife, and pass out the best fruit you have ever tasted. If you want to buy something, they insist on running in the store and bringing it back to you. Although the front of the store is jammed, nobody is moving, they are either sampling and or buying. The energy is awesome! There is no way I can walk past without buying some fruit.

OK, I also love the way the guys in the Magic Shop and the Bookstore on the second floor go to market. So grab a coffee from the original Starbucks, and head over to Pike Place Market for some World Famous retailing the next time you visit Seattle.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Beating Staples... That Was Easy!

Staples buys Corporate Express.
The "paper clip wars" was what Wall Street called it.
How does this affect Costless Express? After running this company for almost 20 years, I can tell you, it's great news!
Whenever a large competitor makes massive changes in their organization, our company grows in market share. We pick up new customers, and also add new employees that find themselves squeezed out during the merger. Also, the cost of our products usually go down in price. Really!
Swiping a Staples customer? That Was Easy!
Here's why. It is expected that there will be significant vendor rationalization with the two companies, which could leave some vendors badly needing the business from the independent channel. I will be assessing the vendor strengths with Staples and Corporate Express, and will be actively approaching the "fall out" vendors.
What does this merger mean for you, the customer? It shows you are very smart to have chosen Costless as your supplier. No drama, just consistent fantastic customer service, and products at the lowest prices. We beat Staples prices, day in and out. If you didn't know about our price guarantee, then ask your sales rep to do a cost comparison. You'll be amazed at our catalogue prices vs. Staples.
Click here to see a few comparisons we've done:
Here's one for Customer M.
Here's one for Customer R.
Fun Fact: Every time we steal a Staples customer, we run over and whack the Staples Button: "THAT WAS EASY!" It sure was :-)
Click the link below to read the full story: