Archive | October, 2009

Speaking of customer service and word of mouth and …

31 Oct

Every retailer loves word of mouth, especially when it’s good. There’s an old maxim that says a customer who has a poor experience will tell a lot more people than someone who has a positive experience. The message? Eliminate all negative experiences.

The advance of social media, of course, takes word of mouth to a new level. When everyone is a reviewer or critic or potential raving fan, then the pressure is really on us to make sure everyone has a great experience. We can’t let a few people slip through the cracks.

Impossible? Well, perhaps 100% success is more than any fallible human can expect when dealing with other fallible humans (employees) and walk-in fallible humans (customers). But we can strive for 100%. The weird thing is, from what I’m sure has been a common experience, so many businesses seem to pay little or no regard to customer service training. That’s inexcusable, because the people you hire and put out on the floor BECOME the face of your store when you can’t be there. Do you want to trust your investment to someone who clearly doesn’t give a rip? Who is rude, uninformed or indifferent to customers?

Well, if you answered the obvious answer (duh-uh … it’s “NO!”), then what are you doing about it? Shouldn’t our little business community collectively swear itself to an oath of absolute maximum stellar customer service? Sure, the product or service has to be good, too, but the human connection is often what makes the difference (hey, anybody can stock Levis).

If you want to learn more about the customer experience and how it can negatively affect your business, this is a great overview article at the Wharton School of Business web site.

And after reading that, if you decide you want to do something positive, here’s a good place to get some free customer service training. The Travel Oregon web site developed this a couple of years ago, primarily for people working in the tourism business, but the ideas carry across all businesses. It’s called Oregon Q Care, and is available to all your employees online.

Not every type of business has found its way into the virtual world yet. Restaurants and hotels were early candidates, driven by the desire of travelers to have a good experience. See what the world says about Hood River’s dining scene, for instance, at Trip Advisor.

You’ve heard (or maybe you haven’t) about Angie’s List, which lets customers post their experiences with everything from auto mechanics to physicians. There’s not a lot of activity in there for Hood River yet — they’ve got a Portland page but once you register, your search focuses on businesses within a radius of your home. For instance, I did a recent search on car repair places, and got three business names in Hood River (I know there are a lot more), and none of them had reviews.

So let me finish with this idea: Let’s use Angie’s List to help us all (as businesses and as customers) create better word of mouth for ourselves. Just do it.

Don’t hold your appetite –other options on table at Paris Fair

31 Oct

Talked with North Cheatham the other day, and he isn’t holding a torch for the French restaurant he’d been courting as a new tenant at his Paris Fair building, 4th and Oak streets.

Without getting into the gory details, it all boils down to a difference about what should — or shouldn’t — be required to get the space ready for up to 300 occupants (that’s a lot of fois gras, but we digress).

The short of it? North is talking with other potential tenants, the remodel won’t likely be done until around Thanksgiving, and the possibility of some offshoot of Fenouil in the Pearl under the guiding hand of chef Pascal Chureau appears to be heading … South?

So, what might we see there instead? North ain’t sayin’. We’ll stay on top of it. Stay tuned.

Here’s the high level view of Hood River Holidays

28 Oct

Polar ExpressThe leaves are still flying, but thoughts among downtown business leaders have turned toward the holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannukah and New Year’s.

The Downtown Business Council has begun planning for the annual Hood River Holidays celebration, and hopes to expand the energy throughout the community. Many of the activities will be sited downtown, but all Chamber members in Hood River are encouraged to take part.

What does that mean? It means decorating your storefront in holiday lights and garlands. A storefront judging will award prizes to the two best-dressed businesses.

It means planning activities designed to boost holiday spirits, and attract shoppers into your stores. If you’ve got something planned, tell the Chamber about it at 386-8860 and they will spread the word.

How? Well, organizers are working with the Hood River News to design a special pullout section (with advertising) that will list all the major holiday events from Nov. 28 through Dec. 25. Extra copies of the section will be made available to businesses to distribute to visitors during the holidays. Call Rhen Adamson at 386-1234 to get rates.

Helping local shoppers get a jump-start on holiday shopping, Hood River merchants will roll out the deals and discounts during their annual Downtown Open House the weekend of Nov. 21-22.

As is custom, the annual Holiday Parade will take place on Friday, Dec. 4.  After the parade concludes, the Mayor and other dignitaries will kick off Hood River Holidays with the lighting of the giant Christmas tree at Overlook Park. If you’re reading this and want to enter the parade, call 386-8860.

Among other events, the Polar Express excursion trains operated by the Mt. Hood Railroad figures to provide a major visitor boost to downtown from Nov. 13 through Dec. 23.

Spread the word — the city of Hood River has generously offered to waive parking fees (and fines) during the holiday period from Dec. 4 through Saturday, Dec. 26. Remember, parking meters and enforcement resume on Monday, Dec. 28.

Wanted: Space for Santaland during Hood River Holidays

28 Oct

The Holidays are coming, the Holidays are coming! Not exactly Paul Revere, but it will do, to alert the commercial space people that organizers of the holiday celebrations are hoping to find a temporary home — downtown – for a variety of holiday-related activity. Such as?

Well, a home for Santa’s lap. And gift wrapping services. And little tables and booths by assorted groups selling cookies and ornaments and other shtuff to make a buck and brighten the holidays. Maybe even a good place for carolers to hang out, when the rain starts really flying and the idea of strolling along Oak Street with your mouth open could put you at risk of drowning.

If you have a space that you might want to make available, for a fee (or better yet, for free), call 386-8860.

Cascade Locks not the only city dealing with Nestle water plans

26 Oct

The corporate drive to privatize the most basic resource essential to human existence, water (OK, there’s that oxygen thing), hasn’t just turned its sights on Cascade Locks. Nestle Corp. apparently wants to tap water in Sacramento. And people there are outraged at the ideaSac, which would take a huge drink from an already overtapped supply. Not to mention that the water would come from Sacramento. I mean, have you ever had tap water from the valley. Bad idea. What are they going to do, market it as “naturally chocolatey”? Yuck. If you really must drink bottled water, we suggest Water from the Hood, the local sip that taps what comes from our local tap, and we all know that Hood River water (well, I’m talking Ice Fountain Water here) is the best in the world.

Free rent? For a year? Commercial lessors get hungry

22 Oct

Ran across this appeal to potential tenants for the Hood River Square, that newish commercial project just west of Walmart in Hood River. Yes, they’re offering free rent — for a year. Given the number of vacant commercial spaces not just on the west side, but downtown and south, as well, about all you can say is it’s a good time for any potential new business to be locking in lease terms.

Palmieri hits a homer with sale of Gorge Hotel

22 Oct

Kathy Palmieri, owner of Premiere Properties at 602 Oak St. (next to Brian’s Pourhouse), had been involved in representing the Columbia Gorge Hotel since January. Patience pays. Focused on selling hotel, commercial, equestrian and high-end residential properties, she hit a homer when she linked Vijay Patel up with the Columbia Gorge Hotel.

After it failed to find a buyer and Shore Bank Pacific took it over, Palmieri — and a lot of other people — continued trying to find a buyer. She represented Tri-Cities resident Vijay Patel of A-1 Hospitality LLC in his offer to purchase the hotel.

She says Shore Bank Pacific turned down several higher offers to go with Patel because of his history of community involvement. He’s a past president of the Oregon Lodging Association, and very involved in community organizations where A-1 owns hotels.

“Shore Bank wanted to make sure the buyer wouldn’t flip the property and try to make a quick profit,” she says. “They wanted someone who was committed to the local community.”

Palmieri, whose family has deep local roots, this summer spun her real estate business out of John L. Scott. For many years, she operated out in the building where Centerpointe Bank is now located.

She says Patel has met with all the staff brought in by North Pacific Management when it was hired to reopen the hotel in September. “He has elected to retain all the staff,” Palmieri says.

Sixty-eight people now work there. The hotel will add more staff as business grows. And it appears headed that way. Since August, when North Pacific got involved, more than 700 brides have talked with hotel management about possibly using its grounds for future weddings.

Palmieri says Patel is working on five new hotel projects along the Columbia River, including a Holiday Inn Express in The Dalles.

Pendleton hotelier to buy Columbia Gorge Hotel

20 Oct

Thanks for the news tip to Heidi Seymour of The Next Door Inc., who sent me this link. No time here to explore it further, so read on. And if you want to know more about the company behind the intended purchase, read all about A-1 Hospitality Group.

Former Ford showroom hosts Mercado Guadalajara

10 Oct
Mercado Guadalajara

Mercado Guadalajara

If you’re driving around, cast an eye west of Rosauer’s at the building that used to be the showroom for the former Ford and Chrysler dealerships. It’s now home to the Mercado Guadalajara Carniceria & Panaderia.

Say wha’? OK, all you Spanglish speakers and wannabe fluent types, it’s a Mexican market. Fresh butcher case with all sorts of popular Mexican meat cuts. And a bakery, kicking out Mexican pastries. Get there early, because by mid-afternoon, the goodies are gone.

The shelves are stocked with all sorts of product that will appeal to Hood’s large Latino population, and those of us who love Mexican cooking, and like the growing availability of ingredients at Rosauer’s, Safeway, and more to the point, the nearby Juanita’s Marketa.

I’m hoping the Mercado becomes a place where you (we) can buy fresh goat. This omnivore says, Bring it on. (Otherwise, you have to drive to Fubon in Portland to getcher goat. Get … your … goat — get it? Oh, never mind.)

Check out Farm Stand for quality meat, produce

10 Oct

When it comes For options, little guys like Mother’s Marketplace and the former Wy’east Grocery have helped address niche needs. And growers’ markets such as the Saturday Market and Gorge Grown Food Network’s Thursday Farmer’s Market provide links between quality, local product and the buyers who want it.

Since February, shoppers have had a great small option up on the Heights, just south of, well, Rosauer’s. It’s called the Farm Stand. Bob and Elaina Wright and partner Doug Aronson started the store. They are also its staff.

I had seen it for months, until I dropped in this afternoon when I saw a sign outside marketing wild game — elk, bison, quail, boar. Hmm, I thought, that sounds interesting. You just can’t get that sort of stuff at the other places, with their miles of industrial meat. Rosauer’s does a good job of bringing in chemical-free meats. Safeway? Forget it, the commitment just isn’t there.

The Farm Stand cold case features product from Nicky USA in Portland (purveyor of wild game), Niman Ranch in California, and Mountain Shadow in Dufur. In an adjacent case, fresh fish on ice.

Across the aisle, you’ll find a good selection of produce, much of it local. Refrigerators hold everything from Alpenrose organic milk and other dairy products, to miso, to … Bubbies Sauerkraut. Tried it. Loved it. They’ve also got a great variety of flour, grains, beans, etc., plus gluten-free product. Soda. Jams, jellies, oils and natural sweeteners, too. Want some Agave nectar? They’ve got it.

Bob tells me they’ve taken great pains to package product in portions that people want for their quick-cook, time-constrained lives. Check it out.