Remarkability: The Cure for the Common Business

Used under Creative Commons | flikr | akk_rusAs a go about my business of being a customer, I have noticed one very remarkable trait common to most business—a remarkable lack of remarkability. There’s nothing going on there that makes me want to tell other people about them. They’re just, well, so… common. Do you want people to talk about your business? Give them something to talk about!

Webster defines remarkability as “the quality or state of being remarkable.” Although in a strict sense that might be true, I believe that in the noise of modern society remarkability is not a state: it’s an ongoing pursuit. What is remarkable today may not be next year. In business the number one thing we are competing for is the attention of our potential customers. It’s us against every other thing in their life. In order to even make a blip on the radar of our customer’s mind we must stand out.

So what gets people talking?

There are many ways, but here are a few ideas:

Constructive Disruption

Do something out of the ordinary that serves a purpose. Kids love getting mail, right? But do they ever get it from their photographer? Children’s photographer Anna Mayer knows that her relationship with the kids she’s photographing is a key element to capturing that child’s personality. Sometimes kids, particularly those between 2-6, can have a hard time “warming up” even though she is very much a kid person. In order to address this Anna has taken the proactive approach of learning about each child, buying them a personal little gift, and sending it to them in the mail with an invitation to their photo shoot. The kids love it and can’t wait for their shoot!

Need Prediction or The Pleasant Surprise

Be two steps ahead of your customer, offering a solution to a problem they didn’t even know they had. One could write an entire book about how Steve Jobs did this on a grand, product-level scale at Apple, yet need prediction, does not require such a grand scale. More often than not, the best need predictions are small, ergo a pleasant surprise. They are the details that when executed properly elicit a “huh, that was cool” type of response. For instance, last week at my local Village Ace hardware store, I needed to buy a chain for a chainsaw. Homi (yes that’s his real name) not only guided me to what he thought was the correct chain, but he went a step further than expected. Knowing that, unassisted, many people buy the wrong part the first time, he took the initiative to open the package, remove the chain, and lay it side by side with the old one I had along to ensure that I was taking home the right chain. Was that a huge gesture? Is it going to change business as we know it? No, but it was worthy of remark. What’s most remarkable is that this is not an isolated incident in that store.  It’s little things like that that happen at that store all the time that have me singing its praises.

Personal Inclusion

Make people feel like they matter to your business, and bring them into your story whenever possible. A great example of this is Milwaukee’s AJBombers‘ tapping into the local Twitter community. The owner used the social media platform not only to interact with the community and restaurant guests, but in a flagrant act of constructive disruption allowed, no, encouraged people to write their Twitter names in Sharpie on the walls of the restaurant. Among others, you’ll find @brian_mayer in booth 7 as well as on “the bomb.” Even though I don’t get there nearly as often as I’d like, I call booth 7, my booth. He has made us a part of the @AJBombers story.

Want raving fans? Pursue remarkability relentlessly.

  • What are some businesses that you’ve seen that are remarkable and what made them so?
  • What are some other ways to achieve remarkability?

How much will a bad $4 tap beer cost BWW?

Buffalo Wild Wings Review Logo Bayshore MallSo late last night my wife and I decided to go out for a drink.  We hadn’t seen each other much this week and we were both in pretty good spirits.  Our first choice was closed for the night, so we decided to make a stop at another  Bayshore Mall favorite, Buffalo Wild Wings.  We go there all the time.  We’re both wing nuts. She and her Medium-flavored boneless, and I and my traditional Hot BBQ and Caribbean Jerk.  My mouth waters just thinking about it. Anna has a particular affection for their Strawberry Daiquiri (make it a double), and they’ve got a large selection of beer on tap. Ironically, for the selection they have, I sometimes have a hard time finding one of my favorites. When we first started going there right after it opened a year ago, the service was consistently mediocre (at best).  It has been improving over time, but our experience last night was remarkable. Remarkably bad.

Bayshore Buffalo Wild Wings, you’ve been spied.

We arrived at the relatively dead restaurant around 10:30pm and were half-greeted by a hostess saying we could seat ourselves. As we were in good spirits, we didn’t give this much thought and proceeded to a booth by the window. We were pleasantly greeted by our waitress, who for the sake of keeping the innocent nameless, will remain as such.  She was great.  We placed our order on her first visit–some fries, 6 wings, a daiquiri, and a tall New Glarus Totally Naked.  Although it’s not one of my favorite beers, for my taste, it’s among the best tap options there. Before finalizing the order, she verified that they still had that beer.  They did.  Hats off to her for double checking this.  Our drinks and snack arrived quickly, and we enjoyed a great time. Talking, laughing, drinking. All the things that make for being in a good mood. When the waitress cleared the empty trays, she asked if we needed anything else.  Looking at Anna’s still half-full daiquiri and my empty beer glass, I opted for a second. This is where things turned south.

The Totally Naked wasn’t totally hitting the spot tonight so I thought I’d get something else for my second round.  Rather than have the server work through a list, I decided to take a hike from our seat to the bar to see what was available. Yes, it’s actually a big place. It’s a hike.  I saw a tap handle for a local beer that looked familiar. A beer I had a Summerfest.  Or so I thought. (Being a local brewery that I actually like, I won’t name the beer.) I ordered a tall, the waitress put it on our bill, and I made the return journey to my seat. It looked great. Nice pour. About a one inch head. When I took my first sip, my taste buds revolted.  If they weren’t confined to my mouth, they would have probably run away with my nose following close behind. It was awful.  However, I’ve tried enough new beers to know not to rule out a beer by the first sip.  Some of my favorites had to grow on me.  I drank again.  There was no balancing going on here. More revolt.  My brain is saying, “Ok, Brian, this is in your head. It can’t be that bad. Keep drinking. You’ll get used to it. It’ll be fine.” I took another drink, this time with more commitment.  Revolt. It was like Tienanmen Square in 1989. My mouth was laying down in front of the tanks.  There would be no more drinking of this beer.

In case you haven’t picked up on it, I didn’t like the beer.

Keep in mind now that I’m in great spirits.  A great mood. My beer is bad, but I’m still having fun. I look around for my server to see if there’s any chance of a replacement. I don’t see her.  As we talk, I continue to be on the lookout for the waitress.  After about 5 minutes, I gave up and make the trek back to the bar. As luck would have it, Katelyn (sp?), the manager, along with my waitress and the bartender were all there.  Remember, I’m in a good mood. Not a drunk “good mood” (I only had one beer), but an honest-to-goodness, having-a-great-time, good mood. My tone of voice should reflect this. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Me (to the bartender): “Hi, I just ordered this beer, and it’s apparently not what I thought it was.  I really don’t like it. I gave few sips to make sure, but I really can’t drink it.”
Bartender: Unsure what to do, he looks over at the manager. “He doesnt’ like his beer.”
Me (to the manager): “Yeah it’s apparently not what I thought it was.  I really don’t like it. I gave few sips to make sure, but I just really can’t drink it.”
Katelyn: “Well, is there something wrong with it?”
“Since it’s not what I thought it was, and I’ve never had it before, I wouldn’t really know.”
“Well is it flat or skunked?”
“No it’s not flat, and I don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like. I’ve never had it. It might be exactly how it supposed to be. I wouldn’t know.”
“Well, if there was something wrong with it, I could replace it, but if you just don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do.”
Slight jaw drop. Eyebrows slightly raised.  Stare.  “Really?”
“Yes, if there’s nothing wrong with it ….”
“So you won’t replace it?”
“Not if it’s just that you don’t like it.”
Jaw drops slightly more.  I notice my waitress and the bartender looking very uncomfortable at this point. “Ok, then.”

I could have been “that guy” and got what I wanted, but not wanting to sour my mood, I was too nice.  I left my $4 beer on the bar and walked back to the table.

Having witnessed the entire conversation, my waitress rushed over to our table and began apologizing profusely.  I assured her that I didn’t blame her at all. She had nothing to do with it. She returned again a couple moments later continuing to apologize. I reassured her that I didn’t fault her, and I told her that what her manager didn’t know is who she was dealing with. I said, “I’m active in social media and I’m a customer experience blogger.  I’ll definitely be writing a review.” The look on her face was priceless.

She proceeded to bring the bill, I paid (leaving a nice tip feeling bad for her), and wrote on the top of the receipt, “for your review, go to” We left. I hope she gave it to her manager. Katelyn, if you’re reading this, perhaps you should rethink your policy. I like your food, so I’ll be back, but how many people reading this article will take a pass?  How many people will see this on Twitter, Yelp, Urban Spoon, or Google Places?  How many people are you going to lose over that $4 beer? I know a certain CX Consultant available for hire. You might want to think about it.


I took the matter to twitter this morning with this tweet to get some insight from others.  Was it odd for me to simply hope for a replacement? Should I have expected one? Was this common practice among bars and restaurants? I needed some backup to confirm my suspicions. Thanks to @anthonypsherman @tossasoccerdad @bootyp and @bradkoenig  for your insights.


Here’s the irony of the situation.  I didn’t expect a replacement.  I hoped for one. My history there has shown me that Buffalo Wild Wings needs to learn a thing or two about the customer service aspect of their experience. As a matter of fact, had a replacement been given, I probably would have been just a likely to write a review about how they had finally gotten it together, did a great job, and exceeded my expectations.

Customer Experience Lessons

  • Great CX is in the details.
  • Know who you’re dealing with. Many times you don’t.
  • A small gesture to exceed expectations will make for a remarkably good experience.
  • Ultimately this was a failure of policy.
  • Recognize the “make or break” moments.
So, Bayshore Buffalo Wild Wings, what will be the true cost of that $4 tap beer?

Alone in a Crowd

Twitter is ablaze today with reactions to the passing of Trey Pennington. With over 110,000 Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends, he was by all accounts a social media marketing A-lister. I followed him on twitter, but other than that I didn’t know him. My thoughts on the situation really have less to do with the who, than with the why of the situation. The reports that I have seen trace the reason back to depression and the resulting loneliness. This struck a chord with me as I have battled each of these. What I’m about to share is very personal and hard to admit. I didn’t set out to write this; somehow it just happened, but I feel compelled to share it and hopefully start a conversation.

I’ve never felt suicidal, but I know what it’s like to be alone in a crowd.

My personality is such that I am very comfortable in crowds. I love networking. I love meeting new people. I never want to miss a tweetup. I can pretty much talk to anybody about anything. I love a party. I remember names easily. I make a lot of connections, know a lot of people, and I’m great at connecting the people I know with each other. Most people who know me in these environments would probably think that relationships come naturally for me and that I have a lot of friends. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact is, I’ve had trouble building deep, long-term relationships my entire life.  I’ve had and currently have a few casual friends for whom I am truly thankful (more recently thanks to Twitter 🙂 ), but other than my wife, none that I would consider a “best friend.” For most of my life, I just ignored it thinking it didn’t matter.  I’ve made excuses from time to time about being busy, the fact that relationships take time or just that I hadn’t met anyone that I thought was “best friend material,” but the reality is that those were just that–excuses.  To me, building friendships is like a dance where you never know if you’re supposed to be leading or following.  For those of us who succumb to our insecurity, we don’t want to take the lead for fear of rejection.  We don’t want to impose. We don’t want to be seen as needy. We’re not “needy,” we’re just … lonely.

So why do I admit this? Why be so vulnerable? Why risk a reputation? Will some people think less of me for posting this? Probably. Do I post this because I’m looking for sympathy or some sort of reaction or because I’m hoping that my new bff will be reading this article? No. That’s not my style. I’m writing this because I am undoubtedly speaking for many people who are in the same boat, but feel weird admitting it.

If you need a friend, know this–you’re not alone.

Your thoughts?

BIG Milwaukee Tweetup | Getting started with Twitter

This is a reprint of an article I wrote nearly a year and a half ago (4/23/2010) as a review about my experience at my very first tweetup.  I’ve come along way on twitter since then, and that event was a huge part of it.  Thanks Milwaukee for welcoming me. You’ve changed my life. A few of the tweeps mentioned below have faded off, but some have become good friends. I have edited a couple of minor details (twitter handle changes), but for the most part, it’s as I wrote it then. In a follow-up post (or perhaps a series), I’ll write about the journey since.

In short,  tweetups turn your tweeps into your peeps.  Go.

Now for the back-story.

As we have recently begun to use Twitter (@annamayerphoto and @brian_mayer) as an active part of our marketing strategy, I have been seeking out the best methods for taking advantage of this somewhat daunting and unruly beast. We got a great boost with @annamayerphoto being an official tweeter for the Real Simple 10th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago. However, as a service business directed at a local clientele, we really wanted to expand our twitter presence locally. To do that, we would have to find the right people to follow and get as many targeted followers as we could.  I honestly didn’t have a clue on how to get started, but I’ll explain my approach.

First, I spent a day searching Twitter for #Milwaukee and #mke and looking through profiles and tweets to find those with relevant relationships.  I followed some prominent tweeters, but I also looked for users that had a lower number of followers and weren’t following too many themselves. I hoped that our follows, replies, and mentions might be more noticeable.

Second, I used the “nearby tweets” function of the Tweetie iPhone app to find people and businesses who were actually in our immediate area. I found a few to be a great springboard, so I thought I’d show a little love:

@StoneCreekSteve @DeannaInnis @Mserita @bizatty @ShopWFB @brennanMKE @erinulicki

I used this base as a place to look and see who others were following locally.  Through this process, I came upon a tweet promoting the BIG #MilwaukeeTweetup.  Of course, everyone knows that if “BIG” is in the title, it must be big, right?  I thought, “Hey that might be cool,” but really had no idea.  I followed the host @tweetupgirls to track the event action.  There seemed to be an indication that it might be worth the time invested, so I took a gamble and RSVP’d.

BIG #MilwaukeeTweetup: Reviewed by a rookie

I showed up to Swig (@swigmilwaukee) a hip joint in Milwaukee’s Third Ward and found the group easily. I went upstairs and was immediately welcomed by one of the @tweetupgirls Jeanette (@j_sosh) and one of the sponsors @robertjames1 (First Priority Printing in Mequon).   Keep in mind that I was not only a newbie to tweetups, but was also to this type of networking.  I was able to ask Jeanette and Rob about how it worked, proper protocol, etc . . . and they were both very helpful.  It was definitely not an insiders’ club. I was given a name badge that included my name and Twitter handle on a lanyard. I was also given a canvas bag with some info from the sponsors.

While I’m not one to shy away from talking to total strangers, I was very hungry so I made a bee-line to the food.  Swig provided the food as a sponsor of the event and it was fantastic!  I wish I could have eaten more, and I will definitely be back for a meal.  The shrimp in particular was outstanding.  There was a cash bar with cocktails, beer, and wine reasonably priced at $3-6 as well as complimentary soft drinks. However, wanting to keep my hands free, I didn’t take advantage of that until later.

The room was moderately lit, relatively crowded and loud with about 100 attendees.  Conversations were bar-like in their volume.  As I began milling around, I found that attendees were very friendly, open and welcoming.  I tried to tweet @ mentions as I met people in order to continue contact beyond the event. I found that to be a bit of a distraction and began to simply take a photo of the person’s name tag with my phone’s camera. However, my phone battery was running low so I  had to resort to the low tech method of  writing stuff down.  How old school is that?

Over the course of the next few hours, I talked to 15-20 people. They varied from web developers and social media mavens to business owners and broadcast professionals.  It truly was an A-list of Milwaukee’s Twitter presence.  Not only did I feel the evening was worth the time, I think it will be a moment I look back on as an important one in the building of our business network in Milwaukee.

What would I do differently next time?

  • Have business cards with our Twitter handles @annamayerphoto and @brian_mayer on them
  • Make sure my phone was properly charged, duh!
  • Eat something before I came–the food was great but it was a distraction.

Now, I don’t think just any tweetup would bring the same level of success, but based on my experience, I would say that it’s definitely worth your time.  Furthermore, I would strongly recommend that any Milwaukee business who is serious about using Twitter as part of their marketing strategy to attend any tweetup hosted by the @tweetupgirls.  I’ve heard that the next one is on June 3. I’ll be there in my signature grey fedora. Feel free to find me and introduce yourself.

Here’s just a few of my new peeps

@triveraguy: Thanks for introducing me to Mixero.  I love it!
@triveragirl: Great meeting you.  Thanks for newbie help!
@jims1973: Awesome guy. Checkout his
@katiefelten: Katie runs (@mkelive )[EDIT: Katie has moved on from MKELive to be the Community Manager at Hashable.]
@tcmeister: His twit bio rocks.  He’s at Net Solutions Group.
@philgerb: He is an awesome, down to earth twitteroligist.

Stone Creek Coffee gets Customer Service

So I’m enough of a regular at the Stone Creek Coffee in Whitefish Bay that I’m the mayor there on Foursquare. The manager there, Kendra (@stonecreekkb), is truly one of the best baristas I’ve seen anywhere. Before going to vote today, I made a quick stop there with Milwaukee’s best children’s photographer (@annamayerphoto). Today, Anna was jonesin’ for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which at Stone Creek includes a bit of Oregon Chai. Now Kendra, knowing that Anna prefers the Rishi Chai over the Oregon Chai (because she is the best), offered to make it with Rishi instead. It sounded interesting, so in an uncharacteristically adventurous move, Anna went for it. Of course it was hot, so she couldn’t taste it immeditately to offer any feedback.

About 2 minutes into our drive to the polling place, she tried it only discover that it was awful! I believe the reaction was something like, “Aw, phlaw, yuck! That tastes like soap!” I could be wrong as it was very fast and slurred, but I believe I’ve got the gist of it. She tried a couple more sips to see if it was just he shock of the different chai, but with every sip, it was just as bad. In an effort to save the day, I took a sip. Uh….no. Tired a couple more sips, and … no. This drink was not working with this chai. As awful as, it was I don’t fault Kendra, but rather applaud her for offering the drink. I have no doubt that if this scenario would have occurred in the store, she would have remade the drink in a heartbeat. But, alas, we weren’t in the store; we were 2 miles away. That’s where Stone Creek gets it, and what makes this story bloggable.

After voting, we went to the Glendale Stone Creek to get a replacement since it was right by our polling place.  As we were at a different store where we are not regulars, we fully intended to buy a new drink.  On the off chance they might offer a replacement we brought in the still-somewhat-relatively-warm, aforementioned beverage. We were warmly greeted by both baristas. I wish I would have gotten their names.  Maybe we could just give them good Wisconsin names.  Let’s call them Mark and Amber.  🙂  After just a very brief explanation, Mark began remaking the drink.  No hesitation. No questions. No-brainer.  Just good service.  The conversation that ensued among the four of us during the remake was one that cemented in my mind that Stone Creek Coffee GETS customer service.

Oh, and new Pumpkin Spice Latte? It was everything it was supposed to be 🙂

Stone Creek, you’ve been spied: Thumbs up.

Everything we tweet

As a tweep and a photography aficionado, I love this video. Twitter calls it “Discover What’s New in Your World , but I’d call it:

In Everything We Tweet

Some people say, “this is just stupid stuff about people’s lives.” I agree. It IS just stupid stuff about people’s lives. It’s the sharing of life with people that builds community. That’s not what twitter is for everyone; but that’s what it is for me. As a lover and avid participant in the conversation on twitter, my inner photographer loves this beautiful visual representation of twitter and how it is so relevant to me.

Getting up and tweeting “Good morning, Twitterfield.”

Talking about foods and what’s good to eat.

Discussing clothing trends and what NOT to wear

Sharing important events

and the mundane








a work in progress

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