June CleaverRecently on optiboard, a poster suggested her optical was treating customers too nicely, postulating that by being nice (or overly so), her customers would come to expect being treated kindly, take advantage of such treatment, and show no appreciation.

As a retail/service business, particularly an optical, looking to grow and thrive in increasingly difficult times, not only should you be trying to meet customers’ expectations, but you also should be looking to exceed them in unexpected ways. This is one of the few ways left to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace where more choices and better prices are available to the consumer than ever before.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports even the notoriously frosty storefronts of Rodeo Drive are undergoing attitude adjustments to meet changing social and economic conditions. With genuine smiles, coloring books for the kids, and espresso bars for adults, many stores are changing their image to appear more welcoming.

I must confess that Coach reached my emotional brain as my rational brain grappled for control. Within minutes, a saleswoman named Lucienne had me in a pair of $485 high-heeled Maxene boots. When I didn't buy the boots, Lucienne deftly placed her card in my hand. Mr. Hill explained what had happened: "She actually smiled at you the whole time. At the other stores, they smiled once because they knew they had to."

Update: I just came across this account of an encounter with a company that obviously believes it is possible to be too nice to its customers and goes to great lengths to ensure it is not.

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