Weighing in on Leaning In and Sheryl Sandberg


The news of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In” hit the front page of The New York Times this week. But how will it affect the way women, especially younger women look at work? My blog on today’s Huffington Post gives my two cents. Enjoy, comment, like, disagree…whatever. Love to hear from you! Or leave a comment on Huff Po!

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5 Reasons Women Talk More than Men

On TODAY today, Andrea Canning hosted a segment about why women talk more than men, see it here. New research indicates that women may actually over-index on a brain protein linked to language, called FOXP2.

Of course, the piece concluded with lots of irate husbands on the street complaining that their wives never shut up and in-studio banter about who talks more and ‘Chatty Cathy’ defense. After listening to thousands of women–especially my besties–talk over the years, I know they talk more than most men. (I sure do!)

I have used the ‘women talk 20,000 words to men’s 7,000 words’ stat but never knew about the protein rationale. Here are my five unscientific reasons why women talk more:

1. They notice more and therefore, have more content to share. And they want you to know it.

2. As a gender that feels unlistened to, they figure, if I just talk more, something has to get through!

3. They like to tell stories and provide context rather than just ‘get to the point’ as they are so often (annoyingly) told to do.

4. Talking is therapy and connection. By talking, I am soothing, sharing, being alive with you. Silence is often a signal that something is wrong. Unless it’s during savasana, which means, ahh.

5. If they are like me, talking is a way to fill in the sentences that others leave unfinished. Because others don’t talk fast enough. And we know what they are going to say anyway!

The good news for marketers is that women are the talking gender AND the buying gender. Silent types can’t help you figure out your marketing problems. Talkers can. A person of few words, like “Me, too!” isn’t a great help to you. A talker is, and your best talkers are….women.

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Macy’s New Shoe Strategy: Stepping up Foot Traffic


Department stores have been outdoing each other with bigger and more extravagant shoe departments. Barney’s recently rehabbed their emporium and Saks floor bears its own zip code. This month Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square opened a new 63,000 square foot shoe floor with 300,000 pairs—stepping up to be the biggest shoe store in the world. A champagne and chocolate bar is located on the floor to celebrate when you find the perfect glass slipper. But what’s really behind the shoe madness?

Listen to the interview here!

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Like A Fruit Basket, But Better: Sephora Same-Day Delivery

If you’re a fan of makeup superstore Sephora, you probably already know that the store’s newest campaign is that of same-day delivery from their local store. For $15, makeup lovers can have products from around the corner delivered to their doors… or the doors of their friends.

The appeal is obvious: We don’t have to find the time to sneak from our desks to the Sephora store—a timeless, alternate universe of perfume clouds and color palettes. We also don’t have to dampen the fun of makeup shopping by going when we’re just refreshing the basics (sorry, can’t get excited about concealer), or sit at home waiting for our online order to arrive. And when our order does arrive a matter of hours later, it will be via “iconic Mini.” Let us know if you spot it around town!

But with a minimum order of $50 and a delivery fee of $15, same-day orders have to be substantial. Therefore, we leave you with the following question: What’s it worth to you to avoid the perfume lady?

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It’s Not About Anger… It’s About Ego

Half Truth: Women are demanding customers.

Whole Truth: Women don’t like retailers who take advantage of their perceived reticence.

Women, who may be mild or diplomatic under most circumstances, will whip out their evil twin when it’s time to duel with errant sales and service people. When we’ve asked women to describe their identities as shoppers, they are proud to claim their power. As one woman told us, ‘I’m a ‘you’ve got one chance to screw up’ shopper.’

Another woman we interviewed demonstrated her revenge technique on a salesman who made her feel he was too busy to take her call. In what was clearly an oft-repeated performance, she mimicked her best imperious voice, as she raved at the hapless receptionist, ‘You tell your boss, this is an escalated phone call, use that word and tell him I want service right now!’ As the other women in the group applauded, I could see her relax into the knowledge that this story only got better with the telling, securing her place as queen of customer

Marketers of services faced with an irate customer like this can figure out whether her anger is real or manufactured by starting with the magic words, ‘You’re right. Now, how can I make this better for you?’ Play to her ego; all she’s really wanting is the respect she deserves and to not be seen as the cowering, customer chump.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Are you talkin’ to me??

I was standing in the checkout line at GAP yesterday and in the mix of the hustle and bustle of the shoppers, heard someone crooning something once, then twice, until I finally looked up and realized the cashier was summoning me with the liquid-y new lingo pilfered from Target, “Following guest?” Huh? Believe me, I am as rabid a line stander as anyone and wouldn’t miss the chance to hurry to the register but after so many years of being shouted at with “NEXT CUSTOMER!”, I was tone deaf to this gentle invitation to step forward. It happened again at another mass outlet and I watched the customer in front of me stand silently like a car that doesn’t respond to a green light. So, the cashier re-announced, a little louder, “Following guest, please”. But it’s hard to yell that phrase, so still no action.

We’re not used to being talked to as guests after retailers spending years training us to respond to “NEEEEXXXTTT!”.  But it seems that this holiday season, with every dollar on the line, stores are not only offering discounts, they’re extending courtesy. Wow. What a concept. Hope it sticks if things pick up!

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To Have and NOT to Hold

Today’s New York Times article lauded the arrival of the Holy Grail: Lucy Phone, a technology that answers the perennial consumer scream “WHY AM I ON HOLD SO LONG?” Customers who truly hate automated systems will rejoice to know that now they’ve got a button of their own that forces the company to call you back, rather than waste your time. I know that there are already businesses who do this themselves, inviting you to press whatever # and an operator will return your call. But Lucy puts the choice in consumers’ hands. (One scary side note in the piece is that the Twitter universe is fanning consumer rage, with hoards of on-hold folks banding together to gang up on companies…sort of a mass citizens’ arrest. Something to keep an eye on.)

Meanwhile, thanks to services like Lucy, I was thinking of all the phone messages that soon may be a thing of the past.

“Your call is important to us. Please hold.” (If it is, then why don’t you answer now?)

“All customer service representatives are currently speaking with other customers. Please hold.”

(in other words, “other customers” who are more important to you than I am.)

“This call may be monitored for quality by our customer service specialists.”

(really, when has anyone ever interrupted your frustrated profanity as you watch the waiting minutes drag by? )

Go, Lucy, go! You’ll not only save waiting customers’ needless anxiety and wasted minutes, you might even save some companies the money lost to customers’ exasperation…and defection.

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A Case of Caring Too Much

Every 3 months I look forward to replacing my running shoes.  I love checking out the new models and this past Sunday I went into the store with a particular type of shoe in mind.  I had done my research, read some reviews, and I knew the shoe would be stable, but also light enough for racing.  I tried it on, and within my first few strides on the treadmill I recognized it as a perfect fit.  I was just about to chirp, “I’ll wear these home!” when the running expert who was helping me said, “hmmm…those won’t work.” 

At this particular store they film your feet while you run, and then play it back for you in slow mo so they can see if the shoe is correcting or hindering your alignment.  While it’s true my ankles turned in a smidge , everything I’ve heard from past running coaches and my new bible, Born to Run, say the key is to wear a light shoe and your body will eventually self-correct and find the most efficient way to move (in truth they advise going barefoot, but I live in the city so…let’s be real).  Heavier shoes with tons of amped-up support and extra cushioning don’t allow your feet to get stronger on their own. 

The words, “Well, in Born to Run…” were barely out of my mouth when the young “expert” rolled his eyes and interrupted with “look at the picture…this shoe isn’t going to work for you,” casting a wary look at my legs… basically insinuating that if I chose the shoe in question, I may as well just take a crowbar to my knees now and be done with it. 

He presented me with an option “much better for my situation” (twice the weight and size of the prior model) and, as I trudged along on the treadmill feeling very much like a Clydesdale, he assured me these were the perfect pair. My mood can only be described as nonplussed… I imagine it’s how Cinderella would feel if she were presented with wooden clogs instead of glass slippers.  But, I didn’t feel like arguing, so I paid for the moon boots (I know, total drama queen) and went on my way. 

When I think back to what made it such a bummer of a sales experience, it comes down to him making three easily avoidable selling mistakes…

1) He talked to me as if I wasn’t a runner, even after my telling him how many miles I run a week AND namedropping at least 2 marathons.  While it’s true many runners don’t share the ‘au natural’ philosophy, it is valid and he should have at least acknowledged, if not respected, it.

2) He took my opinion out of the equation and used his expertise as a means to put me down, rather than educate me.   He made me feel silly and uninformed.  Now I’m no wallflower, I argued my way out of a stress fracture diagnosis just weeks before the NYC marathon, but this guy made me feel like I really didn’t know what I was talking about.  So, rather than arguing with him at the store, I backed down not wanting to be that customer. 

3) He knew I was leaving the store dissatisfied.  I had a frown reminiscent of Eeyore’s as I trudged out holding my new purchase (I’m known to practically pirouette down the street after buying running shoes or apparel).  You want your customer to feel excited about their purchase, not like they’re settling.   I felt like a dieter forced to pretend a bran muffin was a chocolate chip cookie.  He didn’t even say, “Hey, if you try them and really don’t like them, bring them back and we’ll find something else.”

I’m taking the Clodhoppers back tomorrow and getting my glass slippers.  I’m just mad I didn’t do it in the first place.

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Whole Truth at Your Service

I am always on the alert for good and bad customer service and this holiday season is prime for detecting the Half Truths of retail.

Half Truth: I know what I’m looking for and don’t want to be pushed into buying something.

Whole Truth: I really want advice but am wary that I’ll be forced to buy more than I want if I ask for it.

Last week, a terrific associate named Trevor Dallier in the J.Crew store on lower Fifth Avenue in New York effortlessly balanced these Half and Whole Truths. I was looking for outfits for my college-age nieces. There were lots of great things on sale, but it was late, the checkout line was 15 people deep and I was feeling more stressed than creative about choosing the right cool combos.

Trevor to the rescue! His opener? “I’m a personal shopper here, can I help you put something together?” How did he choose me to help? Was it the way I was holding sweaters next to tees and pursing my lips? Was it the way I kept walking from one side of the store to the other, changing my mind from pink to black? Whatever my vibe, he picked it up. And he won my heart. He knew the merchandise and sizing tricks, had great fashion sense, mixed sale items with new ones, even added styling tips which I can pass on with the gifts. Best of all, he followed up the next day with an email, inviting me to special events, promotions and a phone relationship where he’ll snag and hold things that I want from the catalog if there are limited quantities.

This is the Whole Truth. A chain store can become a prized boutique when service exceeds expectations. A sales associate can add value and increase average order (sure beats the over-used strategy of price cutting to gain volume). The holiday shopping season which often stresses store personnel as much as their customers, can be a time to create new relationships for the new year. Simple…if only there were more Trevor’s out there.

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It’s Officially Customer Mutiny.


Today my favorite cry out to the gods of customer service comes from a youtube video entitled United Breaks Guitars. In song it tells the story of a guitar being broken in 2008 and a musician’s futile attempt to get compensated for the repairs.  It is a perfect example of why brands need to recognize that the customer has officially taken over. It’s mutiny people.  New media is a frontier that will expose your faults to the masses.  Almost 5 million people have watched this video and I’m certain that it has inspired other customers to get the last word.

What’s the damage? The Huffington Post quotes a U.K. paper that speculated the video and bad PR caused United to lose $180 million.  Not sure I believe that this video was the only reason the company lost value but …

About a month ago United finally offered to pay for the guitar and the musician, Dave Carrol, has told them to donate the money to charity.  What a stand up dude.  I’m particularly fond of the chorus that suggests the band should have traveled by car but can you imagine the song he could have written about mechanics or rental car companies or fast food road food or gasoline companies or GPS makers … ? The musician has promised/threatened that he will write 3 songs about this issue and this is the first with the second in production. 

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June 14, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

press & praise