Tuesday, August 16, 2016
When it comes to business, change is inevitable. As the world changes, so do our businesses in order to stay up-to-date and competitive. However, with each change, it becomes necessary to follow a transition process to acclimate both employees and customers. A transition can be the cause for issues to crop up in any area of your business. At a minimum, it can cause whining, grumbling and potential mistakes from your staff.
When managing change in your business, keep this quote in mind.
"Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable." ~ William Pollard
The Need for Innovation
Innovation and creativity are two of the most important factors that make your business a premier vendor for your customers. How you and your staff interact with customers and how you provide the best products and services to them will nurture loyal customers and make their lives better. While your techniques and results may change, your values do not, and that is what your customers will come to expect from you.
Creativity is Evergreen
Your ability to create, or to help your customers create, is a valuable talent. Managing change offers you an opportunity to find new ways to develop and display your "wares." Since change requires learning and developing new skills, people that go through any transition can stimulate their creative centers at the same time they are learning.
How to Manage Change Effectively
To help your employees, customers, and yourself manage change in a positive manner, look for ways to reward people who make the transition effectively.
1. Use change to retrain staff on necessary skills and review their knowledge.
2. Offer incentives for staff to display their new knowledge and expertise to customers.
3. Offer discounts to customers who try your newest innovation.
4. Take the change in stages that make sense for the involved participants.
5. Explain why you are making the change and how it will improve your product, your operations, or grow your business.
6. Give staff and customers a forum to voice their opinions and complaints.
7. Thank people for trusting you and making the effort to try something new.
8. Express your understanding of resistance to change.
As you ask your people to take the steps to change, remind them of how far your business and industry has come and where you would be if you never made any changes.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Lily Robinson, 3 and 1/2 years old, wanted to know why the Tiger Bread from Sainsbury's (a British convenience store) wasn't called Giraffe Bread. After all, it looked like giraffe skin. She wrote a letter to Sainsbury's and her mother mailed it to their customer service department. (https://www.helpscout.net/10-customer-service-stories/)
In an incredible customer service response, Chris King, 27 and 1/3 years old, responded to Lily with another letter and a gift card. That response in itself would have been an incredible customer service moment, but the story continues.
Sainsbury's decided to change the name of the bread to Giraffe Bread and created signage explaining the story. Lily's mom was so impressed that she wrote about the story on her blog. (https://jamandgiraffes.com/2011/06/15/our-careline/) The story then got picked up by BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-16812545) and became a marketing tale that has returned goodwill to Sainsbury's many times more than what the first gesture from Chris King cost them. While this return doesn't happen every time you offer excellent customer service, your actions and response to customer complaints are opportunities to cement relationships with customers. Often, it is the customer service assistance that creates the most indelible mark in a customer's memory.
Customer Service as an Opportunity
There are many similar instances that companies never find out about that affect their bottom line. Not every customer calls or writes to a company because of a good or bad customer service experience. However, they may tell all of their friends about it. Positive or negative, word of mouth goes far and can create a bundle of good or bad press for a company.
Because most of us are dealing with automated phone systems and customer service reps that speak other languages and barely know English, a lot us have become numb to the massive amount of poor customer service. When we do come across good customer service, sometimes it is a shock to our system. We crave good customer service, and most people will return and refer others to any company that treats them well.
Examples of good customer service opportunities abound:
*The mechanic that takes the time to explain what is wrong and why it needs to be fixed, but won't fix anything that is unnecessary.
*The patio furniture sales person who brings out a ladder to get the last display model from the ceiling-high display shelf.
*The jeweler who walks the customer through the options of repair for their cherished, but cheap, pearl necklace.
These types of customer service experiences are appreciated by the customer and remembered.
By treating every customer service issue as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a customer, you can build the loyalty that every business needs. Loyal customers are your bread and butter, the customers who pay your monthly bills month in and month out.
Being a small business can give you more of these opportunities because you know your customers personally, so use these moments as a chance to shine.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Because of this, it's best just to assume that EVERY conversation you have with a customer is under public scrutiny at all times (because it probably is). Even responding to what you believe to be an invalid negative review of your business has the potential to turn quickly into a lightning rod of controversy depending on where it falls in the news cycle.
The Lessons Learned
For the sake of argument, let's say you've found yourself in the middle of a PR nightmare due to a conversation with a client that quickly went south. Maybe one of your customer service reps let emotions get the best of them and what started as a routine call quickly turned hostile, Now, the whole world seems to know about it. You can't take back what has already happened, but you CAN use the lessons that you're about to learn as the foundation of every decision you make moving forward.
For starters, examine the situation to find out what you did right and, most importantly, what you did wrong. The fact that you're in the midst of a public relations crisis itself is not something you did "wrong" since popular opinion isn't necessarily something you can control. However, look at the steps you had to take as a group to get there. What problem did the customer call about in the first place? Why did the conversation with your rep turn so negative so quickly? Why does this single interaction seem to be capturing the attention of so many people at this particular moment?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can then get started making it right. Note that this does not mean "fix the problem" as in "make it go away." It means to do what you can to course correct and get back on the path you want to be. Take the steps to educate your reps on how to avoid these situations in the future. Take a look at the original problem that the customer had with your product or service and, if valid, do something to fix it. If the client took the conversation public on Facebook or Twitter, respond the same way. Remember - all eyes are on you and customers who see a business that is willing to own up to its "mistakes" and make them right are more likely to show sympathy and compassion than if you try to take care of everything behind closed doors.
For many businesses, a public relations nightmare is not a question of "if" but "when." The key thing to take away from this situation is that you have a unique opportunity that you can use to improve your operations across the board. Even if you think you're in the right, there are likely things that you could have done better, or you wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. If you DON'T take this as a chance to learn some very valuable lessons, you're wasting an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade from a business perspective.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Likewise, understanding when it's time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.
In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote "The Gambler." After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn't give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).
Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It's a difficult decision to give up on your "business baby" that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are "ok." Sometimes, though, it's necessary to give up an "ok" thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em' and when to fold em'.
Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it's a no-brainer - "if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno."
For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar - "if the return on time or money invested isn't worth it and you can't find a clear solution, it's time to kill the product."
Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product's success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn't add more value than a competing product, it's time to move on to something else.
Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder's mindset in determining when to kill a product: "Everyone I know with a truly successful product...[is] not creating a product to create a product, they're moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world."
Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, "You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate...that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on."
Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.
Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he's no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
The dirty little secret here is that there are NO pointless meetings in the world of business - only wasted opportunities to get things done. If you want to make sure your meetings are justifying their existence, you'll want to keep a few key things in mind.
Know When to Schedule a Meeting and When Not To
The first step on your road to a more productive meeting schedule involves coming to an understanding of what type of information should be conveyed in a meeting and what would be better left for some other delivery mechanism. One of the reasons why meetings tend to fall into the "pointless" category for many people is that they don't require input or collaboration. If a team leader wants to draw everyone together to talk about updates to a project, but they don't want the advice of anyone else, what they're scheduling is not a meeting at all. It is an email at best.
Collaboration and the input of everyone involved should be a requirement for any meeting to justify its existence. If a particular problem has cropped up with a project and everyone needs to come together to solve it, that's one thing. However, if the purpose of the meeting can be accomplished by just sending a memo or some other form of communication, don't waste everyone's time by gathering the entire team together to talk about the work they are already doing. Instead, let the team just get on with doing their jobs.
It's All About Solutions and Focus
Another one of the reasons why more meetings tend to be less than productive is because people come with ideas, not solutions. One sure-fire way to make sure that nothing gets done is to allow people to come to a meeting and say off the top of their heads whatever is on their minds, firing off ideas that may or may not work.
In a perfect world, everyone at the meeting would know that you have a problem and would come prepared with X, Y, and Z suggestions for how to feasibly solve it. You wouldn't waste the meeting time searching for an answer to your problem. Instead, you would be able to pick the best solution available to you from what the team members came prepared with and brought to the meeting. Far too many meetings lack this type of targeted focus, which is why so many of us can walk out of a meeting and feel like it accomplished nothing.
At the end of the day, there are no pointless meetings in the world of business or, at least, there shouldn't be. Getting everyone together for a meeting can be a great thing. Everyone is in a room together, feeding off of everyone else's energy and building a solid foundation of creativity that will carry your business forward. Meetings that are little more than lectures (or worse, freestyle sessions) have no place in a productive organization. If you want to have a meeting, by all means, do so - just make sure it has a clear focus before you schedule it.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Broadening Your Customer Personas
Customer personas have long been a tool marketers have used when trying to relate to their target audience. These fictionalized, typically generalized versions of theoretical people can be a great way to help the designers of a campaign keep their "eyes on the prize," so to speak. After all, if you're setting out on a road trip across the country, it can be helpful to know exactly where you're going before you back out of the driveway.
However, the huge influx of data that marketers now have access to is a terrific way to deepen these customer personas more than ever before. You no longer just have things like age, gender, employment status or income level to work with. You can now draw from not only what has influenced past purchasing decisions, but WHO. You have volumes of analytical data pertaining to lifestyle, interests, and behavioral patterns. You can even draw valuable information from how a person might respond emotionally to a certain event in their life.
All of this means that an already powerful tool, customer personas, can now be put to even more meaningful use in the future. These personas are no longer generalized at all, which is very much a good thing for marketers everywhere.
Redefining the "High Value" Customer
Another great way to use customer data to create a more powerful customer experience is to reassess your "best" or "highest value" customers through the lens of this new data you're working from. You've always been able to call up data like average purchase size, lifetime value, and acquisition costs pretty easily, but now you can go deeper. You can get a real sense of how satisfied your customers are with your products or services and look at how that information may affect what you need to do for your customers in order to get them to remain loyal.
You can also see whether or not the people you're actually targeting with your marketing materials are the ones who are actually spending money on what you have to offer. If there is a discrepancy there, who ARE your buyers? Is this a problem, or is this a happy accident? What does this new information say about decisions that you were previously making on assumptions? This is all incredibly valuable information to have moving forward.
At the end of the day, the huge volumes of customer data that marketers now have access to is absolutely NOT a burden. We live in an age where it's now easier than ever to glean the type of valuable, actionable insight that you can use to make more effective, strategic decisions. All of this allows you to drive home the most important benefit of all: creating a much more powerful, organic, and deeply rooted customer experience than what was possible even five short years ago.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
You can't just demand that your employees dedicate a huge part of their waking days to helping you accomplish your own professional goals. They have to want it. You can't buy it, either - high salaries and competitive benefits help, but they'll only ultimately carry you so far.
So how do you make not only managing employees easier than ever, but also turn them into true, loyal team members instead of passive subordinates at the same time?
The answer is simple: mutual respect.
What is Mutual Respect?
The most important idea to understand about mutual respect is that you're dealing with a two-way street. You can't force someone to respect you just because you happen to be their boss or because your name is on the door. You have to earn it. You have to show them that you're worthy of it.
However, generating mutual respect isn't as easy as flipping a light switch. It involves a lot of small things that eventually add up to a pretty significant whole. It's about being genuine in your interactions with employees. It's about going out of your way to do the right thing and recognize a job well done. It's about making sure that all employees, regardless of position, have an equal voice in all decisions that affect them. It's about taking the time to show an employee that those eight hours they spend in the office on a Sunday didn't go unnoticed. That they were appreciated. That you wouldn't be where you are without them.
What Mutual Respect Means in the Long Run
If you're able to foster an environment where mutual respect occurs organically, you'll begin to feel a wide range of different benefits almost immediately. Mutual respect means that an employee is willing to put in a little extra effort and work harder because they know that you appreciate what they do and that you would be willing to do the same if the situation was reversed. Mutual respect means that if you do make a mistake, an employee is going to give you the benefit of the doubt because it's the same courtesy you've afforded them in the past.
Mutual respect also means that all employees understand and even believe that they have an equal voice. They don't feel like they work FOR you, they feel like they work WITH you - because you feel the exact same way. Even when a conflict does arise, it never gets heated or even contentious because people who respect each other don't argue and fight over issues, they discuss them like civilized adults.
These are some of the many reasons why mutual respect is the secret ingredient when it comes to managing employees. Creating a workplace where mutual respect is encouraged creates a "trickle down" effect almost immediately - conflict management is easier, collaboration is more efficient, and even the types of personality or cultural differences that stood to divide employees in the past only work to bring them together.
Mutual respect allows everyone to come to the simple yet important realization that at the end of the day, you're all part of the same team.