Shep21's Blog….Leadership, marketing & customer service through the printed words of many

Hire an architect November 12, 2010

Filed under: Success — shep21 @ 11:52 am

By Seth Godin via Feedblitz

Architects don’t manufacture nails, assemble windows or chop down trees.  Instead, they take existing components and assemble them in interesting and important ways.

It used to be that if you wanted to build an organization, you had to be prepared to do a lot of manufacturing and assembly–of something. My first internet company had 60 or 70 people at its peak… and today, you could run the same organization with six people. The rest? They were busy building an infrastructure that now exists. Restaurants used to be built by chefs. Now, more than ever, they’re built by impresarios who know how to tie together real estate, promotion, service and chefs into a package that consumers want to buy. The difficult part isn’t installing the stove, the difficult (and scarce) part is telling a story.

I’m talking about intentionally building a structure and a strategy and a position, not focusing your energy on the mechanics, because mechanics alone are insufficient. Just as you can’t build a class A office building with nothing but a skilled carpenter, you can’t build a business for the ages that merely puts widgets into boxes.

My friend Jerry calls these people corporate chiropractors. They don’t do surgery, they realign and recognize what’s out of place.

Organizational architects know how to find suppliers, use the cloud (of people, of data, of resources), identify freelancers, tie together disparate resources and weave them into a business that scales. You either need to become one or hire one.

The organizations that matter are busy being run by people who figure out what to do next.


Five Steps To Customer Service Glory February 19, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 12:00 pm

We all know that providing exceptional customer service is the stated goal of every business leader, regardless of how large or small the company.

It’s common knowledge that customers are more loyal to companies who treat them as more than just a number.

Sadly, the personal touch customers want — and deserve — is often lost in the daily grind of doing business… especially in larger companies. Too often the leaders do not model the very behaviours they expect from their teams.
Here are five simple ways to keep your customers coming back, even after facing their problems or complaints.

Be Genuine: Personalize the Conversation
When a customer calls with a complaint or a concern, make the time to treat them like an individual. And ensure your employees do, too. While calling a customer ma’am or sir is respectful, it doesn’t offer a personal touch. Replying, “Yes sir, I understand,” is polite. And polite is good! But adding the customer’s name, as in “Yes Mr. Jones, I understand,” is so much better!

Using a customer’s name whenever possible helps her see you are truly engaged in serving her, regardless of the problems she’s brought to your attention. And it helps her realize she’s more important to your company than her cheque book.

Be Accountable: Don’t Pass the Buck
One of the most aggravating things a customer faces where customer care is concerned is being passed around like an old hat that no one wants. Impeccable service ensures that every company employee, regardless of rank, handles customers to the fullest extent of their abilities.

Never refer a customer to someone else simply because you don’t know how to handle his problem. Instead, take the time to help him fix the problem, if possible. Or at the least, if you must refer a customer, find someone who can resolve their issue and provide a warm hand-off.

Ensuring your customer achieves a desirable outcome will ensure you create a customer for life.

Be Empathetic: Listen, Acknowledge, Validate & Apologize
Listen to your customers. Sometimes people really do just need to vent, and rarely should a complaint be taken personally. Learn to acknowledge the customer’s issue, and train employees to do the same. It helps your customer to know that someone understands their concerns. Let them know you understand the way they are feeling and apologize even if you don’t feel you need to.

A sincere apology works wonders in creating happy, loyal customers, and confirms your willingness to take responsibility for the customer’s problem.

Be Innovative: Provide Solutions
Once you understand the customer’s problem, offer a solution. Refrain from telling the customer what you can’t do. Instead, focus on what you can do to remedy her situation, and offer some options. Working to solve your customer’s problem — even if not to the extent she may have hoped — will help her feel as if you care about her, and her business.

A solution focused attitude will keep customers coming back even after they’ve faced a problem with your company.

Be Trustworthy: Never Make Impossible Promises
Often, in an effort to appease a customer, an employee or company leader will make promises that are not only impractical, but which he or she is simply not able to honour. Instead, offer a realistic, workable solution that will allow you to rebuild your customer relationship and provide some satisfaction. It’s not necessary to “give away the store.” Just meet the situation realistically and your customer will appreciate the effort.

While these tips will help you provide quality care to your customers, there will be times when nothing anyone else does will be enough to keep a customer. Knowing you’ve offered impeccable service, however, will help you sleep better at night realizing there was nothing more you could have done to meet the customer’s needs.

Click to download a PDF copy to share with colleagues


5 Great Questions to Pose to Customers February 18, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 12:00 pm

Constantly seeking feedback from your customers is a great way to learn how to market your business more effectively. If you’ve never done this before, do it immediately as it is one of the best ways to discover what you do that actually differentiates you from your competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a small business that had no idea what its competitive advantage was until we heard it right from the mouths of happy customers. Seeking feedback is also a great way to get better and plug gaps. I can tell you that if you’re not receiving a large amount of your business by way of referral or word of mouth, you’ve probably got some gaps in your processes.

Below are five questions I like to pose to customers as they can provide a great discussion base for getting at what’s truly important to you and your customers. Create a form and get in the habit of surveying a handful of customers every month. I think you’ll be rewarded with tremendous insight and you’ll also find that your customers enjoy being asked what they think. One word of caution, don’t accept vague answers like “you provide good service.” While that may be true and good to hear, you can’t work with that. Push a bit and ask what good service looks like and maybe even if they can tell you about a specific instance in which they felt they got good service.

1. What made you decide to hire us/buy from us in the first place?

This is a good baseline question for your marketing. It can get at how effective your advertising, message and lead conversion processes are working. I’ve also heard customers talk about the personal connection or culture that felt right in this question.

2. What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?

In this question you are trying to discover something that you can work with as a true differentiator. This is probably the question you’ll need to work hardest at getting specifics. You want to look for words and phrases and actual experiences that keep coming up over and over again, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you. If your customers are explaining what they value about what you do, you may want to consider making that the core marketing message for your business.

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

On the surface this question could be looked at as a customer service improvement question, and it may be, but the true gold in this question is when your customers can identify an innovation. Sometimes we go along doing what we’ve always done and then out of the blue a customer says something like, “I sure wish it came like this,” and all of a sudden it’s painfully clear how you can create a meaningful innovation to your products, services and processes. Push your customers to describe the perfect experience buying what you sell.

4. Do you refer us to other, and if so, why?

This is the ultimate question of satisfaction because a truthful answer means your customer likes the product and likes the experience of getting the product. (You can substitute service here of course.) There’s an entire consulting industry cropping up around helping people discover what Fred Reichheld called the Net Promoter Score in his book The Ultimate Question.

Small businesses can take this a step deeper and start understanding specifically why they get referrals and perhaps the exact words and phrases a customer might use when describing to a friend why your company is the best.

5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?

This is the new lead generation question, but understanding what it implies is very important. If you want to get very, very good at being found online, around the world or around the town, you have to know everything you can about the actual terms and phrases your customers use when they go looking for companies like yours.

Far too often businesses optimize their web sites around industry jargon and technical terms when people really search for “stuff to make my life better.”

Bonus: I’m a big fan of building strategic partnerships and networks. Another question I would suggest you get in the habit of asking your customer is – “What other companies do you love to refer?” If you can start building a list of “best of class” companies, based on your customer’s say so, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a list of folks you should be building strategic relationships with.

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing


Make the most of new ideas by listening, questioning, and clarifying! February 17, 2010

Filed under: Leadership — shep21 @ 12:00 pm

Leaders interested in growing and evolving their organizations should take heed instead of finding fault, then dismissing a new idea. Give new ideas a chance to mature and evolve.

They may surprise you.

To make the most of new ideas, follow the ABC’s:

A. Listen. Don’t be one of those leaders who think they must have all the answers. Don’t be the person who is waiting for a break in the conversation to insert what he or she wants to say next. Instead, listen carefully and deliberately. Put judgment aside and just take in the ideas you hear.

B. Question. There is no quicker way to extinguish the potential of a new idea than by making a statement instead of asking a question. Positive or negative statements can have a nullifying effect. Judging new ideas as good or bad cuts short any prospects of idea-evolution. Ask questions that encourage input, accountability, and analytical thinking.

C. Clarify. Clarify, don’t assume. Double-check that what you hear is what is being said. Repeat clarification as necessary.


The Disney Experience February 16, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 11:59 am

A blog from Service Untitled.

Disney has perfected crowd control. Very few companies do a better job at managing crowds than Disney and whenever I was in line, I was impressed with how well Disney manages the waiting process. The waiting areas for the rides and attractions are well designed and well laid out. They’re visually appealing, usually feature some sort of thing to look at or do, and were mostly indoors (which means mostly in the air conditioning). Once people are done waiting in line, Disney fills seats with ease and makes sure that it guests know exactly where to go. Any company that deals with long lines and large crowds can learn a lot from Disney and how they manage lines and crowds.

Employees are everywhere. I visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a Saturday and the park was busy with guests and employees. Employees (called “Cast Members” at Disney) were all over the place. If you had a question for them, they were almost always very nice and almost always very knowledgeable. The Cast Members probably get asked the same questions over and over again, but from my experience, they answered the questions with a smile. It is a lot less stressful for customers when there are lots of employees around who are happy to answer questions.

Disney does a lot of research. I saw multiple people with “Disney Research” logos on their shirts and was asked to participate in two simple surveys during the day I spent at Disney. One focused on my demographic data and another focused more on the overall park experience. Collecting data and using it to improve the customer service experience is essential.

They try to go the extra mile. A friend I was traveling with had a special request and Cast Members did whatever they could to accommodate his request. The general demeanor of employees and of the way the parked seemed to function was consistent with what I saw; Cast Members were dedicated to helping however they could and would gladly go out of their way to help.

They keep the experience simple. Disney could make the customer experience a lot more complicated if they wanted. They could charge more for certain rides or certain sections and so on. Instead, they break it down by park and keep it simple. You don’t have to buy anything besides the park admission ticket if you don’t want to. The result is a speedier and more convenient park-going experience. Companies should never underestimate the power of simplicity. Whenever possible, make the experience simple. It’ll make customers happier and save a lot of time and effort.


Use concierge mindset for customer service February 15, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 6:00 am

The best concierge takes pride in orchestrating memorable experiences for their guests, so why shouldn’t every employee have a concierge mindset; after all as long as you have customers, you are in a service business. Of course, the initial recruitment and interview of potential candidates is of prime importance, so know what specific personnel requirements are needed, and structure hiring decisions based on attitude, proficiency, and enthusiasm.

The delivery of services should not be restricted by job title. Take the example of an employee stocking the shelves at a local hardware store. A customer comes in and asks the employee where she can find door handles. The employee walks the customer over to the aisle and asks if there is more he can do to help. The customer needs help sorting out the rows and rows of door handles to find one that fits her needs, and the employee assists her until her needs are met. Then the employee returns to stocking the shelves. Did the employee go beyond his job of stocking shelves? Absolutely, but the customer was so satisfied she made a point to congratulate the store manager about the excellent and helpful store employee.

In a local hair salon, a regular client was in the middle of a hair highlighting. The client had very long hair; the  foils were almost all applied, and her cell phone rang. The client’s 5th grade child called to tell her mother she had forgotten an important piece of her class project that was involved in the school fair and needed it immediately. The mom couldn’t leave the salon with bleach and tin foils. The receptionist volunteered to drive to the client’s home, pick up the piece the student needed and take it to her child’s school. Going out of her way? Absolutely, but the receptionist was able to break free and see her job as more than just a job title.

Going above and beyond sets any business apart. Instead of ever saying no, a business should always be able to present options or alternatives, but in order to encourage employees to perform in such positive ways as the above examples, the company has to empower employees and coach them in positive ways. Probably the most important aspect in being able to realize such outstanding service, is the company’s ability to present a positive approach to employees and help employees  work effectively with other departments. It is really hard to go above and beyond by yourself.

All good customer service is a result of an organized system and constantly improving what you want to achieve; the results can make a big difference. If a business just changes a little at a time and meets the customer’s needs beyond the product, the customer feels important, and that is what keeps customers coming back. 

The original post can be found st Service Untitled, here….


How are the emotional bank accounts at work? February 10, 2010

Filed under: Team Building,Uncategorized — shep21 @ 7:26 pm

You can keep your work relationships productive and your work fate positive by making routine deposits to your emotional bank accounts. For example:

· Praise superior work and show gratitude when someone does their job well

· Take a sincere interest in the other person and what’s meaningful to him

· Attend to the little things, such as returning a message or acknowledging his birthday

· Deliver on anything and everything you promise

· Remember the names and goings-on of the important people in his life

· Admit and remedy mistakes without placing blame

The full article can be found here