Recovering From Bad Customer Experiences
You’re striving for a flawless customer experience. You want them to love your business and what you do, so you make sure that employees are well trained and great systems are in place.
And despite your best efforts, stuff happens. Your customer is upset.
I’ll let you in on a secret: People aren’t that surprised. It’s not because the standard for customer care has dropped so much – it has – but because life is imperfect. It’s just the human condition.
But it’s when things don’t go perfectly that people have insight into your character. And your company’s character. People appreciate that.
When things haven’t gone well for a customer, here’s how to demonstrate great character:
1. Acknowledge the bad experience your customer just had. Hint: It sounds like, “I’m really sorry.”
2. Admit fault. Sure, I know that you’re also frustrated that the package didn’t arrive on time, but it’s cowardly to blame the delivery company. Better to admit that you ideally would have found a way to meet your promises, and take ownership.
3. Find a way to address the immediate pain. It’s broken? Replace it as quickly as possible, or repair it for free.
4. Work on rebuilding the damaged relationship. Maybe a gift certificate for the next purchase, or even a handwritten “I’m sorry” card in the mail. A relationship is personal, so make it FEEL personal.
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins
Of course, behind the scenes you’ll be scrambling to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again. That’s great and necessary, but mostly invisible to this particular upset customer. You have to show that you’re personal, caring, and attentive. Whether it’s a simple cup of coffee, or a $10,000 purchase.
Will people take advantage of you? Perhaps. But it’s best to strive to create a trusting and generous relationship, like you’d have with your best friend. If people want to treat your business as a friend, they’re not going to want to rip you off. Don’t let the dishonest few destroy the character of YOUR company.
Preventing Employee Turnover
I saw an article in the Washington Post recently which talked about an increasing trend of employee turnover, so I expanded on that with an article on my blog.
This is a much bigger deal than many recognize.
The quick summary is that top employees will be the first to move to other companies, because they’re most sought after and have the best ability to change. Once that happens, it starts a domino effect which can spread quickly to others in the organization, and there’s almost nothing that a manager or business owner can do to stem the tide.
This is happening in different industries at different rates, but I’ve already seen examples in high tech, petroleum, and bioscience. I’ve seen entire startups created by a critical mass of top performers who just got fed up and left en masse.
When it starts happening to you, there’s few things you can do to shift the trend. So you need to start putting preventative measures in place now.
For more on how to do that, go read my article. And talk with your business coach about making it happen in your company – before you start losing your top people.
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10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning
This time of year you most leaders turn their thoughts to the past year and plan for the next one. Karen Schmidt suggests the questions to be asked are the same as for a gardener . . .
1. What grew? What new ideas that you planted came to life and grew . . . in a good way. Remember, weeds are prolific growers too and you don’t want more of them. For example, which of your people have grown this year in terms of knowledge, abilities and confidence? How have you grown as a leader? Has your team grown closer?
2. What died? What didn’t work this past year? Was it a new policy or procedure, transferring someone to a new role, re-organising job responsibilities, taking on a new client or a hire that failed to thrive? On the positive side, what unhelpful or negative attitudes died off this year?
3. What would I plant again? Who would you hire again? What projects would you do again? Which marketing campaigns or training programs would you repeat? Remember, just because something grew doesn’t mean you would plant it again. Some people and projects require too much effort to be worthwhile repeat investments.
4. What is ready to be moved? Do you have people that are ready for their next role in your team, elsewhere in the organisation or maybe outside the organisation? What about you? Do you need to consider your next move?
5. What worked for others? Look around your organisation for signs of what worked for other leaders and their teams. Maybe those same initiatives could work for your team. If you can learn from other leaders you will shortcut the path to success.
6. What needs a rest? Gardeners rest beds to allow the soil to regenerate or they can run out of nutrients. What projects need a rest this coming year? Which of your staff need a holiday or at least a break from demanding tasks? What long established practices could do with a rest?
7. What new things would I like to try? If you’ve been keeping an eye on the latest thinking in your industry then you should have some ideas on what you could try next. So what research and reading have you done to identify new things? What is on your “to do list” for the coming year?
8. What circumstances were within or outside of my control? The weather and the GFC you can’t control but there are many other things that you can control. Did you ignore the early warning signs of a problem? Did you make decisions that you knew from the start had a minimal chance of success? Did you fail to take action when you should have, hoping the problem would solve itself?
9. What’s changed since this time last year? People and plants grow, changing the look and feel of an environment. How can you summarise the way your team has changed, for the better or the worse, since this time last year.
10. What do I want to change by this time next year? Imagine your team a year from now and describe exactly what it would be like . . . what it would and wouldn’t contain, where it would be headed and how it would be performing.
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Free Wi-fi or a Scam?
Today I received an email from a well known national hotel chain as a part of their regular newsletter I subscribe to. The headline was ‘XXXX now offers FREE WiFi to all guests!’
The email marketing had done its job- a compelling headline had grabbed my attention, and I clicked to open. My main reason was this is a hotel chain I frequent a lot, and an existing bug bear I have is they do have WiFi but it is overpriced at nearly $30 per day, which in today’s world I feel is a bit pricey.
Upon reading the article about their ‘newest innovation’, the fine print stipulates that the so called ‘FREE WiFi’ is for 15 minutes per day per guest, and only available in the common area of the hotel ie. The foyer! My initial, and current thoughts are ‘why bother?’ Surely an added value offering such as 15 minutes of WiFi in the foyer isn’t going to entice anybody to stay here versus another hotel nearby? I don’t understand the logic behind the offering and the headline of it being such a great idea to tell the community about. Have I missed something here?
I am constantly frustrated with hotels and the general community at large in Australia with the reluctance to offer free WiFi to the customer. When I travel it is commonplace that WiFi is available and free in nearly any place. On my last two trips to the UK and to the UAE I had this service in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, trains, train stations etc etc. I am sure there is some in built cost of this in what I pay somewhere along the line in the business offerings, but I don’t care as it is hidden and built in.
Why can’t we get it right in our businesses here in Australia, or am I being too obnoxious?
What's it like in America? I am very interested to know! Tweet to me @tony_ozanne.
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You Don't Always Have To Be The Only Leader
Sure, you’re running the company. The big cheese. The buck stops here.
But if you have more than a couple of employees, it’s dangerous to think of yourself as the only leader. When you do, you’re setting yourself up for burnout. It’s a structure which requires all decisions to go through you, which distracts you from the more important, long term thinking.
Part of the art of running a company is to know when to let go, to trust this investment you’ve made in your great employees. Start with delegating those small decisions, and let people know that you’re going to be increasing it over time.
Then hold yourself to your promise.
Every person is different, so even your most trusted employees WILL do things a little different than you. That’s OK, especially for the non-essentials. So focus your energies on ensuring that every customer is having a great experience, NOT on whether somebody switched up a couple of minor steps on an administrative process. Most likely, that may be an improvement because they’re closer to the day-to-day admin work than you are.
What’s essential to the success of your business? It should be a fairly short list, otherwise it becomes muddy. Start first with your vision and mission, then look to what will help attract and retain customers. Don’t forget your legal requirements, because the government doesn’t have much patience with such things. Then look for efficiency and keeping people productive.
Focus most of your energy on this big picture, then let your people take more ownership of the details. That’s what you’re paying them for, right?
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Get What You Expect From Going Into Business
People go into business for a whole range of reasons.
Some people do it because they’re frustrated working for someone else, or they can’t get a job doing the work they like. Many want more money, more freedom and more control. Others want to follow a dream, or to challenge themselves to achieve success.
What was it for you, and is your business delivering what you were looking for? If not, are the reasons still important? If they are, what can you do about it?
Why not take a test to see whether or not going into business has delivered for you.
The table below sets out 15 of the most commonly mentioned reasons people give for going into business. Ask yourself:
• was this a reason for me?
(Add any other reasons you had that are not on this list?)
• has this become a reality for me?
• if not, can I still make this a reality and what do I need to do?
So what if a whole lot of the reasons you originally went into business haven’t become a reality for you? What can you do about it?
One approach might be to develop a detailed vision for how your business and work/life balance would look in the ideal world. From this you can develop a new set of business objectives which you can define in the context of your personal goals - and vice versa – to ensure your business and personal goals are (and remain) properly aligned.
These goals can be stated in a way that reflects your specific expectations, and wherever possible they should be measurable. For example:
• a good work/life balance might mean working 8 hours a day 5 days a week, with 6 weeks holidays a year;
• financial rewards might equate to an annual salary level, a return on investment, or an hourly rate of pay; and
• success might relate to building the business to a defined level, or winning certain awards.
(Of course, all these goals have some interdependency.)
Once the detailed vision and the business and personal goals are defined, you can develop strategies for making them a reality and put them all into a business strategy plan - hopefully a plan on a page. Then go about taking the necessary action to make them a reality.
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Mindful Leadership In the Workplace
Mariejan wrote a great article recently about mindfulness in the workplace – why employees find change threatening. It got me thinking about how leaders can help employees to navigate through uncertain times. Here’s my advice, based on a few successes and many mistakes.
1. Give the big picture as context. Many times, change happens as a result of larger forces – changes in the market, business opportunities, decisions further up in the company.
2. Then balance that with your own interpretation and guidance. People don’t trust you when you just blame everything on someone else and don’t take ownership of it yourself. If you want to continue to be a leader, then step up and be responsible for your actions – for better or worse.
3. Be honest. When people feel threatened, their intuition kicks into high gear, and they’re looking for even the subtlest cues. Tell them the story. If there’s something you can’t tell them (for instance, because it can’t be made public knowledge yet), be honest about where the barrier is.
4. Give them a path to find hope. If there’s anything they can do to reduce the negative impact on them and the group, let them know – even if that’s going out and looking for a job elsewhere. There’s nothing worse than waiting for the axe to fall and having absolutely no control.
5. Be compassionate. If you were in their shoes, you’d probably be freaking out too. It’s human. Listen, be supportive, and be as helpful as you can. “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
It’s time to be courageous and lead your people into the uncertain future!
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins
Have Americans Taught Aussies A New Christmas Tradition?
We got some feedback from one of our readers who had saved this blog from last year in her inbox, so we thought we would share it again! We hope you enjoy it once more, just as much as our other readers have! We would love to hear if you come up with any different traditions this year!
Have a safe and happy holiday from all of us at Small Fish Business Coaching!
One of my oldest friends now lives in America. I noticed this post on her Facebook page. I thought it was really interesting and considering that most of the people reading this are small business owners, I hope you will find it interesting too.
After you have read it, think about what pledge you will make to yourself this year? I have started the dreaded Christmas shopping – already I have handmade soaps and lotions from a local market where I got to ask how the product was made, what got the owners started and what they enjoyed about their business. I have also purchased hand made dresses for the little ladies in my life and am now looking for some wooden boys toys. Friends will get homemade biscuits (not made from my home…I have not yet mastered the oven) and a nice bottle of Aussie wine!
What will you do differently this year?
Christmas 2012 -- Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high
gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods --
merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor.
year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine
concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes
It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates
from your local American hair salon or barber?
Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some
Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned
detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a
book of gift certificates.
Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down
the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift
receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or
driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift
certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about
a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this
isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town
Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?
Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a
local cleaning lady for a day.
My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is
struggling to get his repair business up and running.
OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin
their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery
and beautiful wooden boxes.
Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave
your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at
your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about
fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to
burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that
China can build another glittering city.
Christmas is now about caring about
US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow
their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our
communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.
THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.
Small Fish Business Coaching Gold Coast
Business Success Is About People, Not Money!
Have you considered where your business would be today without your clients and your hired team of employees?
Logical answer really, isn't it! Your business would be closed.
Now consider why you started your business in the first place.
Building businesses with a "lets make money, create jobs, get rich" philosophy is dangerous for a number of reasons.
- Was it to make money, get rich, retire early?
- Was it to buy that boat, take a world trip, have time with your family?
- Have you considered the value of your desires in business, and your thought process toward money?
- How is it all working out for you?
- Is your business growing successfully or is it struggling?
1. A strictly money driven business mindset overlooks the heart of business, which is excellent customer service.
2. Many companies as large and as long standing as Darrell Lea have faced difficult outcomes, such as when voluntary administrators were appointed to Darrell Lea amid fears of deep financial distress.
* source: www.news.com.au 18/07/12
3. The economy has no regard for people, while travelling in financial cycles based on external factors resulting in GFC.
4. Without valued clients and a happy productive team, all businesses, regardless of their size, will struggle and financial stress may occur.
5. When work is hard to find, discounts are given more freely and prices reduced in fear, clearing away any potential profit.
The greatest challenge modern businesses face today commences with their thinking toward success and how they will achieve it.
Most people think of businesses in terms of products, services, cashflow, marketing, expenses, vehicles, and making money at all costs.
Rarely do we stop to consider the life blood of any business, which is its valued clients and hired team. The people our business serves within the community, and the team that is hired to grow the business to better serve its valued clients - is the businesses greatest asset.
On the other hand, stress is the enemy of business. The reality of today's modern small businesses is the high stress levels of the owners, and their shortage of financial resources and clients.
This stress has repercussions. It effects the atmosphere by impacting on existing clients, and the working team while clouding the owners thinking. Stress holds a business back from productive growth.
The solution for management is to delegate and train your team to be excellent in customer service.
Delegating can be the most challenging task self employed business managers do in their day. Yet to delegate and to create a happy, productive team environment is to create the most valuable asset in any business.
Invest in self development training, and conduct weekly team meetings.
Create a team attitude of " working with you, not for you!"
Teach your team everything they need to be successful within their roles.
Encourage working productively and happily together towards team goals, by being respectful and positive, therefore leading by example.
Encourage feedback and improvement from your team regarding their roles, both collectively and individually at team meetings.
When your customers feel valued, and your team feels valued, your business will succeed. Referrals and testimonials will follow, creating opportunity.
By engaging your clients with a well trained, happy team - you have created a business that will grow and develop beyond the management which oversees it. This will provide you the time and profit to grow your business further.
Let us explore this concept shared with me by a business friend:
'The energy for today is all about the momentum of working in a team. Sometimes we believe we can do it best by ourselves and yet when we explore the avenue of a team it brings together different energies and ideas - opening up to greater opportunities in life and work.'
Consider a Team which unites to become: Together We Achieve More!
With this team philosophy at heart, your team will become your businesses most valued resource. By working together in a happy environment, everyone will succeed.
The backbone of any business remains its valued clients. Build your team, and train them to be a cooperative, collective group to serve and value your clients.
With this client / team mindset, your business will grow to be successful, as money is no longer the underlying factor in the equation.
Until next time.
Stacy Nichols is the managing director of Infinite Electrical in the Gold Coast. She has 20 years experience working in both private and public enterprise within Australia. She now owns and operates her own businesses. She is always looking for new business ventures and ways to create income.
Emerging Start-Ups Listen Up
I was listening to a presentation yesterday from the head of a new start-up technology company here in town. One statement jumped out at me: Their philosophy of succeeding in this area is to “fail fast and fail cheap.” Especially for an emerging start-up, we have a lot to learn from this. Here’s what he’s saying:
1. It’s more important to move and try something than to study it too long. Unless you’re making decisions which endanger people or the company, it’s usually better to try something. Trust your gut.
2. It’s OK to fail. Many large companies build up a philosophy that it’s bad to fail, which means that nobody ever tries anything new until it’s proven. Who usually DOES try something new? Those little upstart companies which will eventually eat your lunch.
3. Don’t bet the farm on a new idea if you don’t have to. Try something in a small scale, without blowing your entire budget. What you learn from that failure will help you move to the next step, where you can make more informed decisions. But if you spent all your money the first time, then you don’t have any to try it a second time.
This is a wonderful indication of a company that’s learning, growing, and moving. If you’re starting a company that’s different than what everybody else is doing, it’s critical to figure out how you need to be different yourself.
And if you’re starting up a company that’s the same as what everybody else is doing, why do you bother? Why would a customer switch and come to you instead? It’s because you’ve learned and changed something important.
Just keep learning.
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins