During a recent jog in the park, my mind drifted to the subject of time travel. (It can be argued that my mind drifts even when not jogging.) It struck me that there is absolutely no sense in inventing time travel at all.
First of all, we’d each want to change different things. I might like to find out how the world would be had Al Gore become president, and remember what life was like without cell phones. Someone else would probably want to go back and become the creator of cell phones, and keep the presidents as they were. So, we’d all cross out what the other one did, and probably end up with the exact same present that we have now, without ever having tampered with the time-space continuum, which would have continued despite our best efforts to change it. (Hey, this is my blog post, and it makes sense to me, if it doesn’t for you, then go watch “Back to the Future” where the essential information of the time-flux capacitor and and time-space continuum are explained.)
More importantly, though, is that some of the reasons I imagine we want to time travel are because we regret choices and decisions, and we want to go back and make different choices, with the knowledge we now possess. The thing is, all those “bad decisions” and “mistakes” have led each of us to where we are now. We could not be where we are without those past actions and events. So, erasing them is actually erasing valuable knowledge and experience that leads us to make better decisions. Making one right decision does not guarantee that the ones that come after it will be equally “right” or have the outcome you were expecting. And, unless you plan to stay in the past, with your past self, from the moment you choose, until the day you went back in time, I’m not sure you’d end up any happier, wealthier, etc. because you can’t control the reactions to the changed decisions, only the decisions themselves. Also, if you watched “Timecop” with Jean-Claude Van Damme, then you would know that your current and past self cannot occupy the same space at the same time, or you turn into a nebulous blob and disappear. So, then, if you have to travel back in time pre cell phones, you might have a really hard time reaching your past self in time to change important decisions.
If the underlying desire of time travel is to change our circumstances, then it seems to me that the better choice would be to change our circumstances now. Stop giving your power to change to the past, and focus it on the present. Because, surely, all the stuff you think “led you to end up poor, miserable, yadda, yadda” is simply about the emotional attachment to past events. How about you stop feeling sorry for yourself, (I mean, sure, take a week or two, feel sorry for yourself, but then if you really want to change, stop feeling sorry for yourself and start taking action!) and figure out what about your SELF you can change, right now, instead of hoping you can be alive when they build a time machine?
Bad customer service discussions are spreading faster than head lice at summer camp. I’m amazed at how many different peers I have that are either experiencing HORRIBLE customer service, or hearing from their peers about the worst customer service they’ve ever seen. Perhaps it’s because I just read “It’s Called Work For a Reason” by Larry Winget (a great read!) but I have really seen a lot of bad service.
The thing is, we tend to think only of corporations when it comes to customer service. As if “customer service” and “Corporate” go hand-in-hand. But, we small business owners are every bit as responsible for pleasing our customers as are corporations. In fact, you’d think it would be easier for a small business to take great care of its customers. But, somehow, there seems to be a trend going around where money and growth/expansion are trumping customer care, and it’s time to bust the customer service bull.
“Customer Service Surveys” by Team Members on Flickr Commons
Here are some of the bad customer service actions I’ve been hearing about/experiencing as of late, and, if you think this could be you, some ideas for you to fix it:
You’re expanding, hiring new people, and trying to manage unprecedented demand for your service. Yay! Good for you! But, wow, your customer service sucks. Your existing customers are feeling how busy you are, and they don’t feel nurtured. Your prospects feel entirely forgotten about, not cared for, and your resulting funnel is becoming full of dead flies because you are completely ignoring them.
Or, you have a thriving business, and lots of different levels to help people get the help they need, and so you’ve decided that your lowest tier customers are less important than your higher tier customers.
How to fix your customer service:
Set expectations. You need to be really clear in your own head about what you expect from every employee. Then, you have to tell every single employee what those expectations are. Write them down, have everyone read your expectations. Talk about them, ask what people have understood their role is, make sure you all agree. Also, let your customers know what’s going on – if you expect a busy period, get on the phone, talk to them, figure out the best way for you to be in communication while you sort this out, and consider some sort of bonus gift/offering to make up for the glitch you are expecting. Leave the door open to complaints, take them on, and figure out how to satisfy your customers. In fact, before you deal with your internal issues, I’d personally reach out to every one of your customers, which, as a small business owner, should be something you can do within a week. They helped you get to the point you need to expand, so thank them. Customers tend to be a lot more patient when they hear from you, than when they don’t.
Set check-points. Especially when a new employee starts, establish ways to check in, regularly (daily or weekly) as to their progress. Figure out a way to see results of their actions, so you have a visible and tangible trail that lets you know if they did their work the way you expected or not. Show them where the weak points are, fix it quick, and try again. The same goes with your customers – show them you value their loyalty and their business by checking in regularly to see how their experience has been. Take notes, and actually fix the problems, and stay in touch around them.
“Customer Services” By Gordon Ednle on Flickr Commons
Your prospects matter, too. I think this is just the most appalling of all. While you are so busy being busy, you are making it really hard for those of us trying to learn more about you to do so. I won’t name names, but I actually tried really hard to get to know a business that was highly recommended to me. Last November, I sent them a Facebook message. I also tried to sign up for their newsletter. Dead silence. A month later, I got a reply to my Facebook message, with due apology. I replied, silence. Everyone kept telling me how great this place was, so I even emailed. Finally, after multiple tries, I got on their mailing list, and got a ticket to their January event with a discount! Yipppee! Then it got canceled, boo. They moved me into something else, yippeee! Then that got canceled, too. Boo. Then they told me they were excited I was coming to an event 2 months later that I was not registered for, at which point I just got pissed off. You know what I did NOT get, after 6 months of putting up with this horrible customer service? A phone call. If you know you’ve been falling down with your prospects, pick up the damn phone and call us. Beg us for our business, apologize, figure out how to make good on our business, because when your pipeline dies, you are tripling the work you have to do after you sort out your internal systems.
The same goes for referrals – if you don’t have time to reach out to them, then be up front when someone connects you. If you are open to referrals, then show them how valuable they are to you from the beginning. If you take one of our valued clients, and treat them with less value, it’s embarrassing to us, and means we will be less likely to refer business your way again. When you have poor follow-up with our clients, we worry that it reflects poorly on us, and damages our credibility in referral sources. Don’t make this mistake – it’s bad for everyone’s business.
“Customer Service Essentials” by Eurobase Fullfillment on Flickr Commons
It’s easier to renew existing business than get new business. No matter what level your customers are with you, they all came to you because they felt you had something valuable to offer them. Sure, if they are paying less, they can’t expect the same level of value that higher-paying customers get. But, they can expect to feel valued, and not be simply made to feel that the only way that will happen is if they spend more money with you. Train your associates to treat every caller with the same level of respect.
Handle complaints with integrity. No matter what you do, it’s likely that some people are going to complain. Complaints don’t always feel good, and it’s really easy to get defensive, emotional and upset by them. Do your best to breathe through them, remember that we are all different people, and listen. Find out what’s really bothering a customer or a prospect, and see if you can come to a point of resolution. Sometimes, we just don’t mesh with people, that’s ok. There is no need for you to change who you are or your personal style, or your personality, just because someone does not like any of the above. Take their criticism in stride – learn whatever lessons you can from the feedback, let go of what doesn’t resonate, and then move on without trashing one another in public forum. None of us is a fit for EVERYbody, but where we can be of service, and value, it serves all of us to apologize if we step outside of normal excellent behavior, acknowledge disappointments, and do our best to part ways with compassion. And, sometimes, when you behave compassionately, you can completely turn a bad service anomaly into a great customer.
What’s your experience with customer service, and what tips would you add?
It’s April, the weather is FINALLY getting warmer (at least in New York) and that means we are more likely to actually go to the networking events we sign up for. Most of us can adamantly prove that “networking sucks,” and, more than likely, that “networking doesn’t work.” We’ve all been to loads of events, and met lots of bad networkers, or, met some potential prospects, only to find that nothing comes of it, and now we go back to thought 1 – “networking sucks”.
business_meet_121125 by Richter Frank-Jurger on Flickr Creative Commons
Actually, it may be your networking skills that suck. I have thought for a long time that “networking sucks” but last year, did some major shifts in how I go about it. It made me see how I was being a lousy networker, and, it’s also made me accutely aware of some of the CRAZY BAD networking tactics I experience. Each time I do, I ask myself where might I be doing this, and make sure I make a mental note never to do it again. So, let me present some core bad behaviors, and what to do about them if, in fact, you find yourself in any of them:
You think networking is about handing out as many cards as possible. Somehow, you’ve gotten the idea that networking events are like a newspaper route. You walk in, walk up to every person at the event, shove your card in their face, ask for theirs, and walk away. (Yes, this still happens – if this is you PAY ATTENTION – you are literally throwing business out the window!) I was recently at an event, engrossed in conversation with a lovely attendee, and we were rudely, very rudely, interrupted by “Carl” (protecting names of the innocent”.) Carl, with no apology for the interruption, or regard for our conversation, stuck his cards out at both of us, said “Can I have yours?” and then walked away.
Impact: Here is what happens when you do this. You make us feel that we are a nameless, faceless person and all you want is our money for your business. If, and when you follow up, we will probably ignore you, and if you add us to your mailing list, we will probably unsubscribe. You have made no effort to connect, no effort to be of service, and no effort to understand us. If this is how you behave at a networking event, why would any of us want to believe you care about us in a follow-up conversation?
Solution: First, approach people who seem available rather than breaking in to people’s conversation. When you do, have a conversation with them before you hand over cards. Maybe you guys aren’t even a good fit!
You think the only reason we’re at a networking event is to listen to you drone on and on, and on, and on about your business. You go to networking events and you talk for 10 minutes about your business, graciously letting someone ask you questions about it, give them your card, and then walk away, possibly without even asking the name of the person you’ve just talked the ear off of. (Or, you may be wondering why “every” person you talk to seems to excuse themselves for the bathroom or for a glass of wine in the middle of what YOU thought was a great conversation. HINT – it wasn’t great for them.) Then you’re off to the next person, on a mission to tell everyone how great your business is, and give out your card.
Impact: At least you don’t just hand your card over and walk away! The problem is, none of us like spending lots of time with, or referring business leads to, someone that is just going to drone on and on about himself or herself. So, first of all, you’re turning off potential referral sources, because you’ve made the entire conversation about you. Also, it leaves us feeling like you have zero interest either in our business, in helping us
Solution: Practice explaining what you do within 60 – 120 seconds. Ask the person you’re talking to what they do, within that time, and then give an example of how what you do ties in to what they do. Make a habit of asking every person you meet at least 5 questions about what they do, and find some common ground from which to continue the conversation at a later point in time.
You don’t follow up. The primary reason you hate networking is because you think it ends when you leave the room.
Impact: Potential leads and referral sources will rarely happen for you because you don’t bother to expand the relationship.
Solution: Bring a pen to events and take regular breaks from networking to write notes on the cards of the people you feel are great leads or referral sources. Within the next 24 hours, follow up with ALL of them. (Just the ones you feel are a good fit, not EVERY person you meet. You should know who they are because, as previously mentioned, you’ve taken the time to ask questions about THEIR business, and gotten an idea of where you might be able to help them.) Yes, yes, you’re going to tell me that doesn’t work. You know why? Because you think follow up means one email, or a nice note on LinkedIn and a Connection request. Then you drop it. What? If you think someone is a lead, pick up the phone and CALL them within a week of meeting them (unless you’ve sorted out a meeting time and date by email) and make a plan to meet up.
Coffee Meeting by thegllbertchan on Flickr Creative Commons
When you do follow up, you use a mass email approach. No matter whether or not you have formed any sort of connection with people you meet at an event, you decide to save time, and send one email to EVERY person you met, and address it “dear colleague” (or some form of that). And, the entire scope of the message is about YOU and YOUR services, makes NO attempt to ask me about my business, or suggest that you’d even like to help me. Oh, and don’t get me started on offering me a referral fee on top of all this!
Impact: I’m always stunned by this one. It just happened to me recently – I bumped in to someone at an event, reminded them of how we met the first time round, discussed their business with them to make sure I remembered, and actually called them with an opportunity the next day. Nonetheless, I got the “group message” with no personality whatsoever, and it was the same as when I met them the first time round and offered me a referral fee! Impact? Tossed in email garbage! When you do this, we assume you are either too lazy to bother and wonder how you get business. Or, we assume that if you are so busy you can’t even personalize an email to us, you must be too busy to take on new business. A referral fee feels really off base when we don’t know much about your reliability, consistency and performance – don’t make the referral request about money, because most of us only hand over referrals to people we know, like, and trust. If I hardly know you, I can’t determine if I like you, and I certainly don’t have enough experience of you to establish if I trust you – referral fees unfortunately don’t do any of that.
Solution: It’s obvious, but, don’t send mass emails! If you want to send fewer messages, then choose only the people that really stood out to you at an event. Focus just on the people that you had a nice connection with, or that seemed like a good lead or referral source for you. At the very LEAST, write “Dear XXXX” where you insert our actual name! My name is not “colleague, friend, fellow networker,…” Instead of offering a referral fee, set up time for a mutual run through of services, and explain who you help most often, and how, and stay in touch.
When you meet for a follow-up, you pitch your services, and then disappear. Yup, it happens. Worse yet, you make it sound like you actually want to connect because you thought we were a great person, and then the moment we sit down, we get a sales pitch about your service and why we really must find a way to buy from you. When we don’t buy, we never hear from you again.
Impact. Cringing. Neausea. Feeling misled. When you tell someone you want to meet to connect, and then you do an uninvited sales pitch, it’s bad for both of us. First – we feel misled and less likely to want to work with you because we thought we were getting to know you better, and you took us off guard, and we put up all our barriers to doing business with you. Second – you feel you’ve wasted your time, because you apparently thought you were going to close a client, and probably feel disappointed that we didn’t sign on.
Solution: If the sole purpose, for you, to meet up, is to pitch us, just be up front about it. That way we can graciously decline your offer. Better yet – if when making a coffee appointment with us, you ASK whether we’d be interested in hearing more about your business, and we say YES, then at least you’ve gotten an invitation. Ideally, when we meet, you’ll also make time for connection and good conversation outside of your pitch.
At the end of the day, I have found that the best networking involves showing up as a service person. If we ALL have the same goal of understanding each other’s business, take the time to get to know one another briefly, figure out if we might be ideal to discuss working together or referring each other, and then develop a rapport over time, we are more likely to create a great network of resources, partners, and clients.
I’d like to talk about value. I just found a definition for it on Merriam-Webster online (since everything on the internet is true…) as follows:
“the amount of money that something is worth : the price or cost of something”
Now, here is the thing we, as business owners, especially when we are at earlier stages in our business, tend to add on at the end of that sentence: “to me”. So, we offer products and services that we want other people to buy, and we believe they are of value to them, because they are of value to us.
Did your bullshit detector just go nuts on you? Yeah, me, too. Let me tell you a story to illustrate why the “to me” piece has a very negative impact on what you market and sell, and why you must, instead, figure out the “to YOU” portion of that sentence.
By Ryan McGuire, Gratisography
For Passover/Easter, I flew down to Florida to see my mom and stepdad. As you can imagine, the flights were oversold, and lots of us were lined up by the gate when boarding time neared. Then came the announcement, “This flight is oversold, and we are looking for 5 volunteers to take another flight. In return, we’re offering $400 travel vouchers, or American Express gift cards.”
OK, so, they gave us options on how to receive $400- YES, that shows some value. But, I figured the price offer would increase. Sure enough, it went up to $800 within minutes. (Never ever take that first offer!) And, as soon as the only alternative flight option was a connecting flight, and more time, the offer went up to $900.
That’s $900, and we could have it as American Express gift cards! That could pay a cable bill, rent, a new pair of shoes…..but here’s the problem. Money does not buy time. My thought was,
“I don’t care how much you pay me, you can’t make up for the hours of time I would lose with my mom.“
Time with my mother was MY value point, and they didn’t get it. Since I didn’t feel “heard and understood” I didn’t go for the offer. It may have cost me money, but I didn’t care, since that was not my value point.
Now, head over to your business. Every time you try to write a book, develop a program, or create a product that’s “because I want to make money”, “because I need more time”, “because I have expertise that I think is valuable” etc – see how that is YOUR value point. You may be correct when you assume people want something you have to offer in a product or program, but when your primary motivation to create it is about “YOUR” needs, it’s often a recipe for nobody buying your product. (Of COURSE if you can prove lots of other people have the same need or problem as you do, different story!) BUT, if you design a service or product around “THEIR” need for more time, less stress, or if you can find me more time with my mother, NOW you’ve begun to tap into something people find valuable, and you’ll have our ear, and, likely, some of our cash.
by Rayi Christian W on re:splashed
So, how do you do create products and programs your customers want to buy? Here are a few ideas:
- Think back over the past year and all the clients you’ve had. Make a list of the top 5 problems/complaints/struggles every one of them had in common when they first started working with you.
- Figure out how you solve those problems – what are the things you did that got your clients to be more efficient and happier, etc?
- Write down the result for your clients of moving “from hardship to happiness” (insert your statement) – THAT is most likely the value
- ASK your clients to take a moment and verify whether your value statement is correct, and whether they would find it helpful if you had a book, program, etc to handle these problems? Ask them WHAT ELSE they might want
- Go create!
Today’s post is simply an introduction. Well, not really simple, you see I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming, and giving a lot of thought to integrity and alignment in myself, and in my business. You see, it’s what I do for my clients, so I want to also do it for myself. As a result of some serious soul-searching, and challenging myself to understand what I’m really about, what my underlying mission is, I realized some really essential things that I want for my clients that go well beyond a rocking business strategy.
I found an image in my mind of a person bathed in golden light, but surrounded by black brambles, all around, keeping their light shaded and dull. And my work is to serve as your path, to bring your beautiful light beyond the brambles and shambles, and into your business and your life. And so, after some vulnerable processing, and really thinking about what’s important, I came up with the Manifesto I present to you below, which will be permanently stored on my site at www.thebullbustercafe.com/manifesto.
I’d love to know how these ideas impact you:
My business coach recently challenged me to watch some basketball and see what business metaphors I could find.
I was not completely looking forward to this because, truth be told, I played basketball in High School. I was Point Guard, and used to make 3-point shots from the top of the key, until some men someplace decided that the standard basketball was too heavy and big for girls to dribble and shoot, and then they made us use a smaller, lighter, ball. I was really angry about this because it threw my whole game off. I couldn’t even make a lay-up. When I tried a 3-point shot, I minus will have been a canon firing a bomb because that ball went clear across the gym. So, after years of bitterness, I had to now watch the game, and apply it to my business?
It turns out that once I got out of my own way, there were a whole bunch of important lessons I got from watching one game of basketball. So, without further bitching and moaning, I will share them with you here:
- Goal and strategy are in alignment. The team has a common goal to score points, and every action they take is about aligning with that single goal. In business, the more focused we are, and the more we align our activities with our main goal, the more success we are likely to have.
- Cheerleaders are pretty and nice to have. While you are out there playing the game, you want your team to feel cheered on and supported. To help you continusously succeed, you need your own cheerleaders. That can be a coach, that can be a mastermind group, but you must have that person or group of people cheering you on to make it through the rough spots, and to celebrate your successes.
- Announcers give tips on gaps in strategy that a player or a team might consider – so they can play into their strengths and weaknesses. (Sometimes, though, they just state the obvious and are kind of annoying.) In business, it’s always good to have a coach that can help you when your strategy didn’t work, or to point out your blind spots. Sometimes, it may feel like they are telling you what you already know, but if you really knew it, you would have shifted it on your own. Make sure you have a mentor to help you see what you can’t, and help you shift your strategy when the one you’re using isn’t working.
- Referees miss some traveling and fouls. When you’re watching your business, pay attention. Hotels sometimes overcharge you, bills sometimes get missed – you gotta keep your head in the game.
- It’s hard to pick a side when your college team isn’t playing. Emotion drives excitement, cheering, and motivation to watch. In business emotion is a key driver to motivation, decisions and success.
- If you miss a shot or the other team steals the ball, you don’t give up. Sometimes in business you fail. Other times your competition seems to get all your potential business. If you’re going to score, you can’t give up until you do.
- The game isn’t over until you have a clear win or a clear loss. The closer you get to either the more commercial breaks there are, making that last mile the most suspenseful. In business, when a prospect nears the finish line, that’s when obstacles suddenly appear, making the final break really nervwracking. You gotta be in it to win it
- Know your numbers. The announcers in basketball constantly point out each players shooting average in percentages. This is what they use to decide what a player should focus on. In your business, know where you have the strongest numbers, and work hardest there. Delegate the areas where you are weakest.
Want more tips to win in your business? Click here!