“When Would You Like It?” March 23, 2013Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers, Setting Customer Expectations.
Tags: best practices, customer expectations, service delivery, service quality, setting customer expectations
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What’s your service model? Is it to deliver the best service possible at all times? Is it to over-promise and over-deliver? Or under-promise and over-deliver? Or under-promise and under-deliver? Who does that right?
Whatever the combination of your service model, the key to servicing your customers is setting expectations. How do you set customer expectations?
While I might not have scientific evidence to present you today, I can say with much certainty that NOT being able to set a customers expectations is a great way to cause more problems than you think.
This is particularly true of service providers. Service providers in any business live and die on three things: price, quality & timely delivery. What I often see as both a consumer and consultant is businesses who in their zeal to “keep the client happy” can’t for the life of them set expectations for success.
What do I mean? Let me clarify. Everybody seems comfortable asking the basic expectation question:
When would you like it?
But few and I mean very few in the service business are able to make the next statement – after the customer answers the above question:
Let me check with (our team, production schedule, etc.) to confirm if we can meet that date. If we can’t, I’ll give you the date we can meet.
You also have to keep in mind this: most customers are not expecting to get your service YESTERDAY. Most business transactions that I’ve witnesses over the years, customers have reasonable expectations.
However, if you only ask one question: When would you like it? – and then sit there and write it down and nod your head, you’ve just built your own sword that you will fall on.
Why do business owners commit themselves to a (mostly) arbitrary date without even knowing if they can do it? Without checking back at the office to see what’s already in the production queue? They leave the meeting or call with the customer thinking that there’s no problem.
The reality is that making customer commitments without understanding if you can is, well, crazy in my view. After the commitment is made, they head back to the office or shop and announce that “the pressures on!” and everyone must drop everything to move heaven and earth to meet this commitment…other customer commitments made before be damned.
That sets into motion a series of events that usually lead to the following:
1. Other customers being pushed out of the queue for service because of this latest “911”. That doesn’t help things.
2. The staff is thrown into unproductive disarray. Employees who operate in a culture of constant chaos because of reckless customer expectations setting are drained of energy. They burnout. They get cranky.
3. The rush to meet ridiculous expectations in order to “overserve” the customer leads to lower quality. In the rush to get the service prepared and delivered, mistakes are often made. What good does it do to make the superman effort to deliver services where the customer finds errors in the product? You know what happens. The customer is not happy and all your “heroic” efforts to over-deliver are negated.
4. Customers get used to running the show on service expectations – it’s like a drug. They want it when they want it and they know you’ll keep delivering and jumping as high as they say when they say it. Like a seal at a circus.
5. The constant barrage of unrealistic customer expectation setting often leads to being unable to meet the real “911’s” that truly need the team to make a superhuman effort to meet. Those get mixed into all the other artificial 911’s that are of our own making.
Want to get the best mileage from your efforts and still deliver consistently great service? Don’t overpromise. Don’t abdicate responsibility for setting expectations entirely to your customer. Don’t complain when you find you and your staff running like mice in cage every day of the week. Don’t create swords that you can fall on.
The Experience is the Marketing April 12, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Marketing Buzz.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, buzz marketing, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, innovation, market differentiation, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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You want a great marketing strategy? Create an incredible customer experience and you’ll have the greatest contributor to new and recurring business you could have. Think about it. Most business owners and managers think of marketing and promoting their business in the context of spending money on advertising. While certainly advertising and other forms of marketing your business are key, creating a superior customer experience is the first worthy marketing investment you can make.
This is often a mistake made by new business start-ups who in the heat of battle forget that the experience they create for their customers is the most impressionable and lasting investments they can make.
And it doesn’t much matter that whether you provide a product or service either. We all know how much Apple pays attention to the user or customer experience. Every detail of the path their customer takes has been designed and engineered to provide a great and positive experience for the Apple customer. And yes, Apple spends plenty on traditional advertising and marketing. But I’m willing to bet that the experience of buying from Apple and then working with their products sells more product than the advertising does.
Do you know of a local business where they have created a customer experience that has the impact to keep you going back time and again?
So, for those businesses that compete on price as their primary “marketing” strategy, take note: price is your race to the bottom.
Here are a few things to consider in developing a “marketing experience” for your business:
- The customer experience begins at the point your prospect or returning customer enters your business – whether through your store or via your website.
- The first few moments of contact and connection to your business are the most critical. First impressions are important and immediate impressions are critical. If the initial impression is negative, you probably have less than a 50% chance of redeeming yourself in front of your customer or prospect.
- Customer experience has to be designed from end-to-end in order to ensure that the experience is engineered from the time they enter your online or offline store/office to the time they leave. End-to-end.
- Layout your customer experience on paper. You need to be able to describe what positive emotions & attributes you want the customer to get impacted by. You have to design a flow of experience that incorporates an impression that can be implanted into the customers brain.
- People within your business provide the most critical impact on a customer. Make sure that everyone is trained to provide the kind of customer experience that will delight. If you’ve been to a place like Disney World, you know what I mean.
- Be flexible and able to adjust your customer experience as you see/hear the reactions from customers. Be willing to test new ways to improve the customer experience. Look for examples of excellent customer experiences outside of your industry.
Creating an exceptional customer experience is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and it’s pretty clear most businesses don’t. A positive customer experience can create customers that stick with you and competitors who can’t follow you.
The Costs of Strategy March 6, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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It’s funny. Not a day goes by when someone tells me they need some “strategy” to help them in their business. Strategy? Today the word “strategy” is used like a cheap, $2 dollar bill. It must just sound good to say the work “strategy” in a sentence. So what’s so funny about that? Well, everybody wants a strategy until they find out that implementing it might actually cost them some money. Perhaps having a “strategy” might mean you have to upgrade a system or process to gain a clear competitive edge. Or it might mean investing in additional people resources to help you exploit a new marketing opportunity. As soon as the “strategy” requires an investment of some kind, the next stage is, “How can we do this on a shoe string budget?” Well, you can’t. So, business owners and managers will pick off the parts of the strategy that call for more investment than they are willing to make. That usually means that what’s left are one or two tactics that are weakened greatly because they were part of an overall “strategy” that now only has a few pieces of structure to hold it up.
The result: Strategy failure.
Couple of observations here:
- Strategy may require investment in resources whether it be money, people, and time or any combination thereof.
- “Strategy on the Cheap” is not a strategy. That’s hoping that you’ll find enough “cheap” or “free” ways to implement the strategy to make it work.
- Strategy is not a cure for a bad business model. If your business model is broke, no amount of strategy will help you unless you are willing to make great changes and most likely a reallocation of resources.
- Strategy is not designed to make you feel good. Strategy and the implementation of it may require you and great parts of you business to change.
- Strategy is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and doing with great competitive and business results. Everyone in business isn’t.
- Strategy without action is dead-on-arrival. Nice to have but useless unless implemented.
- Strategy changes the moment the bullets fly. When the competition and markets keep moving forward, change is inevitable. When the competitive battle begins, be ready to modify your strategy as conditions warrant.
- Strategy cannot fix things tomorrow. Impatience is the killer of many “strategies”.
- Strategy development must be shared. You cannot develop a strategy by sitting yourself in a room and hoping something comes out of your head. Or perhaps what comes out of your head is not that good. Share your ideas and challenges with others and let the vetting process begin.
You get the point.
Finding Winning Opportunities February 6, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business opportunities, business strategy, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy
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On the playing field in football or business, the winning team is the one who can find and create opportunities then convert them into a win. Easier said than done when you consider you have to dig to find those opportunities that your competition isn’t already onto. Knowing where to find opportunities on a continual basis is the road to business longevity.
So where do you look or hunt for those opportunities that offer potential for revenues and profitability? Here are a few thoughts on where you might find a few.
- Leverage your business assets for new markets, even if it’s outside your core business. When Amazon needed reliable data infrastructure for its growing web business, it decided to build it on its own. At some point, Amazon realized other companies who need the ability to build web-scale applications would want the same service. Amazon Web Services was born and now powers large chunks of the internet for customers like Netflix, NASA, Virgin Atlantic and many others.
- What about your business or industry that irritates your customers the most? Netflix was born when founder Reed Hastings was charged a late fee notice from a video he rented. A universal customer irritation founded a new business model for video distribution.
- Watch how customers adapt your product or service for new uses. Customers who used Avon’s popular “Skin So Soft” oil discovered that if you mixed it with a 50/50 solution of alcohol, it became a very effective bug repellant. It wasn’t long before Avon created an extension product with just that mix.
- Look for inspiration from other industries outside your own. It’s not uncommon to find clues for opportunities that can be transferred to your own business from a completely different industry. For example, a bank could find inspiration for its web-based services by comparing them to web-services from other industries. The common and easy approach is to compare yourself to those in your own industry. That’s a one-dimensional approach that limits your ability to spot opportunities that could be applied to your business. What are they doing that could give you a competitive advantage?
Creating a real difference in your market place takes hard work and well-tuned internal radar that is able to spot opportunities when they present themselves. Being able to observe in detail the world around you and look for patterns that lead to fresh ideas and opportunities.
Businesses that have a knack for finding opportunities and the exploiting them aren’t lucky. Remember, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. The number of opportunities you find that can be leveraged for your business will be in direct proportion to the number of overlooked things your discover.
Just How Much Variety Do We Need? March 26, 2011Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
Tags: beating a recession, best practices, business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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In the toothpaste product world:
- There were 69 new toothpaste varieties introduced in 2010
- There are 352 distinct types of toothpaste sold today
That was enough to stop me right there. The context the WSJ story was this: Can brands confuse consumers? If you look at the above data, you’d have to say ‘probably’. But interestingly enough, brand loyalty to toothpaste is fierce. I buy only Colgate toothpaste with baking soda (of one flavor or another) whenever I shop. If I don’t find it, I find it somewhere else. And that’s why many retailers are reluctant to winnow out the ones that don’t sell as well and focus on keeping the shelves stocked with those that do.
Both Colgate and Crest have long known how inelastic consumers are when it comes to trying another brand of toothpaste. So, they merrily create the latest version of their branded toothpastes and keep them coming through product development and onto the shelves of retailers.
How much variety do we need? As much as it takes to keep us brand-loyal. In the meantime, retailers have little choice but to stock up on as many brands and sub-brands of toothpaste in the market as they can afford. Confusing for us consumers? Yes but a necessary evil.
And the Winner is…High-Quality Content! March 7, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Communication, Creating Marketing Materials, Creativity.
Tags: beating a recession, best practices, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, strategy
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In early March of 2011 Google confirmed for all time what I contend has always been the foundation of success in any medium: high-quality content. Scrolls, books, magazines, newspapers and all other content delivery vehicles before the digital age have always lived or died based their content. All Google did was declare war on sites that deliver low quality content that offers little use for readers.
As a creator and user of information myself, I’ve always been critical of content vehicles (digital or not) that offer little or no useful information. In the digital world, the art & science (more art than anything because Google keeps its algorithm a secret), of “search engine optimization” or SEO, has created players who would rather game the system than provide you with solid content.
So it’s nice to know that the rules of the content game remain safely the same. If you want to develop content of any kind, it must be created and engineered so that people easily recognize and value it.
I’ll throw in three basic tenants for developing content that I’ve learned over many years of trial, error, and success.
Relevant: The content must be a match to the reader or user. People will search for content in any delivery vehicle (magazine, website), which is material they instantly recognize as useful in the context of their interests.
Engaging: High-quality content engages the reader by pulling their minds in directions they delightfully didn’t expect to go…but are glad they did when they get there. Content that challenges and inspires the mind on a subject has always been a jewel. High-quality content should be a great experience.
Insightful: Content, whether written, verbal, or visual has to have enough depth to allow the creator to draw out any number of valuable insights. My bias is for content to have insights that have a practical and actionable nature for the user.
Creating and sharing high-quality content is a timeless way to provide valuable information for both prospects and clients. Google’s war against low-quality content just reaffirmed what we knew all along.
Retail Mega Giant without Brick & Mortar? September 23, 2010Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Solving Business Problems, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business strategy, customer service, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, innovation, marketing strategy, strategy
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The era of brick & mortar is being tested by some of the biggest players in brick & mortar stores. Now Wal-Mart, in its drive to capture more urban market share, is experimenting with shipping online purchases for free from its website. Working with Fedex, Wal-Mart is offering free delivery of online purchased products directly to a Fedex location.
So, without having to invest in urban brick & mortar locations, Wal-Mart gets a chance to sell product to those mostly younger buyers who are not inhibited to make online purchases. This is also a smart move for Fedex who gets to develop the same distribution service for other large retailers as well.
I like this on several levels. First, it proves that you can weld an idea from common elements. Merging online selling with the distribution power of your delivery service is great example of this. Secondly, it proves that even big dogs like Wal-Mart can think out of the box to solve key challenges. Third, It once again proves that there are other ways to conduct business than by investing in retail structure.
Wal-Mart and Fedex are thinking beyond the usual in looking for ways to grow their businesses. So should we.
Tags: best practices, communications, global communications, Global leadership, global team, teleconference, telephone call, video conference, virtual meetings
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In this entry, I will complete discussing the best practices for the remainder of the global communications technologies.
The Big Dogz use the telephone call when there is a high interpersonal component to the message. We want to take advantage of using the tone to add value to our effectiveness in both sending and receiving messages.
- Make a plan. Sketch out how you want the conversation to proceed. What information do you need to convey or acquire.
- Practice the call. If this is a very important call, invest a few minutes in practicing what you will say.
- Use paraphrasing. Periodically, summarize what you have heard and ask the listener to summarize so you can check if you are communicating effectively.
- Have a picture of the person you are talking with in front of you. Focus on the picture while you talk; this will keep you from multi-tasking and will help you remember you are talking to a person.
- Follow up any agreements or commitments with an email. Review the email with the person before you send it to others.
The Big Dogz use teleconferencing to communicate with groups of people about complex issues.
- Publish an agenda prior to the teleconference
- Encourage people to share pictures of themselves so they can put a face to the voice
- Distribute any presentation material in advance
- Ask everyone to introduce or identify themselves when joining the call
- Have anyone who speaks to identify themselves before saying their piece
- Identify conference protocols like when to speak
- Be aware of cultural difference in telephone etiquette
- Use paraphrasing to facilitate understanding
- Take notes on key decisions, key information disclosed and any action commitments made. Send this document to the teleconference attendees for validation before sending to people outside the call
Groupware (Webex, Live Meeting, etc)
The Big Dogz use groupware to take advantage of the visual as well as the auditory cues in global communication. This medium is ideal for communication that is complex and requires a significant interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for teleconferencing apply here as well. In addition:
- Use a webcam to show a video of yourself. It is amazing how much more attentive people are when they can see you. If possible use webcams for all the people in the meeting. Of course when you get more than three people in the meeting, it can get confusing moving all the video around.
- Have a list of all the participants and track how much they are engaged. When you see someone’s engagement get out of proportion, take corrective action to address the issue.
- Take advantage of the features of the virtual meeting service. Providing materials, setting up assessments and surveys are some of the excellent tools available. Most services allow the participants to use a chat feature. Make use of this feature to capture ideas and discussion points. Once the session is over, you can send the chat file to all the participants.
- Have a word processing document available for capturing the minutes of the meeting. Update it dynamically and at the end of the meeting, review it then send a copy to all the participants. I have attached a Word file you can use for capturing information about your virtual meeting. Please feel free to use it.
The Big Dogz use video conferencing when communicating complex information with larger groups requiring a high level of interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for the face to face meetings apply here. In addition:
- Be aware that video technology may not appear smooth. The technology has advanced well enough to provide television quality video; however, these levels of sophistication require enormous bandwidth capabilities and may not be available at your installation.
- Use the video to focus in on the speaker so that we can take advantage of tone and non verbal cues.
- Share the time in the video close-ups.
- Remind people that unnecessary movement detracts from people’s ability to focus on the meeting.
- If your videoconferencing system has a “self view” function, use it to see how you are being seen by the people at the other end of the conference.
- Once you make the adjustments for optimum video and audio components, leave them alone. Constant changing of the focus or sound levels can be distracting.
- How you dress can be important in a videoconference. Light clothing is more effective than darker clothing.
- If snacks are being provided at some locations and not others, have them out of camera range.
The Big Dogz know that communicating effectively in a global team environment is difficult. By using these best practices, you can be one of the Big Dogz.