Archive for January, 2014

What Ever Happened to Customer Service?

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It happens all the time and I’m beginning to feel like I have a “customer service bad luck charm” hanging around my neck.

I go to the supermarket, and the checkout person spends more time talking to her coworker about how much she hates her job, than she spends thanking me for my business.

I call a contractor to fix a problem with the roof, and he never calls back.

I wait on hold for 30 minutes before the phone company picks up my call. Or worse, I get a recording that says, “Our phone lines are busy, try calling us back later.”

We are told over and over again that we have to be unique to catch the attention of prospective customers. But in most industries and professions, you aren’t all that unique. (There are hundreds of small business coaches!) Here’s one way you can shine above the rest: good customer service.

We’re becoming immune to poor customer service, probably because we receive bad service so often that we’re not expecting anything better. Even our colleagues will take other phone calls while on the phone with us, or read their email while we’re trying to have a conversation. It’s an epidemic.

Instead of getting angry and frustrated at businesses that don’t treat you right, create a list of “Things I’ll never do to my customers or colleagues.” Do everything you can to focus solely on your customers when you’re communicating with them. Send them thank-you cards after you start working together, or when a colleague sends you a referral.

These small things do matter and will make you shine…and bring you more business!

4 comments for now

Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Dealing with Crazymaker Clients – Part 1

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Dealing with difficult clients?

I hear horrific stories all the time from my colleagues and clients about their own customers (also — vendors, mastermind group members, partners and employees) who constantly step outside the boundaries of what’s considered good social behavior.

Sure, we all make mistakes from time-to-time, but these folks make a nasty habit of it.

Your overall health and your quality of business life matters. Identifying and dealing with crazymakers will give you a helping hand in creating the business you want.

Are your clients making you crazy? Your health and the health of your business matters.

I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these types of customers:

  1. The Non-payer: They promise to pay, they may even have a contract, but over and over again the check doesn’t arrive. They pretend they didn’t get your invoice, or your emails, or your phone calls.
  2. The Verbal Twister: They “remember” everything you say, and will tell you that you said (and meant) something completely different than your actual words. They take all your words and interpret them in their own way, especially when it’s not possible for you to remember everything you’ve ever said.
  3. The Complainer: Everything in their life sucks, and they tell you about it ad nauseam, every chance they get; also known as The Squeaky Wheel because they feel if they make enough noise, they’ll get more attention. Also akin to The Energy Vampire — every time you come in contact with them, you walk away feeling drained, exhausted and debilitated.
  4. I Love You, But: This crazymaker starts off praising you. They say things like, “I love your work,” or “You really understand me.” In the next sentence they rip you apart, accusing you of double-dealing, sub-standard work, or unethical behavior on your part, completely out of the blue. This “give then take” approach keeps you off balance, which is the whole point.
  5. The Rusher: Always in a hurry to get something done and doesn’t care if you’re busy with other projects or other customers. They say things like, “I want it yesterday,” or “I know you said you have no open appointments, but can you sneak me in first thing tomorrow morning?”
  6. The Naysayer: No matter how many creative solutions you come up with, the Naysayer can find a reason why it won’t work, could never work, hasn’t ever worked in the history of mankind. They exhaust you then are unhappy with the results they’re not getting because they won’t change their behavior (and it’s all your fault because you didn’t come up with the one idea that they’d actually be willing to implement out of the 100 you gave them).

That’s just a starter list; there are many more crazymaker types out there.

I know you’ve run into business connections whose repeated bad behavior has you scratching your head in bewilderment. I’d love to hear your stories…share them in the Comments below, okay? We all benefit by reading about other people’s experiences with crazymaker clients.

Remember, unless you are a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, you are not trained to identify crazymakers upon first meeting them, so don’t beat yourself up if one of these people sneaks into your business life. Even trained mental health practioners cannot always instantly spot a crazymaker.

In Part 2 of this blog post, I’ll give you some tips on how to deal with the crazymaker clients in your business life.

19 comments for now

Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

The Myth of Written Messages

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Wandering down the street in New York City early one morning, I noticed a group of people standing in front of the doors to Macy’s department store. Since it was 9:00 a.m., I assumed they were waiting for the store to open.

But as I walked by I noticed a sign in every door that clearly said: Store Hours 10AM – 9PM. So why were they standing there an hour before the store opened? Was some sort of special event going on?

As I walked closer to the huddled group, one of the women motioned to the Macy’s security guard and asked, “What time does the store open?”

I am not kidding. She actually asked that, even though she was just six feet away from the Store Hours sign. She had been standing and staring at the door for at least three minutes. The store hours sign is in every door at eye-level. Yet she still preferred to ask another person to verify the truth of the sign.

What does this mean to the small business owner?

  • Just because you put something in a conspicuous place doesn’t mean they’ll see it, whether it’s on your office door or on your website.
  • Just because you write about the benefits of your product or service doesn’t mean people will never have a question about whether those benefits apply in their particular situation.
  • Just because you write something in your marketing brochure doesn’t mean people will read it or understand it.
  • Just because you have Frequently Asked Questions on your website doesn’t mean people will read it, or believe that it applies to them.

We work so hard to craft good written messages, but for many people, the written message is only half of the picture. So what are creative solutions?

  • Use graphics and images to also portray the message.
  • Use audio so they can hear you as well as see you.
  • Repeat the message often.
  • Be prepared to answer questions in a gracious and courteous manner…even if you’ve answered those same questions a thousand times before.

The security guard at Macy’s was a gentleman and a customer service expert. He said in a genuinely pleasant and smiling manner, “Oh, yes, ma’am, the store opens at 10:00 a.m. and I hope you’ll have a wonderful shopping experience here at Macy’s.”

Smart cookie.

1 comment for now

Category: Marketing
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Stop Copying Everyone Else’s Business Model!

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When I looked at my business transformations over the past five years, I quickly came to one daring insight: when I tried to copy other people’s business model, I got mediocre results. When I stepped outside of my own comfort zone (as well as what my industry says businesses “should” look like) and created my own business model, business soared!

Tom Volkar says, “Herd mentality works best for the lead bull. If you base your decisions on what others are doing then at best you’ll create a poor imitation of what has worked well for them.”

Transform Your Business by Zigging

You’ve got to be willing to zig when everyone else in your industry zags. What does this mean in practical terms?

  • If everyone in your industry sells their service by the hour, sell your service in a monthly package.
  • If everyone in your industry has a membership site, create a pay-per-use system instead.
  • If everyone in your industry has an email newsletter, offer a weekly audio postcard.
  • If everyone in your industry offers webinars, create live events instead.
  • If everyone in your industry sells to homeowners, sell to commercial building owners, apartment renters or vacation home owners.
  • If everyone in your industry competes on price, change your model to compete on quality or speed of service.

…and the list goes on and on! There are a million big Zigs and small Zigs you can do.

You cannot stand out from the crowd by following the crowd. W. Chan Kim writes in Blue Ocean Strategy, “Companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing demand. As the market space gets crowded, prospects for profits and growth are reduced.”

So instead of trying to compete in a crowded marketplace, find an untapped marketplace by going after an entirely new set of customers or offering a unique blend of products and services that rise you head and shoulders above your competition.

Not Creative? Ha! Impossible!

Ah, but what if the reason you don’t Zig is because you can’t come up with creative ideas? Well, stop trying to do it on your own! Join a mastermind group, brainstorm with friends, hire a mentor. We are all creative beings, solving dozens of problems a day in creative ways.

If you need a kick-start to come up with creative Zigs, find others who will spark your ingenuity. Find a mastermind group or accountability partner that will help you brainstorm ideas.

Don’t Know How?

There’s nothing you can’t learn how to do.

If your excuse for not zigging is because you don’t know how to implement your creative idea, you’ll sabotage your success for sure. Find a book (like Blue Ocean Strategy or Positioning or Seizing The White Space), take a class, talk to colleagues, interview an expert, hire someone who knows how to do it — find a way to learn what you need to learn in order to implement your Zig Idea.

Whatever you do, set your own rules for the game. Don’t let others define what your business looks like.

Want to learn more about how to rethink and transform your business? Read my other blog posts on rethinking your business.

5 comments for now

Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group
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