Why Customer Care Is the Secret Sauce to Success

Many companies tolerate poor customer care. Could the damage be $84 billion annually for US companies as some sources claim?  In a recent trip to an automobile dealer to purchase a car, the sales person stunned me. After a test drive in a pre-owned car with 25,000 miles, I asked for a copy of the CarMax report. He attached his business card to the report and put it on his desk. I explained this was my first stop in shopping for a car. He pushed the report across his desk to me. He said, “I hope I’ll be here to help you when you decide.” He stood up and walked away. That dealership has a slim to none opportunity to do business with me because of this experience. Poor customer care costs companies of all sizes. CTMA, a research group from New Zealand, calculated an 87 percentage point drop in customer loyalty if a customer was “very dissatisfied.” Not only do customers find another provider, they share their bad experience with others. See previous paragraph. Understandably business owners want to maximize profits by minimizing costs. Cutting costs in customer care training is false economy. Also, not knowing how your customers experience an interaction with your company, hides areas that could be improved or enhanced. What can you do to be profitable while providing excellent customer care? Invest your resources to train employees in all areas to be great representatives of your company. Include marketing, sales, operations, finance, and everywhere else. Make internal customer care as important as external customer care. Each division serves the other. Use technology wisely to...

Use a Culture Makover to Yield Better Results

The shared assumptions, values and beliefs in your business, are the culture producing your results. How people in your organization dress, behave and execute their jobs is influenced significantly by this system. It’s everywhere. It permeates everything. It’s an invisible yet powerful force. It’s the corporate personality. The cost of a toxic culture can be high turnover, customer defection, infighting, inferior quality products, and more. Save yourself the effort of a brilliant strategy to solve the problem. The underlying issue is the culture your team and you have created. One summer I worked for a large state agency. I vividly recall looking up at the end of the day to see a line of my fellow workers waiting to walk out the door at 4:55 pm. I quickly learned that quitting time was 5 pm and not one minute later. Leaders set the course for the culture of an organization by their own behavior and action. Behavior that is rewarded persists and becomes stronger. What you pay attention to indicates it’s important. Allocating resources to something means it is of value. As an organization grows, leaders like to hire people like they are. So the behavior continues and it spreads. People who do not conform to the culture will either self-select out of the organization or will be fired. If they stay, it is at great peril to their wellbeing and that of the company. So to say they are “not a good fit.” If your corporate culture is counterproductive to your goals, you can take steps to change it. It’s not a quick fix and it is not...

Maintenance Saves Time and Money

Let’s face it. Repairs and maintenance are not glamorous. They are, in fact, an inconvenience.  Many entrepreneurs put it off. They are simply too busy running their businesses to maintain equipment, update software, train employees, and revise procedures, for example.  If you do not have time to maintain the parts of your business you rely on to serve your customer, how do you have time to do it when they break? And, they will break. It can take as long or longer for the required fix than staying up to date. It can be more expensive as well. The interruption to your business when something goes haywire may be the most costly part of deferred maintenance. Have you noticed it usually happens at the worst possible time? Seven reasons entrepreneurs put their businesses at risk by avoiding maintenance: 1)      Production stops or slows down. 2)      Planning is required to schedule maintenance and upgrades. 3)      People must learn new ways of doing things. 4)      Nothing appears wrong with the current way of operating, at least not yet. 5)      Often it takes time to see the return on the maintenance. 6)      The drama of the frenetic activity is quieted so it seems nothing important is underway. 7)      Maintenance is not free. Let’s start here to find a solution. To keep your business operating at optimum efficiency acknowledge maintenance is required. But only if you want your business to be sustainable. Next, plan for it in your financial projections. Identify the parts of your business such as marketing, sales, client care, product development, physical space, technology, equipment and people. All the parts contribute to your success....

How Structure Is Part of the Vast Success Conspiracy

Most entrepreneurs are structure averse. Why cramp your style? It’s so easy to make it up as you go.  Plus, it’s a lot more exciting. Granted. Rules, systems and structures can feel restrictive. I’ve even known managers who enforce the rules to wield their power. It is counterproductive when your business is there to support the structure and not the other way around. Recently I learned of a small business growing rapidly from $1 million to over $4 million. Three employees could manage the company at $1 million and less. However, the founder recognized the need to introduce some structure in order to sustain and support the business. Her two employees, however, created a lot of resistance. “We don’t want to become a big company. We like it just the way it is.” This spells trouble. It’s expensive to run your business without the appropriate structure. Consider, for example, your company ships a product to customers. Without a standardized way of packing, shipping, and invoicing, the opportunity for mistakes is high. They are guaranteed to happen. Customers who get the wrong item are not happy. If the shipment goes to the wrong address, no one is happy. If you forget to invoice the customer or charge the wrong amount, no one is happy. Unhappy customers leave. Your company loses money.  Your company earns a bad reputation. A simple structure to standardize the way you handle packing, shipping and invoicing, produces consistent, predictable results. If you are not getting the results you want, look at the process first. No process? Develop one. The reason many entrepreneurs do not have structure in their companies...

10 Ways to Outsmart the Saboteurs of Your Vision and Goals

Having an inspiring vision and well-crafted goals are no guarantee your business will achieve them. It is often the norm to put a vision and goals on the shelf so you can get back to work. This frustrates people, especially if they have been part of the process to craft the vision and define the goals. Nothing changes. People you need for your business to succeed lose heart. This is expensive and leaders lose credibility. The root of the problem is people, even smart people, are willing to tolerate the current reality rather than experience change. Asking someone to change, even if it’s beneficial to them and the organization, is losing something. This is scary. When people are afraid, they do what is necessary to return to “normal.” Recently I worked with a division in a large organization. We created a vision and the objectives, goals and strategies to achieve the mission and to move closer to the vision. It is hard to do this important work. The management team and staff did a remarkable job. At the conclusion of our second day together, I asked them to answer the following question, ”In order to move closer to our vision and to achieve the goals we have set, what is it ‘we must do’ and what is it ‘we must not do?’” The following are their responses: WE MUST DO……… 1. Embrace the direction of change with honest display of values 2. Review the goals, objectives and strategies monthly to stay on track 3. Be disciplined and focus on the work and time frames that are set 4. Listen...

Why Giving Is Risky But Worth It

Giving is a worthy endeavor. It has its downsides, however. It can be dangerous on the high road of giving. Adam Grant writes in Give and Take that givers are some of the most successful people. There is more. Givers are on the other end of the spectrum, too. They are the least successful. If your time, money, and creativity are flowing in only one direction, away from you, it’s a set up for burnout and depletion. To do your best work, you cannot be operating on an empty tank. When I think of giving, I am reminded of my dear friend. She looks for ways to give just because she can. It is her nature. Plus, she is brilliant at her work in the field of communication with a lot to offer. She takes giving to an extreme. So much so her bank account is on life support; her health is at risk; she is baffled. It is so natural to her she does not understand why everyone else does not operate with the same generosity. Well, they don’t. And, that’s the problem. People interact in different ways. Using Grant’s model, there are three types of social interaction: 1) giver—expect no payback; 2) taker—get more than they give; and 3) matcher— keep the exchange even. The lines between these approaches to interacting with people are blurred. In the work place the takers are the norm. It’s mostly a zero-sum game. For you to win, someone must lose. To me, giving seems the best way to go. Especially because some of the most successful people I know and admire...