Category Archives: Customers

Service…It’s Everyone’s Advantage

service-unsplash-mike-wilson

Take a good look at that picture.  Let it burn onto your consciousness.

As the world becomes smaller, and yet, more remote; as customers become closer, and yet, more distant; as you begin to blend in with everyone else…

Service is all you have to actually differentiate yourself.

When anyone can provide what you provide, do what you do, be what you want to be, your focus on service is all that matters.

How does an individual compete against a huge, well-entrenched company?  By providing better service.  Being more responsive, more flexible, and more personally accountable.

How does a huge, well-entrenched company compete against the scrappy upstart individual?  By providing better service.  Being more responsive, more flexible, and more personally accountable.

Sound familiar?

Who has the advantage in this battle to provide the best service?

The one that actually lives a service-first mindset.  The one that considers the customer’s perspective before their own.  The one that delivers excellent service…every time.  The one who knows that no company can survive or thrive if it forgets about creating an excellent experience for their customer.

Customers always have an alternative.  If your organization isn’t committed to making their experience an excellent one, they’ll figure it out quickly and choose an alternative.  It’s that simple.

It all comes down to execution, which comes from your uncompromising mindset toward service excellence.

Service is your only advantage.  It’s the same advantage everyone else has if they choose to execute on it.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash.com—Mike Wilson

The Most Important Question…

I’ve found an interesting theme among those I’m coaching lately. When I ask about customers, I get various versions of blanks stares, or platitudes about how they are trying to stay focused on their customer.

Rather than customers, they are usually focused on some sort of internal organizational issue, the latest restructuring project, the next budget presentation, or hitting the number (whatever number it may be). Don’t get me wrong. These are important; at least urgent.

But, this blank stare when it comes to customers is interesting. After all, isn’t the customer why we’re in our business in the first place? We have a product or service that our customers need or want (hopefully both). We may be the only source for our customer. Or, more likely, we’re one of many providers of the products and services they want.

If the customer is so important, why are urgent things getting in the way? Simple. It’s easy to get caught up in the urgent, often internal, issues. Being busy can feel rewarding.

It’s harder to remember that your organization only matters if your customers think it matters.

Sounds harsh, but that’s all there is…you and your customer.

See if you can answer these questions about your customers. Before you jump ahead, there’s one rule. Write your answers in the form of direct quotes from at least five of your customers:

  • How do your customers use your products and services?
  • Why do they use your products and services?
  • How do your products and services make them more successful?
  • What worries your customers?
  • What are you doing to help with the things that worry them?
  • What do they see in their future?
  • Will you be a valuable part of their future?
  • How can you help your customer get to their future faster?

And, the most important question of all:

  • Does your organization really matter to your customer? Why? (Or, why not?)

 

 

What’s Your Personal Net Promoter Score?

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.  He is not dependent on us.  We are dependent on him.  He is not an interruption to our work.  He is the purpose of it.  He is not an outsider to our business.  He is a part of it.  We are not doing him a favour by serving him.  He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.

–Mahatma Gandhi

By now, you’ve probably heard the term Net Promoter Score (NPS).  It’s a system that focuses on the answer to one simple question:

On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not likely and 10 is very likely, would you recommend this company/product/service to a friend or colleague?

That’s it.  One question that sums up a customer’s entire experience…and also measures their loyalty.  A person who responds with a 9 or 10 is a promoter, 7’s and 8’s are passive, and 1-6 is a detractor.

Promoters are not only loyal buyers, but they go out of their way to spread the good news about a company they like.

Passives are just that, passive.  Their loyalty is weak…a fair-weather friend.  They can be swayed easily to switch to another company if an alternative presents itself.

Detractors will go out of their way to spread bad news about a company.  They’ve had a bad experience, and are happy to tell everyone about it.

Thousands of companies monitor their NPS.  Perennially high NPS companies include Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, USAA, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s.  Each invests time, energy, and money to deliver excellence, above all else, to their customers.

Consistent excellence (awesomeness) drives higher NPS.

How much time are you investing in your personal NPS?  Are you paying attention to the impact you have on those around you?  Are you consistently delivering excellence to those you care about the most?

How would the people you serve (family, friends, co-workers, employees, managers, strangers) answer this question about you:

On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is not likely, and 10 is very likely, would you recommend ______your name here_______ to a friend or colleague?

More importantly, how do you answer this question about yourself?

Are You Asking Strategic Questions?

It’s strategic planning season.  Companies of all shapes and sizes are dusting off their strategic plans from last year, looking into their crystal balls and determining what they’re going to do next year.  How can we extend our products or services within our marketplace?  What will it take for us to keep up (catch up) with our competition?  How can we squeeze an extra point of profitability from our existing revenue streams?  Can we raise our prices a few percentage points without losing too many customers?  Do we need this many people?

If the previous paragraph sounds familiar, your organization isn’t doing strategic planning.

Strategic planning isn’t just an annual event.  Strategic questions don’t come from a defensive posture.  They shouldn’t be about tweaking at the margin.  Strategic questions definitely shouldn’t focus on ways to play “catch up.”  These questions may be important, but they aren’t strategic.  They’re tactical.

If your company stopped delivering its products and services, who would miss it?

What do your customers, or prospective customers, really want?  What are they trying to accomplish?  Your organization’s value comes from helping customers hit their strategic targets.  Otherwise, you’re merely a commodity, a convenience to be discarded whenever possible.

Many organizations fool themselves into believing they do strategic planning.  Sadly, they’re only going through the motions, “challenging themselves” to answer the easy, tactical questions…year after year.

That is, until their customers find another way to meet their strategic goals.

The Perils of Over-thinking

To demonstrate how over-thinking can produce results that are the opposite of stated goals, here’s a little over-thinking on the topic of touch-free paper towel dispensers.

There are two main goals associated with touch-free towel dispensers in public restrooms:

  • Dispense a pre-defined quantity of paper towel, minimizing paper use.
  • Allow patrons to get their towels without coming in contact with someone else’s germs.

Simple, right?  Well, not so fast.

How much paper does a patron need to achieve proper hand drying?  If we use inches of dispensed paper as the measure, is three inches of paper enough?  Six?  Twelve?  What’s too much?  If the goal is to minimize waste, one could set the dispenser to only three inches.  Theoretically, this would minimize paper use.  But, if it’s not enough, the patron will stand there and dispense another three inches.  Possibly, another six inches.

To get the additional inches of paper towel necessary to achieve proper drying, the patron must wait for the machine to cycle.  This second-and-a-half cycle time can seem like an eternity.  After all, we’ve all got other things to do with our time.  The patron vigorously swipes their hand under the machine.  After one or two wand-like swipes that yield no additional paper, they often resort to hitting the machine where the sensor should be.  Oops, there goes that goal of not touching someone else’s germs.

Which setting will yield the least overall paper use (our first goal)?  The first-level thinker would say the lowest setting will do the trick.  But, we’ve established that the lowest setting is probably not enough. The patron will merely wait for at least one more cycle to get the paper they need.

The second-level thinker would say that dispensing more from the beginning will yield less overall paper use and waste.  If the proper amount is dispensed from the beginning, the patron will be less likely to wait for another cycle.  Don’t even get me started on battery use differences associated with the two options.

Why does any of this matter?  Why think so deeply about touch-free towel dispensers?

To illustrate how easy it is to get wrapped up in meaningless minutia and forget about providing the patron (our customer) with an excellent experience.  How much minutia are you focusing on while ignoring your customer’s experience?

The Last Mile

The last mile describes the final leg of a telecommunications network.  It’s the part that actually reaches the end customer.  It’s often the most difficult and uncontrollable link in the network.  This is where most of the bottlenecks occur.  The simplest of networking processes can be complicated by the wiring and equipment in the customer’s home.

Telecommunication networks exist to serve end customers.  Without the end customer, there’d be no one to pay the bill, or finance the network’s creation and maintenance.  The telecommunication provider has a tremendous amount of control over everything in their network…except the last mile, where the end customer is.

The customer’s experience comes from the last mile.  They don’t need to know or understand the engineering and infrastructure that goes into operating the massive network.  They don’t care about the traditions and history of the telecommunications provider.  They only care about the cost, speed, and ease of use they experience in their home.

The same is true for nearly any business.  The last mile drives the story your customers will tell.  How much attention are you paying to the last mile?