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You Can't Fake Great Customer Care

 
I took my car in to my local Honda dealership last week, to replace a broken window.
 
While I was there, I mentioned to the Service Manager that I have been a loyal customer of theirs for 13 years.  In that time, I leased two vehicles from them and last year purchased our third Honda with that dealership.
 
In addition, I have had all three vehicles serviced by their Service Center.  I told him that in all that time, I NEVER received so much as a thank you, any special gifts, or sign of their appreciation.
 
What was his response?  He agreed to give me a whopping 20% off the window replacement… a $70 value.
 
So, as I’m waiting for my car to be serviced (and fuming about their grand gesture of appreciation) a Honda representative in a white lab coat sits down and asks me how I am doing.  After I complain about my experience just a few minutes prior,  he says: “I’m sorry, I am not authorized to do anything.”   When I asked him why he sat down to chat with me in the first place, he told me he works in their Sales Department and was talking to customers to see if they would like to purchase their vehicles or sell back their used vehicles.
So I told him not too kindly: “Then you can’t be of any help to me.”  He replied: “Okay, let me know if I can be of “FURTHER” assistance.”
 
Further…?!?!
 
Lately, I have been doing a LOT of training with organizations to help them develop world-class customer service.  If you are going to try to implement customer care programs that make ANY difference to your clients, you absolutely must know that there can be no HALF measures.   You have to be fully committed, and in it for the long haul.  Insincere efforts can be spotted a mile away by today’s savvy customers and do much more harm than good when your organization abandons them.
 
Therefore, to institute a compelling customer care program and embrace it as a new culture, you need to have champions at all level of your organization that serve as customer advocates.
 
You also must include your customers in the process, to learn from them what they expect and what they consider to be exceptional service.  Those of your employees that deal with customers and provide the service must be responsible for defining the exceptional service to be delivered then tasked with, trained on, and incentivized to deliver that exceptional service in order to achieve lasting competitive advantage.
 
It is seven to ten times less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new customers.  Following are several best practices that you can implement immediately to achieve exceptional customer care that is meaningful and valuable to your customers, and drive higher client satisfaction which in turn leads to much greater client retention rates.
 
* Treat your top 20% most valuable customers differently.  Their loyalty and repeat business has earned them the right to be treated in a special light.  The Pareto Principle tells us our top 20% of customers generate 80% of our business.  These customers should be handled in a special way.  Reward them for repeat business, and thank them for referrals, endorsements, and testimonials.
 
* Tie employee performance reviews to metrics that quantify delivering customer service, i.e. number of positive customer feedbacks, number of at-risk customers saved, number of clients successfully renewed, etc.
 
* Treat your customers like employees and employees like customers.  For further background, check out the book: “The Value Profit Chain.”  Instead of keeping secrets from customers, engage them in conversation about ways to improve your offerings, let them “alpha” test new products and services (typically reserved for employee testing) and let your top clients set their own prices (within reason.)
 
* Gather ideas from the employees in your organization that deal with your customers on how to continue improving your customer care.
 
* Empower client line staff to make decisions that help you ensure exceptional customer service.
 
* Have your Management Team and outside experts “mystery” shop your business to see what it is like to engage your organization by walking into your store, interacting with your business through your website or calling your business.
 
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”  – Daniel Adams
 
* Train all your customer care phone representatives to work with clients to resolve their issues when they call into your business regardless of length of call. Have your Senior Management listen in weekly to customer calls and work in your store to take orders from customers and engage with them.
 
* Create a culture in which your employees thank your customers for their business, have every person that enters your store be told “please come again” WHETHERY THEY PURCHASE OR NOT, have all client-facing employees smile, maintain eye contact, and give out random gifts.
 
* Create loyalty/appreciation programs that offer gifts and assigns points earned that are meaningful to customers.  You accomplish this by including your customers in the client appreciation program development process.
 
zappos_office
 
An example of an organization that was built on delivering great customer care is Zappos.  Read how Tony Hsieh built a powerful culture slavishly focused on customer care.
 
* Offer liberal/equitable product return policies.
 
* Establish a zero tolerance policy for rude, inappropriate employee behavior when it comes to interacting with your customers.
 
* Publish your client engagement and customer care policies, standards of employee behavior, and rewards programs in your store in plain site, on your website, in your marketing efforts and recruiting strategies, and train your customer care practices to all of your employees during their orientation, throughout the year, and tie bonuses and promotions to those employees that “live” your customer is king credo.
 
For other great ideas, check out Chip R. Bell’s book: “The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service,”
 
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
No Organization is Too Small to Plan Big.

You Can't Know Everything

 
 
By our very nature we humans are fallible beings and as such you can’t know everything. It is however the mark of the mature person that we understand this, and strive always towards seeking knowledge and learning from life’s many lessons.  To wit:
 
We all have “blind spots”: blind spots are the areas we don’t even see as risks or potential deficiencies because we don’t even know they exist.
 
These can be unforeseen market circumstances, or skills we have lacking.  The challenge is, EVERYONE has blind spots.  It’s the things we don’t even know we don’t know and they often come back to bite us in the…
 
Arrogance is NOT the same as self-confidence: Having a calm assurance that we possess the knowledge, skills, desire and resources to succeed is self-confidence.
 
Arrogance resides just across the border from self-confidence in that toxic land fill area where people condescend others, put on an air of superiority, devalue others and their contributions.  It is self-destructive and alienates others.
 
Find coaches and mentors at every stage of your career: The most mature professionals and business owners are keenly aware that they have had help throughout their career and are always in a stage where they can benefit from the experiences and insights that others can provide.  In fact, these mature people actively seek out confidants and advisors.
 
Mature people embrace uncertainty and the unknown: In biology, the term entropy is the state of all matter deteriorating into disorder.
 
It is the rare individual that accepts chaos is a part of existence and prepares for opportunities that spring out from the weeds.  They do this by hiring top talent, entrusting others, pursuing lifelong learning and the acquisition of skills, expertise, and experiences that they can leverage in unique and new ways.
 
Surround yourself with super talented people and listen to them: The mature business owner is not intimidated by hiring highly successful people. In fact, they actively seek out the best talent available to them as a key competitive advantage.  They hire the best talent, and really nurture these top performers (Jack Welch called them his “A” people.)
 
Once you hire the best talent, you can and MUST provide them with the resources, skills, guidance and independence they require in order to make great contributions for your organization.
 
Create a culture that asks WHY and WHAT IF?: Most of us stop asking such questions around the age of five.  There is a reason we learn nearly everything we need to be successful by the time we reach Kindergarten.
 
It is the truly mature professional that continues to seek new heights, challenge convention wisdom/thinking, and pursue the unexplored as areas for the greatest potential result.
 
Empower your people: Nothing speaks to a mature and self-aware leader like the act of entrusting the people you hire who are closest to your customers, systems, and processes to make the right decisions for the greatest good and benefit to your organization.
 
Know successful people: It is extremely beneficial to align yourself with successful individuals, but don’t engage with them solely for the purpose of doing business with them: In the mind set of success by closeness we can learn quite a bit from highly successful people.  The trick is to be close to them to connect with them and watch out for successful behavior that we can internalize and emulate. The goal is not to find them and try to sell to them.
 
You can’t do everything on your own: In summary, the mature and constantly evolving professional understands they cannot be successful as an island unto thyself.  Those people that are most productive find great allies, align themselves with people that share their passions, values and sense of mission and build strong teams for mutual and shared long-term success.
 
Here’s to your continued success in 2014!
 
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.

Doing Small Things Well Pays Off Big

Doing small things well pays off big!
 
Having spent a majority of my career in marketing roles, I can attest to the critical importance of sweating the details of doing small things well.  For starters, you have to select the right audience for your product and service offerings, and define in minute detail who these people are.
 
Once you define your ideal target customers that you plan on selling your stuff to, you have to research the things that motivate these people, in order to craft compelling messages that engage your prospects emotionally.
 
You have to figure when and where they are when they are MOST likely to receive and listen to your messages.   As if all this sweating the small stuff wasn’t enough, you also have to measure the results in detail to determine the ROI for each and every campaign.  Then, you have to keep tweaking your efforts to see what continues to work when it comes to special promotional offers, messages, and target segments.
 
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”  – Napoleon Hill
 
Now as a business coach and management consultant, I see first-hand and get to directly influence how organizations either do or don’t pay attention to the details.
 
Most specifically, the attention to detail of focusing on doing the small things well begins with an organization’s business plan and strategic planning.  How do you as a business owner focus on the fundamental building blocks of your business to perfect the needed small things?  Conduct a top-down business audit.  Investigate the operational imperatives, those things that are mission critical to operate your organization on a high level.
 
Other strategies you can implement to ensure you are focusing on building a solid foundation include delegating, empowering your workers, creating strategic partnerships with vendors, suppliers, and customers, and constantly gathering feedback from those folks that have a direct impact, and stake in, the ultimate success of your business.
 
From the first time you greet a potential customer to how your treat your employees, to your store’s physical layout, to your website design all of the small things your business chooses to focus on will have a direct and pronounced effect on your performance.
 
“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.” – George Elliot
 
Consider the following questions:
 
* How do you capture all of your contact information in one place?
 
* Do you set out of office greetings/messages on your email and voice mail?
 
* Do you have written standards for how and when you respond to leads?
 
* Is your brand messaging consistent across all mediums including online and offline?
 
* Does your website contact us form work? Do you know how visitors engage your website? How do you interact with people on your website, and customize messaging to each visitor?
 
* Do you have a written vision and mission statement? If so is it prominently displayed in your office, on your website, included in your job postings?
 
* Do you train your employees to treat each and every visitor that enters your establishment pleasantly, professionally, and identically?
 
* Do you have a formal written return policy?
 
The devil they say is in the details.
 
For some inspiration check out the book entitled: “The Power of a Lot of Little Things Done Well” about John Wooden, UCLA’s revered basketball coach.
 
And finally, remember:
 
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  – Vincent Van Gogh
 
Here’s to your success doing the small things that lead to your continued success in 2014!
 
  Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.

We ALL Lose Our Productive Ways Sometimes

 
This time of year, it is REALLY hard to stay focused, remain positive, and be productive.
 
If you’re feeling a little bit “stuck” these days, unfocused on your work or unable to move forward you’re NOT alone.
 
In my work providing consulting to entrepreneurs, start-ups and business owners, and delivering career coaching to job seekers there seems to be a general malaise affecting our collective ability to remain productive.
 
For example, can you relate with any of the following:
 
* By now our New Year resolutions seem like a VERY distant memory;
 
* We have this stressful event in front of us called filing our taxes;
 
* Our business is experiencing flat or (even worse) declining sales;
 
* My job search is stalled!!!  Heck, no-one is even responding to my inquiries;
 
* Mother Nature has been bombarding us with snow and freezing weather for over TWO months…enough already!
 
As hard as it might seem to stay on track or get BACK ON TRACK, here are a few sure-fire ways you can pick yourself up and march proudly forward into Spring.
 
How You Can Unstick Yourself:
 
* Change Your Priorities: in the spirit of…”if it ain’t broke, break it” sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves: are we really focusing on the right things.
 
* Revisit Those Annual Goals: Circumstances change often at a rapid pace.  So, are the goals you set for yourself in 2013 still goals you want/need to be striving to achieve.   Are your annual goals still realistic?
 
Gain some perspective by asking yourself: “Are the goals that I set for myself at the end of last year still relevant?” If they are…great.  If they’re NOT…change them.
 
* Nurture Your Spirit: listen up!  We have been in a recession/Depression SINCE 2008!
 
If you think you have not been personally affected by the trauma of these past six years you are fooling yourself.  We all need to “check in” with ourselves to make sure we’re alright.  You can achieve peace of mind and renewed clarity for regaining productivity through meditation, by taking a yoga class or beginning/resuming a fitness regimen, playing a musical instrument, even singing.  BEST of all, I recommend my clients go to their very own “quiet place” every day for 15 minutes and just sit alone and do deep breathing exercises to open your mind.
 
We all need to disconnect from the world, in order to recharge our batteries.  Leave the cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers behind!  Take a few minutes to nurture your essence and fall back in love with yourself.
 
* Go Back to Basics: If the things you’re trying to achieve are not happening, perhaps you’ve overcomplicated things.  Go back and look at what you are trying to achieve and strip down the associated tasks to their most basic elements.  It is the Samurai pursuit of perfection.  The concept here is to devote a lifetime of trying to be “perfect” yet knowing full well that perfection is a motivating  force but NOT achievable.  WHY?  Because we are all humans, and as human beings inherently fallible.  It is okay to fail, heck it is even DESIRABLE assuming we learn, adapt and adjust for survival.  Be DARWINIAN!
 
* Lean on Your Support Network:  Pity the American “Cowboy” culture and individual ruggedness of trying to “go at it alone.”  News flash, John Wayne and the great push West in pursuit of gold are long since gone.  In today’s hyper-stressful, always connected, global competitive world we need to fall back on our support networks for fuel.
 
Lean on those that know us best and care for us most as a source to validate our sense of belonging and self-worth in the world.
 
It is so easy to fall into the trap of mistakenly believing we are all commodities and don’t matter, especially folks that suffer day in and day out to survive in corporate work environments where the human spirit is devalued and employees are under-appreciated.
 
Seek out those friends, family, family of friends, friends of family that support you.  Conversely avoid like the plague those people that only deride you and contribute negativity to your life.
 
* Block Out Interferences: You know it, I know it, we ALL know it.  Interferences are  a fact of life.  You need to keep them at arms length, whether it’s the phone, email, intruding friends and family.  We need to set up defenses to protect our castle, so any way you can block out those interferences will help you survive these times of emotional duress.
 
What are the moats, draw bridges, and burning oil strategies you can employ to defend your CASTLE of being productive?  Block out times, set out of office greetings for email when you don’t want to be disturbed, leave out of office greetings on your voice mail.
 
* Pursue Your Passions: Write down all the things you absolutely love to do that you are good at.  It can be past jobs, volunteer work, hobbies.  Make a list, but don’t edit yourself.  The goal is to capture every item, write EVERYTHING down.   Once you have a comprehensive list going back as far as you can remember, highlight the things you have done in the past that you were really good at AND you loved to do.   This is absolutely CRITICAL…they have to be BOTH!
 
Either you embrace these passions as hobbies, outside interests.  Better yet, perhaps there is a way to package those into your next job or (even better still) is to pursue these passions as a business you can launch.
 
*  Take a Vacation:  Nothing helps clearing the mind, refueling the cells and re-acquiring clarity of focus quite like getting away does.  Take some much needed (and deserved) time out.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy trip, just get in the car and go.  Drive to a nearby lake or beach, head up to the mountains, visit the shore.  It’s called mixing things up.  Taking a little unplanned time to get out of a rut can be very empowering and help you regain your productive ways.
 
Well, that’s it for now.  Let me know what you think!
 
Now…go recharge those batteries, it’s going to be a GREAT second quarter, an amazing spring, and fantastic rest of the year.  It’s time to regain your productivity MOJO!!!

I Cannot Hear Your Voice in Email Communication

When I coach my business clients how to communicate effectively one of the first things we discuss is their use of email communication.
 
The truth is, email enables us to be much more efficient in our business communication.  However, it also can pose many unplanned crises when we are not careful about the tonality we use in our written correspondence.
 
The primary challenge in using email is, the recipient uses their own tonality as they read your email message and their perceptions of you and your relationship with them will cause them to apply an emotional component to your message that may or may not accurately depict the intent  of your message.
 
Therefore, there are a few guidelines you can follow:
 
1. Never EVER send an email when you’re angry – It may feel good (for a brief moment) but the repercussions can be deadly.
 
2. Avoid using emoticons – they may be cute, but they dilute your reputational brand by showing a lack of professionalism.
 
3. Try not to bombard the recipient – if you find yourself writing the next great American novel, chances are that email is not the right delivery mechanism for what you’re trying to convey. Call them instead.
 
4. Don’t email someone the first time you are attempting to contact them – with spam filters someone that has never received an email from you before may have your email land directly in their spam folder.  So, have them be on the look out for your email by calling them first.
 
5. Have someone proof your message – use quality control by having someone read any and all highly important email communications for grammar and content.
 
6. Use larger point sizes and easy to read fonts – fonts without headers and footers (ex. Arial, Geneva and Tahoma) tend to be easier to read.  You should also adjust your settings so the point size is not less than 12-point. Hint: letter point size refers to height. 72-point is ONE inch tall.
 
7.  Use a signature block – always have a signature block with all of your contact information at the bottom of your email. You can create a signature block in your email settings.
 
8. Use “Out of Office” greetings – if you are going to be away for more than three (3) business days, be sure to set an out of office greeting.
 
9. Empty your in-box immediately – apply the same rule of thumb for your email that you should for all of your paper documents.  Immediately move all emails into folders, so you can go back to them/find them later.
 
10. Empty your email folders on a regular basis.
 
11. If an email is very important, call the recipient to confirm they received the email.
 
12. Use engaging, creative subject lines – they can’t read your message if they don’t open it.  Ensure they open your email by engaging them in the subject line. Consider it the equivalent of a headline in a print ad.
 
13. Leave the “TO” field blank – If you are working on an email in DRAFT mode, leave the recipient box empty until you are absolutely sure it is ready to send.
 
14. Test it out on yourself – If the email is important enough, send it to yourself first as a test to see how it looks and reads. Better yet, send it to someone whose opinion on such matters you trust.
 
15. Use the Carbon Copy (:CC) and Blind Carbon Copy (:BCC) lines judiciously.
 
16. Organize your email folders the way you organize your business folders.  Keep it simple so you can find emails quickly.
 
17. Keep a separate file for the people you communicate with most frequently.
 
18. Use a “CLOSE” – If you are going to follow up with them on a set day and time or want them to follow up with you, indicate it at the end of the message.
 
19. ALWAYS be cautious of the REPLY and REPLY ALL functions.  They can be deadly when you want to reply to one person on the distribution list and you send your response to everyone.  This can be especially damaging when what you have to say about one or more of the people on the list is less than flattering.
 

Out with The Old, In With the New Achieves Business Transformation

Make 2014 The Year You Achieve True Business Transformation
 
During my weekly radio program this morning “Chazin The Dream” on the UR Business Network, I discussed the importance of taking risks, trying new things, and tossing away old habits in 2014 as a means toward achieving your personal, career, professional and entrepreneurial  start-up goals.  Make 2014 the year you achieve true business transformation.
 
For starters, make 2014 the year you finally embrace chaos and the fact that change is a true constant. to do so effectively, we must be willing to make critical decisions with less than complete information.  While I don’t always suggest that my coaching clients take a READY-FIRE-AIM approach, I do tell them that you won’t always have complete information and a clear picture when you are forced to act decisively.
 
Therefore, make 2014 the year you embrace the mindset that opportunities will present themselves to you only if you are willing to make a gut decision to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.
 
You take advantage of the unforeseen by making 214 the year you use strategic planning to maximum effect.  Write a business plan, complete with many different scenarios.  Ask yourself “IF” such and such happens, then “WHAT” do I do.  For every given scenario, you need contingencies (options) so you list your Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. actions you would take.
 
It is absolutely CRITICAL that you write it all down in your business plan!  A plan that is NOT written down is a dream.  You need a written plan to serve as your roadmap to follow, your blue print for success.  By considering different scenarios to act when unexpected surprises pop up, you are doing contingency planningand risk mitigation to remove some of the threats from your business.
 
Toss away all the old habits.  If something works for you, keep doing it.  If it doesn’t…well Dr. Phil would ask “How’s that working for you!?”  Said differently, Albert Einstein called the act of repeating the same act and expecting a different outcome the true measure of insanity.
 
Take glorious risks!  If you are going to fail, then by setting wildly aggressive goals for yourself, even if you fall short of the stars you will still reach the moon.  Make no safe or conservative goals.  All your goals should be “STRECTH” goals that force you to act in new, different, and bold ways just to come close to achieving those goals.
 
Take  a perasonality /assessment/skills inventory test, whether it is a DISC tool, Myers-Briggs, Birkman or another assessment.  Let me know if you would like me to send you the personality survey I developed for my entrepreneur, start-up and small business clients.  By knowing yourself, your values, strengths, core competencies and your willingness to embrace change and risk-taking, you will know when you need to hire outside expertise.  You will also get a keener understanding of the types of people you an forge the strongest partnerships as business partners, clients, vedors, and your suppliers.
 
Learn a new language.  Take up a new musical instrument.  Pursue a new hobbie or follow your interests.  Take out that gym membership.  Make 2014 you achieve true business transformation by achieving a greater WORK-LIFE balance to maximize your sense of self-worth and derive pleasure outside of your business by doing more things that you enjoy.
 
Find a new attitude for achieving true business transformation.  Researchers have found that 65% of everything that evey person says TO THEMSELVES about themselves is NEGATIVE.  To avoid this pitfall, make 2014 the year we change our mindset from “CAN’T” to CAN! Make 2014 the year we say with much enthusiasm “I WILL” so we don’t experience the let-down  and regret of having to say frequently I SHOULD HAVE, I COULD HAVE, or I WOULD HAVE, but…
 
Why not begin blogging to build your subject matter expertise as a means of achieving business transformation?  Serve on a panel discussion.  Try to get published in your local town newspaper.
 
Join new business organizations.  Go to one new MeetUp group every THREE months.  Embrace the unknown.  Try out new marketing tools, make at least 2 new friends every month.
 
Fear of failure can be a debilitating force.  Make 2014 the year to say: “I WILL fail so why not fail GREATLY! good is the enemy of GREAT, so it no longer helps to be good enough.
 
Make 2014 the year you finally decide to go after your DREAM job!  Fight all those negative thoughts about why you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t embrace the unknown and start your own business!   If you are not ready to plan and launch a new business on your own, then find a partner or partners.  Not sure if you can create a business from scratch?  Take on side business to do out of the comfort and security of your home.  You can always explore franchising as a viable option to dip your toe in the shallow end of the pool of entrepreneurship. Consider these steps baby steps on the path to entrepreneurship.
 
Make 2014 the year you finally achieve true and lasting business transformation.
 
Here’s to your success in taking new approaches to realize an entirely NEW YOU in 2014!
 
  Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.