Posts Tagged 'competition'

In Tough Times, Smart Businesses Focus on Differentiation

I do lots of presentations on serving the customer.  And each time I begin, I see the faces up front, doubting, hoping, wondering “What is there about customer service that hasn’t been said, and said, and said again?”  “Please, don’t tell me to do what we all know I cannot do…make them love me!”

So, I ease into the topic.  “Why” I ask, “do you suppose customers fire us?” I get blank stares.  Savvy managers know it’s typically not anything we’ve done to the customer…it’s the total impact of the customer experience that deals the death blow.  I forge ahead.

“To understand why we are fired by our valued customers, we must look at how they became customers in the first place!”  I talk about how customers are sold; how we set expectations.  And I do that because that is the starting point for developing a serious reputation for service excellence.

Now, I’m a consultant working mostly in the home services industry…landscaping, lawn care, pest control, etc.  So, my clients typically don’t interact with customers face to face that often…unless of course, there is trouble. Then, half of them cancel service without ever letting us know of their dissatisfaction! Wow! What’s a service company to do? Is there a process that will translate into customer loyalty?  Briefly…sure.

This is a big topic.  For purposes of this post, I simply want to expose the topic and see what interest there is in exploring the process for building what I refer to as E-Service or, defined my way, E for excellence in service.

What is E-Service? My defininition is ‘doing whatever it takes to make each customer feel special.’  That’s it.  Not complicated but not easy either.

Is it possible? Yep, I work with businesses doing it every day.  How do they make it happen? Again, not complicated…but not easy either.  They go about the work of creating a true CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE.  It can and does happen. I see it, so, I know it’s real.
What are the requirements? First, and most vital to success, is a top down recognition that, without a reputation for service excellence in today’s service industry, you have one and only one thing to offer….price. And, as we all know, when you sell with price, you lose customers the same way…to the first ‘low baller’ who comes along and undercuts you.

It is possible to differentiate with service. This sort of differentiation is not new. Nordstroms and Southwest Airlines, each a representative of the high and low end products in their respective industries, have done it for decades.  So, it can be done.

In hard economic times…like the ones we face today and will in 2009, I believe it’s worth looking at creating added value through E-Service.  As I said, it involves and requires a paradigm shift for most organizations. Still, it can and is being done.  Some of initial moves are bullet pointed below.

  • Recognition that selling price leads to low quality sales and no customer loyalty.
  • Setting reasonable expectations is a must in the marketing-sales message.
  • The sales process must provide continuity with the marketing message and brand reputation.
  • Service delivery must mirror expectations set.
  • The E-Service company will subscribe to the philosophy that “If you see a problem, you own the problem.”
  • Service delivery and satisfaction levels are closely monitored. Results drive business tactics.
  • Employees are trained and cross trained to appreciate all team functions.
  • Communications skills are an absolute….and using them is NOT an option.
  • Customer ‘touch points’ are maximize and a personal, almost intimate relationship developed.
  • E-Service companies establish customer focused lines of authority and a reasonable escalation policy for problem-complaint resolution.
  • E-Service companies have a well thought out ‘service recovery’ process, ensuring that quick problem resolution resulting in complete customer satisfaction and brand strengthening.

These are a few of the skeletal fundamentals that are basic to the E-Service philosophy.  If you are interested, let me know it with a comment below.

Advertisements

Where Did All The Good Workers Go?

 

An article explaining how anyone can build a powerhouse team.

 

Author – Bill Hoopes, Trainer and Organizational Effectiveness Expert

 

            Time and experience have taught me a lot about solving tough people problems. I don’t have all the answers.  I do know that no single formula works consistently in all situations.  And I have had some experiences (successful and unsuccessful) that have led me to conclude there are specific, positive things that you can do to make success through people possible, or even probable. While I cannot guarantee solutions in every situation, I can guarantee improvement.  If that sounds fair—read on.

 

Woody & Bear speak out from the grave –

 

            I’ll admit it, there may have been times when building a team of strong, loyal and consistently productive people seemed fairly simple…I just can’t remember any!  As an Ohio State Buckeye fan, I recall the way Woody Hayes put it: “You win with people.”  For him, it was that simple.  Find the right people, teach them what they need to know, hold out a ”carrot” like a Rose Bowl trip and get out of the way.  Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary coach at the University of Alabama, felt the same: “Find some talent, show them how to make the first touchdown, and back off—the rest is simple.”   But that’s ancient history, right?

            Is it really the same for us today, in business?  As a manager and management trainer for many years, I’ve come to realize that, while Woody’s and Bear’s level of competition was higher and more intense, and while winning or losing was determined in an afternoon, the principal determinants of success in sports apply equally to other endeavors, like business.

            But what is it specifically that leads to success?  Let‘s look closer. We’ve told ourselves for years that winning with people means simply finding the “right” people, training them to proficiency and direct their daily efforts.  And, sure, we must provide consistent encouragement and positive feedback.  The icing on the cake is the incentive to work. Something like a pot of gold [motivator] is placed at the end of the rainbow (task completion deadline), and miraculous things happen — sometimes. 

Is it that simple? Do we clearly understand why, then, more managers, leaders and coaches don’t win consistently?  Conversely, do we know why some teams just can’t lose — even in the face of tough competition?  Is the answer really just “great talent?”  Ask George Steinbrenner if buying great players is enough to win.  The answer is NO. Great players, like great employees, make it easier.  But in today’s workplace, staffing with 100% champs isn’t realistic.

 

How we can win:  Winning through people requires a clear, two-part, approach.  We must:

            * First, expand your ability to discover and attract the best of the labor pool. This is NOT a dream! I’ve done it and helped others recruit winners. Job one is building a core of essential team skills.

            * Next, make each work day a more positive and productive experience for our “starters” and “bench warmers” alike. This takes focus and coaching skill. And everyone reading this article IS capable of coaching successfully!

 

Keep this in mind; no team ever won all the marbles with “stars” alone. It’s the competent, supporting bull pen that usually makes the difference.  And it is from that second level that you must find and develop the next generation of leaders.

            You must work both sides of the street simultaneously. First, don’t let up in your recruiting efforts to upgrade where necessary, replacing losers, while, at the same time, giving focused consistent attention to those currently on staff.  Both are critical parts of an effective people plan.

           

Having said all that, I concede that the commonly accepted reason for failing with people remains, “Just aren’t enough good people these days.”  The implication is: Good people (the kind we want and need to win) were there, but no more. Evidently, we must conclude, the “good people” have vanished from the scene. They are gone!  I hear it daily. And to complicate things, we’ve talked ourselves into believing that we cannot win the game or reach our objectives with anything less than perfect employees. That’s silly. 

 

Smart leaders succeed all the time with less talent and the right attitude.  Get that? Attitude. I can teach an average person to excel IF the positive attitude is there and is genuine.

 

If you accept my premise, perhaps you’ll trade in today’s pessimism for a shot at my experience-based optimism.

 

For now, consider what I call the “Magnificent Seven”:

 

7 Ways to Build a Powerhouse Organization

 

These basic requirements can make your job as manager, leader or owner much easier:

 

1. Create a clear definition of your business identity, goals and values.

2. Develop a practical philosophy of leadership [how you’ll interact with the troops].

3. Study yourself, your past influences, how you came to form your attitudes about people and work. Fine-tune, identify the “leadership style” that will work best for you. [one on one situations, team meetings, honesty, involvement, info sharing, setting a positive leadership example. Where do you fit, your preferences…there is NO one best “style”.]

4. Commit yourself to balancing people/task relationships. [Most are task oriented]

5. Develop a comprehensive human resource strategy. [A culture that promotes the advancement of your team members…who, in turn will build your business.]

6. Make an accurate assessment of the positive and negative elements of your employees’ working environment today.

7. Use your management power sources intelligently. [Hint, your personality is your strongest source of power….so, don’t fear human interaction, learn to use it!]

 

Obviously, each of the seven steps above can be a project in and of itself.  I’ve spent nearly a quarter century helping managers win with people. If you need help, let me know