Monday, November 23, 2009

See the potential in each of your workers!

Believing in people before they have proved themselves is the key to motivating people to reach their potential.
~John C. Maxwell

I think that one of the biggest mistakes managers make is failing to see the potential in every one of their staff members. It is so easy to form beliefs about your staff only on the basis of their past behavior rather than recognizing the unique potential that each one brings to the workforce each and every day. For example, if a staff member is constantly making mistakes on a certain type of report, many managers would define the employee in terms of those errors rather than seeing their unbridled potential.

Jim Moran, the founder of the Jim Moran Institute, was very successful in the automotive industry. In the years before his death, I had numerous opportunities to spend time with him and observe the way he treated other people. Without exception, he made his staff – and me too – feel great. This was not because he always had kind words for everyone, but rather because those around him really sensed that he saw their real potential. It was like having a sudden gust of wind to buoy you up. He was loved and cherished by so many people because he made them feel good simply by seeing their hidden potential.

So many managers try to coach their employees; however, the tendency is to change the employee’s behavior on a certain task. For example, if I am coaching a staff member, and I am discussing the problems they had in their last report, I am getting bogged down in the details. However, if I can encourage them to see their own potential for greatness, I am coaching to the potential, and the details will get resolved as a result.

As a manager, you can get so much more out of your employees if you can just visualize each one’s inherent potential. Just imagine a baseball manager trying to coach a hitter that has been in a slump and has not had a hit in 10 appearances at bat. The manager could coach the player to go out and practice more, or he could tell the player to be patient and wait until the slump eventually ends. However, a great manager would convey the potential that he knows is within his player and help him to see this as well.

I frequently have to stop and take note of the greatness in all of the support staff around me. If I do not do this, I see them as obstacles, which is not good. I must see the potential of each person that I work with, as that allows me to have a very special relationship with them. As a coach, I need to see their greatness and show them how they can see this greatness as well. For some reason, it is so much easier for an outsider to see the potential in an employee than it is for the employee to see their own.

Now go out and do the best you can to see the potential in each and every one of your staff members.

You can do this!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Text Messaging for your Business

If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the newer trends out there is the use of text messaging technology in business. Text messaging, which is sometimes referred to as SMS (short message service), allows businesses to instantaneously send brief messages to their customers’ cell phones. Text messaging does not replace other types of advertising; rather, it should be thought of as a tool to use only in certain circumstances. Normally, you would use text messaging when you want a rapid response from your customers, and the message to them must be short and simple.

Many carriers limit the length of your text message, but shooting for somewhere in the vicinity of 150 characters is a good guideline to follow. I frequently receive text messages from Tropical Smoothie, and both Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have had a great deal of success using this tool in their marketing campaigns.
There are many companies out there that will help you use SMS, and the gold standard is MessageMedia, which boasts more than eight thousand business and government customers. SMS services make text messaging a fairly easy process. Simply provide the cell numbers and the message, and the SMS service will deliver your message to your customers. You can pay per message, but a newer approach involves the use of teaser messages that ask recipients to reply if they want more information. In these cases, some firms only charge for the second message, which shows that the customer has responded.

So many people think that only the younger generations use text messaging, but it is quickly spreading throughout the entire customer base. Younger generations are still using text messaging much more than baby boomers – Nielsen Research found that teens and young adults send an amazing three thousand text messages a month; however, the total usage of text messages has nearly tripled each year with all generations using this application. The latest data I saw showed that there are more than three billion text messages sent every day. Additionally, for most customers, text messages are generally looked at before email messages.

One of the best uses of text messaging that I have seen is by restaurants that send customers the same evening’s drink specials. Text messaging is most valuable when applied to consumer decisions that can be made quickly and do not involve large amounts of money. I would never think a Rolls Royce dealer would send out a text announcing a sale on cars, but McDonald’s offering a half-priced Big Mac via text message would make perfect sense.

When using text messaging, there are a couple of issues to be conscious of. It is vital to get your customers to agree to receive the text message or have an opt-in agreement. Additionally, you should limit the use of this tool to only those cases when you have something of real value to offer your customers.

Now go out and see if text messaging makes sense for your business. If it does, then develop a plan for implementing this very effective tool.

You can do this!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Customer Service Performance Standards

Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.
~Tony Alessandra

So many of the businesses that we assist at the Jim Moran Institute have customer service problems. Many of them are related to a lack of awareness of the issues, but so many more are rooted in the absence of performance standards.

It is great to set a goal of having outstanding customer service, but without a way of measuring or evaluating your staff on their performance, how effective could this goal be? With any goal you must be able to measure your progress and whether you have reached it.

Each element of customer service must have a measurable goal to attest to the progress that is being made. For example, the primary elements in customer service are greeting the customer, responding quickly to their requests, fulfilling their orders in a timely manner and dealing with problems. For each of these elements, you must establish a standard – or even a “gold” standard – to ensure that each employee knows both what is required and how their performance will be measured.

When greeting a customer in a physical location, the performance standard might be that each customer should be greeted with a smile within 30 or 60 seconds of their arrival. Making each customer feel welcome in your business is so important, and putting a time stamp on the greeting ensures that this critical element of customer service occurs without delay.

The second standard relates to how quickly your business responds to customers’ requests. Every business must adopt the standard that all customers receive a call-back within eight business hours of their inquiry. If you ever call me, my voicemail message does not say that I will get back with you as soon as possible (terrible customer service); rather, I say I will return your call within four hours. Customers’ emails must be acted upon within the same eight-hour window.

When a customer places an order, the time it takes to process and fulfill that order must be set and monitored. Here the standard might be that 98 percent of all goods ordered must be shipped within 48 hours. Too often I have ordered something over the internet only to have it delivered a month later with no explanation as to the delay.
The final standard involves dealing with customers’ problems. Here we want the issue to be fixed and dealt with in a prescribed way. Nothing drives a customer crazier than having a problem and being unable to get it fixed. I like to think that every business should be grateful for each customer that comes to them with a problem as this allows the business to identify the issue and then fix it. A standard here might be that each customer complaint should be remedied within 48 hours of receiving notice.

The bottom line is that in order to have outstanding customer service, you must have standards in place that will allow you to measure how you are progressing toward your customer service goals. Now go out and make sure that you have established customer service standards at your business.

You can do this!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The "Ritz" customer service experience.

You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.

~Jerry Fritz

If you have followed this column for a while, you know that one of my favorite topics is customer service. A business must focus on this in order to be successful.

Recently, I was able to attend a customer service seminar at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix. This was by far one of the best seminars I have ever attended -- not only because of the topic, but more importantly because we were able to live the customer service experience at the Ritz 24/7. The Ritz makes the customer the top priority for each and every staff member both through the hiring process and continuous training. I learned so much that will be the subject of future columns.

One of the things that is so powerful about the Ritz Carlton is that each employee carries a card that states, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” This one simple sentence clearly says that how we interact with our customers should be no different than how we interact with each other. Time after time I witnessed exceptional civility between the employees as they worked together.

Each Ritz employee is so thoroughly trained in customer service that it is almost as though they have radar implants that allow them to anticipate each guest’s needs before they know what they want. At the Ritz, they would never ask a client if they would like an umbrella when they see it is raining. Rather, they would go out and hand them an umbrella. It is a subtle distinction, but it is an important one when trying to anticipate what a customer wants.
One classic story told at the seminar was about a maid who was cleaning a guest’s bathroom when she noticed that all of the toothpaste had been squeezed out of the tube. While the hotel provides house brands for those guests who forget to bring toothpaste with them, this maid went to the drug store across the street to buy the guest’s identical brand. She left the toothpaste with a note on the counter by the sink. This is great customer service!
I think staffing at the Ritz is critical as the staff is ultimately responsible for delivering exceptional customer service. For every open position, the Ritz takes ten applicants and interviews each candidate at least five times before making a job offer. Not only does the Ritz value its existing employees, but it knows that the heart of customer service is getting and keeping a great staff. In fact, turnover at the Ritz is approximately one third of the industry average.

Now go out, evaluate your customer service and make sure it is the best it can be. Customer service does not cost. It pays.

You can do this!