PEOPLE AND BUSINESS
TO BEGIN WITH...
Let's start off with a few Hummerdingers (remember them?)
DIPLOMACY IS TELLING YOUR BOSS HE HAS AN OPEN MIND ...INSTEAD OF TELLING HIM HE HAS HOLES IN HIS HEAD.
THE OLDER YOU GET…THE BETTER YOU USED TO BE.
HELPLESS IS THE FEELING YOU HAVE…WHEN YOUR GOLDFISH GETS SICK.
Now let's discuss people and business. It makes sense because businesses are comprised of people who deal with customers (other people). Most business failures occur due to some basic flaws that are repeated over and over. So let's NOT talk about business failures. Instead, let's talk about how you run a successful business.
PEOPLE AND BUSINESS
By Lou Goldstein
No matter what the situation is in running a business or organization… you are dealing with people (human beings). Realizing and beginning with the premise that no two individuals are exactly the same, it is a daunting challenge to communicate effectively. Partner to partner(s)… partners to customers (or clients)…management to coaches…coaches to players…owners to managers… executives to board of directors…etc. It’s all about people and dealing with people.
SOME PEOPLE GO TOO FAR….OTHERS DON’T GO FAR ENOUGH
Running a successful business
Apart from conforming to and following the legal requirements of running a business… running a “successful” business is quite basic. It follows the same parameters of running “anything” successfully.
No matter how small or large that the business, organization, team, or any entity is… ownership must surround itself with a group of people that have their specific and defined roles to perform. Then, they must be trusted and allowed to perform those roles.
There must be a sound and well organized financial foundation. There must be oversight to make sure that all the gears mesh and run smoothly. Ownership (a designated person) must define the goals and makeup of its venture to a professional accountant who will determine the manner in which the company books are set up and the accounting procedures that must be followed. You then follow that advice.
Ask questions if you need clarifications….but don’t expect to fully understand the reason why. You only need to understand how to implement and carry out the instructions.
If you have salespeople and a sales manager they must be given detailed instructions exactly what is expected of them.
The communication is between ownership and the sales manager. The sales manager runs the sales program and the sales people. The sales manager is responsible to ownership.
If you have creative people… let them be creative.
If you have a company lawyer follow the legal advice…but don’t ask your lawyer how to run the business.
If you have multiple owners that are working within the company there must also be designated roles assigned.
It’s better if roles do not overlap. The best organizational strategy is to have a free flowing work force where everyone works within their strengths and don’t worry about what the others are doing.
Communication between owners is important. However, everyone must respect each other’s contribution. You can question something you don’t understand but don’t expect to completely understand everything. The most successful businesses are made up of different people with varied skills doing what they do best with the support and trust of everyone around them.
The same philosophies apply to sports teams. You have ownership, accountants, lawyers, marketing people, coaches and players. Ownership is comprised of different tiers or levels within the organization. There is one person who oversees everything. Underneath that person is a multi-layered group of people which different strengths with varying responsibilities.
A successful “team” is one where everyone does their job and accepts the accountability of their work.
The person who oversees the entire operation does this by communicating with the various people who are in charge of each division. As long as the team is successful according to the goals and mission of the owners... then ownership must not rock the boat by trying to micro manage.
“Micro Managing” is responsible for the failure of many businesses and organizations. Micro Managing is when ownership attempts to control or pay excessive attention to the running of all parts of the organization.
No one person knows “everything” about all aspects of a business or organization. Ownership must respect and trust those entrusted with the varying levels and responsibilities of running the company.
Play to each others expertise and let them do their jobs. If they perform poorly then a problem needs to be solved. Don’t try to solve a problem until a problem exists.
Before you can judge, communicate, advise, lead, teach, direct, work with, or be effective with other people one must first look in a mirror and “see”who “you” are. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Recognize your faults and frailties.
Then you must understand that ALL people have their strengths and weaknesses. In dealing with people understand their weaknesses and play to their strengths.
IF YOU KEEP THINKING YOU ARE #1…YOU MIGHT END UP STEPPING IN #2.
Now let’s talk about how we treat our customers. The customer is always right.” ...or are they?
I was once in the dry cleaning business. Believe me, you really find out a lot about people when you are in the dry cleaning business.
Here are two situations.
SITUATION ONE: A good customer comes into the store and in a rather defiant manner says, “You shrunk my dress, now what are you going to do about it?” There were other customers at the counter. You examined the dress and realized immediately that the dress did not shrink. You knew this because there was no puckering around the zipper. It’s not rocket science. If a garment shrinks there is puckering around the zipper. So, you reason that the customer either gained weight or it isn’t even her dress. How would you handle this situation? I’ll tell you how I handled it in a little bit.
SITUATION TWO: Another customer comes in the store (on a different day) and claims that you put a stain on their trousers that wasn’t there when they brought it in. You take the garment back to the cleaner who is also the “spotter.” He examines the stain and determines that the original stain was chewing tobacco juice. Trust me, there are ways of determining this. Nobody who works at the store chews tobacco (at least not while they are working). You return back to the customer and notice that he is chewing tobacco. This particular customer has a history of complaining about something almost every time he picks up his clothes. He has in the past berated the counter help (in front of other customers) and pretty much always wants a refund, a new garment or at the least a discount. How would you handle this situation? Stay tuned.
There are 3 main ingredients in the recipe for attracting and keeping customers happy. They are PRICE…QUALITY…AND SERVICE. Charging a reasonable price, offering quality commensurate with the price and backing that up with outstanding customer service is what you should strive for.
This is the case in most instances. There are some exceptions. Donald Trump has been successful building apartments in New York. His strategy in some cases, is to find out the highest prices being charged, and pricing his apartments “higher”. He was appealing to that element of people that wanted to pay the highest price. Stores on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California appeal to the same element of people. If you, on the other hand, offer Price, Quality and Service you will attract the rest of the world.
And don’t forget…..
ON THE OTHER HAND…YOU HAVE DIFFERENT FINGERS
The ingredients of Price and Quality are pretty much self explanatory and don’t need to be elaborated upon. Simplyknow your competitors’… price your products at the same level (or less) and make sure that the quality of your product (or service) is constantly tested and is as good or better than your competitor’s… before offering it to your customer.
Customer service is another story. This separates you from everyone else.
REMEMBER, IF YOU AREN’T TAKING CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS, YOUR COMPETITORS WILL.
What is customer service?
Your company’s goal should be to constantly and consistently try to exceed your customer’s expectations.
Answering the phone.
When someone calls your business do your best to make sure that someone answers the phonewithin three rings.
Understand that the telephone is still most business’s primary point of contact.
Whoever answers the phone must be trained to answer in a professionally and personal way.
Be warm and enthusiastic. Be courteous and identify yourself and your company. “Good afternoon, ABC Company… Nimrod speaking.” (If Nimrod is your name… either consider changing it… or have someone else answer the phone.)
Quickly determine the purpose of their call. “How may I be of service to you today?”
Make sure you speak softly, clearly and slowly. Stay away from using slang. Replace “OK” or “No problem” with “Certainly” or“Very well.” Replace “I don’t know” with “Let me check that out for you.”
If the person they are trying to reach is not available, and no one else can assist them, take any message accurately and assure the customer that their call will be returned promptly. Then, be sure that it is. Be careful that you are spelling names correctly. You must now be sure to see that the recipient gets the message promptly. If possible, deliver the message in person and briefly summarize the conversation you had with the customer.
Try to answer your calls the same day or at the latest the next day. You don’t want your customer to call your competitor because they didn’t get to talk to you.
It’s always best to have a real live person answer the phone. Let me repeat that. “It’s always best to have a real live person answer the phone.” Thank you, now I feel better.
A note here to the owner of a small business (or a large one). If the call is for you... try to handle the call personally without screening.
THE WRONG WAY.
...ring, ring, ring (that's the phone ringing). "Hello, ABC company. This is Miss Pleasant Personality speaking, how may I be of service to you?" (so far so good).
CALLER... "Yes, may I speak to Mr. Big Shot please?"
MISS PLEASANT..."Who can I say is calling?"
(Oh Oh) CALLER...(Thinking, what difference should that make?) "This is John Customer calling."
MISS PLEASANT..."And what is the purpose of your call?"
(OH! OH!) ...CALLER...(Now thinking ...I just told you dummy, I want to speak to Mr. Big Shot) " I have a question to ask Mr. Big Shot."
MISS PLEASANT..."Is Mr. Big Shot expecting your call?"
OH! OH! OH!... CALLER...(Now thinking..lady, you are beginning to get on my nerves) "I really don't know but I would appreciate it if you would let me speak to Mr. Big Shot."
MISS PLEASANT... "Is this a personal or business call?" .
CALLER (Now thinking, it started off being a business call… but it is getting to be personal. And no, I'm not going to tell you what I had for breakfast... nor am I going to give you my social security number.) "I am a customer and would you PLEASE let me speak to Mr. Big Shot?"
MISS PLEASANT..."Let me see if he is available?"
CALLER...(Now thinking, what she means is...IS HE AVAILABLE TO ME.) "Thank you."
MISS PLEASANT... "I'm sorry, he is in a meeting, would you care to leave a message?"
CALLER...(Now thinking, OK what has just happened is that Miss Pleasant has just talked to Mr. Big Shot...told him who was calling …and told him that I was a customer who wanted to ask a question. Mr. Big Shot probably told her he was too busy and to get rid of me by taking a message which he may or may not ever return. The caller is also probably thinking that there has been more time being wasted screening this call than if he had been put through right away. The caller also does not believe that Mr. Big Shot was actually in a meeting even if it was true. So the caller leaves his message and feels really let down about the whole experience.)
THE RIGHT WAY.
...ring, ring, ring (that's the phone ringing). "Hello, ABC company. This is Miss Pleasant Personality speaking, how may I be of service to you?" (again, so far so good).
CALLER... "Yes, may I speak to Mr. Big Shot please?"
MISS PLEASANT..."Would you please hold?"
CALLER (thinking, sure, no problem)..."Sure no problem."
MR. BIG SHOT... "Hello, this is Mr. Big Shot, what can I do for you?"
CALLER...(Now thinking, WOW, Mr. Big Shot actually is taking the time to talk to me. He has absolutely no idea why I am calling and yet here he is wanting to know what he can do for me. He obviously has nothing to hide...he is not in need of avoiding bill collectors...and he really is open to communicate with people who want to communicate with him. I like this man and therefore I like his company. So the caller asks his question and ends the conversation feeling very positive.
Now, I realize that the RIGHT WAY is not always possible. I also realize that the reality of the world we live in does not lend itself to THE RIGHT WAY being anything but a fantasy. I'm just saying that, if possible, it is THE RIGHT WAY.
I am also saying that one of my best friends ran one of Phoenix's best auto dealerships for many years...and whenever anyone called for him he answered the call without any screening whatsoever. He took the time and also had a tremendously successful business. He did it the RIGHT WAY.
However, there are also some times when your phone lines are all tied up and are unable to even answer the phone … and you must resort to your automatic robotic like modern day technology.
The dastardly evil answering machine.
We have all had the situation where we call a company and hear something like...
(A RECORDING) “Hello, thank you for calling. Your call is important to us. All of our representatives are busy helping other customers” (There, you have just proven to me that I amnot as important as those other guys…or you would ask one of them to hold so you can get right to me)
“Please remain on the line and someone will be with you shortly.” (What does this mean? Does it mean seconds, minutes, or am I going to have to cancel my dinner appointment?)
This, in itself, is not so terrible. It’s what usually follows that is even more irritating. You either hear some commercials for products that the company sells…. or you hear recorded music that you might enjoy (good) or not enjoy (not so good). Another problem is if you arekept waiting and waiting and the message keeps repeating itself…the word “shortly” begins to irritate me to a point of getting upset. When someone finally answers ... (if you haven’t hung up already)... you are now hostile, irritated and might not even remember why you called in the first place.
So, what do we do? How can we make this better for our customers?
How about this?
“You have reached ABC Company.We are really sorry to put you on hold. We know that most people are upset when this happens so once again we apologize. It appears that your wait time shouldn’t be any longer than 10 minutes. You can either listen to some music we hope you find entertaining while you wait…or….press 1…leave your name, message and phone number and we will call you back as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.”
While a customer is holding there should never be any dead space.
They may begin to wonder if they are still connected. It is OK to interrupt the music by saying something like, “We haven’t forgotten you, please hang on.” After a 60-90 seconds you can interrupt the music again with something like, “When a company representative comes on the line we would appreciate it if you would let them know your opinion of the music we are playing during your wait.. Please remain on the line for our representative. Thank you again.” After 60-90 seconds you can interrupt once more with something like…”Hi, it’s me again. Please don’t give up. We are getting closer to being able to talk personally with you. We do realize and appreciate that your time is very valuable and we once again apologize for the delay. It shouldn’t be much longer but if you would rather leave a message… Simply press 1...and leave your name, message and phone number. Thank you. At this point don’t interrupt the music again.
So much for the dastardly evil telephone answering machine.
Let’s get back to the plain everyday “excellent” customer service. How do we exceed our customer’s expectations.
When we are consistent with our reasonable price and our fine quality most of the times our customers are satisfied and continue doing business with us. It’s only when our customers have problems that our customer service is brought to the front. One way to address this is to not have problems occur.
We can do our best to prevent problems by...
Not making any promises you don’t keep. Let’s go back to the dry cleaning business. We offered aone hour service (at no extra charge). Most customers did not require this service but when they did we had a system that made sure they were not disappointed. It was basically simple. The actual dry cleaning process took approximately 40 minutes from start to finish. Our machines were run in a cycle that insured that a machine would always be available to be in use within 5 minutes or less.
This gave us 15-20 minutes to mark in the item(s) (with red tags..5 minutes) … rush them to the cleaner, and then immediately take them to the presser to finish the item(s)…5 minutes)…and then place a bag over the items and place the order in a special section to be ready when the customer returned. THE POINT IS…. We knew we had a system developed that we could make the promise to the customer and keep our promise. The same principle applies to ANY business.
Reliability is an important part of any valued relationship and “excellent” customer service demands reliability. If you promise that your product will be delivered on a certain day…make sure that it is. If you have any doubts…don’t promise it. If you are in a lawn servicing business and you say that you will be there to cut the grass on Tuesday …be there on Tuesday.
IT DOES NOT PAY TO ADVERTISE…UNLESS YOU CAN DELIVER THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Keeping your promise also applies to keeping appointments, deadlines or returning phone calls. Customers lose faith and are most annoyed when you break a promise so give much thought before you end up breaking one.
Try to make it personal.
If you are in a business where customers come to your store (retail, barber, grocery, clothing, dry cleaners, beauty parlors, restaurants, book stores, ice cream, etc. etc) try your hardest (and your employees) to learn your customer’s name… and as much about them as you can. When a person is recognized and called by their name upon entering a business they feel very special and they will not only look forward to returning to your business they will also recommend you to others.
Train all of your employees to be helpful, courteous and KNOWLEDGEABLE. Empower your people to be capable of making as many of the minor customer satisfying decisions as possible. This prevents your customer being told (in many instances) that your employee doesn’t know… and telling your customer that they will have to wait or come back at another time.
Whenever possible, give your customers something extra. A coupon for a future discount….. Some additional information on how to use a product they have just purchased. Be creative. When you get to know your customer you can recognize their individual needs. Then, find something that they might value and surprise them with it.
Complaints? OK they will still happen.
No matter how hard you try no one can avoid complaints from their customers on occasion. Sometimes they might be justified while other times they might not be.
Whether justifiable or not, your customer should (in most situations) be treated in a certain way.
First and foremost, he (assuming he is a male) must be taken serious. If the customer is upset your first objective is to calm him down.
Use words and action to assure him that you are serious about wanting to correct the problem. Even if you know he is wrong it is sometimes better (and in the long run profitable) to bite the bullet. Take the loss and lose the battle in order to keep his business and win the war. When your customer expresses his satisfaction you should thank him for bringing the problem to your attention rather than letting him know that you did him a favor.
One of the most dangerous damages to a business is the failure to properly address their customer’s concerns. If you don’t address their concerns while they are in your store, and they leave without saying a word, you may never see or hear from them again. However, you can be assured that their friends will hear about it.
You begin addressing their concerns by making eye contact and let them know you are listening to them as they let you know of their problem.Nod at them, take notes anddon’t interrupt them while they are speaking. If there are other customers around and you have a private space (office) invite them to a more “private” space where you can give them your utmost attention (and at the same time removing a negative discussion from the “hearing space” of other customers). After they have finished voicing their complaint you can then ask questions that will try to get more details about the problem and what the customer feels the solution might be.
During this discussion NEVER, EVER …INTERRUPT A CUSTOMER WHEN THEY ARE SPEAKING.
A customer making a complaint needs to getsomething of value as a final outcome. Either replacing the item, giving a full (or partial) refund, a future discount or SOMETHING acceptable to the customer. Once you assure the customer that SOMETHING is going to be done it is easier to figure out the specifics.
Sometimes you might not want to “lose” a customer.
Remember the lady with the dress that “shrunk” and the guy who chewed tobacco?
Here is how those two situations were resolved.
The lady with the dress was invited to my office. Even though I knew that I was not responsible for shrinking the dress (remember the zipper was not puckered) and I had good reasons to believe that she also knew that I was not at fault. I first thanked her for her past business. I referred to her by name and asked how her family was.
We had a discussion of when she realized that her dress had “shrunk” and when was the last time it was dry cleaned. She was a little unsure of exactly when it was dry cleaned but did know that she hadn’t worn it since it was last dry cleaned. I asked her when she bought the dress. She replied that it was about 3 years old. I asked her what she paid for the dress and she said $50.
I then asked her what she felt was a solution to the problem. She said I should reimburse her for the dress. My response was… wouldn’t it be fair if she gave some consideration to the wear and tear and accepted some lesser amount than she paid when it was new? She agreed and said, “what about $30. Up to this point I have not tried to argue with her or even defend myself in any way. Our conversation has been calm and positive. She also already knows that she is going to get something.
I then explained to her that there could be an underlining factor why the dress might not fit her such as a material defect. This would place the responsibility on the store where she purchased it. I assured her that I wasn’t going to put her in that position. I then asked her if she would be happy with a $30 discount on future dry cleaning. She accepted that solution and thanked me for listening to her and helping to solve the problem. The end result was I kept a good customer (along with the friends she referred to my business) with a minor expenditure.
Sometimes you might not mind losing a customer.
The guy who chewed tobacco was a different story. I also invited him into my office and brought my employee who tested the stain on the trousers in with us. He informed the customer that he remembered the garment when it was brought in for cleaning and he remembered the stain. He explained that there is a “pre spotting” process when a dry cleaner examines a garment before actually putting it into the machinery for cleaning.
He further explained that the reason for this process was to try to identify the type of stain so it could be treated prior to entering the dry cleaning system. Then he explained that the “pre spotting” in the case of his trousers identified the stain to be in the tobacco family and he did his best to remove the stain as well as possible.
The customer, in a belligerent tone, said, “You can’t tell me that you are able to tell what a stain is by looking at it. I’m not stupid.”
We then left the office with the customer and his trousers and went back to the dry cleaning area. The trousers were placed on a “spotting board”, a chemical was placed on the stain and hot steam was applied. There was a definite tobacco odor in the air that you can smell (even if you had a cold). The customer said he still wasn’t satisfied and he wanted something done about it. I told him that there was nothing that could be done considering the circumstances. He said he would never bring any more business to me and I told him that I was sorry he felt that way. The end result in this matter was that I lost a customer I didn’t mind losing. The past experiences of his chronic complaining and always looking to make trouble was enough to make this a tipping point.
See you next time,