May 25, 2009

Customer Service: Not A Given

Last week I spoke with someone who said his customers don’t know what they want. That statement may be partially true but what he is missing is that his customers’ perceptions are their realities. Like it or not.

If it’s broken to you, it’s broken.
Seth Godin

I had an interesting exchange with my Cable/Internet provider a couple of weeks ago because I miscalculated last month’s bill by $31.59 which garnered a rude call from their collections department.

I have been their customer for more than twenty years and they are on me like dirt over thirty-one bucks. I told the person he had about 15 seconds to convince me not to take my business to the competitor.

His response was underwhelming and I hung up the phone then paid the difference. Twenty years and I am treated like a delinquent. To me, they are broken.

Marketing Is A Promise, Not A Campaign

So all the well thought out marketing and advertising campaigns were tossed out for the sake of a miscalculation. Because I screwed up some math, they broke their promise.

It may be difficult to grasp, but people will often pay more for something that works and something that is superior. Price is not the only deciding factor – remember shareware?

They Solved My Problem

I had a hefty bill recently from my local tire and brake place. It was my fault that I had let it go so long and not their fault that new tires and brakes were $2500. The entire exchange was enjoyable.

As I paid the bill they reminded me to bring my car back every 10,000 miles to get my tires rotated for free and it would be ready as soon as Ralph put it through the car wash. And important to note, the people working in this garage get along well and help each other constantly. You want to give these guys your business.

My perception was not that they tried to gouge me for tires and brakes, my experience made me tell everyone to go there if they ever need their car serviced.

Lessons Learned?

So I am mad at one company for hounding me over $31.59 and happy to promote another company that charged me $2500. By the way, the car drives like new and my hi-speed internet service is still sporadic most days.

Perception is reality and nothing you can do will change that.

Which company best describes your company?


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 21, 2009

Be Curious

Be curious about learning.

Be curious about ways to improve.

Be curious like a child.

Be curious about life.

Be curious through listening.

Be curious about others.

Be curious. Always.


photo credit:

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 20, 2009

Do They Know What You Want?

One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. Jim Rohn

If you sell a product or service, you need customers. And we all need customers. But we are customers as well.

Traditional wisdom states that you need to satisfy the needs of the most potential customers in order to be successful which means giving great customer service. And what does it mean?

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.
It is what the client or customer gets out of it.
Peter Drucker

If you need a new lawn mower, you probably go online and search. As you may know, the bright companies pay to be at the top of the search so the best lawn mowers for the best deal to solve you problem may not necessarily show up on page one. But you may not know nor care about search engine optimization; you just need a new lawn mower.

In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want. Alice MacDougall

The moment you walk through the door, you are assaulted by a fake smiley woman who can’t shove that week’s flyer into your mitt fast enough. Your space is invaded with the deal you can’t pass up.

As you quickly look to find a recycle bin you are on your way to the lawn care section. Tools, Paint, Automotive, there it is – Lawn Mowers. Oh dear, there are about 100 to choose from. Before you can have a scan of the bounty, another happy store employee pounces on you with options and choice. There is also the reminder that if you buy today, you get 21% off the 3-year warranty plan and a complimentary bag of grass seed.

The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. Socrates

With a polite “I’m just looking, thanks”, Mr. Happy disappears. After pursuing the choices, you hone in on three models. All close in price, but you are unsure of the differences in options. So you search for another joyful member of staff to help with your questions.

He works in the garden center, she will call a manager, he isn’t sure if that one is in stock, she reminds you of the deal on the 3-year warranty, he asks if you would take a floor model at a discount.

People expect good service but few are willing to give it. Robert Gately

You walk out without a lawn mower or any questions answered. But you are now well versed in grass seed and warranties. If you want more customers, pay attention to their pain and their needs. The customer may not always know what they need, but your additional services may not be a good starting point.

Do you think if the management and employees of this store gave each other superior customer service, they would be in a better position to give it to you?


photo credits: |

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 19, 2009

Giving Up Control

I received a call from a colleague recently who pondered why music companies don’t release new albums along with concert tickets at the same time. That way, fans can download the music or buy it at a store along with tickets to the upcoming shows. He went on to wonder if there is concern about free downloading of music and movie torrents, why don’t studios simply release the film and DVD on the same day?

What? And Give Up Control?

Old model thinking is you can control the marketplace, behavior and spending. It is a fantasy. If you owned restaurant and people quickly found out that Thursdays are free food nights, how big would your line up be on Friday? Sure some would come back because you offered great food at a great price point, but could you control that?

Collusion vs. Solution

I have been in media and marketing for a long time. I know it doesn’t work this way. It’s not a simple solution but is it not a worthy discussion? The Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger has created a lot of heat because of the collusion ramifications, so merging a distributor with a concert company and a music label will create even more.

But let’s focus for a moment on behavior.

We all know stealing music is wrong, downloading movies is illegal, taking something that isn’t ours is improper and our moms taught us that years ago. But has that changed behavior?

If you found $1,000 in an unmarked envelope on the ground, what would you do? If I told you that you could download as much music as your heart desired without any consequence, what would you do? If you found a loophole to avoid paying income tax, what would you do?

Is it wrong or is it reality?

The topic of free is a big one right now. If you can get the same service or product for less money – or even free – is that your preference? Now flip it around and tell me you will offer me your service or product for less money or free.

The music labels are in trouble, that’s well documented but as one who adores music and wants it to continue to thrive, let’s look at solutions rather than trying to cram more genies in to more bottles.

How does this apply to your work? How can you better understand customer and human behavior in order to better meld your business plans with reality?


photo credit:

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 18, 2009

New Ain’t New No More

Archeologists found the earliest evidence of dentist drills dating back 9,000 years in Pakistan. These primitive hand drills were the earliest found implements which performed cavity repair. Dentists now employ motorized drills that spin at half a million RPM and can solve virtually any dental issue.

The cute portable music playing device that revolutionized music consumption was first introduced in 1997. The iPod is one of the most influential inventions in decades. Sony owned the portable cassette market, Apple is the overwhelming leader in mp3 players.

Beer was first invented in the 6th millennium BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today, beer is a $300 Billion a year industry and it is consumed in almost every country on earth.

In the 1960’s, computers were behemoth mechanical creatures that filled rooms to perform basic mathematical problems. The computer installed on the Saturn V rocket which propelled the crew toward the first moon landing was slower than the later model known as the 286. The portable computer was first mass produced in the 1980’s. Today it is a mind that can carry out complex audio and visual tasks simultaneously.

An instrument we use every day was named after the Latin term fura or pitchfork. Forks have been used since 2nd century Rome.

In the last decade, scientists all over the world have finally mapped the human genome - the entire gene pool of human makeup.

As close as historians can guess, the first wheelbarrow dates back to around 400BC in ancient Greece. Medieval Europe and China have had their stake in its evolution. It is almost inconceivable that a home owner would not own one today.

What we now know as the Internet was first conceived in the mid 1950’s as a way for U.S. government officials to share and send information over long distances. It was known as the Arpanet. Although near impossible to predict, in 2009 there are hundreds of millions of websites, social media communities and you can do or find anything you can possibly fathom, online.

As soon as something is invented, creative minds get to work on improving it. Once we are introduced to something new in our lives, we somehow seem to find a need for it or seamlessly adapt to its existence.

Got any ideas?


photo credits: | | |

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 15, 2009

It’s Not About Twitter

Nice to meet you. Now what?

The best advice I have ever received with regards to social media is to build relationships past the original connection. You must begin to take those connections off-line to a coffee shop or phone call or Skype chat or something other than quips back and forth in 140 characters or less.

Nothing has changed

The barter system is alive and well, so is social networking. Both are more than 10,000 years old. If I have a bag of rice and you have a goat, we may be able to help each other. This is not to suggest that you and I do everything for trade or free but relationships are built far past the widgets and services we exchange – aren’t they?

You can’t drink coffee from an empty cup.

Without the key, the $150,000 Porsche is a gorgeous piece of German engineering to admire in your driveway. The new house without furniture and memorabilia, friends and family is simply a building on a road. The restaurant without chatter and laughter and human exchange is simply a collection of man made things in a room.

Where are all the people?

When I was a kid, I had this recurring dream of waking up and all the people were gone. It stemmed from some movie I had seen but imagine if you had every material desire at your finger tips. The best cars, the coolest homes, all the toys but the only stipulation was that you were not allowed to share it with anyone, you had to be cut off from any human interaction.

Is this really about websites and stuff?

Still interested?

We don’t live this life alone unless we choose to so before getting too caught up in tweets and followers and friends and ranking, let’s remember what’s important - real connections with each other.

Have an awesome weekend!


photo credits: |

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 13, 2009

Are They Wearing The Right Hats?

You’re running your own business. It's going well. Growth is happening. Then suddenly you start hearing and reading reports of an economic collapse.

You wonder how it will affect your business. Will you lose money? Will you make less than last year? Will you need to curtail your growth plans? Does this mean the death of the five-year plan?

Yes. Maybe. Perhaps. Your call. Long ago.

What’s In The News?

So you ask around to other business owners, start sifting through mind numbing financial sites and blogs and circle around the cul-de-sac of bad news. Some are downsizing, some are decimating their marketing budgets and major corporations’ foundations are cracking before your very eyes.

Self Doubt Is Not Your Friend

Suddenly you may question your motives, your tactics and your own staff. Perhaps others are right, you do need to lower your prices and fire some people? Possibly the answer lies in making people wear more hats and work harder? Conceivably you will simply need to cut the highest paid on your roster and hope for the best?

Take A Moment

It might be time to examine your external and internal communities. After all, customer service begins at home. If you and your team are not giving each other good service, it’s doubtful you can do your best for your paying customers.

Obviously fiscal responsibility is crucial. There is no shortage of situations where a dysfunctional community negatively affects the bottom line. Many are now being told as a benefit for keeping their gig, they are now doing two.

Reality Bites

I remember years ago working with an ad agency that had three founders. One was creative director, one was head of sales and the third was art director. They went out and hired a president to run the day-to-day. They realized what hats fit them best.

Forest: Meet Trees

It’s tough to think clearly when we hear downsizing at Google and Microsoft but that doesn’t mean it has to happen to you. But long before wondering if you're widgets are right or what your competition is doing, it's time to examine accountability – when everyone in the building is accountable to everyone in the building. Now could be your opportunity to sharpen everyone so the wasted time on backstabbing and butt covering can be removed in place of progress. Your competitive advantage could be better teamwork, for real.

Do you wear too many hats?
Are you wearing the right hats?
What about your entire organization?


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

photo credit:

May 11, 2009

37 Business Ideas

If you’re in business, it’s safe to say you want to win. And if you don’t want to win, one must ponder the reason you’re in business.

Often companies are looking for the competitive advantage.

Imagine for a moment that you had to find those things you could do better than your competition and you had no additional capital to do so. Not much of a stretch these days!

In no particular order, here are 37 ideas you may want to try…

1. Be honest with yourself.
2. The customer may not know what they need.
3. Read Cluetrain Manifesto. Free copy here.
4. Don’t blame others.
5. Mean it.
6. Actually keep an open mind.
7. Have a plan.
8. Help others when there’s nothing in it for you.
9. Lighten up.
10. Actually give good customer service.
11. Over deliver.
12. Never call yourself an expert.
13. Return emails.
14. Demand honest perspective from others.
15. Focus.
16. Anticipate customer need.
17. It’s not about price.
18. Laugh often.
19. Drive a different way to work
20. Say thank-you.
21. Figure out what you can win.
22. Listen or watch something motivational every day.
23. Don’t hide.
24. Ask for feedback and wait for the answer.
25. Avoid preconceived notions.
26. Your resume is irrelevant.
27. Tell the truth.
28. Be willing to give some for free.
29. Keep it simple.
30. Don’t over-think. Don’t under plan.
31. Listen to customers. No, really.
32. Have lunch out of the office by yourself.
33. Work smarter.
34. Deliver what you said you would deliver.
35. Manage expectations.
36. Eat more chocolate.
37. Remember, none of us gets out of this alive.


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

photo credit: mag3737

May 10, 2009

Thanks Mom!

Mom is the one person in your life who is with you for your entire life. As the cliché goes, your mom holds your hand for the first few years of your life then holds your heart for the rest.

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.
Honoré de Balzac

The family unit is not what is used to be, it’s not what it was portrayed “in the olden days” in movies and on television. It's not mom, dad and 2.3 kids. There are nuclear families, separated and estranged relationships, but all the while no matter where are, your mom is always there.

Today is Good News Only Day on Twitter.

A few of us thought it would be cool to do this on Mother’s Day so share some good news – about your mom, or family or anything at all and add the hashtag #gnod

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.
Chinese Proverb

Find her favorite fragrance or book, give her that time she needs to recoup, and if she’s no longer with us do something for her nonetheless.

And if you are a mom, thanks from all of us.


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

photo credit: roddy smith

May 8, 2009

Are You 'Trying' To Steal Third?

When stealing third, lead off in the same way you would when not stealing. Once the pitcher sets, it's 'one thousand' and you're off. That half second gives you a couple of steps toward third and a great chance of making it.

Sports has always been an excellent backdrop for business analogies but in the case of this baseball example, are you hovering at second base wondering if the pitcher will make a mistake so you can steal third?

Are you staring at an opportunity or decision and waiting for that perfect moment – that sweet spot – to pounce? Does that moment ever really arrive? Do we often wait for the invitation forgoing the opportunities?

Sit On The Lead

Last night the Vancouver Canucks tried to nurse a third period 1-0 lead. The Chicago Blackhawks chipped away, scored late and won it in overtime. The Canucks, for the second time in the series, were victims of their own defensive plan.

Quick Decisions

I had lunch recently with a colleague and we were discussing how successful people often make swift decisions, find the deficiencies, make changes and re-launch in the time it takes most of us to deliberate in the first place. How often have you gone against your gut and been wrong?

Go Big Or Go Home

If the base runner hesitates for even a nanosecond, it’s over. If the Canucks had kept on the attack, they may have ran the score up a few more goals to avoid the late minute heroics of their opponent.

How many decisions are you hesitating on?


photo credit:

Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 7, 2009

Twitter This Sunday: Good News Only

Last week I suggested we take one day and share nothing but positive news on Twitter. The response has been excellent but without action, it's just an idea. Thanks to Ken Wall for pushing this forward, now time for all of us to share. Sunday is Mother's Day and what better day to share nothing but good news.

Here are some suggestions for Good News Only Day on Twitter

Use hashtag #gnod
Put resume away for the day
Find inspiring stories or quotes
Shout-outs to Mom, of course!
Whatever you want to share
Personal good news - kids and family stuff
Tweet-out people in your life who inspire you

Let's take the day off from pitching our wares and focus on why we connect.

We all need some good news and it's everywhere. Twitter is about sharing and exchanging ideas - let's do it up on Sunday.

Let's celebrate Mom with nothing but good news.

Good News Only Day on Twitter #gnod


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 6, 2009

Marketing: What Now?

So you want to do some marketing and you're wondering what tools to use. There are a lot of options but what are best for you? What is imperative is sticking with whatever you decide to do. Because if you want to dip your foot in the pool, the best you can hope for is a wet toe.

* How much is too much?
* What tools should I use?
* How do I engage more?
* Is social media the answer?
* How long is my campaign?
* Should I mix my media?
* Is Twitter the answer?
* How often should I blog?
* Is traditional media dead?

I have had many people ask me whether they should start a blog or do a podcast, add a company Facebook page or sign up for Twitter, do an outdoor campaign or buy radio. It's no different than any other portion of your business - if you are not willing to commit to it, then you will never see the benefit and don't waste your time. Would you do one advertising campaign and expect that to build profits? Would you run a couple of miles then think you're ready for a marathon?

This is not social media discussion - this is a strategic planning exercise. If you are not fully integrated then you won't see the benefits of the entire toolbox.

Do you need them all and will you use them all properly?

Easier Said Than Done

It’s easy to watch a famous Hollywood actor navigate their craft through the script or an NHL player stick handle through the opponent’s defence with ease. That takes years of practice and commitment.

Look Before You Leap

First you need to back up the proverbial bus and ask the tough questions: Are you ready? What do you want from your marketing? Is your company well positioned? Do you see a potential increase in your product? What categories can you win?

Measure Twice Cut Once

Take the needed time to understand why you are doing something. Then get educated. Marketing, advertising, social networking, public relations and word-of-mouth are all powerful tools at your disposal. But no tool is the cure-all. One campaign isn't either.

What is your next step?


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

photo credit:

May 3, 2009

World Wide Friendship

The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.

As the world continues to shrink and we have the chance to connect faster, the chatter seems to go back and forth from tools to relationships and back again. Hopefully you have also enjoyed great conversations and been involved in growing relationships through social media.

But it's much more than tweets and wall posts.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.
John Leonard

I met Mike in 1986 when he began dating my girlfriend's best friend. When my relationship ended, I called Mike to tell him that it was nice to meet him and wished him luck. Since I was out of the picture, obviously we weren't going to remain friends. Mike said that was a bunch of crap and we were going to stay in touch.

We have never lived in the same town, in fact for most of the last two decades we have lived a seven hour drive apart. We always find a way to get together a few times a year interspersed with regular phone calls.

If I had to sum up Friendship in one word, it would be Comfort.
Adabella Radici

Mike now lives about 90 minutes from me and it hit me Sunday morning that we are no longer that long seven hour drive apart and I can - on a whim - just pick up the phone and do a quick visit. Something I should - and will - do more often.

When I called, we talked for a about a minute and I was on the road.

In twenty-three years, we have spent countless hours talking about politics and music, playing golf and eating great food, helping each other through life's hurdles and celebrating victories. I don't have any blood brothers, but Mike Greg Darryl and Doug are my brothers.

It is the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
Marlene Dietrich

Relationships are not blog fodder, they should not be tossed around for comparison to web portals, they are living breathing essential elements of our existence. That includes the ones we form online and in business. We live blended lives and to think we don't affect others while they affect us is foolery.

Do you have friends like Mike? Do you cherish them like gifts? Have you made new relationships through social media channels that are more important than tools or websites?


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

May 1, 2009

You Have Three Seconds

Have you ever seen an commercial you liked but couldn't remember the product? Have you ever met someone but couldn't remember their name? Have you ever read something but couldn't remember where you saw it?

If you have ever worked in the advertising world – particularly outdoor/transit – you know all about the three second rule. It’s often even less, but you have about three seconds to make an impression with someone. Your billboard, bus board, transit shelter or subway message needs to resonate – even subconsciously – in about as much time as it takes to say your name.

Planning That First Impression

Months of planning, meetings, art direction, graphic design, more discussions, the client wants it bigger or pinker, more meetings, more design, more revisions, all for a three second event. Add to that, once your message is in a certain location for too long it becomes part of the unnoticed background.

Keeping Their Interest

How is that different than online marketing or frankly meeting someone in person? You have three seconds and they do too. Now most of us pass that three second test. Most of us can compose ourselves for one-two-three moments enough to get that chance to get to know that new person a bit more.

Lead Role In Your Own Movie

I heard a radio talk show last night and one the guests said “No one is more interesting in the story of your life than you. To us, we are all wildly fascinating creatures in our own screenplay.” That sounds egotistical but it’s true. That does not mean we don’t share and give but our only perspective is our own.

Make It About Them

Depending on your reading speed, you gave this post about a sentence before deciding to read on. You are reading this line now because something here made you read further. But if all I do is keep stating that you are reading this sentence you will lose interest. It’s no longer about you, and you are gone.

You have three seconds to make it about them; try it once and wait your turn. What do you think will happen?


Bookmark and Share

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

image credit:

© Kneale Mann people + priority = profit
leadership development business culture talent development human capital