Since 1997 he had paid £32 a month to one of the big Internet providers for his home broadband.
Not a big enough amount to bother about but eventually he succumbed to a free broadband offer from Sky.
He phoned his original provider to tell them he was leaving and they promptly offered him exactly the same service he’d been getting for £7 instead of £32 a month.
They expected him to be pleased. He wasn’t. He went with Sky and they lost him forever.
So here’s the skinny dear reader: it’s a good idea to treat your established clients like your new clients. If you don’t and they find out they’re probably going to be pissed with you.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My first sales mentor used to rub his hands together in glee when we had a problem with one of our clients. “Any fool can do it when it’s going well but only a real star can do it when it’s not” he would say. He was right.
I’m not saying you should go out with the intention of pissing your clients off - far from it but when a problem occurs why not use it to your advantage. Try this 7 stage approach to dealing with client problems: -
- If it’s a major problem get on site, if it isn’t get on the phone.
- Apologise first then dive straight in and understand what the problem actually is.
- Even if it’s not your fault don’t get into the blame game.
- Come up with a plan to put it right and get the client’s buy-in for it.
- Fix the problem.
- When problems occur client satisfaction always outranks profit!
- When it’s all sorted head back to the client and see how this can be avoided in the future.
Problems can cost you time and money but they needn’t dent your reputation. In fact they can significantly enhance it building your personal brand and helping you stand out from your competitors as you go. As my friend Graham Davenport always says “Usually after I’ve sorted a problem out I end up coming away with another order”. I bet you do Big G.
So next time the phone rings with an irate punter on the other end rub your hands together with glee and get stuck in!
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you’re in the circle it’s language. One lawyer talks to another; one sales person to another; one ballroom dancer to another – they use words that they understand and feel comfortable with; enjoy using even.
If you’re outside the circle it’s jargon. Lawyer to non-lawyer, sales person to client etc. – use the same words as before but the layman doesn’t understand them. You’ve crossed the jargon line.
We all do it; nobody’s immune. We use our language, our words and our acronyms when talking to somebody who is out of our circle and we shouldn’t. Communication is being understood not just being heard – we’re not communicating when we use jargon.
Want to avoid alienating, frustrating and angering the people who count? Make sure you stay this side of the jargon line.
Doesn’t matter what you buy a surly shop assistant will make the buying experience an unhappy one.
Even if your lawyer gets the result you want you won’t feel good about the deal if they constantly failed to return your calls.
The electrician may have fixed the problem but you’re unhappy because he left a mess behind him.
Your accountant did your books OK but she never smiled once during the whole time you were with her.
We can get good products and services anywhere these days but the thing that keeps us coming back for more and compels us to tell our friends they should do the same is based largely upon how the experience made us feel.
Just delivering the required result isn’t enough any more – the experience has to be fulfilling too.
How fulfilled do you leave your clients when you’ve done with them I wonder?
I have written about perceived indifference before but following a recent experience I wanted to explore it a little more.
Let me keep this one very brief: -
- We work very hard to win new clients
- We shower them with our attention
- After they have signed on the dotted line our attention is drawn towards the next target
- Sometimes we spend less and less time on our clients
- Perhaps we don’t listen as much as we used to
- Worse still we do less “little extras” that aren’t really necessary but the client appreciates
- We forget that strong relationships are built on making people feel important, appreciated and understood.
So what happens next? We learn that one of our clients has given a piece of business to one of our competitors. We’re angry and disappointed but we can’t see how this was our fault. Mmmmmm.
My advice is as follows: -
- Examine your client estate and make absolutely sure each and every member is being looked after in a way that will ensure their continued loyalty.
- Step up your game as required.
My family have always been fussy eaters but never more so than when they’re ordering steak. Mrs Ames likes it rare with a dash of French mustard; son #1 likes it rare but has to have a sauce on it; son #2 can’t eat it unless it is medium well done with a heavy sauce; daughter can only have plain steak but it has to be medium and me; the bluer the better.
So what, I hear you cry. Well just imagine an Ames family trip to a steak house and all of us being served identical steaks. Quel horreur! Chances are at least two of us would not be happy campers and so more likely to bad-mouth the restaurant or give the place next door a go next time we fancied some meaty comestibles.
Now consider how you serve your “steaks”. If you provide your offering in the same way to everybody you stand a real chance of letting somebody down; similar to a failed trip to the local steakhouse for the hungry Ames’s.
In fact the way in which a product or service is served up heavily influences which way the game goes: deliver what you sell in a way the client prefers and its one nil to you; the other way around and it’s a draw at best.
So what’s an honest broker like you supposed to do about this? Let’s go back to the restaurant for a second visit. The waiter delivers the menus, tells you about the specials then goes away again giving you time to decide. They don’t hassle you and they don’t try and shoe-horn into taking their choice.
A little later they return to answer any questions and take down every detail of your order; they don’t just write down “5 steaks”. This is the nub of it all really. After you have found out what your clients want press on and discover how they would like it delivered and then make a note of it. That’s why God invented customer relationship management systems!
Typically you should look at these 7 key areas: -
- Communication: how often, the method (face to face, telephone, email) and style (no-nonsense, relaxed, friendly).
- Intervention: do they want you to deliver and clear off or do they want you to continue to be involved after the sale even if it is to see how things are going on?
- Omissions: quite often people don’t want the full offering “I’ll take mine on brown and hold the onions”. BMW charge extra for this; cheeky little Bavarian devils!
- Customisation: moving one on from omissions give your clients some choices. The more bespoke you can make your offering the better it will fit and the more they will rave about it. Think Starbucks here; black coffee if you want it but if you want a customised cup of coffee you’ve gone to the right place.
- Driver or passenger: some people like you to drive the process by giving choices and expressing preferences others like to do it themselves. It is important to get this one right.
- Buying process: understanding what people have to go through in their own organisation when they want to buy something is crucial. You can quite often make the buying process much easier for them (and quicker for you) by understanding what “t’s” need to be crossed and “i’s” dotted.
- Interests: and finally what are they interested in both professionally and personally. The more you know of what they like the more you can tickle their individual fancies. This is probably the most important of all – get it right and your clients become one step away from being your friends after which everything changes.
So here’s the skinny on great customer care: it’s probably a good idea to understand your client’s needs and preferences, make a note of them and then aim to meet them every time you sell them something. Not really rocket science but since most people can’t be arsed to serve up anything other than “medium rare” just making the effort puts you ahead of the game.
Hello client loyalty, big revenues and client referrals; good bye indifference, serious competition and hard times.
So here they are; my top 10 TED videos and the reasons why you should check them out. Just on the off-chance that you don’t know what TED is it’s like YouTube for grown ups where the contributors are invited to contribute. Video clips tend to be less than 20 minutes and covering an eclectic mix of subjects – at home we often watch TED instead of the TV!
Read on if you want to be educated, inspired or just plain entertained. Beware though: TED can lead to addiction issues!!!!!!!
1. Steve Jobs – Stanford Address -
The inimitable Mr Jobs is speaking at a Stanford University graduation ceremony. He recounts three different parts of his life each offering at least one important message but beyond that these episodes provide a fascinating insight into what made the great man tick. Seriously it nearly moves me to tears every time I watch it.
2. Simon Sinek – why do people buy from you -
Sinek recounts some real-life examples (again one of them being Apple) of how people buy what you believe above all else. If you have to persuade people or sell to them as part of your job this brief clip WILL make a difference. I changed the way I present what I do after I watched it.
3. Sir Ken Robinson – Killing creativity -
I’ve seen Sir Ken speak live and he never fails to entertain, educate and perhaps most importantly make you contemplate. Here he is talking about creativity especially in kids but you can relate to what he says no matter what you do or how old you are. Particularly relevant if you have kids at school I might add.
4. Derek Sivers – Starting a movement -
Sivers narrates a video clip of somebody who starts an extraordinary movement at a pop festival, of all places, and then draws lessons that anybody who wants to be a wow on the internet will want to learn. Want to grow a community? Well check this out. Also it really is fascinating to watch the community form before your eyes.
5. Malcom Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce -
Ever wondered why some people prefer one product over another? Could this help you to promote your offering to better effect? I think so and the way Gladwell achieves it is by recounting how the perfect spaghetti sauce was developed; or not as the case may be.
6. Sheena Iyengar – How to make choices easier -
When I watched this clip for the first time I was struck by the simplicity of Iyengar’s argument: put some effort into the way you build features and choices into your offerings and the way you present them to your clients. Love it!
7. Niall Ferguson – the 6 killer apps of prosperity -
You may have seen the TV programme but either way this is a great talk which explores a) why the west was so successful in growing powerful and rich nations even though it started later than the east and b) why the east is now overtaking the west. Very thought-provoking and ingeniously presented by using the modern concept of Apps but for nations.
8. Nigel Marsh – how to make work-life balance work -
One of the biggest challenges we face in the modern world is getting balance in our lives: how much time for work; how much for our friends and families and how much special time do we need for ourselves? A relatively easy question to answer you’d think but if you can’t seem to get there (you’re definitely not alone if you can’t) then try this talk by Nigel Marsh for size.
9. Paul Gilding – the Earth is Full -
I don’t want to get into the whole green debate but wherever you stand on the subject this talk will certainly make you think. Gilding avoids the easy targets of lonely polar bears, shrinking icecaps and unusual weather patterns and comes from an angle that even made me sit up and think. If you watch it do so with an open mind – the logic behind his arguments is sound and irrefutable.
10. Cat vs Washing machine -
OK so this isn’t a TED video; I’ve watched it a hundred times and it makes me laugh every single time so go on, cheer yourself up and watch the cat who’s left his iPhone in his jeans which are now in his washing machine. One of many TRANSLATION vids by Chris Cohen.
So there you have it; my very favourite TED videos but I’m sure you’ve got loads others so please add your favourites as comments so others can share.
Vive le TED!!!
Why does anybody swap suppliers? Sometimes it’s because there is a cheaper alternative but mostly it isn’t. Would you swap dentists because a cheaper one set up next door? Unlikely. In reality people keep the status quo and only move on for a reason and in most cases whether they stay or go is up to you.
Here are three of the most popular causes for client departures: -
- “Perceived indifference” - the client thinks you don’t care any more even though you do. They feel neglected and can only look back with wistful fondness to the days when you were courting them and couldn’t do enough for them. They just want to be loved and cared for but sadly you’re just not hitting the spot any more.
- Poor quality – you simply aren’t delivering the quality they expect for the money they’re paying and because of point 1 above you don’t even know it. Regardless of the product or service you offer great quality is the best form of protection you can get.
- Knock-out deal - one of your competitors has a brain-wave and comes up with a new and innovative product that totally blows your client away. Sometimes this innovation can lower the price but keep the quality; sometimes the price is irrelevant.
So how can you make sure your clients don’t wander off and misbehave with the competition?
- Treat your clients like your friends – contact them often and not always about work, shoot the breeze with them, show you appreciate them rather than just tell them, make them laugh, surprise them, listen to what they have to say, be there for them and take an interest in them as people not just as a source of revenue.
- Never become complacent with your quality - treat complaints as a way to improve and not a nuisance to be side-stepped, genuinely ask people what they think (avoid questionnaires), hunt down poor quality and deal with it at source and never accept “it’ll do” as an answer.
- Make time to innovate – if you’re running at 100 mph you can only just manage to keep on top of your BAU let alone come up with great new innovations. Watch, listen, ask and think before gathering some of your key support team together and asking them “so what does the future look like?” Full heads means full diaries and full diaries mean no head-space for creativity.
Simples innit? Treat your clients as you would treat your friends and never become complacent and your client estate will only grow and, as a nice bonus, you’ll get more client referrals than you know what to do with!
Image courtesy of PinkBlue / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“You’re simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I’ve ever met” warbled Tina Turner a long time ago. But, had she been singing about businesses she would have been leading us all up the wrong path.
Think about it. This obsession we have to be the best at whatever we do is just not possible because it implies that the rules are the same and so are the ways we measure “best” like runners competing in the 100m sprint. Whilst the rules and the measurement are the same for all competitors (start at the same time and first through the tape is the best) in business this is just not the case.
Let’s explore this a little further. I asked my son who his favourite actor was and his response was no real surprise “do you mean comedy or action dad?” in other words “best” depended upon context. Added to that when I asked my daughter the same question she provided a different list of names to my son. Personal preference can also affect “best” just as much as context.
So supposing you wanted to be the best window cleaner in the land. To some people this would mean the cheapest, others it would be the most thorough whilst another set might be looking for those added extras like washing down the paintwork at the same time you clean the glass. Each group of customers would measure your performance according to what was important to them.
Now here’s the dangerous part: trying to be the best at whatever you do is almost certainly likely to be based upon what you think rather than what your clients think. This means there is a very strong possibility that your version of “best” may not be their version. Result: unhappy clients and a disappointed you. In business the only thing that matters is what your clients think.
So what can you do? Well the really successful organisations do three things: -
- They have a very clear idea of who their target market are. Whilst they recognise they can’t satisfy everyone they don’t care as long as this group has their needs met or, better still, surpassed.
- They focus all their energy on finding out what the needs and preferences of these people are and they shape their offering and the way they deliver it to entirely meet those needs.
- They are constantly reassessing what their market needs and how well they are satisfying them – complacency is a stealthy killer.
Well there you have it dear reader. Trying to be the best for too wider group of people will almost certainly result in you providing an average service to all of them. Why not focus upon a smaller and more defined target group; take some time to understand what they want and how they want it delivered to them (the best according to them) and then continually strive to deliver. Greatness beckons I think.
As it turns out Tina Turner has done that for her audience for many years with enduring success and long may she continue to do so.
I have this habit. When I’m presenting I almost always make use of a flip-chart but from experience I always remember to check the pens before the start of play (draw a line across the top of the paper; firm line – good pen). Any that are no good I throw away; a great habit to have, I feel.
You would be amazed at how many people don’t do this, they just put it down and leave it for the next person to pick up. Is it suddenly going to regenerate like a pen version of Dr Who? I think not.
Some problems we encounter take time and trouble to put right but many do not. Throwing out useless pens, picking up litter, putting a cup into the dishwasher or reporting a broken lightbulb takes no time at all but if enough people make the effort the effect is noticeable.
I believe that if you see something that isn’t right either fix it yourself or tell somebody and get them to fix it. If it’s my job or it’s easy (think pens) it’s the former otherwise it’s the latter.
On a different tack my favourite Dr Who is still Tom Baker – who’s yours?