Archive for the ‘Customers’ Category

Welcome Aboard

planecrash2Earlier this month a new “free” 360 review service was launched. Its a DIY, no service, no support, one-size-fits-all product which comes with no advice on how get any value out of the reports. This scenario is a classic case of ‘You get what you pay for.’

How many people would be willing to fly on an airplane that had not been safety checked, had an unqualified pilot in the cockpit, no cabin crew and no baggage handling staff – even if it was absolutely free?

Yet somehow, there are still those who would rather save a few pounds than make a solid investment in their people.

Hard to understand.

The Gift of Effective Feedback Part 2

Recently, I wrote about how seasonal ‘giving’ relates to an important gift that that we can make part of our day-to-day lives – effective feedback – and invited you to share your experiences. I’d like to thank everyone who sent in responses, and pass on some tips.

The first reply that caught my eye was from Shamus Doherty, who gives us all a reminder that feedback is a two-way street: "When giving feedback make sure the other party is willing to listen, otherwise there could be tears at bedtime." Good point, Shamus! Even feedback delivered with the best intentions can be counterproductive if given at the wrong time. But remember that uncomfortable, or even unwanted, feedback can be some of the most useful. As Binh Zientek writes: "Painful as feedback can be at times, I have always tried to listen to constructive ones and have always improved personally and professionally because of them. I also thank the other person for their feedback."

A formal feedback exercise can help take some of the pressure out the exercise, but it still requires some thought to get the most out of it. If you’ve been invited to give feedback, either in person or as part of a formal process (for example an appraisal or a 360 review), here are a few tips:

  • Give clear, honest feedback – comment on aspects of specific behaviour. Often the person requesting feedback is not aware of how their behaviour affects others. You may be able to highlight and reinforce certain positive and helpful characteristics. Equally, your feedback may clarify the reasons why it would be a good idea for them to make some changes.
  • Be constructive – it isn’t helpful to comment on things they cannot change, or to write feedback in a thoughtless way. If carelessly worded, at best, your comments could be dismissed – at worst, they may be damaging.
  • Think informally – be respectful, but not deferential; rather than focusing on your relative positions within the organisation, concentrate instead on the impact of the recipient’s actions.
  • Treat the request responsibly – don’t let personal quibbles or a bad day have an impact on the feedback you give. Give yourself time to do the review properly. If you want to have a look at the questions first and think about them before responding, log in to the questionnaire, but log out without submitting a response (once the review has been submitted, it cannot be re-done). When you are ready to complete the review, give the task your full attention.
  • Finally, remember that by giving good feedback, you are helping a colleague improve their performance. Ultimately, this benefits all members of the team.

I’ll leave you with a great response from Steve Pendray of ProCustomer, a Reputation Marketing company. When talking about his experience of 360 degree feedback, Steve’s comment was: " I realised that I now had a solid foundation on which to base my personal development. I would say that it was the most useful development tool I have ever used." He goes on to say, "Feedback for a business is a bit like going to the gym – you know it can be painful, but it’s also good for you. You pay the subscription with eagerness but, having joined, you can find 1001 excuses for not actually going."

Well said, Steve. The message here is if you take the task seriously and follow through with the exercise, then you reap the rewards!

The Female Brain

Andrea Learned writes about a newly published book on the female brain. The gender difference has been the focus of an increasing array of books, blogs, training programmes and conversations in the corporate world over the past decade.

The Female Brain covers aspects of development from puberty onward and, as such, isn’t specifically a business book. But it does talk about female buying behaviour. Reading the Amazon reviews I found a comment on the reason there are fewer females than males in scientific roles. (Hint: women have more affinity with roles that include a high degree of communication. Science-based jobs are more likely to be solitary)

Female working styles and buying patterns are clearly important topics for business. Diversity has become much more than just a buzz word these days. It isn’t just the subject of a good moan about senior management, it isn’t just an excuse for a training day out of the office, and it isn’t just about the glass ceiling.

We were recently asked to develop a Diversity Culture assessment to measure cross-gender attitudes and working relations. It has been commissioned and piloted by a major high street bank (which means this subject is being taken seriously by people who are serious about business). Ultimately, it will be companies like this that gain market share – not only because they are conscious of having to create a culture where women feel valued as employees.  If they recognise the key part women play in managing their business, they will have greater retention of women as employees and also as customers.

But this is just my view. If you’re interested in finding out more about women at work, the people to talk to are Eve-olution Ltd – our partners in developing the Diversity Culture assessment.

The Experience Counts

Tom Peters talks about customer service and the ‘experience economy’. His point that ‘Experience is the last 80%’ underpins the value of customer service when it comes to the success of a product or service. The days when a sound product was enough to ensure a company’s success are long gone. That’s just not enough in today’s market. These days, the phrase, “experience counts” is still true – but we’re looking for more than just expertise. You have to add one very short, but absolutely critical word – THE experience counts.

The formula for The Customer Experience is simple – but not always easy to achieve. Expertise + Great Attitude = Superlative Customer Service. Both elements are critical, but the one that seems more difficult to achieve is the right attitude.

Tom Peters also talks about the US supermarket group, Whole Foods Market. Their philosophy on customer service goes like this:

“We go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy and delight our customers. We want to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping trip. We know that by doing so we turn customers into advocates for our business. Advocates do more than shop with us, they talk about Whole Foods to their friends and others. We want to serve our customers competently, efficiently, knowledgeably and with flair.”

How can they fail to impress if they live up to that statement?

I started thinking about how we stack up on that front. Our customers have stayed with us from our first year of business. We get great feedback on the level of support we provide. We even have clients who tell us how much they like working with us. But, do we do it with ‘flair’? Are we creating advocates for our business?
Our entire business is built on the principle of continuous improvement. From now on we’ll be evaluating out customer service regularly to make sure we’re exceeding customer expectations as often as possible in the pursuit of creating advocates.

There is another aspect of this subject that comes to mind. How do your partnerships and associations affect the quality of your customers’ experiences?

I recall a conversation about two companies who had reached the shortlist of potential service suppliers by means of the fact that they had both “dropped their price significantly” in order to get the business. For some reason the buyer didn’t wonder whether a company prepared to halve their price in order to gain a small amount of business would still be around next year. Even more of a concern was the question of what level of service they would provide their clients and whether it really was worth compromising those relationships for the sake of cutting costs. If the customer experience is the all important differentiator in business today, we all need to be making certain that our customers get superb service from our own team and any associates of partners who are going to represent us.

It’s worth asking: How would your customers describe the experience of doing business with you and your partners?