Designing Strategies: The Blog
I’ve been involved in ‘discussions’ in several different Groups on LinkedIn recently. In every case, conversations eventually got around to the need for better customer experiences for business success. This is so true in the relationship environment we are doing business in today. Expectations are higher than ever. Customers expect more than what used to be called ‘customer service’ — everyone claims to be great at it, but very few stand out. Most are just sorely lacking.
I recently returned from a trip to Tucson, AZ where I presented a program on Designing for the Generations. The ASID chapter I spoke to was very hospitable and the weather was far better there than here in Ohio at the time. Seeing old friends, sharing information to help colleagues succeed, and good weather. What more could one ask for? That part of the trip was memorable.
Exceptional customer experiences always top my list of expectations, no matter where I am. Arizona was no exception. Anyone who has traveled by air lately probably holds a similar low level of expectations with airlines and airports. As usual, they lived up to… or maybe down to is a much better description… my expectations. As seems to be the expected standard these days in air travel, our flight was delayed coming out of Chicago, putting us into Tucson later than planned.
Exceptional customer service awaited us at the DoubleTree Inn at Reid Park in Tucson, AZ. Our experience started off as a somewhat rocky relationship. When we arrived late due to an airline delay…. room confirmation in hand… we were told they were overbooked and had no room for us. One thing typical for me when traveling all day is that I will arrive tired and more than a little bit cranky. Hearing we had no room was not a good start to our relationship.
With a reasonable solution ready, Double Tree staff transported us to a nearby hotel for the night. (Interesting story there, when our bathroom overflowed in the middle of the night, but…). Sending us off to another hotel…fully comped by Double Tree… with the promise of picking us up in the morning, bringin us back to their establishment, and treating us to breakfast went a long way to soothe the savage travel beast in me.
As promised, we were retrieved the next day, taken back to the Double Tree where the manager treated us to a fabulous Sunday brunch. We were installed in a premium room on the 8th floor with a great view of the pool below. Throughout out stay, we were on a first name basis with a number of their staff who went out of their way to assure our every need was met. Every time we walked through the lobby, someone on staff greated us by name and asked if they could do anything for us. If we had no specific plans made for the day, they were anxious to make reccomendations of things not to miss.
I’m not sure if it was by plan or just coincidence, but every time we ate at the hotel restaurant, we ended up at the same table, served by the same waitress, Lucy. By our second visit, she knew what both my husband and I would be drinking and kept our cups full. Our final day at the hotel, my husband went down to breakfast, leaving me to do last minute preparations for my program. He came back to our room bearing gifts… Lucy had sent back breakfast for me! What’s not to like about this level of customer experience? Shortly before leaving Tucson to drive up to Phoenix, we even got ‘good-bye’ hugs from Lucy, “our” waitress, in the corridor outside the room where I was speaking.
Do you suppose any of this was by accident? Not a chance. Exceptional customer experiences are never accidents, they are well developed strategies to please customers and turn them into brand ambassadors. Double Tree refers to their customer experience strategy as its Culture of Care. “ At DoubleTree by Hilton™, every little thing we do adds up to Create A Rewarding Experience for our guests (CARE).” This kind of strategic effort is well worth the time and investment it takes to make customers remember you and your establishment. Like me, others who experience this same attention will tell friends and colleagues. And, they will come back, over and over again.
Oh, and the chocolate chip cookies…how could I forget the warm, freshly baked cookies every day?!?
What’s your company customer experience strategy? You have one, right? It is important enough to take a significant piece of your web site real estate to promote. This is one of the last areas of differentiation between you and competitors.
Don’t keep it a secret, share with us below in the Comments section.
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Positioning your company as unreal, rather than real, can be better way of conveying a strong image to customers. How many times have you heard someone walk away from an exceptional place or experience saying that it was “Totally unreal!”? It’s always a positive comment. It shows that it was somehow so much better or different than similar experiences. Those are the kind of comments you want customers taking out your front door and sharing with others.
I was scanning my Facebook Fan Page recently over a hot cup of tea when I came across the following post by followers Shuttersandco in Scottsdale, Arizona. Let me be clear that I am not picking on them or trying to embarrass them. This kind of situation happens all the time. their post read:
“Samples are here and display units come next week! We’re starting to look like a real showroom!”
I hit ‘Like’ and was ready to post a congratulatory comment when I stopped dead in my tracks. “Wait a minute…” my out of control brain screamed. What is a real showroom? Other than having an unreal showroom, or perhaps a virtual, e-commerce showroom, what other types could there be? Therein lies the issue.
Referring to your showroom, office, or retail location as a real anything suggests on a subliminal level that there is some level of standardization of facilities for businesses like yours. And, it suggests that you are not at that real stage yet, but it’s coming. But, how will they know when that might be? I’m sure that isn’t what you really want; to be just like all of your competitors. Or, worse yet, to have people interested in your products and services wait a while until you become real? I’d want them to come right in my door or call on the phone immediately, not go else where or be on hold. They might well not come back when you are ready or real.
If that is the route you choose for your business, you are making a number of other decisions at the same time:
- I want to do everything ‘just like the other kids do’ — that would be your competition.
- I want to look like everyone else in my industry — again, with the competitors.
- I want to hide and blend in with everyone else — I don’t want my company to stand out at all.
- I want to limit my product lines and services — who needs to have anything unique that others don’t have?
- I want to join a price war with my competitors – there isn’t any other concept or level that can I compete on.
The whole purpose of developing a brand for your company is to make it stand out from competitors. A brand is a promise of what customers can expect from you and your business that is different from others they might consider. Your brand tells people who you are as a company – or as an individual in businsss, what you do, other than the basics that everyone else provides, and most importantly, why they should sign on the line for your products and services.
Who will bother telling anyone else that your business is just like any other? People talk about things that are different. They talk about things that are unique and exceptional. That’s what you want them telling others about you and your company. Develop strategies today to help you become that unreal business in your town and in your industry that everyone is talking about. Stand out from the crowd. Be recognized and grow. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time’s a wasting.
What have you done recently to make your company stand out in your competitive marketplace?
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I was reading an article written by Jim Clinton, CEO at Gallup. The title of the article was: “America is Losing Jobs by Ignoring Its Best Trading Partners.” The article discussed how the we spend so much time focused on Russia, China and the Middle East, all of which are very small players in the GDP here in the United States. The article went on to say that Mexico and South America are much better friends to us and represent a much larger piece of our GDP and therefore, our economic situation.
“So what?” you might ask. “What does that have to do with my business?” It was a paragraph near the end that caught my attention and brought this all down a more personal business level for me. If you and I spent all of our time with our smallest, least profitable, worst customers and barely spoke with or celebrated our biggest customers — the ones that fund our businesses — it would not be a very good way to run a company.
How often do you find yourself running around in circles to serve one of your less important customers while ignoring your bigger, more loyal and profitable ones? This clearly is not the way to stay in business, allocating your valuable time and efforts to what will be a low profit endeavor.
It’s time to start focusing on the right customers – those who will keep your doors open. Take some time to categorize your customers into A, B and C categories. Put all the great clients in to Category A. Those are the ones you know you achieve higher profits from, while spending less of your resources. Then, put those clients you think can become A customers with a little effort into Category B. Category C is the remaining group of low profit, high cost customers that you would do better without. Don’t waste another day, hour or minute on customers who are not adding to the stability and success of your company.
Set some strategies right now to pamper those A customers and let them know they are valuable to your business. Show them that you appreciate them. Then, create strategies for moving those B customers up into your A category. Finally… or perhaps this should be done first… decide how to get rid of the Category C, low profit, high maintenance customers. You needn’t be rude about it. Suggest that due to your busy schedule, you will be unavailable to work with them. Recommend them to another account representative or colleague who is building a client list, or someone new in your field that can meet their needs.
All businesses have limited resources: human resources, time, materials and funding. Efficient use of each one is critical to your company’s stability and success.
What do you do to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to your customer base? Share your thoughts in the Comments box below.
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Twitter is one of the top social media platforms on the Internet today. They have around 640 million existing accounts with about 72 million active participants. People join Twitter for any number of reasons. “Everybody else is doing it.” Don’t try that one on your mother. Uber-geeks might join because: “I like to build relationships using 140 or less characters.” Others, with more of a stalker-like mind set may just join so they can ‘Follow’ people. A lot of us business types join to use Twitter as one of our on-line marketing channels, where we can focus on targeted audiences who might be interested in our products or services. Each social media platform has it’s own rules and guidelines, norms and behavioral expectations. Below are several things you should NOT do on Twitter.
1) Do NOT force your schedule on people you want to follow.
If you use one of the automated applications like TweetAdder to find people to follow, do not assume they work on the same schedule for Twitter or their other social media platforms that you or your automated system do. Some automated ‘connector’ services have a default of only 2 or 3 days during which a person can accept your invitation before you ‘Unfollow’ them. Some Tweeple won’t be logged in when your invitation hits their Inbox, and will find themselves abruptly ‘Unfollowed’ before ever having a chance to ‘Follow’ you back.
As the saying goes: “How rude!” If you wanted to connect with them on Day One or Day Two, why are you changing your mind and unfollowing them on Day Three or Day Four because they haven’t had time to respond? Taking this approach won’t win you points or warm, fuzzy feelings. Also, don’t Follow someone just to get them to follow you back, just to ‘Unfollow’ them once they are added to your numbers. Again, “How rude!” Certainly not sociable or a way to keep and develop followers who might one day become customers.
2) Do NOT spam your followers.
Unless you tell people before they accept your invitation to ‘Follow’ you that spamming is your Twitter strategy, you can expect to be ‘Unfollowed’ quickly. If all Followers can expect from your postings is a repetition of your sales pitch, they won’t be around very long. Certainly posting a sales pitch or special offer from time to time is acceptable. But, when all, or a majority of your postings fall into this category of Tweets, it will get you ‘Unfollowed’ in a heartbeat. Use a ratio of around 80/20 for postings vs. sales pitches. Twitter is a social media platform, not a direct sales tool.
3) Do NOT be boring.
Don’t develop only one or two messages (sales pitches) that you rotate over and over and over again with a link to the same video or whitepaper sales piece. This is another sure-fire way to get ‘Unfollowed’ quickly. It will only take a day or two for new Followers to figure out that you’re boring and not at all interested in sharing interesting information or developing a relationship.
4) Do NOT make Twitter your on-line catalog.
Nothing is more annoying than logging in to Twitter, hoping to connect with your favorite Tweeple, share some information or learn something new, only to find your timeline clogged with a dozen or more individual items for sale from the same person. Post one or two at most with a link to your web site where those who are interested can find the rest of your offerings. Who wants to send valuable time clicking a ridiculous number of links to see each individual piece you have on your web site?
People join Twitter to meet people, not to buy something in 140 characters or less. Twitter is a platform for meeting new people, connecting and developing relationships. Hopefully, at least some of your Twitter contacts will turn into customers. If you do your job right and build relationships, people will find your web site, read your blog and maybe even purchase something once they get to know you and how you do business. Taking up too much of their Twitter real estate with sales pitches will get you ‘Unfollowed’ for sure. You are only one of their connections. Why should 50% of their timeline be devoted to your sales campaigns?
Give your Twitter relationships a chance to develop before you hit sales mode. An automated ‘Thanks for Following’ message immediately directing new followers to your sales video or whitepaper pushing your product or services does nothing to begin developing a business relationship. Why try to sell a total stranger something you have no idea if they need it or are interested in it? Even in a brick and mortar store, the savvy business owner will greet a potential customer with something along the lines of: “Hello. How are you today? How can I help you?” Remember the adage: “People do business with people they know, like and trust.” None of the Twitter strategies above will garner any level of real connection, much less build trust or a desire to do business with you.
How about you? Have you experienced other annoying behavior from tweeple you’ve met on Twitter? Please share them with us below. If you want to connect on Twitter and develop a relationship that could benefit both of us, you can find me at @tlmaurer. Love to meet you there.
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I just finished reading a great article in Fast Company about how making very minor changes within your company can transform it’s culture and change its direction and success. All it takes is one or two small changes in behavior. Lisa Earle McLeod, the author, related a story about her family delivering their college-aged daughter to Boston University to begin her college experience.
While standing at one of those large public maps of the campus – probably with confused looks on their faces – they were soon approached by no one less than a dean of the university. He introduced himself, asked where they were from, then pleasantly offered assistance in finding the location they were seeking on campus. That was it. That one simple behavior made an important impact on their ‘customers’.
It was more than just a senior staff member being polite, his actions were a univerity policy. It was not just an opportunity for the university to help guide that student’s first steps toward their advanced education. BU takes this minor action very seriously. It is actually a fireable offense for anyone who walks by someone looking at one of the maps around campus and fails to offer assistance . They feel it reinforces their purpose: getting students ready to become part of an interconnected world.
What can you do in your company that is minor – something that takes less than a minute to accomplish – that would make a difference to your customers or potential customers? How about just stepping outside to invite inside anyone pausing to look at something in the window of your shop, studio or showroom? How many customers could you actually get inside by walking out and telling them you have a larger selection of the items they are looking at inside the store? Perhaps you could offer them a brochure with more information on the item in the window. How about just greeting visitors to your location with a positive, inspiring statement like: “Hello, how can we improve your life today?”
Think of a simple step or two to change how customers perceive your company in a postivie way. It will only take one or two experiences with you before they start talking about your company, how different it is, or what a pleasant experience they had. It won’t take them long to realize that your competitors don’t do the same things or take an interest in them before they are actually customers. Being nice costs absolutely nothing. Being helpful doesn’t cost anything either. Start thinking of how you can quickly and simply transform your company into one people want to do business with, then just do it.
What simple things have you done to improve your company in the mind of a customer? Please share your ideas with us below.