Monday, May 23, 2011

Legendary Customer Service

I recently enjoyed dinner with my wife, one of our sons, and my mother at a well-known restaurant. I hadn’t been there before, even though the chain has opened a number of locations in our area. I enjoyed the experience. The people were great, as was the food.

During our meal, one of the managers dropped by our table to see how things were going and left a quarter-page sheet for me to complete to let them know how they did in serving us, as well as providing me with an opportunity to sign up on their email list. I completed both portions.

On each of the service and product questions, I was able to choose from a number of levels as my response including the highest level, “Legendary.” I have to admit, as much as I liked the experience, none of it fell into the “legendary” category for me; but it got me thinking…what constitutes legendary service?

I was reminded of a story I’ve heard on numerous occasions about a man who returned some used automobile tires to a Nordstrom store and promptly got a refund, even though Nordstrom does not sell tires--illustrating the store’s commitment to an unmatched client experience. The story comes in a variety of flavors with the details shifting to meet the storyteller’s style, but the basic premise is always the same.

Being one who is careful to identify potential legends as such, I checked out Snopes before writing this, and sure enough, there’s a lengthy entry on this story. No surprise there. If you’d like to read it, you can see it here. I won’t tell you what it has to say. You’ll probably be as surprised as I was to discover the story surrounding the story if you choose to read it.

My point today isn’t whether that story is true, but that it has gained legendary status. There are plenty of other such stories out there about other companies as well. And, perhaps on much smaller scales, there may be stories about us and our companies floating around our marketplaces.

Everyone loves a memorable story of superior client service. We hear them. We usually believe them because they paint a picture of something we would all like to experience. Then we turn around and tell them again to a new audience. This process repeats just as it did many times before we heard the story, and just as it will many more times after we’ve passed it on. Whether it is true or not, the hero in the story still wins.

I’m not suggesting making up stories to tell about our businesses in an effort to attempt to become legendary. That clearly won’t work. What I am suggesting, however, is that when we strive legitimately to be everything we should be for our audiences, stories--factual and embellished--have the opportunity to be formed, shared, and retold by our audiences.

What do we do that is, or could be, legendary in serving our audiences? Are we sincere about it? Does it bring value to those who follow us? You’re smiling just thinking about the possibilities. I know you are.

Get your team together and share your vision. Get their input. Then become infectious with your pursuit of the unmatched client experience. And if you feel so inclined, please share your experiences and knowledge in this arena with us below. Thank you.

Here’s to your legendary success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Companies’ Customer and Client Experiences

We’d all like to believe we have laid out and perfected the client experience for everyone from those who just heard about us for the first time to those who have been doing business with us for years. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. Not for any of us.

Where is the experience strong for our clients? Where do we fall down? This is an area of our businesses we should look at regularly. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

1. We must realize we are not our clients. What you or I want does not necessarily reflect what our audiences want. I’ve even had businesses that sold products and services I don’t personally use. That doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t. It’s the audience’s needs that matter, not mine.

2. Ask our clients how we measure up. A great place to begin our journey to a superior client experience is to ask our clients how we’re doing. How could their experiences with us be even better?

3. Look at our competitors. What are they doing well? Where do they fall short? What opportunities are our because of these realities?

4. Engage the assistance of some trusted advocates. Members of our marketing teams, or other advocates, who our employees don’t know can be assets to us in the form of secret shoppers or similar prospects or clients. Have them test the waters. Ask them to be a little less than model clients and see how employees manage their requests or attitudes. This can be very insightful.

These are just a few ideas. Gather your marketing team or get with some trusted peers from other businesses and explore the ways you can take a look into the experience your clients are having with your company. These insider peeks may be very useful to you in enhancing your clients’ experience.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, May 9, 2011

Get OUT! You heard me...

Years ago as I was just beginning to build my network and my business, I found myself often sitting behind my desk in my nice office shuffling papers, looking busy, and getting nothing meaningful accomplished. In retrospect, I realize I was unsure of myself and, therefore, a little fearful of misstepping.

I now realize that sitting behind a desk gets little done in the way of building a business. Yes, we need to spend time on our computers for various reasons. We need to make phone calls. And some of that can be done from behind a desk. But most of the real work that takes us to new highs is done when we stand up and get out of our offices, stores, and comfort zones.

Whether the best use of our time is seeing customers or clients face-to-face, networking to meet new people, setting up joint-ventures with our peers, creating new products and services to offer, or just about any other high level growth activity, very little of it will likely happen from behind a desk.

So let’s get up, and GET OUT. We’ll make meaningful appointments with people who can truly help us accomplish our goals, whoever they may be. This week we’ll attend at least one event that allows us to meet people outside our existing network. After all, we’re hubs in our respective spheres of influence. We have to be out there!

And when there isn’t a scheduled reason to get out of the building and we need some fresh perspective, we can always simply get out by taking a walk, clearing our minds, and looking around us for triggers to our next big idea.

So truly—get out! You heard me…

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stop. Start. Continue.

I’m going to share a wildly simple, yet amazingly effective, thought with you today. It’s something I’ve seen a number of places over the years, and used with great results. Despite my efforts to find its true origin so I can give proper credit, I haven’t been able to find its verified genesis.

It’s a three step analysis process that goes like this:

STOP ineffective activities
START activities that may be beneficial
CONTINUE activities that are producing benefit

Granted the verbiage following the initial verbs in each case is mine (and I’ve seen a number of variations out there), but the Stop/Start/Continue concept carries through all the variations I’ve seen. Let’s apply this to marketing for a moment.

Too often, we see business owners continuing to invest time and money in marketing activities that are not producing profitable results. Why do we continue with these activities? Stop them, and invest resources elsewhere.

Next, we can’t know what is going to work in our specific situation unless we try new things, so we need to start activities that may be beneficial. Taking this step in test mode will prove beneficial so we don’t misstep on a grand scale and miss our mark. Consistently testing new marketing strategies and tactics is a hallmark of true marketers.

Here’s the one that surprises me often: amid failed marketing campaigns and other activities that have not worked as desired, a business owner will land on an approach that works--something that makes real money--only to abandon it before it runs its course. Isn't that strange how we work so hard to find a silver bullet, then get too busy to use it to its full advantage? If a marketing strategy, vehicle, or other activity is working, continue using it! Tweak it when results begin to fade to see if there is new life in an altered version of it. Don’t walk away from something that is working.

This may sound painfully obvious, but we all do it. We all get busy or distracted and fail to continue the very activity that would continue to bring us the success we’re seeking if we simply kept kicking it along.

Gather your team and take this assessment. What can you STOP doing that will preserve precious resources? What can you START doing that may bring new business or other desired success your way? What are you currently doing that you can CONTINUE doing to meet your goals? Also consider what has worked in the past that might be brought to the forefront once again, this time not to be forgotten about or abandoned prematurely.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope