Thanksgiving is this week in the United States. People get together with friends and family to share the bounty of the season. It is a good time to reflect on what we are thankful for both personally and professionally and express our gratitude. What are you thankful for?
As we walked to our cars after Zumba, Pam spoke about what a great class it was. The instructor is always upbeat and has such tremendous enthusiasm and joy for what she does. So much so, that it becomes infectious for those taking the class. I agreed. I always have a great time and get a great workout. But, there are a few moves I just don’t have down yet. Pam agreed. That’s when she said, “I feel like I can.”
She went on to say that the whole experience is so uplifting that even though she doesn’t have all the moves down, the instructor creates an environment that makes her believe that she can, and even feels like she does. Wow! Can you imagine that customer experience everywhere you go? The experience is so welcoming and inclusive that your perception of the experience is an 11 out of 10. How are you creating that experience for your customers and your team?
He parks his truck on the same overpass. Always dressed in Seattle Seahawks garb, he waves a “12” flag taller than him back and forth, periodically stopping to wave at the cars that drive by below. He has been there on and off for years, his dedication to his team never wavering. He clearly epitomizes the fan that the Seahawks retired the number 12 to recognize.
Can you imagine if you had this type of fan singing your praises not just to everyone he knows, but also to everyone that passes by? People tell others about their experiences, good and bad. How are you creating dedicated fans that sing your praises to everyone they know?
Field trips were an amazing part of growing up. Living in Southern California, we went to the La Brea Tar Pits and Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. La Brea Tar Pits gave a perspective of dinosaurs and the like. While on paper it seems strange to visit a cemetery for a field trip, Forest Lawn back then had an amazing exhibit on US history. Being able to see history put it into context, at least as much as you can without a time machine, took the learning to a different level. Trips as I got older took me to Checkpoint Charlie and Auschwitz during the cold war. An experience that cannot be had from books. Seeing something in real life gives context. The same is true in leadership. Walking around a facility, talking to the people, visiting customers gives an unfiltered, contextual experience. It is one that is critical to really understanding your business, your customers and your people. How are you making field trips into your business on a daily basis?
It was 5:30 in the morning. Light enough to see clearly, but not yet at the point where the sun had fully emerged. My dog was quiet in the backyard. When I looked out to see what she was doing, I was surprised. She wasn’t sitting on her normal spot on the deck. She was locked in a standoff with an opossum. There they sat for twenty minutes, staring, not moving, undistracted by anything else going on around them. They were at an impasse.
How often do you find yourself in an impasse in business? It could be with a customer, different departments within your organization, or between individuals. Many times the resolution is either a loss of business, or one party being happy with the result and the other disappointed. The key to resolving the impasse is finding the motivating factor for each party, not what was initially asked for. It is possible to break through an impasse and find a win/win situation. How are you breaking through your impasse? And more importantly, what approaches are you putting in place to ensure you don’t wind up in an impasse again?
If you have a hiccup in service, this is the way to make a raving fan. We all know traveling isn’t what it used to be, breathing a sigh of relief upon arriving at the final destination. This time, the adventures weren’t quite over when I arrived ready to check in at 4:30. The receptionist advised me that my room wasn’t ready yet and would be in about an hour. Without any prompt or comment from me, she offered to buy me a cocktail in the bar for my inconvenience. By 5:00 my salad from lunch had worn off and I decided to have a few oysters to go along with my champagne. Not a bad way to pass the time. 6:00 rolled around and my room was ready. I stood up, asking the bartender for the check, expecting to pay for the oysters, etc. He said it was all taken care of. At the Four Seasons San Francisco, they know how to deliver top end service and turn what could be a frustrating situation into a pleasant one, creating a raving fan.
Service interruptions happen for one reason or another. Many times the response from the person delivering the bad news is “it’s not my fault” that you are not getting the service expected. And it is not. But the person on the receiving end doesn’t care whose fault it is, They just want what they believe they paid for. That is where the company has the ability make either a raving fan or a disgruntled customer. People on the front line have a tough job. Giving them the training, flexibility and authority to create a good experience is what differentiates companies with good customer experiences from those that you see in the news or on social media. How are you empowering your people to create raving fans?
You’ve seen it. More than once, maybe everyday. Today, I observed it twice. The car sitting on the shoulder between the lanes of traffic and the off ramp with a flustered driver behind the wheel trying to figure out how they are going to merge into traffic at freeway speed from a dead stop. Rather than taking the next exit and circling back, the driver made the decision to create two hazards – one by slowing down quickly to get to the shoulder, and the second to re-enter traffic suddenly, many times without a turn signal. In both cases, it requires others to be observant and adjust quickly to avoid an accident.
Being clear about your purpose and objectives in business indicates to your investors, customers and people what you are about and how you will behave. They know you will innovate and create value. They may not know the exact details, but they know they will be delighted. There is no erratic behavior. There are no missed turns that create hazards for others. There is consistent excellence. How are you creating consistent excellence in your business?
I was recently speaking with a neighbor about a local grocery store. It is a fantastic store, has a massive produce section, high quality foods, etc. She agreed with my perspective of the store. Her next comment though, differed from mine. She said it is really expensive. That wasn’t my experience. It wasn’t just a factor of family size. It was the foods we buy. For some items like fruits and vegetables, the quality and pricing is the best around. But in other areas, the pricing is higher than at other stores. There are a number of reasons for that like quality, but just on its face, the pricing is higher. It was apparent that how we experience and use the store is very different. Both perspectives were true based on how we shop.
In the business world, it is easy to dismiss perspectives as true or not without understanding what is driving the perspectives. Whether it is employees, customers or suppliers, each will have a different perspective based on the environment, how products or services are used, and daily interactions. The trick is to understand what is driving the perspectives and if that aligns with that is the experience you want people to have. How are you getting feedback on varying perspectives and making course corrections if needed?
Yes, I’m a bit old fashioned in one area – reading the newspaper in hard copy. There is something satisfying about sitting down and feeling the paper and smelling the print that you can’t get online. Recently, the delivery person changed. All of a sudden, the paper started coming rolled tightly. Presumably the approach made it easier to toss the paper. I’m all for driving efficiencies, as long as they don’t create a new problem. In this case it did. The paper was so tightly rolled, that it would curl back on itself when attempting to read it. My guess is the delivery person had never tried to read a paper after it had been rolled like that. The focus was on delivering the papers as quickly as possible.
Changes in business happen all the time. Sometimes the impact of the change is fully thought through, other times it is not or there are unintended consequences. A critical element in making change is ensuring that the product or service still meets the needs of the customer. A first step to doing that is ensuring your people understand the needs of the customer and how the product or service is used. How are you making sure that your customers needs don’t get lost in the shuffle?
It was the most recent round of attempts to confirm appointments. Dentists, doctors, hair salons, restaurants, etc. The forms of contact vary. Postcards, emails, texts, phone calls. They keep coming until you actively confirm your appointment. And if you don’t, your appointment will be canceled. I’ve been told the level of not showing up for appointments/reservations has reached new heights. Businesses now invest money in technology to get you to confirm your appointment, or in people making calls and following up to make sure you are coming. You now need to spend your time to confirm an appointment (rather than calling if you need to cancel). Your time and that of the company you intend to do business with is now consumed because the people who don’t show up aren’t penalized. The business loses revenue due to a person not showing up, and higher administrative costs focused on trying to get people to confirm appointments. And the behaviors of the offenders don’t change because there is no penalty for behaving badly.
There is a local restaurant that has two seatings for dinner. It is small, so important that seats are not open because the hit to revenue would be significant. They implemented a policy that requires a credit card to be provided when you make the reservation. It holds your spot. And if you don’t show up, the charge is nearly $100. Guess what. They don’t have a problem with people showing up for their reservations.
In business and in life, you teach people how to treat you. If you desire certain behaviors and you get them, reward it. If you don’t get the behaviors you desire, design a mechanism that corrects the behaviors you do not want in a targeted fashion such that only those who are offenders are addressed. When you get it right, you’ll start seeing the behaviors you desire. How are you getting the behaviors you desire in your business?