your emergency is not the same as my emergency

Your definition of an emergency is not the same as my definition of an emergency

The leak under my kitchen sink was not gushing, but did create a puddle on the floor when I used the sink. After checking with my neighbors for a plumber to no avail, I found one online that was well rated. And they offered same day service! So I called for an appointment, the first available time was two days later. Apparently same day was only available for emergencies.

That’s the thing. One person’s definition of an emergency is another person’s definition of the ordinary course of business. Understanding how each side views the situation helps to find a solution that works for all parties.

are you delivering what was promised?

That is not what you promised!

My dog knows each type of treat by name and where they are kept. So when I pulled a bait and switch on her, she called me out on it. She happily took the treat that was not what was promised. When she finished, she stood and stared at the cabinet where the promised treat was kept.

People don’t always advocate so strongly that what was delivered was not what was promised. Sometimes not living up to promises results in lost customers or lost employees. What are you doing to make sure you are living up to your promises?

right people in right place

What are your people telling your customers about you?

My refrigerator started leaking water all over the floor. So, I called to have someone come out and fix it. When he got here, he explained the design flaw that was causing the problem and indicated he could fix it, but it would happen again at some point. And the cost of the repair was pretty high. So, I asked him if he was really telling me it is time for a new fridge. He said yes.

Having people in your business that will give customers the full picture to make an informed decision is critically important. Those front line folks tell customers a lot about how you run the business, who you hire, how you incentivize them, and the values and behaviors you expect. What are your people telling your customers?

Poor substitutes aren't worth it

Poor substitutes just aren’t worth it

We all have products we love. And when they aren’t available, the search for a substitute is on. Like many, I’ve had that issue over the last year with Clorox wipes. And like many, I’ve been disappointed by the poor quality of the substitutes that have flooded the market. The contrast has highlighted why having a quality product is worth the money.

The same is true in businesses of all types. If your products or services are high quality, people will know that a poor substitute isn’t worth it. How are you positioning your products or services so people aren’t looking for a poor substitute?

making change sustainable

Are you keeping up with the times?

My vet is great! She knows how to handle rescue dogs that are a bit skittish and need a little extra attention. When she moved from one company to another, we followed her because she is great. The only downside is, the owner of the vet business does will not interact with the online pharmacy because of the number of issues they experienced a decade ago. The thing is, today, the online pharmacy is so much easier to deal with and has no issues versus going to a vet office for regular refills. But the issues from a decade ago now result in the vet sending a paper prescription to me by mail, then I have to send that prescription by mail to the online pharmacy, requiring a few weeks of time for issues that no longer exist.

It is a great example of issues that no longer exist driving business decisions. Every business has something that started years ago, but would not be handled that way if implemented today. Are you keeping up with the times?

well run business is worth exponentially more

When was the last time you looked at the dynamics in your market?

It’s easy to tell when open enrollment starts by the level of commercials for Medicare supplement plans. After all, depending on the source, there are somewhere between 63 and 68 million people in the US on Medicare plans. While not everyone buys supplemental insurance, the level of commercials indicate it is a pretty good market to be in.

Compare that with the individual market which has only 11 million people spread out across all the states, with many counties having only one provider as option because there isn’t enough demand to support more than one provider.  It is no surprise that there are no commercials or other ads. And given the small population, it has taken many years to figure out the pricing/profitability in the market.

The dynamics in a market can be pretty easy to spot if you just look for them. When was the last time you stood back and looked at the dynamics in your market?

do you really want feedback?

Are you really trying to get feedback?

A few weeks ago, a sign popped up on the side of the road. It was the standard poster size on a wood stick. The background was a light green with white type, making it impossible to see what the sign was about. After looking at it a few times as I passed by, I finally pulled over to see what it was about. The only thing I could ascertain was there was some sort of comment period about roadway amendments. The type so small and lacked contrast, it was hard to read without getting out of the car. It made me wonder if the county really wanted comments or if it was just an attempt to comply with the law.

These sorts of situations happen all the time in business. Requests for feedback are put out to customers in an attempt to show the business is open to comments. What happens next will tell you if the desire for comments is genuine. Top performing businesses genuinely want to understand what is working and what is not. That’s how they get better.

we've always done it that way means it is time to change

Are you making it harder than it should be to do business with you?

It should have been a very simple process of buying my exercise gear. I knew exactly what I wanted, put it in the online cart and hit the checkout button like I had done many times before.  All of my information was already there, so it should have processed and sent me a receipt.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, I was taken to a screen asking me to set up Apple pay. After spending time with the person at the other end of the online chat, I was told that for all Apple devices, customers are routed to set up Apple pay. The only way around it is to download another browser, and use that browser to complete the transaction. You know this brand and probably have it in your closet. They don’t need to make it that hard to buy from them.

It is a good lesson in how a likely partnership with another company has made it harder to do business with customers. Have you unintentionally set up processes that make it harder to do business with you?  It is a good time to look at your end to end customer experience and get rid of anything that makes it harder to do business with you. You’ll be glad you did!

Are you confusing people?

The department of transportation is reconfiguring the freeway to add a bus lane to avoid traffic during rush hour. The project basically takes the left shoulder, narrows the three existing lanes and takes a portion of the right shoulder.

The first step taken was marking where the new lanes will be with white dashed lines about 2 feet from the existing lane markers. As a result of the new lines, people were confused where to drive. Some were driving in the existing lanes while others were driving in what will be the lanes in the future.

I’m sure there were lots of good reasons for marking the lane in preparation for work that would happen a few weeks down the road. But it created a lot of confusion for those using the road, not working on the project.

These sorts of situations happen all the time in business. People take actions that will help their work. In the meantime, it confuses customers and co-workers operating in the same space. How are you making sure you aren’t confusing people?

do you know your customers interests?

Do you have insight into your customer interests?

I’ve noticed a curious trend over the time through the stay at home orders—I’m listening to podcasts less, but the number of podcasts being released has increased. About a month ago, one of the podcasts even noted the trend of reduced listening is happening. But as it turns out, while total listening is down, it is up in some categories and down in others. And the categories I listen to are up.

The trends demonstrate why it is important to understand your specific customers and their interests. When you do, you know when to ramp up and when to pull back.