In this article I explore how stress in one person can lead to a crisis within an organisation, it’s client base and beyond. I share with you not only how it happened but what could have been done to avert the crisis too.
I recently signed up for a very expensive service from someone who positions himself as an expert, no, THE expert in his field. I was given a lot of promises which made the large investment a no-brainer.
I have pretty high standards and, over the years, I have learned to lower them. And lower them some more. So, even with the hype, I wasn’t expecting everything which was offered to the degree it was positioned.
However, after a possible 20% delivery and 80% disappointment, and having given said-company ample time to catch up with themselves, I was told they were too busy to deal with it. They had new customers to deal with. New customers are EXCITING. Problems are boring – or so they believe. He is operating the customer churn and burn strategy.
This individual is pretty charismatic. He is good at winning new business. However, his reputation is being tarnished because he is good at customer attraction and very poor at customer retention. Given that keeping a customer is less expensive than attracting a new customer. And that there are only so many customers in the world, no matter how charismatic you are, looking at how to keep the ones you have is an important part of your business strategy.
Brand management and reputation management are key to this. So, a couple of questions for you:
Do you have a customer retention strategy?
How effective is your customer retention?
What would your customers say about you if you weren’t in the room?
What would your customers say are your most redeeming qualities?
What would your customers say is most frustrating in dealing with your company?
Here are some of the customer retention strategies I teach my clients:
Make sure your systems make it easy for them to do business with you
Offer only quality service and quality products
Have a quick turnaround on queries
Be easy to get hold of
Acknowledge every communication
Treat existing customers with as much care as you do prospects, if not more so
Under-promise and over-deliver – this on its own will set you apart from the competition
Stay in touch
Your customers will forgive you a lot of you care about them.
Tricia Woolfrey is an integrative business coach helping people like you and companies like yours perform at their best, so that you can be more profitable, with less stress and with your integrity intact. Call 0845 130 0854 for a free telephone consultation.
Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?
If so, you are not alone. Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout. This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing. This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success. Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference. Productivity, not activity.
For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.
Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support? Like building a house without it’s foundations.
Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?
Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices? This is where success leads to ruin.
So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward. The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators. These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:
A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number. However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward. It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else. This is both an art and a science. Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.
Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:
Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
Regularly review performance against these
Look at the relationship between them
Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action. Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.
Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.
If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854. I look forward to hearing from you!
You may think of value as being the value you provide to your clients. This, of course, is important. After all, if you are not providing value to your clients (or customers), why should they work with you? The value of your product and service needs to be clear and tangible to them if you are to have a sustainable business.
However, just as important are the values which drive you in your business. Values are what you consider to be important. They link into your vision, your mission and your strategy. They are your guiding principles.
Values are also part of your brand – the personality of your organisation.
As well as guide you, they can be a barometer in decision making. Let me take an example. Let’s say your values are:
If there is an opportunity to buy into a joint venture which stacks up financially with a quick and generous return on investment, but the quality of the offering is lower than your current product or service offering, this will undermine your values of quality, customer delight and possibly integrity. So, while on paper the deal may appear lucrative, the net effect is likely to be negative as people stop trusting your brand and you lose customer loyalty. If you lose customer loyalty, this will, in turn, impact your revenues. Remember it is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than it is to attract a new one.
But more important than that is your reputation. Working counter to your values undermines your brand and your brand values become different to your espoused values. They become your reputation – what people are saying about your company when you are not in the room. It is important to really understand the values which underpin your business. So, here are some questions for you:
What is important to your business? Truly? (This is no time for self-deception)
What do you want your clients and customers to be saying?
How is this different to what you imagine them to be saying now?
Are your values supported in your decision-making processes?
Remember that everybody in your organisation is an ambassador for your business (for good or ill), so it is important that they buy into your values with their own behaviours and attitudes. To what degree are your values reflected in the following:
Your hiring processes?
Your hiring decisions?
In your leadership style (and that of your other managers)?
In how you the performance of your staff is managed?
If you don’t have a product or service which delivers value to your customers and prospects, it makes building a profitable business almost impossible. Having an inferior product isn’t something you want to risk your business or reputation. In this day and age, competition is very tough, consumers are fickle and markets are constantly changing, so it’s important to make sure you are delivering what your customers want.
Having the best product or service isn’t enough in itself if you don’t have everything else right. However, it is an essential component. When looking at your products, consider what are you offering and how does it benefit your customers? What need is it fulfilling? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the product or service? This is where you really need to listen to your customers. It’s easy to acknowledge compliments – they make you feel good. It takes a lot of strength to be open to negative feedback. However unreasonable it may seem, there is always at least a grain of truth in in it. Be gracious in receiving negative feedback because you can really turn around a negative situation and create a raving fan out of a disenchanted customer if you handle it right.
Customers can fulfil a need in a number of ways. For example, if your business sells washing machine repairs, then your customer has the option of either repairing their washing machine, getting someone else to do their laundry, buying a new washing machine or resort to hand-washing. So it’s important that you get your product right so that you become the obvious choice.
If you want your product to be a best-seller, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
What need is your product (or service) designed to fulfil?
What are the strengths of your product (or service)?
What are the weaknesses? If your customers were being really picky, what would they be saying?
What are you doing to address those weaknesses?
Who are your top 5 competitors?
What do they offer that you don’t and how can you address this?
What is another way your prospects might fulfil the need?
How can you make your product a better option?
What feedback about your product (or service) have you been ignoring and what are you going to do to address it?
What processes do you have in place to make sure your product (or service) is the best?
Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our time, talked about surprising and delighting the customer by looking at how to excel, not just meet the competition. He thought in terms of simplicity, elegance and sexiness (of the product, of course!). By contrast, I know of a man whose business failed because he insisted on providing his service using old, outdated technology and old, outdated principles. You have to constantly re-invent and improve if you want to thrive.
The ability to positively influence others with integrity is a key skill in business. It affects your ability to have people buy into you, your business, your product and your ideas. It impacts your leadership style and your ability to build constructive relationships. It can also be incredibly stressful if you are unable to influence people constructively, impacting your productivity, your sales and even your profitability.
Influence is about your ability to have a positive effect on someone. It differs from manipulation in that it is undertaken with integrity and regard to the interest of the other party. It’s about having people buy in to your ideas and perspectives, so that they say ‘yes’ to you more.
The talent for influence requires flexibility in style, clarity of outcome, the ability to understand a situation from several perspectives, and creating and maintaining a resourceful state, particularly during times of conflict, or when the stakes are high.
It is not about imposing but inspiring someone to take a particular action, while maintaining strong rapport and building positive relationships.
There are numerous language patterns which enhance your capacity to increase your powers of influence which are too numerous to go into in this short article but which I teach to many of my clients and which I include on my Influencing Skills training course. The issue, though, is not what the skills are, but the effect that they can have on your success. They can help you deal with objections and concerns so that you are able to transform potentially negative situations elegantly. It’s the YES factor!
Whether your intention is to create change, elicit support or diffuse potentially contentious situations, influencing skills can be a real boon to you in your business.
For further details, please contact Tricia Woolfrey on 0345 130 0854.
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service, if you don’t have customers willing to buy, you have nothing. In such challenging times, and considering the cost of attracting just one customer (have you ever done the maths on this?), customer retention is a stronger strategy than customer attraction could ever be.
Yet, it seems that customer care has taken a back seat to profit. A short-term tactic with long-term consequences. And yet, effective customer care does not have to be costly. Not only that, you can expect to see your profits increase as your customers stay longer, buy more and refer more. And the benefits don’t end there – your employees will be happier. I am always struck by the check out staff at supermarkets who don’t acknowledge you – how unhappy they look. I pay extra where the staff are happier – it makes such a difference to the buying experience.
Below are my top ten tips for customer retention.
Acknowledge them by name if known, and a warm smile – a genuine smile even comes across over the phone.
Tell them you’ll be with them in a moment if you are busy with someone else. If it will be more than a moment – let them know in advance. Set realistic expectations.
Ask yourself how your processes and actions serve customer needs and affects their experience .
Make sure your staff are knowledgeable and find answers to questions if in doubt. Saying “I don’t know” is just not acceptable.
Under-promise and over-deliver – essential for trust. Do keep them updated if delays are foreseen.
Hire and train staff who have a strong customer service orientation – be uncompromising about this. Any apathy or negativity affects profit and morale of other staff members.
Treat your customers how you want to be treated yourself. You know how it feels when you are respected and when you are treated well. I am reminded of a friend of mine who recently reported that she closed her bank account as her bank was offering new customers a better interest rate, despite the fact she had been a loyal customer for years.
The biggest risk factor in terms of customers is how you deal with them when there’s a problem. Here are my top tips to deal with unhappy customers:
Respond positively and empathetically:
Thank them – their feedback is a gift and helps you improve your business.
Be quick to apologise authentically.
Inform them of what you will do with their feedback – and then make sure you do what you say you will do– it will help build your business in all kinds of positive ways.
Resolve problems quickly and thoroughly. Be sure to give a little extra to make up for the inconvenience.
Responding well to complaints can not only redeem you in the eyes of the customers but make a complainant into an ambassador for your company, bringing in new business.
Finally, one last thought – do make it easy for people to do business with you – don’t let apathy be your only weapon for customer retention. Delight them and make raving fans.
To your success!
PS Customer attraction and retention are a very complex area – to book a consultation to find out how you can gain more business through customers new and existing, call 0845 130 0854.
Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs.
Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.
“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK