The Dark Side of Customer Service

The practice of overcharging our best customers has begun to haunt us…no, hurt us! While not the only reason for the growth of cremation, many now believe that forcing our burial customers to bear the burden and subsidize our cremation customers has definitely accelerated the trend. This entertaining article makes the point well.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.11.27 AMHave you ever done business with a company that initially offered great customer service, but it quickly faded? Or have you done business with a company for years and discover you are paying a higher price than what is offered to new customers? If so, you’re not alone.

Companies invest a great deal of time, money and resources to find and get new customers. When they aren’t completely transparent with customers, or lose sight of delivering great customer experience after a sale, they risk losing customers to their competitors. And this misses the entire point of acquiring new customers in the first place. The investment of acquiring new customers begins to pay off when a customer is loyal and continues to do business with a company. But too often, businesses, even entire industries, lose sight of this goal or worse, take advantage of customers.

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Toxic Clients & How To Treat Them

We all have them. Obnoxious clients who make our lives miserable and undermine morale.

Here is some great advice :

 hbrLaw firms have a hard-earned reputation for being really tough places to work. Today I see an increasing amount of toxicity in those firms. Over the past couple of decades, I’ve met with partners and managing partners at regional and national law firms, who have not infrequently found themselves bullied by greedy, selfish, entitled, angry clients or even other partners.

Go into the conversation holding a little of yourself back; when they reach that “tipping point” into toxicity, you won’t be blindsided. Prepare for that knock-out punch insult by saying to yourself, “Here it comes.” Then take a deep breath, look them straight in their left eye (which is attached to their right emotional brain), pause until they realize they haven’t provoked you into losing your cool (even if they say something else to insult you) and then select one of the following replies: More Reading

CNN On “Tomorrow’s Funerals”

Here is a clip about a personalized funeral. But what is really the story behind the story, in my humble opinion, is that the owner of the funeral home (Ernie Heffner) has created an environment wherein his staff feels safe enough to take this kind of initiative in the arrangement conference without having to check first.  The second part of the story is that personalization doesn’t always have to be fancy and expensive.  Sometimes easy and a little irreverent and, best of all…fun is enough.

Notice also that the staff member is the one is acknowledged on nationwide TV.  That one small choice on the part of Mr. Heffner is worth a ton of motivational seminars.

Kudos to Heffner funeral home for showing us how it’s done.

Life Comes At You Fast

We ignore social at our peril.  Note, I did not include the word media in my use of the word social on purpose.  Not that it shouldn’t be included but the use of it is self limiting.

We have entered the SOCIAL ERA as this article illustrates.  If we are to cope, much less survive, we are going to need to prepare and know how to act in this new era.  An era capable of toppling whole governments (think Arab Spring)

Dell learned the hard way that consumers are not just consumers any more. They are collaborators, conspirators, and co-creators. Fail to listen, engage, and involve and you may find yourself with a customer insurgency. As a brand, you can’t create strategy exclusively from headquarters, any more than the military can fight terrorists from a battleship. But by listening to social channels, creating a volunteer army of brand advocates, and including customers in your team of teams, you will find yourself a winner in the social revolution….More at Countering a Customer Insurgency – Mark Bonchek and Chris

Are the Vast Majority of Funeral Homes Using Social Media Inappropriately

The survey in the attached article isn’t about funeral service and, frankly, most funeral homes aren’t engaged in social media…sad.  And I can assure you that over 90% are using it inappropriately.  Be that as it may, here are some interesting points about the topic that may help you avoid some of the same pitfalls.

 

Vocus teamed up with Duct Tape Marketing to survey 400 decision makers at small- and medium-sized businesses to learn about their struggles and successes using social media.

Specifically, the survey sought to discover the social sites most used by small businesses (SMBs), how they were managing their efforts, challenges they were facing, and the metrics they were using to judge success. While the results were strong in affirming the power of social media for SMBs, they also made me wonder whether or not many business owners were looking at social media correctly….More at Are 87 Percent of Small Businesses Using Social Media Wrong

Build Trust With Social Media

 

Yeah, yeah.  I have heard it too.  But it’s true and you need to get on board.  So start reading up like I am.

Life as a small business owner is all about trust. Trust is how we make consumers feel comfortable purchasing from us instead of big box stores and its how we get them to keep coming back. And through the world of social media, we have a slew of new ways to develop trust in our customers’ eyes to make them feel good about our business. But are you taking advantage of them?

Below are six ways SMBs can use social media to establish trust with customers….More at How to Use Social Media to Establish Trust

What I Would Do:

Interesting that I came across this article this week.  Frankly, Social Media marketing is something I have come to believe in strongly but I have no personal competence in.  So, I reached out to my friend at Disrupt Media Group, Ryan Thogmartin for help.  In my opinion, the “Tech” world is full of people who know enough to convince me they know what they are doing but can’t deliver.  In effect, they remind me of firemen who set their own fires.  Ryan is different.  He knows how to make it work.  I follow his advice.

Disclaimer: There is no formal business connection or financial connection between Disrupt Media and me except that I buy advertising on Connecting Directors at full price.  I simply believe in Ryan and he merits my endorsement.  Read it For Yourself

VIDEO: How Not To Overserve Your Customers

I have been saying for some time that we are beginning to overserve our customers.  

I am not saying that we should not do some of the things we have been doing lately (like video tributes that add value to our services) but hanging our hats on those activities as if they will save traditional funerals is a mistake.  Right now our industry / profession is in the early stages of radical transformation.

We will soon begin talking about reinventing ourselves.   Some will claim they have already begun reinventing themselves by introducing innovations like webcasting, trinkets, multicolor paper goods, balloon releases and the like.  This is not reinvention.  In the words of famed management guru, Peter Drucker, it is patching.  We are only dressing up what we already sell in an attempt to make it more appealing to a customer who is demonstrating a disconnect.  Then we misinterpret their momentary satisfaction as long term commitment.

Think of it this way: You, your peers and colleagues are all faced with a massive “Sea Change” relative to the markets we serve.  It has become obvious even to the most uninformed that the world has changed. A change of this magnitude causes all of us to grieve.

Our profession is now in various stages of the grief cycle.

The “dressing up of the funeral” that has been taking place these last ten years has actually been long overdue but it is only dressing up (patching as Drucker would say).  Those who have adopted these measures have experienced success in customer satisfaction…but many have also learned that customer satisfaction is no guarantee of repeat business.   In reality patching correlates with the “Bargaining Phase” of grief.  “If I make it better maybe they will see more value.”  And for a while they do, after all it is better than what you were doing…until there is an alternative that speaks to what they are looking for.  And what they are looking for does not currently exist so they can’t tell you what it is.

Patching reminds me of an old Charlie Brown cartoon in which a sad faced Charlie Brown is saying,

“Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit.  

You get a warm feeling and no one notices.”

In this brief video Harvard Professor and author, Frances Frei talks about the challenges we face.  I find her Pretzel Metaphor particularly helpful.

For further discussion:

This article is linked to the Creedy Commentary article “Licensing Laws: Barrier To Survival”  Click on my photo to return to that article.

 

 

To order Frances Frei’s book from Amazon click on the image below

Pricing As A Strategy To Build Customer Loyalty

Last week in The Creedy Commentary I began a 3 week series on how our old pricing model (cost-led-pricing) is not only outmoded but unsustainable.  In this brief video London Business School Assistant Professor Marco Bertini discusses a concept a brought out this week in my discussion of Price-Led-Costing, the alternative to our old unsustainable method: Fair Pricing.  He explores 5 principles that will help you humanize the way you make money and build customer loyalty… 

and answer the question: “What Does Your Pricing Say About You”

What Would I do:

As I tell you in the last two postings in The Creedy Commentary this is going to be a challenge and somewhat painful. So the first thing is to read the following Posts:

A Broken Business Model: Wringing More Money Out of Your Best Customers Is Not Sustainable

Building A Competitive Fortress Through Your Pricing Strategy

How To Stop Customers From Fixating On Price

Then wait for next Tuesday’s Commentary posting.  Oh, you might also come back here to the roundup monday for a sneak peak at next week’s feature video.  It will help you think about some of what you will be learning next week.

P.S. I know this is frustrating.  But you have to unlearn some things to learn new things.  Reinvention is not easy.

Learn How To Listen

Listening is an important skill for all of us.  I like the techniques this article discusses.  Especially dividing the paper into notes and key points.  Think I will try that.

As the up-and-coming vice president and CEO candidate for a Fortune 500 technology corporation sat before the CEO for his annual review, he was baffled to discover that the feedback from his peers, customers, direct reports, and particularly from board members placed unusual emphasis on one potentially devastating problem: his listening deficit. This executive was widely considered among the best and brightest in his company, but it was evident that this issue needed immediate attention if he ever hoped to advance to the top spot.

of them has a listening deficit…More at The Discipline of Listening – Ram Charan – Harvard Business Review

How To Answer The Toughest Customer Questions

With the advent of the internet it is easy to feel challenged by customer’s honest questions.  Here is a quick read on a way to respond effectively.

One of the hardest things to do in all of sales is handle tough questions from skeptical prospective customers. After interviewing thousands of customers as part of the win-loss studies I have conducted, I can tell you with certainty that answering customer questions successfully is often the difference between winning and losing. Here are seven points to consider when answering questions:

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What I would do:

At one of your team’s weekly huddle’s ask for two or three volunteers to make a list of challenging questions that come up.  Then in the coming weeks role play a variety of answers according to the seven steps laid out in this article in your huddle meetings.  Make it Fun!!