The Coach's Corner

Archive for the ‘Extraordinary Customer/Client Service’ Category

Just Ask for the Business, Please

March 25th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In writing the simple fictional narrative entitled The Asking Formula, author John Baker hit a lot of nerves. His book is all about the third phase of new business development, Closing, which follows Finding and Building a Relationship with a new prospective customer/client. See previous blog post

As a prospective customer, we’ve all had an experience where we think, Just tell me how much it costs, and then I’ll decide. In this short (99 pages in large font) book, the main character shares his simple formula for Closing. To be honest, I would be embarrassed to relate the many actual stories of instances where my colleagues and I should have used his simple formula.

I won’t ruin the book, but I will share the first two steps:

Step One — Know what you want. (Editorial comment: The best new business development professionals I know always are specific about what they want to accomplish in every meeting with the prospective client — which might even be to have the next meeting with the decision-maker.)

Step Two — Ask for it. (Editorial comment: Don’t laugh; it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I was fortunate because my mentors were so good at teaching and demonstrating this simple action.)

Baker states that “Directness is a rare thing these days.” Once again, I’ll quote my dad, who said, “Ask. What is the worst thing that can happen?” I also remember one of my successful new business development colleagues, who would say, “My goal in this meeting is to get to the ‘No.’ ” Once again, Baker and other sales gurus would say that most people spend too much time with prospects who are never going to purchase anything from them.

I have a suggestion: Consider buying multiple copies of his book and have your new business development team read it. Then, facilitate a discussion and maybe do some role-playing.

Setting the Table

January 21st, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

If any family members or good friends were to come to me and say they want to open a restaurant, I would beg them to pick another business. But Danny Meyer, owner of the Union Square Cafe in Manhattan and author of Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, has somehow survived — and even thrived — in one of the most competitive markets in the world. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing him speak, which provided some insight into his success.

I believe many of his philosophies, some of which are listed below, apply to all of us in business. As always, I will offer some editorial comments:

  1. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.
  2. Hospitality is the foundation of Meyer’s business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction.
  3. Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of Meyer’s success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes the recipient feel. (Editorial comment: In the past, I’ve shared David Maister’s famous concept of the difference between quality service and quality work.)
  4. Meyer credits several mentors for his success. (Editorial comment: Who are your mentors? The older I get, the more I am reminded of the impact made by those who mentored me, including my dad. I find myself quoting my dad, a career postal worker, more than ever.)
  5. Invest in your community. A business that understands how powerful it is to create wealth for the community stands a much higher chance of creating wealth for its own investors. (Editorial comment: As I’ve learned, investment in the community is also very important to your team members, especially those under 30.)
  6. Meyer has a list of traits he looks for in his managers, and it includes an infectious attitude, self-awareness, patience and tough love, and not feeling threatened by others.
  7. Meyer provides a great list of trust versus fear, including empowering v. ruling, giving v. selfishness, listening v. telling, and hopeful v. cynical.

When I heard Meyer speak, the comment that impacted me the most was related to his 5-step plan for addressing mistakes with a customer: Awareness, Acknowledgement, Apology, Action and Additional Generosity. It was this last step that really resonated with me. Meyer instructs his team to do something special for a guest whose experience has been less than stellar, such as offering them an extra dessert or even a complimentary meal, depending on how bad the mistake was. In my experience, this is where many of us fall short. We may already have lost money on the transaction, so giving more away isn’t natural — but I think Meyer is on to something.

Especially in today’s tech-dominated world, I strongly believe businesses that are able to provide a personal touch have a major competitive advantage. As an example, I have a client who recently purchased a pontoon boat, and he received a phone call from the owner of the boat manufacturer. How do you think he felt? How many other potential boat-buyers has he told — and will he tell — about his experience? Better yet, this client started calling his own customers, which has led to great success.

Are Your Clients/Customers Raving Fans?

April 9th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I am a fanatic about client/customer service, and I’ve written on the subject many times. Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, in their book Raving Fans! A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, have provided a new label that I love: RAVING FANS. Like a few other business authors, they’ve styled the book as a novel, in order to make their point.

Blanchard — well known for his book, The One Minute Manager — and his co-author suggest defining what Raving Fans means to your business by determining your response to two statements. These declarations are simple but profound.

Declaration #1:  Decide What You Want

This may sound trite, but business owners often struggle in trying to describe what they want in a few simple words. The authors provide some practical stories which will help you craft your company’s declaration.

(Note: This is the do-not-say-you-can-do-everything-for-everyone concept.)

Declaration #2: Discover What the Client/Customer Wants

Again, the authors offer some excellent examples to help you complete your declaration.

As I was reading Raving Fans, I thought of a famous 1993 article written by Harvard professor David Maister: Quality Work Doesn’t Mean Quality Service. In my experience, this is a very common problem. I would summarize it by saying, “Don’t assume you know what your client/customer wants.” Here’s a great story to make the point:

One of my clients went on a sales call with a new business development associate. They met with the business owner, who described what he was looking for and provided his budget. The associate developed a solution for the client that was within the budget he had been provided. When the associate met with his boss (my client) to share his proposal, the boss said, “That’s not what the client wants,” and he proceeded to describe what he believed the client really wanted. The associate replied, “That’s double the budget!” My client suggested to the associate that he present both solutions to the prospective client — and, you guessed it, the business owner selected the higher-priced solution. My client, who’s been in business for more than 30 years, really listens to his clients.

Do you know what you want and what your client/customer wants?

What is One of the Hardest Jobs to Perform Today?

May 22nd, 2017 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled Kick-A__ Customer Service — Consumers Want Results — Not Sympathy, 81 percent of customers across all industries attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. The investment in self-service technologies has been enormously effective at removing low-complexity issues from the live service queue. According to the article’s authors, 84 percent of customers prefer a straightforward solution to their problem. When they do call for assistance, they’re knowledgeable and very demanding.

The authors conclude that customer service representatives fall into seven profiles, which they outline in the article. The big “aha” is focused around two profile types: Empathizers, who enjoy solving others’ problems, seek to understand behaviors and motives, and listen sympathetically; and Controllers, who are outspoken and opinionated, and like demonstrating their expertise and directing the customer interaction.

Intuitively, I would think Empathizers would be the best reps — and so do customer service rep managers, since Empathizers represent 32 percent of all representatives (the largest category). As it turns out, we’re wrong! The trouble is, the messaging managers use in recruiting service reps is often stereotypical of yesterday’s customer service workers, and tends to repel rather than attract Controllers, who represent only 15 percent of all reps. Controllers want flexibility to express their personality and handle issues as they think best (versus following a script), are keen problem-solvers with a unique ability to think on their feet, and are self-starters who are comfortable taking the initiative.

If you’re part of a company that provides customer service reps who assist clients by phone (and probably face-to-face, too), I would highly recommend reading the HBR article. Our old, well-established “best practices” no longer work in this tech-savvy world.

By the way, according to the authors’ research, the best reps, Controllers, are paid the same as other reps and are satisfied with it.

Let’s Stop Arguing About What to Call It

March 6th, 2017 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

How about if we call “it” obtaining a new client (customer)? As you know, Uncle Dan very generously shared his wisdom with us in the “Sandbox Hunter’s Game Plan” blog series, summarized in the January 19, 2016 Food for ThoughtIn this blog, I would like to focus on obtaining new clients for professional services. I believe most of the comments would apply to any service or product, but for purposes of clarity, let’s focus on “professional services,” which I will allow you to define.

If you Google sales, marketing, and/or business development, you’ll discover all kinds of definitions the authors of various articles and books are passionate about. The reason I’m commenting is because of the ambiguity that exists in many companies. I would suggest there are three major functions necessary to secure a new client (customer):

  1. Finding (This isn’t my own term; I got this word from a guy in my networking group) — Finding is the process of identifying a prospective client. You might use an outside resource/service, have someone internally perform this function, your Hunter may be responsible, or possibly it’s the result of a combination of tactics. Question: Is how you obtain qualified leads and who is responsible for finding leads clear to both you and your team? Do you have enough leads? If no, why not?
  2. Relationship — Often, this is the hardest part, but the goal is to get a new client. This may take a period of a few weeks or a few years. I’m aware of situations where this period lasted for more than 20 years (sorry, I have to tell the truth). Again, I think Uncle Dan gave us great advice and tips. This is where the great Hunters excel. They introduce the prospective client to their colleagues, especially those who can offer industry insights and what is called “thought leadership” (simply stated, they say, “If I owned this company, I would do this or that to profitably grow the business.”). I strongly believe that personalized contacts are more important today than they’ve ever been. I’m not talking about mass emails, webinars, podcasts, et cetera. I’m talking about face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and handwritten notes. Question: Do you have people who can truly develop new relationships and transform them into clients? (By the way, I have met people who know a lot of prominent executives, but can’t convert them into clients. How many new clients do you have this year? Last year?)
  3. Closing — This is getting the ball over the goal line, or ringing the bell — whatever you want to call it. Again, Hunters are best in class at closing, and Uncle Dan provided some thoughts on this function, too. Question: What is your close rate? Could it be higher? How? Do you really have the right people involved in the close?

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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