Gain Market Share is 2012 — Focus on Service

Customer services

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I was reminded again tonight of the importance of customer service as my wife and I experienced absolutely unacceptable service at a local Chili’s restaurant. It has me thinking…. Why in today’s world of social media, blogs and 24 hour news have companies continued to accept poor performance in the field of customer service?

I know that there are places that I choose to experience poor customer service in sacrifice for lower price… (WalMart) however even there I believe the company has failed in recognizing how much share of income they are missing from me because I refuse to go them for items that have any value beyond feeding my face and which toothpaste I choose to use.

So not to completely destroy a chain such as Chilli’s, which until this last year I was a very Frequent visitor, lets be honest employees as a whole have really lost the meaning of service in a large quantity around our country. I remember  8 years ago my family moved to the Midwest for a stint and people would say oh your going to love the Friendliness and service of people in the Midwest , sorry but just seldom saw the service that was worth raving about to my friends.

My wife and I had a good laugh tonight as we discussed years of Mystery Shopping we have done across the US and how we just can’t believe that our standards of service have gotten tougher.  What level customer service is acceptable in todays world?

I would argue that it is the most important factor in your success as a business. As a matter of fact I would argue that if you want to gain market share in  2012 make it your #1 focus. Bring back the Mystery Shopper, Bring Back consequence to poor performance and demand nothing but your employees best when it comes to courteous, friendly over the top service.

Evaluate current staff and don’t hesitate to take the upgrade now approach by ranking your team 1-10 if you must and either putting the bottom half in extensive pass or fail type training so that they understand that in order to keep their job that this one rule is unbending, or find a replacement immediately.

Consultant your top customers and listen to them on last years service notes.  Evaluate if the methods of online survey are the right message to send to your clients? Take some time and call your top ten customers and ask personally what they would like to see improved in 2012. Stand out from the rest of your competitors by making them a priority. Want to know what to ask, how about this… Out of all the companies your do business with which has the best service? Who has the worst?  Where do I stand on that list? From their answers you should have a clear direction of where to go.

Be reasonable and logical when dealing with complaints… Ok here is where i generally piss off corporations. At dinner tonight when I complained about three day old bacon that tasted like jerky on my burger the waitess took my plate and I fully expected to have the manager show up at my table and say sorry and to give me a small discount, that seemed like common sense. However The next thing I know the waitress shows up with my bill and says they took the burger off my order. Now that is really nice right, but really… I ate the entire burger, just took the bacon off it.. just give me a $2.00 discount and come say sorry, maybe give me a coupon to come back next time and assure me you will do better because you want my business back.  If you work in retail I know that in the past 10-15 years you have heard from executives that you just don’t say no and do what ever makes the customer happy, well I fundamentally disagree. Use commonsense, if a customer try’s to return an item that is broken and they bought it 10 months ago and it looks like they ran over it with the car, you have the right to tell them no. Politely and with proper tact. If they try to return something that was not bought at your company, but swear it came from there, it is OK to lose that customer. Say No.  And when that customer goes online and rips you for being a bad company respond publicly on what ever forum they use in a polite and professional manner so the world can see who is the more responsible of parties.

Maybe I am getting off point here but the fact remains, using common sense and friendly communication will win even in today’s social media world. Become an active participant and refuse to allow your company to slither down the path of poor service and you have potential to gain market share this year.  In my market this year someone just gained 10 -12 family dinners from me because Chili’s probably lost out because of one really bad night of service.

Good Luck… Keep Smiling



A Common Misconception about expansion and sales expectations

The first car of Benz (1886), Mercedes Doppel-...

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This week I observed a sales company react to what for them is a very poor couple of weeks, and it got me thinking about expansion efforts of sales companies and common errors in judgement or expectations that seem to always raise their ugly head.

So without using company names or details let me set the stage and hope I can articulate what I feel are some common errors in expectations and judgement by Sales Managers and Company leaders.

The Stage: Your business has reached the point where your sales team has a full plate and growth of new business seems to be slowing dramatically. You decide to expand sales staff and help your company reach the next level.

How do you do it?

Action steps commonly seen:

Hire great people you believe are going to add or improve on your current teams sales ability. Pay them a competitive salary and then shake up the current territories or account lists so that new sales people has a base to start with and will feel they have hope to build a territory which pays them great commission and gives your current team room to breathe and grow again.

Sounds good right?

Well here is the problem I have seen with this very logical model:

We tend to use current production measurements to determine core success of all the team even during transition.  Meaning if the old team was producing XXY then the New Team should automatically produce XXYZ  and never should we see XX as a result.  You figure if I am going to ever go back to XX why would I ever expand my expenses and get less in sales.

As I watched this company respond this week to exactly that scenario It got me thinking about why we have seen sales fall when the sales team has expanded by 30% and the Industry is stable.

Then it hit me  the expansion process is much like driving a car. Have you ever wondered why a car can get 32mpg highway and only 26mpg City?  It is because the car is working at higher efficiency for longer periods of time on the highway.

The Sales team of Old was a well oiled machine cruising along at Highway speed, seldom needing a break and all the parts were working at inefficiency. Meaning every sales call made was getting top performance and resulting in better outcome from the sales person.

The New Sales team is just as talented but now they are held to the same expectations as the well oiled team and frustration arises. Why?

The old staff now has more time to prospect which will grow account base of the company. (Goal accomplished). The New Sales team has an established base and feels more secure with its job and future. (Goal accomplish).  So what is not working for you?  The timing of your expectations? Lack of employee buy in? Lack of talent? Laziness?

I believe this process breaks down because of expectations. I know when I ran my sales organizations that this was often something I struggled with, setting expectations that are based on a metric that did not fit any longer.

See in our current scenario; the expectation is that the sales talent, with 30% more people and increased prospecting time,  will be running at top efficiency right out of the gate and that sales metrics from the  past sales organization would do nothing but grow and improve.   But like our car which was driving at top speeds and efficiency on the highway  the old sales team is no longer traveling at a smooth pace and is now in a different environmental (city) the pace and inefficiencies have changed.

Old sales team members now are doing more prospecting, which means more thinking, learning,  processing and building of relationships, their days are not filled with eight hours of prime selling, instead they are broken up by traffic stops, like finding prospects to call, learning who to speak with , understanding connections, and teaching new people about themselves and the company. They are now driving in the city and are less efficient.   The new sales members have now taken a group of accounts which were used to being handled by a very efficient sales person to a person which is still learning how to drive making the sales process less confident and less productive.

Both these symptoms are short-term, but could take some time to work back to efficient times. Our expectations need to be adjusted and the metrics we measure success with in this time need to be set based on new standard of production. Simple controllable measurements based on a less efficient model, not a top performing model. You have to believe that with the proper tools and training that your new team will eventually pass your old production marks. In reality they will reach them about the same time you start thinking you need to expand again, When the hit make efficiency. We tend to forget the growing process that we went through to get to this point and the reality is that your sales even though they may be slower now are probably still well ahead of where you were the last time your sales team was in this new environment.

My advise, review your metric that you use for measuring success. Bring them back to basic such as number of calls made and presentations made to new customers versus sales relationship and close ratios on an intern basis. Make sure your company has  level of performance which is based on a level of activity that is moving the process forward even at a slower pace than before. Reinforce the efforts and teach the team again how to establish relationships, get referrals and work at an efficient pace in their new cars.

Thinking of Changing from Direct Sales to Inbound Marketing?

I recently had a conversation with a very successful business owner regarding the changing of company marketing success.  He has run a very successful direct sales company for the past twenty plus years and is now intrigued, curious would be the word he would use about how inbound marketing could change the scope and future of his business. This question is being asked by many, I assume, whom have built successful businesses using the old word marketing techniques (Newspaper, TV, Direct Sales).

As we sat and discussed the future and the power of using inbound marketing strategies for the future of the company I became concerned for not only the directions our conversation was taking but what many executives may be doing to their now successful business model. Are they jumping ship for another vessel which will not carry as much load?

My Point: Inbound Marketing, Social Media and Web-based marketing practices are great power pack of energy for a company, They can take a successful, well run business with the right vision and aptitude to fantastic new heights in business.  They however are not the next bigger and greater thing for all companies. With out the proper foundation of business and support Inbound Marketing and Social Media are a lot like switching your Newspaper budgets to Radio and Dropping your core vehicle for marketing. It just never works, you get a new exciting single success in the meantime lose all your marketing momentum.

Example: I ran the print marketing for a company in Boise Idaho in the late 90’s and I will never forget the mistake this business owner made. He had in the marketplace the number 2 furniture store in the Metro area at that time and ran a comprehensive marketing plan on TV and in Newspaper every week. His Audience expected him to be there. His largest competitive nightmare (RC Wiley) had just come to town and had already put several of his competitors out of business. His marketing strategy was working and he was actually gaining share in a more competitive market. He made a rash decision one day in early spring to drop his Newspaper Budget and sink into a New Radio Promotion with targeted Direct Mail.  Long Story Short 30 days later he had his worst moth of sales in over 10 years, he immediate switched back to his original marketing and it took him over one year to get sales back to the same levels as before the rash decision.  His audience  did not know how to find him and perceived that in the new competitive market he was no longer a player and found alternatives.

Five tips to consider when starting your Inbound Marketing Program:

  1. What are my goals and expectations – set clear-defined goals for growth in your company. Remember these tools are meant to add to the company’s current audience base, not become the new smaller more connected audience.
  2. Designate the proper staffing for your inbound marketing strategy. Asking your current team to add it to their plate or to switch their focus will only deteriorate the success you are already having and translate into a flat or the deterioration bottom line.
  3. Set realistic Time Tables for growth – Inbound Marketing is not Direct Mail, you can’t count success in a week. You must build the audience, nurture the audience and then feed the audience before it will grow.
  4. Keep working you already have a successful business model, don’t stop jump off the boat and swim for the other ship just because it looks exciting. Your current ship is already going the right direction. Inbound and social media marketing should just help you gain more speed and collect more passengers.
  5. Commit – You can not be successful in Inbound marketing by just signing up. You most commit to the process. You must provide content, provide service, launch multiple strategies and measure response and adjust, again and again. This is why it is important to dedicate a staff or agency to helping you work this engine. Inbound marketing and social media marketing demand active participation.
So if trying to decide how to enhance your direct sales team with inbound marketing is your mission, Go for it. You will see great success and a big potential for success. If you goal is to turn inbound marketing into your new sales company, caution, you make be jumping off into a smaller vessel that is not meant to take you on the long journey of success.

Business Marketing advice from Harry Potter

Albus Dumbledore

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I just got home from seeing the final chapter of Harry Potter.  It is ok, I will not be sharing the all important movie parts if you have not seen the movie, Just one line.

So how does Harry Potter and Business marketing relate accept for the fact their franchise is the one of the richest success stories in Hollywood history?  Let me not hold you in suspense…..

In the final Chapter Harry and Dumbledore do have one more conversation together and Dumbledore corrects an earlier line from the second film “The Chamber of Secrets“that really hit me as a great point in marketing. Do you remember the line “There will always be help at Hogwarts when you ask for it?” In this film he corrects himself and says that help will always be there for those who deserve it?  Quite a difference in those lines in life and in business.

Your business was built with your own sweet and dreams, and you probably have worked harder than anyone will ever know to get it growing. My Question is have you earned your customers and do you deserve their loyalty?

In today’s fast paced Social Driven Marketing world there is advice and tips every where on how to gain thousands of fans, followers and connections. It seems that many of the tips follow the same path as Dumbledore in the Chamber of Secrets – all you need to do is asked for friends, followers and connections and your Social Media and Marketing troubles are rescued and your will be victorious.  But how true is the corrected statement, help is for those who deserve it?  There are thousands of business people who have started gung-ho on social media adventures, gaining handful of fans, connections or followers as they added content and conversation online, only to find their fans did not share, their cash registers did not ring and they felt hey were wasting their time on meaningless conversation.

Why then are so many teaching that social media is the perfect marketing tool? That this single marketing tool can change the landscape of your business? Because it can and has for those who have earned it! The  individuals which stayed connected and invested their time, thoughts and expertise not to just enrich their pockets but to help others enrich theirs.  They gave first and continued to give of their knowledge until they had earned the right to ask for help, then their followers, connections and friends sprang to action and helped them succeed in their plans and business success.

If you are starting a social media campaign or have lost hope in your campaign take these tips seriously.  Victory in social media marketing is not for the ones who just show up and ask for help, you must earn the right to receive the help.

5 – Tips to get you started:

  1. Share you knowledge – you have a knowledge base, you might not think it is much but you do have a knowledge base share it freely. Yes if you have the secret recipe you don’t have to share it, but you can share tips and knowledge that will help others create their own secret recipe
  2. Share your answers –  invest time on the social media front helping others get the answers they need to be successful or find enjoyment.
  3. Share your advice – Who, what, when, why?  Pretend you’re a newspaper reporter and you have to interview yourself for an article. Remember the 4 W’s and start writing.
  4. Share your encouragement – People love to help people that make them feel good about themselves. Make someone else feel special
  5. Share your visions and dreams – What do you want the world to look like. Tell us. Yes you might get ridiculed from some but mostly you will help the best of us believe in you. And until we believe in you we will never promote or stand up for you.
So there you have it, Social Marketing tips from Harry Potter.  The movie is worth the price of admission.


Copy Machine Humor

A small, much used Xerox photocopier in the li...

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For years I worked for companies that continually battled the wasted paper at the copy machine. You know what I am speaking of, That box of wasted copies that have been duplicated or left behind for weeks when someone printed a project and then printed it again because the machine was going too slow.

Well I just have to share the new joy in my life. My newest employer continues to show their brilliance in employee motivation and management. You see if you print anything at our office and don’t happen to make it to the copy machine before the boss then your project or printed material becomes the newest office ticker parade. That is right 2 page or 60 pages she just takes true pleasure in just throwing them in the air over her head and smiling the entire time like she was in a parade of tick tape.  Occasionally she will then jump on them and rub them into the carpet.

I know some of you old blood manager are saying What a waste of money and time. But I assure you I try to never print an item that I am not going to use or that I am not willing to get up and go retrieve right now. Instead I watch with much satisfaction and laughter as the next set of papers goes for a fling.

The entire staff is into it now, occasionally someone else will do it, and the smile they get on their face is priceless. The culprit is not always happy but they seem to understand and often will walk down and pick up their wrinkled paper from the floor just so everyone would know it was them.

So what is the moral of this post, I don’t know, maybe it is that life is too short to be made at the wasted expense of paper at the machine, turn it into the office humor and liven up the place. Sure seems to add to the productivity and fun of our company.