Great Customer Service Is Inefficient

Customers

“We do not have the time, nor would we want to, answer every question that [our customers] have.”

That’s exactly what someone said to me recently when speaking about how to handle a customer request. Sure, customers/clients/patients are often needy. They ask for extras, exceptions, hand-holding and discounts. They want what they want and it rarely follows a “Customer Service Handbook” protocol. Their unpredictable needs make it hard for a business to stay efficient.

Efficiency is something that most companies strive for. How can we deliver a good product while using the least amount of time, manpower and resources as possible so that we can continue to grow?

The problem with this type of thinking is that the focus the bottom line of the company itself. And people don’t care about a company’s bottom line–they care about what that company is going to do to improve their lives. 

There are plenty of options today. I can order shoes from thousands of sites online. I can have a website developed by any number of companies. I can buy my dog’s absurdly expensive organic, HMO-free, grain-free dog food from just about any store that carries dog food.

What keeps me coming back to certain companies and brands is the high-level, positive experience and interactions I have them. Think about the best and worst customer service experiences you’ve had–chances are, you can start to see a pattern in the companies you deem the best and the worst.

Were you able to answer my question quickly while respecting my time or did you keep me on the phone for 30 minutes? Did you go out of your way to do something above and beyond to correct a mistake or did you deny it was your issue and state your policy? Did you acknowledge me on social media when I posted something positive about your brand? Did you treat me like a person or a number? Did you solve my problem?

Standard is everywhere. Today, to be a truly remarkable business, companies have to focus on becoming more than an efficient, well-oiled machine, they have to put extra focus on the customer and the experience they have when interacting with the company. Sometimes, that means answering every question, making yourself available, spending more time and manpower, giving your employees autonomy to solve issues based on incident not protocol or stopping to correct a problem even if the consumers may not even realize it’s a problem in the first place. Sometimes, great customer service means a little bit of inefficiency.

Dress The Message You Want To Convey

clothing

I was once told by a boss that we all needed to look like New York Bankers the day of a major presentation we were giving for a group local businesses (potential clients). We were not in New York and you may have guessed, we were not bankers. 

I remember at the time thinking to myself that what my boss meant to tell the group was not that we needed to dress like bankers from New York City, but that we needed to dress in a way that conveyed we were professionals that knew how to present ourselves in the best way possible, which in turn would make the people to whom we speaking more inclined to listen to what we had to say about presenting their own businesses in the best way possible. 

The clothes that we wear say a lot about who we are as well as signify many socially important things to others, even if the impression those clothes give is actually unfounded. 

I agree, looks can be deceiving. How people dress and present themselves doesn’t always tell the full story and ideally, we would never make a judgement based on appearance alone.

But no matter how great your own ability to do this is, the clothes you wear and the way you present yourself will alter the way other people hear what you have to say. Subconsciously, from that first impression, they will decide whether they will listen to you or ignore you. Trust you or distrust you. 

Think of appearance in terms of branding. Picture the aisles of your local grocery store. If an item is an already-trusted brand, a shopper will probably add it the basket with little thought. But when it’s a new product, if he or she notices it at all, they’re likely to be negatively or positively influenced by the package itself–the shape of the box, the colors, typeface, graphics and so on. Packaging itself is such a powerful tool, that, when done correctly, it can influence someone to buy the product. 

It’s important to dress in a way that will reflect your authentic self so you can in turn attract the audience you want to target. In other words, the clothes you wear shouldn’t camouflage who you are on the inside, they should communicate the imperative things that makes you you at a glimpse.

Whatever message you’re trying to send to the world, never forget the clothes that you put that message in will determine the way it’s received so dress it carefully. That certainly doesn’t mean that your appearance can’t change from day to day, event to event–it should! It all circles back to living in the present and making conscious decisions. 

Dress the message you want to convey. 

photo cred

Brands That Connect With Us, Make Us Feel, And Tell A Story WIN Our Attention

 
placement is everything

On the way to Virginia Beach, I passed an electronic billboard that rotated a series of 5 ads. One of the ads that ran was for refreshing Coca Cola. Great, there are thousands of people seeing that ad as they pass by in their hot cars and there’s a good possibility that even seeing the name Coca Cola will make them take a pit stop and grab a coke.

Unfortunately, the ad that immediately followed the refreshing Coca Cola ad said “One soda has 20 packs of sugar. Drink responsibly.” It was an ad by the Nutrition Counsel and program for Fit Kids.

Both Coca Cola and Fit Kids likely spent an enormous amount of money to have an ad rotating day in and day out on this billboard. But in this case, was the money that Coke spent really a waste?

Placement Zappos Airport

At the airport, Zappos, an online retailer, has put ads in the bins that shoes, laptops and bags are placed in as people walk through security. What a great time to convince someone they need a new pair of shoes or a bag for their laptop then when they are forced to remove those personal belongings and put them front in center in a bin in front of hundreds of people at the airport.

Placement is everything. It’s important to think through all of the details and possible conflicts when deciding how to market a brand. In a world where we are inundated with thousands upon thousands of ads a day, the brands that win are the ones who are able to make us feel something, that tell a story and are able to connect to us in a personal way.

Perhaps it was Fit Kids that won in the billboard placement on the way to Virginia Beach. Unintentionally, Coke’s ill-placed ad right before their harmful sugar message really helped them tell a more vivid story. As for Zappos, I know I certainly think of the condition of my shoes every time I’m standing sock-footed in the security line at the airport.

Brands that win our attention do so through making us feel something. They move us to act based on fear, excitement and desire for a certain quality of life. Brands that don’t win our attention often spend their time trying to market the product instead of the benefits that product will have on our lives. And even if a brand does it well in most cases, sometimes the placement of that story can make all the difference.

Well done, Zappos.

15 Ways The Digital Revolution Will Change Our Lives In the Next Decade

The Future

What’s so remarkable about technology of this very moment? 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. There are 2,405,518,376 people with access to the internet–and this number has grown 566% since 2000. 67% of internet users in the United States are on Facebook 

As Dan Lynch, founder of Interop and former director of computing facilities at SRI International, wrote, “The most useful impact is the ability to connect people. From that, everything flows.”

Technology and the internet flow freely through many of our lives like electricity. Entire industries have been rocked by this revolution and many more will follow. We all know, to some degree, that things are changing at a pace we never imagined. But Pew Research Center took it one step further last month, releasing the report, “Digital Life in 2025,” polling over 2,500 digital experts.

Below are the 15 theses that Pew arrived at based their research:

1) Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.

2) The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.

3) The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior

4) Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.

5) Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.

6) The spread of the ‘Ubernet’ will diminish the meaning of borders, and new ‘nations’ of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.

7) The Internet will become ‘the Internets’ as access, systems, and principles are renegotiated

8) An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers.

9) Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.

10) Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography, dirty tricks, crime, and those who practice them have new capacity to make life miserable for others

11) Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power—and at times succeed—as they invoke security and cultural norms.

12) People will continue—sometimes grudgingly—to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.

13) Humans and their current organizations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.

14) Most people are not yet noticing the profound changes today’s communications networks are already bringing about; these networks will be even more disruptive in the future.

15) Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’

 

photo cred: BSR

Don’t Forget Who You’re In Business For–The Customer

Customer Service

Customers, patrons, patients, viewers, clients–for any business, these groups of people should be the #1 priority. They are the reason business exists–to serve the customers.

Online and on social media, positive and negative customer service experiences are being shared at an exponential rate. Networks such as Twitter, Google and Yelp empower people to record their experiences and share them with the world. 

I recently had a an issue with my internet service through Comcast. It took 5 phone calls, 2 visits to the store and a lot of reaching out via Twitter before they bothered to fix the issue–that was theirs, not mine! On the flip side, when Zappos sent me something wrong in my order, they not only made it right (on the first go-around), they reached out to me again to be sure I was happy and even gave me a $20 gift certificate.

Zappos often refers to themselves as a Customer Service Company that sells shoes. That’s something we should all remember. No matter if you’re your one person in a large company or if you’re running your own business–you can make a difference. I encourage you to step back and stop trying to sell people. Listen to what they’re really asking for and deliver it. And once you’ve done that, exceed their expectations by over-delivering in every way you can.

It’s much more difficult to find new customers and make them believers than it is to please the loyal ones you’ve got right there at your side. Go the extra mile for the people you work for and never forget that the customer is the focus of every extraordinary business.

10 Key Actions To Consider While Building Your Business Social Media Strategy

Social Media 101

Social media has changed the way we connect, communicate and educate. It has raised us to a new level where time and distance boundaries do not pose the same challenges as before. 

Businesses everywhere are stepping up to the challenge in creating strategies and processes so they can engage with their current and potential customers online and on social and to interact, respond to and meet their needs. 

Here are 10 key actions to consider while building your business social media strategy:

1. Know Your Target Market

Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all very different platforms and each has a specific demographic most likely to engage. Just as you would do with traditional marketing, you need to what your target customer really looks like. Don’t chase the exceptions to the rule–look for the commonalities in your core customers. Once you know who you’re trying to talk to, do the research to see what social media platforms they are on and be there!

 

2. Create Content With Purpose

Carefully consider the message and goal of every post or tweet before putting it out there. Do you want to drive more buzz about a specific new product? Are you trying to educate people about your business in away that would interest them? Be sure the words you put out there support the end-result you are seeking. 

 

3. You’ve Got Analytics–Use ‘Em

Analytics and research are the foundation for any outstanding social media strategy. If you’re using Facebook, then yes, look at your Facebook Insights to see who you is looking at your page, what time they are on, what types of posts they are engaged with.

Even more importantly, leverage the information you get from Google Analytics to understand what content is making the biggest impact with your audience. Let the statistics and analytics be your guide for what, when, where and how you post content. 

4. Target Across Multiple Platforms

Facebook is the big guy in many areas. For businesses, most of their “socially” savvy consumers are in that space. But the companies that are using social media to its greatest potential are expanding their presence to multiple platforms. Look to see if there are secondary platforms you could create a presence on to increase your influence.

5. Stay Fresh

The same old same old gets really boring, especially in the world of social media where engagement and content is key. Don’t just stick with the same old “LIKE if you agree” format on Facebook or tweet with a caption on Twitter. The best strategy for social media is mixing up your tactics. Try new things and analyze afterwards what the reaction was.

When setting up accounts on different social media networks, make sure your logo, color scheme, fonts and graphics are consistent.

You want to ensure that no matter where people connect with you, your personal brand is easily identifiable.

 

6. Keep Consistant Across Platforms

You want to be sure that no matter where people are encountering your brand, they can easily recognize it. Keep your graphics, fonts, logo and color pallets consistent everywhere.

7. Have A Conversation

If you’re lucky enough to capture the attention of the audience you’re seeking, make sure you’re there to engage them! Respond to comments–yes, even the negative ones. In today’s society of constant contact, even the angry customers just want to be heard. You would be amazed at how easily you can turn a hater in to a brad ambassador just but treating them as a person, not a LIKE or a Follower.

The purpose of social media for your business is not just to have a presence, it’s to show the human side of the business and express personality. There is no way you can do this if you ignore the people that are engaging with you.

8. Don’t Sell All The Time: Follow the 70/30 Rule

Social media is personable. Each person on a particular platform gets to customize it in ways that suit his or her interests best. If you want to gain and keep the attention of current and potential customers, follow the 70/30 rule. At least 70% of the time, your posts should have engaging content and let the other 30% (or less) of your posts be the promotional ones.

So what does “engaging” content mean on social media? Use the 70% of your posts to give content to your followers that is intriguing, useful and fun–stuff they would seek out on their own. This allows your audience to feel as though they are engaging in a conversation rather than being sold every time your business posts something. 

By following this rule, when you do actually post something that is promotional, your followers are far more likely to value that information. 

9. Stay Current, Stay Relevant

Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending socially and in news in general, especially the topics relevant to your target customers. When you appear out-of-touch or feed “old information” to your fan base, you’ll lose their attention quickly. 

10. Never Assume You’ve Got It Masters–Stay A Constant Student

Never assume you’ve mastered this stuff. The moment you put it on auto-pilot is the moment you lose relevance. Social Media is fluid so your strategy has to also remain ever-changing and flexible. 

Don’t be afraid to try something and fail. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there–it’s what social is all about. And absolutely, most definitely, don’t be afraid of change! 

 
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