In the End, Business IS Service

Miracle on 34th Street (1994 film)

Is your team as committed to customer service as Kris Kringle? (source: Wikipedia)

How would you like to have 75% of your business be repeat customers who seek you out to get things? Most businesses would be thrilled, especially if those customers checked in regularly to see what you have. As Jeanne Bliss shared at smallbiztrends.com recently, when your company is clear about who it is and what it does, amazing things can happen.

Using internet retailer Zappos.com as an example, Bliss explores how clarity from the boardroom to the customer service floor can make a big difference in the decisions made, which create a trusted relationship between retailer and customer, keeping them coming back. The company was founded on the idea of great customer service after its founder, Nick Swinmurn, couldn’t find a pair of shoes he wanted back in 1999.

Today, if Zappos does not offer what you are looking for, their customer service reps will help you find it elsewhere on the web–sort of like Kris Kringle in the Miracle on 34th Street sending people to Gimbels when Macy’s didn’t have what they were looking for. As Zig Ziglar said, “when you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” When your customers know you are looking out for their interests, you create an emotional connection with your customers and they will patronize you loyally–even becoming your evangelists.

Are you one of those people who has “internal customers” — other organizations within your company that you serve? They may be forced to come to you for service, but what if you treated them with all of the respect and courtesy of an outside customer? Treating others with respect and providing them great service will also make these people fans of you and your organization, making it easier for your company to meet its mission and creating valuable contacts who might be able to help you in the future.

In the end, business is service because the best businesses in every field realize they must create a relationship with people about an offering. They may have to buy from you the first go-round for any number of reasons, but they will come back because of the relationship. Service provides a means to create that relationship. Clarity about this essential truth will help your organization grow.

Clarity of Purpose: What’s Your Promise? by Jeanne Bliss at smallbiztrends.com

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Why You Should Say No

No! No! No!I was reading a blog post at fourhourworkweek.com talking about why creative people should say “no” more often. The author, Kevin Ashton, shared several rejections to the invitation a researcher sent to creative people because he was studying the creative process. The one that stuck with me was from Peter Drucker:

One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours–productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.

For a several years I fancied myself a leader, and a decent one at that. But my true journey as a leader did not start until the day I realized that, in spite of all my education and skill at problem solving, I was not leading because I was always pursuing someone else’s agenda. Sure, I had goals: I wanted to make lots of money so I could take care of my family; I wanted to be the best at something; I wanted to be loved and respected. Nice ideals, but vague and unfocused. Consequently, my plan was to find and solve problems. “Just tell me what problem you need solved and I will take care of it!” was my mantra. I didn’t realize I was surrendering my agenda to other people.

I had to figure out what I really wanted, then I had to start saying ‘no.’

Saying no is hard. By nature we want to help others. Further, most of our social training teaches us it is rude to decline to help someone in need. If someone is truly in need — really cannot take care of him/herself — then we should help. But there is a difference between someone truly wanting and someone wanting you to help with the community yard sale…or the Christmas Party Committee. Mind you, doing either of those activities because they will help you and your agenda is a reason to do them. But if there is nothing in it for you, then saying yes is only taking time away from the big things you are supposed to accomplish.

So, first, figure out your purpose. Next, figure out how to do it. Finally, consider others’ invitations to help them, but consider whether the time taken away from your goals is worth the price.

Why (and How) Creative People Need to Say “No” by Kevin Ashton at fourhourworkweek.com

 

The Day Captain Picard Panicked – And What He Did

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was the icon of a generation — “The Next Generation.” His job was to fill Jim Kirk’s shoes. He didn’t really expect that the show would be a success, but the steady paycheck for a year is something that actors appreciate.

Then, according to Trent Moore at blatstr.com, Patrick Stewart discovered that the show was going to be successful and that six-year contract he had signed was going to be enforced.

Stewart is an artist whose first love is the stage. He had heard of people who had lost their edge because they had gotten into television or the movies, where you have infinite re-do’s if you need them. He didn’t want to lose his edge or his ability to connect with a live audience.

I believe one of the reasons that Captain Picard was such a great character is because a part of him was Patrick Stewart. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Picard’s alter-ego would also be a thinker and a planner.

To deal with the problem, Picard developed a one-man show that he could do on short notice, so that when he had a chance to get away from it all, he could “relax” by getting in front of an audience and perform, live.

The fix was in, and Stewart was on Star Trek for seven years. He has gone on to continued success outside of the Sci-Fi drama. His name recognition, his fame–which he enjoys–has given him opportunities to pursue the work he loves now, using the skills he did not let fester while doing something different.

As a leader, do you continue to husband the skills you used to get you into your position of influence? If so, why? If not, why not?

Why Patrick Stewart ‘panicked’ when Star Trek: TNG became a hit by Trent Moore at blastr.com

150 Billion Bits of Purpose

Did you know you only have 150 billion chances to live life purposefully? It seems like an absurdly large number, but follow along with me and you will see that perhaps it isn’t…

The 99u.com blog claims to be about empowering people to use their own great ideas. It is very eclectic. A great thought I read there recently comes from Sam Spurlin. He wants to challenge people’s way of thinking about productivity. He posits that our brains can process about 100 bits of information a second. Assuming you live 80 years and sleep 8 hours a night, that gives you about 150 billion bits of information that your brain processes. (I know that some of you are thinking that this is the capacity of the conscious mind, the subconscious does 100 times that — the point is still going to be the same, so just play along…) Now, Sam says reading takes up about 50 bits a second, leaving the other 50 to take in the sounds, scents, and other senses. And we can only follow so much before something goes by the wayside. Try following six people talking at the same time. You will only process so much of that information — at least at the conscious level.

So the question is, how will you invest your 100 bits per second? Some people want to be as productive with their lives as possible, and try to figure out how to win more time by finding tricks and shortcuts to get things done. But does being productive always equate to being effective?

Some think being productive is effective. But being effective isn’t just about getting things done faster, it is about getting the right things done. One can be very productive on meaningless things… think of most reality TV.

To get the right things done, you have to know why you are doing things. You have to tie what you do to the things you value. I wrote about rituals the other day. They are a way to deliberately live your values and put purpose into some of the things you do.

In the minute or so that you have taken to read this article, you have processed 6000 bits of information. Hopefully, you didn’t simply read them to be entertained. My hope is that you will take a few of those bits over the next few minutes and think about your values and your purpose and begin to align your actions with them!

It’s Not About “Productivity.” It’s About Living Purposefully. by Sam Spurlin at 99u.com

To Succeed, Ignore These People

“You can’t live a positive life around negative people.”

So begins Marc Chernoff’s post, 7 Negative People You Need to Ignore, at marcandangel.com. Marc and Angel regularly post great stuff that makes you think and can help you live a happier life. So, who are the 7 people Marc wants you to avoid? Here is the list:

  1. The hopelessly hostile drama queen. Our tendency is to confront those who are hostile toward us. Don’t react, respond if you must deal with them. Keep your cool and look for resolution, seek to be kind.
  2. The person you have failed to please a hundred times before. All of us have some people in our life whom we cannot please. Perhaps they don’t want to be pleased by anything you do… who knows? Don’t hate them, just ignore them.
  3. The naysayer who always dumps on your dreams. Why are we so eager to listen to others when they put us down? If you listen and accept what others say, you will become what they say. And that’s not what you want, so ignore them!
  4. The manipulator. These people are trying to force you into their plans. It isn’t wrong to take part in other people’s plans, but do so because it fits into your plans. Otherwise, stay away from them!
  5. The stubborn one who insist you should be someone else. Some people want to force you to change, others won’t let you change. Either way, you are living to someone else’s expectations, not your own. Grow because it is what you want to do. If you are changing to please someone else, you may become bitter with time if they change their mind about who you ought to be.
  6. The unforgiving friend who refuses to forgive you for your mistakes. Mistakes are part of life. Friends help one another grow past mistakes and become better for it. If people hold too tightly  the past and not forgive you your mistakes, they are making a grave one themselves.
  7. The inner critic. Yes, this is you. Sometimes you need to ignore yourself. We humans love to compare the best in others to the worst in ourselves. We also tend to take on the six roles above when dealing with ourselves. When you do, shut that person up and move on with your plans.

If you are to grow and become the person who will achieve the great big goals and visions you have for your life, you have to decide who you are now and who you are going to become. Avoiding people who do not want you to grow is crucial to your transformation.
Oh, and if you really want to make sure you avoid these people, find others who will support you and give you room to grow. The best way to avoid bad friends, like bad habits, is to replace them with good ones.
7 Negative People You Need to Ignore by Marc Chernoff at markandangel.com

Those Pesky Salespeople!

Bad salespeople may get sales, but they often do it at someone’s expense. In the short-term, that might be the customer, but in the long run poor salespeople hurt their own companies. In a recent post at the Inc.com blogs, John Treace makes this point, sharing the 5 Worst Mistakes That Salespeople Make:

  1. Blaming the company for mistakes. Sure, sometimes the company is to blame, but shouldn’t a sales professional be seeking a solution instead of blame?
  2. Failing to recommend a competitor. Your product isn’t the best for all customers all the time. Sales professionals are trusted advisors, so tell the truth when the competitor is better for a particular situation.
  3. Putting the sale first. When a sale becomes about what the salesperson wants and not the customer, it puts the relationship at risk. You might get that sale, but will you ever get another one with them?
  4. Not honoring commitments. Sales professionals keep their commitments because that builds trust. If customers cannot count on you, they will go elsewhere.
  5. Making “trap” presentations. Nobody wants to be goaded into a purchase they aren’t ready to make, so avoid “If I could show you X, would you buy today?” presentations.

As you can see, good sales professionals work to create relationships based on trust with clients. They take responsibility and put the customer first, always. Are you a sales professional? What do you do to create trust in your relationships with customers?

5 Worst Mistakes That Salespeople Make by John Treace at Inc.com

Own Your Life Through Your Rituals

I have been reading a lot lately about the power of daily routines: morning routines, bedtime routines, etc. This seems to be a popular topic in the leadership and wellness literature lately. In this article by Alan Henry at Lifehacker.com, I saw not only a great method for helping you to create one, but Alan goes into why you ought to have little rituals… habits that control your day.

Why have rituals? First, they help you de-stress. I am sure that stress creeps into your life from time to time. If you don’t have positive ways of dealing with it, you will adopt negative ways. And that leads to the second reason to adopt rituals: having positive ways of dealing with stress leaves less room for negative ways to creep in. As the Og Mandino said in The Greatest Salesman in the World, “If I must be a slave to my habits, I will form good habits and become their slave.”

Alan shares a three-step process for creating a ritual-habit for dealing stress:

  1. Track your mood and identify your stress points. Find out what causes your stress by keeping a log or journal about your mood. Try to pinpoint what causes the stresses in your life. Are there common themes?
  2. Define your “Interventions,” or rituals you want to pick up. What can you do to take a break from the stress? Something that can be done almost anywhere, so that you can deal with stress even if you aren’t in a familiar environment? As you find these things that can help you deal with the stress, figure ways to automatically trigger the response when the stress goes off. Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD calls these “if-then” plans. Planting them into your mind will create triggers to help you when the stress begins.
  3. Make it a habit. Now take your budding rituals and make them part of your routine, using them even when you don’t have stress. When you can call your calming ritual to mind even when you are not stressed, soon the stress will have less power over you because you have developed a means of being calm even before the trouble hits. This detachment leads to emotional stability.

One other reason to create rituals is that they can keep you in touch with the things you value most. How many of us get caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the things we value? Stopping and taking a little time out, whether for self-care or self-study or anything else you value ensures that you will live your value… and become a slave to them…

What rituals have you developed for yourself? Why not share them in the comments section below?

How Personal Rituals Can Improve Your Health (and How to Build Them) by Alan Henry at Lifehacker.com

Victors and Viktors

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

While researching my newsletter, I came across a 1999 PBS interview with Dr. Ben Carson, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. Many of you know his story: young black boy raised by a single mom who wanted her boys to escape from poverty. She required he and his brother to read 2 books weekly from the library, and write book reports. His love for learning inspired, he fought other challenges to eventually become the man of distinction he is today.

Carson’s mom also would not stand for her boys to play the victim. If they were in trouble and used someone else as an excuse, she would ask, “Do you have a brain?” If they answered yes, then it really didn’t matter what others did. She made her boys understand personal responsibility.

And personal responsibility is an empowering trait. Recognizing that racism was a serious problem in his youth, Carson’s mom reminded him that he still had choices. As Dr. Carson told it in his interview:

When it comes to something like racism, for instance, my mother used to always say, “If you walk into an auditorium full of racist, bigoted people,” she said, “you don’t have a problem. They have a problem. Because when you walk in, they are going to cringe and wonder if you’re going to sit next to them, whereas you can go sit anywhere you want. So let them wory about it if they want to. You don’t ahve to do that.” And, you know, that’s the whole concept in terms of the victim’s mentality. You either accept it and become a victim, or you deny it and become a victor.

You have a choice between being a victim and a victor.

Another “victor” — Dr. Viktor Frankl — said:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

When somebody provokes you, or you discover your plans are failing, in that moment between the stimulus and your response, choose how you will respond. Choose to be a victor and find a way to win.

Conversation with Dr. Ben Carson (1999) by David Gergen at PBS.

Failing to Acknowledge Failure

How many of us as we start to set goals and create plans stop to analyze the possibility of failure? Adrienne Asselmeier, a guest blogger at bplans.com, in her recent post, Failure is an Option, commented recently that “When all you can think about is success, goals, and growth, then you’re not going to have a Plan B.”

“Dren” is right when she comments that people don’t really want to think about failure, but inevitably any plan will have some little failures in it. She points out that lots of people are starting to talk about failure in blogs and on the conference circuit. Failure is actually good, and our friend, if we learn from it. If we understand that we are likely to fail at first, it won’t bother us to do so–it is part of the process of learning. Setbacks are part of achievement.

While we should expect we will face setbacks, we should not use this as an excuse to inadequately plan. We should be looking at our plans and asking questions, challenging our assumptions. For example, Why do I believe my sales projections are accurate? How do I know it will take this long to manufacture my product? Why should I believe I can recruit the team in the time allotted?

The management discipline that addresses the real challenges any plan or organization faces and deals with threats, active and potential is Risk Management. It is all part of grounding yourself in the realities of the market. You want to understand what you face so that you can adequately plan.

I think a lot of people confuse what is Plan B. For many the thinking goes, “If I fail at starting this software company, I can always be a bartender.” If you want to run a nightclub, bartending so you can learn more about running a club might be something of a Plan B. But real Plan B’s are about taking a different approach to getting your dream. I wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy for college. I wanted to be a Marine Officer. Knowing that the academic standards were rigorous, my Plan B was not to become a Music major at the local college. I enlisted in the armed forces and got some education to prepare me. This plan also kept me near my dream, keeping me focused on my mission. I entered the Naval Academy 1 year to the day after I entered enlisted service. Sure there was hard work in there, it didn’t happen by magic. But I knew what I wanted and was not going to accept failure. It was an option, but not one I had to settle for.

Failure is an Option by Adrienne Asselmeier at bplans.com

How to Ruin a Business (or Any other) Relationship

Woman-profile-trashOver at the Inc.com blogs, Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick recently posted a great piece about how to mess up business relationships. They share two great ways to screw up a business relationship: inattention, and not being 100% present.

To illustrate their first point, they share a story about a friend, “Sam,” a great guy but he doesn’t get around to responding to responding to emails or phone calls with any rhyme or reason. This can threaten relationships if people begin to believe you don’t really care about them. They then point to a survey their company did with 10’s of thousands of employees for client companies and found that one of the biggest problems affecting employee satisfaction was perceived disrespect from their bosses. When you are too busy to make time for people, they perceive that you don’t value them. Don’t be careless with your relationships, like Sam. Decide what is important to you and work on those things. Don’t let the urgent get in the way of doing what is important.

Which brings us to the other thought, being 100% present. There are tons of things that scream for our attention during the day, especially with 24/7 access to information, it is easy to let the urgent chirp or vibration of a text or email distract us from meetings or other work we may be doing. But is it wise to sneak that peek or tap that quick reply. When you do, you are telling those around you that they are really not as important as that other message. Once again, you are showing disrespect, however unintentional it may be.

John Maxwell says that connecting with people is hard work. If you value a relationship, give it the attention it deserves, and show respect for your connection. This is true whether a colleague, customer, or significant other.

…I guess I need to catch up with some people this next week! How about you?

How to Ruin Business Relationships by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick at Inc.com