Archive for the ‘Client Management’ category

Down to the Crossroads

September 19, 2011

We went out to dinner last night with another couple.  When we got to the restaurant, a cool little Turkish place with great food and suspect service, it was still pretty crowded.  We found a spot at the bar, watched a little of the Oklahoma/Fla State game, and figured we’d have a drink while we waited for a table to free up.

About fifteen minutes went by, and no one even came to ask us if we wanted a beverage.  But gratefully, someone finally came and told us a table was ready.  Woot!

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So we sat down and waited for our “dining experience” to begin.  And we waited, and waited and waited.  We watched the bus crew clear a few other tables, and a waitress slowly bring checks to other tables.  By now, it had been close to 30 minutes and we were no closer to a meal than when we walked in.

I decided it was time for “action.”   I got up from the table, walked up to someone I was pretty sure was the owner, and said we’d been waiting a LONG time at the bar AND at a table and we hadn’t even gotten so much as a menu and a glass of water.

Moment of truth!

The owner was remarkably apologetic.  The manager said he would serve us himself, and then, after a conversation in Turkish with the owner, told us our drinks would be on them.  I am pretty sure they also threw in a free appetizer.

As usual, the meal itself was fantastic.   We stuffed ourselves and I made sure to go back to the manager before I left to thank him for taking such good care of us after our initial wait.

Here’s the thing:  the owner and manager, in an instant, had the option of making me a bigger fan of their establishment, or putting me in a position where I probably never would have returned.  But, in order to do that, they had to swallow just a tiny bit of pride and be apologetic and conciliatory.

When you find yourself at the crossroads of ego and customer service, do you turn left or “right”…?

Deafening Silence

April 28, 2011

There’s an old, old expression: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  It is intended to mean that people who complain the loudest and longest often get their way.  OK, I get that.  If somebody is “in your face” demanding better service, restitution, free donuts for their grief, whatever, you are going to be inclined to give them what they want and “shut them up.”

Now be honest.  As a product or service provider, once they’re gone and you’ve “met their demands” you are likely to either mutter under your breath, or casually remark to a co-worker, “what a rear anatomical part of a donkey…”

Nevertheless, you have gone above and beyond!  You have satisfied an otherwise disgruntled customer.  You have saved your business from their on-line rants.  Good for you!!!

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So what have you done for all your clients or employees that haven’t complained because they are either satisfied or delighted with your products, services or management style?  There’s a chance the answer is, “not much, I have been too busy greasing the squeaky wheels.”

That’s part of the premise of Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, the Thank You Economy.  I heard an interview with him on NPR and it made me think about the best ways to strike a balance between openly upset customers and employees, and ones who are quietly complacent.

Maybe this week, you can find some time to grease a wheel that isn’t squeaking yet…

Common Cents

April 22, 2011

Two years ago, I consolidated all my 401k and retirement accounts into a single account so I could watch it not grow more easily.  That included transferring the money I had in a Charles Schwab account.   The following month, I got a statement from Schwab that said the balance in the account was one cent.  That’s right.  $00.01.  I can only assume that some instantaneous computer-driven interest-calculating program granted me a “dividend” at the very moment I took out all my money.  So I did what most self-respecting, lazy procrastinators would do – I ignored the statement and threw it out.

I have continued to receive statements every month showing my balance of one cent.  To be honest, after 24 months, you’d think it would have grown to two cents, but such is the state of our economy I suppose.

But wait…

Last week, I got a letter from Schwab informing me that the State of Michigan requires them to send me paperwork that I have to fill out and return, indicating that I wish to keep the account open.  If I do not respond by May 11, they will turn over the “assets” of the account to the “unclaimed property department of the State of Michigan.”  As hard as any of this is to fathom, I am not making it up.

As much as I wanted to do nothing (see self-characterization in paragraph 1) guilt got the better of me and I called Schwab, asked the nice person who answered to close the account, and I also let them keep the penny…

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So here’s the thing.  Between all the people and computers in the state of Michigan AND at Charles Schwab, don’t you think someone would have recognized the ridiculousness of the situation and put a stop to it, if for no other reason than doing some simple arithmetic around spending 40 cents every month to send me a letter to tell me I still had a penny in an account I had liquidated?  But no one did.  And here’s why…

Because it’s not their money.

As a leader in a small, mid-sized, or God forbid large organization, are you still capable of thinking about expenditures as if it were your money?  Do the teams you lead think that way?

If you don’t or they don’t, maybe you should Talk to Chuck…

Going down?

January 14, 2011

As a leader within your organization, I am sure that at one point or another you’ve had a discussion about your company’s “elevator speech” – this concept that you should be able to explain exactly what your company is all about in less than 1 minute.  Many companies take this quite seriously, and even practice and drill their C levels, business development team and others about what they should say and how they should say it.  Seems reasonable to me.

But what if you had A WHOLE HOUR to talk about yourself and your company??   Assuming you opted not to repeat your elevator pitch 59 times, then what?

I had the pleasure of sitting through two such “moments” today as part of the vendor selection process for an enterprise-wide ERP implementation (and yes, I know that’s redundant…)  It was, to say the least, illuminating.

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So here’s my quick “top 5” things NOT to do, in case you:

  • a) find yourself in a similar situation
  • b) actually think any of my alleged “insights” are worth taking seriously

Drum roll, please!

  1. Don’t read slides to me that have the same content that is already in the response to my RFP.  I know I didn’t read it, and you know I didn’t read it, but still…
  2. Don’t tell me how many partner/customer/developer/consultant of the year awards you’ve won.  That’s like auditioning for a part in a movie, walking in with an Emmy statue, and asking me if I still want you to actually read the script…
  3. Don’t tell me “who reports to who.” In the unlikely event I can’t figure it out from the business cards you just handed me, if you do win the business, and the project goes south, there will be ample time for me to find out who your boss is and call her.
  4. Don’t show me a methodology slide you “tweaked” from ITIL, PMI, COBIT, Lean, Six Sigma, Seven Sigma or Eight Omega and tell me that’s what makes you different and better.  That’s like showing me an overhead photo of the Brickyard at Indianapolis, grabbing a marker and drawing an arrow that goes around the track in a perfect oval, and then tell me that makes you Helio Castroneves…
  5. Don’t tell me the project is going to take 6,473 hours to complete and if we start on February 3, we’ll be done on October 15 at 3:44 PM.    I know my requirements are 60% accurate; you know my requirements are 60% accurate.  Why not say there’s a good chance we could finish between Sep 30 and Nov 15, depending on what we learn about each other in the next 6 weeks.  Is that so hard??

Would you press 4 for me?

 

Nothin’ but the best, Alice

October 29, 2009

We decided to get a family portrait done, because it had been approximately 15 years since the last one, and it seemed like we should capture an image of our children before we have to steal one from their AARP membership cards.  So we searched relentlessly for just the right photographer, since this was such an important undertaking and we wanted it to turn out just right.  One photographer in particular impressed me a great deal.  He talked a good game and seemed genuinely interested in capturing the “Kreha Essence.”   As he became more enthused about the project, he reached into his equipment bag and took out his camera, a Kodak Instamatic Brownie camera that looked like it probably captured the drama of the landing at Normandy.

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Needless to say, we moved on to the next photographer…  Now here’s what you’re thinking:  I’ve never seen a serious photographer who doesn’t also have a passion about their equipment, because his or her cameras are an extension of their art.  Of course not!  They understand that investing in quality equipment, even though it’s expensive, is a necessary cost of doing business, and, quite frankly, of making the right impression on some of their clients.

So why is it that some technology consulting companies can’t seem to find the funding to provide similar quality equipment for their technical staff?  What message does that send?

Just to round this out, I went to a panel discussion last week on using technology to market your company.  As we rolled around to the subject of tools, new media, etc. one of the panelists, the CEO of a small, growing company, actually said, “I wanted an iPhone, so I finally had to buy them for my staff.”  Nice message.

I realize how costly it can be to replace or upgrade laptops, servers, your network and other infrastructure that your teams use to do their work on a very short cycle.  Do you realize how costly it is NOT to do that…?

How much would YOU pay??

June 25, 2009

I went to my car mechanic the other day.  I said, “Fritz, my car isn’t running right.  I am not sure what the problem is.  Can you fix it for $400?”   Fritz said, “I’m not sure – mind if I take a look at it, run some diagnostics and see what the problem might be?”  I immediately suspected Fritz would use the diagnostics not to hone in on the problem, but to justify charging me more money.”  “No way,” I said, “you either guarantee me that you can fix it for $400 no matter what the problem is, or I am going to another mechanic.” 

You can only imagine what Fritz reaction might have been.  It’s extremely likely that he would have said that he couldn’t help me without being sure of what the problem is and what the likely cost of parts and labor might be to get it running smooth again.  Or MAYBE, if he was really desperate for some cash, he might take the gamble that he could fix it for less than $400 and pocket the rest as pure profit.  But I seriously doubt it…

And isn’t that what we, in the consulting business, do every time we bid on a fixed price project without the proper time, insight, and validation for what the scope of the project is??  I am not against fixed price contracting any more than I am against a car mechanic taking my tires and brake shoes off and then telling me I need new rotors, that it’ll be $300, and when I go to pick the car up, it’s exactly $300.  But I am vehemently against being so desperate for revenue, any kind of revenue, that you will bid a fixed price on  a project based on a set of vague requirements and then spend the next 6 months either trying to nickel and dime every change order you can think of, argue about what’s in and out of scope and/or hope that you can claim you’re “done” before you find yourself wildly upside down on your P&L.

Next chapter, coming soon to a blog post near you…  What to do instead… 

Solution Selling – the final chapter

June 12, 2009

Let’s wrap up our little journey into the land of Solution Selling by covering the big three: Pain, Budget and Decision.  And rather than bore you (too late, you say??) with lengthy descriptions of these key steps in solution selling, let’s “cut to the chase” and hit on one myth and reality of each, shall we??

Pain

This is, for some, the granddaddy of them all.

Myth – no pain, no sale.

Reality – no value, no sale.

Think about it.  I’ll admit that pain is the lowest common denominator of the easy sell.  My water heater broke on Christmas Eve – I’ll pay anyone any amount of money to come to my house RIGHT NOW and fix.  OK, we get that.  If that’s how you want to sell, become a dentist.  But what if someone who you trusted said, “I just talked to Martha Stewart and I know a stock that is going to double in price in the next two weeks.  Are you in??”  Maybe a bad example, but you get my point.  You’d spend/invest money if you were confident your investment would yield value that made your choice worthwhile.  Here’s how you know this is true. Because once you doubled your investment, you’d tell everyone.  People are proud of value.  So look at your company’s offerings and find some, or quit and find a new company that has some…

Budget

My personal favorite

Myth – Expend as much energy as you can to find out what your prospect’s budget is and then craft your proposal to be $13 less than that.

Reality – It’s not your money.  Create a compelling value proposition and true differentiation that shows you’re better than your competition and your prospect will find the budget.

I just sat in a meeting this very day where there was a proposed $35,000 change order to a project I am involved in.  Granted, this is a big project.  But still – the discussion about the change order, and ultimately the decision whether to do it was based ENTIRELY on value.  No one said, “wow, that’s a lot of money.”  Because everything is relative…  And budget is relative to value.

Decision

Myth – whatever energy you aren’t spending to find out the budget, expend finding out who the “decision maker” is, and then make it your life’s work to focus all your annoying attention on them.

Reality – you will NEVER understand the inner machinations and politics of your clients and prospects.  You will pretend you do, because it makes you feel like you’re in control.  Instead, treat everyone with respect and focus on things you can control, like the quality of your proposal and presentations.  Oh yeah, and the quality of your product, reputation and offerings too.

You know how this is true?  Because we’ve all gone shopping for cars with our spouses.  And in many cases, especially way back in the day, car salespersons might have a tendency to focus on “the guy” assuming that the guy was the decision maker and that he knew more about cars.  And how many times, after you left the showroom, did your spouse turn to you and say, “you’re not buying a car from that salesperson – he/she ignored me.  What a jerk…”


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