Archive for the ‘Service’ 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”…?

Put me in, coach!

September 1, 2011

One of the things I love about baseball is the subtle communication that is taking place all over the field.  The signs between the catcher and pitcher, silently communicating the type of pitch and its location.  The signs between the manager in the dugout, the third base coach and the batter, informing the batter whether to bunt, swing away, take the next pitch, or ask for more money in his next contract.  You can imagine that, if a new player showed up on the team and didn’t take the time to find out what all the signs were, he wouldn’t be very effective and would be on the bench, “riding the pine” as they used to say, pretty fast.

So I am always a bit amazed when a vendor that is being  paid handsomely for their efforts introduces a new “player” in a meeting or on a conference call, allegedly with some new expertise that is greatly needed for the project/endeavor to succeed, and the first words out of the new player’s mouth are, “I’m really not familiar with your project or environment.”

Really?  Did the person coordinating the resources from your end not take the time to fill you in on a few key details, like what we’re trying to accomplish, who the team is, what our milestone dates are and what your role will be??  Or did you not bother to ask??

imageWhen you play pickup baseball in a park or schoolyard, there are no signs.  That’s because everyone playing are a bunch of amateurs, not paid professionals.

How do you want YOUR team to be perceived…?

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…

Virtually yours

February 16, 2011

There are some classic oxymorons out there.  The favorites are of course, military intelligence, customer service, jumbo shrimp and Cleveland championships.  But I would like to add another: home office.

Lots of us are working in places other than a traditional office these days – coffee shops, dog kennels, apparently, and our homes as well.  And we have changed our contact wording to fit.  Now we say “direct line” in some cases instead of “office” for whatever number is not our cell phone.  As if we have administrative assistants screening our mobile phones.  Clever!

I had the pleasure this week of contacting a project manager from a vendor doing work for one of my clients.   I called his cell phone, thinking that would be the best way to reach him.  And he did, indeed, pick up.  Then, two interesting things happened:

  1. could just be me, but he almost sounded put out
  2. he asked me to call him back on his “direct” line because his cell phone coverage was “spotty” – even though I would be willing to bet he was at home

Gratefully, when I called his “land line” (do people still say that??) we had a better connection, resolved the issue I wanted to discuss and parted ways.

But to me, that’s another example of where our new oxymoron comes in.  I think that most of us have jumped on the virtual work bandwagon without giving sufficient thought to the differences in infrastructure between what used to be our “homes” and our “offices.”  We just figure that if we are working in our house, that must now be our “home office.”

I think it might be time to look around and make sure that noise suppression, decent phones, cell coverage, and a genuine feeling that we are actually ‘at work’ are with us in our new virtual worlds…

Well, what did you expect??

February 10, 2011

I got hit in the face with missed expectations this week courtesy of American Airlines.   I was flying home from Colorado after a quick but really fun mini-ski trip.  But, as with most trips, at least the ones where it’s as cold there as it is in Michigan, I was ready to come home.  I expected to be home around 8 PM on Monday.  I actually arrived home on Tuesday at 2 PM.

Here’s the interesting thing about this:  I realize weather affects flights.  I realize there are FAA limits on how many hours a pilot and crew can fly.  And I realize that it is not necessarily the airline’s “fault” that I got home much later than I had hoped, and had to deal with the delay on my own, since there is little compensation or assistance that the airline provides other than re-booking you on the next available flight.

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So what did they do “wrong” then?

I think they failed to set and then manage my expectations.  In fact, they did the opposite.  They told me my connecting flight was “on time” until an hour  before it was scheduled to leave.  Clearly that was not the case.  They told me I was booked on a later flight that day.  They had me wait at the airport for 5 hours, telling me the plane was on its way.  They never mentioned that there was a chance there wouldn’t be a crew.  They announced final cancellation due to a “lack of crew” at the last possible moment, after first saying they were looking for a new crew, as if pilots were lounging around O’Hare just hoping they got “picked” for an end of day jaunt to West Michigan.

But in reflecting on this, it seems that we as leaders all have a tendency to do the same.  How many times have you put off an uncomfortable conversation with an employee, a boss, or a client?  How many times have you promised that a project would go smoothly, ignoring the fact that there  is a roughly 100% chance that there will be “turbulence” along the way?  How many times have you set expectations too high and hoped that no one would compare those to outcomes?  And how many times were you shocked and defensive when someone called you on it and reminded you of what they were promised?

Well, what did you expect…?

The Money Changers

January 15, 2010

Although I love a good metaphor (and bad ones, according to my wife) I am not usually given to Biblical ones.  But I gotta throw something out there….

There’s a passage in Matthew, in the new testament, where the usually mild-mannered Jesus “loses it” and throws all the money changers out of the temple.  I guess these folks, among other services, sold doves and other livestock to temple patrons to be sacrificed, and exchanged foreign currency for whatever coinage was in vogue on the temple mount at the time, shekels most likely.

Fast forward 2000 years or so, and go to any technology convention.  In a vast area someplace (usually on the way into a session you’d like to attend) are rows and rows of tables of Independent Software Vendors (aka ISV’s) who desperately want you to stop by their booth and buy a goat or a hen (oh wait, confused there…  I mean take a brochure or try out a 30 day free demo)

Disclaimer:

  1. some of my best friends are ISV’s
  2. I use third party software at my clients all the time and work to implement all sorts of solutions that use ISV products, usually with some level of what would be considered “success”

Having said that, the last straw for me came from an interesting tweet from alert reader, Woody, who shared a link about “booth babes” from the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas [duh] that goes into the lives and motivations of the lures to a software or product display at a convention.  Nice.

So here’s my “ask” of my ISV friends.  (I first learned to use the word ‘ask’ as a noun at Xerox – they were famous for that…)   If you are going to physically position yourself in the way of our session, lunch or happy hour beer, and lure us to your booth with “babes,” why don’t you balance that with a few honest statements about what your product DOESN’T do.  I can honestly say that I have never had an ISV tell me, in printed material or a pre-sales call, that their software isn’t good at X and was never meant to be used as Y.  We’re gonna find out anyway, why not tell us before we invest?  Do you need the sale that bad?  Do you really want to deal with the fallout from unfulfilled promises later?

If you can’t bring yourselves to do it, have the booth babes do it.  I promise, we won’t walk away…

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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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