Perfect Done Perfectly

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In just 60 seconds, Teri G. taught me something new about giving great technical support to a small business owner by using just one simple word.   Days earlier and 600 miles from where Teri G works, Brent D. taught me something new and powerful by using the same word but in a different way.

I love to sit side by side with contact center agents any chance I get be it in sales or service.   I enjoy hearing customers live on the floor and seeing agents artfully assist them.   I enjoy the complex dance of the interests of client and agent.   There’s so much communication psychology and emotions in play often enlightening because they are compressed into interactions that last mere minutes.  Hence I enjoy most, stealing shamelessly from what works and what doesn’t.

The word Teri and Brent used is Perfect and let me tell you, Perfect works.

Teri’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls Tech Support.  He has a product problem impacting internal communications.   This guy isn’t super comfortable with what he needs to do and has probably just a few minutes to try and fix this thing because all I can hear are door chimes and phones ringing like crazy in his shop.  Teri knows this and she knows what to do.

Teri starts with a simple instruction.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another. And then it occurs to me why the guy is so calm and almost chuckling along admitting his ignorance but hanging on her every word; She keeps saying “perfect” after each instruction is successfully done by the owner!    From the start he wasn’t sure if he was going to do this right – but he sure does now because Teri tells him he’s doing great every step of the way.  And in fact she used “You’re doing great!” and “Nice job” mixed in a bit with all those perfects.

Too often tech support agents articulate the steps to solve the problem in rote fashion because of course they do it all day.  Too often tech support agents forget a reassurance to that customer that they are doing well along the way will ease that customer tension perfectly when they need it most.

Brent’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls.  He just needs to place a reorder for a product he’s been using for years.   But Brent needs to do verify and validate information to ensure high quality as well as do some short discovery as any helpful sales agent would.   But sometimes busy owners have little patience for all that.   Brent knows this and says, “I want to make this order is perfect for you today so I’m going to ask a couple of questions and verify a few things.”

Who doesn’t want what they are calling for to not be perfect? Who wouldn’t answer a couple of questions and verify a few things to make sure what they get is perfect?  Too often agents don’t justify their questions to customers.  Too often agent questions aren’t positioned in such a way that they have the client’s interests in mind.   Brent’s use of “to make sure this order is perfect” was simple and cleared the way for mutually beneficial discovery to happen.  It was perfect.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

How to Better Respect Small Business

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How to Better Respect Small Business

I had two recent experiences that made me think differently about respecting small businesses.  And if you are in the business of marketing, selling, servicing or supporting small business that’s an important thing.

The first was while reading some research. The research said that Small business owners overwhelmingly see themselves as unique and define themselves additionally by their unique contributions to society. 

And I thought why do we so rarely acknowledge and respect small business owners for how they respect themselves?

Sure we respect them by acknowledging their value as a customer, their membership in an industry, their work ethic, their entrepreneurship, their common pain points, their challenges, their contributions to job creation as a whole and blah blah blah…..but don’t you see it?

There is little unique about that to the Small Business owner, instead it’s a wide swath acknowledgement of them as a group which exactly not how they see themselves individually.  And there is nothing respecting their unique contributions to society.

Last week I tagged along with my wife to a local business association gathering at a new restaurant that recently opened in town.   There had to be near 40 local businesses represented sipping on wine and appetizers.

This was not how I remember these meetings way back when I used to attend in another life.   This meeting was about toasting to the “Alan’s business that is driving the benefit tomorrow night for the family who lost their home in the fire last week.” It was about the “needed sponsors for the summer band series”.  It was about how proud the association was for being the “sole group responsible for installing a landmark historic clock in the center of town”.   So little of the time was promoting their business and when they did – 80% of them shared how “different” they were than any another accountant, or restaurant, or mortgage broker, or Mary Kay representative they knew.

So why do I (and I suspect, we) forget so often what our eyes see, our ears hear and our research tells us about acknowledging and respecting a small business?

What if we were to ask more often “What are you most proud of”,  “What defines you” or “What contribution as an Small Business owner inspires you?” when we talked with small business owners? What could we do with that? What would we learn?   What if we identified their perceived or real unique differentiators and societal contributions and embedded those into our variable data printing or emails or CRM data or Facebook pages we build for them?  The leverages are infinite.

Respect anew the small business owner in the ways they respect themselves. It just makes sense.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Book Review: Effortless Experience [Matt Dixon, 2013 Penguin Books, CEB]

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Book Review:  Effortless Experience [Matt Dixon, 2013 Penguin Books, CEB]

Delighting your customers are you?  Waste of time.   Focusing on First Call Resolution?  You don’t get it.    Worrying about what channels customers prefer to communicate in?  Don’t be silly.

I couldn’t put this book down; read it in two chairs and one plane.

And what’s not to love with another Matt Dixon book (think The Challenger Sale) that is steeped in research from Corporate Executive Board and real life company examples of what you could truly do in the world of Service that improves loyalty, advocacy and profitability.

Dixon says and I believe him; “Service is the crucible of customer experience where all the companies’ claims, missions and values are tested.”  Gulp.

The secret though has nothing to do with service levels, getting higher satisfaction scores or striving for legendary service experiences (ya know, like the Nordstrom folks).

It’s simpler but not nearly as sexy; Reduce the effort. Don’t aim for delight, aim for relief.  Don’t dazzle customers, just fix the darn problem.   Reduce the customer effort before and after and you mitigate the rampant disloyalty that exists today.

Dixon and co. dismantle some beliefs for us too:  We have this illusion that our service departments are moments where we can inspire great trust and deeper loyalties with customers, yet data shows ANY customer service action is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty.

A lot of the book focuses upstream before a customer even gets to you the service department, and delves into systems, websites and the need for simplicity.  Focus on Customer Effort Scores (CES) and not satisfaction scores.  Do that and you’ve mitigated the ease to jump ship.

Arguments and research abound about how incentivizing self-service vs. discouraging live service makes more sense.  How new hires should start their day 2 searching your websites and FAQ’s for jargon that confuses them and therefore complicates the customer experience.  How focusing on First Call Resolution misses the point that service issues are usually far more than that call but are “events” that may have begun weeks before ( like the purchase of a new service) and could continue weeks after.  How Delight based on corporate data, does not pay and how opening new ways for clients to reach you isn’t a real advantage as people will go wherever they get the best help.

I loved the robust chapters on teaching people to use “carefully crafted and thoughtful language” to engineer an experience that “actively guides a customer through an interaction”.   There is much neuroscience research there as well as in- the-trenches proven tactical applications that will have you rethinking your customer call approach.

I can’t do the book justice in less than 500 words but more than that and this post becomes an Article and not a blog.

Go get the book.  Take notes, highlight and/or export.   Study and then apply accordingly.   Here is a link to the book on amazon.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Inherently Suspenseful

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Inherently Suspenseful

The Wall Street Journal published an article touting the growth of golf on play-by-play on radio.  “So what” you say? Well, hear me out – there’s a lesson for us.

It’s true that golf on radio is growing – but that wasn’t what struck me as the most interesting point of the article.  The article touted how popular golf is on TV and  I admit I’m a huge fan.  I’ve always told people that I like to watch TV golf because it’s relaxing and frankly, being from New England, the weather is always better there than out my window.

That’s why I think I like TV golf.  But I know now that’s not the reason.

The writer of the article (John Paul Newport) said this about golf on TV,  “Television discovered that watching the little ball sail through the air for several long seconds, to land who-knows-where, was inherently suspenseful.”

Brilliant insight.

So that’s why I watch it.  It is inherently suspenseful.   And sure I like the physics and geometry of it all; playing angles and surfaces and the wind which by the way, adds to the suspense of where that little white ball is going to land.

And I got to thinking about those fleeting moments every day that are inherently suspenseful for us;  getting the mail ( what’s there?), getting an email ( what is this about?) , a comment, a poke, an update or a post ( I wonder what this is?).  And what about the scratch cards, the monopoly tickets, even the daily specials – we are suckers for this stuff.  We love small things that are inherently suspenseful.

Add up a bunch of those inherently suspenseful moments and maybe you get to be like golf on TV with some eyes watching you.  How good would that be for business?

Each Apple IOS release is inherently suspenseful ( what new features and benefits to me are there?).  Each TED series talk is inherently suspenseful (where will this go?).  These days even the smaller businesses are getting in the suspense game;  will the pizza place write out a joke inside the box cover?  Trade shows are inherently suspenseful ( what will be in the booth? What’s new?) and of course social media tools done right deliver suspense ( FourSquare, Facebook and YouTube).

Inherently suspenseful is attractive.  There’s surely a ton of great ways people are doing it today you can discover, but keep your head down and that left arm straight and look for those moments in your personal interactions with clients or in your business’s interactions and string some fleeting moments of suspense together.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Amp It Up: Prefacing Questions

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Amp It Up: Prefacing

Asking questions in sales, service or support is important.  There are a million theories, books and articles on what questions to ask. 

I don’t care about any of that today.

I’m going to give you 3 powerful tips however that will amp up the results of your questions and they take all of less than 3 seconds in a tactic I call Prefacing.

Each of these is additive in that if you apply just one tip, you’ll get better results than you do today with your normal questions  but  if you do all three – watch out, you’ll see amazing results immediately.

Preface #1: “I always ask…” Begin with “I always ask..” as a preface to your question of the customer or prospect.  Let’s pretend you are on software sales –   “I always ask business leaders if you see enough data on a daily basis to measure the health of the business…” Or let’s say you sell online marketing “I always ask owners where they think the best social media place to be to drive business.” Whatever your purpose is in asking the question is fine.  But prefacing it with “I always ask” makes you sound like you’ve been there before; that you have experience, that this is not your first rodeo.  In less than a second you’ve built some credibility in the minds of the listener and that psychologically will result in a more thoughtful answer by the recipient. 

Preface #2:  Add an Affiliation:  Remember this is additive – so for example “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations if they see enough data… Or “ I always ask my HVAC folks where they think….”;  This addition is incredibly powerful – not only are you credible already by adding  “I always ask” but now you’ve imparted in just one more second,  that you know something, have talked to, have hung out with people like them in their world or in their industry.   You’ve talked with CFO’s (and even better talked with CFO’s in financial orgs) or you’ve talked with HVAC owners and understand what is happening.  Immensely powerful – your questions now have an even better chance of getting thoughtful and deep answers which translates into better sales service and meaningful conversations.

Preface #3:  Put a Number on the Questions:  This too is additive so in our examples let’s take it to the 3rd level, “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations these 3 questions about visibility….”  Or “I always ask my HVAC folks these 2 questions about where they think the best place is…”  The theory is simple and powerful.  Placing a number on the questions helps lower time tension.  People are busy.  When you articulate the number of questions you are going to ask in a particular space then the listener knows when it will be over and in essence will stay focused for those questions and give you great information.   Not articulating a number can lead to that self-talk of “When will this be over?” or other distractions.  Prefacing with the number of questions needn’t be limiting.  You can easily move on to other subjects with for example “I always also ask 2 questions of HVAC folks about how hard it is to get paid quickly….”

Are the types of questions you ask important?  You bet.  Does everybody forget or not even think about the value of Prefacing a question?  Without a doubt.   In my opinion prefacing is as important as any aspect of questioning.

Here’s the beauty of today’s post.  It’s easy.  It’s less than 3 seconds of your time.  If you are in sales, service or support as a pro or perhaps a leader, or you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur looking to get better conversations and more business; print this thing, spend a few minutes wrapping your head around and go to it – you’ll be amazed at what you get in return.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Platinum Question(s) Are Better

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Longer post today, but I think worth it.   Scroll worthy for sure – maybe even print worthy.  Hang in till the end but only if you want to be more successful.    

If you are in sales or marketing, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase the “Golden question”.  It’s usually a crafted discovery question in which the answer tells you the sales person, whether the client or prospect is “ripe” for a sale, cross sell or upsell. 

Golden questions are fine.  Many aren’t that golden however.  [Although I do remember one from a pet supply mail order company where the agent asks the inbound caller “Are you going to get little (insert pet name here) something for Christmas this year?” and if the caller says “yes” – then release the hounds ( pardon the pun) of sales pitches, cross sells and upsells now!!!  That one wasn’t bad.]

Golden questions are fine but have drawbacks.  They usually come out of no where, reek of “Here comes the sales pitch” and have no perceived immediate value to the customer or prospect that has to answer them.   Platinum questions are much better. 

Platinum questions are a term I use for questions that give you the same valuable information as a golden question but do so in such a way that does not raise sales tension or customer fatigue in the interaction. 

In more detail … Platinum questions are presumptive discovery questions that make sense to the customer or prospect. They make sense because the answers are beneficial to them and the reason they called, stopped by or visited your site.  In addition, Platinum questions give you the seller, vital information and credibility to leverage and transition from in the sales process. 

That’s a mouthful so let’s put it to real life.  Let’s say you work in a print shop that does lots of things for a small business like a wide range of print, to designing logos, to providing websites, to offering online marketing products etc etc.

In walks a customer who wants to reorder some business cards.  Perfect.  Now, you could do what you’ve always done and say “Is everything staying the same on these on these cards?” and then (unless you feel like getting rejected) you could start pitching all of your other services.

Or you could ask a Platinum question or two.

  • “You’re ordering more business cards.. Great. Since you last ordered these have you made any changes to your website, your email address or social media sites you use for the business?”

Anything the customer answers is valuable.   Even the simple “No – nothing’s changed” (which tells you a lot) to “Um…I don’t have a website yet” to “..What social media sites do you mean?” to just asking “Why do you ask?”  are awesome answers.

And the answer to “Why do you ask?” of course is the truth – you ask because you are a pro and know that many small businesses put their website address via a QR code and all their Twitter/LinkedIn/FaceBookr logos on the business cards these days (I’ve even seen them on printed checks).  So these questions make sense to the customer as to why you are asking them – these questions are in their interest to help you get this business card order done just right.   And the answers give you amazing, as good as golden information with half the pain. 

Here’s the real beauty of the question; It’s presumptive ( “…have you made any changes?”)  – it assumes the client already has a website and uses social media generously.  You ask it like you’ve been there before and that other small businesses do this all the time.  That’s brilliant on your part because you are educating and teaching at the same time.  It also tells you in an instant; (in a way that does not sales stress or fatigue the customer) whether they even have a website (or ever thought of a QR code)  and how they feel or don’t feel about online marketing (i.e. if they use social media for business that’s a good hint they may have interest in focusing more calories there).  In so many ways, you have a painless transition point to talk about other services much more easily than by just pitching and praying.

You’re not done with Platinum questions just yet in your print shop.  Let’s go for two.   

  • “Any major changes in your business since last time you ordered business cards – any new services, products or anything?”

 “Why do you ask?”

  •  “Oh, well sometimes folks want to call it out on their business cards, or even update their logos to reflect the changes”.

Ding Ding.  You get it.  You asked a presumptive question in the interest of the client’s need to get the business cards done right. Makes perfect sense.  And you learned if you have inertia to talk about a logo refresh.

Platinum questions take some crafting- so do those supposed Golden questions.  But Platinum is soooo much better.

It doesn’t matter if you sell forklifts for a living and are moving into propane delivery services or maybe you sell commercial insurance and are branching into risk and compliance consulting – when those customers call you for maintenance or to renew policies- you’ll have crafted those Platinum questions optimizing the customers current need and setting the stage for further help and sales.

It doesn’t matter if you are in customer service or technical support and have some obligation to upsell or generate leads – crafting Platinum questions works perfectly well here too.  Those discovery questions that help the client get their problem fixed well but tell you much about them and lead to great sales conversations are doable (I know, I’ve helped craft them before). 

In the end, you don’t have to do Platinum questions and can continue to do discovery the old fashioned painful way:  ‘Do you have a website?” “Ever thought of updating your logo”?  or “Who is your current propane delivery provider?” You can do that and raise sales tension, customer fatigue and get what you’ve always got right up to through your golden years.

Or, you can spend time right now by yourself or with your team – and go Platinum. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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2 Videos, 3 Minutes and Grow The Business

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Two very short videos today.  One about doing something way better than the phrase “How I can help you?” and the other about the power of not always having the answer!  Take the 3 minutes and apply right away.  Business growth ahead! 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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