Business Advice

Never Before… - 8/4/20


The importance of customer service is at the forefront again in our economy.  We noticed this clearly in the early 2000s when the country’s economy struggled, and we noticed it again during the Great Recession several years later.  Today, with yet another set of unexpected and extreme economic challenges, Read more

Effectively Teach the Customer - 7/28/20


The 1985 Harris and Rosenthal research project conveyed what really improves student learning based on the interaction with the teacher.  The top two factors that teachers used to increase learning were (1) The duration of the interaction with the student and (2) The encouragement of the student.  In 3rd Read more

Meet on Equal and Even Ground - 7/21/20


“To be of most service to my brother, I must meet him on the most equal and even ground.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote this in 1841, and it applies almost 180 years later in customer service. We often talk about empathy, and empathy relates to an employee having an understanding Read more

When Customers are…Jerks - 7/14/20


Some people are a little extra…uh…difficult to deal with these days. Customers may have concerns or complaints – many of which are justified. But some customers act like…well…jerks. They’re not kind or understanding or have any idea how poorly they treat others. They’re obnoxious and yet, we still have Read more

Customers Appreciate Your Kindness - 7/7/20


The 3rd grade teacher had a phrase she used with her students. She wanted them to be “kind-hearted.” It was a phrase she used over and over again; no matter what she taught, this was an overriding emphasis on how she would communicate with students and how she expected Read more

6 Common Sense Responses to Customer Service Encounters - 6/30/20


I’ve run into this personally and professionally, and it drives me batty! Sometimes there’s a lack of common sense in the customer service provided by companies. And often that lack of common sense is due to the preference of a business to provide service in a certain method, to Read more

Caring for Co-workers through COVID - 6/23/20


A recent Buffer.com study asked employees who are working remotely due to COVID-19, what was their greatest struggle. While there were many different responses, the Top 2 totaled 40% of the struggles identified - Loneliness and Collaboration/Effective Communication. When you hear something like this - that individuals working remotely are Read more

React, Reflect, Respond - 6/16/20


Sometimes you can’t help it. You gasp. You get upset. You get angry. You have this look of shock on your face. You say something defensive. You react. I love people who are in customer service roles. These are the folks that people say things to in the business world Read more

Serving the Technology-challenged Customer - 6/9/20


The IT helpdesk representative was on a call with a customer, and in trying to troubleshoot an issue, the employee said, “Let’s start by opening Windows.” The customer said “OK,” and there were 2 minutes of silence. The employee twice asked, “Are you still there?” with no response. Finally, Read more

Address the 4 P’s for a Customer-friendly COVID-19 Walk-in Experience


This is not about what is medically most effective – please see the CDC for those guidelines.  This is about how to help your customers have a great experience as an onsite visitor at your facility or storefront.  For a comprehensive approach to a customer-friendly COVID-19 experience, address the Read more

Address the 4 P’s for a Customer-friendly COVID-19 Walk-in Experience

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This is not about what is medically most effective – please see the CDC for those guidelines.  This is about how to help your customers have a great experience as an onsite visitor at your facility or storefront.  For a comprehensive approach to a customer-friendly COVID-19 experience, address the four P’s:  Places, Processes, Products, and People:

Places – Starting outside the building, have signage that tells the customer what to do and where to go, using a combination of pictures/coloring/words.  You need to put a premium on self-navigation.  From signage outside the facility to signage inside the facility, whether it is directional on the floor, wall, ceiling, and “You are here” maps – make it easy on them to move appropriately from area to area.  You want it to be simple enough that they can navigate on their own without having to engage your staff for directions.

“Simply, to have a customer-friendly experience, BE FRIENDLY!”

 

Processes – This is about proactive and digital instructions. How you help them and how you help them help themselves are both very important. View yourself as an educator of customers for how they can have the best experience possible. From the moment they walk in the door (or even before they enter your building!), proactively engage them with questions and directions to get them started on a great experience. Ensure you have a website that gives the specific aisle and bin where an item is located or specific in-facility directions on how to get to a particular office.

Products & Services – Whether self-service inside or outside/curbside service, there needs to be an opportunity for contactless delivery. This is where you look at all the different digital and hands-free ways that customers can either get their own need met onsite while engaging employees as little as possible or set up an entire process such that they can pull up outside your facility and get whatever physical documentation or product is required. Define services that allow them to get what they need with limited or no physical contact with your staff.

People – Finally, with less face-to-face interaction, oftentimes impeded by a mask, those interactions have to be that much better. Simply, your staff need to know how to smile with their eyes. Simply, to have a customer-friendly experience, BE FRIENDLY! It’s easy as a leader to overthink things. If they are in your buildings less, appreciate them during each engagement more. If they proactively initiate conversations with you less, proactively initiate conversations with them more. Extra courtesy and respect are vital when people make the extra effort to safely come to and enter our facilities.

To have a customer friendly COVID-19 walk-in experience, ensure you’re taking a comprehensive approach. Along with all the medically necessary strides you’re taking, view the overall experience through the customer’s eyes. Address the Places, Processes, Products, and People aspects of their experience.


Defining Organizational Agility in a Time of Uncertainty

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You may have heard references in management theory over the many decades about the importance of a business being an “Agile” organization, but oftentimes that is a word thrown out in generalities to illustrate vague points about how organizations should be managed and make decisions.  In this time of COVID, however, the definition of an Agile business and how that comes into play in a real world, real-time situation has rarely been so clear.

 

Agile businesses will be far more successful through this economic and healthcare uncertainty, so let’s start by defining the Agile business. The synonyms of Agility are: Nimble, Spry, Light-Footed, Flexible, Deft, Coordinated.

 

Here are some core questions about your organization to consider:  How nimble is your company?  How flexible are you in dealing with the vicissitudes of internal and external change?  How coordinated are the different divisions, leaders, and business lines with each other?

 

“Agile businesses will be far more successful through this economic and healthcare uncertainty.”

 

These are core questions that you need to answer if you want to be able to change quickly and effectively how you operate as you are impacted by change that’s outside of your immediate control.

 

The Opposite of Agile

If these questions are too abstract, consider the brutal honesty of antonyms of Agile: Uncoordinated, Inflexible, Rigid, Stiff, Bungling, Inept, Lumbering.

 

Could any of these terms be applied to your business? Are different divisions ever lacking coordination and communication with each other?  Are processes or people too inflexible at times, not willing to change the way they’ve always done things? Is the quality or efficiency or effectiveness only good enough to get you by as opposed to being representative of a high-performing organization?  Does the organization feel too big and too slow to pivot into a different direction if necessary?

 

In the future, we’ll address how to become more Agile.  For now, ask yourself some key questions about your business so you can determine whether you’re Agile enough to succeed in an environment of uncertainty.


Change Management – Facts about Past Decisions Reduce Fear about Future Decisions

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Change can result in fear.  Particularly where change is thrust upon someone very suddenly, it can create shock or disbelief.  Sometimes that change is not something an organization can plan for; it therefore cannot adequately prepare its employees for what’s ahead…at least initially.

In this COVID world, Change Management is about dealing with the unknowns, but still developing a plan for the future.  It’s about managing organizational strategy for the long-term, while still developing an agile mindset and approach in the near-term.  It’s about dealing with employee emotions and continually trying to motivate them, while at the same time having the disadvantage of not having them in a room with you to gauge their feelings, gauge their expressions, and gauge many of their behaviors.

“Providing facts about how past decisions were made…enable employees to understand how decisions will be made in the future.”

 

So, organizations need to create their own Change Management model that coincides with the Change Management model for its employees.

 

Talking with Employees about the Change that was Made

For this conversation, let’s focus on the early stages of organizational change.  After having made the immediate and necessary adjustments in staffing, expenditures, and operations to offset lost revenue and inflows, the organization needs to begin explaining in some clear and objective detail why that needed to happen.  Particularly for those that are still with your organization, employees need to understand the facts behind the action, because facts are something concrete that enable employees to more logically accept decisions that were made in the past and understand how decisions will be made in the future.

Let me repeat.  The reason to explain to current employees in some detail and factually why recent decisions were made is so they feel like they understand that future decisions will be based on facts and objectivity, and they know the criteria for those decisions.

More Facts about the Past, Less Fear about the Future

In other words, you’re not only creating a dialogue with staff by explaining details on the “why” of the changes, but you’re also addressing their fear of the unknown by at least helping them to understand a process and a list of criteria that you might go through in the future to make similar decisions.

When you’re thinking about the importance of Change Management for an organization and how that relates to employee communications, don’t underestimate the importance of being open, dialogue-oriented, and factual about the reasons for the past change.

Help employees to more objectively understand how decisions could be made moving forward.


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