Don’t Blink

redflower2The last two weeks have been incredibly busy and in amongst all that busyness, were moments of reflection and learning.

I, along with my husband, my brother and my brother’s wife, spent a lot of time helping my parents prepare for a year long visit to Newfoundland.  Mom and dad sold their house and then had to decide what to do with all the stuff that accumulates over the years. Some would go into storage to await their return. Some would go to Newfoundland with them and some would either be donated or sent to the trash.

As mom was sorting through her beloved books, I learned she loves poetry.  How did I not know that, after all these years?  It makes me wonder what other interesting tidbits of information I don’t know about people near and dear to me.

And why did it take this significant move for me to find the time to spend all those many hours with my parents?  If I could make the time now, it meant I also had the time before even if it seemed I didn’t.

As I gave my parents one long last hug before they hit the road, mini-van piled high with personal treasures, it hit me that not only are my parents no longer close by, both my children are also far away.  Amy is working in BC and already has her ticket purchased for Thailand, her jumping off point for her next travel adventure.  Erik is working in Baffin Island.  From a purely selfish perspective, I’m thankful he will be home soon.  It seems like just yesterday these two young adults were babies.

The flower picture used in my post this morning is from a plant my sister-in-law gave us when we moved into our new home.  There were no blooms for months and then one day, I  noticed a bud and a few days later, woke up to this beautiful red bloom. The next day, it was gone.  The plant blooms for one day only and perhaps that is my lesson in all of this.

Kenny Chesney sings “Don’t blink.  Times goes by faster than you think”.  We don’t know how long those near and dear to us will be close by. We need to stop being so busy and take the time to enjoy family and friends. Go for walks or just sit and talk. It will be time well spent.

If You Can’t Fulfill A Customer Request, Who Can?

Years ago, I was working in sales at a hotel. The Grey Cup was coming to Winnipeg and we, like almost every other hotel in Winnipeg, were completely sold out.  A travel agent called, desperately looking for a room for one of her clients. We couldn’t help her but I decided to make a few calls on her behalf.  I called a few of our competitors and found a room in one of them. I reserved the room under the travel agent’s name, called her back and gave her the good news. She was thrilled and took the time to write a letter to my general manager, letting him know how much she appreciated that I’d helped her out of a tight spot. Even better, in the end, my hotel became her hotel of choice when a client needed a room in Winnipeg, all because I took the time to fix her problem by sending her to a competitor.

Chances are, you’ve been asked by a customer or potential customer to provide a service you don’t provide.  In some cases, it may make sense to find a way to say “yes, I can make that happen for you”.  It may even be a product or service offering you decide to make permanent.

Other times, the best answer you can give your customer or potential customer is ‘no, that is not something we offer.” Or perhaps you do provide what they need, but are out of stock or inventory and are unable to say ‘yes’, as much as you’d like to. Telling a customer or potential customer “no” is a customer touch point that needs to be handled with care and provides an excellent opportunity to wow.

There is a job I need taken care of at the hotel.  I called a supplier that I incorrectly assumed could complete it for us. What I need done is outside of their scope of work. The person I spoke to was understanding and apologized for not being able to help. The moment was not handled badly.  It just wasn’t capitalized on. My expectations would have been exceeded if after hearing ‘no’, I then heard ‘but here are two companies that can and come highly recommended.”  That little extra bit of information would have said “‘I understand and I care.”

Do you and your team know who to refer customer’s to if you are unable to fulfill their request and is it being done?

Sometimes providing excellent service means sending your customer to a competitor.  Know which ones you trust to take care of your customer when you can’t.

Why are your Customers Leaving?

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I had lunch with a friend this week.  Over the last six to nine months, she has cancelled or not renewed three memberships to business associations or networking clubs and one on-line marketing / business listing site.

As regular readers of my blog know, I am a big believer in identifying your company’s customer touch points and then asking “What does my customer want, need and expect from me at this touch point?”  One very important touch point is your response when a customer decides he or she decides to no longer do business with you.

None of the four organizations gave her a hassle when she let them know she was cancelling or not renewing. That is a positive.  Unfortunately, not one of them asked her why she was leaving.  One organization, the one she had been most actively involved in for over two years, sent a generic form letter, not even addressed to her, expressing disappointment in her decision.  The others simply said nothing.

So I asked her why she left. One didn’t abide by their own code of conduct, one simply didn’t work from a timing perspective anymore, one had made political statements outside of her beliefs and one didn’t provide the results she was looking for.  All valid reasons.

Customers who have been with you for an extended period of time and then decide to leave can provide valuable insight. Take the time to ask them why they are leaving.  If you hear the same concern expressed over and over again, it’s an issue. Find a way to fix it. The organization that didn’t abide by their own code of conduct didn’t ask my friend why she left.  She told them anyway and she’s heard they have made significant positive change in that area from members in that group.

Asking the question “Why are you leaving?” doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change. The reason “It’s not you, it’s me.” may very well be true.  It is very possible the product or service you offer is simply no longer a fit for your customer. There is also the possibility that the customer wasn’t the right fit to begin with. Exit interviews with departing customers can help you better define your target market, providing you the information you need to focus on the people who benefit the most from the product or service you offer.

Asking the question “Why are you leaving?” is about ensuring you don’t lose the opportunity to become even better at what you do.  It’s about demonstrating you value the opportunity you had to be of service and that you value the customer.

When talking about customer touch points, I also suggest looking for ways to exceed the customer’s expectation.  One final way to demonstrate that you are truly service minded, that your concern is for the customer first, is to provide the departing customer information on other companies that can meet their needs.  What a way to exceed a customer’s expectations and leave a positive last impression.

Thanks to Those Who Love to Serve

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There are some people who simply exude welcome, joy and friendliness. They look for and find opportunities to do what they can to make the people around them feel valued and special.  To them, service is not a job they put on when they walk into work and then take off again at the end of they day.  It simply is who they are.

Have you met any of these amazing people lately?  I have and am lucky enough to have some of these people on my team.  The positive energy, the willingness to get done what needs to get done, the ability to see beyond the problem to potential solutions are not common traits. Too often, the good they do is taken for granted. Today, I want to say thanks to the many people who serve, who love to serve and who consider it a privilege to serve.

Service is not what you do, but who you are. It is a way of living that you need to bring to everything you do, if you are to bring it to your customer interactions.       – Betsy Sanders

The Grumpy Bear and the Sly Fox – Repost

bearfoxI receive a request to repost my bear and fox story, so here it is!

Not so very long ago, in a forest close by, lived a grumpy bear and a sly fox.

The grumpy bear was known to roar loudly when a gentle growl would have been more appropriate.   The grumpy bear was not comfortable at expressing any kind of emotion.   When the grumpy bear felt uncertain, he became even grumpier.  But underneath that grumpy, growly exterior was a big heart filled with love and good intention.

The sly fox on the other hand, was a smooth communicator.  He spoke softly and gently.  His words were chosen with care and always reflected exactly what his listener wanted to hear.  He never growled or challenged anyone and so many animals in the forest eagerly listened to whatever the sly fox had to say.

The sly fox used the grumpy bear’s gruffness and roughness against him.  The sly fox liked nothing better than to poke the fire and fan the flames of dissension.  He would say things like “If the grumpy bear cared about you, he would do this. That’s what I would do” or “The grumpy bear doesn’t understand you like I do”.  Sometimes the sly fox knew things that would help the grumpy bear, but instead of sharing information or offering to help the grumpy bear, the sly fox would go to others in the forest and say “Why isn’t the grumpy bear doing this?”

Of course, the sly fox never actually did anything to help anyone in the forest.  He left the hard work for the grumpy bear. The sly fox whispered, using his smooth, gentle words to turn the other animals against the grumpy bear, making the grumpy bear’s job even harder.   Then the sly fox would grin, rub his paws and skulk away … until the next time.

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A lot of us have a grumpy bear or a sly fox in our lives.  We meet them at work, at play and sometimes at home.  The grumpy bear doesn’t realize how words and actions can be misconstrued when others perceptions and emotions are not taken into consideration. Sometimes the grumpy bear speaks poorly from a place of sincerity and positive intention.

The sly fox knows exactly what the other person wants to hear. He or she looks for and feed on insecurities, fears and weaknesses. The sly fox speaks and acts well from a place of deception and negative intention.

With experience comes wisdom and I have learned to look past the exterior to find the intention.  Some people grouse and grumble, then buckle down and act. Others sound positive and supportive,but in reality are only looking to stir the pot. They ditch and run as soon as their real objective, dissension, has been achieved.

Give me grumpy and sincere over smooth and sneaky any day.