Customer Service

December 21, 2010

10 Things for Managers To Do With a Spare Hour

There are those times when you’ve got your management act together when you reach those ‘One Minute Manager’ (Ken Blanchard) moments.

In the first book of the series (there are lots of great follow-ups), our star manager ensures that he’s able to spend a fair bit of time gazing out of the window because all the plates are spinning perfectly, with the minimal of intervention.

So, when you’re in that place with your management performance, what to do?

Here are ten ideas that you might want to consider when you are able to devote a spare hour to any activity you choose. The list is, of course, not exhaustive and you will have some favorites of your own.

That said, if you never have time to spare, taking a look at some of these will help you make that time, because the outcomes they will tend to produce will be constructive in magnifying the available time you have.

So, what’s not to like about these?

1. Pick an item to delegate – finding something that you permanently do NOT need to do yourself is a good first step. Second is to find someone who genuinely will benefit from doing that task. Thirdly, take the time to explain why you are delegating to them and the outcome you are looking for (don’t necessarily tell them how!).

2. Say ‘thank yous’ – just get out there and catch your people doing something right and thank them for it. This one is really simple and extremely productive.

3. Take an alternative view – ask yourself what would happen to a situation if you took exactly the opposite course of action than you have a current tendency towards. Just wonder about it a little.

4. Go and listen – get into easy conversations with your people and spend much more (90%) of the time in the conversation listening and work at just 10% of hearing your own voice.

5. Ask for help – go seek someone else’s help with a problem you are challenged with.

6. Ask for feedback – simple as it says – go off and ask someone on your team how you did with something recently. Listen to what they say, discipline yourself to NOT make excuses, if it isn’t positive. Just listen, absorb and thank then for their honesty. Feedback is a gift.

7. Be nosy – go poke around where your people work – not with personal stuff, but find out what they’re working on and ask questions that will help them tell you more about it (and then listen a lot – of course!).

8. Take a walk – yep, it’s time to ‘leave the building’. Spend a little time (you have an hour I’m giving you, right?) and go for a walk. No, there’s no catch!

9. Ask a customer – work out a way to interact with a customer or client informally. It might be a chat on the shopfloor. It might need a phone call to a random client. Whatever, just go for it and – you got it – listen!

10. Ring yourself – as a final challenge to your customer/client service, take a chance and ring into your own business, ask for yourself and test the experience. You will find it a revealing and, hopefully, a rewarding experience, even when you find out that your line is engaged!

How much fun is that? Instead of filling that hour with other ‘stuff’, you qualify all of these activities for that very productive ‘Quadrant 2’ as defined by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Important and not Urgent.

All the more valuable and value-creating because of that.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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February 26, 2010

Customer Service Excellence – Cultivating Your Raving Fans

Customers are an asset. Yet how many managers have the insights to make much more of these people that simply completing today’s transaction.

They are much more valuable than that.

It’s easy to appreciate the challenges that providing great customer service can pose. You see it’s not simply a case of giving them what they want, when they want it, at a price that they are happy to pay. No, there’s a lot more value that we can squeeze from them in the relationships we build.

And the good thing is that they will be the beneficiaries as well. Because the way we generate ‘Raving Fans’ is purely by being great with the customers we already have and being clear about what we want from them too. It’s as simple as that.

You see, what we want from our customers, are people who like us so much they want to:-

•    Support us as a gesture
•    Help us along the way
•    Become a resource to their family, friends and acquaintances too
•    Come along and trade with us more often

We want to create people who love us so much that they will tell our story for free to anyone who will listen.

For many small businesses, this is all they do.

They are great to their customers; they go an extra mile even/especially when things go wrong and they are loved for it.

So much so that their customers become their marketing tool.

When you have complaints, you have the opportunity to interact fully with your customers – which, ironically, you miss when things actually go right!

A complaint is a little door to create a relationship that is open, honest and mutual. Over a little time, you will be able to move that relationship into a partnership too.

These people are a vast asset whether you are in a small local business or a huge mega-corporation, by creating one-to-one relationships like they’ve never had before with a service or goods providers.

And they tell others about how great you are.

If you are smart, you even start to ask them to collaborate in the development of your business or service, by asking them for their input beforehand.

Whether you are a store; a call-center or an online business you can move into the sport of open-sourcing.

And that will enable you to draw on the insights of your most important asset (along with your people, of course) – your customers and clients!

The ‘Raving Fan’ is the most cost-effective customer or client you can create. They are worth more than their weight in gold and are out there, right now, waiting for you.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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February 4, 2010

Customer Complaints – Who Will Gather The Intelligence?

Complaints are a valuable asset to any organization, once you can ensure that your people are willing to play.

And to get them with you, they need to know that it’s not personal…

There is no greater value than that to be gleaned from your customers and clients who are prepared to take the time to give you feedback – which is a much more constructive way to describe a complaint.

These gold nuggets are literally worth their weight, when you are able to capture, dissect and respond positively to what you find out. Yet many organizations revel in low complaint rates!

The key to this is your people – all of them. It’s about turning them from being fearful of when a complaint comes in, to positively gleeful, because of the enormous opportunity it presents.

By ensuring that every one of them is geared up to sense when things aren’t going well, you will create an army of willing volunteers who are ready for action. Their job is to seek out and get to the bottom of any dissatisfaction they perceive.

This has to happen in the moment, all the time, or it will have passed and the opportunity will have disappeared into the anonymity of an ended phone call; a person now back out on the street; or the lost data storage of an online interaction that never sees the light of day.

It needs to be pro-actively sought, not passively responded to – or worse, swept under the carpet with the hope it will go away.

By encouraging your people to engage and interact with their clients, in any way at all, they will be able to get under the tough skin of a dissatisfied customer ‘not wanting to make a fuss’. They have to smell it out or it will slink away, unspoken, which is of no use at all to you.

They will probably capture more customer dissatisfaction, than you expect, especially to start with.

And when they do, it’s to be applauded. It’s to be celebrated.

Working as a team to find out critical information from those who have it, is a tactic any manager can adopt to ensure that customer service progresses, whilst also building the team togetherness ethic in a constructive, value-creating way.

By encouraging each and every one of them to engage their clients in any way they can, will make the conversation much more open and relaxed – and valuable.

Because, with this in place, many of your customers can easily be asked what they would love changed if they had the choice in the experience they have most recently had.

And that gives you – and your team – the vital intelligence to make your offer even better than it already is.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Focus on Results by Martin

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March 25, 2009

Bad Customer Service – Where Does the Fault Lie?

I’m going to be all contentious here – are you ready?

Bad customer service is almost never the fault of the person who gives it. Period.

When we are at the blunt end of bad service as a customer, we immediately feel that it’s the one facing us (or in an increasingly virtual world, on the other end of some sort of line or another), who’s at fault.

Yet, I’m pretty sure that most people who go to work each day want to feel that they have done a great job. Trouble is, their environment isn’t always right.

So, what does that mean? Well, let me share with you 5 top line reasons why the obvious culprit in not the individual in your line of fire, the person right in front of you:-

1. The Wrong Person

You see, when organizations recruit customer ‘facing’ personnel, they need to be very definitely choosing those who like interacting with others.

So often, what I call ‘people-people’ don’t get selected because they can come across as a bit forward at interview, and that can irritate the selection team.

This is wrong.

People-people are outward and love interacting. So, when selection teams recruit, sometimes the wrong person gets put in front of you because the wrong choices were made, often for the wrong reasons.

2. The Wrong Priorities 1

Customers aren’t quite the priority the organization says they are.

Of course every organization on the planet ‘says’ that the customers is ‘the most important person’ (I actually disagree – see 4. below) – and then they don’t walk their talk. A customer is only the priority level that the sharp-end management gives it.

So they go giving their supposedly customer focused employees a ton of other jobs to do so they make best (financial) use of them.

Where is the logic of that?

3. The Wrong Priorities 2

Organizations love processes!

It’s what employs a whole bunch of people and then, with all that ‘delighting customers’ they are supposed to be doing, they lumber their people with audits and stock control and a multitude of non-customer aligned activities that support who?

Probably the bean counters and auditors who provide the processes in the first place. The customer front line employees have to comply, or they get into trouble – or focus on customers.

Well, we know what they are going to do, aren’t they.

4. The Wrong Focus

Organizations upset their people without even trying.

They fail to recognize and act on some of the most basic standards that any employee might expect.

Pay gets botched and/or paid late; workwear is always ‘delayed’; people don’t say ‘thank you’; personal ambition isn’t on the radar; holidays get moved.

None of this helps a customer facing employee be at their very best when they need to be.

5. The Wrong Managers

More and more these days, manager appointments are being dumbed down to a pretty low denominator.

Managers are given roles that don’t suit them and they don’t have adequate people skills to make the best of the people they have; nor appreciate the criteria required to get the right fit.

Add to that where managers don’t show they care about their people because their communication skills are lacking and you have the absolute recipe for trouble.

Can you see the reasons why it’s pretty unlikely that customer facing employees are rarely where the fault for failure lies?

If you’re a manager yourself, what do you need to change in the way you run your team; department or business. What do you not know about how the sharp-end works. And, when will you find out about it.

Or maybe you are part of the problem, not the solution?

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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March 10, 2009

Quick Thinking Required!

I’m fascinated by productivity. Making things actually happen, instead of pondering endlkessly is a huge step forward for any manager.

When I was in Australia recently, I met up with Dr Ken Hudson, from The Speed Thinking Zone. Ken’s premise is that things take way too long and there is a better way.

Hudson’s Law of Meetings

February 27, 2009

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson suggested, in a tongue in cheek way, what has since become known as Parkinsons Law. It states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

I would like to suggest that this be updated for meetings in what i have called Hudson’s Law of Meetings:

Meetings expand to the time set for the meeting.

Think about it. Have you ever been at a meeting when someone says, well we have the meeting room booked for the next hour why don’t we stay till then. Why should you? If the meeting is over the meeting is over.

Why do most of us feel guilty about having a shorter meeting or one that finishes early? In a recent workshop we covered all we had to do and i suggested that we finish early. One person started to complain about this.

Why I asked?

Why don’t you use the extra time to go to the gym or see your kids or go to a movie?

If Hudson’s rule is valid then we should think seriously about the amount of time we spend in meetings. Why are all our meetings at least one hour? Why aren’t these half an hour?

Imagine how much time you could free up and how more productive and enjoyable your life could be.

Ken Hudson

Ken’s thinking is fast paced, as you might expect. I like his stuff and I want to know more, despite Australia being quite a hike from where I am.

I think you might like to check it out too, right here at The Speed Thinking Zone

Filed under Blog by Martin

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November 20, 2008

“We provide food that customers love.” – Ray Croc

“We provide food that customers love, day after day after day. People just want more of it.”
Ray Kroc

Whatever you think about McDonalds, their business model is successful.

Even though their menus have had to keep up with modern times and become a little more ‘healthy’, they remain a firm favorite with families and young people especially.

Of course, their food probably won’t win any Michelin stars, nor is that what their customers want. It’s being inexpensive, consistently acceptable and quick, that their customers want.

They need to know that what they buy will be what they expect and without surprises.

Parents, for example, don’t want to take their kids somewhere that has strange foods (escargots maybeL), that maybe the kids won’t like, or at silly gastronomic prices.

Regular customers know that what they get will be what they expect, so surprise, risk and probably even fear are written out of the equation. No one wants to ‘fear the unknown’ when they step out for a quick, easy and inexpensive meal, however adventurous they are.

So, it’s about consistency, good value and speed. Customers want to know that when they go in there, any kids they have with them will eat the food and have a good time.

In a fun atmosphere with edible food, McDonalds have made a huge difference to hot food retailing over the last 20 years, with a model that has been replicated many times over. A franchiseable deal that is easy to reproduce, and to make their business thrive.

In ‘The E-Myth’, Michael Gerber analyzes the franchise model and recommends it as a way of doing business that anyone can look closely at, whether there is a desire to franchise it eventually or not.

There is something in ‘The E-Myth’ for everyone who runs a business. If you want it more managerially focused, check-out ‘The E-Myth for Managers’ (also by Michael Gerber), which focuses more closely on the challenges that managers experience in the modern era.

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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