Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

First Class Customer Service???

kelly-server-thousand-oaks-restaurantI have made a commitment to never use my blog to just complain. So I’m going to outline a few service failures as a lesson to all of us who understand the importance of delivering superior customer service is essential to business success.

I recently had a trip to New Zealand on business, on the way there my wife and I flew First Class with Air New Zealand and had an absolutely spectacular experience. The staff was extremely friendly, the food was excellent, great wine, laydown bed, everything you could possibly ask for on a 14-hour flight to the other side of the world. On the way back, we flew First Class on American Airlines. Once on board we noticed they were serving champagne to other folks in First Class cabin and when we asked for some they apologized and said they had just run out, catering had not put enough on board for everyone in First Class. Several hours later, I was getting ready to go to sleep and needed to take some medication so I asked the flight attendant for a bottle of water, to which she replied, “No, only one bottle of water per person, 36 people in First Class, 36 bottles of water.” I spent well over $10,000 for the ticket and American Airlines was kind enough to let me know I only got one bottle of water for the entire flight across the Pacific Ocean. Not what I would call “First Class” customer service.

During a recent trip to Idaho, I went out each morning for breakfast and had an extremely hard time finding a restaurant with any waiters or waitresses. Place after place I walked into were beautiful, well-appointed, upscale locations with signs directing you where to order, then wait to pick up your food and carry it to your table on your own. There was also a sign on my table explaining I had to clean up after myself so I could leave the table clean for the next patron. Perhaps this is a backlash from trying to set higher minimum wages, or simply a way to increase the profit of the restaurant by not having any servers, however, I will tell you every time I walked in one of those restaurants, I walked right back out to look for someplace I could sit down, get an actual live server and enjoy a relaxing breakfast while I read the news. I didn’t want self-service, I wanted First Class service.

The reason I tell you these stories is as a warning. Company after company will readily insist that delighting their customers is essential to growing and sustaining the success of their business, and yet I experience horrifically bad customer service all too often. So, before complaining about how bad the service is at other businesses, take a long hard look in the mirror and make sure you are NOT making some of the same mistakes with your customers.

Create a Customer Service Credo, develop a specific plan and set of processes for consistently exceeding your customer’s expectations, train your people like crazy to follow those processes and focus on the customer, reward employees who do a great job and remove employees that don’t. It’s just this simple, but apparently the businesses I mentioned above did not think it was important.

Professional Listeners?

shutterstock_254737258During my recent trip to New Zealand I gave a number of talks on how technology is going to dramatically disrupt every type of business. Part of my presentation focused on advanced robotics and how many jobs will be eliminated by robots and algorithms. Here is a question that I just received from one of the folks that attended a session I delivered to a group of New Zealand entrepreneurs.

Hi John,

I didn’t get a chance to talk to you after your presentation, but I was really curious about the balance between EQ and robotics. You mentioned a bar where the bartender was replaced by robots and how many other service jobs will be. How will this feed into our EQ? Many people go to bars etc. to talk to the bartender about how horrible their boss is. Do you think that as technology progresses more humans will turn to the virtual world for emotional conversations rather than the real world?

Take hotels for example, many can differentiate on price because of the quality of service they provide and the personalized touch they give. I think empathy is one of the key qualities needed to provide customer satisfaction. If a lot of these employees are replaced by robots for the sake of efficiency, how will user experience and emotions play into this?

I would really appreciate it if you could expand on this a bit.

My reply:

 

Wow, really great questions, with complex answers.

It is my opinion that many jobs such as bartenders and hotel receptionists will be replaced by robots, it is already happening. However, I completely agree with you that these are positions that traditionally act as service providers that directly connect with customers. I do not believe that computers, even with highly advanced AI, will be able to make a true “human connection.” So perhaps there will be new jobs for people that do nothing but sit and talk with other people about how horrible their boss is, politics, religion and other topics that people like to discuss. They will be trained not to push their own opinion, but to simply be there to listen to the other person, connect with them and show empathy. Actually, I just thought of this idea while I was writing you this note and it is something I’m going to look into with a lot more focus, service jobs being replaced with “professional listener” as a new career. Interesting?

 

Say Thank You!!

man-mopping-hotel-floorI spend a lot of time in hotels and airports. Often when I see someone sweeping the floor, emptying the trash or cleaning the bathroom I will stop and say, “Thank you so much for keeping everything clean, it looks wonderful.” You should see the smiles I get when I tell them that. And it is totally sincere, these are people who work hard every day at dirty jobs to keep things clean for us. I do very much appreciate their work and I like to take the time, from time-to-time, to give them an honest and heartfelt “thank you.” So the next time you see someone who is not necessarily in the spotlight, but still giving you great service, I encourage you to let them know that you value their work, it will help both of you have a better day. Better even, it will become a habit and you will begin to look for people who you can genuinely compliment throughout your day, making every day a little bit better for all of you. It’s a nice way to be nice.

Doing Your Job

business, job, workLet me help you understand something… doing your job gets you NO extra credit at all. Showing up on time, finishing your work, making sure your work has been done correctly, being courteous to co-workers and customers, staying until you are supposed to leave… that is what you are paid to do. I am getting tired of people who expect special recognition, an award, a big tip or raise – for simply doing their job.

It is like when the guy from the commercial cleaning crew that cleans my office tells me with great fanfare and excitement: “We wiped down all of the desks, vacuumed the floors, washed the windows, cleaned the bathroom and emptied all of the trash cans.” Then breathlessly waits for me to tell him how awesome that is. But I am thinking, “Well, no shit, that is what I hired you to do – so what?” However, if after he rattled off that list of tasks completed he said, “We also put fresh flowers on your desk and noticed that you were out of Diet Coke, so we put a 12-pack in the fridge for you.” THAT is awesome – that is special – that deserves some special recognition!

Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE evangelist for “creating a culture of catching people doing things right,” and I clearly understand that praise and recognition is critical to developing highly engaged and loyal employees, but I am not going to throw you a party just for having a pulse. I have been surprised lately by employees at some of my client companies that are angry and surly because they did not get  a raise or promotion when it is abundantly clear to me that they have not done anything special to earn it. They seem to believe that if they just show up and put in their time they should eventually become a Vice President. No, all that gets you is NOT fired!

I read an article about one of the top chefs in the world and they asked him his secret to success. His answer?

  1. Be completely intolerant of mediocrity.

  2. Strive every day in everything you do for true excellence.

  3. Be incredibly customer focused.

  4. Be highly innovative so you can continue to delight your customers.

That is a great list; that is how you become the best in the world at what you do. Anything less is simply doing your job.

 

Your thoughts?

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Grow Your Business With This Master Key to Success

In one of the greatest self-help books ever written, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” the author states that one of the Universal Master Keys to Success is creating mastermind groups, which are small groups of experts, advisers, and mentors that focus on assisting you with your business, career, and life. I could not agree more, as I’ve stated many times that the most important thing I’ve ever learned is this: you become what you focus on and like the people with whom you spend time. Along those same lines, it is also my firm belief that another Universal Master Keys to Success that will absolutely grow your business is obtaining referrals.

The Power of Referrals

In his wonderful book, “The Referral Engine”, my good friend John Jantsch points out that nearly 80% of all NEW clients and NEW business brought into most companies come directly from referrals. However, only about 23% of businesses have any kind of organized referral system. Do you, like me, see the huge opportunity here to grow your business?

According to Jantsch, the power of glitzy advertising and elaborate marketing campaigns is on the wane; instead, word-of-mouth referrals are what drive business today. People trust the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague, or even stranger with similar tastes over anything thrust at them by a faceless company. Therefore, the goal must be to harness the power of referrals in order to ensure that steady flow of new customers that will grow your business, and then to keep those customers happy, loyal, and engaged so that they refer your business to even more customers. This is the very definition of a virtuous cycle.

The Referral Engine

Some of John’s recommendations for how to build the referral engine that will grow your business include:

  • Talk with your customers, not at them. Thanks to social networking sites, companies of any size have the opportunity to engage with their customers on their home turf as never before, but the key to engagement is listening.
  • The sales team is the most important part of your marketing team. Sales people are the company’s main link to customers, and customers are the main source of referrals. Therefore, getting your sales team on board with your referral strategy is critical.
  • Educate your customers. Referrals are only helpful if they are given to the right people. Educate your customers about to whom they should be talking.

The Referral Cycle

The secret to generating referrals to grow your business lies in understanding what Jantsch calls the “Customer Referral Cycle”: the way customers refer others to your company who, in turn, generate even more referrals. Businesses can ensure a healthy referral cycle by moving customers and prospects along this path of action: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. If everyone in an organization keeps this sequence in mind and focuses on it daily, with every customer and prospect, then your business will generate referrals like a well-oiled machine, and that well-oiled machine will grow your business.

Let me give you an example from my own business. When a new client hires me to do a workshop or deliver a speech, at the beginning of the process, I say to them:

I am totally going to work my butt off to deliver the highest quality program I possibly can for your attendees. So, if I deliver something that significantly exceeds your expectations, then I’m going to ask you to send a strong personal referral to a minimum of ten of your colleagues, letting them know about what a wonderful job I’ve done for you and suggesting that they consider hiring me for their next workshop or speech. If I absolutely earn that, will you agree to send the referrals for me?”

I have never had a client say no to this request, especially since it is all based on me first delivering a truly superb speech or workshop. So, if I hit it out of the park, they are willing to send my name along to 10, 20 or 100 of their business associates, knowing that if any one of them hire me, I would work just as hard for them. It makes the client feel good to refer business my way and confident that if one of their friends takes their advice, I will make sure that they are 100% satisfied, which is a true win-win for all involved.

The Referral Technique

I also have another referral technique that works extremely well. If a client or even an attendee of one of my speeches or workshops approaches me after I have just finished my presentation and says, “Wow John, that was a fantastic speech. Thanks for all of the great ideas and information”, then I immediately say to them:

Thank you so much for that very kind compliment: I appreciate that a great deal. Actually, the best way you can thank me would be to tell a whole bunch of people you know about how much you enjoyed my program and how much value you took away from it. In eighteen years of doing this for a living, I have learned that 99.9% of all of my new business comes directly from happy customers telling their friends and business colleagues about the work I do. It would be great if you could take five minutes to send out a handful of emails to anyone you feel would enjoy the sort of presentation you just saw.”

Having a set response like this, that is well thought out, professional, and honest, has been one of the most powerful referral tools I have ever used. Do you have something like this for your business? How do you currently ask your best customers, in a professional, clear, focused and comfortable way (NOT a memorized script!), for them to please send you several dozen targeted referrals?

The Referral Template

These questions bring me to my next point, which is: it also helps if you make it really, really easy for people to send a great referral your way. As John pointed out, the first step in this process is to help your customers clearly understand WHO is a good referral for you and who represents the kind of clients you want to gather. After that, you need to make it almost effortless for them to refer you to lots and lots of the right people so that they can help you grow your business. For example, if you have a client who is enthusiastic about sending referrals to you, you might simply type out a short note that they can use as a template. Here is an example of what I send to my customers when they agree to send out an email on my behalf:

Dear ________,

I hope this note finds you doing very well. I recently listened to a really fantastic speaker who said that if he hit a total homerun, we should thank him by telling 15 to 20 of our colleagues about his work. Well, because he did such an awesome job, I wanted to honor his request. I am writing this note to highly recommend John Spence. His session was fast-paced, engaging, fun, and full of truly useful information. Here’s a link to his website so you can take a look and see what sort of programs he presents. He does a really super job: www.johnspence.com

I simply send this template to my client and ask them to look over, customize, or change it in any way that makes them comfortable, and then e-mail it to anyone they feel would find value in the work I do. Some clients don’t send any emails; some clients send a handful; and a few very special clients send it on to dozens and dozens of people. I promise you, there is no advertising or marketing program in the world as powerful as a happy client sending several dozen emails to their clients and colleagues to strongly recommend your services – it is absolutely pure gold!

The Growth of Referrals

So there you have it. Obtaining referrals is a Universal Master Key of Success that will grow your business. However, you can’t just sit back and “hope” that your clients will refer you: you need to turn your business into referral engine! And how you do that? By following these steps:

  • Talk with your customers. Use social networks to engage your customers and generate referrals.
  • Get everyone in your business involved in asking for referrals.
  • Help your customer understand WHO is a good referral for you.
  • Make it incredibly easy for your customers to give you referrals.
  • Ask for referrals ALL the time.
  • And most important – do such amazingly awesome work that you truly EARN tons of referrals!!!

I hope you found this article helpful and that you put these ideas that will grow your business to good use!

Wishing you every possible happiness and success,

John Spence

Fire Your Customers

Screaming into telephone.It can be very challenging for a business owner to finally admit that it’s time to…

“Fire the Customer”

Let me be very clear here, the truth of the matter is that not every customer is a good customer and if you allow a bad client/customer to stick around too long, they may just run you out of business. Of course you want to take absolutely spectacular care of your best customers and turn them into customer evangelists, but when you end up with a customer terrorist the best course of action is to politely send them to your biggest competitor! (I’m only half kidding here)

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen businesses almost go bankrupt trying to please difficult customers that drive them crazy, use of tons of resources, always complain, pay late and argue about the price. When I sit down with the business owner and make them take a good hard look at the relationship with a customer like that it usually becomes pretty obvious that they are actually losing money every time they deal with that customer. So how do you avoid getting into that kind of a situation? Here are a few ideas…

Set Clear Expectations

At the beginning of the business relationship take the time to sit down with your new client and be exceedingly clear about how the relationship will work. Explain to them specifically what you promise to deliver, how your pricing is structured, the best ways for you to communicate with each other, what to do if there’s a problem – and exactly what you expect from them as well. Put it all on the table, leave nothing to chance, don’t assume anything. It’s one of my absolute favorite business quotes as it relates to accountability inside of an organization – and creating accountability with your clients:

“Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity”

If you failed to do this at the beginning of the relationship, try to have this conversation the minute you start to feel uncomfortable and think that the relationship might be headed south. If at all possible you want to have this conversation while there is no emotion or dysfunction in the client relationship. If you try to have this conversation after something big has gone wrong, it will just deteriorate into finger-pointing, excuses and blaming.

Develop Red Flags

Go back and look carefully at every time in the past that a client relationship has imploded, what was the pattern? What were the warning signs that things were getting off track? Did they start to become overly demanding? Did they start paying late? Did they start asking for you to do extra work and not want to pay for it? Did they call up one of your employees and scream at them? Did they make a mistake on their end and then turn around and blame you for it? These are the sort of things I’ve seen in the businesses I’ve owned and when one of these red flags popped up I immediately started examining the client relationship to either improve it or terminate it.

Fire Nice

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about hiring people was:

Hire Mean and Fire Nice.”

In other words, be really tough in the interviewing process, push hard to make sure the person really is a good fit and truly wants to work in your company, be aggressive in explaining exactly what the job will entail so that the candidate knows precisely what they are getting into, what will be expected of them and what it will be like to work in your company. If they still want to work with you after this sort of an interview, then you likely have a good candidate. However, if things go wrong and they don’t turn out to be a superstar, be very kind, generous and fair when letting them go so that you can help to avoid ill-feelings, nasty rumors or even a lawsuit. To me, it’s exactly the same when accepting a new client. Be tough in the interviewing process (that’s right, you interview new customers just as much as they interview you as someone they want to do business with) to make sure that this potential new customer meets your “Ideal Customer Profile.” Are they the kind of person that you want to do business with? Will they be a good partner? Are they the kind of client who can bring you new customers and more business? Do they have the financial resources to pay on time and in full? Are they nice people that you would enjoy working with? If the answers to a lot of these questions are no – you are better off to recommend that they go to your top competitor and let them deal with a potentially disruptive customer.

Now I understand that sometimes you need every customer because you need cash flow, but when your business is stabilized and you’re not scrambling to bring in every single dollar you can, then I highly recommend you backup and start to pursue and accept only the best customers. I also highly recommend that as soon as a customer starts to trip a few of the red flags, you either fix it right away, or fire that customer!

 

I hope you found this helpful – John

How To Get More Customers

Small-Business-Owner-Regrets-and-DifficultiesRecently I’ve had several friends who own small businesses ask me how to get more customers. Since this is an issue that nearly every small business owner struggles with I decided to grab an article I wrote several years ago about “How to Win in a Local Market,” and updated with some new ideas and suggestions.

1. Figure out exactly who your key target customers are – the part of the market you want to own. The best way to do this is to look at your current customer base and identify the customers that you absolutely love, the ones that are easy to deal with, really like your products and services a lot, see value what you offer, are glad to pay the full price – the ones you wish you had lots and lots of more customers exactly like them. Then take the time to write down everything you can possibly think of that clearly identifies this specific target group or groups of customers. What is their age range? What kind of car do they drive? What do they buy from you now? What is their education level? Where do they get their information – magazines, TV shows, social media platforms, and websites? What groups do they belong to? What are their hobbies? Do they have kids? What sort of jobs do they have? (if you run a B2B company you’d want to learn everything you can about their business, who there customers are, how they are positioning their business in the market and who are their top competitors).The more you can understand about your specific target market and what motivates them – the better job you can do of serving them and capturing more customers just like them.

2. Another great way to understand what motivates your target audience – is to ask them! Again, identify a group of your very best current customers then send them a brief survey with these questions:

• What, specifically, are the top three or four reasons you chose to do business with us?

• How did you find out about our business?

• Is there anything we could do to improve your experience in doing business with our company?

You might want to add a few other questions, but the goal is to look over all of the replies and see if there is a clear pattern. If there is (and there almost always is), the answer to question number one is your brand. Your customers have just told you exactly why they buy from you, which is likely the reason that other customers like them would buy from you too, so make this the main focus of all of your advertising and marketing. The answer to question number two tells you where to invest your advertising and marketing dollars – these are the places where your target customers are looking to find out about businesses like yours. Question number three tells you exactly what you need to go back and fix right away to increase the loyalty and engagement of your current and future customers. This is extremely powerful information and unfortunately very few businesses ever take the time to actually ask their best current customers why they are customers and what they could do to increase their loyalty. It is always been one of my top business mantras: Whoever owns the voice of the customer owns the marketplace. Take this to heart!

3. Once you get all this information back, create a very detailed “Ideal Customer Profile” to help you understand and stay focused on the people who will make your business successful. Clearly describe exactly who your target customers are, why they do business with you, how they found out about you, and what you can do to continuously delight and surprise them – and then make sure everybody in your company understands that critical information and uses it to guide their daily actions and behaviors when interacting with your customers — and you use it to build your business and branding strategies.

4. Determine who your top competitors will be for those specific target customers, who is already servicing them right now? Then study those top competitors to deeply understand how they position themselves – what services they offer – what promises they make – what sort of value proposition they are currently bringing to the marketplace that is, for some important reason, winning over the customers that you want to win way from them!

5. Figure out how to clearly differentiate yourself from your competitors in a way that will raise the bar and recalibrate the customer’s expectations, and be sure that the way you differentiate yourself is of true value to your customer, as defined by the customer, not by you. Understand this: All effective strategy is just Valued Differentiation multiplied by Disciplined Execution. In other words, to win in the marketplace you must offer something that is unique, exciting and compelling – that is differentiated from all of your competitor’s offerings, hopefully in a way that is defendable so it is not easy to copy – that your customers truly value and are willing to pay money for… and then you must execute on that flawlessly each and every day for each and every customer. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward idea that is exceedingly hard to do successfully. This will be one of your biggest challenges in gaining new customers and running a sustainably successful business.

6. Create strategic alliances with people who, by the nature of the business they are in, can become wonderful sources of referrals to you. You want to get as many people like this on your team as possible… but you especially want to identify the top four or five “Opinion Leaders” who are the most influential sources of referrals for you so that you can get these very important individuals on your team and creating a constant stream of high-quality, targeted referrals that represent your Ideal Customer Profile. The best way to do this is typically to define the people who have the same general customer base as you and that you feel do an absolutely fantastic job at delivering something to these target customers – that is not in competition with what you do – or even better is a complement to what you do. For example, if you are an expert in building high quality pools, you can easily partner with many of the local builders in your area. If you make custom clothing, partner with your local dry cleaners and high-end shoe dealers. If you own an accounting firm, you want to be connected with the top bankers and financial advisors in your area. If you owned a boat dealership that sells high-end boats – partner with a local Mercedes-Benz dealer. These sort of symbiotic relationships with people who are highly connected to your target customers is priceless.

7. Also determine people that are in your direct area of competition – but that you do not want to compete against, and try to form strategic alliances with them so you can work together and be in co-opition instead of competition. For example, you own a great Italian restaurant but there is a fantastic Chinese restaurant on the other side of town, why not share gift certificates to share customers. No one is going to eat Italian or Chinese every single time they go out, so rather than competing, why not share the top customers and help each other be more successful. This is why you often see five or six furniture shops or restaurants in the same mall, they are all attracting more customers to their “destination” and thereby everybody gets more business. Can you do this with some of your friendly competitors?

8. Identify your key “Moments Of Truth” — the handful of key things that absolutely have to go right in order for you to be able to meet and exceed your customer’s expectation —  and create processes to make sure that they are delivered flawlessly — flawlessly – – – every single time. For example, although there are hundreds of interactions every time you go out to have a meal, pretty much every restaurant on the face of the word only has 4 moments of truth:

• Food quality

• Service quality

• Price / value

• Cleanliness

If a restaurant does lots and lots of other things right but messes up any one of these four items badly, they will go out of business. On the flip side, if they do these four things exceedingly well every single time, customers will overlook failures in a few other minor places. So here is the BIG question: What are the moments of truth for your business? The three, four or five things that you must do exceedingly well in order to create highly satisfied, loyal and engaged customers. Figure out those key moments of truth and make sure that everybody in your company works tirelessly to deliver them perfectly all of the time. (This is one of the most powerful business success ideas I know – if you can determine what your key moments of truth are and deliver them flawlessly you will build a strong foundation for a highly successful and profitable company. Make sure you work on this).

9. Position yourself as an expert, trusted advisor, partner and peer to your customers by continuously delivering them REAL value. If you are in a B2B Sales, add real value and assistance to your customers by helping to make them look really good and delivering massive value to their customers. The key idea here is the only person that can decide what is valuable… is the customer. It does not matter what you think is cool, exciting, fun, unique or valuable – it only matters what the customer thinks. So invest the time and energy necessary to get as close to your customers you possibly can and thoroughly understand exactly why they think that what you offer is special, unique, differentiated and valuable to them.

10. Be sure that every single time you do a superior job – and your customers tell you that you are fantastic – follow up instantly with a request for referrals. If they say “You’re awesome, thank you, thank you, thank you”… tell them that the very best way they can thank you is to tell 10 other people about how fantastic you are and recommend that they do business with you. Positive word-of-mouth referrals, are the single most valuable advertising/marketing vehicle there is on the face of the earth. A significant amount of new research indicates that 43% to 78% (that is basically half to three-quarters) of all purchasing decisions today are made by referral – word-of-mouth, social media, texting, email – people ask their friends and colleagues who they should do business with and basically “crowd source” even major purchasing decisions. You can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy ads in every magazine in the world – but a handful of strong personal referrals from key opinion leaders will drive much more business than those as ever could. (By the way you still need to market and advertise – but word-of-mouth referrals, especially through social media, is incredibly powerful and will only get more so).

11. Keep close to your best customers. Check in with them regularly – talk with them – ask questions and LISTEN. Learn everything you can about why your best customers are loyal, and make sure you give them what they want, while them, delight them and consistently exceed their expectations (just slightly – you do not want to erode your profit margin by delivering more value than the customer actually wants). Then gently began to ask these fanatical “customer evangelists” to help you spread the word about how great your business is. If they love you and the products and services you deliver, they will be happy to tell their friends, family and colleagues about how awesome your business is. Turning your best customers into your marketing department is an incredibly powerful strategy, because no matter how good your advertising and marketing is, people will immediately believe their friends recommendations far above even your very best ad. Happy customers who tell everyone they know about how great you are can completely change the future of your business. This is another area you should focus on intently.

**I think this is a good place to make important point: For most of you reading this article the future success of your business will depend very, very, very heavily on the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team. Great products with terrible customer service = bankruptcy. Hire the best talent you can, train them constantly, treat them fairly, pay them fairly (10% above or below what they would make to do the same job at another company) and empower them to go out and take care superb of your customers. Here is an extremely important point: The customer’s experience one never exceed the employee’s experience. 

“Hire top talent – create a winning culture that engages and empowers them – focus them intently on delivering superior customer service – then hold them accountable for executing on your moments of truth every single day for every single customer.”

12. Become a student of every other business you interact with. What are they doing well that you can adapt to your business? What are they doing poorly that you want to make sure you’re not doing to your customers? Every time you buy something, go out to dinner, order something online, interact with a vendor – it should be a lesson on things that you can steal and apply in your business – or things to avoid at all costs in your business.

13. Track everything I just told you about. Don’t go on instinct or gut feelings, collect data and facts on what is working and what is not – as measured by customer satisfaction scores, profitability and other key metrics. It does not matter what you “think” is working, it only matters if your target customers think is valuable and are willing to pay money for!

14. Once you figure out what works best for you – what truly leads to gaining real market share and significantly increasing profitability – focus like crazy on that area and get better and better at it every day.

15. Lastly, never stop doing everything on this list. Markets exchange, new competitors enter the market, customer’s requirements change – and you have to be able to change with them. Things move really, really fast so agility, adaptability, continuous improvement and ALWAYS listening to your customers is essential to the long-term success of your business. What makes customer’s super happy today, might very well make them very angry next month – so you have to stay on the very cutting edge by knowing more about your customers and your market than anyone else you compete against. Although extremely difficult to do – this is not optional!

I hope you found some of these ideas helpful and that you will share them with anyone you can think of in your network that you feel would find value in them too.

As always, I look forward to your feedback, ideas, comments and suggestions. Thanks so much — John

The Key to Business Success: Customer Focus

Any of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know that I’m an absolute fanatic about customer focus, owning the voice of the customer, Moments of Truth and creating customer evangelists. This is based on years of research and study, working with hundreds of companies around the world and owning several companies of my own. It just seems to me if you get close to your customers, understand them better than your competition and deliver things that truly meet their needs at a reasonable price…you will win in the marketplace.

ag-lafleyBut don’t take my word for it, I was recently watching a wonderful video on the Big Think website where A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of P&G (Procter & Gamble), was describing their strategy to win in the marketplace.

Since Mr. Lafley is widely recognized as one of the top CEOs in America, and has been able to deliver incredible growth and success at P & G, I thought you might find his ideas interesting.

Here are some comments directly from the Big Think interview:

I believe everything starts with a deep understanding of who the customer is, what he or she wants and needs and then trying to give it to them. What experience does she want? What relationship does she want? How is she going decide whether we’re a good value? How is she going decide whether to try us and after she uses us whether to buy us on a regular basis?”

My emphasis added above, because I have long been a cheerleader for the idea of:

Whoever owns the Voice of the Customer owns the marketplace!

 

Here is Mr. Lafley reflecting on one of the major customer strategies that they implemented during his tenure as CEO:

“We used to talk a lot about winning the consumer moments of truth. We wanted you to have a good purchasing experience. We wanted you to have a good usage experience. We wanted you to have a good after usage experience. And ultimately we were looking for loyal consumers who promoted our brands to their family, their friends, you know, people in the neighborhood. Okay, that was our whole business model.”

One of the main things you learn from listening to your customers is their critical Moments of Truth. The three, four or five things you must do to create highly engaged, satisfied and loyal customers who become customer evangelists for your products and/or services. Once you understand these essential interactions, the Moments of Truth, then you must build processes, systems and training programs around them to ensure that they are delivered flawlessly for each and every customer, each and every time.

Here are some great comments on why he felt some of the company’s advertising was not effective:

“Frankly in my view there were a lot of pretty unsuccessful commercials. And the reason they were unsuccessful is they really didn’t have a customer or a consumer in mind. You know, I don’t feel like they put the consumer first. I don’t feel like they made a clear promise to that consumer. I don’t feel like they created a relationship with that consumer or had a dialog with that consumer.”

And lastly he touched on something that has long been one of my major pieces of advice to businesses I work with: Don’t worry about the competition, worry about having really, really happy customers and everything else will take care of itself.

Here’s how Mr. Lafley explained that same idea:

“You know, I guarantee you if we won with consumers – if we won with consumers and consumers loved our brand and product line, the financial results would come eventually. Always did.”

I feel awkward quoting so much from the Big Think interview, but I simply wanted you to hear exactly what one of the leading CEOs in the world had to say about the importance of getting close to your customer, listening to your customer and then delivering exactly what your customer has told you they want to buy from you. Now, I know the customer isn’t always right, and sometimes you have to innovate and anticipate based on their feedback, but I do know that at the end of the day the customer is the person who pays ALL the bills, so it’s worth taking a significant amount of time and money to listen to them carefully.

If you’d like to watch the interview, click on the logo  below which will link directly to the Big Think website with the A.G. Lafley video already queued up, and if you haven’t watched the videos on Big Think you’re going to be very pleased with the rich content and excellent interviews on their site.

I hope you found this blog of value and that you share it with your network – thanks – John

BigThink


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Five Fundamentals of Business Success

I just taught a series of business success seminars to about 300 entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and wanted to send a super special “Thank You” video to my hosts and the attendees on what I felt were a few of the MOST important things to focus on in order to run a highly successful organization. Once I finished the video I thought the information was so powerful that I decided to post it here on my blog for all of my followers to benefit from. I truly hope you find this video of great value and I challenge you to take at least one or two key ideas and begin implementing them right away.

I hope you will share this video with anyone you feel would find value in the ideas I shared — thanks, John


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence