Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

For Your Convenience

Screaming into telephone.Whenever you see the phrase, “For your convenience,” you know it’s going to be anything but convenient. I’ve been on the road for about two weeks and during my trip here are just a few of the things that people so kindly did for my convenience…

“For your convenience, rubber mats for the shower are available upon request, simply call the operator and we will have one brought your room.” Not very convenient when I’m standing in the slippery shower and realize I need a shower mat to keep from falling and killing myself.

“For your convenience, we have added a daily $10 charge to your room for cleaning services.” I guess if I refuse the charge they will leave my room dirty?

“For your convenience, the café opens at 7 AM.” Unfortunately, I have a 7:30 meeting on the other side of the hotel, not very convenient to have to skip breakfast.

And finally, my favorite one, yesterday morning I ordered a taxi cab at 8:30 AM so I could make the 6-mile drive to my client’s building and arrive on time for my 9:00 AM meeting. I called down to the desk at 7:00 AM to order the cab, and 30 minutes later they called and said the cab was out front waiting for me. I mentioned to the operator I was not expecting the cab for another hour, the reply was that the cab driver thought it would be more “convenient” because there’s often a lot of traffic at this time of the morning.  “Really,” I inquired, “I need an hour and a half to go 6 miles?” She told me the cab driver said it would likely take that long. So I rushed like crazy to get dressed, packed and down to the cab as fast as possible.

While riding in the cab on the way to my appointment, the cab driver mentioned he just happened to be across the street when the call came in for an 8:30 ride and thought it would be much more “convenient” to pick me up at 7:30. Convenient for who? By the way, it took 11 minutes to get to the building where my meeting was and I had to sit in the lobby for an hour before going up to my client’s office.

My point in all this? What might your company be doing for your customer’s “convenience” that is not actually convenient for them at all? Where are you causing frustrations, disappointments and unhappy customers because it is more “convenient” for you and your staff? How can you remove or replace any procedure that is not truly convenient for the people you serve?

I wrote this article, “For your convenience,” I hope you found it helpful.

6 Keys to Effective Strategic Planning

mini-peepsI am currently preparing to facilitate three strategic planning meetings, for an association, a technology company and a Fortune 100 client. Here are a few things that I see as foundational for creating an effective strategic plan.

  1. The key to a successful strategic plan is: FOCUS. Every company, regardless of size, has limited resources and strategy is all about effectively deploying an organization’s resources where they will have the most positive impact in the marketplace.
  2. To mirror my first point, one of the most important things a great strategic thinker does is figure out what to say “NO” to. What markets will we not compete in? What products or services should we not try to sell? What current projects should we abandon?
  3. If you have 10 strategic objectives, you do not have a strategy. All of the successful companies I’ve worked with were able to focus in on 3 to 5 major strategic initiatives. Anything more than that causes a lack of focus and ultimately a lack of success.
  4. When examining business issues, are you trying to solve a puzzle or a mystery? With enough data and information, you can find the right answer to a puzzle, but no matter how hard you try it is impossible to find the exact right solution for mystery. Because of this, as much as I hate to admit it, a large part of strategy is simply an educated guess about what might happen in the future.
  5. Alignment is critical. If the senior team is not 100% committed to strategic direction of the organization, the plan will fail.
  6. It’s an age-old business cliché, because it is correct: What gets measured gets done. A major reason that many strategies are not effectively executed is because there is no way to determine exactly what the expectations are. Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity.

Those are just a few of the key ideas I try to help my clients keep in mind as we move through a strategic planning retreat. I will also add one more critical point; to make sure you follow through and implement your plan, you should spend just as much time on strategic execution planning as you do on planning the strategy. This is a very important idea that few companies truly embrace.

What are your thoughts?

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?

 

I Hate Motivational Bullshit

Rich-man-1102x620I get sick of all of this motivational bullshit… “Just meditate on it and the universe will bring it to you… You were born to be great and change the world … If you say enough positive affirmations, you will become a billionaire.” NO, NO, NO and NO.

You can achieve success, wealth, happiness, respect, notoriety, fame, power – whatever you desire – if you’re willing to pick a clear direction, create a solid plan and work your ass off. Nobody becomes a billionaire by just “believing” that it will happen. The universe does not align to create your perfect life – you create it. I love great motivational quotes, I read them all the time, but I know that at the end of the day it is up to me to make my life better. If I don’t put in the work – nothing will happen.

I guess I’m being a little harsh here, but I meet so many people that do almost no work but hope their life will be amazing. I mean, if the things they said in the book “The Secret,” actually worked, we would have world filled with skinny, good-looking billionaires. Let me make this Awesomely Simple: Hope is not a strategy. If you want to have a better life – you have to get better. If you want to achieve more success – you have to add more value. If you want to be wealthy – you have to do something that other people are willing to pay a lot of money for. There is no silver bullet, no secret to success, no easy way to become insanely wealthy. If you look at any person that is massively successful… they worked very, very, very hard to get there. I challenge you, I really challenge you, to study anyone that has become hugely successful and tell me that they did it without any effort or work. Every single person that has achieved at a very high level, has worked at a very high level to create insane amounts of value in the marketplace. The key though is to do something you’re passionate about, something that you truly love, so that all that effort never really feels like work, just a wonderful and challenging journey on the path to you creating an incredible life for yourself.

Love, John

 

90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think

I was surfing the web and came across the following blog on Marc and Angle Hack Life: Practical Tips for Productive Living. Their 60 are awesome, but I added another 30 that were impactful to my thinking.  I welcome, no, I strongly encourage you to PLEASE add your favorite quotes in the comments section below – let’s make this a truly life-changing list!

 60 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think…

In your quiet moments, what do you think about?  How far you’ve come, or how far you have to go?  Your strengths, or your weaknesses?  The best that might happen, or the worst that might come to be?  In your quiet moments, pay attention to your thoughts.  Because maybe, just maybe, the only thing that needs to shift in order for you to experience more happiness, more love, and more vitality, is your way of thinking. Continue reading “90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think” »

Sales Advice in 60 Seconds

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What Is Your Legacy?

 

Click HERE to listen to the interview
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My Best Sales Advice for 2016

My best sales advice for 2016 (or any year for that matter) is to make this the year of extreme curiosity. If you are selling a product that requires some level of understanding your customer, then you need to stop thinking of yourself as a salesperson and truly get into the mindset of a consultant. So, here is a simple four-step process for you to be much more successful in 2016.

ONE:  Practice the art of asking superb questions. Think deeply about the specific information you need to obtain in order to offer the perfect solution to your customer. Reflect on the information you want to receive from your customer when they answer your question, what do you want them to say, what specifically do you want them to tell you? Remember, that you don’t have an unlimited number of questions, so make sure that every question counts and helps you collect the critical information that will allow you understand the customer’s real needs and move the sale forward. To help you with this, I suggest you create a list of the key information you need to gather from almost every client. For example, in a business-to-business sale you might need to know:

  • What is the timeframe to make this decision?
  • Who will be involved in the decision-making process?
  • What is your budget for this project?
  • What are your selection criteria?
  • What other companies are you looking at to help you with this project?
  • What are the top issues that you hope that we can help you with?
  • What are the financial implications if you can’t find the exact right solution?
  • What would the financial upside be if we can deliver the exact right solution?
  • What would the exact right solution look like to you?

These are just a few examples, but take some time to sit down and write out the 10 most important pieces of information you have to get from every client and then write an elegant and focused question to get the client to give you the specific information you need.

TWO: Once you ask an excellent question, you must then be an intense listener. Make the person you’re talking to the most important person on the face of the earth while you are sitting there talking to them. Forget about your cell phone, forget about your next appointment, forget about your quota,  forget about your golf game this weekend – give them your total and undivided attention.

THREE: As you are listening intently, take highly detailed notes. Put a star next all important ideas, list out their buying criteria, and underline key budget numbers. Take notes that allow you to perfectly summarize and paraphrase what the client has shared with you to demonstrate that you have listened very carefully to them and understand their needs, wants, wishes, desires and concerns.

FOUR: Now, and only now, have you earned the right to start talking about your product or service!!!

I have met so many salespeople that do the opposite of what I am recommending here. They come in and immediately pitch their product, ask very few if any questions, and don’t write any notes. This is why 88% of senior executives say that the number one reason they won’t see a salesperson is: They waste my time!

If you follow the four steps I have listed above, you will be seen as a consultant and peer that is there to learn as much as they possibly can about their client so that they can deliver a true value-added solution at a reasonable (not lowest) price.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful, I very much look forward to your comments. – John