I Solve Your Problems

Deborah Chaddock Brown professional speakerLast week I spoke at the Fastbreak Breakfast hosted by the Canton Chamber and Aultcare. The topic was social media strategy and as part of my speech I have the participants think about their 30 second commerical in terms of the 140 character restriction of most social sites.

You have to be focused. People don’t want to know your name or your company or WHAT you do, they want to know HOW you help them and what the RESULTS are. Then if you capture your attention, they’ll want to know more. So it comes down to:

I help WHO achieve WHAT?

I asked for volunteers to share their story and one gentleman said that he was a house painter.

“So you transform my home. You make my rooms like new.”

“No,” he said.  “I solve your problems.”

“Oh, honey,” I told him. “That will take more than a gallon of paint!”

He was thinking about what he offered. Sanding, grout, filling holes and cracks, primer, paint, wallpaper removal and installation, etc.

But as a potential customer “solving my problems” made me think about what my problems are: nine year old car on its last legs, a $4500 orthodonist bill for my daughter, my Mom’s upcoming surgery and the fact that I need new dress shoes but I can’t seem to find any that I like.

All the more reason it is important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and be more focused with your message.

Last night I gave a similar speech to the SMEI in Akron and when we came to the same exercise a man who offered private label baked goods said that he “helps grow sales with proprietary products, custom.”

I said – any product?

No.

And by proprietary do you mean private label? Which term is more likely to be used by a customer searching your services? Using the Google Trends tool I find that proprietary products is never used when compared with private label.

When I hear custom, I think custom auto, custom design, custom anything but muffins. Once again, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think like they do.

We get so caught up in the passion of what we do that it becomes all consuming and we forget that our customers have other things on their mind besides what we offer.

The lesson is to be focused rather than broad. I don’t solve all your problems, I create a home beautiful with paint and paper. I increase your sales through custom made food products that carry your company name.  Short, sweet, but focused.

Don’t leave your customers wondering. Don’t make them guess. Think like they do when creating your marketing message or 140 character status update.

And if you can solve all my problems – please, call me!  🙂

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Just When We Thought We’d Hit Bottom

I am clearly in a customer service funk this week. And just when I thought I’d heard the worst, I read this comment:

I received an interesting email yesterday from my office internet provider (and phone provider) spelling out their new terms and agreement regarding their internet service. What I found interesting is there’s a new section called “Abusive Treatment”. Basically spelling out that if you, the customer, call and are upset or express your dissatisfaction in an unflattering way, the company will terminate the contract. Which begs the question, are we as businesses & owners finally getting fed up with the disrespectful customers who call and take their frustrations out in an extreme verbal manner on our employees?

Now, I agree, there is no reason to be abusive to an employee who is just trying to uncover the issues and resolve the situation, but now we have a policy? I once wrote a post called Are there good customers and bad customers?– there are bad customers out there – but shouldn’t they be viewed as the rare and extreme? Have we lost the ability to communicate in a civil manner to the point of having to spell it out in a policy?

What have we come to?

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Too Much Work? How Do You Keep From Disappointing Customers?

customer disappointmentThe economy is showing signs of improvement. Businesses are getting busier.  When we are slow it is easy to chat up a customer, exceed expectations with deadlines and go the extra mile. But what about when it gets busy? I recently asked this question of the Build Customer Relationship group on LinkedIn and here are some of the comments:

Emily Kelly • Communication is key! People are so much more understanding when they know where things stand. A quick phone call or email with an update goes a long way. Just don’t leave them in the dark wondering if you forgot about them!

De-de Mulligan, CMP, CMM • Deborah, I think you have two choices…one is what Emily said. Tell the client the realistic timeline for completing their work and then determine if it is acceptable to them. The second choice is to subcontract the work out to the other professionals. I have done that from time-to-time and it works very well.

ToshibaBob Weinhardt • ASK for their specific timeframe…. reevaluate YOUR priorities …explain your dilemma …if it just can’t be done by you or your associates, within their time restraints… YOU suggest that YOU will connect them with one of your quality competitors …they will be keenly aware that YOU provided them with an adquate (not perfect… only you are) solution to their concern. CHECK BACK …all else being equal people buy from those who show they CARE … it is amazing how reciprosity works….

Kurt Leibensperger • To echo Bob’s comment…what goes around comes around. Referrals..even to the competition…do provide an opportunity for reciprocity. The client appreciates your honesty, and who do you think the referred competitor will think ro refer when they can’t handle their workload? You!

LaNita Darden • I agree to all of the above comments. COMMUNICATION is the key. The customer ,whoever they are, is who we serve however that may be.

Ife (Efay) Collins • I think you have the right idea, blesses with work is right especially these days, we might be over crowded with to much on our plate at times but at that means were doing something right, and that means we have a job! I do the same thing in my position at General Appliance of Berkeley as the Director of Marketing, when I have customers that have been loyal to out business and have an issue I make a conscious effort to address them to the best of my ability seeing as that customers are what makes the business stay affloat, even if I cant give them the answer they want to hear I let thme know honestly I will do my best to find out, and I always get back to them even if I dont have what they need, customers are human they appreciate honesty and want to feel like there important.

Faye Haber • We have gotten extremely busy of late. When taking an order, I give them my best guess for when the product will be done. That way, they can make sure down the line that the timeline reflects a longer lead time. As we do custom projects, and we don’t have the option to refer them to another source, it is up to me to evaluate the urgency of my client’s needs and then to act in order of importance. Sometimes, if I can’t make it to their timeframe, I will offer a concession to make them feel better about it – perhaps pay the shipping. I will do this especially if I gave them a date and then couldn’t meet it. The most important thing is to COMMUNICATE….and don’t wait till the day before the product is due to tell them it will be late. Give them as much time as you can, so they can adjust their expectations. If it is extremely urgent to them, then perhaps I need to adjust my schedule to accommodate them.

Nina Messina • Communicate. I have found that in most situations my clients have been willing to wait till I can get to the job they have for me. If they can’t wait, I try to find a subcontractor who can get the work done sooner.

Keeping the lines of commmunication open, being honest, staying connected all seem to be similar themes throughout the comments. We hate to disappoint our customers and so we often fine ourselves promising something we HOPE we can deliver but find ourselves being unable to follow through. The knee jerk reaction is to avoid the conversation – hope they’ll forget – put our head in the sand but in fact, if we call, email or text our customer and let them know the status, they’ll appreciate it, and us, even more.

I was in Target today in Macedonia and wanted to purchase a piece of patio furniture that they didn’t have. The employee told me the Streetsboro Target had one in stock and gave me the phone number so I could call and check before driving. I called and and explained what I wanted and the woman said she’d check. She came back on the line and said “I show we have one in stock but before you drive over, let me make sure. I think we have it but I didn’t want you to continue to hold and think I had forgotten you.”

I really appreciated that. She was telling me that she didn’t have any new news. However, the fact that she kept me apprised really meant a lot and I was happy to hold for several more minutes.

So are you blessed with too much work? Don’t fret – just keep those lines of communication open.

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Borders Books – An Example of Understanding the Customer Relationship

The economy has taken its toll on all businesses, some more than others. But add to that fact, changing technology and the change in consumer buying habits and you have a more challenging operational situation. Borders Books announced yesterday that it is filing Chapter 11.

On the same day I received a detailed email from the CEO of Borders, Mike Edwards, explaining the situation and outlining how it would impact faithful customers. I’m impressed. Imagine how challenging a decision it was for Mike and his Board of Directors to recognize and admit the need to file Chapter 11. They are thinking about company sales and profits and employees and real estate leases and financial investments tied up in inventory and a whole host of things that probably keep them up at night.

Yet, they understand the value of the customer relationship enough to know that this announcement will cause some concern and questions among their buying public.  So rather than allow people to speculate or rumors to grow, they are up front and spell out the details:

He explains the what:  Filing for Chapter 11

The why:  To allow the company to reorganize and prepare for the future so they can continue to serve consumers needs

The impact:  He provides answers for consumer’s top questions; stores will stay open, book borrowing program continues, the Borders Rewards program is still alive and well and on and on. They put themselves in the customer’s shoes and tried to address the most pressing concerns up front.

The follow-up: They’ve set up a new website Borders Reorganization and customer service phone lines to address customer’s concerns and questions.

I think what makes this even more impressive is that it is rarely handled this way. Meet Up recently made dramatic changes to their website impacting 7 million users. Complains numbered in the thousands and their initial response – which came AFTER thousands of complaints? A terse email that said “We have no plans to make any changes or go back to the old system at this time.” Talk about angering a lot of people. Since then, they have written a blog post addressing the concerns but it came too late to unring the bell of damaged customer relationships.

My hat is off to Mike Edwards et al of Borders and wish them all the best as they restructure for the changing times. I am a faithful customer and will continue to be and I’m thankful for their honest, open and TIMELY communication. We can all take a lesson from their open communication to customers.

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Communication Key to Building Customer Relationships

100 tips in 100 DaysI received a lovely surprise in the mail today. A friend and colleague of mine, Leslie Ungar, president of Electric Impulse Communication, sent me a copy of her new book 100 Tips in 100 Days, 100 Tips to Communicate Your Competitive Edge. It is a clever, information packed, must-have to help you communicate your message in a most effective manner.

I flipped open to the first page of tips and found this gem:

Open with a WOW

“….It is your job to WOW your audience in the first three minutes.”

Think about that initial greeting or opening conversation with a potential customer. Would you classify “How can I help you?” as a WOW greeting?

Here’s another classic opening line: “Hi -let me know if you have any questions.” Gee, I’m greeted and dismissed all in one sentence.

How might you reword that initial conversation opener to include a WOW moment?

Leslie’s book offers 100 tips that help you communicate to potential customers one-on-one, to a group setting as in a speech, to a variety of people at a networking event or in a board meeting. By putting each tip in place, one at a time, the reader begins to gain confidence in their style, their approach and the value they bring.

100 Tips in 100 Days is a pocket-sized book – perfect for the purse or briefcase – you’ll want to keep it close at hand so that you can flip open to a tip at random and improve your communication techniques.

To effectively build customer relationships you have to master the art of communication – both speaking and listening. I invite you to head over to Leslie’s Leader’s Need to Speak blog to learn more from her and to consider purchasing a copy of her new book, 100 Tips in 100 Days.

Disclaimer – Leslie did send me a copy as a gift and she and I have worked together on projects in the past, but that in no way, takes away from the value that her new book offers. One visit to her blog or newsletter is all the proof you need to know that Leslie offers an encyclopedia of great information!

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Do You Treat Employees Like You Want Customers Treated?

sponge bobCustomer Service isn’t a title or a department – it is a culture. In a recent post over at Duct Tape Marketing his lead paragraph says it all

Here’s something your customers won’t ever tell you but that you had better understand: Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees. Let that soak that in for a minute, and think about the ways your everyday behavior might be affecting your organization’s ability to generate positive buzz.

Many years ago this thought was slapped in my face. As a regional manager for a national optical chain, I had responsibilities for the franchise locations in New England. I was visiting one location and observed the employees doing the very minimum when it came to customer interaction. During a lull in the business day I asked them about their sales and customer service focus. The response was telling:

“The owner never calls, never visits, never sends us to training or provides any updated information. If he wanted us talking about stuff with customers and offering them services to meet their needs then I guess he’d spend more time paying attention to us.  But he doesn’t, so why should we?”

Ouch.

Even great employees will eventually lose their steam if they feel their efforts aren’t valued or recognized or supported by their boss.  If we looked in the mirror would we be able to say that we treat our employees like we expect them to treat our customers? Do we encourage and support or just point out their short comings?

Thanks Duct Tape for reminding us that customer service is the job of EVERYONE in the company, not just those that have immediate customer interaction.

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Laws of Building Customer Relationships

Last week I spoke at the Painesville Chamber breakfast and later received an email from Henry Brooks from Infinity Resources, Inc. He shared the Laws of Building Customer Relationships by Bob Burg entitled “Go Giver.”

The Law of Value
Your true worth is determined by how much more you give than you take in payment.

The Law of Compensation
Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

The Law of Influence
Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.

The Law of Authenticity
The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

The Law of Receptivity
The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

The Golden Rule of Business:
All things being equal—people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.

Giving is not a strategy-don’t give because you have to, but because you love to–it becomes a way of life!

Sometimes you look foolish and feel foolish—but you do the right thing anyway!

50/50 is a losing proposition—always give your 100%. Stop keeping score!

Good networking produces an army of walking ambassadors.

“I can’t remember ever feeling so …listened to…so heard!” a great compliment to get!

These are great rules to add to your employee handbook. I especially like “stop keeping score.” We can remember that in all of our relationships!

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Lebron James – Lesson in Make or Break Moments

Guess we won’t be seeing Lebron in this uniform again. Let me start by saying that I’m not a basketball fan. If I had to pick a sport and lawn bowling wasn’t an option then baseball would be my pick.  There is something so boring about watching a bunch of guys in shorts run to one end of the room and then back over and over and over.

But as a resident of Northeast Ohio, even I would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the drama being played out with the Cavaliers and Lebron James.

Last week after an hour long (longest hour in the history of television?) special on ESPN he made the announcement that he’d be leaving Ohio and headed for sunny Florida. 

A lot had to have weighed into his decision. The color of the uniform. Plenty of oranges. Sunshine rather than the midwest clouds. Who knows – but for sure it was a make or break moment for Lebron and his relationship with his customers – the fans of basketball.

Leslie Ungar, professional coach, has recapped the situation beautifully in her open letter to Lebron in which she outlines the 5 reasons his decision won’t make him happy.

  1. He made it public
  2. He dissed his owner
  3. He didn’t do it right
  4. He won’t be “the man” anymore
  5. He didn’t own his decision

The question from the customer’s perspective is this: did Lebron put himself in the shoes of his customers or was the decision based solely on his needs and his goals.  You may say that as a professional sports celebrity – he should have only considered himself. If that is the case, I wonder – what will be the long term affect with the fans? Will people forget that his ego seemed to shine brighter than his gifts to the industry?

Make or break moments are those times when we have the opportunity to build a relationship with our customers or times when we do something that harms that relationship forever.

Which has happened with Lebron? Time will tell but as a resident from Ohio, the buzz around here says it will be long time before people forget this particular make or break moment.

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Do You Convey Value?

I have been saving a torn out letter to the editor since May 26.  The letter struck a cord with me. 

This election year the local school put a levy on the ballot. They wanted the residents to vote for adding a sizable tax amount to our real estate taxes for the purpose of…..well, I don’t know that we ever knew.

I have one child in the school system and she participates in many extra activities, most of which we now pay for as we go.  I received a letter that talked about some of the programs that are available but it didn’t say what would happen if the levy didn’t pass. 

Yes, isn’t it nice that we have all of these programs.  How is that tied to the levy.

The letter to the editor from Kathleen Hooker, a friend of mine and a savvy business woman and articulate communicator had this to say, shortly after the levy didn’t pass:

“While I am disappointed thta Hudson voters defeated the school levy, I am not surprised. As someone who monitors macrotrends for a living, there is a fundamental shift occurring in society; the emergence of the “value-added buyers.” This buyer desires transparency to make better decisions against their own judgement of value, calculated as current value (e.g. property values or test scores) or future value (student job prospects, quality of life). ……The school district should tell us about its investments like corporations publish in their annual reports and we can become better investor partners in the Hudson City schools.”

Beautifully said.  Our customers want to know the “whys.”  All the more reason we need to strive to build a relationship with our customers.  As Kathleen put it – we need to make them better investor partners. 

How many of you have had to raise your prices (or perhaps you hesitate to raise them) and then have to justify the price increase to your customers?  Do you say something like – it is the economy or cost of living or do you actually take them on as partners and let them know how the price increase affects them and why you’ve come to the decision.  Perhaps your suppliers have raised prices.  Perhaps a local vendor you used went out of business and now you have shipping costs you never had before.

Full disclosure or as Kathleen says “transparency.”  If our customers see we are being up front and honest – they will trust us and remember, people buy from those they like and TRUST.

Do you convey your value? Do you invite your customers to be trusted investors in your relationship?



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Create a Customer-Focused Social Media Strategy

 

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 We’ve dabbled in social media.  In some cases we have gotten quite good but are we focused?  There are many uses for participating in social media, but for me – the best benefit is the ability to connect with our customers – or our potential customers.  We have a make or break opportunity available to us when we use social media to actively listen to what is being said about us and our industry and to query those consumers for what is important to them.

I have put together a Customer-Focus Social Media Strategy workbook that I offer FREE to help get you started.  This is a workshop that I am invited to give on a regular basis and because I know you can’t come to Ohio and hear me speak, I have created a couple audio files that will walk you through each of the pages in the workbook. 

So first – grab your copy of the Customer-Focused Social Media Strategy workbook.

We start by filling out a quick questionnaire.

Social Media QuestionnaireHere is the link to the audio instruction for completing the questionnaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next – let’s make sure we have all of our account information in a convenient location.  Cut down the stress and frustration levels by keeping track of your User Names and passwords. 

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Here is a lnk to the audio explanation for using the Social Media Account form.

 

 

 

 

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Now we move into the meat of your strategy. Create a Social Media Site Map for each of your brand images. The instructions for this form are broken into two parts:

Social Media Site Map – Part One

Social Media Site Map – Part Two

 

 

 

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Okay, you have your direction – you’ve identified the brand message and the target customer, now let’s think about the ways you can connect with those customers.  In the audio explanation for Opportunities to L.I.N.C. you’ll learn how often you should participate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to make a commitment.  In this final audio, you’ll make your commitment to what social media vehicle you’ll use and how often.  I share thoughts on how to fit social media into your schedule.  Time to make a commitment.

 

 

Best of luck as you put together your social media strategy and begin to connect with customers!

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