Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spoiled or Pampered?

I was recently meeting with leaders at a company who talked about how important service was and bragged how their goal was to spoil their customers. They were stunned when I told them it was a very bad idea. Blaphemy? Actually, they simply misused the meaning of the word, but that simple mistake can cause problems as the word filters through an organization.

Sometimes, people misuse the word "spoil" to mean "taking good care of someone". Nice thought, but the word is commonly used as "That kid is a spoiled brat". What meaning do people associate with "spoiled"? One way to create a monster is to give a child anything they want, when they want it - with no accountability. A kid might want candy for all meals, but it is NOT in their best interest. Eating only candy is actually bad for the child's health. If a person does this, they aren't caring for the child, they are actually doing the child (and everyone that child associates with as they grow older) harm!

The better option would be to "pamper" the child. A small difference in meaning that makes a big difference in the outcome. Pampering exceeds expectations, but does so in a more healthy way. Spoiling creates entitlement. That's why spoiled people throw tantrums - they think (inappropriately so) that "it's not fair" if they are "denied" what they "deserve". (Does that sound like customers or employees that you know?) Pampering keeps the candy as an occasional (more balanced) treat, when they actually DO deserve it - without spoiling them.

This is not merely semantics. Using inaccurate words when communicating expectations can create confusion - an operational problems. The key is courageously caring enough to give when it makes sense AND caring enough to say "no" when appropriate.

As we used to say at Disney "The guest may not always be right, but they will always be our guest. If they are wrong, they must be wrong with dignity!"

So, consider how you exceed your customers' (both external AND internal customers) expectations. The mosy consistently successful businesses WOW them, but do it appropriately. Remember: If you spoil them, they WILL spoil your results!

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be Unique Or Die

Here is a CRITICAL consideration: How are you different and better than your competition? If you're not, then you will become irrelevant...and out of business.

Think of it this way, when your customers are deciding about getting a product or service you happen to provide, they will think of all the options available to them. When considering you AND your competition, they will compare the true cost to them (money, time, and effort) to the product or service (the "thing" as well as the entire experience) they are purchasing - and judge it all based on what THEY value.

There are several options:
  1. What you offer is less than one of your competitors, and you lose the sale. You eventually go out of business.
  2. Your experience is the same as your competitor(s), so it becomes all about price. Your product/service just became a commodity and you follow the inevitable price war down - and you eventually go out of business.
  3. What you offer is different/better than your competition and you earn the sale.
Obviously, the best option is the third one. However, being unique does not guarantee long-term success. You must consider two more things:
  • Your competition can copy just about anything (marketing, product, environment, processes - they can even reverse-engineer your product), but they cannot replicate the relationship you/your employees have with them. Once you earn loyalty, it is nearly impossible for your competitor to "steal" them away.
  • You must continuously improve everything about your customer's experience. This includes your relationship with each customer.

The most important thing you can do is to establish what your customers really want then consistently deliver it while exceeding their expectations (being unique/different.) Spend some time with your team focusing on implementing different/better/unique and you will be amazed at how you will start to gain marketshare.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Get Alive

Do you want a business/relationship that is alive? (Of course, who doesn't!) Bringing life to your Life doesn't have to be as difficult as it often seems. Like when I was at Disney, the first step is to recognize the few things that make the difference between just existing and really living:

1. All life is GROWN. To breathe LIFE into your life (or relationship or business, etc.) you have to treat it like any other dynamic, living thing. For example, think of a plant - if you want the plant to thrive (rather than simply survive), you must nurture it. Same as anything else. How is that best done? By implementing the other two aspects:

2. Be aware of what that unique plant (your business, career, your Life, relationship, etc.) requires to thrive. Pay attention to it. Invest time and energy into learning about all important aspects of it. Examine and understand what strengthens it and what weakens it. Then...

3. Care enough to do something about it. Make it a priority. Spent time/energy/resources to consistently see that it's needs are exceeded (in a healthy way) in order for it to GROW more alive.

Sometimes, Life can get so hectic that it gets easy to neglect things (dreams, goals, people, ourselves) that we value. The natural consequences of that action (or lack of action) is the same as neglecting a plant. It WILL start to weaken, whither, then die. The question is: what is YOUR priority? You can always tell a person's TRUE priorities by where they choose to spend their time, effort, and money. Where are you spending yours? If not where you want, start growing again - now - before it is too late.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 3:2:1 Rule

Looking for better results? Most people are. Here's a frustrating fact: Consistently successful organizations don't focus most on the outcome - but they still get better results than the rest. Here's why...and how...

Performance is a result of skilled effort - which is a result of passion and commitment. World-class companies get better results because they track backwards to the internal root cause and focus on improving there instead - guiding the process until they achieve the superior external results they desire.

If you want a 1% increase in performance, then you need a 2% increase in effort (the kind your customer values) - which is sparked by a 3% increase in commitment (by your front line team - who delivers the effort.)

Some call it the "3:2:1 Rule". Yes, some of the investment gets lost in the shuffle (that's human nature for you), but done well it's worth it. Remember, the percentages of internal results don't have to cost a lot of money - just well-placed leadership, engaged relationships, and targeted innovation.

You can use this proven approach to set up your own improvement plan. For example: If you want a 2% increase in your financial results, you begin by investing in improving your team's engagement/commitment level by 6% (interact with them, listen to them, challenge them, develop them, etc.), which will affect a 3% increase of performance on their behalf (the power of pride, integrity and ownership!) - gaining you the 2% bottom-line results (from satisfied/loyal advocates) you hope for.

So, if you're interested in achieving consistent external results (like those proven world-class companies), focus on the internal resources that get you there first. ANY small steps towards engaging your team will become a catalyst for improvement in your outcomes.

The 3:2:1 Rule. As simple as 1, 2, 3!

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!