Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Same Tools + Better Use = Better Results

One thing I've been surprised to learn from working with the world's most successful companies: They don't have any "secret" pixie dust that magically helps them achieve consistent success.  In fact, they have the same resources any other organization has in their industry.

So what sets them apart from the rest of the pack?  Strategic execution.

World-class organizations simply focus their significant efforts in a disciplined way that naturally get superior results.  

Of course, simple isn't usually easy.  But it IS do-able.

Here's the basic roadmap:
  • Identify and institute the non-negotiables that make you different and better than anyone else in your industry.
  • Develop your leaders and hold them accountable for being consistent role models - in every way.
  • Develop and engage employees so they can effectively work together as a team on the right things.
  • Understand, engage, and WOW your customers with attention to the details they care most about.
  • Be better today than you were yesterday.
Of course, the "pixie dust" includes a lot of hard work.  More than the competition is willing to do.

The good news?  After you gain momentum, it gets easier.  A LOT easier.  

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Camel's Milk Considerations

Recently, I was in the United Arab Emirates having breakfast at a buffet. I normally have mixed feelings about buffets - but one thing I enjoy is the opportunity to sample new foods at "no additional cost".

On this day, I was surprised by an offering of "camel's milk".  Next to the dispenser, there was a card listing the attributes of the novel milk product - including the nutrients and other data.  So, I couldn't help but try it out.

Was camel's milk better?

Well, first, let's define "better".  Yes, there was a long list of comparative data between camel and cow - mostly favoring the camel's milk (according to the biased Arab country/hotel).  Then there was the taste factor - actually tasted pretty good.  "Stronger" (different than I'm used to as an American), but not distasteful. I didn't have to pay any extra for it, so that wasn't an issue.  I didn't have to go to any additional effort to drink the "new" milk - it was next to the other types of milk.

Apparently, "is it better?" isn't such a simple question after all.

The formula for determining the value of anything is this:
The Promise (expectation) must be less than the Experience (The combination of: 
the Person delivering the service,
the Place the service is delivered,
the Process of the service delivery, and
the Product/Service itself.

And this experience must be be greater than the Price to the customer (the true cost is the cumulative total of the money, time, and effort required of the customer in obtaining the experience.)

All in all, at the buffet, I'm happy to select camel's milk - as long as it doesn't cost me more.

The bottom line: If I have to actually pay extra (in any way), the difference may not be "better" enough for me to change my choice (and buying behaviors).

A lesson for any of us wanting to create a "different AND better" competitive edge for our customers.

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Different Culture" or "Bad Service"?

When in unfamiliar environments, we often have "different" experiences from what we are used to.  For example, when waitstaff does something that you, as a customer, is uncomfortable with, is it the differing culture that is the culprit, or is it legitimately bad service?

Of course, we all benefit if we are constantly aspiring to engage in new cultural experiences from the different perspective - all for the sake of genuinely improving our abilities to embrace that valuable diversity (while still not denying our own culture - which is the topic of a different conversation!)  What if, in the face of an unfamiliar environment, the "foreign" delivery of service is uncomfortable to the customer?  The question is: At what point can we rightly judge a service experience was good or bad?

The issue here is twofold.  First, you will benefit by being open-minded about the natural tendency to feel a little uncomfortable with anything different from your standard experience.  Is the discomfort simply because you aren't used to it?  Sometimes an experience isn't good or bad - it is merely different.

Secondly, the bottom line in any service situation is that the customer dictates the standards of quality.  The customer alone is the one who determines if the service was good or bad.  For example, if someone who had never been to a city before went into a five-star fine dining restaurant and was completely unfamiliar with etiquette and the use of silverware, etc. and a typical five-star service was delivered - without consideration of the wants of the dining customer - and that "uneducated/ignorant" customer disliked how they were treated, it would rightly be categorized as a poor service experience.  The key to this scenario is that the server was not considerate of the guest's desires.  That alone dictates whether or not the service was good or bad.  If the customer walks away unhappy, then it was bad.  Period.

This illustrates why it is so vitally important to truly understand the guest's point of view.  We cannot appropriately exceed their expectations until we know what the criteria is.

Are you delivering "service" based on your criteria or that of your customer?

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How To Jump Start Your Breakthrough

Do you ever feel stuck - like you're in a rut or hitting a block preventing you from taking things to the next level?  Here's something I've discovered works every time (so far) to shake out the cobwebs...

Whenever I need to come up with something new and different - whether it is a big (potentially painful?) decision I'm not wanting to take action on, or a creative breakthrough that's missing for me to push beyond a plateau I've been on - I've found it helpful to physically do something that disrupts my "temporary business as usual" life. 

Doing something that scares you (emotionally or physically) is a great way to forcibly shift your focus. 

We've all had some unexpected experience that really shook us.  Afterwards, there is an adrenaline rush and shift in thinking that can only come from having a different perspective.  After this dramatic (good or bad) experience, it can almost feel like your brain gets re-wired (which may not be far off, according to several scientists who study such things) and you see your current situation with a fresh, new clarity you didn't have before...which is an invaluable position to be in!

My suggestion?  Don't passively wait around for one of these extreme experiences to coincidentally happen.  Do it on purpose!

For example, when I get to one of those "dry spots" in my life, I schedule an activity like skydiving.  For me, the physical danger/challenge forces me to get profoundly focused on the real-life implications of "jumping out of a perfectly good airplane".  It certainly clears up the sinuses and gets the blood pumping in a way few other things do.  Personally, I enjoy "daredevil" type activities, but it also holds true for emotionally dangerous activities as well.

Is there a discussion you've been needing to have but have been hesitant?  A decision/big step that you need to make that is intimidating?  DO something to schedule (by design!) an "I can't believe I'm doing this" experience.  It always (for me) becomes a catalyst that rips me out of my rut and allows me to have the breakthrough I desire.

So...what would get YOUR blood pumping?

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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Prove That You Care

While working with a client group recently, one of the partners of the firm said something memorable while we were discussing family.  He said "You are only as happy as your unhappiest child".  This is a profound comment - indicating that when you truly care about the well-being of someone important in your life, then you aren't satisfied until they are healthy and happy.

I also believe this applies to business.

Think about your employees or your customers.  Are they all healthy and happy?  What is their quality of life?  Are you satisfied?  If not, are you doing anything to help them be healthier/happier?

Our inner values leak out as external behaviors.  If you genuinely value someone else's well-being, people around you will notice - because you will talk about it and you will make DOING something about it a priority.

Do you legitimately care about the health and happiness of your external customers?  (You should!  The future of your business depends on it!)  If so, you must ensure that they are taken care your employees! 

You are modeling behaviors for your employees.  They will treat customers outside your company patterned after how they are treated internally.  So, what would others say about your level of care for your employees?  Are you truly invested in helping them maintain a sustainable level of health and happiness? 

Saying you care is easy - and not worth much.  The real (and strategic) test of whether or not you have integrity is how you demonstrate (in other words, prove!) your true commitments.

People are watching.  And your business results are hanging in the balance.

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