Listen Intensely, Solve the Problem, Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 12, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Listen intensely to solve customer problems







Thanks to Jim Gould, the General Manager at my local Chipotle, for finally coming up with an excellent solution to an ongoing problem.


I've been eating at Chipotle every day for the past seven years.


For the last four or five years, I've been buying $50 gift cards rather than having so many entries on my credit card.


It was very rare for the magnetic stripe on a gift card to last the entire $50.


If the card was scanned too fast, the magnetic stripe was fried and the host would have to enter the number on the back of the card -- a time-consuming process for the host that also slowed the line during the lunch rush.


I'd raised this issue with a number of different people at Chipotle over the years. 


Last week Jim suggested I send myself an e-card, load it to my phone and then just load additional value to the same card.


Great solution to a nagging problem!


Now, I no longer have to carry a gift card. I'm able to use my iPhone to pay for my meals at Chipotle. And, I don't hold up the line.


Jim, thanks for listening to the problem and simplifying my life!


What can you do that will simplify life for your customers?


Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customer satisfaction, accelerate sales, genuine interest, listen intensely

4 Steps to Empower Employees to Become HEROs

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 20, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

empower employees to become HEROs





HEROs are “highly empowered and resourceful operatives.”

  • According to Experian 73% of 70+ are active on social media and it rises to 98% for the 18 to 24 segement.
  • You Tube has more than 1 billion unique viewers every month.
  • You Tube is now the second largest search engine next to Google.
  • Forrester estimates 56% of American households already have a TV connected to the Internet.
  • Smart phones continue to make terrific gains.  60 percent of Americans use the mobile web.  85% of millennials.

Given consumers’ access to information via the web and their desire to interact with product and service providers, you need HEROs.

Many companies are afraid to give employees this sort of freedom and access to interact with customers; however, research indicates their employees are already using un-sanctioned, login-required sites for work.

LinkedIn is used for prospecting and business development. 

Google Docs is used for collaboration.

Employees are already using unsanctioned applications like photo and video editors and Google Desktop Search and most are using their personal mobile phone to do work.

Blocking employee access to technology doesn’t work since your employees have Internet-connected smartphones and computers at home. 

It is far better to put policies and training in place and leverage your employees’ efforts.

You should be particularly committed to empowering those employees in marketing. 

Based on a recent study, 20 percent of information workers are accessing at least two unsanctioned login-required websites or applications for work. 

37 percent of marketing and retail sales staff are accessing such sites and applications. 

Marketers are far more likely to use social technology to solve customer problems.

Make friends with the IT department.  Reach a mutual understanding that technology is available to everyone. It is inevitable that marketers will innovate with such technology.

Show your commitment to innovation by creating high-visibility programs that stimulate innovation.

Build opportunities for HEROs to collaborate. 

Once you turn your company into a HERO-powered business, you won’t need an innovation group. 

Inspire your employees with the best qualities of your brand and products. 

Empower them to be brand ambassadors. 

Help them create new ways to demonstrate those qualities in the new social media channels.

Reward your staff for taking risks.  My personal philosophy is:

  • Make mistakes early and often.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Don’t make the same mistake twice.

The four steps for turning your employees into HEROs:

  1. Hire for attitude as well as skill.  Look for multi-talented people who can build a website, shoot a video or are proficient with social media.
  2. Encourage people in any way possible.  Expose your staff to technologies and strategies.  Encourage their ideas.  Recommend positive directions for change.
  3. Get involved, it’s a great way to learn.  Contribute ideas, provide guidance, read the comments and ranking of others.
  4. Help take ideas from concept to completion identifying other managers that can help execute the project.  Give credit to the HEROs that came up with the ideas, as well as those that executed them.

Are you empowering your employees to become HEROs? They are the future of your business.

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Tags: outstanding customer experience, empower employees, accelerate sales, genuine interest

A Clear Call To Action Will Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 06, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Call to action accelerates sales


What do you want your customer or prospect to do?

I recently attended a presentation by an advocacy group. At the conclusion of the presentation, they had someone handing out a flyer asking us to go the their website to tell our story.

I went to the website to tell my story and didn't see where they wanted me to do so.  

I sent an email to the group telling them I appreciated their presentation and was looking forward to telling my story but was unclear where to do so.

Two days later, still not response.

Tell your customers and prospects what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do so.

Do you want your customers to tell you how likely they are to recommend them to ther friends and family?  Give them a Net Promoter Score survey to complete, ask them right there or send them an email with the survey.

I'm in the process of doing this for a grocery store chain and their score, after nine interviews, is 100%.  Granted this is a small sample size; however, the industry leader is 62% and the national average is 37%.

Do you want your customers to say something good about you on social media? If they're not familiar with how to do this, help them do so right there in the office or store. If they are familar with how to do so, find out what social media channels they are most active with so you can converse with them on those channels.

Do you want a prospect to download an ebook or white paper? Put the link right there in front of them and don't ask for any more qualifying information than you need to.

Do you want to know what customer expectations are?  Ask them.  Ask what you are doing well and what you could be doing better.  Be sure to say "thank you" for the customer taking the time to give you this invaluable information.

Do you want to map the customer buying process?  Sit down with a few customers, one-on-one, and ask them to take you through their buying process while you map it.

Do you want a customer to refer you to someone?  Tell them you are trying to build your business based on referrals and you would like them to introduce you to someone that they believe you can help the same way you have helped them.

Be clear about the next step you want a prospect or customer to take and make it easy for them to do so.  If you don't, someone else will.

Work to build a mutually-beneficial relationship with your customer and they will want to help you be successful.

Do you have clear calls-to-action for your customers?

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Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, earn your customers trust, honest communication, referrals, genuine interest, face to face communications, call to action

Customer Experience Is King

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Sep, 04, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Customer Experience resized 600


According to a recent survey from Oracle:

  • 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a superior customer experience.
  • 89% of customers switched brands after a poor customer experience.
  • 20% of annual revenue is lost due to poor customer experiences.
  • 93% of business executives say improving customer experience is one of their top-three business priorities.
  • 18% expect to increase spending on customer experience technology over the next two years.
What is the customer experience at your company?
Have you mapped it?
Have you asked customers about what is was like? What they liked? What could be improved?
If customer experience is so important, why isn't more being done to improve it?
It's not nearly as expensive as getting new customers in the door.
Have a dialogue with customers, and empower employees to do the same, to learn how they view your company and the service they receive.
What do they like? What do you different and better than your competition?
In what areas can you improve? What does your competition do different and better than you?
I'm getting ready to go talk to store managers and customers of a potential client.  I'll be very surprised, and disappointed, if I don't come back with at least a couple of insights that don't surprise my client.
These insights are not necessarily things you should take action on; however, they will give you some thoughts on how you can improve the customer experience.
What actions have you take lately to improve customer experience?
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Tags: dialogue, customer experience, improve customer experience to accelerate sales, empower employees, consumer insights accelerate sales, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement, genuine interest

11 Rules for Customer Retention

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 16, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

11 rules for customer retention









Thanks to The Wise Marketer for the list.  

I've added my thoughts to each based on my experience:

  1. Don't just collect data -- use it.  Let your customers know that you hear what they're saying and here's what you're going to do based on their feedback.
  2. Treat customers the way you'd like to be treated.  I suggest treating your employees the same, since that's how they will treat your customers.  Your employees will not care about your customers if you don't care about your employees.
  3. Be different -- if you dare.  What are your vision, mission and values? How does that make you different and better than your competition?  Does your consumer confirm what you think?
  4. CRM doesn't belong only to the CRM team.  Everyone needs to be involved and empowered to know, use and update data in the CRM.  Otherwise, the data will not be current.
  5. Timing goes a long way.  Know the key dates in your customers' lives -- their birthday, their anniversary, the day they need to replace a part on the product they bought from you.
  6. Be interested and get to know your customers.  The goal is to have a dialogue that can lead to a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.
  7. Make the most of your advocates.  Do you know who your raving fans are?  Have you asked them for referrals?  Testimonials?
  8. Try to create "surprise and delight."  If you do, they'll tell their friends via social media which is invaluable to your marketing.
  9. Measure, measure, measure.  Identify key metrics based on your firm's goals and objectives.
  10. Stay relevant and show value quickly.  Reward people for signing up for your newsletter.  Give them a gift for doing business with you.  When Amazon just sold books, they always sent a bookmark with the order.
  11. Keep your employees involved.  Happy employees = happy customers.

What are your essentials for customer retention?

Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customers for life, customer satisfaction, customer retention, genuine interest, empowered employees, customer bonding programs

The Importance of Face to Face Communications

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Aug, 08, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

importance of face to face communication


Thanks to Carol Kinsey Gorman for her article, "What's So Great about Face-To-Face" (, membership required) in a recent edition of Communication World magazine.

Ms. Gorman reminds us of the importance of face-to-face communications with the growing popularity of email, texting and social media.

She references a recent study by the Harvard Business Review in which most leaders put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of doing business in person and link it directly to the bottom-line.

The study shows 87 percent of professionals think face-to-face meetings are essential for sealing a business deal, while 95 percent said they are key to successful, long-lasting business relationships.

There is also a great post on The CSR Blog entitled "Leadership Lessons from WD-40's CEO, Garry Ridge" ( in which the CEO espouses the power of "connection."  Ridge notes that when there are gaps in connection, there are opportunities for distrust and fear.

In face-to-face meetings, our brains process a lot of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy.  Face-to-face interaction is information rich.

We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use.  We get most of the message, and all of the emotional nuance behind the words, from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.

We rely on immediate feedback, the instantaneous response of others, to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.  The moment we see an emotion expressed on someone's face, or read it in their gestures or postures, we subconsciously place ourselves in the other person's "mental shoes" and begin to sense that same emotion within ourselves.

In his book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote, "Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding -- to see the idea and attitude from the other person's point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about."

Reaching that goal of real communication, of understanding and empathy, is why in-person interactions are crucial to professional success.

When a communication has any emotional charge, a face-to-face meeting is the most effective way to communicate.  It's the only way others can see the alignment of your verbal and non-verbal messages and be convinced that your motives match your rhetoric.

Garry Ridge passionately speaks about the need to build a culture of trust, respect and candor with employees, channel partners and end users.  He likens business relationships to those of "old friends" who have mutual respect, freedom to discuss challenges and opportunities, and people doing what they say they're going to do.

When is the last time you met face-to-face with your employees, your channel partners, your end users?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: dialogue, earn your customers trust, connecting emotionally with customers, honest communication, genuine interest, face to face communications

Customer-Facing Employees are Your Brand

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Aug, 07, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

customer-facing employees are your brand


I'm not a frequent flyer.  I might take six to eight flights a year.  

When I have a choice, I fly American because I've had consistently good experiences with them over the past 30 years and my dad used to fly 100,000 miles a year with them.

I've been surprised to see them ranked so low in customer satisfaction ratings.  However, as I said, I'm not a frequent flyer let alone a "road warrior."

I returned from my annual trip to the Final Four and was on AA flight 820 from MIA to RDU (I had to fly from NOLA to MIA to get to RDU).

A lady in front of me was experiencing some discomfort, feeling faint or low blood pressure, nothing major I later found out.

The care, concern and compassion by one flight attendant, Angell Marie Keenan, blew me away and made American Airlines tops in providing outstanding customer service in my book.

One person showing true caring and compassion to one customer.  That's ultimately what customer service, and an outstanding customer experience, is about.

I'm sure American Airlines, and all other airlines, provide significant training for their flight attendants, just like doctors go to med school,  However, the attitude of the person when they're interacting with the customer, or the prospect, is everything.

If you are investing in, and empowering your employees, please share this story with them.

Ritz Carlton is famous for providing over-the-top customer service.  Yesterday, American Airlines provided that level of service in one customer's eyes due to the actions of a single flight attendant.

It was a very powerful scene and reinforces the importance of customer-facing employees showing care and compassion for the customer -- a classic "moment of truth."

What are you doing to instill this in your employees?

By the way, I did write a letter to the president of American Airlines telling him about Ms. Keenan's actions and urging him to recognize her for the service she provided and the positive impression she made.

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customer satisfaction, connecting emotionally with customers, genuine interest, empowered employees

5 Keys to Connecting Emotionally with Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Jul, 19, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Keys to connecting emotionally with customers


Emotional connections are key to building positive long-term relationships with customers.

It's how you convert satisfied customers to loyal customers and loyal customers to raving fans who will buy more per visit, buy more frequently and tell their friends about your products and services.

Keys to making an emotional connection is having integrity, being authentic, sincere and consistent. 

Customers can tell when you take a real interest in them as an individual.  Likewise, they can tell when you don't.

Here are five other keys to connecting emotionally:

  1. Be transparent.  Provide all the information, positive and negative, your customer needs to make a well-informed buying decision.  This authenticity will build trust and longer-term relationships. will remind you that you've already bought a book and confirm that you want to buy it again rather than just ring up another sale.
  2. Provide honest value.  Understand the customer's expectations and ensure the product or service you provide will meet or exceed those expectations.  Does your consumer really need your "best" product, when your "good" or "better" product will meet their needs?  Think in terms of what's in the best interest of the customer long-term rather than your short-term interest.
  3. Show genuine interest.  Solicit feedback -- positive and negative.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Follow-up after the sale to ensure the customer is happy with the result of their purchase.
  4. Integrate all of your messages across all media channels so you are communicating a consistent, rather than confusing or contradictory, message.  More than half of Americans have access to email, social media, text and the web via a smart phone.  Make sure your mass media messages are consistent with your electronic messages.
  5. Know your customers.  Know their likes and dislikes.  Know how they would like to receive communications from you.  Fewer than 25% of Fortune 500 companies know their customers' channel preference.  Personalized, and relevant, direct mail is still very well received as people become inundated with email.

During the recession and following stagnation, being frugal has became sheik.  This led to the rise of daily deal sites.  While I do not think daily deal sites are a good way to connect emotionally with customers, they are a good way to drive leads and trial.

To be effective, daily deal sites must provide offers that are:

  1. Relevant
  2. Respectful
  3. Reasonable
  4. Reassuring

If you can do this you can drive trial and once you drive trial apply the five steps above to convert that first-time visitor to a satisfied customer, then a loyal customer and then a raving fan.

Customers today have the power.  It's up to companies to create personal connections that will lead to emotional connections.

How do you create emotional connections with your customers?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: transparency, connecting emotionally with customers, honesty, genuine interest