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Honesty and Transparency Builds a Stronger Corporate Culture

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 20, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Honesty and transparency build a trusting corporate culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great article in a recent edition of Fast Company, "At Some Point All of Our Movies Suck," by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar.

 

Catmull starts with the premise that "a hallmark of a great creative culture is that people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms."

 

I would argue that's the hallmark of any great corporate culture.

Be empowered and encouraged to say what's on your mind without fear of reprisal or retribution. Listen intensely to what your employees have to say to earn their trust and to let them know you care about what they have to contribute.

 

"Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments."

 

Encourage all employees to share their thoughts, suggestions and concerns. This will make them more empowered and engaged.

 

"The fear of saying something stupid and looking bad, of offending someone or being intimidated, of retaliating or being retaliated against -- they all have a way of reasserting themselves. And when they do you must address them squarely."

 

Following are eight of Ed Catmull's secrets for building a creative business which really apply to all businesses:

  1. Protect creatives from the organization. Empower employees to share their thoughts and ideas.

  2. Cherish your defining moment and then find a new one. What is your vision? What is your mission? Do your employees know and own them?

  3. Save the ugly baby from the hungry beast. Protect ideas that are ill-defined until they have time to mature.

  4. Balance art and commerce. Are you just about making money or do you have a grander vision?

  5. How the Disney braintrust grew up. Trust is an something you actually have to screw up together and then realize the mistakes actually didn't kill anybody.

  6. Things are always going to go wrong and you can't see them. Learn from them.

  7. Real risk means real failures. Learn to live with the risk of failure and have the confidence to know you can bounce back from it.

  8. Your best tool is a genius or a disaster. Empower your people to do their best and they will.

 

"Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close."

 

Are your employees empowered or afraid to speak up?

 

Empower them to speak up. Your company, and your customers, will benefit.

 

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book  

 

Tags: transparency, trust, empower employees, honesty

10 Customer Service Tips to Drive Customer Satisfaction

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Mar, 12, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

drive customer satisfaction across all channels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Execellent article in a recent edition of Customer Relationship Management magazine by Leonard Klie reminding us of the basics of providing customer service across multiple channels.

 

Telephone and email still make up 85% of customer service interactions; however, this will change with greater use of social media channels.

 

The high-profile, and exposure, of social media, and the possible negative comments, means that social media is being viewed as being far more important than traditional channels.

 

According to ContactBabel, and many other research firms, expect social media customer contact to double by 2015.

 

The rising importance of customer engagement as well as the recognition of the value of sharing ideas in real time are driving the growth of social customer care.

 

There are four business advantages:

  1. Increased transparency

  2. Better communication of ideas and information

  3. Flexibility

  4. Performance

Social media is the primary customer service channel for 36% of Gen Y consumers, only slightly behind email and text messaging among Gen X.

 

Most companies are not fully integrated to provide customer service via social media with the same quality as they are via telephone or even email.

 

Here are the 10 steps Leonard suggests taking:

  1. Choose the right channels. Ask customers which channels they want to use and become proficient in those channels. Customers are growing increasingly more sophisticated in seeking help themselves, with many preferring to look for solutions to their problems on their own before contacting the company. Support customers with up-to-date knowledge bases that are readily available on your website. Consider putting product demos and tutorials on YouTube. Your customers, and prospects, will be grateful for the information and you will earn awareness and trust.

  2. Define your company's rules of engagement. Empower your CSRs to handle all incoming issues from customers. Form dedicated teams whose sole purpose is to manage social media. Social-customer care teams should be trained and knowledgeable customer service employees. Everyone on the social media response team should be following the same protocols and providing the same answers to the same questions for consistency and efficiency. Build a library of responses and create an ongoing list of frequently asked questions. The answer to each question is also a potential topic for a blog post.

  3. Listen intensely. Monitor social media channels to learn what customers and prospects are saying about your brand -- what it delivers and where it fails to deliver. You can also use social media to ask for feedback about your brand.

  4. Be responsive. Respond in a timely manner. The faster you respond, the more impressed your customer will be. According to Oracle, Twitter users expect a response within two hours. According to Zendesk, 55% of consumers will follow-up with a phone call when their social media inquiries reamain unanswered. Posts to Twitter should be answered in 30 minutes, a response within 15 minutes is even better. For Facebook, a 24-hour response is minimally acceptable; ideally, a response should be made in 25 minutes. For LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Yelp, responses should be posted in no more than 24 hours, though same-day response is preferred.

  5. Be reliable. Companies can turn complaints or concerns into opportunities to showcase their responsiveness and their customer service values. By acknowledging and apologizing for mistakes, companies can turn uncomfortable, and potentially damaging, situations into opportunities to show their followers they truly care. You can generate positive sentiment by acknowledging the customer, apologizing when appropriate and thanking them for bringing the matter to your attention. A complaint handled properly is an opportunity to solve the same problem for customers who may be following the conversation. Do you what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

  6. Be real. Have a personality. Do not gloss over customer posts with generic responses. Personalized, unique interactions on social media create stronger customer relationships with the brand. Let CSRs use their names or initials in responses to let customers know they are dealing with real people. Always be professional and courteous. A little empathy goes a long way. Customers don't expect a company to be perfect all of the time, but they do expect empathy, professionalism, honesty and transparency. Be honest and fully transparent at all times.

  7. Know your customers. Link your CRM system to social media engagement platforms so you know who is saying what. Companies need to track and record each customer's social interaction history to give agents insights into previous issues, sentiment level, interaction frequency and previous agent replies.

  8. Stay on the customer's preferred channel. Be prepared to move a conversation to a private and secure channel, such as phone, web chat or email, when you need to keep some information out of the public domain. I recentlly did this with Dell and KitchenAid, they suggested we take the conversation off Facebook to email. I was perfectly comfortable doing that as long as the issues were resolved, which they were. I went back to Facebook and thanked both companies for addressing the issues.

  9. Be relevant. Posting information of value like product updates, tips to improve usability and links to knowledgebase articles keep followers engaged and knowledgeable about your company and all you have to offer. Use social media to build awareness of your brand and trust.

  10. Make performance a priority. Measure, report on and take action on service level agreements, key performance indicators and supervisory data to ensure customer service remains at the center of social customer care efforts. The best way for a company to measure the effect of social efforts is to look at overall customer sentiment. I recommend a three-question Net Promoter Score survey.

Today, companies need a cohesive and integrated customer contract strategy that goes across all channels, for all purposes as well as all customers and prospects.

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Tags: transparency, customer satisfaction, be reliable, be responsive, be real, earn your customers trust, net promoter score, honesty, be relevant

5 Steps to Improve Employee Engagement

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Jan, 14, 2014 @ 06:01 AM

improve employee engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great e-book from David Grossman of The Grossman Group, entitled, "Five Steps to Thrive."

I had to opportunity to hear David speak a couple of years ago and read his book You Can't Not Communicate2 which aspires to make leaders better communicators -- especially within their own companies.

Times are difficult for business communicators with economic crises, cutbacks, layoffs and reduced budgets being the norm at many companies.

Worker morale and engagement is affected.  According to Towers Watson, employee engagement scores are down 9% for all companies in the U.S. and down 25% for top-performing companies that have implemented cost cutting.

In the event you are not aware, the effects of a disengaged workforce are:

  • More absenteeism
  • More turnover
  • More theft
  • More injuries
  • Lower customer satisfaction
  • Lower productivity and profitability

Here are David's five steps for improving employee engagement:

  1. Get a mirror for you and your leadership team. Employees pay as close attention to what you do as what you say. Your actions speak louder than words. Develop awareness or what others are seeing in you as a leader. I once worked at a small professional services firm that laid off about 10% of the staff in the morning and the president drove his new Mercedes and parked it in front of our building that afternoon. Not good for morale or engagement.
     
  2. Plan your communication. Regardless of how engaging you are, "just do it," doesn't work. Be transparent. Be honest. Be human. Address the issues at hand before the rumor mill takes over. Six steps to consider: 1) identify the problem; 2) identify the desired outcome; 3) identify your audience; 4) structure your key messages/conversation; 5) consider how you will say your message; 6) follow-up to ensure your message was understood and to answer any outstanding questions.
     
  3. Listen. Listen some more. Then communicate. Engage employees in a dialog and allow to share what's on their mind or vent. Use face-to-face communications when addressing a topic that requires immediate action, when discussing complex, confidential or sensitive topics and when you want to gather feedback and input. I used to end company meetings by asking people what was on their minds and encouraging them to share with the group or with me one-on-one. Some members of the management team felt like this was asking for complaints; however, I'd rather know what was on people's minds and address it rather than have something festering for a few days or weeks before I was made aware of it.
     
  4. You are always communicating, so control the message. Your employees will read your behavior even when you do not say anything. By not communicating, you make your employees feel undervalued and underappreciated. You create questions, distrust and churn.
     
  5. Think about who else can benefit from your communication. At the end of every meeting, or when you make a key decision, ask yourself, who else needs to know this information and how will I get it to them. This ensures you are keeping others apprised of their need-to-know information while also keeping everyone aligned.

Can you improve your communication with employees thereby improving employee engagement?

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, dialog, be reliable, empower employees, authenticity, honesty, employee engagement, face to face communications

#CXO: How To Increase Your Marketing Budget by 10%, or More

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 01, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Increase your marketing budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend of mine recently completed a two-month stint as a director at a major, $50MM+, advertising agency.

I was surprised when she told me the agency did not subscribe to critical third-party resources, or complete post-buy analysis, to ensure the client was getting the best media for their money, or even getting the media they thought they were buying.

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe an agency can keep clients without subscribing to resources or providing the fundamental services agencies provided just five years ago.

In the event you use an ad agency, here are 10 steps you should take to ensure you’re getting the most for your money:

  1. Make sure the agency is directly subscribed to independent third-party syndicated research (e.g., Nielsen Local and National Television Audiences, Arbitron Local Radio Audiences, GfkMRI, Scarborough Local Survey Data, Nielsen @plan, Comscore, Sysomos, etc.) to ensure they are accurately assessing the target performance of TV shows, radio stations, print media and digital/social channels.
  2. Find out how the agency negotiates with different media channels on your behalf. Are they using third-party cost benchmarks?  If not, why? What kind of quantifiable value-add are you getting for your media buys?
  3. What sort of project management system is in place?  How is time documented?  How are projects tracked to ensure they are being completed as efficiently as possible?
  4. What sort of reports do you receive?  Conference reports after every meeting?  Weekly/monthly status reports?
  5. Who’s working on your account?  The senior team that pitched your business or the junior team, or even worse, interns that cost the agency even less?
  6. Who is doing the creative and channel optimization of your digital media?  Are they experienced digital experts?
  7. How do they approach tracking and post-buy analysis of all of your media?  Have you performed an audit of their analysis to ensure it is sound?
  8. Are the media being paid by the agency in a timely manner or is the agency using the money you pay them for media to pay other expenses?
  9. How, and how frequently, do you evaluate the agency’s performance?  Hopefully you have an open and trusting relationship and there’s an ongoing dialogue of how both the agency and client can improve in certain areas.
  10. Is the agency making a fair return on their work for you?  Have you discussed what a fair return is and does your agency share their financial performance with you on, at least, an annual basis?

With the evolution of marketing over the past 10 years, a lot of agencies have gone out of business and a lot of agencies have opened their doors providing only digital or social media support.

I am a VERY strong proponent of multichannel integrated marketing campaigns that use traditional, digital and social media as well as inbound and outbound marketing.

Just as I never saw a single channel (i.e., TV only) traditional media campaign outperform a multimedia (i.e., TV plus radio plus print) campaign in traditional media; I do not believe a social-only campaign can outperform a social plus digital campaign.

However, the number of agencies with the employees with the knowledge to execute fully integrated campaigns is dwindling.  Make sure you’re giving your product or service the best opportunity for success by working with marketing professionals that understand the totality of integrated marketing and its benefits.

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Tags: transparency, trust, honesty, trusted advisor, integrated marketing

5 Reasons Customers Leave and 9 Ways to Keep Them

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 24, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

5 Reasons customers leave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Ken Dooley and the Sales and Marketing Business Brief for these reminders (http://bit.ly/q4wSfk).

5 Reasons Customers Leave

  1. 1% pass away
  2. 3% move
  3. 14% are lured by a competitor
  4. 14% are turned away by product or service dissatisfaction
  5. 68% leave because of poor attitude or indifference on the part of the service provider

Control what you can

The survey points out that salespeople have little control over the first four reasons why customers leave, which account for 32% of those that depart. But salespeople and business owners have complete control over at least 68% of the customers who leave.

As such, it's in your best in your best interest to empower your employees to be engaged and encouraged to provide an outstanding customer experience.

9 Ways to Keep Them

Here are nine critical skills that will help you, and your reps, establish and maintain the right attitude with your customers — and keep them from jumping ship:

  1. Exceed expectations. Personalize your service. Instead of promising more than you can give, give more than you promise -- under promise, over deliver. Deliver a "wow" customer experience.
  2. Always be available. Be there to serve customers whenever they need you to be there. The Internet has enabled companies to have a constant presence with their customers, “24/7.” Reliability and availability are vital. Make sure your customers know you are available on demand. Be involved in the same social media channels as your customers.
  3. Customize how you serve. Find or develop solutions that fulfill your individual customers’ specific needs. Successful salespeople customize their business relationships with customers. They pride themselves on their one-on-one interactions. These salespeople value the differences in customer needs and respond with customized solutions.
  4. Be easy to deal with. Make doing business with you easy and pleasurable. Assume the burden of relieving inevitable aggravations for your customers. Salespeople who exceed their customers’ expectations do so by creating hassle-free experiences.
  5. Put the customer first. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves. Seek them out. Give customers more than they expect.
  6. Resolve conflicts and solve problems. When conflicts arise, some salespeople have a tendency to deny them, debate them, shift responsibility for them, place blame for them, or hold their breath hoping they’ll go away. Top salespeople accept ownership of the problem, collaborate on a solution, and take on the burden of finding a resolution regardless of fault.
  7. Handle complaints. Complaints usually have some validity and can be an “early warning system” of conflict on the horizon. When you view complaints this way, they can become your ally, helping you resolve problems and minimize their impact. Complaints that go unattended may evolve into conflicts that could have been avoided.
  8. Communicate constantly. Ask questions that result in a dialogue. The more the customer talks, the more you’ll learn. Continue questioning until you understand and have uncovered all the information required to proceed. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions with customers.
  9. Remember nonverbal communication. When communicating with customers, observe their non-verbal signals. Take note of their body language, appearance and posture. Look for signs of distraction. Pay attention to their facial expressions and eye contact. Listen to the tone of their voice as a means for understanding what they may be feeling.

Adapted from the book How You Do … What You Do: Create Service Excellence That Wins Clients for Life by Bob Livingston, CEO of REL Communications, a sales consulting group. 

How do you keep your customers and clients for life?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

No Values, No Trust. No Trust, No Customers.

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Sep, 05, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Values, integrity, trust

 

I recently had a second telephone interview for a chief marketing officer position with the CEO of a start-up.

The first interview lasted one hour and went very well.

We agreed the CEO would send me a non-disclosure agreement and several documents for my review to provide more insights on their technology and market opportunity.

During the second telephone interview I shared my observations and opportunities as well as where I believed I could contribute to help the company achieve its growth goals.

I suggested we meet in person and that's when the CEO said this was a "hybrid deal" and I would be expected to invest $300,000 in the company in order to be considered further for the position.

If the CEO had told me this up front, I would not have continued the conversation, signed his NDA, spent the weekend reviewing the documents he sent, nor share my thoughts on how they could successfully approach the market.

The CEO's lack of transparency and ethics has left me feeling very negatively towards him and the company. 

He asked me to send any one else his way who may be interested in the opportunity.

Why would I want to do that to anyone I know?

I looked on this company's website for their values and didn't find any. I guess that's better than finding some that are not lived up to.

People like to do business with people they know like and trust. If I don't trust you, I don't want to do business with you.

If this company treats prospective members of their management team with this level of disrespect, openness and lack of integrity, I can only imagine how they treat prospective customers.

Treat a customer or prospect in this way, in a very small and insular industry, and word will travel fast.  

While you may have bleeding-edge technology, no one will want to do business with you becase they can't trust you to be forthcoming or to do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it.

Personal integrity is "doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it."

Corporate integrity is when every member of the company follows the same philosophy.

Integrity leads to trust. Trust leads to repeat business. Repeat business leads to profitiability.

Does your company have values? Do you earn your customer's trust?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

Share Information of Value to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jul, 31, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Share information of value to accelerate sales

 

The internet rewards companies that share information.

The corollary is also true, the internet punishes companies that hoard information.

Provide information of value to build trust with, and attract, prospects.

Strive to be genuinely helpful to those who want to know more about the products and services you offer.

Answer questions regarding price, strengths and weaknesses in a transparent way to gain credibility and trust.

By doing so you will build trust and establish your firm, and yourself, as a trusted advisor.

In the age of the internet and social media, the people and companies who are the best educators will be the most successful.

Everything you do to market your products and services should be for the purpose of educating prospects so they are better informed about the decisions they are making with regard to B2B or B2C purchases.

Worried that you'll say something that excludes you from a prospects' "considered set?"

Don't be.  You've stopped wasting their time and yours. Isn't it better to find out your not a good fit early rather than late?  It's much more efficient.

Be honest and find out early in the relationship whether or not your product or service can solve the prospect's problem.

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Tags: transparency, information of value, honesty

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.  Amazon.com 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?

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