A story about GOOD customer service (for once…)

My Dreamland Radio co-host and I do a boatload of interviews.  Given that, we have become pretty picky about the equipment we use.  Sound quality is paramount, ease of use is critical (we’re both sales and marketing guys after all) and guest comfort is a huge deal.

So we decided to test a new type of headset/mics.  Our local Guitar Center has provided a good bit of advice and help over the years, so of course we bought them from there.  Successful test!  The next logical step was to get two more pairs so we would have a compete matching set.

That’s where the problem happened.

We ordered two, got billed for two, paid for two, the packing list said two, but we only got one.  Ugh…..  Yours truly got stuck with calling customer service to attempt to straighten it all out.

That’s when “delighted customer syndrome” kicked in.

Karen Pilliod, CFO of Advanced Control Solutions wearing the new headset

Kenny answers the phone on the third ring on a Saturday morning.  I explain the situation.  His next comment floored me.  “Well, we’ll just need to get that fixed right away.”  We’ll just need to get that fixed right away?  Really?

Less than five minutes later I had:

  • Approval from two levels of supervisors
  • An order number
  • An invoice for $0.00
  • A professional apology for my time and trouble
  • Another apology that the shipment wouldn’t arrive until Tuesday (since their next UPS pickup wasn’t till Monday)

Thanks, Guitar Center and kudos to you!  Everybody should buy their stuff from you guys.

Learning a thing or two about my own area of “expertise”

Every time I begin think I really have a handle on this whole sales and marketing thing, somebody comes along and makes me realize I still have lots to learn.  Actually, that’s what makes my work with Dreamland Radio so challenging and interesting.

My cohort Todd & I recently interviewed Eric Marjoram, owner of Marjoram Creative  on Business-To-Technology radio.  His approach to understanding a new client’s marketing and branding needs is simultaneously simple and deeply thought-provoking:

  • Who are you?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Do they think you are who you say you are?

The lessons went on from there…  Eric’s one guy well worth listening to!



Business-To-Technology Radio is sponsored by AML Communications.

Business Talk Radio. It Sells!!!

I hope this doesn’t come across as tooting my own horn too much, but it’s just too cool a story to not share.  And, oh by the way, it’s a great example of deploying a content marketing strategy…

My Dreamland Radio partner, Todd Schnick and I recently interviewed the CEO and a technical support specialist from Medical Electronic Attachment and National Electronic Attachment on Community Service Radio.  As I listened to the recording, it struck me that we had created a complexly rich and compelling piece of content that both illustrates effective business strategies and sells/markets the services of multiple organizations.  The business strategies:

  • A “Serve Your Community” corporate culture is good for business (MEA-NEA has a 99% customer retention rate!!!)
  • A business talk radio show captures not only great content, but the spirit of and enthusiasm behind that content (Ya’ gotta’ listen to really get what I mean.)

The beneficiaries of the sales/marketing messages:

  1. Medical Electronic Attachment
  2. National Electronic Attachment
  3. Business Technology News Hour
  4. The Proven Method
  5. The Love Tour
  6. Florida Disney Childrens’ Hospital
  7. Alliance for Children Everywhere
  8. Georgia Symphony Orchestra
  9. The YPS Group
  10. Intrepid
  11. Dreamland Interactive

Are you kidding me?  Eleven different organizations get positive exposure and SEO bumps from a single interview???

And just to put icing on the cake…  Listen to the short clip below.  Will Williams, the tech support guy, was hoping he could snag a six-month leave of absence to give his musical talents to a humanitarian cause.  Lindy Benton, the CEO, made it happen on the spot!  And Schnick and I scored tickets to the first show!

Will Williams goes on tour!

Death Of A Business Model (Yours too?)

Being in the railroad business made most railroads blind to the transportation business.  They missed the opportunities to gobble up market share nabbed by trucks and airplanes.  Most railroads are gone.  Easy to articulate the strategies they coulda’ woulda’ shoulda’ implemented.

Bethlehem Steel was in the steel business.  A realization they were in the durable materials business, might have saved them.  They’re gone too.  Their coulda’ woulda’ shoulda’ strategies are not quite as obvious, but it doesn’t take too much effort to conjure up several.

Borders was in the brick and mortar book-selling business.  Soon to be gone forever.  What business coulda’ woulda’ shoulda’ they been in?  Education?  Leisure?  E-commerce?  Gathering place for intellectual discussion and/or coffee and quiet reflection?  What strategies coulda’ woulda’ shoulda’ they implemented?  Certainly not selling dead, processed trees with ink blots in a 140 character, electronic world.

“What business are you in?”  Peter Drucker’s famous question is as relevant and important as ever.  (ironically,  AT&T and its recognition of being in the services business was his “poster child” example.  Ma Bell had her “good old days” as well.)

Think you’re immune to devasting, company-killing innovation from some unexpected quarter?  Think it’s easy to see it coming?  Think again…

“Work with those ready to be worked with.”

“Work with those ready to be worked with.”  Pretty simple advice.  Pretty sound too.  Especially when it comes to embracing new techniques, technologies and tactics for selling more faster.  Or selling anything for that matter.

As usual, I came by this powerfully pithy insight from contact with someone way smarter than me.  This time it was Bert DuMars, VP of e-Business and Interactive Marketing for Newell-Rubbermaid.  His insight really whacked me right upside the head.   Since I sell and facilitate Sales Process Engineering for a living, I often ask if virtually any sales organization can benefit from The YPS Group’s Sales Process Engineering methodology.  Well, by gosh, the answer is, “Yes. ”  But…

  1. Do some sales executives reject the concept immediately?  Yes.
  2. Do some sales executives sort of “get” and accept the concepts?  Yes.
  3. Do some sales executives say, “Wow!  This is exactly the sort of thinking we need to embrace?”  Yes.

Well, duh…  Which group deserves my focus?

Of course they all do, but how?  Group 1 should be assigned to my e-Rep.  Maybe someday they’ll come around.  Group 2 should also be assigned to my e-Rep.  In addition I’ll invite them to be on one of my radio shows as a guest (among other things.)  That way they’ll experience a little piece of an e-Rep’s selling power, and maybe move a step or two closer “SPE-ness.”

Group 3 is the target for my primary, personal focus.  Oh, they get the e-Rep treatment too of course, but they also have the “pleasure” of hearing from yours truly directly and regularly.  They get the full TY sales charm!

Bert’s dealing with the 40 different brands under the Newell Rubbermaid banner.  He’s helping to bring them, at their own pace, into the wonderful world of digital sales and marketing.  That’s exactly what I (and you!) need to be doing with our prospects.  Meet ‘em where they are.  Accept and embrace why they’re there.  Help ‘em take the next baby step.  NOT the full blown whatever of what we’re selling.

Listen to the full interview.

e-Rep: Do You Know Enough To Build One?

Are there gaps in your skill set?  Well, of course there are.  All of us have gaps.  Some of them are not so harmful.  Some of them though, need to get filled.

Are your technology skills up to snuff?  Do you really know enough to create, deploy and effectively use an e-Rep?

Do you know enough to build an e-Rep?

Pull Opportunities Through Your Sales Process – Don’t Push

This post is second in a series about applying “Lean” concepts in sales.  Read the overviewThis post will also provide useful perspective.

The idea of “Pull” as applied to the sales process is very counter-intuitive at first.  And realize, by the way, that to really make it sing, you first need a “perfect process,” which of course none of us has.  So it’s not a silver bullet.  It is, however, a dramatically different way to look at your sales process, and:

  • It forces a customer-centric perspective
  • It relentlessly reveals wasted effort
  • It reduces sell cycle time

Humor me and assume the funnel portion of your sales process is:

  • Identify Opportunity
  • Meet With Decision Maker
  • Establish Interest In Investigating Your Recommendations
  • Conduct Discovery
  • Present Recommendations
  • Close

Think of yourself standing at the “Close” end of your funnel and pulling opportunities through vs. standing at the “Identify” end and pushing them.  Typically, if not enough deals are getting closed, we focus on cranking up the prospecting engine.  We get a whole bunch of opportunities stirred up and start “working” them.  Let’s turn things upside down.

If not enough deals are closing, focus on finding the flaw in your recommendations.  Why isn’t this customer pulling you to close ASAP?  If the recommendation truly is a good one; something that will save or make money for the customer; it must be poorly stated.  The value of the recommendation needs to be clarified.  It’s something the sales rep didn’t execute well enough.  It’s not that the customer is too busy or too dumb to see the value.

Not getting enough audiences to present recommendations to?  Why isn’t this customer beating us up to hear what we have to say?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because we haven’t stirred up enough enthusiasm with our discovery.  What else needs to be done to get everyone in the decision network to clearly see the problem and what it’s costing?  (…or see the unexploited opportunity and what it could mean?)  It’s something the sales rep didn’t execute well enough.  It’s not that the customer is too busy or too dumb to see the value.

See where I’m going with this?  Let’s flip back to a push mentality.  Let’s say we’re pushing on 10 opportunities trying to get them from “Interest” to “Discovery.”  We get one of them to pop forward.  Now what happens?  Yup, we start discovering the daylights our of that one.  Oooops!  We lose focus on the other nine.  Which of those will go stale first?  Get lost to a competitor?  Every time, it’s the one with a customer pulling on it.  The one with the decision maker feeling pull from the rest of the buying network.  When you’re busy pushing, it’s really, really hard to feel the pull from somewhere else.  Especially if I’m pushing on a deal close to closing and the pull is way back at “Interest.”

Counter-intuitive?  You bet.  Effective?  Don’t take my word for it.  Try it for yourself.  Then tell me about how much more customer-focused you become; how much wasted effort disappears; how much shorter your sell cycle becomes.

How To REALLY Alienate A Customer

Screw-ups happen.  Sometimes it’s our own goof.  Sometimes it’s someone else’s goof, but we’re the party responsible. Sometimes we just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Doesn’t matter.  When the customer is upset or simply has unmet expectations, somebody has to step up and handle the situation.  Somebody has to “make it right,” or at least make a valiant effort to do so.  Like it or not, that person is almost always the sales rep.

Sorry, if what I’m about to say sounds obvious.  It IS obvious.  But not a week goes by that I don’t see or hear about at least one sales “professional” who violates the following obvious principle:

Immediately step up and seize responsibility.

Nothing – I repeat – nothing will alienate a customer faster than a “not my fault” attitude.  A “not my responsibility” attitude is just as bad.  A “there’s nothing I can do” attitude, with or without the other two bone-headed reactions is a surefire method for permanently alienating the customer.

The opposite response, on the other hand, will at a minimum defuse the situation and might even improve your standing.  Here’s an example.  My brother flew into town yesterday and we decided to hit my local Mexican food joint for dinner.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall sort of place.  Nothing fancy, but pretty good food at a good price.  We’re just about finished, when I hear this “Ughhh…,” and watch my brother pull a small handful of staples out of his mouth.  Staples!  Yikes!  OK, pretty gross and we were both more than bit upset about it.

In the next instant, the geeky teenager waiting on our table is standing there open-mouthed and bug-eyed, stammering “Oh my gosh, are you all right?  Is there anything you need?  Let me find out what happened?”  Go back and re-read what this kid just blurted out and how he blurted it.  I’ll wait…  This is a teenager, possibly the most clueless form of life known to man, instantly taking responsibility.

Seconds later, the manager of the place, barely in his 20s, is humbly standing there saying, “I’m so sorry.  Are you all right?  I wish I had done something to keep this from happening to you.  Of course there will be no charge for either of you.  Can I get you a few complimentary desserts?”  By this time, big brother and I are starting to feel a bit sorry for the waiter and his boss.  Their concern, horror even, about what had happened was immediate and genuine.  They both instantly stepped up and assumed responsibility, then began to make amends.

Story not over yet.   A few minutes later, we’re about to walk out the door when the manager taps me on the shoulder.  “It was the packaging the meat came in, he says”.  “We rushed.  We didn’t unwrap it properly.  We’ll reivew this problem at our next two kitchen staff meetings.  I don’t want what happened to you to EVER happen again.”

Unpack that little speech.  It was “we” the kitchen staff who rushed.  It was “we” the kitchen staff who didn’t unwrap the meat properly.  It was not “the new guy” or some other anonymous somebody else, it was very personal to this guy.  He reinforced the fact that it was his responsibility.  No only that, steps were already in place to address the root cause of the issue.

Make a note.  Learn a customer service lesson.  Immediately step up and seize responsibility.

Customer focus must be ignored at all cost!

“Full Service!”  “Total Solution!”  “We handle everything!”  “We are a customer focused company!”  Virtually always, statements like these are a load of hooey.

I’ll start with the moral of the story.  Don’t claim to be customer focused or full service unless you are absolutely certain you fully and completely understand all the details of the customer’s requirements and expectations and can fulfill each one.  Otherwise you’re setting yourself up to look like a hype-spewing, unreliable huckster.

The case in point involves a cancer patient and a caregiver.  The patient is about to be discharged from the hospital and will require some home care.  There’s some natural apprehension on the part of the caregiver regarding the associated procedures and equipment.  Not to worry!  “A care specialist from the home healthcare provider will be here shortly to address all those issues.”

In strides the poised, articulate care specialist.  The opening questions and statements are all absolutely appropriate, compassionate and to the point.  The caregiver (CG) breaths a sigh of relief.  The care specialist (CS) says, “We’ll take care of everything; we’re a full service provider.” Now begins the interesting (and sad) part.

CG:  “That’s really wonderful.  The first thing I’d like to handle is getting a hospital bed delivered to the house.”

CS:  “Oh, we don’t do that.”

CG:  “I see.  How about a bedside commode?”

CS:  “We don’t do that either.”

CG:  “How about a walker?”

CS:  “We don’t do that either.”

CG:  “OK, sounds like ‘everything’ doesn’t include equipment.  How will monitoring for the need of various medications be handled and how will the drugs be administered?”

CS:  “That’s not part of our role.”

Anyone else out there feel like punching CS in the nose?

CS, serving the role of sales rep, right out of the chute assures CG, the customer, that, “We’ll take care of everything,” and proceeds to fail on the first four, absurdly straightforward requests.  Let’s add a little more context to CG’s perception.  Here are the medical service providers involved in this case:

  • A Full Service hospital
  • A Full Service home healthcare company
  • A Full Service discharge planning service
  • A Full Service home healthcare equipment delivery company
  • A Full Service oncology practice
  • A Full Service chemotherapy clinic
  • A Full Service vascular medicine practice
  • A Full Service gynecology practice
  • A Full Service gastro-intestinal medical practice
  • A Full Service endocrinology medical practice
  • A Full Service palliative care medical practice

Count ‘em up.  Eleven Full Service” organizations providing “Full Service” to a single patient.  The only way to characterize any of them as full-service-total-solution-we-handle-everything is to define the requirements in an entirely internally focused, product/service-centric manner. Customer focus must be ignored at all cost!

Think about it sales rep.  You really think you’re any different?  You think you don’t sometimes appear to be as clueless to your customer executives as the eleven organizations noted above?