strategic opportunity

Angela Hits it Home

by Trudy on March 23, 2012

I realize that I see the world through a hypercritical lens of organization to customer relationship. It is how I am built. I had more than a few instances this past week that stood out for me that underscore how every single action counts.

It started on a return trip from Central America, that included a stop over in a major US city.  I will not bore you with the whole story, but essentially the flight we were connecting to on the same airline left early, leaving TWENTY FOUR passengers staring out at the plane still attached to the gate, wondering how we would get home. An even more horrific encounter with their “customer service” to rebook us, and we were home a full 24 hours later than we should have been. What was shocking was not the missing of the flight or the getting home 24 hours later, but the appalling lack of concern or desire to fix anything from the airline at every single contact point (e.g., flight attendants, food service, gate personnel, airline personnel through the airport, customer service, etc).

My net impression on the organization’s approach to the customer relationship: We just do not care.

Then, I went on the annual family pilgrimage to the car show this past weekend. We are in the market for a new family vehicle so we were checking out options. One car line had several vehicles onsite, and 4 representatives present. The representatives were clustered together chatting. The vehicles were locked. I asked a representative how we would see the vehicle assuming they would open it up and manhandle us through an orchestrated sales spiel. But no. The response was, “You need to go to the dealership.” Huh? Are you kidding me? Nope, they were not.

My net impression: We think we are so good, you will be willing to jump through the barriers we purposefully put up to interact with our product. (No, I emphatically won’t).

I found an awesome spice shop and was anxious to share it with friends. We arrived at the store, shortly before closing (they oddly closed at 5 when all other stores on the street closed at 6). A person stood at the door as we entered (I know it was not the owner) and said, “We close is 6 minutes, I hope you know what you want.” I have met the owners of this shop, young people, who I know would choke on their tongues with this type of greeting. I know the owners are passionate about their product, their business, their customers and their sales. This person at their front end was not.

My friend’s net impression: It would have been her last if I had not been there to correct the situation.

I then had a need to have something engraved and to get it shipped out quickly. I arrived at the store knowing exactly what I needed and asked to make the purchase. It was 10 minutes to closing, and the person said she could sell them to me, but I would have to come back tomorrow to pick them up as the engraving would take 10-15 minutes and she had packed up her engraving machine already (before end of day I might remind you). I was silent, and the look on my face must have been enough for the person to relent and do the engraving. You see, the engraving was meant as a talisman for a sick friend, and I felt great urgency in getting it to her. Once the engraving had begun, I shared a bit of the story of my friend with her, the tears welled up in her eyes and she shared her own story of a friend in a similar situation. She apologized for being difficult to start, and truthfully she could not have done more to have helped me have something special to get into the courier that night. Angela pulled through for me, and was only a couple minutes late in leaving that evening, but that was primarily due to our shared tears.

My net impression: I will make it personal and special. Awesome.

I live for the Angela moments, when a person makes a decision to make a difference in the life of a customer. I hope we all step up to make positive and memorable relationship experiences, every chance we get.  We each get to choose whether we squander or celebrate the opportunities.


But I Know it is a Great Idea

by Karen on October 14, 2011

Have you ever had a great idea, and maybe even had the opportunity to implement, but it didn’t take off like you expected or promised?  It has happened to me and I kept trying to explain myself to the audiences.  Why it was a great solution for the customer.  How it was good for profits.  How and why operations, sales and customer service teams should support it.  And, needless to say, always defending it to the executive team.

For years (yes years!) it just didn’t take off.  Was the idea ahead of its time?  Perhaps, but that still means it was not the right idea to implement and should have been pulled sooner.  Was the support team fighting it because it was new?  Perhaps, but that means the benefits weren’t compelling or the processes required to operate and manage it were too complex.  If it was truly a good idea, customers and employees would have pulled it through.

I kept pushing and promoting the service because the idea was grounded in sound customer research and I could see the long-term competitive advantage it would create.  However, the problem (it turns out) was that the service was just too complex for both internal and external stakeholders to grab on to.

In the end, we paired back the offering to its bare bones, stakeholders took to it, and then the users and buyers began pulling for the next level options. (I never said “I told you so.”)

The learning boils down to respecting and understanding the rational and emotional needs of your audiences. Make sure your audience is ready for your “great” idea, you just cannot push it and expect results.  And if it is too big to explain from the start, break it down into smaller bites.  If it truly is a winner, the stakeholders will move it forward.  Finally, move ego out of the way and admit you weren’t listening carefully enough and went too far in the beginning.  Ouch!


Proud to be Mediocre!

by Karen on August 12, 2011


After a tough couple of years trying to make sense of the economy and in doing so scrambling to get by with as little resources and investment as possible, do you now feel like things inside your organization are back on track?  They sure are better than they were.  Customers are happier and there are fewer serious service problems.

During the economic turmoil it became a little more acceptable to deliver less than excellent service.  It became the necessity to change schedules, downgrade service commitments and even answer the phone a little slower simply because the human resources and the assets just were not available.  Co-workers might have even started making excuses for each others’ failings, explaining them away because they “understood” the pressure the other guys were under.

And, if you kept your job when many were laid off, you were grateful even if that meant working more hours for less pay.  Caution – that often translates into keeping quiet about problems so as not to be seen as a troublemaker.

What has all of this done to the performance expectations and the service bar of your team?

If you start probing around and hear from the frontline “service is pretty good, better than we were” or “we’re as good as everybody else” it is time to take a hard look at the performance goals (if they are still there) of the organization.  Undoubtedly, they aren’t high enough.

When did it become okay to be as good as the next guy?


Are you Likeable?

October 29, 2010

Based on a significant number of clues converging on me lately, I have been reminded of the priceless-ness of likability in business. Like the mayoral candidate in Calgary that ran a campaign on likability who took a nose-dive over a contrite comment about doing inappropriate things in cereal. Why? Because with one uncensored comment, the […]

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Why are People Afraid to ask Questions?

July 9, 2010

My three year old constantly asks questions: Why is grass green? Why is it going to rain? What does the sun do when it’s raining? Why is that baby crying? Why is he tired? Why is it nighttime? Why is that lady mad? Where are all of the cars going? Why? ……ughhh. Clearly she has […]

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