Perception

“You have a beautiful day, now.”

Nice, huh? Hard not to have… at least a few beautiful minutes after you hear that. No matter what interference the world throws at you.

It happens to be the parting catchphrase of one of the servers at a restaurant I go to fairly often. Since I’ve been a bit down on restaurant Experience this week, I thought we might end on a better note.

The folks who hired him got it right. Though he’s the only one I’ve noticed here with a catchphrase, at this place they have a knack for hiring people who put a warm, personal touch into their franchise’s routines.

He’s got it right—and he knows it. Everyone I’ve seen treated to that catchphrase beams instant-feedback at him with absolutely zen smiles. Making it easier to keep on doing it right…

In a totally unscientific poll of customers (I asked a few on their way out, “Don’t you love it when he says that?”), I heard people say that they go out of their way to come to this place because of their staff. You might occasionally go out of your way for food, but these days driving farther for service is a mighty high compliment.

When you make your Experience into a treat, customers give back with relief, joy, and loyalty.

You, dear reader? You go see if you can add a bit of your personal warmth to your Customer Experience today.

And you have a beautiful day, now.

:)

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Observations While Dining Out

We were having a very nice night out. I was surprised that we were able to get a table so quickly during the holiday season here in tax-free (and therefore shopper-mobbed) Delaware. Our server was pleasant, sincere, attentive but not too much so, and best of all, thoughtful.

There was some conversation at the table about whether “the economy” is to blame for being able to get seated quickly, as we waited for our drinks. When the foyer became crowded only a few minutes after we’d sat down, we decided it wasn’t the economy but our own timing (maybe we got in just before the closest mall closed), and the discussion moved on. The drinks came, our server promised to be right back to take our order, and…

Nothing.

More precisely, nothing you could put your finger on, at least not for a while. She went from attentive to not-so-much, or were we too involved in conversation to appreciate her? Coming “right back” didn’t exactly happen. Getting our appetizers didn’t exactly go smoothly. Mind you, the meal and the service wasn’t terrible, but when it had begun so well, it certainly seemed like a big contrast. We were working to distract each other from commenting about the downward trend things were taking. Not so much fun.

In the end we didn’t have to put our finger on what had gone sour. When the coffee arrived twelve minutes (who’s counting?) after dessert, right about the time when I’d decided to get up and seek a host to take the coffee off the bill and get us a check, our server gave us a flash of the sincerity she’d had earlier in the evening.

“So sorry. I asked another girl to bring this out a few minutes ago. Since I got that table of 16, I’ve been running around like crazy.”

—————

The confession was all right… I guess. Better than nothing. But of course, dear reader, you can see that the time to realize she had an overwhelm issue was thirty minutes earlier, at least, and the time to confess is never, because she either needed to hand us off to someone less busy or hand the 16-top off to someone else, since she was busy with us and several other tables near us, which also became woefully neglected when the big table walked in.

Then?

Then there would have been nothing to confess to, because we measly smaller tables would have been treated as well as her big catch, by her or by someone else.

(Note to servers: From my many years of restaurant experience on the inside and the outside, I can tell you that big tables aren’t where the tips are anyway. Though after treating our table like second class citizens, maybe their tip looked better…)

Want to Maximize your business? (Of course!)

Whether you’re waiting a table, serving a client through your online channels, or putting together orders in your shop, treat ‘em all like a 16-top.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

And in Act 2, How Larry Brooks Talked Me Down From a Full-On Rant

Dear Reader,

The Maximum Customer Experience-y portion of the MCE Blog will be somewhat brief today. In part because I had more fun with Act 2 than with Act 1, but Act 1’s more to our point here, so let’s dig in!

Act 1: Put It in Writing

MCE-readers do not need lessons in phone manners, right? Yet I’ve heard this story twice in the last week in very different circumstances, so I’m wondering whether it’s an aspect of Customer Experience that’s being forgotten right now.

Ever need to contact someone at a small firm about… let’s say, a critical issue for your family? Could be health-care related. Could be housing related. Could be banking, or transportation. The business itself or the division you’re contacting is very small, and The Person Who Makes Decisions has few layers between him or her, and you. Only a little gatekeeper…

Many readers of MCE are at small businesses just such as this, so you know what I’m talking about (even though you may not deal in “critical” issues at your company). Folks call you up, they say “I need to discuss XYZ, who in the office deals with that,” and you put them through to that person.

Only sometimes, the receptionist apparently doesn’t think the job is to be “receiving,” as in welcoming, to folks who call in. This person could instead hassle callers into mainly giving up their question… and if that fails, loudly shout for the hatchetperson.

The hatchetperson could be even more abrasive, attempt to dissuade the still-polite customer even more, and throw in random lies as suits the situation, to stop the fool’s attempt to get answers or solve problems before they become large.

The last lie is that the person you need to speak to does not have a phone. Does not return calls. And will not, in fact, speak to you, unless you put your request in writing. Over everything you attempt to say, in your most apologetic, maybe-I’m-not-explaining-myself-well-enough tones, comes the repeated, increasingly shrill, increasingly surreal, “Put it in writing!”

Folks, if this is going on, there are only a couple of possibilities: one, there are crazy people in the front office acting independently, or two, this procedure is acceptable and known to all. Either way, when you do speak to the person you need to, by finding “the back door,” all will be denied, you will be treated as an even bigger fool who misunderstood the lies and shouting in that earlier conversation, and someone, inevitably, will claim they’ll “get to the bottom of this” to get you to shush about it. And the original issue you called about, which was, as you know, critical, will seem like mush next to the craziness of how you’ve been treated.

Naturally, this is against all the rules of Maximum Customer Experience.

So, if you have folks like this in your office, tell them adios. They are toxic to your growth.

If you have people complaining that you have folks like this in your office, assume you do. How many of your customers have nothing better to do than to make this up?

And if you’ve been unaware of it, get more involved. Audit your company’s phone manners now and then. You may be surprised how things can get out of hand, even in a small firm.

Losing one customer is no big deal—that may be what folks who are manning your phones think, and maybe they even believe they’re protecting the business in some way—but believe me, that customer’s going to mention you to a lot of folks in her circle.

Act 2: Thank goodness Larry put this in writing

So, yeah. That small rant, combining two recent experiences, was going to be… a lot more rant-y.

And then I got a small missive from Larry Brooks (he’s a friend of a friend, but this wasn’t a personal missive, just the email-feed from his blog, the great Storyfix). Talking about getting your bad self published.

Well, since I just happen to have done that last week in exactly the same way as Larry Brooks is today (thanks to all of you who’ve bought a copy of our new e-book on website usability, I really appreciate your reading the guide and helping to spread the word!), I couldn’t resist clicking through and reading Larry’s pitch about his new e-book.

If you’d like to read his pitch, click here to find out more about Get Your Bad Self Published. I can write a fair pitch myself, but Larry always draws me in.

Disclaimer that doesn’t disclaim anything: As is often the case here at MCE with my reviews, Larry has no idea I’m inviting you to read about his new book on getting published, and as is always the case, he’s not compensating me in any way for saying Wow here.

It’s unusual—almost unheard of, in fact—that I talk about a book that’s outside of our small-business subject matter, but I know many readers here at MCE are writers for their businesses, and I have a notion that some folks may have a novel hiding in a drawer as well. (In addition to all my other writing? Yes. I do.) So please enjoy my off-topic review.

In my completely biased opinion Larry Brooks could sell anything to anyone and should never be allowed to stop pitching for businesses, just to focus on his awards-and-kudos-winning creative writing. Such a loss! So, because I was completely drawn in by his persuasive writing about his latest e-book, I decided to grab a copy of Get Your Bad Self Published.

And then I read it all, e-cover to e-cover, before I remembered that I hadn’t yet finished this post.

There’s a lot to recommend in Larry’s new, 101-page e-book, even if a novel’s not what you’re working on. His advice on queries, agents, and publishing applies to non-fiction folks as well… heck, even his advice on the quality of your work and how to compare yourself to the “big names” publishing in your niche is… to borrow a phrase from earlier in this post… critical for any writer considering traditional publishing.

His voice is calming; his pace is instructional but never slow. Just as at his blog, his advice is unapologetically stern—the unvarnished truth you don’t want to hear—with real advice to get your real talent noticed, if you’ve got it! For better and for worse, Larry can keep you from banging your head against the wall unless you really should be doing so—and if you should be, he can soften the blows.

So now that you’re half-through reading Why Your Website Sucks and How To Fix It,  :)  making big bad strides for your business, and you’re looking for the next voice of reason, go on and grab Larry Brooks’ Get Your Bad Self Published for your bad self. It’s definitely a Wow.

& who knows? He might even talk you down from writing a full-on rant.

Happy reading!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

King’s Rule #1: Kings Do Not Need To Worry About Nickels

I was on my way to a meeting.

I wasn’t running late, but I was too far from home to head back for the bagel I made and accidentally left in the fridge that morning, so I drove through a Burger King on the way to the meeting and ordered a sandwich and a large diet Coke.

“Excuse me,” I said after the cashier handed me a bag and turned to get the next order ready, “there should be a large Diet with this.”

“You don’t want the fries?” he said with a look of confusion.

“What fries? Are there fries in this?” I tried to hand the bag back, but he nodded and then waved a hand at me.

He went to the soda station, poured a large diet Coke, and handed it out the window to me. By then I’d looked in the bag and spotted the large fry, which must have been what the order-taker punched in when what I said was “large diet Coke.” The mistake was easy to understand. I tried again to hand the cashier the bag. “Do you want the fries back?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said, adding, “You have a fine day, now.”

If I liked fries that would be a nice touch, I thought as I drove away, happy with my chicken and diet Coke. Fries for free in exchange for their error. Nice of him. Nice of them to empower him. Good place, I should try them again sometime.

It occurred to me later that I don’t even know whether a fry actually cost me more than the soda I really ordered, or less.

Having the wrong order fixed without a hassle was worth more than 5¢ one way or the other—hopefully I underpaid, but even if I overpaid, I was just happy to have the corrected order, fixed quickly, so I could be on my way with the right food and without fuss.

Doesn’t sound like a very tall order, but these days it’s increasingly rare not to have to jump through six hoops to get easy mistakes fixed. Studies have been done showing that our blood pressure actually raises in advance of having to deal with such trivial errors, probably because experience has taught us that we’re in for a fight to set things straight!

The moral of the story: Worry less about the nickels. More about setting things straight without a hassle. Hire nice people, empower them to make things right, and then they’ll be able to mean it when they say, “You have a fine day, now.”

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Calling All Stalled Companies—Could growth be only a “ring” away?

He called 3 companies in early July, the week he realized he was going to need a new insurance plan. I admit I found it strange that he had to leave messages for all three, but since I haven’t had the experience myself, I had to take his word for it that this was “how they worked.”

Two companies got back to him by the end of the following week… but I never heard about the story way back then.

I heard the story last week—when the third company called him back on his request for information.

We could make this a tale about returning phone messages promptly. Two months is FAR too long—on that we’ll all agree—and I suspect that every reader of MCE is with me when I say that a week and a half was also far too long.

Imagine if only one of the three had shown him what true care looks like from his future insurance company by returning the call by the end of the day when he called!

But that’s not what this story’s about.

This is a tale about answering your phone.

If it’s within business hours where you are and you want your business to grow—answer it. This should not be “how it works” in any industry.

Some folks who are reading this may be at the head of the smallest of small businesses, operating alone or with one or two employees. If so, don’t twist yourself into a pretzel, the smallest businesses are already twisting in plenty of directions! Take the lesson as I (almost) told it. You can’t be everywhere at once, so—when you must let your voicemail answer for you, get back to your current customers and your prospects right away. Two days, at MOST. In many industries even that long will lose you the sale… though apparently not in some niches of the U.S. insurance industry.

There’s no official benchmark to tell you when that’s no longer good enough, but as a guide I’d like to suggest that the 4th person you hire* should have answering the phones as one of his or her duties (answering them to take care of the calls as an associate, or to pass them on to the right person as a receptionist, may depend on your business).

When your business is that big, you’re too big to let customers get your voicemail during business hours and still call what you’re providing Maximum Customer Experience.

And if you’re as big a small business as all three of these companies were… it’s time to put an ad in the newspaper.

“WANTED: Big friendly smile attached to great phone voice. We pride ourselves on never making the customer wait to hear that we care!”

How did it end?

“Even though I’m not switching ‘til January, I told the 3rd guys they’d missed their shot. Not because I’ve decided. I haven’t yet. Because I can’t imagine how long they make people wait once they’ve got their money, if this is how long I have to wait to try to give them my money!”

A-men.

Is a week and a half okay with you, or is even that too long to wait for a call to be returned? (Is there anything that would have made you listen to the 3rd company after all that time?) How do you handle the phone at your company? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

*Who are your first 3 hires after yourself? 1) Someone who’s strong in the area of business development that you’re not (i.e., a salesperson if you’re an idea guy, or vice versa); 2) An extra pair of hands for making or doing what you do, so you can achieve three times as much (it works); and 3) A part-time bookkeeper (keep your money straight from the start and you’ll be a happier business owner).

 

P.S. I know I know, we love to dump on U.S. insurance companies, but (this time) it’s not simply because of the industry. I’ve heard stories like this in many fields, I just thought this one had a particularly dramatic arc to it that should be told here at MCE.

Literally…

Dawn bottle

We’re running out of dish detergent at home. Onto the list it goes, and the next time The Kid and I are grocery shopping, we stop in the soap aisle to pick up my usual.

I’m completely brand loyal. As far as I’m concerned only one works, and I never pick up anything else. But the stuff lasts forever and there’s only two of us in our little place, so I usually get the smallest bottle possible, to leave an inch more of space in our tiny kitchen.

These days, I guess they don’t sell the tiny bottle anymore. There’s something smallish in my brand, but twice the size of what I usually get. Oh, well. It’s got a little sticker at the top to entice me: 20% MORE.

Ooh. Everybody likes 20% more free. Remember, now, there was no chance I was getting any other brand—and what I really wanted was 50% less—yet still, I feel kind of happier when I pick up the 20% MORE bottle.

‘Til I read the fine print. Because it’s not 20% more free.

 

Bottle detail: 20% MORE

20% MORE than other 20 ounce bottles?

Oh, yes. Quite true. That’s because it’s a 24 ounce bottle. Duh.

Looky, they can do math! Just like The Kid!

Why not say, “300% MORE than other 6 ounce bottles” and really impress people?

Because, well, that would be obvious trickery. Nobody would fall for that without getting out their reading glasses. This is designed to sail past my b.s. detector. I guess if it’s not obvious, it’s okay for it to be intended to mislead the buyer.

I’m not going to buy another brand, because I want my dishes clean, darn it, but for a moment I’m still tempted to put it back on the shelf. Maybe go on a dishwashing strike or something. (Nice fantasy, anyway.) The Kid sees me hesitate with the bottle in the air, and whisks it out of my hand.

“We should get it! Look they’re donating a dollar to help wildlife!”

Aww. Well, I’m getting a bottle that’s too big for our needs, and I’m paying more than I thought I would for dish soap today, but I’m saving wildlife. Look at that cute baby seal! Don’t you want to save him?

So we buy the soap, and the dishes are saved from a dastardly strike. Weeks pass before The Kid ends up doing the dishes.

(See why I want to go on strike? But that’s another story.)

“Mama,” she yells from the kitchen while I eat my bonbons and read romance novels in my silk lounger with my spare 15 minutes that I don’t know what to do with.

“What?”

“The bottle of soap. We didn’t donate yet.”

Naturally I am far too absorbed in lounging to remember back to the dish soap, so a delightful comedy of errors ensues while we yell to each other over the running water in the kitchen, trying to figure out what the heck she means. Finally she brings the bottle in to me in a great huff to demonstrate her point.

 

Bottle detail: Wildlife donation

Can you read that? Me neither. And for you it’s blown up a lot bigger than it was for me.

It says, “Must visit www.dawnsaveswildlife.com to activate donation.”

The Kid suggests they might write next time, “You didn’t donate, you fool, you just think you did.”

Hoodwinked. Twice on one bottle.

A couple of weeks later when I found the time (guess I must have been out of bonbons that night), I visited www dot blah blah—almost out of spite. (Not an ideal state in which to think awww about the baby seals.) Since I’m not wearing my reading glasses when I’m washing the dishes, I would never have realized that we hadn’t made any donation, without The Kid’s younger eyes, and I’m still kind of ticked about it, but we can’t let down those seals.

When I get there, of course, I discover we must jump through more hoops, proving we bought the bottle not with the easy-to-read barcode, dark-blue-on-white, but with a special donation code, stamped on the plastic bottle, black ink over the dark blue liquid within. So lacking in contrast, and so tiny, that neither of us saw it at first (even though the site tells you where to look for it). So dark that we had to use a flashlight through the bottle to make it show up. And it had one number rubbed off. So we had to keep guessing until we got it.

Is there an MCE lesson for small business in all this?

Absolutely. In fact, there are two:

1. I want your business to sound wonderful. I want you to give every customer more than they ever imagined when they buy from you, for the same great price they agreed to. But please, don’t let them imagine they’re getting “more,” only to find out later that you’d inflated or distorted your claims. Trust is gone after that, and the smaller your biz, the more trust is as precious as cash to your growth. (Well, almost.)

2. We all make our customers jump through certain hoops to work with us.

Some are necessary, like contact forms, email addresses, and phone numbers. These may cut down on contacts with new prospects but we make them as easy and pleasant as possible so the barrier is not too great.

Some are unnecessary, like endless phone trees to get to the department you want, or memberships when your Ideal Customer just wants a one-time-shot of what you offer (or isn’t even sure yet). These cut down on your business a lot. If they’re helping you focus on the customers you can help best, great! If you’re wondering where your sales are, though, look around. Give strong consideration before putting up those barriers.

Some hoops lie between dishonest and insane. If this company wanted to give their money away in this highly visible way, and was trying to do good for the li’l critters, and not just increase their own sales, they’d have made it easy (happens at checkout, no action required). Or much more possible (big words that you can see when you’re deciding to buy; big code nobody can miss).

The fine print on this bottle also says “up to $500,000.”

I thought that was pretty low, and that a lot of folks would want to do good but find they were over the maximum, until I got there and saw they’re only 2/3 of the way there.

Think the fact that lots of folks don’t even know about the barriers the company’s put up has anything to do with that?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Hello from deep inside our latest project

We’re dealing with some annoying coding errors in a website project right now.

A website redesign is a complex project with many layers in the later stages, all going on at once—design, copywriting, coding. When I didn’t hear back from the people who are working on the coding issues, I assumed they were hard at work like I am, and I cut them some slack.

For two weeks. (There’s no lack of other things to do on this project, and other projects to move along as well.) Then I left a message checking in with them—just Wow, this must be a stubborn problem, need to move to the next phase soon, how’s it going?

It took them 4 days to get back to me (oof!) —and say that they accidentally marked the work as finished weeks ago, so now they’d get on it right away.

Oof.

Well, they did get back to me within hours of that “we goofed” email with the first fixes (no, we’re not done yet), and the communication has been constant and excellent since then. That got me thinking…

Maximum Customer Experience is an elastic concept

Maximum Customer Experience is an elastic concept, IF—

  • Trust is there.
  • The relationship is already a long one (so the customer feels “invested” in the relationship).
  • There’s a sincere apology (in this case the honesty blew me away—how many companies would tell you “well, actually, we forgot about you and haven’t done a thing”? Refreshing, if nothing else…) AND a genuine resolution follows.
  • You don’t need all of these conditions to create Maximum Customer Experience out of terrible customer experience. Any one factor can probably salvage things, and the last—listening to customer complaints and doing something about it—is the easiest place to start.

    It’s okay to be human sometimes.

    It’s okay to screw up.

    If your overall aim is for Maximum Customer Experience, that will come across to most customers. You can get back on track, and maybe come out stronger than ever.

    Now if we could just finish up with this code problem…

    What do you think? Can a company with a tarnished reputation ever get back to MCE in your eyes?

    (Have you ever had to work your way back to Maximum Customer Experience with one of your customers?)

    Grow and be well,

    Kelly Erickson

Mr. Smith Goes to Burbank

Love him or hate him, writer/ producer/ actor Kevin Smith can be a lightning rod for controversy at times. He’s just come through one of the few times in his life when he didn’t court the controversy at all, and… he’s a little miffed.

Size, apparently, matters more than Customer Experience to at least one large corporation, and the poor guy’s just found that out in a very harsh and public way.

You may not agree with every word of I Love You, Mom, I Hate you, Fake-Heart, but my goodness, his take on the atrocious service he received from Southwest Air is some juicy reading. I highly recommend you click through. There’s a lot of missed-MCE to think about in his diatribe.

Warning: Like all good rants it goes on and on; and as you might expect from Kevin Smith, the auteur behind Clerks, Dogma, Zack and Miri… and other films, the language is NSFW.

If you haven’t had enough—Mr. Smith’s attempt to go to Burbank put me in mind of a couple of other recent airline rants that made me glad I’m dedicated to ground-travel: How Systems Thwart Service, a thoughtful post by by Chris Brogan, and Punishing Loyalty, a great as-it-happens rant by Andy Nulman.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

And they’re not getting a link from me, either

At the library, helping The Kid do some research on chemical this-or-that. She’s supposed to start on the web—apparently this helps them focus the project before they head to the card catalogue or somesuch—but after a short time she needs help because “focus” and “world wide web” don’t really go well together when you’re a 5th grader. She’s instantly overwhelmed. We talk about specifics, type relevant words into my favorite search engine, and scroll the the results. Junk, junk, bingo!

Great site, lots of expert insight, active community to learn from. She’s hooked. She finds one article dealing with the exact issue that she’s supposed to deliver answers on.

She needs to show it to her teacher before proceeding with the project, so I hit the Print button positioned next to the title.

SORRY! says the pop-up window.

You must log in as a member in order to print this article.

I fume for a second and close the pop-up. I stare at the site… we could take a screen shot and print that, or…

I try the computer’s Print command.

The page prints like a charm.

Don’t they know?

Treat people like criminals, and they’ll immediately try to get around your barriers…

… and act like criminals.

I felt a little guilty, folks, but not much.

Maximum Customer Experience takeaway:

Err on the side of letting a little bad stuff happen, so that the great majority of people, who are honest, can have good feelings about you.

Otherwise known as: Be careful what you criminalize. Criminals typically don’t become loyal customers* or raving fans.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Yes, I know, in this case we weren’t likely to become members (which was free, but required giving them contact info) or customers, just to print something as pre-research for a school project. But these barriers are there for their ideal target customer as well as for us, and similar actions to make good prospects and customers feel like criminals are present in many other businesses as well. Yours? Well, not after your read this post, right?

When you’re charging, who’s in charge?

The ever-insightful Alan Weiss has written his last article for Rain Today’s newsletter, titled What It Takes To Successfully Market and Sell Services.

Let me tell you, whether you sell services or 767 jets or Habitrails, you owe it to yourself to read this article. Do like I did and print it, underline the important ones, and throw exclamation points and smiley faces next to the ones you understand all-too-well. Don’t wait a minute to read this post from a guy who saved the best for last. I’ll hang out.

Back so soon? Wow, you read fast.

Well, along with the stars and the exclamation points and the underlines and smileys, there were a few traps that I see clients falling into constantly. This gem, in particular, is said better than I ever have to a client:

Be diagnostic in your marketing, involving the client in the analysis of their conditions, but prescriptive in your implementation, not allowing the client to tell you how to consult.

I read your websites, your brochures, sometimes even your emails. For some clients I dig into telephone calls and face-to-face meetings, in your shop or in an office.

What do I run into constantly?

This ain’t no pancake house

Yet you’re waffling.

I’d like you to stop that, now and forever, because you’re driving your own sales away.

When I go to the doctor I want authority. “Yes, this is XYZ.” “Yes, I can look into that.”

See how the second one is really “No, I don’t know,” but my doc would never say that to me?

When I speak with my attorney I want the spark I’d put into it if I could fight my own battles in the alien planet of law. “This will work. This will not work. We’re not going to do it your way, Kelly, because my job is to win for you.”

Ooookay then, says I.

Her job is NOT to listen to me. Her job is not EVER to change course because I want to do things another way. Can you imagine?

What the hell do I know about Delaware law?

When you hire me to audit your website or your physical space, you want “This is good, but this is not working. This is causing these problems. These are the fixes you should implement immediately, and these are the ones you should do the minute that ‘immediately’ is over.”

You do not want, “Well, this might help…”

You do not want, “You could try that…”

You do not want, “We could look at this another way…” or “It’s not that important…”

And neither do your customers.

A short (hair) story…

For six years I’ve seen the same hairdresser. I love her dearly.

I even love my hair, for the one day every two months when she’s near it.

After that, I’m what I call “hair-lexic.” Which is to say I often want to shave it off because when I deal with it, it’s never what I intended, much less what I want.

(What I want is model-gorgeous and zero work. I put in the zero work—so is model-gorgeous too much to ask?)

Every time I go in to my appointment, she says, “What would you like today?”

I tell her I’m hair-lexic, hahaha, and I want whatever looks good on my head, in her opinion. I tell her she’s not only the hair expert, but she’s also known my particular head for 6 years now, so do the right thing and we’ll both know what I want.

Yet every. single. time, we have to go around and around, on what she did last time, what would be best now, do I have a picture in my head…

(Did I mention I really love her?)

And every single time my response is the exact same:

“I look at it as, you’re the doctor. I don’t know how to set my bone or cut my hair, doc. Do what you think is best.”

Even after six years, this frustrates me and make me consider seeing if someone else could be more sure, since I plan to remain clueless. One of us has got to know what’s going on. (But I love her dearly, y’know, so I just can’t. Plus she does a rockin’-awesome job.)

It’s true—Waffles crush sales

Now unless you are my hairdresser this might seem like kinda limited advice. Only it’s not. My own clients are losing customers this way every day.

When you’ve already got the customer, and you’re waffly, you discourage further sales and recommendations. “Hmm, I guess he doesn’t know as much as I thought he did. Not sure Joe would want to hear about him, after all. I wonder if I’m getting the quality I paid for?”

That’s plenty bad. But when you’re in the getting to know you stage, before the contract is signed and the sale is made, YOU ARE CRUSHING YOUR OWN SALES.

I’d repeat that, but I think the shouting’s enough. Unless you’re closing 100% of sales and you want to tell me that waffling works fine for you, listen up.

When a customer knows how your payment process works, and asks for a better deal and you cave, you’ve just told him you don’t value your work as much as he expects. You’ll lose sales with your waffling. You’ve introduced doubt.

When a customer knows that you allow three revisions/ four sessions/ a two-week turnaround, and asks for more, faster, cheaper, and you listen, or consider it, or come back with a How about this, ditto. You waffle, they seek other professionals to compare you to.

When a prospect emails you three times daily with what-ifs and how-abouts, and you respond three times daily, becoming their email buddy before you’ve made the sale, any sales you make are going to be haggle-filled, interruption-crazy nightmares.

You want to create Maximum Customer Experience for your prospective customers?

Treat it like my lawyer. Or heck, like your local McDonald’s. When they tell you “park your car there and wait,” how many people ever say, No, I’ll stay here… or Okay, if you’ll throw in some extras… or I’d rather you walk to my office with the food, because that parking spot’s no good for me?

C’mon. If everybody from the guy who charges $575 an hour to the folks who charge $5.75 for your meal knows this, isn’t it time for you to know it, too?

Don’t let the client tell you how to work. For Maximum Customer Experience, write a policy. Point to it as often as needed, and say,

“It’s the policy.”

When the client says, “I think it might be better like this,” remember that he does what he does for a living and he hired you to do your job. Doing your job does not mean saying, “Maybe you’re right.”

It means saying, without a touch of arrogance,

“Not.”

Your prospects and clients will respect you for it. And though it might be hard to make the switch from waffly wondering and self-questioning faux-collaboration to professional policies and definitive answers, what makes them happy, will make you happy.

Yes. It will. That’s what makes it Maximum.

How do your waffles weigh in?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

P.S. Maybe you’re right. Just a touch of arrogance—that’s probably okay, too.  ;)