Providing The World With The Ultimate Customer Experience

Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who's Your Customer?

The Customer is always right, right? No doubt that throughout your life you have heard this phrase, but is it accurate? Is the customer always right? In my opinion the answer is yes! The customer is the one who spends their money. Money is what a business needs to survive. So therefore, ipso facto, if you don’t take care of the customer, you will inevitably fail at your business. This makes the customer right every time, even if they are mistaken. While I believe that it is more important to build a relationship with the customer, the bottom line is called ‘the bottom line’ for a reason.

Throughout my career I have had some extremely difficult customers that were mistaken in their views. However, it was not their fault they were mistaken, it was mine. As the Service Provider it is my job to explain the conditions to the customer, make sure that the customer understands the scope, and has clear expectations of what to expect when we perform our service.

So if the customer is always right, and you have a disgruntled customer, then you must be wrong. This is going to be hard for some to handle, but please hear me through. There are many ways you can be wrong, while technically you may be correct. Don’t focus on the facts. In many cases, when it comes to the facts or the specifics, the customer may be wrong and you may be right. However, in the overall experience, the customer ultimately is always right. If you lose the customer, then somewhere along the way, you must have made a mistake.

As a business you must understand who you are and what your brand is, also, you must understand your customer. No one company can be everything to everybody. But, in this ever shrinking economy many companies are trying to be just that. This will not end well for the company or the customer. Think about this for a minute. You will never see a Rolex watch in a display case at a Wal-Mart. Why? Because in general the customer who visits a large box bargain store is not interested in quality, only price. In short, they are not the right customer for their brand, so Rolex focuses on high-end jewelry shops where the customers are more interested in quality than price. They are targeting the right customer for their product.

Excluding a complete lack of attention to the customer experience, most cases of disgruntled customers come down to three things:

1. Poor communication.

2. Wrong customer for the company.

3. Wrong company for the customer.

So you need to ask yourself, where do I fall in this structure? (Be careful! I have had a number of companies say, “those just aren’t our customers”, when in fact the problem is internal.) All too often the easy out is to blame the customer. In one example I had a company that tried to convince me that they could not compete in a certain market because their internal costs are too high to compete with the smaller companies. The disconnect with that thought process is that if you are a bigger company you have advantages that a smaller company doesn’t have, so this argument is not valid. The size of your company shouldn’t determine your brand, or customer. If your internal costs are too high then you have to understand that you have waste that needs to be trimmed. I suggest looking into programs like Lean, Six Sigma, and TOC, to help find internal efficiencies and not exclude an entire market segment. Your marketing strategy needs to identify your brand and customer segment, and advertise to them. Your managers need to be able to identify the wrong customers and help them find the right product or provider. And most of all you have to be clear in your communications so that every customer has a clear expectation of what the experience is going to be when they purchase your product or service. This requires well motivated and highly trained managers and/or sales staff.

In today’s virtual world of online ordering, scheduling, and learning, we have cut out the sales person or customer liaison that would have taken the time to explain all the details of a product or service, and managed the customer’s buying experience. Or we have outsourced the customer service to a call center in another country, using services that handle multiple companies and whose staff has little knowledge or care of your customer’s actual experience, let alone the authority or capacity to resolve a customer’s distress. Many think that this is the reason why the costs are less since the “middle man” was cut out of the equation. The truth though, is that the reason the pricing is lowered is because the company doesn’t have the overhead they would require to operate a store front any longer. These companies are counting on the customer to read and understand the “Terms & Conditions” and click on an ‘accept’ button. Then these companies label someone a difficult customer because they didn’t read or understand the Terms and Conditions they accepted. This is a dangerous slope we are traveling down. In the virtual world how can we make sure a customer will have that special feeling once the sale is completed? Even more, what about service after the sale? This could be a whole separate article and I don’t want to get off track, but you see where I’m going.

In today’s market it is not enough to be great at your job, or to have superior quality. You can no longer count on good customer service. The economy is in transition and there is no recovery. What we are seeing is a correction factor that has been long overdue. If you want to be successful in the new world market you need to set yourself apart from your competition. You need to completely blow away your customers and give them the unexpected. When it comes down to it, if the customer doesn’t choose your service or product over the tens of thousands of other choices, then you will not make it through the next decade, and that is why it’s up to you to make sure the customer is always right!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Customer Service & The Smoothie Shop

It’s no secret that the better the customer service, the better the chance at success. However, you have to wonder sometimes what people are thinking. This story is based in fact and illustrates why I spend so much time preaching and training my team on the importance of customer service.

About a year ago a gym opened up in my neighborhood and did a great job at promoting the multiple programs and membership levels offered. So good in fact, that they lured me into signing up.

Our neighborhood has an annual fall block party where we all come together and bring food, play games and have a blast. While at the function an interesting neighbor, Stacey, came over and started up a conversation. She asked me if I had been to the new gym that just opened up. I told her that not only had I been but I am a new member and go four times a week. My wife loves their Zumba classes. Stacey just laughed and said I love those classes too. Then her facial expression changed and she became very staid. She said, “Let me ask you something… what is missing at the new gym?”

Puzzled by the change in the conversation, I just muttered, “I don’t know?”

She said, “A smoothie bar! Every gym I have ever seen has a smoothie bar in it or next to it, but not this one. Everyone wants a nice fresh smoothie after a hard work out don’t they?”

If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew Stacey just divorced her fourth husband and made out very well with the cash settlement, I would have sworn that she was about to hit me up for money to invest. Stacey went on to tell me about her ideas for a whole section with supplements, diet programs, and energy bars. All and all it did sound like a good idea. I asked Stacey, what experience did she have running a business? Stacey went on to explain that she had been talking with a large smoothie chain. They provide the business plan, contractors, even managers to run the place efficiently. All she needed was money which she had plenty of after the divorce. I let her continue on and had decided that she already talked herself into it so my job was to just listen and nod in agreement.

A few weeks later I saw a sign go in the window next to the gym that said, “Coming Soon: Smoothie Queen”. (I am leaving out the real name) It wasn’t long before the new smoothie place opened, and at first it was packed. Stacey had a young woman running the place that really knew what she was doing. Inside the shop they offered healthy breakfast & lunch sandwiches, smoothies, milkshakes, and a whole line of health supplements and energy bars. I told Stacey she was going to make a fortune!

Not long after the store opened I noticed that the young woman who used to run the store for Stacey was gone. When I ran into Stacey at the gym I asked her what had happened. Stacey told me that the original girl was given to her by the corporate chain and that she garnered a large salary. Instead, Stacey brought in her niece for a fraction of what she was paying the other manager.

“Besides I already learned everything necessary from the corporate placed manager anyway”, and she gave me a wink and a smug smile.

I told Stacey that there is a lot to running a business and asked if she was sure that was a good idea? Stacey barked at me and said she knew what she was doing and that I was the one who told her how great the place was, everything has been set in place so there is no need for a large salaried manager anymore. Once again, it was obvious that her mind was already made up so I just left it alone.

As the weeks went by I noticed less and less traffic stopping by the smoothie shop. My wife and I decided we were going to have breakfast there before our work out one Saturday morning. We got there and the lights were off and the door locked. I looked at the time and it was 9:00am. The sign on the door clearly said that it opened at 8:00am. I was confused, but just as we were about to walk away a guy walked up and said, “Are they open?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “That figures. You never know when this place is open.”

When my wife and I got home I walked over to Stacey’s house and knocked on the door. I spoke with her and told her about the situation and the comment made by the other potential patron. Stacey didn’t want to hear it. She said that they don’t open till 10:00am so I must have read the sign wrong.

As the weeks passed I heard many people at the Gym comment on how bad the quality and service had gotten at Smoothie Queen and it had almost become a standard water cooler topic.

My wife and I decided that we were going to give them another chance, being that it was our neighbor and we always try to support local businesses. So that Saturday we stopped by the smoothie shop again before going to our workout. This time it was 8:30am and they were open as they should be according to their sign which did state that they opened at 8:00am on Saturdays.

As my wife and I stood there looking over their menu for breakfast options, the woman behind the counter said in a very cavalier tone, “The grill still hasn’t heated up yet so if you want food you are out of luck!”

Really! My wife and I just shook our heads in disgust. As we walked over to the gym, who did we bump into, but Stacey. I told her what had just transpired and that Smoothie Queen had become a standing joke at the gym. While I understand that nobody likes to hear someone tell them their baby is ugly, as a business owner you have to listen to your customers. However, Stacey just gave me an angry look and told me not to go there anymore if it was so awful. A few months later the smoothie shop was out of business.

Once again, last week was the annual fall block party and my wife and I were there having a great time talking with a whole bunch of our neighbors when Stacey came walking up. She butted into our conversation and began droning on about her failed business and looking for sympathy from the block. Many of the neighbors gave her the pity she was digging for and blamed the poor economy.

You see Stacey was the block captain. Which also means she was the one who sent out the invitations for not only the annual fall block party, but also the Christmas party, the New Year’s party, and the Fourth of July party, so it was usually in your best interest to suck up a little if you wanted to stay in the good graces of the neighborhood social scene. Unfortunately, I could not keep my mouth shut.

“You have to be kidding me!” I exclaimed. “Bad economy? Poor Stacey?”

I looked around at the stricken faces of all of the neighbors within earshot, and rubbed the spot on my ribs where my wife’s elbow had landed, but I’m not good at sucking up.

I went on to explain to Stacey, that the reason her business failed had nothing to do with the economy, the location, or anything other than her complete lack of regard for her customers. Not only did she remove the one and only person who understood the business, to save a few bucks at a point when she was making money hand over fist, but she ignored the fact that her patronage was shrinking month after month once she made that change.

She also never spent any time herself, at the shop to understand her customer base, and when I tried to tell her that there were some issues based on my own experiences, she told me to go jump in lake! Her open mouth snapped shut at this point, and she seemed ready to speak, but thought better of it and just stared at me.

It doesn’t take a Harvard business degree to figure out what went wrong here. She was a lazy, selfish, money grubbing, narcissist who never took the time to put her customer’s needs above her own. At that point I figured I had said enough. I took my wife’s hand, and we walked down the sidewalk back to our home.

This story is a perfect example of how easy it is to lose a customer base. You can have the best laid plan and all the money to back it up, but if you forget about the most important thing, your customer, failure is inevitable. Remember that it may take months and thousands of dollars to earn a customer but it only takes seconds to lose them forever. Since then several neighbors have gone out of their way to be extra nice to me. I don’t know if they are hoping I won’t voice my opinion about their business skills, or they liked what I said. My wife says it’s the later. Either way I don’t think I will be invited to any more block parties.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


A few weeks back I posted an article called “No Fear” and I got some mixed reviews. I expected to hear from all the HR groups letting me know why you have to be so cautious when firing someone, even if they deserve it. However, what I wasn’t expecting, was all the negative feedback I received from others who felt the article was based on invoking fear in subordinates. Thus the reason for this post.

Throughout my career I have managed people with a strong focus on fairness, equality, and team related efforts. It has always been my primary objective to make sure that everyone on my team knows that their input and ideas are every bit as important as anyone else’s no matter where they fall on an organizational chart. In fact, before any meeting, the first thing I tell everyone is that all egos and titles are checked at the door. From this point forward we are all equals and only interested in coming up with the best solutions.

So when I started getting multiple comments on the “No Fear” post I felt I needed to clarify any misconceptions. Furthermore, the only person who posted on the actual blog rather than emailing me directly, brought up some very good points. So I wanted to cover my personal views on leadership.

My last post spoke directly to being held accountable by your team so I will not cover that in this post. However there are a few important things I think need to be expressed. While I will not speak to my own aptitude as a leader, I will express what I feel is important from a leader and what I expect from my superiors.

When you really break it down I think there are five basic attributes of an effective leader.

• Communication

• Accountability

• Resilience

• Integrity

• Humility

I will briefly cover each attribute to better illustrate their relation to effective leadership.

Communication. The most important thing in business is communication! No matter whom you are or how it applies. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that everyone is on the same page with all aspects of any project that a team is working on. Without clear and concise communication about what is expected, when it is to be delivered, and what the rules are to achieving the goal, all else is lost. Anyone who is not exceptional in their communication skills has little chance to be an effective leader. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure that these goals and rules are congruent throughout their organization, and it is 100% the leader’s responsibility to hold their superiors accountable for any ambiguity that could exist and cloud the overall objective.

Accountability. A leader must hold his team accountable for their performance as well as being accountable to his superiors for the overall performance of the team. That’s right! It is a leader’s responsibility if his team fails. No need to look any further than the mirror if your team has not met their objectives. A true leader will never blame a team member for the failed performance of a project or task when questioned by his superiors, nor will a leader accept any less from his team when deficiencies are discussed. It is a leader’s responsibility to let team members know when and why their performance is unaccepted at the time it is unacceptable, prior to the final outcome of a project. If a task or project was unsuccessful, that is the end result, and usually is a culmination of multiple failures under the leader’s control.

Resilience. A leader must have thick skin. You cannot be swayed by what others think of you. You also cannot be afraid of confrontation, nor losing your job. You need to be able to make business decisions that sometimes are not popular with your team. To be an effective leader, people are going to get mad at you, so get used to it or step aside. You cannot let office politics play a role in doing what is right for the customer, your team, and the bottom line. A true leader can be told their line of thinking is skewed and hold no grudges over someone bringing it to their attention. Finally, a leader has to be able to have heated discussions, arguments, and sometimes screaming matches, and in the end have no hard feelings. As a leader you must remember that most heated arguments are misguided passion. And you cannot hold a grudge against someone for being passionate about their job.

Integrity. Probably the most important attribute a leader can hold is integrity. An effective leader must have the trust of their team. Your team needs to know you have their back and that you will stand up for what you believe in. If you cannot stand up to your superiors to fight for your team then you are not a leader. Your word has to be gold and your team needs to have that foundation in order to produce at any effective level. If your team feels that they will be sold down the river when a mistake is made, no one will be willing to take any risk, and therefore nothing spectacular can ever happen. In the end, your word is a promise and a promise is nothing until tested. When the time comes, will you pass the test?

Humility. Throughout my career I have learned many things. The key to being an effective leader is always learning, always developing better, stronger, and faster ways of doing things. You can learn these things from anyone at any level. Build a team around you that isn’t afraid to challenge you and you will continue to learn from them and also continue to improve, as a leader don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I was wrong’. I have been doing this job for nearly 30 years and I still don’t know everything, so trust me, neither do you. Keep an open mind and stay humble. Realize that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. A leader should also stay positive and don’t get drug down into the corporate pits of cynicism and derision. I constantly hear people saying things like can’t and never. These are negative words that a leader should try to eliminate from their vocabulary. I have always believed that the one who says it can’t be done, is most often interrupted by the one doing it. So remember that you cannot go it alone, and in order to be a good leader you must first learn to be a good follower.

In closing, and not completely off topic, I was reading an article about effective leadership. I will leave out the source since I do not agree with some of their views. This article claimed that a leader that is fair and treats their team with respect is a less effective leader. In fact , this article claimed, that in the corporate world, it is better to be feared than respected. HAH! I couldn’t disagree more. I am willing to bet that in the studies that were conducted to support this article I was reading, that the manager lacked at least one of the attributes I mentioned above. In too many cases I see weakness being documented as fairness. I not only believe that you can be fair and tough at the same time but have a proven track record of doing just that throughout my career. Again, it is all about accountability. Holding people accountable at the time they should be held accountable. Catch them doing things right and reward with the same veracity as when you reprimand them for doing something wrong. If you follow that, along with the other attributes mentioned in this post, you will find yourself in a solid leadership role with the respect of your team.

Hope that clears everything up for all my followers and thanks again for the overwhelming responses I receive each week. Just a note though. If you post on the blog rather than emailing me directly everyone can engage in the conversation and contribute to all of us learning together. Thanks again and good luck to you all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Email Etiquette

The reason behind this publication is not motivated by any recent personal experience. However, I continually see issues with email etiquette and felt I had to express my views. I realize that there are no written laws governing email etiquette but at the same time there are things that just make common sense that I continue to see being ignored. I would like to clarify that many of these issues would also apply to texting, IM, etc…

Reading others email. I know that many companies make it a point to capture their employee’s emails in an attempt to make sure they are doing the right thing, or catch them saying or doing the wrong thing. While part of me says that if you’re not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about, I have to say that I disagree with this practice. It is a federal crime to read someone else’s snail mail, but electronic mail is fair game. Doesn’t seem right to me! While I agree that only a fool would have any expectation of privacy in an email, I also feel that capturing someone’s email is no different than reading someone’s snail mail, or diary for that matter. At the end of the day the thing to remember is even though I believe this practice should never be implemented, you need to assume that “Big Brother” is always watching, so don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see posted in the company lunch room.

Forwarding emails. Over and over again I see examples of emails that get forwarded from one individual to another. Sometimes it is done maliciously and on purpose to show someone else what is being said, but many are sent because the person forwarding the email didn’t bother to read the whole email trail before forwarding it. Many times, in this case, there will be some sensitive information in the email trail that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than the recipient. But, because they didn’t take the time to read the whole string, they have now put the sender in a bad situation by forwarding this information to others who, you can bet, will read the whole string and spread around what was said to everyone. Again, this can be avoided by not putting anything in an email that you don’t want everyone to see. However, there are many times where the only way you can contact someone is through email. While I understand that in an email, things are kept brief and this makes it easier for executives to deal with more issues, we need to make ourselves more available to our teams so they don’t have to put everything into an email. The lesson that needs to be learned in this section is that you should never forward another person’s email unless they approve of you doing so. You can forward an email if you delete the other person’s name from the trail, or copy and paste the pertinent information from their email, so it cannot be traced back to them. Otherwise you will begin to shut down the communication between you and your team and then no one wins. Be considerate and think before you hit that forward button.

Blind Copy. This is a pet peeve of mine. It takes me back to high school when you would receive a phone call, and they had someone else on the other line listening to what you had to say. I guess the group Bowling For Soup had it right, “High School Never Ends”. I don’t understand why we even have a BCC option on an email. I know I will hear from many people telling me good reasons to BCC other people (keeping them in the loop and other such nonsense), however my personal feeling is, that this is a cowardly way of letting someone in on a conversation while hiding it from the person you are communicating with. In my mind this is no different than setting up a hidden camera, or tape recorder. Once again, I feel that this is a breach of trust and there is no reason why you would have to BCC someone unless you are too afraid to let the recipient know you are including a third party. Trust is the key component to any good relationship and over and over again I see trust being violated through the use of electronic communication.

Emailing Angry. Some of the best advice I have ever received from a superior was to never email angry. This practice has time and time again saved me great embarrassment. The right thing to do is go ahead and respond to the email and get it off your chest. Just don’t send it. Leave it in your draft file. The following day re-read the email. If you still feel that way, send it. In most cases you will re-write the email in a more docile tone, or you may just delete it and let the whole thing go. There are too many cases of email trails that go on arguing for pages and pages adding more and more people to the email trail with each response. This is a huge waste of company time and resources and usually is over a personal issue that has little to do with work. (I would also like to include that you shouldn’t email after drinking either.) A great rule of thumb is to never send or respond to, a loaded email after work or on the weekends. More often than not this turns into a bad situation and people could end up fired. No one wants to deal with drama, or work issues during their time off unless it is an emergency. So think before you send!

For well over a decade email has been the standard form of communication in a professional setting. With iPads, Blackberry’s, smart phones, etc…, electronic communication is more popular than ever. While I agree that many times it makes more sense to send a quick text or email to let someone know where you are, or a quick note rather than getting drawn into a long phone conversation, I also fear that we are breeding a generation of future business professionals that will lack the ability to verbally communicate in a face to face environment. When we send an email, we have time to stop and think about what we are going to say and choose our words carefully. In a face to face conversation you do not have this luxury. You have to think on your feet and be able to communicate your ideas without taking long pauses. This new disturbing trend is causing people to completely cease all verbal communication. What will the long term consequences be if we lose the ability to communicate in person? Furthermore, electronic messages lack the personal touch. It locks out the ability to read the inflections in someone’s voice and to tell when someone is joking, mad, or lying. Finally, email should be used as a tool to be more effective at your job and not as a weapon. I believe that if you follow these few simple rules of etiquette then you can avoid most of the pitfalls associated with electronic communication.

In closing, if you have something to say don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Email and other electronic communications are great tools, but we should never lose that personal touch that separates us from our competition.