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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cruise Control

As many of you know I do quite a bit of traveling for my job and this includes hours of driving on the interstates. I can’t count the number of times I have been thankful for the invention of cruise control, probably just as many times as I have cursed it when the flow of traffic continues to speed up and slow down. You have to wonder, are there that many people that don’t know how to use the cruise control feature? After all if everyone would just set the cruise control to the speed they want to go, traffic would flow much more smoothly. However, it wasn’t until last week that I realized how dangerous this feature can be.

As I traveled back to Tampa, I had set the cruise control at 70 MPH. I was getting to the point of extreme frustration with cars that would pass me then slow down so that I had to pass them. After this continuous battle back and forth for nearly an hour I decided to back the cruise control down to 65 MPH and just let everyone pass me. I turned on the radio and started to listen to an audio book to get my mind off the events that had me so stressed out.

As I listened to the book, chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, the miles seemed to just start flying by. I was becoming more and more relaxed and had long since forgotten the past frustrations. I started to yawn in succession but told myself that I wasn’t tired. My eyelids told me a different story as they continued to get heavier and heavier. At this point I knew I needed to stop and walk around a bit to get the blood flowing again. However, I wasn’t going to get off the interstate. I knew better than to pull off to the side of the road on an interstate and convinced myself to wait until the next rest stop.

As I continued pushing on, every blue information sign I saw was like a water mirage in the desert. I kept thinking when am I going to get to the next rest stop? Suddenly, I heard the thumping of the uneven road on the shoulder lane of the highway (you know, those annoying bumps to keep people from falling asleep at the wheel) and jumped up in my seat, then swerved back onto the road. I had dozed off. While it was literally only for a second, it was one second too long. At that point the adrenaline rush was enough to keep me awake for the next month. What could have gone terribly wrong turned out to be a wakeup call in poor judgment. Next time I will be sure to get off the highway as soon as I start the yawning.

So what the does my poor driving decision have to do with business? Once I composed myself and continued on the trip home I couldn’t help but start applying the lesson I’d just learned to business, after all, I have sort of a sick obsession with that, as most of you already know. How many of us are set on cruise control at work? How many of us have become complacent in our position and just think that all we need to do is show up for work and do what we have always done? I am afraid that many people get stuck on cruise control, not only at work, but in life as well. After all it is easy to do. The problem is there are dangers associated with falling asleep at the wheel, even if only for a second.

What are some signs that you may be on cruise control at work or in life? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you look for the easiest solution to avoid conflict or controversy?

2. Do you stay away from activities that make you feel uncomfortable?

3. Do you find yourself looking for things to do, or reorganizing things just to keep busy?

4. Do you have open time on your calendar?

5. Do you find yourself looking forward to going home?

6. Are you watching more TV or spending more time playing video games or on social media sites?

7. Do you allow others to perform tasks that you know are your responsibility?

8. Do you avoid networking events or customer visits?

These are just a few indicators that you may be set on cruise control and if you are, turn it off and get back into the driver’s seat! If you are not constantly driving business and dominating your market then you are setting yourself up for a disastrous chain of events. In business, as well as in life, if you are not a little uncomfortable, then you are not growing and if you are not growing, then you are dying.

Today’s market is all about who is hungry, motivated, and constantly looking for better, faster, more impactful ways to provide the products and services that customers need. The companies that will be successful are the ones that are on the cutting edge of technology and products that serve their industry. You cannot afford to be set on cruise control, if you doze off, even if it’s only for one second; that could be the difference between life and death for your company.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Humble Pie!

One very important trait managers need to embrace is humility. Over the years I have had many managers and leaders tell me that they truly believe this but their actions don’t always reinforce their words.

I have tried to look at each day with a new set of eyes and I try to better understand the needs of my team, customers, vendors, and business partners. I believe that you shouldn’t focus on the way things have always been done, but to always search for better ways to do the things that have always been done. This is not possible if you get caught up in an ego driven environment. As leaders we need to keep an open mind and remember that great ideas can come from anywhere and/or anyone. We cannot afford to get wrapped up in titles or start to believe that we always know the best way. Get over yourself! And understand that many times the best ideas will come from your frontline team members, and more often than not, from some of the newest members that don’t know all of the learned behavior that has been followed by the team members with greater longevity within the company. Stop talking and try listening to what your team is telling you and find ways to support and reward their input.

I remember an old story I was told once that really illustrates this principle. You may have all heard this before but it is worth repeating. One day on a very busy road a large dump truck was traveling to a project to deliver his payload. As he went to pass under a bridge his truck slammed into the overpass and the impact wedged the truck underneath the bridge. The truck was just tall enough to wedge itself under the bridge but seemed to not really damage the bridge’s structural integrity. So as traffic started to pile up the police, emergency crews, and the city’s top engineers showed up. They were all trying to come up with plans on how to get this truck out from under the bridge. One suggested that they bring in a crew to cut the bridge up, and then pull the truck out. Another engineer said that it would be better to get some cutting torches and cut the truck out. Just then an eight year old boy sitting on his bicycle yelled out,”Why don’t you just let the air out of the tires?” This story shows the power of looking at things with “New Eyes”. Sometimes the years of experience we have can cause us to overcomplicate things and obscure the obvious solution.

One of my mentors, and hands down the greatest leader I ever worked for, once told me ‘if your mouth is moving you cannot listen, and if you cannot listen you cannot learn. So shut up and maybe you will learn something’, a little rough, but very true. One key to success is the constant pursuit of knowledge. So, if you are not learning every day, your chances at being successful are greatly reduced. The key point I want to make is that you can learn from everyone around you. Don’t only look to your superiors, books, classes, and the like. You can learn more about your business and how to make it better by listening to your team members and customers than you will ever be able to learn from the latter.

Finally, step down off your ivory tower and ask for your team’s input. Treat them with the respect they deserve, and remain humble. Remember that your team determines the level of your success, so show them respect and listen to their advice. As Ozzy Osborne once said, “You better be nice to the people you meet on your way up, because you will meet them again on your way back down”.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Customer Service Squared

Customer Service is my passion. For over two and a half decades I have spent most of my career trying to provide the Ultimate Customer Experience to my customers. Whether you call it the WOW factor, plus one, blowing your customers away, or any other of the latest trendy catch phrases, it all comes down to one thing. What are you going to do to make your customer feel special? If you don’t know the answer to this, you better start figuring it out. Competition is stronger now than it has ever been and if you are not willing to take the time to make your customers feel special, your competition will.

Many companies put their focus on new business, profits, production, or a whole laundry list of other metrics that affect their bottom line. However, the most important thing you will ever do to help your bottom line is to make your customers feel special. A legion of customers who are as dedicated to your service as you are to their needs, will result in an army of satisfied customers singing your praises from the mountain tops, which will bring in more new business than a team of sales people and a huge marketing budget.

The sad part is that very few companies take the time to exercise this very impactful process. In fact, quite the contrary seems to be the norm. It seems that most companies take their customers for granted. It is like, “Got-em, who’s next?” There doesn’t seem to be any focus on creating cost effective solutions, getting to know your customer’s business model and how you can help them be more competitive, or taking the time to listen to what the customers are saying. If you want to provide a better customer experience, the first step is to stop selling and start listening. The second step is, make them feel special!

Just the other day I was in Virginia doing a QC check on our team members. I walked into our customer’s store (a National big box home improvement chain) and asked to speak with the manager. A man named Trevor came out and asked if he could help me. I explained to him who I was and that I was there to perform a QC check on the work we had done in his store. Trevor looked perplexed as I started asking him questions such as, did our technicians introduce themselves? and did they let him know what areas would be effected before they started their work? As Trevor nodded his head in affirmation, his affect changed and he said “Stop!… Let me make sure I understand you correctly. You are here just to check on the work your technicians did?”

I said, “Correct.”

Trevor then asked if I was trying to sell him something, I said, “No, I am just making sure that my team members are performing to the standards I have set for them and that you are happy with their performance.”

As he continued to look at the business card I had handed him when I introduced myself, he said, “And you traveled all the way from Tampa to inspect their work?” I explained that I had many other stops, but yes, I was here to check on the work my Virginia team is doing. Trevor’s face started to relax and he began to smile. He said, “Do you realize that I have been a manager with this company for over ten years and in that time I have dealt with literally thousands of companies who came out to perform service on our store? Not once in the ten years I have been here has one company ever sent someone back to check on the work that was done, let alone someone of your status in the company, or from as far as you have come.” We then continued to walk the store together and look at the work my team had performed. Trevor was very complimentary about my team members and went on to tell me how impressed he was with the respect they showed the customers and how little impact they had on the store’s operation. Once completed Trevor told me what a pleasure it was meeting me and thanked me for my visit. I told him the pleasure was all mine and was on my way.

As I was driving to my next QC location, I couldn’t get Trevor’s words out of my head. How is it possible that such a high level customer has never had another company do a follow up visit for such an extended period of time? While I felt pretty confident that I had made Trevor feel special, that wasn’t the original intent. We have several steps we have included in our overall process to insure that our customers feel special as well as some steps that result in unexpected admiration. But the truth is that we really do care and there is no trick or process that can have the same results. Either you genuinely care or you don’t.

Take a minute and really think about this course of events. If a customer of this level, that has such a high level profile, is not getting even the basic care of a follow up, what does that say about smaller customers? If you are looking for a place to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, customer care seems to be a place with plenty of room for new players.

When you consider the amount of effort, time, and money, it takes to land a customer, it boggles my imagination why you wouldn’t use everything in your arsenal to keep them. While I am the first to admit that I am a little OCD about quality and customer service, and I hold my team to a much higher standard than the industry trend, I will never understand why companies don’t put their primary focus on building the customer relations they already have in place. As long as it takes to earn the business of your customers it only takes seconds to lose them. So stop running specials and start treating your customers like they are special. Remember there are multitudes of your competitors just waiting for you to slip up so they can get their chance. The long lasting effects of actually caring for your customers and making them feel as special as they truly are will propel your business through the rough times and help you soar long after our economic recovery.