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Where Neflix Failed; Get Customer Feedback

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Customer FeedbackEarlier this week I wrote about the “Genius” of Netflix. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the core mistake that they made: they forgot to put themselves in their consumers’ shoes. They analyzed data, considered technological trends, even looked at customer transactional history – all really important things to do. They forgot, though, to imagine, “What will this mean to our customers and how they use our product and service on a daily basis?” If a Netflix employee had sat down and walked through the proposed new customer interface, the dual sites and lists at an increased price, I’ve got to believe that Netflix wouldn’t have continued on their “Do No Wrong” trajectory. Netflix CEO may have been Fortune magazine’s business person of the year in 2010; this mistake may earn them the title “Blunder of the Year”.

Small business owners have the advantage of being close to their customers;   it’s easier to stay in communication with 200 or 1,000 customers than it is 23 million. The trick is taking advantage of that opportunity. Here’s my two- step process to help you avoid a Netflix-type error:

Ask.

Listen.

A third critical element to this process is to put your ego on the shelf before, during, and after the asking. Our egos want us to believe that we have all the answers, that our ideas are amazing and can enrich our customers’ lives. But customer feedback is not a personal attack, it is not a statement on our genius, yet it’s easy for an entrepreneur to take it that way. After all, for most of us, our company, our products and services, are like our child. And also like our children, they are separate and distinct from us.

Data is invaluable and my clients would attest that “get reliable data” is one of my battle cries. Just remember that customer input and feedback heard through open ears is one of the most critical pieces of data.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

The Genius of Netflix; What Do Customers Want?

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As if losing 800,000 customers wasn’t enough, Netflix stock dropped 35% yesterday. Their product segmentation attempt and pricing changes in September confused and frustrated customers; asking customers to visit two sites, keep two queues (one for streaming and one for mail) and pay more for the same service was too much. Customers have been leaving in droves.  Netflix decision makers probably found themselves asking thinking about what do customers want?

Yet I maintain that Netflix has behaved like geniuses, or at least better than most businesses. In just over a month after the changes took effect, Netflix admitted that they had made a mistake and reversed the decision to move to two cumbersome sites. Their investment in creating a second site, a second company, must have been enormous, yet they did the right thing for their customers and scrapped it all.

Making a mistake is tough; admitting it is even tougher. Netflix did the right thing by asking what do customers want?  Of course, their tumbling stock price was a pretty good incentive. Small business owners don’t have stock prices as indicators; we need to listen to our gut, our intuition, and to “hear” what our customers are telling us. An uneasy feeling about a business decision is an indicator to look more closely and to ask questions. Once you have reliable data, act quickly and decisively to correct your mistake.  And if the shoe fits, admit that you’ve made a mistake and apologize quickly.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Going Analog; Small Business Problems

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My laptop is being shipped back to HP today; seems they forgot to put in the web cam. I’ve spent the last five days trying to wrap my head around how I would exist without it for the three to five business days it will take; one of the many small business problems I am sure you can relate to.  Deciding which three to five days it would be was a chore in itself.  I’ve decided that as I take off today to visit my coach in North Carolina, my laptop would go its separate way to receive its missing part. This morning I thought I was having heart palpitations as I scrambled to get ready.

At first I prepared to take my husband’s leftover laptop; it’s more than a couple of years old, but I thought it could do the work. I printed e-mails from my Outlook; transferred files onto a USB drive. I was frantic trying to think of everything I might need for my meeting as well as preparing for some lengthy client meetings next week. And then this morning I decided to go analog. Phew. It’s a bit scary, but I’m also excited. My shoulders relaxed a bit. Without relying on existing client documents, what might I create when I have to start from scratch? What might flow when I pick up a pen rather than poise my hands in front of a keyboard?

It’s only fair to say that I will still have my smartphone but they’re not as smart as they think they are. For the most part, I will still have to rely on my cranium. I’m looking at it like a real-life word search puzzle. I also have my Kindle, freshly loaded with a new novel as well as the handful(s?) of business books I tend to accumulate.

Being without my laptop for a few days is a little bit like being without my kids for a few days. Anxious beforehand, relaxing and thought-provoking during, and grateful when we get back together.  What small business problems can you turn into opportunity?

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Being Rated The Best

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A client called today very excited about being named one of the “Best” in his industry based on a survey of his state’s residents. “I don’t believe it.” “Certainly there are bigger and better providers.” I could see he was going to be a tough one to let this news sink in. We spent a few minutes dissecting what would prompt his customers to vote him as “the Best” and the answer became clear to him: “It’s because I care and they know it.”

He realized that his passion for his life’s work shows; he realized that taking the extra client calls, listening to someone’s personal story, and giving advice when he can all add up to being rated “the Best”. Before you wonder if he has no free time and no boundaries around work, let me tell you that he has more free time than ever, loves his work, and pursues his personal interests. He’s able to do that because he got crystal clear on who his ideal clients are and the value that he brings to them. He now thoroughly enjoys his clients, which makes it so easy for him to give that extra level of service. By now I hope you are intrigued and wondering “What would I need to do to be rated the best?

  1. Understand who your ideal clients are; find a way to let the others go.
  2. Know your value. If you’re unclear, find the juncture between what comes most easily to you, what you could do all day, and what your customers most recognize you for.
  3. Be willing to ask, and listen to, your clients for feedback. They can’t tell you they think you’re the best if you don’t ask. Be open to both positive and negative and learn.

My client is “the Best” for many of his clients; for his openness and willingness to change, he’s the best in my book, too.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Kudos; Show Employee Appreciation

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I recently ran across a florist gift card given to me 11 years ago when I started my business. It reminded me of the notes I used to have in my top pencil drawer in corporate; notes given to me from my boss, staff members’ heart-felt thanks, and odd, small tokens representing our inside jokes from my boss. It didn’t matter if the notes were on a real card (rarely), a sticky note, or scrap paper; if it was a note of appreciation I kept it. Perhaps this represents my insecurities or need for recognition. Whether it is or not, I think every employee out there relishes employee appreciation for a job well done.

Small business owners have so much on their plate; truth be told, many of them have said “I wish I could run this business without any employees”. They sometimes tell me that they just want employees to come in and do their job. That’s it. They’re not interested in a relationship, they just want the jobs to get done. But every time you put two or more people “together”, in whatever form, a relationship by definition exists. And the better each party cares about the relationship, the more lucrative it is, in every regard.

Letting those around you know that you appreciate their efforts or an accomplishment isn’t hard, even for busy small business owners. All it takes is acting upon your thoughtful impulses. See an employee go above and beyond? Send a short e-mail. Someone tries something new? A pat on the shoulder along with a “Nice effort – love that you’re trying something new” will work wonders. If this feels next to impossible to you, give yourself a quota per week to get through. While it may feel forced and disingenuous at first, it will help you become aware of your thoughtful impulses (you do have them!) and encourage you to act upon them. Go for it – let the kudos begin.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.