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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

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

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

Increase Revenue Through Education

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Several years ago, a well-known business consultant told my husband that to increase revenue all he needed to do was to raise prices. While my husband did review his practice’s pricing structure, mostly, he ignored the advice. Instead, he did a market assessment to determine what additional services he could offer. Armed with that information, he chose two new services he would start providing to his patients and clients.

In today’s economy, added value is a requirement to increased prices. A business owner could add value by adding products or services based on what distributors offer, or what the competition is offering. To really add value, look instead at what your customers are asking for, especially those they don’t ask for directly. Sure, if prospects ask, “Do you offer xyz?” that could be a potential new revenue source but if they’re asking you for a specific product, they’re asking your competition, too.

Instead, listen to your clients’ frustrations and find where their pain intersects with your own interests, as well as trends and competitive service offerings in the area.

When my husband did that analysis, he chose two new services; he saw a growing need and interest in both and they were both areas that would keep his active mind engaged. Before he could offer either service, he needed targeted education. The education required will take just about every form of education available – on-line, self-study, and classroom.  Although he feels confident in his market analysis, there is no guarantee that the new service will be profitable in his market (the first new service is already up and running and profitable). Is there any chance that the education will go to waste? Not a chance.

This summer, we saw this same consultant speak, the one who claimed all a practice owner had to do to increase revenue was to raise prices. His rally cry now? “Offer new services.”

Be smart; analyze your market and gather the knowledge to support your offerings.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

The Decision to be Magical; Customer Service

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about companies whose customer service sets them apart, who focus on delivering a “WOW” experience to their customers. I’ve read about their customer service visions, their employee training, the company cultures, and the systems that easily perpetuate extreme service. At the most basic level, though, extreme customer service is a decision to treat people with respect, the way they want to be treated.

We all want to be one of those businesses who have that special spark; we can feel that the energy is different as soon as we step into their space or begin doing business with them. Do we recognize that they have a system to manage inventories or to communicate with key clients monthly? Businesses are not magical because they offer employees a 401(k) plan, not even because they offer free shipping on returns. Businesses are magical because a person decides to deliver stellar service. Businesses delivering terrific customer service make decisions after considering the question, “How will this impact our customers and clients?”  Magical businesses ask “How will this impact our customers, employees, vendors, and shareholders?”

If you have been toying with your customer service approach, begin at the beginning: what level of service do I want to provide? The only wrong answer is the one not in line with you, the business owner, which also needs to be in line with what it is you are trying to build.  For example, a fine craftsman may decide that customers will have to work around his design and build times. Be honest with yourself as to what kind of service you want to provide and if your product or service will support that.

Ask yourself: “If we were in our customers’ shoes, what decision would we want the business to make?” You may decide to take another approach, but the answer to this question should at least inform your decision.  By incorporating this question into your decision making process, your business will be on its way to becoming magical.

 – 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.