Roy's Blog: April 2018

April 30, 2018

Why frontline people really hate the word “corporate”

I believe that frontline people “rule the world”.

They control the customer experience and live the brand of an organization every moment of every day. If customer transactions go well, loyalty is created; if not, loyalty is destroyed.

Frontline employees are always on the receiving end of customer “Why questions” — “Why don’t you add this type of draft beer?” or “Why did you take spaghetti and meat balls off the menu?” Or “Why do I have to wait so long to get a customer service representative on the phone?”

Rule the world

These are tough questions to answer, because frontline people are rarely given the answers in the detail they need to satisfy a customer’s query.

Leadership, for whatever reason, generally chooses not to share the details on matters such as product line selection, pricing rationale, credit rules and customer service policies with customer contact employees.

They think either that the frontline doesn’t need to know the details or that they can figure it out themselves.

I once asked a teller at a Credit Union why I should do business with them and not a bank. She was startled with my question and said “Because we share our profits with our members, and banks don’t” — not a compelling answer.
The truth is it wasn’t her fault; she wasn’t given the appropriate answer by the leaders who should be supporting her efforts. And so she was left to improvise and invent the answer herself.

This leaves the frontline in the untenable position of not being able to answer questions that customers have.

On more than one occasion, “It’s a corporate decision” is the answer that comes back to me as the reason a particular decision has been made. They know the answer sucks but that’s the truth to them because they have been left out of the loop.

And, of course, this does nothing to assuage the customer.

Frontline people hate having to use the “corporate” reference when engaging with customers; they feel incompetent and regret not being able to satisfy the customer.

But they have no choice because it’s the only answer they can give.

Leaders must make informed frontline employees a priority; here are four actions to make it happen.

Promote the frontline’s importance

Elevate frontline employees to the top of the “need to know” funnel. Effective customer engagement creates loyal customers and long term profitability so why would you not want to equip frontline employees with every tool they need to satisfy and dazzle customers?
And communicate what you are doing throughout the organization so everyone knows the cultural change being made.
Beats me why they seem to take the back seat to other groups when it comes to getting the information they need to talk to customers.

Determine their information needs

Ask frontline people — strike a frontline panel to help — what the top 10 questions customers ask them for which they have no answers.
And take their questions verbatim. Don’t allow some staff person to translate them into what they “really mean”, because all this does is allow their bias to enter the equation to distort the frontline truth.
Feed the questions back to the panel and ask for sign off before providing answers.

Modify the management performance evaluation plan

Rate managers’ performance in part on how effective they are at providing the frontline with the information they need. Ask the frontline to rate managers; they will provide honest input.
As president of the data and internet company, I implemented a report card process that had customer service reps rate my management team on their ability to equip them with the info they needed to serve their customers.
The first report card rated managers poorly; improvements in subsequent rounds were seen as action plans were implemented to address the shortfalls.

Report card

Engage the frontline in systems design

Who better to determine what information systems look like than the people who use them? Unfortunately this is rarely done.
Yes, we stipulate that systems designers determine the requirements of all stakeholder groups, but the frontline teams are not given top priority.
Frontline supervisors are asked along with managers in finance, inventory control, marketing and business development but frontline employees — those actually engaging with customers — generally aren’t given the chance to input directly to what the system should look like.

To deal with this issue, I created cross functional teams of frontline people who had the final say on how information systems that affected the customer contact process should be designed. And they were given top priority stakeholder status; others came after the needs of customer engagement were recognized.
This action did two things: first, it demonstrated to the rest of the organization that frontline needs were the top priority to support our serving customers strategic game plan and second, it showed frontline people themselves that their needs were paramount.

Informed frontline employees is THE essential ingredient in not only building a base of loyal customers, but also enhancing employee engagement.

Simple stuff and a competitive differentiator.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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Spectacular new ideas have a strong social purpose
Why angry people can make you successful
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  • Posted 4.30.18 at 04:29 am by Roy Osing
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April 23, 2018

Spectacular new ideas have a strong social purpose

The entrepreneur’s dream is to launch THE new product idea that will “change the world”.

Aspirations, however, must be tempered by the reality that less than half of startups survive five years — the kill rate is high.

At the heart of whether or not the entrepreneur survives is the nature of the idea itself, the problem it solves and how it compares to other ideas and solutions in the market.

Successful new ideas must serve a compelling purpose and be different

The success of a new idea starts with the purpose it serves and ends with it’s uniqueness . The mind blowing new idea has to serve a relevant, compelling, easily understandable purpose and it needs to be different from competitive alternatives.

And, on the other hand, a new idea that is simply different won’t necessarily be a winner if it doesn’t easily resonate with people as having huge benefits that could be realized by many people.

There are two bookends that describe new ideas: one is an idea that addresses a narrow specific need. These tend to be innovations targeted at a small specific application. Go to the App Store to see some examples — different types of keyboards, music apps, photo apps and a plethora of others targeted at niche demand.

At the other end of the spectrum is an idea that addresses a broad purpose and is often driven by societal problems.

Ebrake

eBrake is an example of a new idea that is a unique solution to the distracted driving problem where drivers use their mobile devices to text, email, watch videos, post on social media and engage with practically every other app that takes their mind off the road.

Both niche and broad spectrum new ideas are valid, but eBrake is likely to outperform the more micro specialized solutions for these reasons.

Distracted driving kills people

It addresses a broad compelling need. It’s common knowledge that distracted driving causes more traffic accidents and deaths than any other cause. Worldwide media are constantly reporting on the problem and what governments are doing to solve it. Social media as well keeps the topic alive.

eBrake talks to many people

It resonates with multiple market segments; it’s a special solution for many types of applications.
eBrake’s flexibility to deal with many segments needing a distracted driving solution is appealing, whether you are a parent concerned about your new driver or an organization with a substantial fleet operation.

A 10 year old could explain it

It’s easy to explain. Everyone knows what the distracted driving problem is all about and how the problem can be solved by locking out the driver’s phone while they are driving. eBrake does this while allowing passengers the use of their phones.
In less than a minute eBrake can be explained in simple terms that people understand and, what’s even more important, they can explain it to their friends and family in the same way.

EBrake only

It’s the only real distracted driving solution

It’s the only solution that does what it does. There is no other solution that does what eBrake does.
In fact eBrake is the only REAL solution to distracted driving because, unlike other solutions in the market, the app can’t be turned off by the driver. People get that if the driver can turn the app off, it provides no solution at all as the driver can simply text away to their heart’s content.

New niche oriented ideas that can be clearly differentiated from a competitive product can be successful but the energy and resources to turn them into profitable businesses is significant. And the investment required could exceed the time one has available to “stay alive”.

Find an idea with HUGE social appeal

In these cases the key to success is not simply being different; rather it’s about simplicity of the value proposition and the social narrative it serves.

Better to find an idea that has HUGE social appeal — large potential market available — and can be explained by a 10 year old.
And one where the cool technology isn’t relied on to sell it; rather the technology merely sits in the background doing what it should do — making the new idea work.

Serve a compelling social need in a way that is different than any other solution and you will indeed have a big idea that could — but not guarantee — win you the lottery.

But it has a better chance than a new niche idea that may be cool but doesn’t have the emotional appeal and potential critical mass to attract massive interest.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

Recent articles you might like
Why angry people can make you successful
11 ways knowing “Dumb Rules” could leave you needing a lawyer
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  • Posted 4.23.18 at 04:07 am by Roy Osing
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April 16, 2018

Why angry people can make you successful

Anger can be turned into adulation; pissed off can be transformed into hugs.

In the world of an organization, this fact is huge because, however unintended, customers get screwed over from time to time.

There are two actions that every organization should take given this eventuality.

First, ensure internal systems, rules and procedures are designed to make it easy for the customer to engage with and do business with you.
Design your “inside” with the customer in mind so they have a pleasant experience with you not a nightmare.

Murphy

Second, given the fact that Murphy’s Law is always lurking in the shadows poised to strike, develop a strategy to deal with customer screw ups.
Most organizations don’t even think about determining the appropriate course of action when customer engagement goes sideways; they hope and pray it doesn’t happen and put all their resources and energy into preventing its occurrence.

Prevention, as a singular approach, won’t work; it will help, but it will never avoid the unintended mistakes that makes a customer go postal.

Leaders should view dealing with customer complaints as a priority and as a vital component of the organization’s strategy to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Every customer “anger moment” is disguised as an opportunity to improve the strategic position of an organization if the customer is handled the right way.

Customer Anger Management 101

There are 3 overriding principles that need to be understood to achieve the benefits of anger.

1. Recovering the right way from an angered circumstance can improve the relationship you have with the person you pissed off.
If an organization recovers from a complaint exceedingly well, the customer is delighted and they are more committed to the organization than they were before the anger episode. They remember the recovery not so much the problem that caused it.

2. Speed is of the essence; the screw up needs to be fixed FAST.
When you have committed an egregious act the customer expects their complaint to be rectified, but it must be done quickly.
Studies have shown that you have at most 24 hours to repair your blunder; after that period you’ve missed the opportunity to be in the game for a hug.
If immediate action is not taken, the hug never comes and your victim typically communicates far and wide how disastrous your service is and the crumby values you have as an organization.

Hugs

3. Do more than fix the mistake; SURPRISE the customer with what they don’t expect. Even if the OOPS! is dealt with expeditiously, all you’ve done is met their expectations. It’s the SURPRISE element that turns them from “expectations met” to leaning in for a hug.
The SURPRISE is the magic dust that amazes and delights the victim; leaves them awestruck and breathless. And bonds them to you more than they were before the OOPS!

But beyond knowing the principles of anger gold, these tactics must be consistently practised in every anger moment to earn a hug and build a band of loyalists.

Apologize

Apologize regardless of who’s fault it is. Trying to blame the customer for the event won’t get you a hug.
Apologize for the impact the event had on the customer. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you” is a way to move forward into the recovery process without having to admit culpability for the OOPS!
And when it’s your fault own it! Your currency in the customer’s eyes depends on your honesty.

Shut up about company policy

NEVER quote company policy to justify what was done to piss the customer off. EVER!
People don’t care about them your and to remind them that they “don’t understand” how you do business and that they should have behaved differently will only anger them even more.

Shut up

Don’t escalate

NEVER have the issue referred to a supervisor as a means of control; empower your employees (https://www.bedifferentorbedead.com/blog/item/152) to solve the problem then and there.
This gives your employees currency in the customer’s eyes and enables a fast resolution of the complaint. And gets you closer to a hug.

Personalize your SURPRISE

NEVER use common “trash and trinket” items as the surprise vehicle you use to move beyond merely fixing the OOPS!
People hate them. Develop a list of more personal surprise tokens that employees can choose from depending on what they learn about the customer during the complaint experience.

Have humans standing by

Have a real person standing by any of your self serve applications.
Complaint recovery cannot be suitably handled through automated systems. When is the last time you enjoyed being served by technology - like an automated voice messaging system - when you had a problem with an organization?

Every organization looks for an edge over their competitors, but most of them miss an obvious strategy that can truly separate them from the herd.

Be the ONLY one that leans into customer anger and takes its energy to earn a hug — hugs breed success.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 4.16.18 at 03:44 am by Roy Osing
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April 9, 2018

11 ways knowing “dumb rules” could leave you needing a lawyer

“Dumb Rules” describes the rules, policies and procedures an organization has that make no sense to customers.

Dumb Rules make it difficult for people to do business with an organization; customers are forced to engage with the organization in a way that royally pisses them off.

The culprits of this phenomenon are the internal “rule mongers” who essentially are in the game of controlling customer engagement and subordinate “making it easy” for customers to applying tight control over how they engage.
Internal auditors, systems analysts, cost control folks, work study specialists and risk managers are among the group whose sole purpose it seems is to overwhelm the customer with constraints they don’t understand.

Constraints

I am sure my reader has had an experience where they have been on the receiving end of — and perhaps been beaten up by — a Dumb Rule.

In fact it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there are many Dumb Rule casualties out there who are constantly victims — it’s almost like Dumb Rules find them just to make their day suck.

I am one of those consumers who is a magnet for a Dumb Rule. I have been told in a restaurant that my wife and I couldn’t have a booth because they were reserved for parties of 4 or more (when the place was virtually empty).
I have been refused a sweater that was on a mannequin (the only one left in my size) because it was for “display purposes only” and could not be sold.
And I have been asked to put my credit card on deposit in an outside lounge before I could be served a drink because I might “drink and run”.

And the litany of horror stories goes on and on.

It’s like road rage

My experience has been that a Dumb Rule has an incredible impact on a person similar to road rage. It’s like this intense anger over the incredulity of the situation swells up inside you and must be released in some way. I personally have shot back at an innocent frontline person in these circumstances and I have seen others do so as well.
Sucking it up and turning the other cheek just doesn’t seem to be an option.

Road rage

Because of the powerful emotions lying dormant in every individual that are waiting to be unleashed with the right motivation, the consequences from “Dumb Rule Rage” could be catastrophic.

Need a lawyer?

In fact just knowing about Dumb Rules could leave you needing a lawyer in these ways.

— if you’re face to face with a frontline person who is doing their best to enforce a rule that you know is stupid, your intense response could be construed as a personal assault.

— when a Dumb Rule plummets you and you want to tell 10 friends, referring to the guilty organization as “a bunch of assholes” could attract slander claims that you are harming their reputation.

— bemoaning the Dumb Rule organization to others could attract claims that you’re turning customers away and as a result hurting their business.

Bloggers beware

blogging about your experience and mentioning the organization by name could not only invite a response from them, it would also leave a paper trail to prove their allegations that their business has been damaged.

— plotting with your friends and family to report the organization to the consumer advocate groups will probably require you to seek legal advice and prove your case.

— asking to discuss a Dumb Rule with a supervisor has the potential of escalating your anger in two ways, first, there will be a reluctance to “allow” you to talk to someone higher up (the frontline person loses face if this were to happen); second, if you do get to speak to the supreme being, they will probably look at you in a condescending way and tell you that “you don’t understand” that their rules are there to protect the interests of the company.

— questioning management at an annual shareholders meeting about their Dumb Rules will put you in the spotlight and on the record for challenging their methods and intentions and would add more evidence of your dissatisfaction should there ever be a confrontation.

Stay off social media

Social media

— berating the company on social media will do a great job of spreading your discontent far and wide and creating awareness of their customer service motives. But it will also magnify your intentions to “punish” them for their sins and provide more food for lawyer fodder.

— plotting about how you will “make them pay” for a Dumb Rule event establishes motive. Be careful what you are thinking; there may be a telekinetic lawyer listening.

#MeToo list could be waiting

— accusing an organization of an alleged Dumb Rule offence without proof could get you on the #MeToo list so be careful.

— turning your Dumb Rules knowledge into a cause, mission or vendetta could create marriage problems and require counselling assistance or legal representation if your partner wants to terminate your relationship .

An intimate understanding of the unfair things organizations to customers can be harmful to your health and well being.

Be careful how you use your Dumb Rule expertise, as misusing it could land you in the lap of a lawyer.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 4.9.18 at 03:09 am by Roy Osing
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