Roy's Blog

June 11, 2009

How to AMAZE your customers -  break your own rules

Rule #4 the four step process to AMAZE customers deals with the often encountered situation when your rules clash with what the customer wants, and how your frontline employees are empowered (or not) to deal with the situation.

Do your frontline employees spend a great deal of their time enforcing the rules, policies and procedures of your organization and, as a result, are constantly saying NO to your customers?

The most frustrating thing for frontliners is to have to be a rule enforcer and having customers constantly pushing back.

Do you really think it is possible to amaze and dazzle anyone when you are constantly trying to get someone to tow the line on something they don’t agree with?

Every organization has a rule infrastructure to govern their operations; its a necessity. BUT when your rules start to butt heads with a customer to the point that they get upset (and yes, enraged sometimes) and recoil from you due to your rules, you need to introduce the notion of flexing to the customer when it makes sense to do so.

Frontline people need to be able to bend a rule on the customer’s behalf if it means keeping the customer loyal.

I’m not talking about doing anything illegal or anything with this type of consequence; rather the internal policies that can be bended for a customer who has special circumstances that were not foreseen by the policy.

Rules and policies are created in the image of an “average” customer but the reality is that the average customer doesn’t exist. They are ALL different.

So, empower your frontline people to bend one of your ‘standardized’ rules, policies or procedures when the customer needs a different treatment; when their needs are quite reasonable but out-of-bounds to what the book says.

First of all, your frontline will NOT ‘give away the store’ and chaos will NOT result from this. In fact in my experience, empowering frontliners to ‘say yes’ actually produces a greater degree of rule enforcement as they typically reserve flexible treatment for those customers who truly need it.

You will be rewarded by a customer who is dazzled by how they are being treated as a human being rather than as a transaction that has to be controlled by the rules.

And, in addition, you will have a loyal customer who will tell others how truly great you are.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

  • Posted 6.11.09 at 08:20 pm by Roy Osing
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June 6, 2009

How to AMAZE your customers - kill dumb rules

Rule #3 of the four step process to AMAZE customers involves a common occurrence in most organizations every day: customers run head on into an internal rule, practice or procedure that annoys them makes them go postal.

This is the “dumb rule”, a rule that was given birth probably by some control freak with a nonsensical purist view that a customer should behave in a certain way that serves the organizations purposes with little regard for whether or not a customer will react favorably to getting treated in the prescribed manner.

In my experience the fathers and mothers of dumb rules can be found in staff jobs whose role is to develop and implement operating procedures to govern, among other things, customer transactions.

And, unfortunately, in some cases where customers are not the prime target they become collateral damage in the rule’s application.

One of my favorite dumb rule stories took place at The Mirage Hotel Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. There is a wonderful deli in the casino that serves the best rueben sandwiches ever but the customer friendliness of their rules sucks.
My wife and I show up and asked the hostess for a booth and were told flatly that our request was not possible since it was their policy to offer booths only for parties of 6 or more.

I get that some analyst wanted to maximize the check value from these specific seats, but in this case the store was empty save my wife and me! Maximizing revenue beyond the two of us was an impossibility!

Not only is this rule stupid (since the appropriate way to deal with customers from a hostess point of view is to ask the customer where they would like to be seated), the hostess was not empowered to break it in this case when it made sense to do so.

She enforced this stupid policy mindlessly with utter disregard to the impact it was having on us. Not her fault really as the organization had their rule enforcer glasses on and were not about to bend even a fraction of a standard deviation from it.

Dumb rules need to be killed or they will kill the business!

They serve as nothing more than a de-dazzler in the customer experience and people will definitely take their business elsewhere.

How do you go about identifying and wacking these ugly loyalty threateners?

Go ask your frontline what dumb rules they are constantly having to deal with. They know them.

The issue is do you have the courage to listen and do something about them?

I created “Dumb Rules Committees” in operations divisions and appointed a leader for each committee responsible to seek out and destroy (or otherwise modify) rules that made customers crazy.
Fun was had by all over this concept. All divisions welcomed this initiative; they all were passionate about the purpose; all made stupendous progress.

We had contests among the committees and celebrated the winners; the committees that not only identified the most aggravating customer rule (judged by their peer group) but also took whatever action necessary to get it resolved.
My role and that of my direct reports was to remove any roadblock’s preventing the committees from getting a rule dealt with.

What about rules that are required by law or regulatory governance?

First of all do careful due diligence to make sure that the claim is real and not posturing of a champion who doesn’t want their rule or policy removed. If the rule IS necessary, however, then at least look for ways to make it customer friendly.

And reconsider how the rule is enforced with a customer; what communications strategy is used. Is it friendly and helpful or is it demanding and intimidating? Take the time to design the customer communications content to minimize an adverse reaction; not always possible but it is worth doing nevertheless.

At the end of the day, if you purify your organization of 80-90% of dumb rules your customers will reward you with continuing loyalty and your reputation will soon attract new customers as well.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

  • Posted 6.6.09 at 06:54 pm by Roy Osing
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May 27, 2009

How can small business create a really awesome strategy?

If you own or operate a small business, how much time do you spend developing a strategy that allows you to navigate the turbulent waters of the current economy? I often hear ‘I don’t have time to plan, I’m too busy running my business.’, or ‘Everything is so unpredictable these days I don’t see the point.’ The truth is that every organization needs a strategy; otherwise how will you measure success?

It doesn’t have to be a complicated time consuming exercise. Using the BE DiFFERENT approach you can build an effective strategy in three days and execute it on the fourth.


1. First, set your financial goals by deciding HOW BIG do you want to be?
The numbers’ determine the character of your strategy: modest goals yield minimal change and a relatively low risk strategy; aggressive goals require more directional change for your business with higher attendant risk.

2. Second, decide on the customers you want to target by answering WHO do you intend to SERVE? You have a choice here; customers are not all created equal and you need to focus on those who have the potential of satisfying your financial goals and leverage your core competencies.

3. Third, determine your competitive strategy through determining HOW will you WIN? This requires you to define your uniqueness versus your competition. If you can’t give your chosen customers unique and compelling reasons why they should buy from you and not your competitors then unfortunately you will have to play the price game which is not a strategy for the long term.
Try to develop your only statement. ‘We are the only ones that…’ This is an effective way to summarize your HOW to WIN work. It forces you to define precisely what you and only you provide the customers you have chosen to SERVE.

The final BE DiFFERENT step is to integrate the answers to all three questions into your Strategic Game Plan.

‘We will (HOW BIG) by focusing our scarce resources on (WHO to SERVE). We will compete by (HOW to WIN).’

Here’s an example:

‘We will grow sales revenue by 25% over the next 36 months by serving the needs of the four seasons vacationer market in Washington State. We will compete and win by creating personalized experience packages that incorporate the many activities that Whistler has to offer.’

Cheers, Roy Osing

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

  • Posted 5.27.09 at 01:06 pm by Roy Osing
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April 28, 2009

How to AMAZE customers - recover from your service blunders

Rule #2 of the four step process to dazzle customers deals with how you respond to a service breakdown in your organization.

Typically service breakdowns include such things as a broken promise made to a customer, a product or service that doesn’t work the way the manual says it should, billing mistakes or service repairs that need to be redone because they weren’t completed right the first time.

The formula is:

Service Recovery = Fix it and Do the Unexpected.

Lets face it when you screw a customer over, they expect you to fix it. They aren’t dazzled when you correct your error; they don’t say ‘WOW I can’t believe you actually remedied what you screwed up!’.

This is where most companies fall short. They actually believe that by merely fixing their mistake the customer will be satisfied and their obligations will have been fulfilled.
If you are only concerned with satisfying customers that may be true but if you want to dazzle them and earn their lifelong trust and loyalty you need to go further.

The dazzle factor is about doing what they DON’T expect.

The challenge is to discover the extra action that will both surprise and delight the customer and blow them away .

The dazzle act must first of all be relevant to the customer. Providing something extra for the customer that doesn’t resonate with their needs, wants and desires will leave them scratching their head.

And it must be compelling. It must be a high priority with the customer to make them incredibly impressed that you would go to all that trouble.

You really need to know your customer really well.

And you don’t have forever to complete the recovery process.

Studies have found that you have about 24 hours to get it done;after that loyalty goes down the tube.

It is counterintuitive, but making a mistake and executing a dazzling recovery results in stronger customer loyalty than if the service breakdown never occurred at all!

Last point: if recovery is such a critical element in building customer loyalty, why are there very few organizations that have a recovery service strategy?

You can’t recover well by ad-hoc action. Recovery must be carefully thought out in terms of the customer group involved, the dazzle actions that should be taken and the level of recovery investment the company feels is necessary given the value of the customers they serve.

The dazzle plan and the required investments should reflect the value of the various customer groups served; the higher the customer value, the more robust the recovery actions and the higher investments that should be acceptable.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

  • Posted 4.28.09 at 12:29 pm by Roy Osing
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