Courting Your Clients: 9 Essential Skills and Traits You Need to Nourish Superior Client Relationships

Courting Your Clients: 9 Essential Skills and Traits You Need to Nourish Superior Client Relationships

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

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“Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.”

-Stanley Marcus, former Chairman of the Board of Neiman Marcus –

Last night I got together with some friends for dinner after work. All of us had had stressful days at work and were looking to wind down before heading home. Each of us deals with clients directly during the course of the day, which was the cause for the frustration and stress.

Amid the variety of scenarios that my friends vented (everywhere from well-worn returns at my friend’s clothing boutique to contentious parent-teacher conferences), the tie that binds these stories together is the understanding that my friends have of what it means to serve clients.

I posed the question, “What image comes to mind when you hear the term Customer Service?” The responses, like gunfire, punctuated the energy in the air,

“Scullery Maid!” retorted the corporate accounts department manager.

“Babysitter!” the coffee shop owner interjected.

“Door mat!” uttered the boutique owner.

“Pain-in-the-A.R.S.E.!” confirmed the head of the legal department at a local shopping mall. We had some fun recounting stories of our worst encounters with clients, transitioning to our best encounters to be certain that we ended on a positive note.

I must admit that the whole concept of seeing customers as an excruciating evil that must be endured as part of the cost of doing business has always been a foreign concept to me. Even during the most exasperating exchanges in my earliest days as an official member of the Working World, I always felt that a client was upset because I had failed to hear what the client truly was saying/asking/needing or that I failed in my ability to communicate the solution (or reasons for a lack thereof) effectively to a client who couldn’t hear me. I quickly developed a set of skills and nurtured a few personality traits to tap into in order to make sure I could eliminate every barrier to a great working relationship that I could.

These nine essentials have never failed me. I, on the other hand, have failed when I have chosen not to employ these nine essentials. I have listed them below in the order in which they naturally flow. This natural order is also useful in knowing how to prioritize your learning and training needs. The first two are personality traits that you may develop even if you do not possess them naturally. The remaining seven are skills that anyone can master with commitment.

  1. A Contemplative Nature

    – or the habit of analyzing situations with the aim of making improvements for the future. In order to improve the relationships you have with your customers or clients, you have to take some time each day to review each of your interactions with your customers or clients. If you do not look back, replaying the exchange in your mind, you will never see what worked well and what did not work at all. If you do not look for the strengths and weaknesses in your relationships, you cannot make anything better, stronger. Remember, the Bionic Man was the result of a complete disaster, a rebuilding and strengthening of an apparently hopeless case. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the reference, I have included the opening sequence to the 1970’s television show.)

  2. A Passion for Solving Puzzles

    – or the habit of searching for the best solution rather than the easiest or the first solution that presents itself. I find, from my experiences on both sides of the customer service experience, that people respond well when they can see that you are working with them to solve their problem. By laying all the pieces of the solution on the table and working with the customer to put them together properly, the customer or client walks away certain that they have the full picture, that all the pieces are in place, and that this particular puzzle is complete. They also walk away confident that they have a companion, someone they can trust to champion their cause, someone they can rely on to help them through the difficult times rather than someone they have to fight with to get the help promised to them.

  3. Consciousness

    – or the habit of taking the lens off you and focusing on the people around you. There are many common sayings illustrating this concept – “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in his shoes”, “Wake up and smell the roses/coffee/manure”, “Everything is not about you” (Meryl Brooks in Two Weeks Notice). Once we stop thinking only of ourselves in any given situation, we open our eyes to the person in front of us. We begin asking questions that help us understand the sources of what a person feels, why they feel that way, and how it affects his or her behavior. Knowing the root cause of the behavior allows us to know what to do to change things, to be effective.

  4. Compassion

    – or the habit of caring. The more conscious you become about the people around you, the more you begin to care about them. When a customer or client is involved, your compassion goes a long way to developing a healthy working relationship, that in turn develops a long-term, loyal client. Demonstrating compassion towards another person is far easier, takes less energy and effort, than treating him or her with annoyance or disdain. Increasing the level of compassion you have for your customers or clients actually increases your feelings of having contributed something positive to the world, which helps you enjoy more the work you do. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to feel better about the work they do?

  5. Effective Communication Skills

    – or the ability to receive a message correctly and to transmit clearly your message. You can never have too much training in this one area. The more effective you are in sending and receiving messages, the less chance there is that you will misunderstand or be misunderstood, which creates a deep connection with your customers, your clients. The more people on your team who consciously develop effective communication skills, the more superior your service level will be.

  6. Highly-developed Listening Skills

    – or the ability to get at the heart of the matter. Listening involves more than just sound reverberating against your eardrum. Listening effectively, involves interpreting correctly what a person says and does not say, choices of words and phrases, tone, and a host of other components. Again, you can never have too much training in this area.

  7. Fluency in Non-verbal Communication

    – or the ability to interpret and transmit clear, correct messages without uttering a word. Although this is an integral component of effective communication, it is a highly specialized component requiring special attention. I have found repeatedly that the non-verbal clues my clients send have been the key to getting at the core issue, therefore the key to the best solution. Once again, I say, “you can never have too much training in this area.”

  8. Change Management Training

    – or the ability to help a customer or client navigate the multiple changes involved in the current problem he or she is experiencing. Most people do not realize that when a problem arises, it necessitates change – be it the immediate change in how a task is completed via a Work-around or a complete shut-down of operations – because your customer or client is now missing a piece (or several pieces) to the puzzle. Whether a customer comes to us for a new dress for a friend’s wedding, or a client approaches us to overhaul their company culture, our customers and clients come to us to provide a solution to their problem. We need to understand how this change effects the client – what emotions it triggers, what the client is afraid of, what natural stages a person goes through when faced with change – in order to be able to guide the client, as a human being, through the process in as stress-free and effective manner as possible. A great book to start with is Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter.

  9. Leadership Training

    – or the ability to lead the customer or client through the communication process to a mutually beneficial end. Of the multitude of people I encounter, a rare few understand that it is the job of the business owner, Customer Service Representative, Sales Representative, or anyone who deals with internal or external clients in the course of the workday to take the lead in the customer experience. Clients look to us as the expert, the professional, the parental figure who will make everything better. It is our job to make sure we can be that figure for our customers and clients. (This is a great video to spotlight basic difficulties and misconceptions about leadership.)

Each of these skills is powerful by themselves. Think about how super-charged your customer and client relationships will be when you develop all of them and use them together every time you work with each customer, each client. In the words of Robert Half, “When the customer comes first, the customer will last.”

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Making Your Move: 5 Approaches That Will Ruin Your Chances with a Prospective Client (& What to Do About It)

Making Your Move: 5 Approaches That Will Ruin Your Chances with a Prospective Client (& What to Do About It)

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“If you respect the customer as a human being, and truly honor their right to be treated fairly and honestly, everything else is much easier” – Doug Smith –

 465352043As a consumer, I have seen a great many approaches to courting my business. In my thirty-two years in the field of Customer Service, I have seen a great many more. Most of these approaches leave me speechless – well, actually, once I pick my jaw up off the floor, they leave me in desperate need of a soapbox from which to expostulate.

Courting clients, like courting a sweetheart, is a delicate art – one that requires finesse and attention to detail. Above all courting clients requires respect. Let’s look at the five sales approaches that companies use most. These approaches top my list of the worst techniques to enticing clients to purchase your product or service for the simple reason that they are meant to provoke a quick sale with little regard for developing a true and lasting relationship with the buyer.

  1. Screaming and Excessive Hype (the marketing equivalent of a beat-down) – Think about your days in grammar school. Did you ever pay attention to the teachers who screamed at you or spent the class time pounding the information into your brain? By the end of class, your brain was suffering from an intellectual concussion, swelling beyond the confines of your skull, numb from the pain of the beating. You hated that class and the teacher who inflicted the suffering. As a business owner, what would make your potential clients feel any differently about you, or what you offer, if you approach the sale with this Old School Teaching mentality?
  2. Patronizing or Belittling those without your product or service – This tactic always reminds me of the bully who tries to make himself or herself look better or feel important by talking down to or making fun of those they deem vulnerable. To those with this mentality, work at making the vulnerable feel more so, thereby in acute need of the bully’s services. Again, the victim resents the bully, continually looking for ways to avoid him or her and get away as soon as possible. How loyal will any clients be to your company and product who are gained by being bullied into buying?

  3. Begging or Desperation – This one should be obvious yet I see far too many business owners resorting to this approach. Think of all the scenarios in which you encounter people begging something from you – a c0-worker for gas money/lunch money/a date, an irresponsible neighbor for another night of babysitting to go clubbing, a stranger on the street for a handout, a friend’s brother for a sympathy sale of the steak knives he peddles door-to-door. Unless you are Mother Theresa or Princess Diana, your instinctual response is to runaway as fast and as far as possible. Sometimes both parties are uncomfortable with the situation. Oftentimes only the person of whom the resources are requested is the one feeling awkward, cornered, trapped, helpless. Not only does this approach set skin to crawling, as a business owner, it eradicates all credibility and professionalism, labeling you and your company as incompetent and clueless.

  4. Taking – This one is particularly irksome to me, as a consumer and a business owner because it leaves me feeling used and abused. The most prevalent form of this approach is the misused automated e-mail and newsletter. I receive endless e-mails filled with sales pitches faintly disguised as friendly, personal notes to me intended to solve my problems (or in Office Speak, to add value to my life). The only thing these e-mails do is to w.a.s.t.e. m.y. t.i.m.e. period. If someone is bold enough to blatantly disrespect me by bloating my inbox with demands for me to “Buy Now” because “This Limited Time Offer” “Ends TONIGHT” so “Don’t (be a loser and) Miss Out”, I have no qualms about filtering these e-mails directly to the trash where they belong.  

  5. Elitism or Discounting/Dismissing/Judging a potential client by appearances – I am always reminded of the scene in the movie Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts’ character goes shopping, the classic example of what not to do. Watch the clip. It speaks for itself.

If you employ any of these tactics, you may be interested to know that:

  • 30 % of your business’ success lies in the success of your relationships with your clients.
  • It costs more than seven times as much to attract a new client than it does to keep a current client.
  • There is a significant difference in the lifetime value of your Average customers and your Above Average Customers. [This article will enlighten you. Make certain that you are sitting down, as I know you will be quite surprised.]

By relying on The Dreaded Five, as I like to call them, you literally are reaching into your corporate coffers and handing wads of cash to your competitors. If you want to eliminate the extra stress of having to slave away constantly for little return, you need to look at the client acquisition process differently. The best way I have found to do this is by mastering The 3 Cs of Superior Client Relations – Consciousness, Compassion, and Communication.

Taking note of the core element that each of The Dreaded Five have in common is the complete lack of respect for the potential client as a human being. People who are drawn to these approaches generally view their audience as Targets, Spend, Prospects – all impersonal terms, terms for things and theories.

Removing the person from the message is the same as trying to talk to a cement block. Cement blocks have no need of what you offer.

  • Rather than screaming sales messages at your audience, try starting a conversation with them and listening to what they say.
  • Rather than talking down to your audience as if they are morons or three-year-olds, try talking with them as respected members of the community, as adults with a different point of view.
  • Rather than begging anyone and everyone for business, try focusing on educating those who would most benefit from your product or service about the pieces of the puzzle that they are missing and what they are missing out on by not having these pieces.
  • Rather than constantly demanding something from your potential clients, try giving with not thought to what you will receive in return.

This month, take stock of your sales approaches. What type of relationship with your would-be clients are you setting up with these approaches? Are you creating relationships filled with apprehension and animosity that won’t last long, or are you initiating nurturing relationships that will last far into the future? The next time you make your move, if you approach it properly, you will be assured of a second look, a date with your ideal client, because your potential client will know that you are in it for the long haul.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

The Little Things Add Up: It Pays to Become Conscious of Your Reason for Being in Business

Little Things Add Up: It Pays to Become Conscious of Your Reason for Being in Business

by Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

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“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” –Maya Angelou

 

Standing in line at my local coffee shop this morning, I contemplated the fiasco unfolding before me – the same fiasco I have witnessed each day since they opened their doors several years ago.

Today, there were four people behind the counter preparing orders and taking payments, fifty percent more staff than usual. One would think that this increase in help during the morning rush would be a good thing. Well, only if the additional people know what they are doing. They did not. This is, of course, not their fault. The owner’s idea of training is to run through quickly with the new hire how to operate the machinery and heave them into the fray, bewildered and terrified by the throng of commuters clamoring for their liquid defibrillators, their quad-venti-caramel-macchiato-jolts-of-life to begin their commutes to work (for which they are already late).

Between the shortage of baked goods (the baker’s tantrum heard more clearly throughout the store as it persists), the constant turnover in staff, the slightly inconvenient hours, and the owner’s blatant lack of social skills, I am amazed at how long this business has survived. It is clear, listening to the others in line, that people want to see this owner succeed because there is the potential for something truly special here. The owner is a wonderful and fascinating person, the food is of the highest quality and inventive, the coffee is fantastic, and the space is cozy. With some reworking this place could be a center of local activity.

The core of the problem seems to be the owner’s attitude. She really doesn’t like the business. She is more comfortable in the large corporate environment from which she came, being told what to do by a supervisor. She hates being in charge. She prefers solitude in which to be left alone to work. She doesn’t do conflict. And coffee? She can take it or leave it.

In becoming a successful business owner, it is critical that you be able to articulate what it is about the work you do that sets your heart aflutter, as well as the aspects of the business that sends you running, screaming into the night. Unless you can explain your passion, you will never be able to relate it nor convey it to your staff and customers. How can you expect your employees and customers to care about your business if they think you don’t care.

I once worked with a client whose contentious employee relations were spilling over to his customers. His employees couldn’t stand him, he couldn’t stand his employees, and his customers were paying the price in constant turn-over, constant mistakes, and added stress due to poor treatment. Working with him, I asked, “If things are at the point where you hate coming to work every day, why do you stay in business?”

What followed was a passionate discourse on the effect his services had on his customers’ lives and how he felt privileged to be a part of changing lives for the better. He was angry all the time because his employees didn’t care, they took no initiative, and made no personal connections with customers.

   “Do your employees know this?” I proffered. “Do they have any understanding of how much a part of this mission they are? Can you see how they could misunderstand your frustration with the situation as your being angry with them even when they do what you tell them to do?” Once he saw all the little things that added up to the colossal mess he was dealing with simply because he had never put words to his passion, he was able to communicate this to his staff and instill in them the same passion, which in turn they passed on to their customers.

Articulating your passion helps keep you focused on the passion – which makes it easier to keep problems and the less savory aspects of the business in perspective. During this month dedicated to expressions of love, send yourself a Valentine. Take the time to write down what it is you love about what you do, why you are so passionate about it, and how you can declare your undying love to your staff and your clients.

If you don’t love the work you are doing, explore the things you do love to do. Start a relationship with them and see which one is your one true love. Like all true love stories, the rest will sort itself out.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

15 Easy Ways to Celebrate Customer Service Week (and Do a Bang-up Job of It, Too)

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“The way you treat your employees is the way they treat your clients” – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

With Customer Service Week only five days away, I thought I would share with you a few more ideas and resources to help make the planning and execution of a fabulous day easier for you. Below are my 15 helpful tidbits. Please e-mail me your stories and photos from your week’s celebrations. I will be happy to share them with our readers.

  1. Create and send a daily Customer Service Week newsletter to all the members of your team/department/company as a quick way to keep everyone apprised of the day’s events, remind people of requirements for the next day, announce winners, and highlight superior service instances or a team member’s accomplishments.
  2. Put together a yearbook with photos, stories, or anything that made the week special and memorable. I combined the yearbook aspect with a cookbook our print department bound for us. Each member of the department received a copy. To earn money for next year’s celebration, you could check with management about selling copies to those outside your team for $5 or $10. Here are three of the recipes I included in our cookbook –  Cathleen’s Favorite Recipe – Barbecue Drumsticks Cathleen’s Favorite Recipe – Black Moons Cathleen’s Favorite Recipe – Quiche Lorrainehandwritten thank you
  3. Every day have each person write at least one way that three people within the company helped him or her do a great job servicing clients. Give examples. Then complete an official thank you note and send it via interoffice mail. Each person on the team should choose three new people each day.
  4. Give a contest winner an extra 30 minutes or an hour for lunch on the day of his or her choosing.
  5. Award prime parking spaces to winners or on a rotating basis to each CSR.Reserved Parking
  6. Give gift cards to each member of your Customer Service Team. Also great for contest winners. DD Thank you gift cardgold-gift-box-small gift card  Starbucks gift card Apple Gift card (disclaimer, the links in this post are not affiliate links, merely suggestions of gifts that have worked well for me in the past.)
  7. Hold a special breakfast or luncheon in honor of the Customer Service Team, either on site or off.
  8. Work with local sports teams, theaters, art centers for possible donation of tickets as prizes.
  9. Hold a storytelling contest of the best and worst client experiences each CSR has had. If you can’t find an electric fireplace to tell the stories around, you can download a fireplace app for your phone to add a special touch.talent show
  10. Hold a before or after hours talent show or karaoke contest. If it works logistically, hold the contest in the department’s conference room throughout the day. Alternatively, the contest could be held in the cafeteria or some other place that would bring exposure of Customer Service Week to the entire company as a means to encourage further participation.
  11. Have CSRs write a short piece (this post is 576 words) on how they got started in Customer Service and what they love most about it. Post the stories on a central bulletin board.
  12. Ask upper management to write personal thank you notes to each CSR.
  13. Allow CSRs and others to send Thank You balloons (for your service, dedication, cheerful help, whatever fits) to
    the CSRs. You can charge 25 cents per balloon and 15 cents to add a personal note (check with Human Resources regarding message guidelines to stay compliant). An inexpensive way to handle this is to write on plain balloons with colored Sharpies.
  14. Hold a regional food festival as a mid-week pick-me-up. This could be done either as a potluck or as complimentary take-out food.
  15. Hold a photo contest to capture the spirit of the week on film. Alternatively, you could put together a video of the week for your company intranet.

If you do nothing else next week, make certain that you thank everyone who helps you service your clients well. Remember, although there may only be a few days to pull together an official celebration, it is never too late to say Thank You to someone. Sticky note thank you

5 Days of Easy Ways You Can Celebrate Customer Service Week in Your Office

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This October, the 5th through the 9th to be precise, marks the 23rd anniversary of Customer Service Week, an international celebration of the hard work and dedication of the people who keep customers happy and take care of their needs.

Click on the official logo above to access the official website and get started on planning your celebration today.

As a former chairman of the Customer Service Week committee at a former company, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the ideas we used to show our appreciation for our Customer Service team and the other people in the company who helped us do our jobs in servicing our clients. As our company became aware of Customer Service Week only a week beforehand, we had no official budget so these ideas are all low to no cost. Once the week progressed, other departments caught the bug and donated or sponsored extra events, such as an impromptu Wednesday afternoon pizza party to accompany our planned departmental Miniature golf tournament. Let’s get started.

  • Using supplies we found in the supply cabinet and printing certificates and signs using the official logo, we put together a Welcome Center after hours so that the Customer Service team would walk into the office on Monday to a great big “Thanks”.

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The Welcome Center is where the week’s schedule of events was posted along with updates and all the get-to-know-you activities that ran throughout the week. This is where the grade school teacher in me went into overdrive, as you can see.

  • Some of the activities we held were:
    • a childhood photo match where each member of the department brought in a copy of their favorite baby picture (I was the only one who knew which one belonged to whom) and everyone had to guess who was who. The guesses came in all week and were revealed on the last day. We didn’t have a budget for prizes so we posted the winners boldly at the Welcome Center and left it up for the week afterwards.
    • a Something-you-might-not-know-about-me Contest. Each team member sent me five or so tidbits about themselves that other team members did not know such as “I was voted Band Preppie for all four years in high school” or “I am an archery instructor” or “I am the fifth generation of Civil War re-enactors in my family”. Again, the results were revealed on the last day.
    • Word searches, sudoku puzzles, and sundry trivia games that people could work on during breaks.
  • For each CSR, we hung balloons in the official colors with a gift bag of company-logoed gifts (donated by the head of our business unit) along with official Thank You certificates for things each one had done for clients or co-workers. During the week, more certificates were added as people from within and outside of the department added their thanks. (A note: The enthusiasm we created drew people from other areas solely out of curiosity as to what was going on that was so much fun.) Image085

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  • Monday we held a Kick-off Tailgate party for lunch. Everyone brought in their favorite tailgate food along with the recipe. Tailgate

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  • Tuesday was a pot luck CSR-only breakfast held an hour before the lines opened. For this, I bought Thank You gifts for my team (ceramic travel mugs from Starbuck’s).  BReakfast 1
  • Wednesday was the impromptu pizza party sponsored by the marketing department to accompany our miniature golf competition and non-alcoholic Margaritaville, complete with Jimmy Buffet music. Each person was given a paper plate with a hole cut in the center to decorate with whatever they had at their desks. We then placed the “greens” around the office. The marketing staff leant us their clubs (conveniently stashed in their trunks) and company-logoed golf balls. The winner was awarded first place in line for the next day’s pot luck luncheon. Image121

    I am quite proud of this green. I chose the 19th hole. Notice the diver looking for errant golf balls.

  • Thursday’s Pot Luck Luncheon – Pot Luck
  • Friday’s Red Carpet Walk (each CSR had his or her own stars with more thank-yous from people in the company) and lunchtime movie snacks (donated by the snack bar) 
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Power On

Teamwork in the office

Power On

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

 “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. ” ~Charles Darwin

 

Flash! Crack! Pop!

Darkness engulfs us. Silence, too, but for the pelting of rain and hail on the house and windows.

A neighbor’s tree has just split in two and taken out the power to the neighborhood as it fell on the power lines across the street, pulling the wires from her house in the process. A few of us neighbors gather in the storm to check on our neighbor and her ninety-nine year old mother. We assign ourselves various tasks of calling the town about the tree, the power company about the wires, and vacationing neighbors about windows left open and the severity of the storm. We also call our neighbor’s son a State Trooper, to make sure his Mum and grandmother have the help they need during this frightening time in the middle of the night. All the while, we take turns staying with our neighbor and bringing her updates as new developments occur.

Change is hard enough to deal with when one has time to see its approach and adjust. There is so much emotionally to come to terms with during times of change that often goes unnoticed under the best of circumstances. When change takes us by surprise and places us in a state of complete upheaval, we feel the lack of control and the effects of all our emotions on a highly magnified scale. Without someone to keep us grounded and to guide us through the change, we, like my neighbor in the storm, fall to pieces in some fashion, unable to think clearly and take the necessary steps to deal with the change.

Recently in New England, the news was full of accounts of a particular company in the throes of sudden upheaval after decades of rumblings from within the beast of an acrimonious family struggle for control of the business. In the early stages of this most recent installment of a public struggle, it was easy to see the ulterior motives of some of the participants in spite of the veils with which they covered these motives.

This brings me to the point of my comparing two seemingly dissimilar situations.  Change will happen. It’s inevitable. Whether it happens at its natural pace or thrusts itself upon us is irrelevant. How we handle the change matters. Whether our handling of it produces three-dimensional, positive results is determined by the motives involved in the change. Our motives may be pure or they may not be pure. The motives of the other parties involved in the change also may be pure or they may not be pure. Whatever goes into the change, will have an impact on the results. “Garbage in. Garbage out.” as the saying goes.

Conversely, if you put good stuff into the change, it will produce results that are good for everyone. Here are a few things to consider the next time you are facing change:

  • If you are the instrument of change, ask yourself what your motives are in instigating the change. Be honest or there is no point in reading any further. If your motives are self-centered, admit it. Then, decide what you are going to do next. You can continue on your original path, or you can decide to care about the people left in your wake by asking yourself if there is another way to get what you want while helping others in the process. In the corporate situation above, the motives behind the change were the best-kept secret everybody knew yet the offending parties would not acknowledge, thinking instead that they were hiding them. Mid-way through the ordeal, it reached the following point:

“Any reasonable person would begin to put into question whether or not this is going to happen, whether [the defendant] will be able to put this together,” said Richard Nicolazzo of the communications firm Nicolazzo & Associates, which has advised companies such as MetLife and Nortek in acquisition deals. “If past is prologue, I’m not optimistic. I think that this has been a situation where it’s no longer a rational or economic discussion. It’s about, ‘You’re not going to win at any cost,’ even if it means putting this company into some kind of reorganization.’”

  • Do not be shortsighted in your quest for big profits. My thirty-plus years in the corporate world have allowed me to witness well-planned change strategies that made the companies stronger on paper and at their core because the companies took into consideration all the aspects of what the changes would mean to everyone involved. I have also witnessed hastily made changes designed to boost the Bottom Line for the upcoming shareholders meeting that ultimately produced devastating results.

The advice that my grandfather gave me when buying my first car holds true for all of Life’s decisions:

“I you are pressured into buying the car without being allowed to step back and consider the deal from all angles, walk away because the deal’s no good. If it were good, it would stand on its own.”

  • If your goal is not simply to survive the change but to thrive throughout the change process, be certain to include solid change management practices into your strategy. By helping your employees to deal with the emotional aspects of change throughout each stage of the technical/physical change process, you will have a workforce fully able to support the change from beginning to end, becoming advocates as opposed to adversaries.

Copyright © 2014 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.

The Unseen Value of Superior Client Relations

The Unseen Value of Superior Client Relationships

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

How often, as a client, have you experienced the sense of disconnection with the particular company you happen to be dealing with at a particular moment? How often do you become frustrated when you just can’t seem to get the company’s representative to deal with you on a personal level, to break away from the official script and listen to what you are asking? How often, as a business owner, do you apply these experiences to the way your company provides service to its clients? 

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More times than I care to mention, I have been in the same position and experienced the same frustrations. Oftentimes I just bear it (grinning never entering into the equation) thinking that there is no point in taking my business elsewhere as “they’re all the same”, biding my time until someone else comes along with a better offer that will make the lousy treatment somewhat worthwhile.

I am no shrinking violet, however. I have no qualms about taking my business to a competitor who will treat me properly; with the respect I deserve (reporting my dissatisfaction to the Better Business Bureau, et al). I am the client who silently slips away, because experience has taught me that:

if someone will not listen when they have my attention, they will not listen when they’ve lost it. A company that will not treat me with the respect I deserve 1.) will not notice that I have taken my business elsewhere, and 2.) will not care why.

Experiences such as these have made me keenly aware of the level of service I provide to everyone I meet. As business owners, it is ever more critical to pay close attention to the service provided by one’s company.  It is critical that, as business owners, we continually place ourselves in the shoes of our clients in order to keep a loyal client base by paying attention to, and meeting, their individual needs. As noted in an article in Spoken Communication (http://blog.spoken.com/2010/10/cost-of-acquiring-a-new-customer-6-to-7-times-more-than-keeping-exisiting.html), the financial benefits alone are incentive enough to build strong, working relationships with each client. The most staggering statistic of the bunch was the phenomenal increase in profits that come from increasing client retention by as little as five percent – a five to ninety-five percent increase in profits.

According to the article referenced above, it costs up to seven times more to attract a new client than it does simply to hold onto a current client. Client Acquisition Cost = Total Acquisition Expenses /Total New Clients. In order for you to get a clear picture of how valuable your current clients are to you, look at your Client Acquisition Costs in relation to how much revenue each new client brings in and how long new clients generally stay with your company. Now compare that to the revenue your existing clients bring in (not forgetting the value of their Word of Mouth advertising and referrals) as well as their longevity with your company and the amount of money spent on retaining them. In today’s economic environment, how much sense does it make to throw money out the window chasing possibilities rather than keeping the same money in the bank maintaining tangible assets? This is not to say that attracting new clients is unnecessary, as that would be foolish. This is merely to demonstrate how easy it is to overlook the true value of the clients your company has already acquired. Look at your own numbers  and see how much you could actually be doing to build your business with the savings.

A key to superior client relationships is the motivation behind the relationship. If the motivation is strictly financial (and, clearly, this is a strong motivator), the authenticity of the relationship will be lost and the lack thereof will be immediately noticeable to one’s clients. Another critical factor in establishing and maintaining superior client relationships is that the motivation, desire, and initiative in doing so comes from the very heights of the company and filters down through every person in every department.  In this way, the authenticity of the relationship is maintained at every point of contact, building confidence and trust with each client. Confidence and trust are key components of client loyalty, which as we have just learned, is a truly valuable asset.

Sit. Stay. Fetch. Making Clients Beg for Treats

Dog in Meadow

Sit. Stay. Fetch. Making Clients Beg for Treats

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

“It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies.” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

The day finally arrived. You know, the one you wait for with the anticipation of Santa for December 26th. What is this most anticipated day?  It is the day I can finally claim my free birthday item. Yours might be from an accessories store, a hardware store, a local restaurant. Mine is from my beloved coffee shop and I had all I could do not to camp out overnight to make certain that I started my birthday off on the right foot.

As the line slalomed its polite yet frenetic way through the designated course to the counter, I double-checked the e-mail on my phone to be certain that I followed the instructions.

“Bring your registered card or mobile app to the store to redeem your reward”.

Registered card in hand? Check!

Balance on card? Low, but check!

Desired Birthday Coffee memorized and ready to order? Check!

Card handed to cashier? Check!

Imagine my surprise when the cashier requested further payment for my free Birthday Beverage. My card balance was now $0.00 and I was being charged for a gift my coffee shop said they gave me. When I asked the cashier about it, showing her the e-mail, she said that I should have told her beforehand, then moved me along and took the next person in line.

The e-mail informing me of the birthday gift made no mention of my need to inform the cashier. In fact, the e-mail implied that the only way to receive my gift was to use my card and that because my card was registered, all I had to do was present my card at the counter and everything would be taken care of. Eventually, I straightened it out and received my birthday gift, though not after having to jump through hoops and beg for my treat.

What started out as a nice surprise, turned into an ordeal that tainted my day and my relationship with a business I have been loyal to thus far. The next time you offer your clients a gift, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Be clear as to the details of your offer.
  2. Test and review your offer until you are certain that your message will be understood as intended.
  3. Train your staff thoroughly on the details of the offer/gift and empower them to correct misunderstandings as they happen.
  4. Make your offer/gift easy to redeem. The less your clients have to do to receive the gift you’re giving them, the happier they will be. To keep things in perspective, imagine how your family or best friend would react and feel if you made them do what you are making your clients do to receive a wedding present, birthday, or anniversary gift.

In the rush and the struggle to find new ways to reach out to your clients, thank them, and reward them for their loyalty, it is easy to lose sight of the basics enumerated above. Of course, there are also the technical aspects of sales tracking and other business considerations that have a say in the final offer and how you administer it. To create the most effective promotions, you need to find the right balance between your business needs or restrictions and treating your clients like the Human Beings they are. Remember, your clients are not dogs. Do not make them beg for treats. If you treat your clients well, they will reflect that treatment back to you and your company.

Copyright © 2014 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.

Feeble, Foolish, Wise, or Skillful

“Feeble, Foolish, Wise, or Skillful”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

 

“The feeble tremble before opinion, the foolish defy it, the wise judge it, the skillful direct it.”

– Mme. Jeanne Roland –

 

Today’s issue of The Rossiter Report is simple and straightforward – a meditation for the week. Take this week and gauge your reactions to other’s opinions (clients’, coworkers’, everyone’s) in comparison to the quote above. Once you see where you stand, determine if there is some other place in the spectrum you would rather fit, then work towards that goal. If you seek, truly, to build a team that has a great, positive impact on your company,  your success in this endeavor will be directly related to where you fall, ultimately, in the line-up.

LectureMP900316768Woman Framing with HandsPlanning

 

Copyright © 2014 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.

Multi-tasking Musings

MP900432728

“Multi-tasking Musings”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

 

“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness; not to be a mere rushing on.” – D. H. Lawrence

It’s really quite lovely. Aquamarine bordered in navy with an inner border of swirling peacock feathers. A beautiful repository for the twenty or so tasks I must accomplish this morning, my To Do List sits patiently on my desk waiting for me to reduce it to nothing.

Waiting…waiting…waiting…

For someone who is decisive, organized, industrious, the To Do List is both friend and foe. More often than not, a friend who keeps me on track, helps me to focus, and allows me to accomplish many tasks in a given time frame. Some days, like today, my To Do List is a foe, a swarm of butterflies fluttering before my eyes, impossible to catch.

As I sat here struggling to corral the butterflies, exhorting myself to end the procrastination, I couldn’t help but remember me in college. Back then I had a tremendous capacity for concentration, prioritization, and quickly completing whatever needed to be done in the allotted time. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that version of myself over the years.

The only explanation I could come up with is that my decades spent in the corporate atmosphere, with its expectation of constant multi-tasking has trained me to flitter from task to task as each one presents itself. Particularly in a call center or customer service departmental scenario, new crises present themselves constantly.

I recall the substance of an article I read a few years ago (yet sadly am unable to find the article to share it with you here) that stated that multi-tasking is not a natural Human trait. The article states that multi-tasking was invented for computers to be able to perform calculations and function properly.  It makes sense that as employees are continually asked to do more, to be more productive, put in longer hours – essentially to be more machine-like – that we would develop machine-like traits.

Yet, how good is the work that is produced under these conditions? Certainly it is good enough to get the job done. In order to rise to the level of Superlative in our businesses (specifically in relation to the service we provide) we must strive to produce work that is better than Good Enough. One way I have found to produce superlative work in a limited timeframe is to follow these steps:

  1. Compile a working Master List of the tasks you need to complete, categorizing them as Complete Today, Complete This Week, Complete This Month.

  2. Within each list, prioritize each task or project.

  3. Gather everything you need in order to complete each task in one place (my favorites are the plastic, Velcro-closure, expandable project folders), label it, and store the folders in order of priority. Sticky-tabs with the priority number are a good visual aide.

  4. When it comes time to work on the next item on the list, take out only that project folder and get to work. Oftentimes, the visual clutter of more than one project is a distraction.

  5. If you have conflicting priorities, give each top priority a specific, set amount of time to work on it. This helps keep you focused and moving forward.

  6. Re-prioritize as necessary.

  7. Keep a status sheet at the beginning of each file to make it easy for you (or anyone filling in for you) to not waste time figuring out what has been done already and where to start. Update the sheet at the end of your time limit. File. Then start on your next task.

This method has produced consistent results for me over the years. It replicates the productivity of multi-tasking while dramatically improving the quality of the final product , reducing stress, and conserving your energy for when you really need it.

 

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