Taking the Temperature of Client Engagement

It’s almost protocol.  Nearly anywhere you go, before you enter the space, a thermometer is pointed at your head to ensure you’re fever free.  They’re taking your temperature. Being proactive.  Not a bad thing to be in any client engagement space. Maybe we could finally learn something from this pandemic. Are you taking the temperature for your client base?  Yep, totally spinning this to customer service. What would it take for your team to provide consistent unwavering and exceptional customer service?

Charles Schwab said, “Good business is good relationships.” These wise words resonate to this day. It’s the relationship and the experience. Yet, we get so focused on the next sale, the next conquest, the next cha-ching. What do we do to keep the relationship current with our current and existing client base?

We buy products and services and things from the people we trust. Our clients share this same paradigm. And this viewpoint is very elementary in nature.  We KNOW this. Where most of us fail is maintaining the relationship after the sale. Consider the gym membership. Your new car purchase. The financial advisor who earned your business. Have you heard from them in a while?

The start of any business relationship is like dating. The honeymoon stage. You’re excited. You get butterflies in your belly. You’re on your best behavior. You’re gung-ho on the new relationship. But like a fading fresh paint smell, when it comes to follow up and staying engaged, we get in our own heads and start thinking, “this element of networking is weird and  awkward.”

Then we attribute the non-engagement to the market, buying trends. We think:

“Most gym memberships drop off in March.

I send a quarterly portfolio.

It’s a lease. They’ll be back when the term is up.”

What would it look like to ensure the relationship is sustained? How are you taking the temperature? What do you do to constantly obtain feedback and insights from your client base?

My friend and real estate agent Brenda D’Amore with Keller Williams Inspire is the YODA of taking the temperature for client retention. I’ve utilized her real estate expertise and have referred her business. I trust and know her team will not only sell or rent a property, but that she has the resources to facilitate the process.  She comes with a menagerie of house inspectors, general contractors, and attorneys.  Her role is to be a resource.  Buy your new home with confidence. That’s just the buying journey.

Brenda has mastered the cadence for follow up for client retention. She champions the element of remaining in contact with clients. Think about it. How often do we buy a house? I not only receive the magnet with the sports schedules for the side of my fridge, but recipe cards, and phone calls and emails. Brenda is constantly touching base to see how we’re doing. During the holidays, she hosts an open house at her Geneva office and provides pies for your family to serve for a holiday dinner. When I’m adding whipped cream to my pumpkin pie and my family asks where it came from, Brenda becomes the topic of conversation.  You see? It’s the relationship.

So, I ask again, how are you taking the temperature of your clients? What are you doing to sustain engagement?

Below are a few tips to sustain that honeymoon phase with your client base.

    1. Genuinely and sincerely value the client and how they contribute to your business.
    2. Ask your client how often they want to hear from you. Then…. Create a cadence for constant touch points.
    3. Plan a calendar for one week, one month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, two, milestones, birthdays, etc.
      • NOTE – every month has a national day to celebrate coffee, dogs, chocolate, etc. Pick a topic and celebrate with a promotional item for your clients.
      • Extra points if it’s specific to your client preferences or need
    4. Take notes to remember personal things about your clients;
          • kid sports, dog names, hobbies, etc.

Have fun and never stop taking the temperature. You never know where the next referral will come from. In business, that’s the highest compliment to receive.

 

The New Awkward

My sister recently divulged a call-center, customer service experience while following up to an online order.  Ladies, you can relate. Since the pandemic, those who previous kept their nail hygiene current with gel application probably found their hands less than visually appealing near mid-April.

With nail salons closed, my sister found herself with overgrown cuticles and paper-thin nails. Breaking and peeling, needing mineral strength, my sister knew of a polish to harden nails and enhance growth. There are two prominent brands that sell this product, and unfortunately, you cannot find it in stores.

My sister first shops at her go-to spot; Amazon. She is shocked by the price of the polish and hoping to restore nail strength with this magical elixir, she visits the manufacturer site to shop direct. The bottle is half the price found on Amazon and she makes her purchase. At check out, she is told to print the page and retain for her records.

She waits eagerly for the order. Waiting. Waiting. No arrival. Her nails look like hell, and she’s frustrated (I know first world problems, right?) She first contacts the company via email. No response. Not even acknowledgement of the email. Fortunately, the company is US based and she is able to call a customer service line.

My sister provides the order confirmation number to the agent and the agent communicates she won’t even look it up in the system. My sister is told, “Honey, I can tell that’s probably an official order number, but I can’t look it up. We are back logged. We have been back logged since February.  You’ll get that order when you get it.”

WOW?!?!  Awkward. First off, “Honey??”  Awkward.

No time frame for delivery?  Awkward.

No, “thank you for your business?” Awkward.

In customer service and client engagement, it’s always been about the experience.  It’s the experience that we talk about; good or bad.  It’s awkward that some haven’t figured that out. If the business focus is the client or customer, the business operations reflect this.  A business mindset focused on the client experience, results in memorable experiences that increase brand loyalty.

Knowing how to deviate from a process and determine when it helps, hinders, or alienates a client is key.  In a pandemic, we race to establish new patterns and routines. We find ourselves searching for the “new normal.” We sprint to sustain operations when deemed unessential. We battle to exist, forgetting the client experience.

The “new normal” is the “new awkward” when we become a finger-pointing, victimized culture that blames a pandemic for bad customer service. STOP! Choosing not to have a plan of action is a choice.  Choosing not to have a service recovery plan is also a choice. Choosing not to consistently acknowledge that our businesses exist because of the clients who purchase and subscribe to our products and services is arrogant, limited thinking, and a choice that leads to business fatality. In business, that’s always been “the normal” and it remains the norm now. How do we forget this? The new awkward is that poor customer service seems to be a result of a pandemic.

If your businesses offers products and services (which is pretty much everyone) please consider this. No matter the new norm, be certain your teams are focused on the client experience. Customer service is about engagement. Business is about relationships. Ask what the expectations is, then figure out a way to exceed it.

If your team is still establishing the “new normal,” consider the following:

    • Give eye contact and greet every client.
    • Use word selection carefully to provide an experience: ma’am, sir, may I, please, thank you, etc.
    • Extend appreciation to the client, guest, or customer. Make them feel valued.
    • Provide timelines to set expectations.
      • Advise and own up to delays, glitches, issues.
    • Address client concerns.
    • Have a recovery plan for when things go wrong.

These are the basics; elementary in nature, with a huge impact. May you establish your normal and divert from any awkward.

The Quest for Customer Service….and a BIKE!

It’s not just toilet paper and Lysol wipes in short demand. It’s trampolines and freezers. And, have you tried to buy a bike recently? A few weeks back, we did.

The last time I purchased a bike was……well, never. Bikes were a childhood thing, not a mode of transportation I considered in high school or at college. In truth, at college my best friend had many horrid experiences of hitting stop signs or trees in her diversion to not hit pedestrians on a busy IU campus. (Go Hoosiers!) I’ve always opted for running or walking when outside, but when my daughter mastered the art of riding her bike sans training wheels, it was time to purchase a bike for me, so we could venture trails and paths as a family.

I approached searching for a bike, like shopping for a purse or pair of shoes. If I liked the look of the item, I simply “hearted” it on websites like Dick’s Sporting Goods or REI or Meijer. I had no clue the features or benefits of bikes.  My last bike was a Schwinn 10-speed from 8th grade, probably collecting dust in my mom’s garage. Tires rotting.

The Shopping Experience
Here was my shopping approach. If I liked an item or brand, then I would search the brand’s website. Again, looking for the color of the bike. Not realizing there are so many different types. The cruiser. Off-road. Hybrid. Mountain. Electric. The Step Through. A world of overwhelm, the research and purchase became stressful.

I called friends who are bike enthusiasts. In truth, they love the outdoors; biking, swimming, hiking, running.  They advised not to shop at a big box, but to look at local bike stores.  So now surfing the web for my local bike stores, I’m shocked at the sticker price. Holy Cannoli bikes are spendy. Getting over the sticker shock, I began to shop.  Daily consulting calls with my friends for advice and insights commenced. As I found a bike online, I’d call to ask thoughts and suggestions.

It wasn’t until my best friend’s husband advised, “buying a bike is like buying a car.  Once you know the brand, you’ll want to go to a store and test drive it.” This analogy resonated as I consult in the auto industry. The light bulb went on. “Each brand of bike has its own website – its own franchise to provide greater details of the bike you like.” I was given two to three brands suggested for the type of trails and roads I planned to explore.

Shopping then became educational. I began to look at features: size, frame, suspension, seat, speed, tire size.  Then it was time to schedule the appointments.

The Appointment
I know in any industry, when a sale knocks at your door, the response time is key. If an internet inquiry, the closing ratio increases with a 2-minute response. Other metrics will suggest anywhere from a 15-minute to 2-hour response time.  For me, making the appointment was a challenge in itself.

I phoned three local bike stores.  One I left a voice message for, and to this day, I haven’t heard back. The second, I called with only a message that the store was operating on alternate hours due to the pandemic. No option to leave a message was offered. The third answered and scheduled an appointment for later in the week.

On that Friday, we packed in the car, excited to venture out. We were on a mission. The Goal? Purchase a bike and bring it home.  We arrived to the Trek store and the doors were closed. We had face masks on, waiting for acknowledgement that we were there.

The doors opened and the staff looked surprised to see us. We communicated we had an appointment at 2pm, glanced at our watches for a time of 2:04 pm. We were invited in.  We communicated that I was looking for a hybrid and that my husband was also considering a new bike. So that was an opportunity for not one, but TWO sales. (Count Dracula laugh from sesame street – ah ah ah).

Bikes filled the massive showroom and we were told, “We have no available inventory. We would have to order online, and nothing is scheduled to arrive until June.”  There was no sales pitch, no invitation to review bike types or test drive anything. No questions as to, “what might you be looking for.” The staff dismissed us and our attempts to purchase a bike.

My facial expression was hidden by my face mask, yet my eyes spoke volumes. I thought, “why didn’t you tell me this on the phone?  Why make us travel to the store if you knew this in advance?” We had simply interrupted their assembly time, and we were the inconvenience.

We drove home feeling frustrated. But now the mission was on. I would have a bike. I called the other two shops and after multiple attempts to a store in Glen Ellyn, the phone was answered. “Yes, we have inventory. We are getting new inventory every day.” I made an appointment to visit the next day.

We arrived at our scheduled appointment time and realized the appointment was not an actual appointment, rather a “wait in line until the next customer is done.” We were admitted to the store 20 minutes after our “time spot” and we inquired about specific brands and models.

Both myself and my husband were able to test drive the bikes. My husband’s choice was unfortunately purchased by another client who was in the store concurrently. “Apologies, the client who arrived before you, has selected to purchase that bike.” I selected a hybrid and they serviced and added accessories: a water bottle holder and a kick stand (yes, bikes no longer come with these – you purchase them as an accessory.)

We were told to wait in our vehicle and they would bring the bike out when ready. We were advised, they would reach out to my husband, when additional inventory for his bike size arrived. To date, although we’ve made attempts to reconnect with the store, no follow up on their end.

LESSONS LEARNED & TIPS to ENHANCE CLIENT COMMUNICATION

  • Transparency is key. Tell clients what to expect. Limited menus, limited inventory. No inventory. Set expectations before they arrive.
  • Communicate.  Updating websites with call times or messages of “due to extremely high call volumes, our response time is now 2 business days.”  Be certain to under-promise and over-deliver. People simply want to be “in the know.”
  • If you set appointments, keep the time frame.
  • Ask clients what they hope to accomplish during their experience. It’s a good opener to see if you can meet those expectations.  Then plan to exceed them.
  • Have a system for follow up. A CRM or database to track information. Take notes. Take the time to get to know your clients.

The store in Glen Ellyn earned my purchase, but not my husband’s. He rides his older bike and will consider a purchase next season. I question if I will travel that far to service my new Cannondale.

For now, let the family bike adventures begin!

A Line Drawn in the Sand

So let’s talk mindsets people. Because it’s so very important to have a positive one these days.  Mindset is what makes all the difference when it comes to achieving goals. Mindset influences our actions and behaviors. It influences our ability to move forward. And in these times, it’s paramount for us to be extremely selective with our thoughts.

Can you think back to less than 90 days ago?  2020 was going to be thee year.  But, we’re social distancing.  Working remotely.  COVID 19 and speculation for when these uncertain times will end are the topics for every conversation.

For some, right now it may feel like an NFL game with less than a minute to play and the score is 23 to 3. Question. Which team are you on?  That response alone puts a spotlight on where your mindset is.  No matter the score, how do you continue to play with all your heart?  I asked this very question to an individual who emulates focus and an unwavering dedication to health and mindset. During a recent dialogue, NFL Super Bowl champion and FitSpeed owner Darcy Johnson provided insights into how he sustains a positive mindset, dedication and perseverance to his professional and personal goals.

I first met Darcy last summer after I saw a Facebook ad offering a six-week health challenge.  Weary of my scale going in the wrong direction, and eager for a change, I submitted my info and made an appointment to visit the gym. That gym was FitSpeed.

The day of my appointment, I met Darcy and he walks me through the program. His positive energy was instantly infectious. I’m intrigued but as I looked at my calendar said, “There’s no way I can do this. Six-week commitment? I’m a road warrior. I travel too much.”   Darcy looked me dead in the eye and asked me “When will you decide you’re worth it? When will you decide to make yourself and your health a priority?”

It was a line drawn in the sand. And I signed up that day.  In that moment, I took the step to make myself a priority. Now a member of FitSpeed, I love the community I’ve found with my 5:30am workout crew and the strength and endurance I’ve gained from a commitment to fitness.

Darcy is dedicated to fitness and well-being.  His viewpoint:

“Health is so important. It’s our bodies. A healthy body is positive. It keeps us going. It’s like they say on a plane, help yourself before helping others. That’s what health is all about. Help your body support your life.”

And when I reflect on my journey, I wonder what would have happened if Darcy hadn’t challenged me.  If he hadn’t drawn a line in the sand.  So, I question: do we need that? Do we constantly need a line drawn in the sand to influence action? What is that motivating line that sparks action?  What does it look like? Once that line is drawn, how do we keep momentum? How do we sustain the excitement and the initial rush to withstand the journey?

For Darcy, the NFL influenced an unwavering mindset to play with all your heart.  He said,

“You’re always being graded in the NFL. No matter the game, your performance is always being evaluated. You’re not thinking about just that play, but the next game, the next season, the next draft.”

Dedication was further sparked by his wife, Carissa.

“She is my partner and I know how lucky I am for her to be in my life. Before I met Carissa, I didn’t realize that people could live such a positive life.” 

Now the love for God, his wife and family motivate Darcy to live positively every day.

Last month I addressed Mindset and goal planning. Psychologically, I’m intrigued with how we react when faced with challenges.  I find the fight or flight conversation captivating.  How is one sparked to act when faced with a challenge and another not?  So, in these uncertain times, will you fight or flee?  The score is 23 to 3.  Which team are you on? Which team do you want to be on?  What if right now is a line drawn in the sand for our communities? Our cities? Our country? Ourselves?  What if we took this time make ourselves a priority? What if we stopped talking about how we’re powerless and look at the blessings around us and start planning? What if we started to play with all our heart? Intrigued? Here’s how.

Steps to Increase Mindfulness & Emotional Investment.

1 – Know your WHY? Your purpose. Your passion. What we love takes little effort, it’s just what we do and who we are. We’re inspired and motivated. We crave the adrenaline for doing it. We “lose time” in these productive moments. If we live in our ‘why,’ we can easily build more of these moments into our day. **Note: Master this step. It makes the next steps easier.

2 – Build awareness of your internal dialogue and then shift as needed. Are you being supportive or negative? Are your emotions and thoughts past focused or forward focused?  Micheal Hyatt in his book Free to Focus writes:

“We reserve the word discipline for those things we don’t want to do. Thoughts can be limiting. Example:
Limiting belief: I don’t have enough time. 
Shifting: I have all the time I need to accomplish what matters most.”

Are your thoughts sparking and inspiring or limiting? As Ford once said,

Whether you think you can or can’t you’re probably right.”

3 – Plan. If we don’t plan, we’re leaving room for distractions. If the goal isn’t written down with a timeline or plan of action, it’s only a dream. Find your triggers (time of day, after a meeting, after a specific task) and create diversions and alternative space to alter your behaviors. I find planning tasks during specific time frames of the day increases focus and productivity. For example, I won’t allow myself to check email during “writing time.”

4– MOVE.  Movement sparks energy. Walking. Journaling. Actions that release tension and build momentum.  There will always be bad days. Acknowledge them. Release the tension and let it go. Keep focused on the goal – your WHY – and make your goals a priority.  Action is required for any goal attainment.

5 – Find accountability. Find support.  Reach out to a friend or colleague. Hire a coach. Schedule a weekly touch base call with a mentor or individual who will spark more action. Read something funny. Be playful.  Breathe. Keep a quote or song that will get your juices flowing in sight.

6 – Live in Gratitude.  Find appreciation in the little things. Tell someone how they inspire you. Focus outward. Lastly, remember that joy on the journey is what it’s all about. If we we’re waiting for the end result to feel happy, or accomplished, we’re missing out on all the special moments that make us who we are.

Would love to hear how you’re using this time to achieve your goals. Please leave your ideas and thoughts below.

 

Emotionally Charged

Valentine’s has passed. The shortest month of the year is coming to an end.  Every day we are closer to Winter’s end and the days grow longer with additional sunlight. Green decorations, anticipation for Spring and thoughts of March Madness are on the horizon.  We’ve stopped greeting each other with “Happy New Year.”  Yet……..have you made any strides on your resolution or Q1 goals?  Are you implementing?  Or, has the adrenaline rush for a magnificent 2020 tapered as daily routines absorb your attention? Have priorities shifted? What are you doing to keep momentum?

Do you find planning and talking about goals intriguing?  Get excited talking about the future and what it could be. You can feel the heartbeat accelerate. Envision the dream.  Yet implementation falls short? Is it only the resolution?  Or is there a pattern to the lack of follow through?

I recently spoke at the Corn Belt Seed Conference in Indianapolis, and the focus for the event was client engagement, customer service and the member care they provide to their suppliers, vendors, and teams. Agriculture – the industry that feeds and sustains the world’s population is focused on customer service. Goals to impact the client experience. Goals to leave a thumb print, cultivate teams, and differentiate a field typically not associated with hospitality. Client engagement is truly transcending all industries.

Drinking by fire hydrant, there was a multitude of information presented to these attendees.  Suggestions from myself and other industry professionals on what they could implement with their teams; their own “conference resolutions.”  I challenged the attendees to take out their phones and plan a cascade. To schedule in that moment, a team meeting and at that meeting to plan how to implement. Because, when we attend an event, we can become infused with excitement.  We drink the “kool-aid” and we’re sparked, inspired, on fire. We find genius in simplistic thoughts.  “A-ha!  That’s how it’s done!” But, when we return to our regular environment, the spark fades to a glowing ember. Normal routines and business operations take priority.

I call this The Fresh Paint Smell. You paint a room.  It’s clean and organized. You can smell the fresh paint. You love it. You feel the happiness when you walk in. Two days later, it’s still a fresh room, but the new paint smell has faded and the excitement of it has passed. Over a week or so, it’s the room we love, but the newness is fading. A month or so passes, and it’s just another room in the house.

How do we sustain momentum?  How do we increase our resolve?  What makes one person or business succeed, where another fails to take the first step? We need to look to the emotional investment.  In truth our emotions hold the key to it all.  So, this blog will provide insights into how our momentum is impacted. In March, we’ll reveal insights into HOW to sustain it.

 

EMOTIONS

Keep in mind that client engagement is all about emotions. We talk about our experiences because there’s an emotion attached to it. We live reactively.  We observe and an emotion follows.  We get excited. Angry. Happy. Motivated.  But to act on it, here is why it’s a challenge.

As human beings, we are unable to sustain a positive or negative emotion for an extended period of time. The elation we initially feel when we receive the praise, the achievement, the inspiration – cannot be replicated.  Same for the frustration, the anger, the adrenaline rush. We can reflect and feel a similar emotion, but not the initial emotional experience.

In a study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, it timed emotions and how long they last.

“Sadness is the longest lasting of all emotions taking on average 120 hours to pass.

Hatred is the second most enduring emotion followed by joy which lasts an average of 35 hours.

Guilt lingers longer than the hot burn of shame; and fear tends to pass fairly quickly compared to anxiety which generally lasts much longer.

The stay-around power of sadness is likely due to its tendency to be associated with events that have a major long-term impact on people’s lives, such as bereavement.”

We observe. Have a thought to determine our feeling and then an emotional response.  Then we act or refrain from acting. Ever notice when implementing a goal, it’s the emotional passivity that triggers the action or inaction?  Thoughts like:

“One brownie today is ok,” or

“Skip the workout.” 

“I’ll reschedule that meeting with the team tomorrow.”

“It’s not like we need to shift our customer service overnight.”

“Our competition isn’t that far ahead.”

These passive thoughts are laced with an underlying element of fear and complacency.  Yet dive deeper and it’s a fear of change.  Fear is the emotion, disguised as complacency.  And frankly, I’ve never seen any business thrive with a mindset of “We’ve always done it this way.” The craving we give in to, the complacent thought, becomes the goal we do not achieve.

Simplistically – it’s building mindfulness. Changing our attitude and behaviors to take consistent action towards our goals.  Intrigued? Eager to learn more? Stay tuned for next month when I interview Superbowl champion & FitSpeed owner, Darcy Johnson on dedication, perseverance and achieving a goal mindset.

Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To

Happy New Year! If you haven’t given up on your New Year’s resolution, bravo! How we fail at accomplishing our resolutions is the topic of every media outlet lately.  Listen to the radio, watch the news, scroll through Facebook, and you’ll find a new statistic of what percentage and when we falter from our self-proclamation of personal and/or professional development.  Recent studies suggest by mid-February 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail.  So why do it? I addressed this in a previous blog; Waiting for the New Year Resolution.

What I find ironic about New Year resolutions, goal planning, and professional development is the judgement we place on ourselves, and the negative dialogue that follows when the objective is altered or abandoned.  It can incite a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Self-deprecating thoughts that fill our mind with incessant dialogue that ‘we’re not good enough.’  Thoughts like, “When have you ever?” “Did you really think you could do that?” “Figures.”  We rarely, if ever step back and ask, “What did I learn?”  Or objectively think, “This isn’t the direction we want to move.”

Whether a goal or a social interaction, we are judging.  Every interaction becomes an assessment. We judge the client. The client is judging us. We judge ourselves.  It’s building awareness of the thought and how we speak to ourselves within the thought that sparks a response or action.

In her research professor Brene Brown found that when we make a goal or have a positive thought, a negative thought instantly follows. It’s in our nature.  We are able to identify the hurdles, obstacles, and speedbumps in our way.  The thought often goes something like, “This year, I’ll lose 20 pounds and I’ll start after this weekend.” Then we glance at the calendar and see that Super Bowl or a birthday party is on the calendar and we waiver in our belief for attainment. “That won’t happen, I’ll be eating pizza on Super Bowl. I’ll start later.”

We’re always thinking, analyzing, evaluating, judging. In truth, we can’t turn it off. Our minds are wired to think; right or wrong, yes or no, 60 – 40. This is anything; social interactions, team goals, customer service experiences or the weather. When we hear a song, watch TV, sit in traffic, or eat at a restaurant, we’re thinking to ourselves, “I like this,” “I love this,” “The service seems slow,” or “This is terrible.” We evaluate every interaction.  How we analyze is the differentiator.

We are trained and influenced to judge at our youngest at school.  My daughter’s first grade math illustrates this.  A year ago, while reviewing her homework, I realized the math terms were all about greater than, lesser than, or equal too. It was a huge a-ha moment. Introductions to terms we utilize in our daily life. Evaluation. The self-chatter begins.

During a 2019 networking event, Stacy Nadeau delivered The Confident Mindset: Why Your Internal Script Matters. She said, “We wouldn’t talk to our friends or worst enemies the way we talk to ourselves.”  The self-judgment and berating can be relentless, ongoing, and unproductive.

With all this negative thinking, how do we achieve our goals, company initiatives and New Year resolutions?  How do we build awareness of our thoughts and increase mindfulness to keep them present?  Even more, how do we commit and make the goal a priority?

Suggestions to retain and attain the New Year resolution.

  1. Reflect – Be present and aware of your thoughts. Listen to how you speak to yourself. How did you talk to yourself today? Were they kind words? Encouraging? If you’re berating yourself, stop. Reflect on WHY the goal is important.  Ask what obstacles might prevent achievement. Reflection helps to build awareness of the patterns we have. Once we know the pattern or identify the consistent doubting thought, we can schedule diversions to support our resolve.
  2. Create Reminders – Set alarms on your phone or throughout your calendar. Create reminders with a quote or photo. Adding a question to an alarm can center you and bring your thoughts to the present. It could be a simple alarm on your phone that reads; “Commit to the New Year resolution” or “Have you taken action on your resolution today?” Keep a visual reminder in a spot that will constantly keep you focused on what the end goal looks like; a trip, an outfit, a house, etc.
  3. Measure Effectiveness –  What’s the benchmark? The lowest you will go? The end result? What does it look like? Feel like? Having a benchmark tells you where to start.
  4. Build Accountability – Work with a coach, friend, or colleague to support you. Be upfront as to how you need to be coached for accountability. It it a text? A phone call? How frequently will you need follow up?

Know this.  If we decree any resolution, initiative, or goal, it means we want to better ourselves, our teams, or our company culture. The intent is to be more than we are. Greater than, not less than, not equal to. Think kind thoughts to yourself. Your thoughts are things. And what you consistently think, you become. If you continuously think about your goals and resolutions, you will achieve them.   Be the 20% that the media doesn’t talk about.

Mindfulness for a Penny

We waited an hour for our daughter to visit with Santa the other night. The queue filled with families emphasized the stress of the season. Overheated parents holding piles of coats. Eager children fidgeting in their holiday outfits; taffeta dresses and patent leather shoes, glittering shirts, matching pajama sets. An endless procession of anticipation waiting to visit St. Nick.

As we neared the front of the line, my daughter had eyes only for Santa. She gazed at him awestruck, grabbed my hand and said, “I get so nervous to speak to him.”

She approached Santa, rehearsing her Christmas list in her mind. The photographer snapped a photo and like every parent, my husband and I beamed with joy in the moment. Because it’s these moments that make the holiday. It’s these moments that I wish I could bottle and distribute to the masses. And I ponder why is it so difficult to sustain them?  I called it the fresh paint smell in a previous blog.

There comes a moment every December when I look at the calendar and become frantic. There’s an endless list of tasks to complete before year end. Shopping, holiday celebrations, sales calls, meet n greets, presentations, final reports, planning for the year ahead, buying presents, wrapping presents, shipping presents, baking. What should be joyful, even spending time with friends, can feel overwhelming.

In these flashes of overwhelm, I have to stop and breathe and remind myself to be grateful and to focus on others. My takeaway for 2019 is this: I’ve realized that when I become stressed and inundated in the day to day, my thoughts are selfish. My needs. My schedule. My agenda. Me.  Yet when I focus on how to help others, the tension goes away. This is the space I cherish. This is the space I mean to live in; to focus on others and impact their day.  Even the most random act can leave an impression.

This year while traveling, I had an experience that I try to keep close to mind. During a hotel stay, I requested more towels from housekeeping by leaving a gratuity and writing a brief note.

“More towels please. Make it a great day.”

The response has forever shifted my viewpoint.  Although I never crossed paths with the housekeeping staff, the colossal tower of towels left in response was astounding. The impact of the gratuity was overwhelming. It was as if my monetary request had gifted the world to this individual.  The response was the following:

“Thank you so much. Have a blessed day.”

You could feel the appreciation from the note.

It made me realize unintentional random actions can be perceived as actions of greatness.  It emphasized how we all place different values on money, time, and space.  Five dollars to one person, could be viewed as a routine cup of coffee. Inconsequential. Nary a second thought. Yet, for some significant. Life changing to others.

I now carry a penny in every one of my coat pockets to remind myself of the moment. Somedays I’ll randomly place my hand in my pocket and feel the penny, and it centers me. It prompts me step back and observe my surroundings; to be present in the moment. To feel grateful for all I have. It was a penny I felt in my pocket while my daughter sat on Santa’s lap.

Other days, when I feel the penny in my pocket, I’ll toss it on the ground hopeful the person who finds it, will feel as if their day has turned for the better.

My wish for you throughout the season, is to experience wonder in a random moment. Step back and look at your team, your space, your family.  My wish for you is to find a penny, that keep it in your pocket and randomly come across it during a hectic day.

May you find endless joy and wonder this holiday season and prosperity in the new year.

 

 

Living in Gratitude to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.

Why is it that when we start talking about customer service that everyone perks up with a story?  And whether the experience is about a product or service, it’s the experience with that product or service that we discuss.  “Oh my goodness, listen to this one…..”

People are so willing to communicate their most fabulous or most horrendous experiences. We find solidarity in our customer service moments; those of neglect, lack of courtesy, ineptitude of training. We rave of exceptional experiences and speak with passion and dramatic flair, “You simply must go….” 

In conversations, the essence of customer service seems simplistic, even elementary in nature.  We can express eloquently how we want it delivered and how others should provide it.  We want to receive it. We agree there is a need for it. And yet, when lacking, sub-par, inconsistent and non-existent, we become personally affronted.

I recently spoke at FABTECH on How to Deviate from the Process to Deliver Superb Customer Service.  The dialogue suggested a proactive approach; establishing processes and knowing when a practice might be hindering business operations or the client experience.  During the workshop, one of the attendees communicated, “my company believes whole heartedly that they are customer-centric, when in reality they are production driven.”

For an automation trade show, this statement didn’t come as a surprise.  Developing product is what these companies do. We typically don’t associate manufacturing with hospitality or client engagement.  It was refreshing to converse on how to humanize production.  I was impressed by the exchange and the intent to enhance their customer experience; the distributors and suppliers that move product to the shelves we shop.  How to provide deliberate communications and set expectations were the most prevalent concerns.

It reinforces, no matter the industry, customer service is a hot topic.  It’s like food and water. We want it. We crave it. We need it.  But, how do we provide it? How often do we forget why we are in business?  Why is it when it comes to customer service, we often forget that the guest, the client, the customer; however, one might label their patrons, that these purchasers of goods and services are the life blood and the reasons our companies exist?

And I love to have this conversation near the holidays because as Q4 comes to an end, no matter the industry, we try to squeeze in as much production, shipment, services, or sales as possible. We push for a year-end number. We’re wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. We’re in a rush. Expediting operations becomes the concentration, and we can forget why client engagement is so paramount. We become “me” focused, and the goal becomes to move the line. Yet, are we grateful the line is there in the first place? (Business plug, if you’re relating and need help, let’s connect.)  How are we expressing gratitude to our clients?  How do we show appreciation to the teams who deliver those exceptional moments?

Operations and client engagement work in concert. The businesses that operate with this in mind, creating positive interactions and memorable moments, discover a sustainable path to success. As the holiday season arrives, consider this:

Does your team focus on being customer-centric or production driven?

This season FOUR STEPS to provide consistent customer service.

  1. Review Your WHY.

Does your team know your company mission? Do you talk about it? Do you consistently operate to keep the mission in mind? The company values should be the backbone and artery for every operational decision. It should be a force that makes client engagement thrive. Know your purpose. Never stray from it.

  1. Communicate the WHY to the team.
    Consistent client engagement is the result of consistently communicating the mission and expectations to the team. Our staff cannot deliver great experiences unless we train, provide the resources to deliver, set expectations and hold the them accountable. Be specific on expectations. Make customer service a non-negotiable and a MUST Do.Exceptional client engagement happens when we connect on a personal level. The exchange is remembered because what was delivered exceeded expectations.  There’s emotion attached to it.  Encourage your staff to be in-service for the client. How? Give eye contact. Tailor the experience to the client. Learn about a client need and go above and beyond what’s requested. Add a special touch that communicates, “I’m looking out for you. I’ve got your back.”3. Be thankful (to your team and your clientele).
    When you see any team member deliver on your WHY, express gratitude. Thank them for building your brand and creating an avenue for client loyalty. Celebrate it. Reward it. Then pat yourself on the back for training your staff appropriately.

Remember that we are in business because of the client. Show appreciation to your clients. Thank them for their loyalty. Thank them for their patience. Thank them for referrals. Thank them for future patronage. Let them know they are valued. Show them how they are valued through consistent and exceptional client engagement.

4.  Live in this space.
Stop making it because it’s Thanksgiving or 4th Quarter.  Stop restarting or making resolutions to start at the new year or when it feels right or might be a better time. Decide. Commit. Live in Gratitude. 

This season may you discover the power of gratitude and appreciation in all things. This season be thankful for the vendors and suppliers that support your business. Be thankful for the clients, the customers, the guests who support your income. Revisit your WHY to remain client-centric. Remain ever thankful to the frontline staff who make those memorable moments happen.  This season discover the ability to live in this space.

May you have a season of blessings this holiday and throughout the new year.

Client Engagement Found in Fall Fables

One of the things I love best about living in the Midwest is the change of seasons. The transition from summer to fall is stunning.  There is apple picking and pumpkin lattes. Fall foliage explodes into a kaleidoscope of colors. Cool nights turn to warm days, challenging one to creatively dress for arctic morning commutes with the ability to peel layers from the afternoon sun. You can feel the expectation of the holiday season. You can smell the change of seasons in the air.

Fall is a favorite because we prepare for it.  We prune perennials, shrubs, rake leaves, mulch, guess how many times the grass will need to be cut before dormant winter arrives.  We prepare for Fall and the winter season ahead. We become the ants in Aesop’s fable of The Ants and the Grasshopper.

If you’re unfamiliar, the fable provides a lesson for balancing work and play.  The story illustrates how a spirited grasshopper experiences the perils of a harsh winter because he didn’t prepare for it. As he plays his fiddle alongside a parade of working ants he asks:

“Where are you going with those heavy things?” asked the grasshopper.

 Without stopping, the first ant replied, “To our ant hill.  This is the third kernel I’ve delivered today.”

“Why not come and sing with me,” teased the grasshopper, “instead of working so hard?” 

“We are helping to store food for the winter,” said the ant, “and think you should do the same.” 

The ants are diligent in their seasonal preparations. When winter arrives, the grasshopper is homeless, hungry and starving because of his lack of planning. So, whether you experience the shift in temperatures or not, as Fall arrives, is your team thinking like the Ant or the Grasshopper?

What is the team doing to prepare for consistent customer engagement? What resources are available to make the best of every client and guest experience? Developing efficiencies for our teams is paramount.  With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season on the horizon, this is the time to create a plan.  The holidays and year end rush seem to arrive earlier every year. Do you have methods in place to meet the timely demands of the season?  Are you Deviating from the Process to deliver superb customer service?

Time is a limited commodity for everyone; especially near year end as we scramble to meet deadlines and year end quotas.  We feel a necessity to pack in as much as possible before the new year begins. Daylight savings and earlier sunsets bring more urgency to our day.  For the Midwest, we drive to and from work in the dark.  The loss of daylight emphasizes the race against the clock.  Time becomes the essential we need more of.

To provide the best client engagement experience this season, a gift of TIME.

TIME

Tell the team the purpose and focus for client engagement. Tell them how, tell them when, and tell them often. Whether it’s reinforcing the company mission or implementing a process for the busy season ahead, be certain it’s clearly communicated to all staff on a regular basis. When teams know the WHY; the intent, the motivation and purpose for operations, they can produce and provide memorable moments with impact. Most importantly provide the tools necessary for staff to be successful.  Brene Brown writes in Dare to Lead:

“When you have a value printed on posters, hanging in the halls, but you don’t dig into the behaviors that support it and teach people those behaviors, you’re in BS territory.”

Implement every day.  The initiative, whether a new process, service recovery plan or new enterprise should be considered a MUST DO; a non-negotiable for operations.  When we make exceptions, “misplace” consistent efforts, slack off because “we don’t feel like it,” we cheat our staff, our brand, deplete our leadership credibility, and the client experience suffers.  This is when accountability becomes an issue and sustainability is lost. Consistent implementation is the only path to sustainable success.

Measure Results. Implementation without measurement is folly. Adding metrics to initiatives supports sustainability, team focus and provides insights for future enterprise.  After a month, 45 days, a quarter; was the process faster? Did it increase guest satisfaction? Was there a profit? Increased gross? Increased sales? Increased social media presence? Client Inquiries? Website hits, etc. Know your WHY to identify the proper metrics for success.

Extend Appreciation.  When you see your staff implementing and making an impact on the client experience, provide feedback. Show appreciation.  Appreciation builds momentum, impacts culture, and increases employee retention. It’s a skill every leader in an organization should master.  Simple truth, people want to know they are contributing.  They support the world they help create. Be certain express gratitude for the team members who service your clientele.

May this gift of TIME impact your team’s operations, provide consistent client experiences and add credibility to your leadership style. Happy Fall!

For more details and workshops dedicated to leadership development, visit www.slonesolutionsllc.com.

The Mountains We Create

When you set a goal for yourself, do you listen to your internal dialogue?  Are you aware of how you talk to yourself? Is your glass half full? Half empty? Refillable? Do outside elements influence you? The weather? Traffic? The clock?

When you set a goal for yourself, what self-talk or limiting dialogue happens in your head? Are you aware of it? Do you let it go on and on? Do you ignore it? Squash it? Do you wait for some outside source or sign to validate the thought?

“Traffic is heavy. I shouldn’t go to that networking event tonight.”

“Need to start that diet after the holiday.”

“See, I always mess up at this.”

“Do you really think you can……”

How many speed bumps or hurdles do you create to make that goal or milestone unattainable?  A mountain to climb.

It’s a scientific fact that when we set a goal for ourselves, we instantly identify obstacles to prevent its achievement. It’s a human protective element. We do this to ourselves and we do this to others. When we tell others our goals, they respond and offer insights; either encouragement or detailed insights into the challenges and obstacles on the horizon.


It was dance banquet night and as I sat at the table with one of my fellow and cherished dance moms, she announced to the table her 12-year-old daughter intended to start a car fund.  The mom communicated, “she want to purchase her own car when she turns 16.”

The table responded with affirmative and supportive comments.

“Good for her.”

“Love that”

“Great Goal.”

Then the mom communicated the vehicle of choice was a Tesla.  For some reason, this announcement completely changed the goal.  The reactions and responses instantly changed. The hilarity of such a lofty ambition. The comments became:

“Did you warn her about the cost of insurance for a luxury vehicle?”

“How’s she gonna afford that?”

“Oh, that’s choice.”

“Well maybe a used one……”

“A tesla?  She can get a Fiat. Fiat’s start at $17,000.”

As with most conversations the conversation diverted to new dialogue and we never revisited the topic.  But the conversation resonated with me. Why did the model of the vehicle impact the ability for achievement?  Who were we to place judgement on this goal? How often do we do the same to ourselves?

I can lose 5 pounds, but 20 is a huge endeavor.

I can run a 5K, but not a marathon.

I can make $75,000 in a year, but $100,000 is a reach.

Insert your limiting belief.

The next day I called my friend and told her to play my voice mail to her daughter on speaker.

“I was thinking about our table conversation last night and your daughter’s goal for a Tesla when she’s 16.  Please let her listen to this message.

You want to buy a Tesla? I say go for it!! I hope you find a way to fund this purchase. I hope you have a massive brain spurt that will give insight into how to make the money. And don’t feel like you have to settle on a pre-owned one.  Go for it, because it’s good to have a goal. Go for it!  Be the only 16-year-old at your high school who purchased their own Tesla.”

CLIMBING the MOUNTAIN

To jump the hurdle, overcome the obstacle, go over the speed bump or climb the mountain, consider these tips to achievement.

  • Keep a picture of what the end goal is: a photo of the car, the vacation spot, the dress, the house, the diploma. Some visionary prompt in a prominent spot like your phone or computer screen saver image, your office, or your nightstand so that you see it every day. Create a vision board. Look at it daily and believe that you can achieve it.
  • Work with a life or business coach to help keep you on track. No budget? Is that a self-imposed obstacle? Find a friend who is loyal to the death, believes in you and your goal as much as you do and will hold you accountable to timelines.
  • Ask yourself the following:
    1. Why do I want to achieve this? Knowing your “why” is key and has momentum in itself to you propel you forward. What’s the reason behind the goal? Go deep on this one. It’s not simply “to be debt free.” Keep asking yourself why again and again and again.  When that a-ha moment arrives. You’ll know it.
    2. What are the three steps needed to get there? Breaking down a goal into chunks creates a pathway and identifies the road to get there. Can you place a date on the steps and call them milestones or targets for achievement? If you plan to create a new website, by what date would you have the domain name, write the content for the pages, and then launch it? Then you can add detail to each of the steps to break those down into chunks.
    3. What realistic date could I achieve this? Placing a timeline on a goal means you will need to take action.  What would make you start today? Tomorrow? Keep pushing the date out on the calendar?  Return to your “why.”
    4. Celebrate your successes! Not necessarily with chocolates but tell your friends and neighbors. Post it on social media. Share photos.
    5. Practice these daily. Know that there will be bad days. You will doubt yourself.  You will question yourself.  Revisiting your “why” and reflect on your successes will propel you to more action.
  • Find a quote that resonates and inspires you towards your goal. Read it every day when you get up and when you go to bed. Some of my favorites:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

“All Limitations are Self-imposed.” 

“Yesterday, I really wanted a burrito and today I’m eating a burrito. Follow your freaking dreams.”

“Dream becomes reality when passion and persistence meet.”

When you set your next goal, consider the obstacle that comes to mind as a gift helping you identify steps towards the target. Those thoughts are enabling, supporting, and encouraging a proactive mindset to prepare for the journey to achievement. And remember that the obstacle is merely a speed bump.  Not a mountain.

Dream It. Believe It. Achieve it.