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 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!

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.