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4 Rules to always beat the Competition

There is always pressure to watch the competition, weighing whether we can beat them or if they are currently beating us.

Many businesses obsess over what their competition is doing, so they miss the true issue at stake:

  • True winners do not focus on the competition: they focus on themselves.  They seek to truly improve everything they do, using information systematically gathered from their developing relationships with customers.

In the world of the empowered consumer, social media and transparent online feedback, this has never been more important.  Customers can toy with your reputation at the click of a mouse, publicise your problems at the swipe of a screen, and tell the whole world whether you were great or poor in a nano-second.

The true competition is not who you think it is.

  • The true competition is your own beliefs, systems and processes, and whether they are good enough for the hyper-competitive world of the empowered customer.

Of course it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening in your market, and to know what your immediate competitors are offering to clients, yet this is only background information.  I urge you to use this as a starting point only and instead obsess on the following four points:

  1. Get closer to your customers. Your customers can tell you what’s out in the market, what you’re doing well and what you’re not.  You then know what needs to change, and through this process you will also build world-class customer loyalty.
  2. Put a continuous improvement and innovation system into place in your business, based on small steps, continually executed.  We call this ‘going the extra inch’.
  3. Filter all your systems and processes through the customer’s emotional needs: trust, attention and easy life.  This way you can avoid inadvertently putting your foot in it, and make sure all of your systems deliver the optimum customer experience, resulting in maximum customer loyalty, reputation, cross-sales, up-sales and referrals.
  4. Make sure you have at the heart of your organisation something we call a ‘customer-focused mission’.  This is a belief that you are not there to make money, but instead to do something so well that customers want to give you their money.  This needs to cover every aspect of your business and direct everything you do within it.

If you do all of these things well, it will enable you to continually improve and rise head and shoulders above the competition.

Always keep an eye on your competition, as we’ve already mentioned, but more importantly keep an eye on yourself.  Focus on your systems and ensure that you are continually improving and innovating to meet and exceed the needs of your customer: next week, next month, next year and next decade.

In this hyper-competitive customer-empowered world nobody knows what’s round the corner, but you need to know before anyone else does, otherwise your market could literally disappear overnight, or trickle away until you suddenly realise that things have changed but it’s already too late.

Just look what Uber, Air BnB, Trip Advisor, Amazon, Google etc have done to their markets: they’ve revolutionised them!

Don’t focus on the competition. Focus on yourself and your competition will become less of a problem.

For more information on how to beat your competition, please contact us at: support@salesthroughservice.com

The 5 outcomes to a Sales Process (and not all of them are great!)

In most ‘traditional’ sales strategies, the focus is usually on ‘getting a sale’.

However, this is far too simplistic… in today’s world of instant online reviews and the empowered customer, it’s downright dangerous. In fact there are five outcomes to a sales process, and they all need to be considered, trained and considered in order to get great long term sales results.

This is so much more than just ‘hitting target this week’!

Let’s look at each outcome in turn, from worst to best, and suggest a few strategies to make you more effective in each of them.

  1. ‘I’ll come back to you’: this is called a ‘no decision’: where the customer hasn’t made a decision, or has made one but hasn’t told you! The output of this is usually monumental time-wasting and unnecessary time, cost and aggro.
  • The main reason for this outcome is: you haven’t done your job properly (the customer hasn’t trusted you enough to keep discussing with you until they were confident to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. OR they don’t trust you enough to tell you what they’re REALLY thinking.)

2. ‘Yes’ for the wrong reasons: this is where you get the sale, but for the ‘wrong’ reasons. ‘So what’s wrong              with this? I’ve got the sale … happy days!’ you may ask. Well yes, that may be the case if you describe ‘happy days’        as:

  • High levels of complaints and returns
  • High levels of poor online reviews
  • Business success dependent more and more on deals and ‘special offers’

3. ‘No’ for the wrong reasons: this is where you don’t get the sale, but you should have: you would have                  been the best supplier for the job, but you weren’t able to build enough rapport and get the customer to trust                enough for them to understand the full nature of their need, the market, and how you could be the best long                  term solution for them.

4. ‘No’ for the right reasons: many sales managers would like to rip my tongue out for this, but a ‘no’ for the           right reasons is a ‘good’ outcome.

  • This is where you’ve built a great relationship with the customer, and have together agreed that, all things considered, your solution isn’t the best fit for the client, and you help them instead by pointing them in other directions.
  • If you do your sales properly, although this customer won’t use you today, when and if their need changes, they’ll come back to you, they’ll recommend you, and they might well use your services anyway (fully aware that you’re not a 100% fit) because you’re so helpful and trustworthy … and, by the way, no matter what your marketing manager tells you, you can NEVER sell something to everyone … you’ll NEVER get 100% success rate: it’s blindingly obvious common sense, so stop worrying about it and instead just ENSURE all your ‘No’s are gained for the right reasons!

5. And of course, the ‘best’ outcome is always a ‘yes’ for the ‘right’ reasons: this is where you not only get the             sale today, but you also get great levels of customer happiness, loyalty and reputation: a true win/win!

So, how do you ensure you get none of no’s 1,2 and 3, and all of 4 and 5?

There are 4 steps:

  1. Get your beliefs straight: if the above information makes you shout ‘halleluja’ then this isn’t a problem. If you’re worried about the above, then you’re going to struggle.

2. Put in ‘customer focused marketing (and sales) processes’, focused on delivering the 3 key customer needs at           every step:

a) Uncompromising trust

b) Obsessive focus on making it as easy as possible for the customer to deal with you (whether they say ‘yes’ or             ‘no’)

c) Continual attention, no matter what the outcome is:

i) (If you get the sale, it’s just the start … you then have to consistently blow their socks off)

ii) (If you don’t get the sale, it’s just the start of a relationship where you stay in touch PROPERLY: it’s taken                long enough to find them, don’t just drop them)

3. Step by step sales system, proactively building trust and relationships and an up front contract to make a decision ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on agreed criteria and constant assurance that ‘It’s OK to say ‘no’’. Continually developed and improved using customer feedback.

4. Proactive professional (3rd party) feedback from all customers to help you continually improve and develop all the above points and reward behaviour consistent with these challenging beliefs and rules. This should be gathered from:

a) The ones who said ‘yes’

b) The ones who said ‘no’

c) The ones who said ‘not now’

And that is the 5 outcomes to a sales process.

For more information or to license or use our sales, experience, loyalty and reputation systems, please contact us: support@salesthroughservice.com

There’s no such thing as a ‘Bad’ online review

There’s no such thing as a ‘Bad’ online review

 

How to turn negative reviews, fake or real into extra sales and PR.

 

There’s a lot of talk about ‘bad’ online reviews, and the negative effect they can have on a Pub or Hotel business, and, indeed many acres of print have been devoted to legal routes and fighting them. But we work with Pub and Hotel Businesses across the UK and have developed a different response that works to:

  • Reduce stress and time
  • Improve your PR whether the review is ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Help turn any review into extra business

These ideas have been adopted by leading Pub and Hotel operators across the UK, including former BII licensees of the year … and, by the way, they work.

So, what’s the secret and what do we do about these ‘bad’ reviews?

There are 4 steps:

Step 1: Accept that the world has changed and the customer really is in charge

  • Social media and online review sites have empowered the customer like nothing before: this is a genuine revolution in consumer behaviour, not a fad
  • Don’t swim against the tide, you’ll be like King Canute …. Pointless and frustrating.
  • Example of success: you see them every day in the news: Ebay, AirBnB, Uber etc

Point 2: Genuinely put the desire to give a ‘Great Customer Experience’ at the heart of all you do

  • In this new world, you can ONLY be genuinely successful in the long term if you change the ‘business mantra’ from:
    • ‘We’re here to make money, and we also want to be nice to the customer’.
    • To: ‘We’re here to be loved by the customer, if we do this well the money will follow, not the other way round’
  • This ‘customer communication revolution’ genuinely affects EVERYTHING you do, so you need to filter all your systems and processes through these beliefs.
  • Example of success: The Monkton Inn: small village pub increased turnover from under £1000 per week to over £12000 per week by genuinely adopting these principles

Point 3: Put proactive feedback systems in place

  • Don’t wait for the review to appear on TripAdvisor: it’s too late!
  • If you don’t actively demonstrate to the customer that you really DO care and really DO want their feedback, they’ll assume (usually correctly) that you don’t.
  • You must put proactive feedback systems in place to help them tell you what you need to know (to get Point 2 right!) These will vary according to the business, but may well include:
    • Tokens and feedback boxes (these work like magic in a pub)
    • Active Twitter engagement (customer like this)
    • Telephone feedback
    • Facebook page for feedback and engagement
    • Online systems
  • Examples of success:
    • The Bull’s Head Repton (amazingly successful pub run by former BII licensees of the year): tokens and feedback boxes
    • Café Nero: SIMPLE online feedback system

Point 4: React strongly and positively to all public online reviews: there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ online review

  • KEY point: you are NOT responding to the individual, you are demonstrating your personality to the world – this is FREE PR and marketing, pure and simple
  • Calm your ego: customers are NOT always right (but they ARE always the customer)!
  • Respond to ALL reviews: otherwise it looks like you don’t care (This is VERY important)
  • Customers are 3X more interested in your response than the review: they know that people can be awkward: what they’re interested in is what you’re like when you respond!
  • Negative reviews are read 5X more than positive reviews: responding to these properly is a HUGE opportunity.
  • Example of excellence: The Rockford Inn, Exmoor (check out their TA reviews and responses!)

And lastly: ‘bad’ reviews: well, these fall into 2 categories:

‘Valid’ and ‘False’

For ‘Valid’ reviews, take it on the chin, ask them to contact you offline, and state publicly what you aim to be great at and how brilliantly you would have handled this complaint if it had been made direct to you at the time: Free publicity for how great you are.

For ‘False’ reviews, treat them exactly the same,

  • ask them politely and kindly to contact you offline
  • state your commitment to great customer experiences (and all the steps that you’re taking every day to make this a genuine reality)
  • apologize for what needs apologizing for, and state what you DO do and DON’T do (eg: you don’t need to apologise for not having a fruit machine if you don’t do fruit machines!) … and why this is.
  • state what you would have done if they had brought this to your attention at the time
  • reiterate your commitment to feedback and wanting to get it right for the customer
  • if you can manage it, add a little humour throughout: the reader will pick it up, and after all, pubs and hotels are supposed to be fun places!

 

  • Example of excellence: Pizzeria Delfina SanFrancisco: search for their response to false reviews on Yelp: it’s hilarious and supercharged their business.

 

If you manage all the above well, you should also get MANY more positive reviews online – that’s GREAT: it’s free marketing to the people who are interested! Fantastic!

So: there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ reviews, and, by the way, there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ feedback: it’s how you respond to it that makes all the difference.

 

 

How to beat the competition?

How to beat the competition?

There is always pressure to watch the competition, to see if we can beat them or if they are currently beating us. So many businesses obsess about what their competition is doing that they miss the true issue at stake. It is not the competition but instead themselves, their own beliefs, systems and actions.

True winners do not focus on the competition: they focus on themselves. They seek to truly improve everything they do, using information systematically gathered from their developing relationships with customers.

In the world of the empowered consumer and transparent online feedback, this has never been more important. Customers can toy with your reputation at the click of a mouse, publicise your problems at the swipe of a screen, and tell the whole world whether you were great or poor in a nano-second.

The true competition is not who you think it is. The true competition is your own business: your systems and processes, and whether they are good enough for the hyper-competitive world of the empowered customer.

Of course it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening in your market, and to know what your supposed competitors are offering to clients, but this is only background information. I urge you to use this as a starting point only and instead obsess on the following four points:

Get closer to your customers. Your customers can tell you what’s out in the market, what you’re doing well and what you’re not. You then know what needs to change, and through this process you will also build world-class customer loyalty.

Put a continuous improvement and innovation system into place in your business, based on small steps, continually executed. We call this ‘going the extra inch’.

Filter all your systems and processes through the customer’s emotional needs: trust, attention and easy life. This way you can avoid inadvertently putting your foot in it, and make sure all of your systems deliver the optimum customer experience, resulting in maximum customer loyalty, reputation, cross-sales, up-sales and referrals.

Make sure you have at the heart of your organisation something we call a ‘customer-focussed mission’. This is a belief that you are not there to make money, but instead to do something so well that customers want to give you their money. This needs to cover every aspect of your business and direct everything you do within it.

If you do all of these things well it will enable you to continually improve and rise head and shoulders above the competition. Always keep an eye on your competition, as we’ve already mentioned, but more importantly keep an eye on yourself. Focus on your systems and ensure that you are continually improving and innovating to meet and exceed the needs of your customer: next week, next month, next year and next decade. In this hyper-competitive customer-empowered world nobody knows what’s round the corner, but you need to know before anyone else does, otherwise your market could literally disappear overnight, or trickle away until you suddenly realise that things have changed but it’s already too late.

Don’t focus on the competition. Focus on yourself and your competition will become less of a problem.

 

The 4 Basic Behaviours of Service Excellence

The 4 Basic Behaviours of Service Excellence

So much is written about customer experience that it often goes in one ear and out of the other.

The key to success in any subject is to keep it simple and do it well. 

So, what are the 4 Key Basic Behaviours of Experience Excellence?

Well, if anything is right, it has to be common sense: so all these behaviours must follow the common sense rules of all behaviours …

 

Rule 1: our beliefs drive our emotions

Rule 2: our emotions drive our behaviours

Rule 3: our behaviours produce our results

Rule 4: our results reinforce our beliefs

 

So, applying this to customer experience …

Rule 1: believe that great customer experience is your product: this is what produces success (NOT your product)

Rule 2: know that emotions drive behaviour: what emotions do you want your customers to have in order to be loyal to you? What emotions do you want your staff to have to be engaged and motivated by you?

Rule 3: what behaviours are realistic, consistent and sustainable: consistency is more important than occasional excellence (as McDonalds have proven so well!), so constantly seek to improve behaviours and consistency little by little, every day and every week (remember Kaizen?)

Rule 4: measure your results: as well as your profits: the results you need to measure are your customers’ opinion of you, because this will determine your future success (we’ll tell you how to do this simply and cheaply in a later top tip).

So: Learn and inwardly digest these 4 basic behaviours of experience excellence.

 

 

 

How can we compete with online retailers?

How can we compete with online retailers?

This is a question we help a lot of our customers with.

The business landscape has changed dramatically, and this is affecting every business sector: the revolution that began with the world’s biggest bookstore online, now is effective goods and services in every sector around the world. Just look at a website like www.upwork.com for evidence.

So, how can a ‘traditional’ retailer compete?

We suggest two approaches.

  1. ‘Get great’
  2. ‘Get involved’

And you can use these individually or separately.

Get Great.

Customers do NOT buy on price … they buy on value. All great brands and long term successful businesses are NOT the cheapest … they are the best in terms of the value to the customer.

By this we mean that your value is your price multiplied by your customer experience (CX).

  • If your customer is only interested in price, then the CX score is 0 and these are your price obsessive fickle customers … and you don’t want these customers if you want a profitable sustainable business … let your competitors have them!
  • If, on the other hand, there is some value to the CX, then you need to know what the value is and how you can add it at every step on the customer journey (and the online retailers themselves know this and are doing this exercise obsessively). We suggest you look at your customers’ REAL needs (these needs are emotional needs and triggers), and step by step, inch by inch, develop your systems and processes to blow their socks off at every step.

Of course this is easy to say, and much harder to do: that why we work in the area of providing our customers with a simple and powerful systematic approach to help them do this: it’s called the ‘Great or Poor’ approach.

Do this well, as well as keeping a close eye on your online competition (which your customers will help you understand if you let them), and you’ll not only survive but thrive by offering new services that turbocharge your customer offer.

A good example of this was the wedding photographer client of ours who was suffering from lack of demand (everyone’s got a camera and a video camera with them on their phones these days), and listened closely and changed his business offer to include managing and sorting all these pictures and videos (rather than just taking the pictures in the 1st place), and now has had to take on 3 members of staff to cope with the demand.

Get involved

The other option (that can only work in addition to the above point we suggest) is to join the online retailing movement and offer your particular specialist skills and services online.

How can we protect our reputation from malicious reviews?

How can we protect our reputation from malicious reviews?

This is a question that more and more people are asking as reviews and online feedback sites become more and more popular, and there is a simple answer.

You can’t control the reviews, but you can control how you treat the customer AND how you respond to the reviews. Any attempt to do otherwise is futile, dysfunctional and counterproductive.

So:

  1. How you treat the customer: no longer can you see ‘customer service’ as a ‘quite important issue’, it is now the heart and soul of all you do (whether you like it or not). We write and teach extensively on what to do to get this right, so look for our work ‘Great or Poor’ in this area. This includes a proactive system to encourage feedback direct to you (and then shared with others).
  2. When you get online reviews, the key is to respond to them (every one of them): there is no such thing as a ‘bad online review’ … if you do the above right, most of your reviews will be great and positive, but even the best organisations make mistakes sometimes, and critical reviews will always be experienced. You should not be afraid or angry at these (leave your ego out of this!), but treat them as valuable feedback and respond politely and positively, exactly as you would if they’d told you this information in a constructive and kind way to you personally. The key to remember is that this is NOT a personal conversation, you are talking to the world, and the world is very interested in how you deal with complaints (it exposes your true character). So do it well and be constructive and positive!

And malicious reviews? They’re just a minority of customers, don’t worry about them. Stick to the above 2 points and they’ll go away and get swamped by all the great stuff. We’ve seen it happen with our clients time and time again.

What social media marketing works ?

What social media marketing works ?

‘Social Media’ has been a buzzword for a while now.

At first it was promoted as the ‘answer to everything’ ; just advertise here and you’ll have clients flooding in (and we all have heard that line somewhere before!)

Then it was : you have to be there and communicating with your tribe.

Because everyone always wants a simple answer and a quick fix.

So here is the simple answer and quick fix.

Simple answer: social media is just a new way of communicating that means your customer, or potential customer, can find out all about you, and tell others all about you, without your knowledge of consent. It is a radical change in consumer behaviour that will have ever growing revolutionary impacts.

Quick fix: as communication has become two way and interactive, so must you and your marketing. This means simply that you must take 4 steps:

  1. Genuinely have an attitude of wanting to wow the customer
  2. Gather feedback and engage with customers systematically and proactively
  3. Look for the customers’ REAL (emotional needs) and design your systems and processes around these
  4. Do this and continue to change and evolve in small steps

 

‘Sales through Service’ is a proven and powerful set of systems to boost sales whilst also enhancing the customer experience – to receive a free ebook ‘The 7 Deadly Sins of Service’, please email support@salesthroughservice.com or visit http://www.salesthroughservice.com/free-sales-resources/

 

 

How do we gather feedback effectively?

How do we gather feedback effectively?

In the world of the empowered customer, feedback is the breakfast of champions.

In the ‘old world’ of one way mass communication, marketing was king, but as this changes to the world of two way mass communication, the power of marketing continues to diminish and the power of engagement and innovation around the customer’s REAL needs is the new main business driver.

And effective feedback systems are the powerhouse of this driver.

So, how do we gather feedback effectively?

The answer to this is specific to the specific situation of your organisation and situation, in exactly the same way that marketing has been. It would be churlish to write ‘just do these things and this will solve all your problems’ (exactly as it would with marketing). In short, there is no quick fix.

But here are some rules to help:

  1. Do it for a genuine reason – this is a new world, not a PR exercise
  2. Get it going little by little – test and measure every step
  3. Put robust follow up and action systems in place early – it’s not the feedback that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts
  4. Do it properly – this is not a cheap or a quick fix exercise, this is about building up long term customer loyalty, reputation, referrals and innovation
  5. Design it to enhance the customer experience in itself – not an annoyance to the customer!
  6. Make it personal – this is about genuinely building relationships
  7. Continually focus and hone it – this is now an essential business survival tool

 

For help in setting this up and auditing effectiveness, please see www.investorsinfeedback.com

Why doesn’t customer service training work?

Why doesn’t customer service training work?

Because you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

You people WANT to do a great job, but they are faced with a million things that are stopping them:

  • How they are treated
  • How they are feeling (this one is not really in your control, but how you identify and deal with this IS in your control)
  • The way the organisation behaves
  • The processes you employ
  • The culture you promote

The only true answer to the oldest employment problem in the world (How can I make my people motivated and enthused to give great service?) lies in systems.

Great or Poor ® systems to produce a consistent and continually improving customer experience.

Sales through Service ® systems to enhance long and short term sales (and reduce costs) at every step.

In today’s’ hyper competitive transparent market, it’s unlikely that your organisation can thrive without starting to get this genuinely right.

 

‘Sales through Service’ is a proven and powerful set of systems to boost sales whilst also enhancing the customer experience – to receive a free ebook ‘The 7 Deadly Sins of Service’, please email support@salesthroughservice.com or visit http://www.salesthroughservice.com/free-sales-resources/