leadership dot #2826: outsource

I am having phone troubles so I went to Sam’s Club to take advantage of the rebate that they feature prominently in their sale flyer. The big display of phones is practically the first thing you see when you walk in but I had to ask that someone be called to help me.

When that assistance came, he told me that “it’s not Sam’s” that runs this department and that no one working could help me! I should come back tomorrow after 3pm! The person at the service desk said that same thing: “That’s not ours.”

Why, yes – it is yours. Maybe on some legal agreement there is a distinction, but for the customer the merchandise display in your store and in your flyer is yours.

It may have sounded like a good business decision to outsource a function, but when that department is front-facing you can never outsource your responsibility. Their service, pricing, and availability all reflect on you and in the end become a black mark on your business when done so poorly.

It would be great if you could just collect the rent and absolve yourselves of any role for how an outsourced function is handled, but it doesn’t work that way. You can subcontract the products, but the onus remains with you for the service.


leadership dot #2817: 24 hours

One of the Big Box stores promotes itself as being open 24 hours, leaving you to infer that it means the whole store is available to shoppers. This would be a myth.

The pharmacy and deli are closed. Ditto for the bottle redemption center. There were no “human” cashiers; only self-service. And most annoying of all, customer service closed at 10pm so there was no way to do the return that was the reason for our trip.

To them, each of these areas is its own little fiefdom with separate rules for the different kingdoms. To me, it is all part of one store and, if the store is open 24 hours, that means the whole store should be.

Take a look around your organization from the customer point of view. Do you function like the 24-hour store where parts of your organization do things differently than others and aggravate customers who don’t see the pieces as being separate? Do you provide what is convenient for the customer, even if it’s inconvenient for some of the staff? Or do you provide excuses for why something is not instead of taking ownership of the process as a whole?

If you promote 24-hour service, deliver it — or stop claiming you do.


leadership dot #2794: rush job

People frequently ask their printer to rush jobs for them – needing the finished product ASAP or requesting special consideration to get the project printed on a short timeline. One printer capitalized on this phenomenon and made it their business model: promising four-color printing within tight deadlines.

Fresh Color Press is “the home of superb fast-turn, short-run digital collateral printing.” Translated, that means that they expect you to need your print job on a tight timeline, and are set up to anticipate it and accommodate you with a smile. Instead of being made to feel like the printer is doing you a big favor to process your job under an impossible timeline, Fresh Color replies with “no worries, we can still easily get them done.” Even their shipping labels say: “We get it. We’ve got this.” And they do!

Fresh Color is a living example of the high-end firm doing well (see dot 2769). They cost more than the average printer, but their quick service is priceless.

Think about what your clients really want from you. What do people ask for that you aren’t set up to provide? What causes you inconvenience but people frequently request it? What would you like from others who provide what you do? Maybe there is a niche waiting for you to leverage.



leadership dot #2778: while you wait

I’ve been paying attention to the waiting experience lately – what organizations do or don’t do to attend to their clients before they actually receive a service.

Restaurants often address the wait because it is implicit in how the model works that you are going to have to wait while they prepare your food. As a result, they serve you peanuts, bread, or hot rolls to mollify your hunger. It seems that waiting is inevitable at doctors’ offices, so there are usually magazines to make the time seem to pass more quickly, and many businesses now offer wi-fi as a way for you to self-entertain while waiting.

But often the standard methods that attempt to satisfy or divert you apply only for the in-person wait. The dog-DNA-testing site Wisdom Health changed that by providing reassurance, information, fun while you wait for your results. Their email:

Good news! Joan’s DNA sample has arrived safe and sound at our lab and is ready to be processed and tested. The first thing we’ll do is extract and clean Joan’s DNA. Once we have the pure DNA, we’ll place it on a special laboratory chip so it can be genotyped. That’s when we’ll analyze the sample for the 1800+ genetic markers that are used in our tests. The whole process will take about 2-3 weeks from today.

In the meantime, for a little fun, you can head over to the Learning Lab and take our Mixed Breed Quiz. You’ll find out just how sharp your breed identification skills are and see how your score stacks up against others.

 Don’t wait to start providing excellent customer care. Pay attention to those who wait for you – in whatever form that may take. You may create a loyal customer by how well you treat them before you ever provide your service.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2762: precise

I understand the volatility of weather patterns and the difficulty in predicting specific outcomes. What I don’t understand are the inconsistencies within the same app forecasting for the same time period. For example, in the “daily forecast” the app showed a high of 50 degrees, but in the “hourly” predictions, 48 was the warmest it would get. I realize there is little difference in two degrees, but the lack of internal integrity calls the whole forecast into question for me.

Think about your organization and whether your employees act in the same manner as the weather app. Do your customers receive different answers depending upon who they ask? Do you provide updated information to your front line so that facts can remain current and accurate? Is there a process to monitor and evaluate the replies that are given?

Maybe the variances are minor but there should be certain responses that are consistent throughout. Strengthen your communication with internal alignment and practiced precision about the numbers that matter.

leadership dot #2754: just looking

It’s a delicate balance for salespersons to know whether you wish to have their help or be left alone to do your shopping. Cosmetics company Sephora has devised a simple yet effective way for customers to communicate their preferences. By offering two different colored baskets, it eliminates the guesswork and makes for a happier environment for both the shopper and salesperson.

Can you adopt this model for a decision point in your organization? Use one color form for those who want assistance and another for those who are confident in their ability to complete it on their own. Create two lines for check-in to distinguish newcomers from those who have already heard the instructions. Give people stickers as they enter the dealership to indicate that they are “just looking.”

Providing a simple solution to this vexing question can make the experience much more pleasant for all who are involved.

leadership dot #2744: genius

Contrast yesterday’s dot about abysmal service at Best Buy with the Apple Stores and their Genius Bar. For those unfamiliar, the Genius Bar is where the technology experts take appointments to solve problems with hardware, software or just user capability. When I recently had to make a visit, my laptop was fixed and cleaned in 15 minutes, all while I sat on a stool and gazed out lovingly at the many other Apple products that I would like to buy.

When something goes wrong with a product, it’s a point of frustration and anger with the user. Apple has anticipated that things will not be 100% perfect and created a way to make the repair process as pleasant as possible. In fact, by doing so at the Apple Store, they turn what could be (should be?) a negative event into a sales opportunity. Now that’s genius.

 Think about your product or service and where the failure points may occur. What could you do to minimize the impact that they have on your clients? Can you add extra attention and focus on helping things go right after they have gone wrong so that you net a positive outcome from an otherwise unpleasant experience?

Direct your geniuses to address the pain points, rather than the ongoing functions. Those who handle the hiccups well enhance their customer loyalty more than when things remain smooth.