Unhappy Prospects and Customers – a gold mine

A client told me a story today that illustrates a principle that every business owner or manager needs to embrace and act on.

Unhappy prospects or customers are an opportunity to display your real value and win a fan for life.

Here is the story from the owner of a start up yoga studio in New York City.

A neighborhood person began to say negative things about the studio on Twitter. Challenges about the pricing being too high and a lack of community involvement in the new studio. A PR person working with the studio’s owner responded and engaged the disgruntled neighborhood person. This lead to the owner becoming engaged and an exchange of emails that clarified the concerns and the facts of what the studio was really doing. The neighborhood person also received feedback from others about the competitive pricing for yoga in NYC. All of this lead to an invitation from the owner for the neighborhood person to come by for tea and attend a Saturday evening potluck party at the studio. Continue reading

Hiding Innovations from Customers

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I learned something quite startling.

The age-old problem of rolls of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and other rolled goods jumping out of the box when you are dispensing them was actually solved years ago by a clever packaging engineer.

My sister-in-law, Meredith Morgan, Press Here to Lock Endan award winning chemistry teacher at Governor Livingston HS in Berkeley Heights NJ, learned this from her students one day when she was fumbling around in front of a class with a roll of aluminum foil.

“Dr. Morgan, don’t you know about the little tabs your press in on the ends of the box?”

She didn’t. But she learns quickly. Meredith was so impressed by this innovation that she demonstrated it to me on every box of foil, plastic wrap, and wax paper in the kitchen.

Now, you might ask, “What does this have to do with my business?”

This is a good example of a small innovation with very practical, day-to-day utility that has probably never been marketed beyond the end of the box. Yet, it works well, addresses an annoyance that every consumer has experienced, but, somehow the solution has remained unused, probably by most consumers.

Note that once you learn of this little push-in tab, you will probably look for it on the end of every box of roll goods you buy. You may wish to follow this discovery on the Web, search on Google for “press here to lock end”tab pushed in

A further example of hiding innovations comes from a customer advisory board meeting for the Albany NY region of a major telecommunications provider. During this meeting, attended by many major customers from health care, high tech, industry, and government, a number of customers said, in response to the comments of other customers attending, “They provide you with that service? I did not even know that they offered that!” Here were major customers of a large, successful telecom who were not aware of significant service offerings. Needless to say, this telecom learned that their marketing efforts were ineffectual and needed more work. If you current customers do not know of your product or service offerings, how could potential customers discover them?

Have you made innovations in your products or services but never told your customers about them? Do you make innovations without even involving customers? When was the last time you actually asked your customers what they like about your products? Have you examined how customers use your product or service? Do you have a formal process to gather customer feedback? Do you have a Customer Advisory Board to drive innovations?

It’s Always Your Fault – taking responsibility for personnel

Attracting, selecting, training and mentoring, and pruning human resources are among the most important tasks a manager confronts. Almost everyone agrees that, at the top level of organizations, managers need to be devoting a significant portion of their time addressing the people needs of the firm. Without the right people in the right positions, no strategy, no matter how clever, can succeed.

To be truly successful in meeting these responsibilities, a manager must embrace an all important management rule: “If an employee is working below expected or required performance it is always the manager’s fault.”

The first place to look is at the manager. After all, the manager hired or selected the person. The manager defines the work, provides tools, training, and all other resources required for the job.  The manager is responsible for the success of every person they supervise.

An important effect of this rule is that it prevents you from entering the whinny land of thinking, or worse, saying:  “Why doesn’t Joseph pay more attention to detail?” “Mirabelle keeps making the same errors over and over in these quotes.” “Walt just doesn’t get the big picture of where this project is going and he is heading down the wrong track, for the umpteenth time.”

Embrace your responsibilities and powers to make your personnel successful.

  • Make sure that you really have well thought out and planned jobs.
  • Are job definitions focused on results?
  • Are the task definitions actionable?
  • Do the skills listed actually match up with the results you want to achieve?
  • Have you provided the training required?
  • Do your personnel understand where the company is going strategically and is it clear how the results of their jobs connect with these strategies?
  • Have you acted promptly to provide feedback and take corrective action to support performance?
  • Do you have a company culture that embraces, supports, and demands full participation by everyone?

Selection and promoting personnel are management tasks with a high error factor. Every manager needs to acknowledge that their judgments are not always perfect, nor even close to perfect, in selection and promotion. So, faced with a weak performance from a new hire or newly promoted person, managers must ask the question early, “Did I make a mistake here?” If you come to that conclusion you need to act promptly to correct the error.

The central point is that you selected your personnel, you set the conditions and environment of their work, your provide the tools and training, you set the expectations, the results required. If you are not getting top performance from your personnel, look to the basics, look to your own responsibilities as a manager first. After all, if you are really holding yourself accountable for these responsibilities, you will achieve equal or better performance from everyone in your organization.