Thursday, May 29, 2008
I encourage you to read the answers and to visit Becky's blog, as she plans a deeper dive on the subject very soon. Here was my two cents:
I really enjoyed reading the answers to your very good question. They support the fact that client service excellence, just as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For that reason, 5-star service is more of a frame of mind aimed at the individual than a ubiquitous goal for the masses. As Frances X. Frei suggested in a recent HBR article, it's not about being all things to all people, but being specific things to specific people.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Let me explain what I mean. Take the word empowerment for example. If you ask employees if they feel empowered in the workplace, you will likely get a range of answers - not because the circumstances for the individuals are necessarily different, but because one person's definition of empowerment may not square with another's interpretation. Some may define empowerment as having individual freedom and flexibility to make decisions, while others may regard it as having open access to the vast resources of their employer to get their jobs done. Both are certainly versions of empowerment, but they don't mean the same thing, and the circumstances that may create one form of empowerment do not necessarily facilitate the other.
Collaboration is another example. It comes in all shapes and sizes and unless you're specific about what you mean, the likelihood of miscommunication and misunderstanding with your audiences is high.
Dr. Karl M. Soehnlein (one of my Seton Hall University professors) was kind enough to share a resource that supports this idea. In the book Understanding & Sharing: An Introduction to Speech Communication, by Pearson & Nelson (1994) the authors define communication as "the process of understanding and sharing meaning."
So what are we to do? It's a little ridiculous to try and negotiate the specific meanings of the words we use, but as communication professionals, we must be attuned to our audiences both in terms of how they interpret our meaning and how we process theirs. Whether you're direct or more subtle, make sure you and your clients/employees are on the same page. It won't just show you mean well, it will demonstrate you actually care.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Here are just a few of the success factors the department shares with its readers:
Provide a complete experience: Step back and make sure that all your customer needs are met from the beginning to the end of the sales process. Make the customer feel valued, even after the sales process is complete, e.g. by offering after-sales help such as installation.
Reliable service: Deliver your products and services on time and as requested.
Accountability: Take full responsibility for providing high-quality products and services. Make sure you honour guarantees/warranties on your products.
Efficiency: Deliver your product/service with minimum hassle for your customers.
Assurance: Create customer confidence in you through your professional approach and demonstrated knowledge of your product/service. Customers must be able to trust your word so always act on your promises.
Attention to detail: Attend to even the smaller details. Show you care and that you are prepared to provide individual attention to every customer.
Appearance: Make sure your image and appearance reinforce customer confidence in your services.
Keep in touch: Keep customers regularly informed on progress and developments - but make sure this is welcomed by the customer.
Recovery strategies: Put processes in place to allow you to recognise problems when they arise and take action to fix them.
Value adding: Explore how you can offer that little bit extra, such as supplying complimentary products or services after the initial sale, or providing valuable follow-up information.
Be sure to pick up the complete guide. It's worth a read!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
First, let me share some of Chris's predictions, "I believe we’re going to shift back to thinking customer service and community management are the core and not the fringe. I believe we’re going to move our communications practices back in-house for lots of what is currently pushed out to agencies and organizations. I believe that integrity, reputation, skills, and personality are going to trump some of our previous measures of professional ability. I believe the web and our devices will continue to move into tighter friendships, and that we will continue to train our devices to interpret more of the world around us on our behalf."
Chris offers other predictions as well including a growing trend toward working remotely, which I completely agree with, but I'll save for another time. That said, let's consider his predictions. In short, it's about client service, outsourcing, integrity, and relationships. They are all interrelated.
Jonathan Tisch and others talk about the importance of customization and personalization. Frances X. Frei asks, "Are you trying to be all things to all people or specific things to specific people?" Without personalized, customized client service that's delivered with integrity and fosters trusted relationships, most clients WILL bring their work in-house as Chris suggests. The agencies with whom clients will work in our hyper-competitive, flat world are the ones who are truly committed to client service excellence. Clients (of all sizes) won't settle for less, and they shouldn't have to.
Offer just satisfactory client service and you WILL lose clients. You WILL lose top people, and you WILL lose money. Not even the new business pipeline will save you because there won't be much of one. The best of the best employees won't want to work for you because they'll want to work for the best client service oriented firms that attract only the best clients. And why would clients trust outsourcing anything to firms other than the ones with the best people? If you're not committed to client service excellence now, your revenues are dropping as we speak; you just don't realize it yet.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
You can think of an Alltop site as a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet. To be clear, Alltop sites are starting points—they are not destinations per se. The bottom line is that we are trying to enhance your online reading by both displaying stories from the sites that you’re already visiting and helping you discover sites that you didn’t know existed. In other words, our goal is the “cessation of Internet stagnation” by providing “aggregation without aggravation.”
For the list of marketing blogs and recent posts, you can also click on the badge in the sidebar. Yes, I chose one of the more politically correct versions!
To get ready for the meeting, I reviewed its extensive web site and got a great feel for the priorities and the values that drive this company. My initial impression was reinforced during my meeting with the senior leadership team. The customer service focus is truly impressive and serves as a great reminder about the power of a client service oriented culture and what it can mean both to avoiding and responding to crisis situations.
Consider the number of customer interactions that evolve into crisis nightmares because of an indecision or a bad decision that shortchanged a customer. I would say 99 times out of 100, if a company responded to a customer properly at the time of the incident, then it would never have escalated into a crisis. There would be no need for a customer to run to the news media to gain satisfaction. And today, you don't have to run to the news media, because we can create our own content and cause our own headaches for companies. Not servicing customers/clients properly is riskier than ever.
The fact that the leadership team is proactively seeking help with this assignment is quite telling in and of itself. I told them point blank that if the leaders are as committed to its people and customers as they appear, then they are already a long way down the path of developing a successful plan for protecting victims of crisis and, by doing so, keeping the client service oriented brand promise it espouses.
I'm hope I'm fortunate enough to work with them.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Now today I read Michelle Golden's post Creative and Edgy Attracts only to find another reference to Valorem Law Group. I didn't think I could like anything better than satisfaction guaranteed until I read the firm's disclaimer. It's not what you might expect from a Chicago law firm. Let me just say I laughed out loud at #4 which begins by stating: "We are normal people, which means we don't do tax law."
The disclaimer is an important reminder. Great client service is all about relationships, and relationships are very much about personalities. The people at Valorem Law Group not only show they have personality, but they showcase it in everything they do - even the disclaimer.
I'll tell you this, if I ever need an attorney for anything but tax law, I'm calling Valorem Law Group.
Next, I'd like to thank Kelli Matthews for introducing me to PROpenMic. In just about a month's time I believe, PROpenMic as more than 700 members worldwide and describes itself this way:
PROpenMic is for public relations students and faculty from around the world. We welcome practitioners, too. The focus is on preparing the next generation of PR practitioners by enabling interaction with people from around the world in this community network. We already have members from 70+ colleges & universities from over 30 countries. Glad you're here! Have fun and learn from one another.
I encourage practitioners to have an active presence in this environment. What a great way to share and learn from one another. Off for my Saturday morning run now!
Friday, May 9, 2008
While I'm pretty sure SNL didn't set out to showcase Old Glory's commitment to client service excellence, one can't help admire the company's forward thinking approach and its willingness to provide an option to seniors that its competitors clearly failed to do. I hadn't seen it in years, but it's just as funny today as it was over a decade ago. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The conversation has sparked some interesting responses on these forums and through e-mails I've received privately. The comments have ranged from careful articulation of the differences between mission, vision, and values and their importance to any organization to downright cynicism - that in the end, statements of core values are meaningless.
Based on the organization and the commitment of its leadership, both extremes are correct. For example, Michael Dell understood the importance of values to the company's future and effectively reset the organization by demonstrating to his employees that how one achieves objectives is just as important as achieving them. Dell wanted his people to know he was serious about ethics and values. The company's values were not only codified in a document called The Soul of Dell which was written in 2002, but integrated into the employees’ everyday work life.
Conversely, a Harvard Business Review article by Patrick M. Lencioni begins with a list of corporate values: Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. Lencioni writes, "They sound pretty good, don't they? Strong, concise, meaningful. Maybe they even resemble your own company's values, the ones you spent so much time writing, debating, and revising. If so, you should be nervous. These are the corporate values of Enron, as stated in the company's 2000 annual report. And as events have shown, they're not meaningful, they're meaningless."
As part of our conversation on Linkedin, David Kinard described core values this way: "Core values are those "behaviors in action" that are aspired to, recognized when demonstrated, and provide a framework for the interactivity of people and teams within the organization. They also inform the ways that employees will interact with customers and other external constituents."
The challenge as I see it for most companies is this: Can they live their core values during bad times as well as good times? Staying true to your values during good times is fine, but great organizations show their mettle when they remain committed to their convictions during tough times. These are the companies we truly revere - the ones that provide us with the best client service longterm.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Chris doesn't stop at saying no, but walks us through a reassessment of his priorities and values. It's not only something we should contemplate as organizations, as I suggested yesterday, but it's a powerful individual exercise that can help us achieve true balance, even harmony, in our personal and professional lives.
Thanks for the reminder!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Now what do we mean by values statements? In the July 2002 issue of Harvard Business Review, Patrick M. Lencioni shared an interesting story: "I once asked the CEO of a Fortune 500 networking company to tell me one of his firm's core values. 'A sense of urgency!' he replied without hesitation. 'So,' I asked, 'your employees take quick action and hit all their deadlines?' 'No,' he replied, 'they are complacent as hell, which is why we need to make urgency one of our core values.'"
Lencioni added, "That response reveals the confusion underlying many values initiatives. Far from being a core value, a sense of urgency didn't even exist in the organization. It was just an aspiration - a goal for the future."
If you have a core values statement, it may be time to revisit it to determine whether your core values are truly engrained in the organization or still aspirational. If you don't have a core values statement, then drafting one that truly reflects the current state with an eye toward success for the future can be a gratifying and important exercise. Your employees and your clients will be the big winners.
Both my current and my previous employer had core values statements, and each in their own way serves the organization well. One is more memorable; the other more inspirational. Both have a measure of aspiration to them - as well they should. It's all about trying to be better.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Jim Novo noted, "The general truism 'it costs 5x more to acquire a customer than retain one' is from Fred Reichheld's (yes, he of NPS fame) earlier book, The Loyalty Effect (1996). It's based on his study of 25 different companies across many different industries - State Farm, Toyota, John Deere, Leo Burnett, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, MBNA, Chic-Fil-A, etc. when he was at Bain & Co. This book is also the source of the '5-point increase in retention lifts per-customer profit by more than 125 percent' type of idea.
"To clarify, this '5 to 1' phrase has been hacked up and taken out of context for more than a decade. The original meaning is the yield on a dollar spent is 5x higher for retention than acquisition; the ROI is 5x higher for retention than acquisition..." (Visit either link above for the complete comment).
Consider how much time, effort, and expense it takes to pitch a prospect. Depending on how elaborate the review process, even if you win the business, it can take months to achieve a breakeven position. So if it's more profitable to retain clients than find new ones, then why aren't we as a profession focusing more of our efforts on retention? On client service excellence.
I answered a question on Linkedin today regarding industry practices for rewarding agency employees who bring in new business. Here's my paraphrased response:
Your employee should be well compensated for the myriad services to be delivered here, but I would not set a precedent for rewarding employees for bringing in new business. I think you should reward the team based on overall agency growth rather than try to compensate individuals for specific new client wins.
What do you think?
The point is that our clients should believe they stand a better chance surviving, and even thriving, during down times with us than without us. A greater focus on client service excellence is a first step to helping us get there. If nothing else, it's a great conversation topic to start the week.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
- "One key practice of servant leadership is comprehensive listening—gathering a wide range of in-depth information about customers or clients to make sure the organization understands what people need. It is hard to meet people’s needs if you don’t know what those needs are!
- "Another practice is changing the traditional hierarchical pyramid, so that the chief at the top is not isolated but is part of a team, and people in the organization look out at the customer as well as looking up at their bosses.
- Servant-leaders also pay attention to developing their colleagues, coaching instead of controlling, and unleashing the energy and potential of others. They know that when you take care of your colleagues, they will be able to take care of your customers. These and other practices make it possible to provide superlative service to customers and clients.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I plan to add these links to my sidebar under the special heading of Client Service Blogs. If you would like me to add others to the list, please let me know.
More Partner Income, Tom Collins
In Search of Perfect Client Service, Patrick J. Lamb
The Adventure of Strategy, Rob Millard
Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, Gerry Riskin
CBA Practice Link (Canada)
Church of the Customer Blog, Ben McConnell & Jackie Huba
CustomersAreAlways, Maria Palma
David Jacobson’s External Insights, David Jacobson
Gladwell.com Blog, Malcolm Gladwell
Golden Practices, Michelle Golden
Gruntled Employees, Jay Shepherd
How to Make it Rain, Rjon Robins
Howling Point, Chuck Hartley and Pongo
Human Law, Justin Patten
Infamy or Praise, Colin Samuels
lawfirmblogging.com, Nathan Burke
Leadership for Lawyers, Mark Beese
Legal Business Development, James Hassett
Legal Ease Blog, Allison Shields
Legal Marketing Blog, Tom Kane
Legal Sanity, Arnie Herz
How To Change The World, Guy Kawasaki
Management Craft, Lisa Haneberg
May It Please The Court, J. Craig Williams
Minor Wisdom, Raymond Ward
My Shingle, Carolyn Elefant and Mark Sindler
the [non]billable hour, Matt Homann
Passion, People and Principles, David Maister
LawMarketing Blog, Larry Bodine
Rainmaker Best Practices, Patrick McEvoy
Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Kevin O'Keefe