Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Client Service and Changemaking

Among my favorite iPhone apps are HBR's Management Tip of the Day and HBR Stats. It probably seems a little nerdy, but between the two they provide nuggets of valuable information each and every day.

On March 25th, the tip of the day addressed the fact that we live in a world that's changing fast, and to be successful, we need to know both how to adapt to change and how to drive it. The six core skills, adapted from "Rodrigo Baggio's Persuasive Leadership" by Bill Drayton and Valeria Budinch, are very relevant to those who are trying to build their business and distinguish themselves through client service excellence. They are:
  • Bring people together who aren't connected
  • Design new business models by combining players and resources in new ways
  • Persevere with an idea until you achieve success
  • Don't rely on your credentials, but on the power of your ideas
  • Persuade others to see the possibility of your ideas and join them in that pursuit
  • Empower others to also make change
I don't know of one PR firm that wouldn't benefit from revisiting these core skills. How many of these skills are you employing now? How can you lead positive change in your organization during these challenging times?

*Today's template is one of many I'll be trying over the next month or so using Blogger's new Template Designer. Great new tool!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kudos to Blogger & LT 25!

After a three-week blogcation, I'd like to use this post to offer my congratulations to two deserving groups: The team at Blogger and Seton Hall University's recent MASCL graduates, otherwise known as Learning Team (LT) 25.

I think I speak for many of us who use Blogger that we've been hoping and pleading for new templates for a long time now. Blogger has devised a terrific system that offers the flexibility and ease of use we enjoy as "Bloggers." It only took me a few minutes or so to discover the possibilities, figure out the system, and transform my blog template from something ordinary to something much more inviting. I plan to experiment with a new template every few days or so just to showcase some of my favorites. If there's a particular template you enjoy, feel free to share in your comments. For more information about the Blogger Template Designer, please read the post from Blogger in Draft. Blogger: Thanks for listening and responding!

As many of you know, I serve as an adjunct professor for Seton Hall University's MASCL program. I teach the capstone module, Strategic Communication Planning. Our graduating class, Learning Team 25, served as a stellar example of how working as colleagues rather than competitors provides for a richer learning experience for everyone involved. It's a rigorous program that I regard as the "MBA for Communicators." I extend my congratulations and best wishes to LT 25 and offer an invitation to any communication professional seeking an advanced to degree to check out MASCL and see if it's right for you!

I look forward to getting back to my blog in earnest next week!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Customer Service Champs

Last month, BusinessWeek announced its annual list of customer service champs. Jena McGregor looked behind the results and wrote: "When it comes to customer service, one might have assumed 2009 would have dealt a massive blow. Amid a brutal recession, companies slashed inventories to the bone. They cut back sharply on employee hours, benefits, and pay. Many stopped new investments in technology and store upgrades. But a funny thing happened on the way to the recovery: Customer satisfaction didn't sink like a 100-pound stone. The average score for the 25 brands that received our fourth annual Customer Service Champs award, which rates what customers think about the quality of a company's staff and the efficiency of its service, rose slightly in 2009."

I find the assumption about customer service quality suffering a "massive blow" interesting and not at all surprised it was wrong. For enterprises with a time-honored commitment to customer service, they don't typically abandon their efforts during difficult economic times. It's not only an integral part of their DNA, but they understand how it sets them apart, especially during lean periods. When customers need care the most, they can depend on these organizations to provide it. Other companies tend to step up their service initiatives in an effort to keep the customers they have. 2009's solid customer service performance makes perfect sense.

Congratulations to the top 25: Ace Hardware, Amazon.com, American Express, Amica Mutual Insurance, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Branch Banking & Trust, Charles Schwab, Dell, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Jaguar, L.L. Bean, Lexus, Nordstrom, Panera Bread, Publix Super Markets, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, True Value, USAA, Wegmans Food Markets, and WestJet.

Pivot Point Solutions
offered a terrific post that highlights which companies invested in their employees, their customers, and in technology in 2009. The writer also reminds us that regardless of our business, we can learn a great deal from the best practices of these organizations. I encourage you to take a closer look and share your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Much Do You Care?

This may sound a bit trite, but the more I learn about client service excellence and great leadership, the more obvious it is that it's all about caring. Combine all the practical experience with all the scholarly theories one can assemble, and it comes down to who cares the most.

When I say caring, I mean caring about everything and everyone - results, relationships, employees, clients, vendors, media, etc. Caring fuels passion and an indomitable will to win. Sometimes when I watch attorneys preparing and defending a client's innocence in a court of law, I think about the stakes. It's often about whether a man will spend the rest of his life in prison or go home to his family. The stakes don't get much higher than that, so if you're not prepared to do the work it takes to prevail ( to care enough), then the defendant needs another lawyer. In the communication business, it's when the client needs a new agency.

A few years ago, I worked for Mullen for a brief time. I participated in a new business pitch one day, and the CEO Joe Grimaldi closed the presentation by stating to the prospect: "You won't come across another agency who will "care" more than Mullen about your business and your success!" I'd had been at the agency just long enough at the time to want to stand up in that moment and say, "he's right, you know!" I had worked for a number of agencies over the years, and it was the first time in my life I had ever heard those words from a CEO delivered with such sincerity. What's more, I knew the words were backed by a culture that he, Edward Boches, and others had built over the years that could actually deliver on such an assertion.

At Mullen, everybody cares! Fortunately, the client was astute enough to believe him and Mullen won the business. I would imagine the agency continues to serve that client today with the same level of caring that was demonstrated during the pitch. That's because it's who they are.

We're still in the midst of a difficult economy, where the stakes for most enterprises are higher than ever. If you believe in the premise that whoever cares the most wins, then it may be time to ask, how much do I care? And is it enough?


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