Archive for November, 2010

Why Join the Navy if you Can Be A Pirate?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

“Why join the Navy if you can be a pirate?” It’s a quote from Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Jobs is universally recognized for his brilliant planning, bold statements, and charismatic keynotes unveiling the latest and greatest Apple has. (If you’ve never seen one of his keynotes, Google them; they are pretty entertaining.)

But Jobs is best known for leading Apple from market flunky status to market icon status. His willingness to be a pirate in the marketplace, versus joining the Navy, has led to Apple’s reputation of innovation. What would Apple be if it had gone the path of the PC world…if it had given up and said, “‘Me too’ is a high-enough goal for us?” I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have had the raving advocacy, the market growth, or the investor return we’ve all witnessed. It would have become one in the masses or, worse yet, gone into extinction. Instead, it’s a household name.

What is the key to Apple’s success? In my opinion, there are several:

1. Apple wasn’t afraid to be different; in fact, it embraced its uniqueness and staked a claim in its market for that uniqueness.

2. The company looked for what made it different – innovation – and used that to its advantage as a differentiator.

3. Apple made a decision to live and breathe its differentiator in every part of its company and customer experience, from its products to its advertising to its stores and employees. Have you ever bought something at the Apple store? You don’t go to a cash register…your card is swiped on a handheld device! You don’t get a mandatory paper receipt…you get an email receipt! Even the normally-mundane purchase process is innovative.

Find out what makes you or your company different. Then determine how it helps your customers. Does your speed to market give your clients a competitive advantage? Does the insight you bring to the table put your customers in a better place to foresee market changes and proactively prepare for them? Whatever your differentiator, find it, determine how it benefits your clients, then use it to your advantage…in your communications, your sales conversations, your customer experience.

Arrgh! Go on, be a pirate!

jkl

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Caught by Surprise – The Sequel

Posted on November 12, 2010. Filed under: Customer Experience |

If you tuned in last time, you’ll remember my FedEx Office saga. Holy moly of headaches, batman! I was trying to get a poster made and the graphics weren’t working (my fault…I used the wrong graphic). And through all 90 minutes of the saga, the people at my local FedEx Office tried to help me. As I left, I thanked them profusely and was met with a surprise…a comment from Clint, “We like to help nice people.” That comment led to my commitment to be a better customer.

So I have to tell you the end of the story. I received no emergency phone call telling me that something was amiss, so I was pretty relaxed. Throughout the day, I was working on a handout, using the same graphic that I had handed over to FedEx Office the previous night. About an hour before I was to pick up the poster, I printed the handout. Yikes!  The graphic was not printing correctly! My Ban Antiperspirant went into overdrive! What would I find when I went to pick up a poster that I needed to use that evening and on which I had dropped a decent amount of money to produce?

I walked into FedEx Office and calmly (or so I thought) asked for my project. Shea, one of the two people that had helped me the night before, was there. That almost made it worse…what was I going to do if it was bad? She ever so carefully unwrapped the packaging around the poster, which had been mounted on foam core, and, voila! there it was.  Perfect!  Better than perfect! Absolutely stunning!  Of course the impact may have been a tiny bit magnified due to the fact that I had been holding my breath for the prior two minutes, had tiny beads of sweat gathering at my temples, and had the whispering of another headache coming on. But, truly, it was perfect I thanked Shea and went on my merry way…happy as a lark with my beautiful poster in hand.

Time for reflection again, this time from the point of my experience. What made my experience at FedEx Office so good? Here are a few things:

  1. Clint and Shea, the two people I worked with, were polite to everyone with whom I saw them interact.
  2. They truly wanted to help the people that came in; they wanted their customers’ projects to turn out right, whether a business poster or a family holiday calendar.
  3. They tested the deliverable – they ran a portion of the poster to see if it would print correctly (of course it didn’t and that led to the 90 minutes of trying to fix…).
  4. They set expectations – from bringing out different sizes of foam core so I could determine the size of poster I wanted, to telling me what time they’d call the next morning if there were issues, to letting me know about what time it would be done.
  5. They packaged the poster carefully – with cardboard around each corner to protect it…much like you’d see from a framing shop.
  6. Saying, “I love what I do and it’s good to do it for nice people!”  How beautiful is that to hear?

Are any of these things particularly over the top? No. Do any of these take a fortune of time or effort to do? No. But in a service industry that can too often be commoditized, these actions create a differentiator, that’s for sure. I’ll go back to my FedEx Office whenever I have another project. And I might just go at 8:30 pm so that I can see Shea and Clint…I know they will be there for me!

jkl

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Caught By Surprise

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Customer Experience |

I was in FedEx Office last night from about 8:30 – 10:00. What I thought would be a quick 10-minute drop-off of a project turned out to be a grueling 90-minute working session. Let me first say that it was my fault, no one else’s. OK, now for the story.

I was dropping off a file to be made into a poster. The woman behind the counter, Shea, listened to what I needed, took the file, and said, “Let’s see how a portion of this prints before you leave.”  Well, as you can now guess, the file looked pretty bad. The graphic, when blown up to poster size, was very blurry with jagged edges. I couldn’t use that.

What to do?  She suggested resizing the file, so I did…no luck. Meanwhile, she was working a barrage of other customers who seemed to think 9:00 was a perfect time to go to FedEx Kinko’s to create calendars, get a file turned into a pdf, and who knows what else (this is amazing to me…I’m pretty much getting my mind set to go to bed at 9:00!). She came back to me and we both agreed on one thing: we were stumped. About 9:30, another gentleman, Clint, came in. He had the night shift. Before he even took his coat off, he was asked to answer the phone. When he was finished, he was asked to help me (OK, he did get to take his coat off first!).

I went through another three attempts of creating a new file. We were both at a loss and then I had a revelation – perhaps I wasn’t using the right graphic file type. I started over once more with a new graphic file. Viola! It worked! He created my work order, confirmed that he’d call me at 8:00 this morning if there was a problem, and I finally walked out the door. Before I left, I thanked both Shea and Clint for their help (which included letting me stand at one side of the counter for 90 minutes working on my computer so I didn’t have to run back and forth from a desk). Clint turned to me, surprised, and said, “I’m always happy to help nice people.” OK, that caught me by surprise. He went on, “A lot of people who come in here or call are not that nice. I took a call tonight when I walked in the door and listened to a woman argue about our prices to print black and white copies – that’s 12 cents! So we appreciate you being nice!”

More surprise by me…and then reflection on the drive home. I walked in with a splitting headache. It didn’t go away while I was there; in fact, it got worse from frustration. But there was no reason to take it out on the people who work there – they were helping me and, from what I saw, they were very helpful to everyone else who came into the store. Clint even said to me, “I love what I do, and it’s good to do it for nice people.”

So I’m looking at the other side today…while I help companies deliver a stellar customer experience, last night reminded me that I need to be a stellar customer as well. And, boy, I know I’m not always a stellar customer. I may be frustrated, frazzled, and angry about a situation, but there’s no reason to just go off on someone. Instead, I need to remind myself – and we probably all do – that the odds are it will be a much better interaction, even if there’s a problem, if I am calm and work with someone to reach a solution versus working against them.

Clint’s comment will be fresh in my mind for a few days. Will it last for weeks, months, years? I hope so. And even if it doesn’t, I hope the lesson I learned from my FedEx Office interaction with him will. I’m adding this to my affirmations; “I will be proactively kind and courteous, even in stressful situations, to those whose roles involve helping me.” Want to be a stellar customer? Let’s try it!

jkl

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Stories that Capture your Audience

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging, Stories |

Last time, I wrote about telling your value story and how to create a consistent story…one that can be repeated by your entire sales force or, better yet, by everyone in your company.

And maybe you remember me saying, “Telling a consistent story about your company is critical. Telling the right story is equally important. Weaving the elements of your story together is an art, but it has to be a process as well.”

In the case of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, everyone knows the story because someone by the name of Charles Perrault took the time to weave the elements of the story together in a particular way. And if you take the time to weave the elements (aka products and services) of your story together you, too, create a consistent story that can be retold by anyone in your company.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a “one size fits all” approach in customer messaging. You’re not done once you’ve written the story. Your next step is to tailor the story to your audience.

Let’s go back to Little Red Riding Hood. Think about how you might tailor that story when telling it to a 2-year old versus an 8-year old. The 2-year-olds will keep you up all night if you spend too much time on the wolf, so you downplay how awful he is and spend time on the sweet little grandmother. But 8-year-olds live for scary stuff, so you go into great detail about the wolf’s long, yellow fangs, sharp, nasty claws, and dark, evil eyes. In both instances, you’re telling the same basic story, but you’re tailoring it to your audience. Your business value story is no different. Tell a consistent baseline story, but tailor it to be relevant to your audience.

How do you do that? Ask questions so you know how to make your story relevant to your prospects. What challenges is the organization facing? What goals need to be achieved this next year – and beyond? How will success be measured? Now think of how your offering can help your prospect achieve those things and tell your story in that manner. This approach changes the entire dynamic of “sales.” Your sales team is more consultative, your proposals are more relevant, and prospects are more receptive. Why? Because your story captures them. And this approach isn’t just for sales…every customer-facing employee should be able to tell and tailor the story.

Create your story. Test it out and make changes as necessary. Then once you get it, let your employees know how to tell it consistently and how to tailor it for their particular audiences. May Little Red Riding Hood be your guide.

jkl

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What’s Your Story?

Posted on November 8, 2010. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging, Stories |

Stories.

We hear them, from The Three Little Pigs to Little Red Riding Hood to Charlotte’s Web to Lord of the Rings.

We watch them in the form of movies. In fact, some movies even remind us that we’re watching a story with the word right smack dab in the title: Love Story, Toy Story, The Story of Us, and Bedtime Stories.

We tell them. “Do you know what happened to me today?” “You’ll never believe me when I tell you this!” “Boy, do I have something to tell you!”

Yep, we’re all about stories. You and me…we like our stories.

So here’s a question for you. What’s the story you tell about your company? Do you have a story? Do your employees all tell the same story?  It is a strong story…is it the story you want told?

Telling a consistent story about your company is critical. Telling the right story is equally important. Weaving the elements of your story together is an art, but it has to be a process as well.

Let’s go back to Little Red Riding Hood. The basic elements of the story are a little girl, a red cape, a wolf, a basket, and a grandmother. We all know how the story goes. But suppose you gave those five elements to ten people who didn’t know the story and asked them to create a story. How many different stories do you think you’d get? I bet you’d get at least ten!  Each person would combine those elements differently according to their imagination, background, and knowledge.

Little Red Riding Hood is a great testimonial of why managing your company story is so important. If you simply provide the elements of your value story – your products, your services – to your sales team, you’re asking them to create their own story. And they’ll do that based on their background, knowledge, and, most likely, their imagination! You’ll end up with each salesperson telling a different story and each prospect hearing a different value proposition.

So take the time to create your story, one that tells the value you bring to your customers. Weave the elements together and end with value…the value they have because of your partnership with them. Test your value statement with the “so what” factor. Pretend you’re the prospect and ask, “So what?” after the value statement. If there’s an answer to that question, you’re not at the bottom line value yet. Keep going. Keep asking “So what?” until you can’t answer the question anymore. Then there’s a good chance you’re at bottom-line value.

I’ll talk more about telling your story in my next blog. Until then, think about what you want to tell.What’s your story?

jkl

 

 

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Schmeear It On

Posted on November 5, 2010. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging, Uncategorized |

I’m writing this the day after the election.

Are you as tired of the smear – or I prefer to drag it out with the word schmeear – campaigns as I am?  Two senate candidates here in Colorado spent over $30 million bashing each other. Is that something to be proud of…to know you set a spending record and that it was based on painting an ugly picture of your opponent?

Don’t worry, I’m not going into politics here…in fact, I’m not even sure I could articulate what each of those two candidates stood for in their campaigns. And isn’t that sad? All I know is that they focused a lot of time, energy, and money on attacking their competition. And I heard a lot of frustration that most campaigns’ content was of a similar genre.

On the other hand, the Colorado governor’s race was run without one negative ad that I can recall. But oddly enough, what I can indeed recall are those things the candidates stood for. Once the results were announced, here’s what the winner, new Governor Hickenlooper, said in reference to his supporters, “I especially appreciate your commitment to keeping this a clean campaign. You have made history tonight by showing you can win with a message of what you are for, not who you’re against.”

So what can we learn from these two approaches to a campaign?  Maybe, just maybe, it’s better to focus on what differentiates you from your competition rather than resorting to attacking them. Creating a differentiated message, one that articulates your sweet spot in a relevant way to your audience, makes a much bigger impact – not only about what you provide, but also about the integrity with which you conduct business – than schmeear campaigns ever can. It may be easier to just attack your competition, but it’s not nearly as effective.

I encourage you to take the time to determine your sweet spot and create messaging around that sweet spot. Let your prospects and customers know what you stand for and what differentiates you from your competition. You can win without having to schmeear anything or anyone!

jkl

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