Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Listening to the Service Experience

Creating a great sales effort begins by hiring people that have the raw ability to learn and to:

* fully understand products or services
* effectively deliver presentations fearlessly and consistently
* care about their customer's experience by listening and learning.

How? Here are a few ways to listen and learn:

Live Chat
Eliminate phone tag and offer service on demand. Even if you run a small businesses you can provide real-time support for visitors to your website. Organizations like, BoldChat and provide outsourced support services at competitive rates.

On-Demand Consumer University
Learning isn't limited to employees. In fact, consumers can benefit (and appreciate) the same information you provide your team.

Video FAQ and How-to's
You Tube offers a video plug-in for your site, that gives you the chance to quickly and affordably post content, like how-to videos that can make life easier for your customers.

Social Media
Services such as Facebook help you connect to multiple communities. Tools like Visibility and Radian 6 allow you to measure the effectiveness of your outreach to those groups.

Staff profiles and Blogs
Customers want to follow the team members they talk to everyday, not necessarily the CFO or COO. Get over your need for control and let your people blog. Employees may pleasantly surprise you by attracting even more customers.

Independent Reviews
Customer reviews and feedback are part of a richer online experience. Some companies, like, offer widgets that can enable a review function within your own site. Others, like offer 3rd party reviews for specific services, in this case, hotels and travel services.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Celebrating (and taming)
My Inner Control Freak
contributed by Kristine Forster

I have a bit of really exciting news to share – along with a personal revelation.

Ok … first, the revelation. Although I'm a fun-loving, happy person, I am also a ‘type A’ personality. To be completely transparent, the phrase “control freak” was once used to describe my approach to work. Ouch. That's the kind of phrase that can make anyone think twice, yet I’m getting more comfortable with the label as time goes on, especially when it comes to evaluating my performance and results. Why? Because, at the end of the day I’m the one responsible for the
quality of my work … so I have a personal stake in the services I provide.

Other performance-driven types know the kind of pressure that drives us, the energizing, heart palpitating, blood-drumming-in-ears-so-I-can’t-hear-a-thing caffeine rush that’s our response to everyday challenges like change, hidden agendas, financial struggles, physical stresses, personal dramas, etc. Couple that with all the ridiculous performance demands we place on ourselves: the expectations, constant scrutiny and life-altering consequences that are so intensely associated with our work performance ... we need to exert an inordinate amount of control just to manage it all from day to day (hour to hour, minute to minute). It even sounds exhausting!

Here’s what I recently discovered: the ability for people like me to adroitly manage this pressure determines how effective (successful) we are with daily tasks. Regardless of where we are operating (work, home, community, etc.), by better handling the stress of little things we can succeed with larger goals. When viewed in a larger context, those smaller pressures almost seem to evaporate.

More important, our ability to perform under multiple, concurrent stressors is not inherent at birth. It’s not the ability of a chosen few. It’s actually a skill. (Yeah! Are you jumping up and down with me?). This means it can be both taught and developed and nurtured and shared. This is good news, and although controlling our actions to the benefit of others is one of the fundamentals taught in any communications class, the ability to successfully transfer this knowledge into practice is the difference between a life well-spent or just spent stressing over small things.

What is the difference? By re-framing (or taming) this desire for control, we can begin to use that impulse for something more constructive, actions that are more positive for everyone around us.

Let's identify the things we can't control. For instance, I can’t control the economy. I can't control international politics or the distribution/redistribution of wealth. I can’t control the weather, or my mom and dad’s moods or whether you like me or not ... However, I can control the choices I make to improve myself, better my community and share my passion for life with my colleagues and friends.

Instead, let's be BOLD get fired-up, passionate, excited...about the things that matter. Whatever cause or goal that makes you want to stand up, grab the reins and take control. Then, try to do something good with that energy, something that may seem small or ordinary, but that can make a bigger difference later on.

Choose to open a door for another employee as you talk to him/her about their recent experience.  
Choose to ask questions that lead to better understanding. 
Choose to challenge assumptions. 
Choose to let go of the small things to achieve the larger ones. 
Make better choices, daily.
By developing the key mental and emotional skills that allow us to conquer and control those small challenges we can concentrate on delivering to the best of our ability, each and every day. We take control in a positive direction…to achieve large goals. 

Let's take this journey together, one happy control freak with another!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Learning About Commitment, the hard way

My first job out of college was with IBM. After training, I was assigned to small business (underscore) and office products. Our area was affectionately known around the office as the "THUMP' district: tattoos, hustlers, undercover, mob, pimps.

I could not imagine any of my potential clients on the south side of town using a typewriter for something remotely related to legitimate work. It was not an easy market.

Before getting THUMP'd, I had fantasies of casually selling $4 million computers to well-heeled executives while teeing off the 9th hole. Instead, I was trying to convince struggling business owners to buy a Selectric III typewriter or slap down $5,000+ to be the first on their block to own a personal computer.

I had some lean days. In fact, I had many, many lean days. After one of those days, my manager took me aside and spent an afternoon helping me understand how to turn my luck around.

"Russ, don't waste your talent with people who don't appreciate you, or spend another day with a company that looks like death eating a cracker." Don had a deep southern accent that flavored all of his down-home expressions. "Just thank them for their time, make a sale if you can, and then commit yourself to the next prospect who can appreciate what you have to offer."

He added another thought that meant the world to me.

"I'm committed to your success - that's why I hired you. Stop in anytime. I'll be glad to go over your progress anytime you want."

It was only later when I got back to my desk that I laughed out loud thinking about his "death eating a cracker" homily. In the end, I was successful, even in that crappy territory. Only much later in life did I realize the two important lessons he had shown me:

1. People respond when someone is truly committed to their success. Through his dedication to me, and my dedication to my territory (and not my products), I was able to create loyal customers who trusted me, regardless of where I worked or what I sold. Through commitment, we both gained success, and my manager gained my respect and lifelong appreciation.

2. We "sell" ourselves everyday, no matter what we do for work. Through our words, actions, and body language, we either invite others to participate with us to achieve great success, or push them away, causing us to work even harder to stay afloat.

Stop getting THUMP'd. Commit yourself to others, and to your customer's success.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Does Online Instruction Work?
by Peter Capelli

Studies that look at the effectiveness of online training, compared to classroom-based learning, offer some conflicting results. Online training seems to be more effective for older, motivated students, while the classroom works best for younger low-achievers. There are some lessons HR leaders can take away from the findings.

Experience Guru Takeaways:

Gov't research indicates:
  • The most important difference (between ILT and WBT) is that online learners have near continuous access to the material.
  • Online learners who spend more time on their learning tasks perform better (there's a qualifier in there...)
  • "Blended" learning, using techniques in addition to online, improves outcomes even more
New research suggests:
  • Inexperienced, low-achieving and younger students did better with traditional delivery
  • Why? classroom instruction is good at forcing students to pay attention
The best outcomes can be derived from a combination of ILT and WBT approaches, tailored to meet the needs of the learner

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Walking the Talk

I hit the streets everyday, for one hour, regardless of where I find myself.

When I travel it’s usually for a client, so the people and places I meet are part of the environment – the client’s audience and community. I like to see their town from a dog’s point of view - walking into local spaces and meeting people I might not see as I ride by or fly over the city.

By walking, I learn firsthand how people view our client. By visiting local coffee shops, I find out what people really think about the community. By using social media I see the challenges their customers are trying to resolve. In other words: I try to get very close to the client community.

Sometimes I hear great feedback. Sometimes I realize that something is missing – a disconnect between organizational values and leader actions, or services that don’t meet real needs. That makes for a challenging presentation, yet I am committed to helping my clients build authenticity and commitment to action in a way that improves the customer experience. Usually, that means bringing leaders physically closer to their audience.

Try it sometime. It’s healthy for leaders to leave “the safety bubble” of familiar acquaintances and places.

Walk across town, visit your customer communities and listen to the feedback. Becoming part of the busy streets, stores and less-frequented neighborhoods where your audience lives can teach you more about their needs and challenges than a survey.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dan Pink, on learning and motivation from his book, Drive:

"Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives."

"The opposite of autonomy is control. And since they sit at different poles of the behavioral compass, they point us to different destinations. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement."

"It means resisting the attempt to control people - and instead doing everything we can to reawaken their deep sense of autonomy. A sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on individual performance and attitude. According to a cluster of recent behavioural studies, autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understand, better grades, enhanced persistence at school and in sporting activities, higher productivity, less burnout and greater levels of psychological well-being."

[Jane Hart] Organizations - and L&D departments in particular - need to relinquish control and support learner/employee autonomy. Social Learning requires a culture of trust in employees that differs from the "teacher/student" model of planning and controlling their every move.

Mark Oehlert, from the Defense Acquisition University makes the point:

“The US Airforce will give a pilot a $30m aircraft full of deadly tools – so why not trust them with Facebook at work?”