Thursday, May 31, 2007

Week 36 - Getting Coffee The Way You Like It

There is no big secret to fixing a consistency problem in your business - you need a system. A business without a documented system is like an airline pilot trying to get from Los Angeles to London without a flight plan or instruments. It’s that simple, the pilot might make it based on skill alone (after all, the pilot is good at flying a plane), but the odds are against long term success. Everyday we see examples of this in the business world. People sell products or services but they do it reactively, never bothering to stop and document the steps required to achieve a consistent result time after time. How does this show up in the community around you?
  • Have you ever been served a coffee that was perfect, only to return again and have your mouth scolded by milk about 30 degrees hotter than it should be?
  • Have you ever experienced outstanding customer service at a restaurant and then on another visit, had the opposite experience?
  • Has a friend ever received a discount or offer at a store and when you tried to take advantage of the same, the staff were confused or would not acknowledge the offer?
  • Have you ever been asked “...whose next?” or “ right?” rather then “Welcome, how may I help you?”
  • Have you ever visited a hotel or resort and been totally satisfied only to find that on a return trip the hotel was dirty and not as you had remembered?

You probably get the point. How does it make you feel when you are treated in this inconsistent manner? How does your brain react next time you want to buy a coffee or take a holiday? Nothing is more certain than your brain telling you:

“DANGER : not sure what experience I will receive this time, try somewhere new!”

Systems serve two main functions:

  1. INTERNAL PERFORMANCE - To ensure that internally, all critical functions of delivering your product or service are carried out in the same manner and consistently revised to improve their performance.
  2. EXTERNAL PERFORMANCE - To ensure that all of your customers are treated properly, but more importantly, are always treated consistently.

Over the coming weeks we will look at these two areas in depth and create an operations manual that will let you set your business on “cruise control”.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Random Quote - The Ultimate Equation

"The business equation is simple: Profit equals revenues minus cost. Or maybe it is slightly more complicated: Long term profit equals revenue from continuously happy customer relationships minus cost."
Tom Peters, Thriving On Chaos

Week 35 - How To Get Your Business Running Without You

Over the next twelve weeks we will look at perhaps the single most important area for all small business owners – the systems that support what they provide each day. Here is what I will cover:

  1. Why implementing systems will improve your business dramatically.

  2. How to develop your Operations Manual and why it is critical to your success.

  3. The difference between internal and external performance.

  4. How to ensure your product or service is consistent and tap into what the marketplace thinks of your business.

  5. Some simple techniques to get employees to really understand your business and act accordingly.

  6. Why training is critical to your short and longer term success.

  7. How to improve your marketing and advertising, week in, week out.

  8. How to ensure that your referral programs are an on-going success.

  9. How to create an experience for your customers that will keep them coming back time after time.

Systems are absolutely critical to your business success. Without them you can almost certainly not franchise your business and will find it much more difficult to sell, or indeed put in fewer hours. Systems are developed by paying attention to what goes on in your business at the lowest level. Systems are about treating the root cause of the things that happen day to day. We are all familiar with putting out fires but how many of us make an effort to ensure that a specific problem does not reoccur? The business owners who do this spend far less time answering the same questions or dealing with the same problems; they have freed themselves.

If you ever said “…I cannot take a holiday, this place would collapse if I didn’t show up every day…?” you will get a lot of value from the next 12 weeks. Many business owners feel exactly the same way; that is, “…none of my employees can do things the way I would do them so how can I leave them to run the business?”

If this sounds familiar I don’t need to know anything about your business to guess that you do not have policies and procedures for each aspect of it. The reason is that when left to their own devices, even the most dedicated and intelligent staff will fail to be consistent. What choice do they have? They do each job as they see fit and according to their mood in that moment. Let's get to work on fixing this.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We Reserve the Right to Love Our Customers

I met a colleague in Santa Monica the other day and we decided on a new tea house that neither of us had visited before. Whilst the owners had the “just opened” spring in their step and were very hospitable, there was a hugely prominent sign (front and centre of the customer experience) that read:


What is wrong with this picture??? SAY + LOOK + DO = REPUTATION. You cannot choose one or two of these items - you need to excel in all three! If you must have a sign like this, why not make it tiny sign on the counter in 5 point Helvetica font? The current position of the sign indicates they expect to refuse service to a good proportion of people whereas in reality, it will only ever be the tiniest percentage. Get rid of it.

Contrast this experience with another little café I visited today. They have sign on the register that mentions a $10 minimum charge for credit card purchases. The big difference is the way they word their sign:

We appreciate a $10 minimum charge on credit card purchases.

Thank you! A business that understands their customers are their livelihood and future. LOVE your customers or head back to the section in Week 1 about figuring out what you really want from your business.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Week 34 - No Sale Yet? Never Give Up!

Over the last few weeks I have focused mainly on actively working with your existing customers to create more sales. Question: what if the prospect never becomes your customer? What if you were to travel to their house, provide a quote and then miss out on the work? Well, if most businesses dump paying customers after the first transaction, what do you think they do with prospects who don’t even buy? Yep, they don’t get a second thought. Perhaps they even receive a special outburst about the “big mistake” they have made!

Dormant and cold prospects can still be of value to your business so first and foremost, you should stay in contact. There are a hundred reasons why people don’t move forward with quotes – they might have found a cheaper price or a better referral but they also may have deferred their decision due to lack of money or an overseas trip. The point is it could be any reason, so stay in touch and re-read “Week 25” which talks about “follow-up”.

As with everything I write about, for follow-up to be effective, you have to do it systematically. An easy way to do this is simply call all of your non-buyers once every couple of months. Ask how things are going, “…is there any other information I can provide to help you make a decision?” Email is also an easy way to drop these prospects a standard note asking for an update on their situation. It has probably cost you money to attract these potential buyers in the first place, so don’t discard them. Try to extract some value over the following weeks or months.

To round out, here is a powerful question when faced with a “…no thanks…” from a prospect:

“Thank you for your time, do you know anyone who you believe WOULD benefit from our product or service?”

If it is appropriate, start asking that in your business today. Recruitment agencies do it all the time and over time build huge contact lists. Remember that word leverage. You have the customer on the telephone, on email (or on their porch) and you can decide to walk away, or ask the simple question and generate more income and profit for your business.

I will now move on to building your business systems. Once your business is operating like a well oiled machine (with or without you) you will finally get the time to start making choices for your business rather than them being made for you by the marketplace.