Obama and Fox News

The topic du jour is that Obama's White House is going after Fox News and essentially saying that what they provide is not news and clearly biased. Of course it is biased. Are there any networks that are not biased? But that is not the point. The point is, why is Obama going after them in the first place? If you are trying to discredit someone, isn't the best way to do it by ignoring them and not giving them a platform? By going after Fox, Obama has not only boosted their ratings, but he has also given them credibility. The average person will think "if these guys are able to get under the skin of the President, there must be something to what they have to say."

You cannot defend yourself against every critic, so pick your battles, and when you do pick your battles, do it on a higher level. Instead of saying that what Fox reports is not news, and trying to remove their White House credentials, why not address Fox's criticisms of the Obama White House by sending their smartest people onto Fox's shows and rebut their arguments? Engage in a debate at a mature level, not use schoolyard bullying to prove a point, it only makes things worse.

The little engine that could

I realized tonight that there is more to the story "The little engine that could" than meets the eye. When the train breaks down, the dolls and toys encounter many different engines and plead with them to help them over the mountain to deliver their goods to the little boys and girls (their customers). This book is a good analogy for business.

The shiny new engine represents companies that are too arrogant to help others or improve. They feel that they are above the competition. But what happens when they are no longer shiny and new?

The big steam engine represents large companies blessed with virtual monopolies, who refuse to change or see the value in collaboration. They go through life believing that they only serve one purpose, to service large companies like themselves. What happens when the virtual monopoly is taken away?

The rusty old engine represents those companies that have been around forever and refuse to try new ideas or innovate. These companies die in the roundhouse (or get government bailouts).

Then you have the little blue engine. An engine that, despite her size, is willing to take a risk because she sees a need. The dolls and toys need to get over the mountain, and even though it is a seemingly impossible feat for the little blue engine, she tries and tries and eventually succeeds.

I never thought that I would read so much into a children's book, but it provides some good insight into business today. Which engine does your company represent?

What are you doing to your customers? Part 2

Continuing along the track of inconveniencing customers for seemingly no reason, I recently sent out about 130 packages through Canada Post's courier service. Each package contained a one page letter and a copy of a guidebook I had written. Almost all of the packages were successfully delivered, except for one. I received a notice that there was a letter waiting for me at my local post office. I went to pick it up and lo and behold, one of my packages had not made it to its destination. This is not an abnormal occurence when sending that many packages, but what was strange about this one was that it had been rejected due to damage and the guidebook that was originally sent in the envelope was missing.

The package had cost me $10 to send and the guidebook about $6 to print, so not a big deal financially. I figured I would ask them to try and find the guidebook somewhere in the Canada Post machine and go along my merry way. When I went to take the returned envelope off of the counter, the clerk said "um, sir, you will need to pay $10 to take the envelope." Of course, I was shocked at the comment. "What do you mean I need to pay $10 to take the envelope?" He went on to explain that I needed to pay the fee for having the envelope shipped back to me, even though it never got delivered to its destination and they had lost the contents of the envelope. His advice, call the customer service department and get all of my money back. Just to summarize, I was now out a total of $26 and all I had to show for it was an empty, undelivered envelope and a lost piece of my intellectual property.

I called customer service almost a week ago and am still waiting for their judgment as they "review" my case. Are you kidding me? Review my case….what is to review? They did not deliver my package, which I paid for. They lost the contents of the package, which was mine. And they charged me to pick up an empty envelope. What is to reivew? Why does the clerk at the Post Office not have the authority to make this right and refund my money and find the book?

Think about a similar situation in your organization, a service that you provide is not fulfilled for a customer, and review how it would be handled. If it is anything like the above, you will not have customers for long.

What are you doing to your customers? Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I booked an airline ticket to Ottawa for a speech that I am delivering. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:00am. Last week, I received a notice that the 7am flight has been cancelled and I had been moved to an 8:10am flight, which would make it difficult for me to get to Ottawa for my speech. I called the airline in question (let's call them Air Canada) to ask about cancelling the flight. They said I cannot get a refund, but I can get a credit. Fine. I booked a morning flight on another airline and then called Air Canada to get my credit. Now speaking to another customer service agent, I found out that I could have gotten a refund, but that the 7 day period for a full refund had expired. She then went on to tell me that I had to pay a change fee of $75 in order to get the credit for the flight I wanted to cancel.

As you can imagine, I was not very happy with this. The idea of paying a $75 change fee to get a credit for a $129 flight was not something that I would be participating in. I was also surprised (although not really) that a company that is in the customer service business would enact such a policy. Who in the world thought of this and why didn't someone give them a shot in the arm when this was suggested? Think about all of the ridiculous policies that companies implement in order to squeeze more money out of their customers. Don't do that to your customers.

I almost (and I stress almost) felt sorry for the customer service rep with whom I spoke because she was about to feel my wrath at the mere suggestion of a change fee. Before blowing my stack, I simply asked "so what you are telling me is that you want to charge me a $75 fee to get credit for a flight that you cancelled, is that correct?" As you can imagine, there was dead silence on the other end of the line, followed by "let me talk with my supervisor to see if we can give you a refund of your ticket." Of course she came back and told me my money would be refunded, no harm, no foul. But why have that policy in the first place? If you want your customers to come back, then think about what you are making them do and the trouble you are causing them.

Patience

Patience is one of the more important characteristics that one should have, or learn. Think about how many poor decisions have been made because you did not want to wait an extra few minutes or hours or days. When we are impatient, we make impulsive decisions. When we are impatient we lose control of our emotions. When we are impatient, we lose any negotiating strength that we have. Learn to be more patient and you will see your decisions become more rational and thought out. No one likes to be desperate, but even worse is showing that desperation for all to see.

Cost versus productivity?

Over the past couple of days, I have been stuffing envelopes so that I can send my new book out to about 150 companies to whom it might be of some value. In order to ensure that each copy got to its destination successfully, I wanted to have the copies couriered out to their destinations so I printed out address labels for each company, stuffed 150 envelopes with a letter and a copy of the book, then affixed the label to the outside of the envelope. I had essentially two options in terms of how to get these packages to their destinations: I could use one of the bigger courier companies that would pick them up at my office or I could take all of the envelopes to the local post office myself and use their 2 day courier service.

While there was convenience in using the large courier company because they would take the packages right from my office, the company required each package be put into one of their envelopes and that a waybill be completed for each package. This meant that I had to manually fill out 150 waybills with the return address plus all of the different options that I wanted (signature, size of package, etc.). Not to mention the fact that this option would cost me more than twice the post office option.

The post office option required me to lug 150 packages to my local post office and wait while the clerk entered in each postal code, printed out a label and affixed it to each envelope. While seemingly easier for me, I would have to wait while this was done for each package, a process that would take almost two hours.

So what did I do? I went the post office route because it was less than half the price and they could affix the courier labels directly to my company envelopes, thus saving me the trouble of writing the return address on a waybill. But my question was, why did I have such poor options for something as simple as couriering a package? Should I not expect in this day and age that a reasonable priced courier would show up to my office, pick up all of the packages and bill me later, thus saving me the manual effort? Should there not be technology that scans a postal code and automatically prints a label? It was an eye-opener for me, because what was seemingly a simple process became two hours of my time, twiddling my thumbs at a post office. There has to be a better way!

I welcome your thoughts and your experiences.

A great day

Yesterday, I had a great day. I met with a colleague and we agreed to put on an Executive breakfast session together and he agreed to buy 250 copies of the guide book I just finished writing, I spoke with another colleague on the phone who referred me to an organization that he works with where this is good potential for some new consulting work, I had a meeting with a volunteer committee that I chair and we got some great ideas for our event from our business partners, I submitted a topic idea for a conference I had been asked to speak at AND I got one of my articles published in a magazine (Summit magazine, for the article, click here). So, in summation, I expanded my marketing efforts and my exposure to potential clients in three different ways, got introduced to a new prospective client and moved my volunteer committee forward. If every day was that good, life would be easy.

Do you know what constitutes a good day for your business and why? What if you sold 50 more units, would that be a good day? What about one more customer purchases your services, is that a good day? I am not suggesting to measure exhaustively, but it is important to know what success looks and feels like. You need to set objectives (notice I said objectives, not targets) for success. My objectives are to increase my profile and exposure as a consultant who delivers results for clients and to provide tremendous value in anything I do (working with clients, meeting with prospective clients, charity work, etc.). But I do not set arbitrary goals like talking with one prospect per week or publishing 4 articles a month, because once I hit those numbers, I will stop pursuing my objectives. The most dangerous thing about targets is that you might actually hit them. Make sure you know what are your objectives for success. This will not only help let you know when you have had a good day, but you will know why you had a good day.

To sign up for my monthly electronic newsletter ‘What’s New in Business,’ which offers free articles and other resources to improve your business, click here.