How Can Customers Reach You?

I was talking with a small business owner this morning and she was telling me how the 1-800 line for her business was down for two weeks and she figures she lost around $15,000 in sales as a result of that. I was blown away. Here are some things to do to ensure this never happens to you:

  • Ensure you have a good relationship with all of your providers (phone, cell phone, email, internet, website, etc.) so it nevers takes two weeks to get an issue resolved
  • Ensure you have back ups for your main methods of customer communication so if the phone or website goes down, customers still have other ways to do business with you
  • Ensure that you have various ways that customers can reach you so that if one method is unavailable, they can still buy from you

This was an unfortunate situation for her, but provides a great lesson for the rest of us.

Great Customer Service and the 407

For those that do not know what the 407 is, it is a toll-road highway just north of Toronto and it is a pleasure to drive on. Why? Because the lanes are wide and the traffic is usually sparce. It makes driving across the city pleasurable and helps you avoid the traffic jams of the 401 highway. But that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about 407's customer service.

To reduce the cost of the tolls for any trip you take on the 407, you can buy or rent a transponder, so you get charged a lower toll fee. My wife and I have had transponders for years now and the batteries recently ran out. This meant that we were charged a higher rate the last few times we drove on the 407. I called them today to see what I needed to do to replace the transponders, expecting to have to drive to some far-off office to exchange them. To my surprise, not only did they offer to courier new transponders to my house (at no cost to me), but they will also provide a pre-paid envelope to return the old transponders and they reversed the charges on my bill to ensure I was charged the preferred rate. Talk about great customer service! I was blown away….even though this is the kind of service you should expect, it is always a nice surprise when it actually happens. 

A couple of quick lessons to implement in your business:

– Always exceed expectations with your customers – this will help build loyalty

– Always make it easier for customers to do business with you – this will help attract new customers through word-of-mouth

– Provide front line staff with the ability to make decisions in the best interests of the customers – this will reduce customer frustration and in-turn increase loyalty

Miller’s Monday Morning Message

Miller's Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on strategy, operations, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – July 25, 2011 – The recent tragedy in Norway reminds us to take pleasure in every moment. The senseless killing of almost 100 people, mostly teenagers, leaves us in mourning and asking a lot of questions. Why did this happen? How could we have prevented it? What will we do differently to ensure that it never happens again? Life is full of high moments and low ones and my heart goes out to those who are grieving lost family members. But life is going to be full of challenges and we need to develop ways to cope with those challenges. That means not only enjoying the good moments, but also figuring out ways to heal ourselves in the not-so-good-moments. Over the next few days, we will hear great stories of leadership and heroism, but the real heroes will shine over the next few months and years as they emerge from this tragedy as stronger, better leaders. It is when challenges present themselves that true leaders step to the forefront.
 
To request an interview or more information, please contact:

Andrew Miller
416-480-1336
[email protected]
www.acmconsulting.ca
 
Follow me on Twitter @AndrewMillerACM

© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2011.

A Little Talk Goes a Long Way

You learn some very interesting things just by talking to people about their businesses, even when you did not intend to. Keep your eyes and ears open and ask a lot of questions. You might find some valuable information that will help improve the performance of your business.

Miller’s Monday Morning Message


Miller's Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on strategy, operations, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – July 18, 2011 – The phone hacking scandal at News Corp just got a whole lot more interesting. The scandal has penetrated through many different organizations and forced the resignation of Les Hinton, CEO of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, as well as brought the names of a few prominent politicians into the fray. The scandal has now claimed more victims – News Corp's CEO Rebekah Brooks, who was arrested this weekend, and Paul Stephenson, London Chief of Police, who resigned yesterday. Even though both claim no wrongdoing, this new development can only prompt one question – who's next? This scandal seems to get worse as each day goes by. If you are a CEO reading this, what lessons can you learn? Here are just a couple:

  • Know what your staff are doing – As CEO, you are ultimately accountable for what happens in the organization, so even though you cannot be involved in the activities of every employee, you need to know what is going on in the company.
  • Surround yourself with smart, trusted advisers – The most successful companies have very strong senior management teams. Surround yourself with people who will not only challenge your ideas and develop great ones of their own, but also share the same morals and business ethics as you do.
  • The risk-reward principle – For every big payoff, there was someone that took a huge risk behind it. Be comfortable with the risks you are taking and determine if the possible outcome is worth the potential risks that may come to fruition.

In a scandal like this one, there are numerous places where blame can (and will) be placed, and probably all of it is justified. This presents us with a view of an organization where illegal snooping and phone hacking were pervasive. Remember this case study before embarking upon a morally questionable initiative.
 
To request an interview or more information, please contact:

Andrew Miller
416-480-1336
[email protected]
www.acmconsulting.ca
 
Follow me on Twitter @AndrewMillerACM

© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2011.

U2 Shows Us the Power of a Brand

I was at the U2 concert the other night and what an amazing show they put on. What struck me was not only how they have been at the top of their game for more than 20 years, but the amount of influence they have over the crowd. At one point, the entire band stopped singing, lowered the volume of their instruments and let the crowd take over. The crowd started reluctantly singing, and then got louder and louder as they realized what was happening and become more in the moment. The crowd sang more than half the song without any intervention from the band. What a remarkable thing to be a part of.

It made me realize the power of a brand and the power of the crowd. In business, what are you doing to build your brand? What are you doing to ensure that people talk about you or your product when you are not around? What are you doing to ensure that people are singing your songs without your help?

Think seriously about the power of the answers to these questions because they hold the key to continuing success and business growth, no matter what business you are in.

Does Reducing City Staff Ever Help?

Miller's Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on strategy, operations, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – July 11, 2011 – At some point today, it is likely that Toronto mayor Rob Ford will make an announcement about the future of many City of Toronto workers. In his plan to reduce expenses, Ford will announce a pay package for many employees near or at retirement. His critics will say that he is spending more money needlessly. However, although there are short-term costs to a buyout, the long-term impact is usually positive. For those employees who accept the buyout, the obvious savings come in the reduction of salary and benefit costs, but there is also a reduction in required pension payments, expense reimbursement, payment for sick days as well as a cost avoidance in having to replace those employees and hire new workers. A buyout plan can be effective when core services are not impacted. We should find out later today what services are considered core and how they will be changed. Regardless, we know that there will be cuts made so we should be prepared for it.
 
To request an interview or more information, please contact:

Andrew Miller
416-480-1336
[email protected]
www.acmconsulting.ca
 
Follow me on Twitter @AndrewMillerACM

© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2011.

How To Attract and Retain Top Talent

While speaking with an executive this morning, we got to the discussion of retaining and managing talent and how difficult that is. It has made me ponder what constitutes an effective framework for managing and assessing talent, both in the hiring process and in job performance. This is one of the key initiatives that most organizations don't do well. There are two components to managing talent successfully: understanding self-interest (what makes them tick); and implementing an effective hiring and management process.

Firstly, let's talk about understanding what is most important to the candidate or staff member. Most studies cite these as the keys to having a satisfied workforce:

  • Their boss – if people don't like working for their boss, it will be difficult to maximize their performance
  • Respect – feeling like their ideas are being heard
  • A comfortable work environment and culture
  • Co-workers
  • Intangible benefits
  • Money

Notice how money was the last one. Now that we have a cursory understanding of what makes people satisfied at work, here are five things you can do to accelerate the hiring and retaining of top talent:

  1. Develop a hiring process that maximizes the number of quality candidates – This means understanding what you want your culture to be, what kind of people will fit into that culture and what their accountabilities will be in their roles. Then only hire people that will fit into that culture.
  2. Know your hiring and recruiting priorities – This directly relates to #1. Recruit top people for the most important positions in the organization and hire other positions in the organization through an application and interview process. Recruiting means that you target specific individuals for those key roles. Establishing hiring priorities will help you focus on those key roles.
  3. Develop a conflict resolution process – When a dispute arises with one of your employees, you need to have a process by which that dispute can be resolved quickly. This means determining who gets involved and when.
  4. Document all responsibilities and accountabilities for each position – This sets expectations for performance so employees know what they are accountable for and how they are going to be measured.
  5. Find new ways to break through old politics – Every organization has its share of politics, but this should never be a hindrance to improving the peformance of the organization. Shake up the reporting relationships, bring in new recruits and try new ideas to break down the old barriers to success.

As you may have noticed, I have not addressed talent evaluation in this particular post and we will leave that for another day. Let's start with identifying ways to ensure we hire the right people, then we can tackle how to manage their performance.