Remove These Two Obstacles and Let the Sales Stream Flow
by Joe Gracia www.givetogetmarketing.com
Gayle, a long-time subscriber and business owner, asks how she can reduce annoying customer complaints.
Here's Gayle's question:
I am a graphic designer and I use your marketing concepts in my business as well as in the projects I create for my clients to help them develop marketing vehicles that work.
Right now I am in the throes of an unreasonable customer's complaint, something that happens far too often in my business.
One of your recent newsletter stories has helped me to see that I may be able to reduce complaints if I try communicating more with my clients. Can you give me some ideas about that.
Thanks for your note. Glad to hear that our concepts are helping you in your graphic design business.
Yes, it's frustrating hearing customer complaints. But once the smoke clears and the knot in your stomach relaxes, it's also a great source of ideas for improvements in your products/services and business systems.
While a small percentage of customer complaints may come from chronic complainers who have nothing better to do than nitpick the efforts of others, most repeated complaints stem from weaknesses in the small business owner's systems.
If you consistently receive complaints about certain aspects of your business, those complaints have helped you to pinpoint areas that most probably need improvement.
Improve those areas and the complaints diminish, or, hopefully, disappear.
Remember, marketing is all about helping people get what they want.
So, your customers' praises and concerns are usually an excellent gauge for how well you are accomplishing your marketing goal of helping your customers get what they want.
When I was consulting with small business owners on their management and marketing systems, it was very easy to find opportunities for sales and profit improvements.
All I had to do was look for problems--and they were never hard to find.
Employees will gladly tell you where there are problems, so will customers. I would usually elicit these opinions through short, five or six question surveys.
Once we had verified the major problems, we set to work on eliminating those problems. As we did that, my clients' businesses became more productive, more easy to manage and much more profitable.
The Two Major Causes of Most Problems
Two of the primary areas in small businesses that cause a steady, never-ending stream of problems, is miscommunication and inconsistency.
It's often amazing how two people can leave the same meeting and come away with entirely different conclusions. But it happens all the time.
Too many business owners 'assume' that their customers and their employees understand exactly what is to be done, and who is going to do it.
Then, of course, when the deadline has been missed, or the wrong things have been done, there's a lot of finger pointing and claims of, 'I didn't know I was responsible for that!'
What Was Said, Often Isn't What Was Heard
People pass whatever is said to them through their personal experience filters. So, very often, what was said, isn't what was heard.
To one person, 'I need this ASAP,' means I need it immediately, if not sooner, but to another person, it means, whenever I get around to it.
Very often when I would ask a business owner how a particular procedure was done, I would hear:
'Well, that depends...'
'Sometimes we do it this way, and sometimes we do it that way--and then other times we do it a completely different way!'
That's a horrible way to run any kind of business. It guarantees errors, inconsistency of quality and service, and it almost always results in a steady stream of unhappy customers.
A Three-Headed Monster Wreaks Havoc
For one client in particular, this problem was enormous.
There were three heads trying to control the body of their small business. The business was run by two brothers and the wife of one of the brothers.
Employees were told by one of the brothers on Monday to do things his way.
Then on Tuesday, when the other brother was working, he would say, 'No, that's not right. I want you to do it this way.'
Then on Wednesday, when his wife was managing, she would say, 'No. No. I want you to do it this way.'
Can you imagine the problems that this 3-headed monster created for everyone in this business, as well as their customers?
This newsletter isn't long enough for me to detail how I finally managed to untangle the miscommunication and inconsistencies within that business, but at the heart of my solutions were the following elements.
1) Say what you mean
2) Mean what you say
3) Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it
4) Do it the same way every time
Those four elements are all about management consistency. If you want your team to trust you they must know that you are consistent in your words and deeds.
5) Be specific and be clear
Don't talk in vague generalities. Talk in specifics.
If you need to have something done, assign a specific person to do it, let them know exactly what you want accomplished and what the deadline is.
6) Define your procedures
Instead of everyone just winging it, and doing things any old way, determine the most effective, efficient and profitable ways to do things in your business, and then make those your standard operating procedures.
One of the first things I always did when helping a small business owner get their business under control was to help them define and develop their specific business systems.
By doing this, everyone knows what is expected of them. There is consistency--which is vital for a business to thrive and grow.
7) Put things in writing
Verbal communication very often results in serious miscommunication.
When you put things in writing, with specifics and deadlines spelled out, there is less chance of hearing things like
'I thought you said...'
'You said, you were going to do that.'
'I don't remember you saying...'
By putting your requests, assignments and client communications in writing you will eliminate most of the miscommunication problems you may now be experiencing.
By defining your procedures and putting them in writing, you will eliminate the inevitable inconsistencies that grow within all businesses sooner or later.
Thanks again, Gayle, for sharing. Hope this has helped you get a better handle on reducing your customer complaints.