Building Your Team On Emotion

In his book, All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick talks a lot about the irrational customer, near the end though he discusses something a little different, yet still related to customer behavior.  He says that a major factor in delivering the right products and service to your irrational customers is hiring employees who can connect with those customers emotionally. When hiring employees it is important to have an understanding of where they stand emotionally, and just like with customers, it is important to understand their behavior and to watch and learn. He says to hire for emotion, then train for skills.

This most closely relates to hiring employees who are emotionally intelligent. Employees who are not just aware of their own emotions and behaviors but who are aware of the emotions and behaviors of others. Annie McKee’s article How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence in the Harvard Business Review confirms many of the points that Cusick makes about hiring for emotion. She suggests checking with references to learn about a candidates emotional intelligence and ask questions in the interview that require the candidate to talk about how they behave and respond emotionally. Though Cusick says to test for emotional intelligence or emotion using personality tests, McKee warns against it saying that these tests measure for personality and not emotion, which is what the focus is here. My advice is to use them in conjunction with the other suggestions at hand.

McKee ends her article with this very strong statement. “If you’re able to “see” your candidate’s EI in action, you’ll make a better hire. Or you’ll pass. Either way you’re doing yourself and your organization a big favor.”

You’ve hired the candidate with great emotional intelligence, now what?  You must equip the employee with the necessary skills to do the job well, and you must engage the employee so that they want to do well, help fulfill the brand promise, help the company succeed, and hep to make customers happy. Engaged employees who have the tools that they need to succeed, work harder, more efficiently, better, and stick around longer. They also help to increase customer retention. They are your front-line, the face of your company, the people that your irrational customers will be dealing with.

Employees are not expendable, they are assets if you understand how to hire well, equip them, take the time to understand them, and engage them. Your bottom line depends on it.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

McKee, A. (2016, February 05). How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2016/02/how-to-hire-for-emotional-intelligence

Customer Support and the Bottom Line

 

Part of my job calls for me to…well, make phone calls. I call my clients, return their phones calls, play a bit of phone tag here and there, and leave voicemails.

One of the benefits of my clients having my direct number is that they can connect directly to a person that knows them and can help them quickly without them having to maneuver through our call center first. Now, don’t get me wrong, my company has a great call center experience; short menu options, a real person versus automation, and you can talk to someone who knows about the location as they are sitting right inside of the business that you are trying to call. The folks in our call center are kind, genuine, and real. Not to mention, they are available 24/7. All call centers are not groomed to this level though.

Call centers or customer service lines are known for being terrible in this day and age. I can’t tell you the number of times I have called a company needing to talk to someone and never actually figure out how to get past the twelve levels of automation. Or just how many times, I’ve been in the queue for forty-five minutes. I’m not kidding, recently I was put on hold for an hour, then had to call back and was put on hold for another hour and a half. So many times I finally get to talk to someone but they are emotionless, scripted, and sometimes no help at all. It is such a relief when I call a company and quickly get a real, friendly, caring, and helpful person.

Why is this important? A customer service agent may be the only person your customer gets to talk to, or maybe they don’t get to talk to anyone because everything is automated. That’s no good. If the agent they do talk to is disengaged or not genuine, what could that say about our company? If the automated system is convoluted, confusing, and extensive when all the customer wants to do is speak to someone, how is that frustrated customer going to feel about your company? It’s going to leave a terrible taste in their mouth.

The problem is, if a customer calls for support or assistance and they have a bad experience then we have failed in creating a positive emotional experience. That can really hurt the bottom line. William Cusick, in his book, All Customers Are Irrational, talks about call centers and customer support. He discusses how many companies only see them as an expense rather than understanding that call centers are an important part of the customer experience thus having an effect on customer emotion and therefore customer behavior (and spending).

How much does it affect the bottom line? According to Shauna Geraghty’s blog, 7 Ways Customer Support Affects Your Bottom Line, 90% of customers who are dissatisfied with your company’s customer support service will not return and will not tell you about it. She says that 78% of customers have decided to not make a purchase they were intending on making because of a bad customer support experience and that it takes 12 good experiences to make up for one bad experience. She also points out that bad customer support experiences can hurt your reputation as word on these types of experiences travel fast and far.

Good customer support can help retain and attract new customers. Customers are also willing to spend more when they are happy with service, which is why it is important to look at your call center or customer support as an investment or asset rather than a disposable expense.

Your customers should get the great customer service they expect whether they are in your store, online, or on the phone. Your bottom line depends on it.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Geraghty, S. (2018, January 29). 7 Ways Customer Support Affects Your Bottom Line. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.talkdesk.com/blog/7-ways-customer-support-affects-your-bottom-line

Customers Follow Their Heart

In his book All Customer are Irrational, William Cusick discusses the fact that no matter how much we analyze, run through the facts, or weigh the pros and cons, when we are faced with big decisions it often can come down to following our heart or our gut. Intuition.

What does that have to do with our customers? Well if we do it, don’t you think our customers do as well? It’s not a bad thing and understanding this is important so that we can, as Cusick puts it, “sell the emotion.”

I’m in the business of relationship building. I enjoy it though, I like people. Nothing makes for a better day at work for me than having great conversations with my clients. Without their conversation things can be kind of quiet and dry. I sell experiences, much like someone who tries to sell you a fantastic cruise vacation or a trip to Disney World. I also, sell the emotion. I want my clients to trust me, to like me, and most of all know that I am there to help make their experiences great. I want them to know that I enjoy helping them. If my guests like me, if they don’t mind picking up the phone to talk to me, if they love to talk to me in person, then they are more likely come visit the company that I work for. I’ll of course do my best to make their trip enjoyable and then they’re more likely to have fun while they’re visiting and much more likely to come back. I could tell them all about the amazing restaurants we have or a special event going on, which I do of course, but if they don’t trust me or don’t like me, it might make it a bit harder for them to say, “sure I’ll come visit”. I know this is true, maybe not every single time, some people will come anyhow, but I know for a fact that some people come because I make it easier for them to and because they like me.

This is that, proof is in the pudding kind of situation. So how can you build trust and make your customers love you? Brian Honigman, a Digital Marketing Executive at Marc Ecko, has a few tips.

Treat your customers the right way, be honest with them and genuine. Build an authentic and honest relationship, treat them like people, not like numbers or cash. Be respectful to your customers. Listen to what your customers have to say, actually listen. Offer customer support beyond their purchase or experience. Honigman says offering specials is great too. Treat your customers like valued partners and make sure you communicate with them, continue the conversation, do not ignore them. Build trust by being open about changes whether those changes are good ones or bad ones. Be transparent and be accountable. Do not break promises (especially your brand promise). Strive to find solutions to issues and make customers happy in the end. Last but not least, be thankful and appreciative.

Make your customers fall in love and they are sure to return.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Honigman, B. (n.d.). 10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/true-love-with-customers/

Dishonesty: The Customer Satisfaction Survey

We’ve all done it, I’m sure at some point or another. Taken a survey about a company and just nonchalantly clicked through the different questions or clicked on a scale somewhere just to get the survey completed. Maybe there was an incentive, perhaps a chance to win something. Or maybe you were offered a survey but ignored it, or did not complete it.

Surveys are not perfect, people lie on them. People answer nicely because they just want to complete the survey to “enter for a chance to win”. People complete it quickly for a discount or a free drink. People sometimes just will not fill them out.

I work for a company and in an industry where surveys are sent to our guests. I get responses from my personal clients on a regular basis. Sometimes I know for a fact that a customer is saying an experience went one way even though it did not. I also know that once, a lady marked us really low, when I called to find out why, she did not even mean to! Her survey said that she had a terrible time, but in reality, she had experienced a wonderful trip. I am also not so naïve to think that when I get perfect surveys back that at least some of them are just a quick click through of positive answers as the client is being instinctively kind. Plus, I often think about the many clients who do not answer the survey at all, whether they had a great time or one with some service breakdowns.

So if surveys are not an accurate reflection of how your company is doing then how are you supposed to find out how your company is doing in the eyes of your customers? In his book All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick says that you can find the answer by looking at the numbers, as they do not lie. Are you retaining customers? Are customers buying from you? Are they buying from you as often as they used to buy from you? Are they spending more than usual and more often? You need to be tracking and measuring. You need measurable objectives, you need numbers that reflect customer behavior. You must be sure to watch and listen to your customers. You must see the experience from their point of view as often as possible.

You need to understand customer behavior not their arbitrary or dishonest answers or lack thereof on a satisfaction survey. Cusick encourages us to watch how customers behave and to replace satisfaction questions with behavioral questions such as, “How often do you visit our website on average in a month?” or “On average, how long do you wait in line for service in our store?” as opposed to “How satisfied are you with our service?”

By really digging to truly understand how and why your customers behave the way they do, you can find areas of improvement. It’s much better to understand the truth than to have the false belief that your customers are satisfied when they are anything but!

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Delivering On Your Brand Promise

 

“The brand promise is about company intention (as opposed to results, which is how the ultimate brand is measured through market research). It’s really the distillation of what makes you distinctive as a company, and what expectations you are creating for your customers.”-William Cusick

In his book All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick uses the company Volvo as an example of a company with a clear brand promise that they are wholeheartedly committed to delivering on. He says that Volvo can be described using just a single word. That word? Safety. If you really think for a moment, I am sure you can think of other brands that can be described using just one word or in very few words. Those brands have worked hard to earn and keep the trust of their customers by delivering on their promise time after time.

Your brand promise is the promise that your company or business is making to customers. It’s the experience that your company aims to provide customers. It’s the ambience of your brand, or as Cusick says it is, brand essence.

Cusick says that all companies should have one and should also avoid overpromising. Companies should also be sure that those within their organization understand the brand promise, are on the same page, and can align it with their day-to-day actions, interactions with customers, and all parts of the operation. From the sales associates to the CEO, there should be an understanding of the brand promise as well as the drive to deliver on that promise, each and every single day. Customers should be able to trust that your organization will come through on the promise, helping to build loyalty and trust. If your brand promises to never test on animals, then customers should know without a doubt that your brand does not test on animals. If your brand promises to be responsive to customer concerns, then social media, the customer service center, and associates in the store should be just that, responsive to customer concerns. Promise to be environmentally friendly? Then no dumping waste into waterways. Promise to be ethical? Then no warehouses with harsh conditions and be sure to demonstrate equality within your company.

According to Chris Cancialosi, contributor at Forbes.com, a misalignment between your brand promise and what is actually being offered up by your company can be frustrating for customers as well as for employees. Your brand should strive to be consistent and reliable in order to earn the trust of all parties involved. His advice is for organizations to have a firm and clear understanding of what the brand promise is. Include others in the discussion, not just leadership but everyone. Acknowledge when change needs to happen. Finally, ask for help from the experts.

My takeaway advice? Follow through on your brands promises. Trust is a hard thing to gain and of course, a much harder thing to get back once it is lost. Customers who trust your brand, buy from your brand!

 

Cancialosi, C. (2015, March 09). The Secret To Faithfully Delivering On Your Brand Promise. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriscancialosi/2015/03/09/the-secret-to-faithfully-delivering-on-your-brand-promise/2/#5a2dd926393e

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

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It’s Cheaper to Keep Her

It’s cheaper to keep her…your customer that is.

Customer retention, is the rate at which a company successfully keeps the customers around that they have worked so hard to obtain. Churn rate, is the rate at which customers stop utilizing  a service or a company.

You’ve seen it time and time again I am sure. Large companies pumping large amounts of money into fancy advertising and customer acquisition campaigns, but when you call customer service you get a rude customer service agent, sit on hold for 73 minutes, and then you hang up knowing less than you did when you called and your problem is left unresolved. It’s certainly happened to me more times that I would like to admit. Although…I more times than not would like to admit, and I typically do, as most dissatisfied and mistreated customers would. I tell my husband, my best friends, my coworkers, my parents, and my neighbor’s dogs. Then, I swear to the heavens that I will utilize the company or service either never again, or much less if I do not have much of another option.

If a company loses my patronage and the patronage of many others like me then eventually they will feel the hurt in their bottom line. There’s an easy fix to losing  a few measly customers though, right? Lose a couple of customers, replace them with new customers. Wrong. Inefficient. Costly. According to William Cusick, author of “All Customers Are Irrational”, the cost of obtaining new customers is much more costlier than the cost of just keeping the customers that you already have. The proof is in the pudding, or rather the numbers. Cusick says that just 2% of resources dedicated to customer retention can decrease customer acquisition expenses by 10%. That’s a pretty noticeable return on investment. And, that makes more sense, if you take care of customers and treat them like you want them to stick around, then chances are that you won’t have to replace those customers anytime soon, or at least not as often as you would if you treat customers like you could not care less. Sounds easy enough, but the numbers are even more convincing as they tell a very detailed story about customer behavior and customer retention. Here are some more of those statistics from Get Feedback:

67% of customers list a bad customer experience as their reason for leaving a company

95% of customers share their bad experiences with others

50% of customers say that they would use a company more often after a positive customer experience

58% of customers say they will never use a company ever again after a bad experience

78% of customers have ended a buying experience because of bad customer service

59% of customers would try a different or new brand after having a bad customer service experience

58% say that they would spend more just to receive better customer service

67% of customer churn or loss of customers could be avoided if customer’s issues were resolved during their first interaction with a company

11% of customer churn or loss of customers could be avoided if companies simply reached out to the customer first

It is estimated that by the year 2020, the customer experience will outrank price and product and the key brand differentiator, in other words people will choose a better experience over a better product or even a more competitive price!

What really pays off? Customers that you are able to turn into loyal customers are 5x as likely to purchase from your company again, 5x as likely to forgive a mistake or mishap, 4x as likely to tell others about your company, and 7x more likely to try a new offer with your company.

You can relax just a little, churn is also sort of natural. Half of customers leave every five years.

Have no fear though, Get Feedback also has some great advice on how to reduce customer churn outside of the natural come and go that occurs.

Ask for feedback, set and measure customer expectations, add value with products and services, and cultivate customer relationships. All in all, the main takeaway here is to build those customer relationships and create positive experiences. Customers have choices in the companies that they use. They want an experience, and a good one, they want the company that they choose to show them that they made the right choice, that they are respected and appreciated as a customer, and that their patronage is wanted.

Get Feedback is a blog that featured an article with a list of customer churn/customer satisfaction statistics gathered from experts and analysts.

Boeckelman, C. (2017, April 21). 40 Customer Retention Statistics You Need to Know | GetFeedback Blog. Retrieved February 02, 2018, from https://www.getfeedback.com/blog/40-stats-churn-customer-satisfaction/

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

 

Kickstart Your Entrepreneurial Journey with Direct Sales or Network Marketing

Entering into an entrepreneurial venture can be both challenging and overwhelming. However, with proper planning and experience, one can execute their ideas and reach their goals by being equipped with the tools to get the job done, but with fewer obstacles. Direct selling and network marketing are part of a steadily growing industry and a great way to gain the valuable skills necessary to start your own business. There are direct sales and network marketing companies out there for nearly any product you can think of, and startup costs are typically low. If your entrepreneurial dream is to sell products to people, then you are in luck and can get the practice you need by joining a direct sales or network marketing company.

Oftentimes these companies will provide representatives with marketing materials, sales training, business advice, and inventory, leaving them time to focus on selling, branding, networking, and building their business.

Since May of last year, my business partner and I have run our own primarily online clothing business, as representatives through a direct sales company. We have steadily gained valuable business skills along the way. We purchase inventory, advertise and market the business, and handle our finances and taxes. We even went through the steps of registering our business as a limited liability company (LLC) as well as registering with the IRS. Our plan is to someday open a boutique independent from a direct sales or network marketing company. In the meantime, the experience that we have gained and will gain is exponentially helpful in guiding us toward this goal. There are many things that this opportunity has afforded us:

Understanding the Financial Ins and Outs of Owning a Business

My business partner handles our numbers and finances. She went to school for accounting and works for a corporate company as a staff accountant. Though she came into this with some experience, this venture has helped her to see what finances and accounting look like when you are doing it for your own business. She is learning how to file our taxes, not to mention we had to do tons of research on state sales taxes and how to file, report, and pay those! If we ever make it to our dream of owning a boutique we get to go into it with very useful financial knowledge.

Working through the pains of budgeting and ordering inventory has been a huge trial and error process for us. Though we try to make very calculated decisions, sometimes you just end up buying stuff that you just cannot sell. We get to make those mistakes now and learn about buying trends. Luckily, because the company allows us to sell the unpurchased product to other representatives at the price that we paid for it, so we rarely must take a loss. Some companies require you to have product on hand, others will ship directly from their warehouses to your customers as you make sales.

We also have had the honor of learning about financing, balancing a bank account, invoicing, and even overhead costs.

Marketing and Advertising Skills

Though the company and other representatives provide some help here, I handle most of our graphic design, marketing, and advertising. Even though we work with a direct sales company with its own brand, we still must build our individual branding for our online store. We have worked hard to build our brand and it is still a work in progress. Along the way, we have done plenty of research to determine what works for us.

Building Customer Loyalty

We are selling a product, and we want to sell more. You need that mentality whether you work with a direct sales company or own a standalone business. The customer service and loyalty skills you learn through direct selling or network marketing are crucial and can be easily carried over into your small business. You may even be able to take your customer base with you when you decide to finally make the move.

Most companies will offer advice and training to assist you in this area. You also have the benefit of a brand that is typically already well established, sometimes the companies have been around for decades and are considered household names with an established following.

Gaining Social and Financial capital

Money earned during your days of direct selling can be utilized to help you start a business of your own. If you can make additional money for capital while gaining useful entrepreneurial skills, then why not? Social capital, the valuable people you meet along the way, can be pertinent in your future venture as well. You will meet many people along the way while you operate under a direct sales company and likely build a rolodex of businesses and services that can help you with everything from printing marketing materials to buying shipping supplies. This, amongst the other skills you will again, will prove essential when you venture out and start your own standalone small business.

 

Build Bridges, Never Burn Them

 

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. -Isaac Newton

In the business world and especially in the entrepreneurial business world, burning bridges is a no-no. As an entrepreneur, you need as many people on your side as possible. You never know if a bridge that you are burning is the link to a connection that you need. Talk travels fast and you never want to miss out on an opportunity because your ego is in the way. Plus, you do not want to be known as the person who walks over people and burns bridges all the way to the top.

I try to keep this in mind. I’m not perfect though, my ego sometimes gets in the way. However, as I get more experience in life I get better at not burning bridges. Half a decade ago I would have not thought twice about it. Not so much in my professional career, I was raised to never burn a bridge when it comes to work or a job or your career. However, when it came to networking or relationships, in the past, I was not one to really try to avoid burning bridges. It’s certainly something that we as entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs or even just professional adults, should focus on avoiding. It shows maturity and tact. Even something as simple as an emailed explanation or a simple apology could be enough to save a relationship. We certainly should not ghost on any contacts or be a horrible person towards others on our journey. It only makes things harder on us, it makes the proverbial travel a ton more difficult when we need to cross a bridge and find that it is our own fault that we can no longer cross it or are forced to take the long way around to get to who we need, what we need, or where we need to be.

Ty Morse, who is the CEO of Songwhale, an interactive technology company focused on domestic and international enterprise SMS solutions and direct response campaigns, says that the advice “don’t burn bridges, build them” was the best advice that he has ever had. In his article with Inc., he presses the idea that you never know who will be meaningful to you on your path to the future, that nothing is worth completely cutting someone off. He is a true believer in focusing on building bridges in networking and building relationships with those that we come across on our journey. Just as Schussler in “It’s A Jungle in There”, Morse also encourages us to take the high road and to not let our ego get in the way. He says that the business world is about doing business not being defensive or petty. I could not agree more.

Sometimes you must take a step back and ask, “is this really worth it?” This is something that I am having to learn on my professional development voyage. I’ve always been taught to “pick my battles” and as I grow, I try to not let my ego get in the way. I try to look at the big picture and ask myself about what truly matters. Will it be of concern down the road a bit? Does being right for the sake of being right do anything for me? Is an apology the right option? Morse says to have tact and to avoid being defensive and petty. Most things that we get so twisted up about do not matter in the big picture and our pride is just all in the way. It is okay to be wrong (or right without making a big deal about it) and it is certainly acceptable to apologize. It is most definitely fine to not burn bridges.

Once we learn how to find that balance and to not burn bridges but to instead build them, we will see that things get so much easier.

Schusssler, S. (2010). It’s a Jungle in There. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.