Friday, April 29, 2005

T.I.P.S 101** Say "No" For Better Service

Say “No” For Better Service
By Gil C. Schmidt

I know some businesspeople, mainly entrepreneurs, who confuse “many services” with “great service.” These are people—unfortunately, a large percentage—who believe that by offering, say, 125 services, they will be considered “good service providers.”

The list of things you can do is always going to be much longer than the list of things you actually do, the things you should do and even the list of things you want to do. In order to be successful as a service provider, you have to say “no” to many items on the “I can offer this” list and thus reduce the total offerings to focus on what you can do best.

Another way of saying this is “Quality over quantity.” If you select certain services and give your all to make them the best they can be, you will definitely have an advantage over the people who want to do “everything” and end up doing almost nothing well.

On a business trip, I visited a restaurant with a fancy French name and a place called “The Chili Shack.” Both visits were the same day, as both places were near my hotel. The French restaurant had a menu loaded with seafood, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, pasta(!) and a wine list that looked like a phone book. The waiters were plentiful, the décor was sumptuous and during my 90-minute vist I had to ask for service several times (I went from polite to testy to snapping my napkin at the waiter’s arm.) Why? Because the restaurant tried to do too much: too many options slowed down orders, stretched meal times, created impatience and stressed everybody out.

On the other hand, The Chili Shack, a converted metal hangar, had a simple menu: chili. Small bowl or big bowl. Mild or hot. Served in seconds. You could order a cola, beer or water. Crackers were “all you can eat.” The place was clean and had one attendant, the owner. He had time to chat with everybody and for the half-hour I was there, some 25 people were served. At 11:30 at night. (The Chili Shack was open from 10 PM to 3 AM only. Talk about niches!) And yes, I’m sure the Shack had higher profits than le maison.

Do less to achieve more. Say “no” to being “everything to everyone” and focus on being “the best for many.” You’ll see your business improve dramatically.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Service Success TIP #4

We are here to serve. The customer is our priority. Their opinion matters, right?

Then if that’s accurate, why do so many companies pay little or no attention to those “rate our service” suggestions and opinions cards? That’s assuming that you’re a company that even has them. Feedback is important in maintaining quality service. The feedback you receive directly from your consumer is even more valuable. These are the people who invest in your company; most of them come back time and again. Make time to view these suggestions and write a thank you email or letter for the customer. In this way you are letting the customer know that their opinion counts. And maybe you can include a discount to speed up their next visit!


Monday, April 25, 2005

Porta del Sol Posted by Hello

Photo: Angel Ortiz

Friday, April 22, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** You Are Not the Target

You Are Not The Target
By Gil C. Schmidt

We’ve all been there: Something goes wrong while tending a customer and the person goes off like a firecracker… or worse. Our reactions tend to be surprise, shock and often anger, but if we just take a second to create some space between ourselves and the situation, we may come to see the basic truth: we are not the target.

It isn’t easy to create that space and remember this basic truth. I have a friend, Carol, who runs an Internet-based driving course business with her husband. Carol often has to provide customer support at odd hours in the morning, when most of us are sleeping. Here in her own words is an anecdote worth noting:

I've found this especially true of "phone support"--you are often the "faceless target" for something else going on in the person's life. Their frustration may not truly be with you at all. Case in point--I had a lady who was MOST upset that we showed her "Course Completion Date" as April 10th (she was to have completed the course a week earlier, and the court wouldn't accept her certificate). We date the certificates the LATEST of course completion or when we receive the student's affidavit of completion. Otherwise, we are perpetually in trouble with the Texas Education Agency. We must issue certificates within 15 days of "Course Completion." Since we don't control when students send in their affidavits, we were running into "noncompliance" issues when we used the "passed the exam" date. (I've had affidavits come in two months after the student passed the exam.) That's why we changed the policy.

Long explanation to say the woman was VERY upset with me because of the “wrong” date--but it turns out that her younger brother had died of AIDS two weeks before, she was the primary caregiver and another relative had been in a car accident that week--lots going on in her personal life, and I just became the target. You have to NOT take it personally when people get upset. They are often not upset with you, but with life in general. You just happen to be a convenient anonymous target.

Isn’t it great to have wise friends?

It is hard to keep calm when someone goes off in front of you, but understanding that the person’s behavior is not an attack goes a long way to helping you face the situation and providing the level of service you are capable of displaying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Thought...

The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through the world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our life felt. (Leo Buscaglia)

Monday, April 18, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101* Write Your Letter

Write Your Letter
By Gil C. Schmidt

The best way to build your business is through referrals. Advertising can be expensive and despite improvements in demographics and media management, targeting your best customers is still an iffy proposition.

Marketing, which includes advertising, selling and Public Relations, can be both more and less targeted than advertising, for you know who your customer is when you sell to him or her, but in Public Relations you diffuse your effort to the community as a whole.

Spoken referrals, also known as “word of mouth,” are the basis for business success. But another form of referrals, one that can have lasting and far-reaching impact, is that of written referrals. Testimonial letters are a powerful advertising instrument and are great ego-boosters as well.

But how do you get people to actually write letters about you or your company? Easy: You write the letter. And not as fiction, either, but as a simple description of the great service you are providing.

As you deal with a client, decide before you begin that they will be so impressed by your service that he or she will want to write a letter about the experience. If needed, take notes about what you do and as soon as you have completed the service and can see the client is satisfied, ask if they will provide you with a testimonial letter to help your business grow. (And ask them for referrals at the same time!)

If they say “yes,” don’t wait for them to write it. Offer to write “a draft” that they can modify and sign once they are satisfied with it. (If you wait for them to write it, you could wait forever.) Ask their permission to use it in your business ads, pointing out that they also get exposure at the same time. (But if you ask, make sure you do place ads. Service is also a matter of keeping your word.)

If they say “no,” don’t be discouraged. The Law of Numbers is on your side, you will have delivered great service, they might say “yes” later, you may have notes about solving a situation that could help someone else in the future and you have flattered the person by making it known that their opinion is important.

And if you’re not a confident writer, don’t worry. Testimonial letters are really “Thank You” notes, and you certainly know how to thank yourself, don’t you? (If you don’t, practice!) Encourage your employees and colleagues to “write the letter” and you will definitely see your business grow.

Friday, April 15, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** Consistency is the Key

Consistency is the Key
By Gil C. Schmidt

There are times when you get tired of doing your best, of giving an A-1 effort, of striving for excellence when the world around you seems to glorify mediocrity. You feel like a lunatic for trying so hard and seemingly nobody notices or cares, like you’re trying to crack a huge brick wall with a wet noodle.

At times like these, remember one thing: Excellence is always rewarded. It may take time, but doing things with your best effort is the only true path to success.

Think of this when you provide service to that umpteenth customer that doesn’t even say “Thank you.” Or when you handle another difficult situation and the person acts like nothing special has happened. What is at work here is not some metaphysical intangible, but a very real law: the Law of Numbers. As you accumulate more and more experiences and do so with your best effort, you are acquiring knowledge and laying the absolute foundation for success.

Is it hard work? Of course it is. But what are the shortcuts and what do they lead to?

• You give someone a mediocre effort: That’s one experience less in your pursuit of the Law of Numbers, for you haven’t learned anything and you lose a potential voice in your favor.
• You cheat someone: Obviously a negative number (worse than a zero, it takes away from what you’ve already done) and a potential enemy where you could have made a friend.
• You do excellence at first, then slack off: The natural pattern as people lose patience with the process. If you’re lucky, you might be successful before the good will you’ve created wears off, but as time goes by, you will be wasting that good will and end up back at square one.
• You ignore excellence and just drift: Your only hope here is to win the lottery, marry a rich person or get elected to public office.

It is easy to lose sight of the Big Picture when engaging in everyday activities. I once read where a famous baseball player, a man who got more hits than all but 5 other players in the history of the sport, said “If you truly focus on every at bat, your career will take care of itself.”

So the next time you feel that weight of seeming indifference, remember that all you have to do is take care of just one thing: the task at hand. That’s all. Give that person in front of you your very best and, by doing so, you are doing exactly what you need to do to let the Law of Numbers work for you and have the Big Picture take care of itself.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Service Success TIP #3

It's not what you say, it's how you say it. You can criticize,make suggestions, make a point or simply disagree with someone without making the other person feel inadequate or unvalidated by using a pleasant tone of voice and positive wording. If you're dealing with a difficult customer who insists that you do something you are not capable of doing, instead of becoming impatient and being rude, you could say something along the line of: " I understand how you feel. I would like to help you, maybe we could try this instead." People express more with tone of voice and facial expressions than they realize. Many times words aren't necessary. So think before you speak, and remember to smile.


Monday, April 11, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** Service Game

Service Game
By Gil C. Schmidt

There are plenty of business metaphors out there, most notably “business is war.” The problem with that mindset is that, in war, second place is just awful. The whole metaphor makes business seem like a bloody battle, one where aggression and dominance are keys to victory.

But in terms of service, how do feelings of aggression and dominance help improve service? It’s obvious that they don’t: we hate pushy salespeople and snide waitresses. Because of this, “service metaphors” have focused on “good feelings” which are often in conflict with the “competitive” nature of business.

And it doesn’t help at all when the phrase “Nice guys finish last” is heard often.

Is there a way for “nice” to finish first? There has to be, for there are plenty of businesses that thrive on being nice and waxing their competition because they are nice. One of the easiest ways to do this is to literally focus on the idea of “service as a game.”

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, with a little imagination and a touch of discipline, you can create a simple game where the goal is excellent service. First of all, by “creating the game,” you are acknowledging the central role good service plays in your business success. Second, you are providing a flexible focus that says that service is important, but also enjoyable (nobody “works” at a game.) Third, you are establishing a system that can be shared with other employees so that the game becomes an additional shared experience.

Here are some examples of “service games”:

• A beauty salon established a daily “good story” game. Each beautician would comment on a news item and “the winner” was the item or topic that garnered the most attention. Benefit: more clients and increased revenue-per-client.
• A restaurant played a “tipping game.” Every waiter and waitress scored points for every table that earned a 15% tip, with more points for higher-percentage tips. “High scorer” for the night won a small prize, paid for by the others. Benefit: Restaurant sales rose 35% while the average tip rose from 12% to 19%.
• A hardware store began a “One Trip Guarantee” game, where the store’s personnel made sure to ask questions about the client’s need to ensure he or she had everything they needed to do the job right. Return customers (for needed items) were counted as “strikes” and any person who “struck out” had to buy coffee for the rest of the group. The game added a “7-day rule,” that meant that after 7 days without a “strike,” an employee could “erase” a previous strike. Benefit: despite increased competition, the hardware store saw sales rise 44% and sharing the game with other stores in the company had similar results.

People often complain that work is dreary, stressful and lacks a true challenge. Change all that by creating a game that rewards good service, is easy to track and can become part of the daily routine. Notice also that the examples aren’t based on big rewards, but are strong on recognition: we love to play and we love the attention of being a winner. These are good things to count on for the success of your business.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Good News Directory

In my quest to promote great service, I've decided to become a "good news" person and mention places I have been to that I like. Hopefully, you will feel inspired to share with me experiences, places or people who have made your day a little bit brighter. We can start our very own "Good News Directory" and promote great customer service. It will also work as an incentive for the places and people mentioned to keep doing what they're doing. Looking forward to hearing from you!

1- Starbuck's - Unfortunately there isn't one yet in Porta del Sol (hint,hint). Whenever I visit the Metro area I go to Starbuck's by myself or a group of friends, it's a great place to decompress, socialize or people watch. The coffee is great, there are table games to play, newspapers and magazines for reading, and nice music. All of these things make for a welcoming and relaxing environment. You can sit there all day and ponder the meaning of life and nobody will bother you. So, if anybody from Starbuck's is reading I have a three words for you....PORTA DEL SOL (specifically Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo, San German, Aguadilla).

You can write me at: diana@vamospa.com


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Instead of..... Try....

Instead of saying : "I don't know".
Try: "I'll find out for you".

Instead of saying: "What do you want?".
Try: "How can I help you?" or "How may I be of service?".