How do you set yourself apart with emails?

textingA manager once explained to me, "My staff needs to know that just being friendly doesn't differentiate us." That's why in my seminars I remind teams to not merely be seen as their customer's friend; but rather to become valued as their customer's trusted advisor. Surprisingly, the trust meter is often advanced by little things. For example, when you send emails from your phone, does the message automatically attach a signature that details your full name and contact information? By including your contact information, you subtly convey three things to the recipient: 1) you are considering their convenience, 2) you pay attention to details and, 3) you are comfortable being held accountable; which is why you are disclosing exactly who you are and how you can be reached. Good return for the one-time 10 minutes it takes to add a signature line to mobile device emails.

If you Deal with Businesses

super-heroDo your customers use your products or services for themselves, or for their organizations? As you know, in business to consumer interactions, your customers are buying for themselves out of their own pockets. However, when customers are buying on behalf of their organization (business to business), the money comes from their employer. That's why, when I do seminars for clients who provide products and services to companies, I remind them to focus on two (often overlooked) aspects of their service:

  • Making your customer's job easier
  • Making your customer look smarter to their supervisor

Focusing on these two areas means that - even if your price is higher than others - your customers have a personal interest in doing business with you over your competitors. If they have to pay more of their company's money to work with you, it's still in their own best interest to do so.

How do I Cross Sell?

Solution vs Problem Solving - Business ConsultingOften the easiest way to grow your business is to pivot existing customers towards your other products or services. Your current customers already know and trust you. And they obviously have the funds to do business with you. The question becomes, "What's an easy effective way to cross-sell your other products or services?" While there are several approaches I share in my seminars, one of the simplest involves doing a disservice. You might for example, explain to a customer, "Knowing your situation and your overall objective to ­­(fill in blank with customer's goal), I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't at least make you aware that we have another (division/product/ service) that does that." The phrase, I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't at least... positions the conversation less as pushing or pestering; and more as an effort to assist

Unshaven doesn’t mean unkempt

unkept2We all get the men's fashion trend to sport the 5 o'clock shadow. Unfortunately, what we're also seeing is some guys taking this as license to show-up to work looking slovenly. You may think your appearance at work is your business. That would be true if it wasn't for the fact that your co-workers and customers are the ones who have to look at you. If you're getting less respect, authority, or consideration from customers than you think you deserve, start by looking in the mirror. Does it look like you put some effort into getting ready for work? Seriously, do you look well-groomed? If not, it tells the world you lack attention to detail, and you focus on your own needs while being oblivious to others. If someone forwarded this tip to you, take the hint.

Customers feeling processed rather than served

In my seminars where we talk about handling customers efficiently, I point out the danger of customers feeling more 'processed' than 'served'. That's when we focus more on the completing the transaction than advancing the relationship. Case-in-point is when employees finish recording their out-of-office voice mail messages, or complete customer transactions with the send-off, "Have a nice day." That mindlessly over-used cliché reminds the customer that the service provider is on auto-pilot, going through the motions of talking. That's why I was so wonderfully surprised by a simple send-off I received after "Joe" handed me a receipt for the coat I'd just purchased. Instead, of muttering, have a nice day... he looked me in the eye, nodded and said in a serious tone, "Thank you for your business." As a customer, I actually felt appreciated. Which is why I'll happily go back. Good results for changing a few words.

I See your Point

water dropletThe Power of Empathy with a Simple Phrase

A service provider passed on to me a simple phrase that she uses to diffuse angry customers. After the customer expresses their concerns (vents), she confirms the details with the customer, empathized with their frustration, and then wraps it all together with the phrase, "I see your point." Whether or not we agree with the other person, the phrase, "I see your point," communicates that we've listened and that we understand their perspective. That's a big step towards preserving that valuable customer relationship. Bonus: it's also a great approach to use with family and friends.


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What’s your Customer’s Budget?

At one of my seminars, a participant asked me how to raise the subject of budget when the client invites you to make a proposal. "We go through the whole presentation," he explained, "And the client seems to like everything. But by the end of the meeting we still haven't discussed price. Later, we learn that what we proposed was beyond their budget." He was also concerned that it might appear rude or blunt just asking in advance, "What's your budget?" I agreed that asking about budget in advance makes sense. I suggested that to soften the bluntness he rephrase the inquiry to something like, "There are several options we can present depending on the budget you have in mind. Is there a budget I should be aware of?"

Dissatisfied Customers – What’s Really at Stake?

As a customer receiving poor service, you've no doubt wondered what the people in that organization were thinking. You inform an employee about a problem, and rather than apologize, they make excuses or act like they're doing you a favour fixing their mistake. One reason why this is so common is employees focus on the value of the transaction rather than the value of the relationship. In other words, what's at stake is not the $50 transaction - it's the customer's thousands of dollars' worth of that lifetime business. Not to mention the word-of-mouth publicity.  The lesson - for greater long term profits, managers should waste less on expensive ads and price discounts trying to buy new business, and instead invest more on training employees on how to delight and retain customers they already have.

Common Blunders with “Please Hold” Messages

Arbeit oder LangeweileIf your company's in-bound calls are routed to a call-centre, check to see if your 'please-hold' recording includes any of these blunders:

"Due to overwheliming demand all our agents are busy..." This company is overwhelmed. Sounds like they're out of control and don't know what to do.

"Due to high call volumes..." I guess management wasn't expecting many customers to call. Or they're just incompetent at handling high demand.

"Your call is important to us..."They start the interaction by insulting our intelligence and lying. If our call was that important to them, they'd find a way to have someone pick up the phone.

Better to simply state, "Thank you for calling ABC Corp. Please remain on the line and you will be served faster than by redialing. Waiting time for the next available agent is approximately X minutes." It's to-the-point, informative and unlike the others, doesn't add insult to the injury of being on-hold.

The Value of the Slight Edge

Remember the old joke about two camping buddies being scared out of their tent by a rummaging grizzly? One scrambles to exit while the other stops to put on his running shoes. "What are you doing putting on those shoes? You'll never outrun a grizzly." Response: "I don't need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you!" I believe the same strategy applies to competing in business. You don't have to be the world's best - you just need a slight edge over the competition. So, as you compare your offerings to that of the competition, resist the temptation to stretch the truth. Exaggerating insults your customers' intelligence. Better to have a slight edge that wins all the business than to make an exaggerated claim that loses all your credibility.


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