I Don’t Care What You Know Until I Know that You Care

October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is a really simple statement and applicable in so many ways. 

You can apply this statement to any facet of your life because it is a call to action for you or the other person to find out about your/their values, needs, wants, life. How can you/they offer anything of value if you/they don’t genuinely know what you/they value?

The other day I was talking with a rep who was calling into question the intellect and blood lines of my largest competitor. I think he thought that this is what I wanted to hear and that would make it seem that he was on my side, instead it had the opposite effect. He didn’t care about me, my business or even his own when I think of it. He was trying to employ a cheap trick in order to transfer some inventory. There are no idiots, just people who you haven’t taken to the time to understand.

Instead he should have gone into my business, taken a look at the exterior, met the people, take a look at the merchandise and how it is displayed, start to understand who I am through what I have built and then come and ask questions to confirm or deny his assumptions, upon which he can pitch something.

On my side I completely dismissed the guy. I should have stopped him and asked him questions about him, what he values about the company he is working for, what are his goals & dreams? Who knows if I had practiced what I preach then I could have found the next killer wine/beer/spirit that was going to rock the world. Everybody is a present, we just have to unwrap them… if they want.

Another example comes for a blog post by Chris Burdge at B West Interactive http://www.bwest.ca/blog/car-dealerships-social-media-and-purchase-process. The example is one that is a classic. You go onto a car lot and the salesmen proceeds to do the show up and throw up. You know- when they greet you don’t ask a question other than what are you looking for, then proceed to throw up a diatribe about all the features of this particular vehicle? The vehicle that Chris ended up buying may not have all the features of others in its class, but the guy selling it him took the time to find what was important to Chris. Chris bought peace of mind and trust simply because the salesmen talked to Chris and not to a ‘prospective commission’.

Let’s look at politics. About 5% of population will follow a political party blindly. The rest of us sway depending on the level of care that we perceive to be receiving from a government or political party. The BC Liberals are in the tank in terms of popularity just like the NDP was in the late 90’s. The issues may have changed but the function was the same. In both cases they were elected because the people thought they cared about them. They, the parties, presented compelling cases why their lives would be better under the governance of their party. Yet I don’t know of many people who have actually done an analysis.

Take HST. I think we can all agree that there are real economic facts that say that we will be better off economically with HST than without it. What we don’t is the government went ahead and implemented it without showing that they cared about us. They didn’t even ask one question. The same is with the Fast Ferry fiasco. Why did it mean to me to save  15 min. on a boat trip between Nanaimo and Horseshoe Bay. What did it mean to me to develop this technology in B.C.? So what if Nobel Peace Prize winners for Economics can prove that HST is the right thing to do? So what if an engineer has a better mouse trap that they can build in B.C. ? What do you know about me that says these needed to be done?

If I want you to buy a particular wine does it matter that I travelled around the world, suffered through an American Airlines flight to find it. No! The question would be what makes me think that you want/need that wine and how do I know that to be true.

Guessing is/will not be good enough anymore. Nor will focus groups. What will be good enough is simply talking to people and that is what Social Media is. Talking to people. If you really want to make your life better, find out how you can make someone else’s life better.

Thanks for reading this.

Taboo Pressure

October 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

BC recently changed their drinking and driving laws. The Union BC Municipalities are petitioning the BC Government to adopt a progressive alcohol tax that adds more tax to higher alcohol items. Both are in the hopes of reducing and limiting’ irresponsible drinking’. My thoughts are pretty simple; neither gets to the heart of the issue and therefore neither will have the desired effect.

First what is ‘irresponsible drinking’?  I think we can all agree that having a couple of glasses of wine or beer with friends is not the problem. Neither is getting piss drunk and puking all over yourself. The problem is getting piss drunk and either getting behind the wheel of a car, or exiting a bar and starting fights or damaging property, or drinking yourself silly and beating up ones kids or spouse, of drinking while you’re on the job or pregnant, or simply drinking yourself to death. By the way this was not meant to be a comprehensive list. In other words it is the social cost of over indulgence.

None of the above instances are economically motivated, nor will they be significantly derailed through economic actions. I believe that it simply encourages other illegal behaviours like smuggling, experimenting with expensive narcotics, breaking & entering, that sort of thing.

Rather I believe that these issues are cultural.  We are brought up understanding that drinking is a taboo (n. a prohibition imposed by a social custom or as a protective measure – Merriam-Webster Dictionary). One that our parents relish and joke about, but kids are forbidden to do. What happens is that we create a taboo. A taboo that is alluring and seductive. A taboo that it accessible and energized by peer pressure. If your buddies are trading shots you are likely to do that to.

Pricing will play a role in eliminating the problem but won’t solve it. My guess is that deconstructing the taboo will significantly reduce the social motivation for over consumption. By the way deconstructing the taboo won’t happen if it comes from the ‘authorities’. It seems that is a sure-fire way to encourage the opposite behaviour.

The next question is how and who will have the political motivation to do make  the ‘how’ happen.  Love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading this.

Bully vs The Force Field

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I kid I remember playing Super Hero games and I always had a force field. It protected me from all the bully’s of the universe and I could rely on it at anytime.

I no longer play Super Hero games with my competitors, but I do deal with bully’s and have a force field.

Every industry has some bully’s in it and it seems that they hold all the cards. They have greater cash reserves, they can and do buy more advertising, they get first crack at a lot of things and it is really hard to see how one can compete.

You need a force field. Your force field is your proposition that your competition, no matter how big, can not take away from you.

I was reminded of this the other day when in the bully in my industry was able to circumvent an order I had  placed with the supplier. It was an illegal move but the regulators will turn a blind eye, why? because my regulator is also my distributor who is also my retail competitor. It made my blood boil. I sat down at my computer to write an angry, acerbic e-mail that was guaranteed to have everyone that I was yelling at bending to my will. Ridiculous – delete.

I reminded myself that the bully had lost over 35% of the their market share in the last 2 years to companies like ours. They are starting to get desperate and, like all bullies, resort to underhanded tactics to try to pull back market share. They don’t get that I have a force field that even under handed and evil tactics can not penetrate.

My force field is only as strong as the relationship we have with our customers, suppliers and other vendors. Our relationships are premised on having open dialogue with a goal to raising the bar. Our force field is directly impacted by the level of engagement we have with the customer. That engagement has many faces(price, selection, customer service, hours, parking, location, personality) but it all comes down to honesty and doing what we say we are going to do.

The bully can’t deal with that. If they did it would become clear that they are a bully and they stand to lose even more market share. I have yet to come across a story where the bully wins anything that lasts. They will lose but you have to help them lose by constantly building your force field.

Thank you for reading this.

Customer Service By The Numbers

October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Most businesses have always measured their performance in terms of inventory, terms, gross margin, and net profits and almost never in terms of Customer Service.

Every staff member, every telephone or fax line, every e-mail address, Facebook Page, Twitter Account, Yelp, and Foursquare account is a contact with your customers, and customers are anybody making contact with your company or within your company. To put this in perspective, we all know what we do when ignored on the phone or standing the till of a company. What would a CEO do if the VP of Marketing didn’t bother to return his or her calls? What is a vendor who can’t get a return call think about the company that they are dealing with? What would they tell their family and friends about that company? The point is that every point of contact is an opportunity to build your business because every contact relates to the bottom line.

There is a local company that I am very familiar with that has been measuring the performance in terms of Customer Service  as well as financially and operationally. They simply quantified the customer service relationship. They calculated the number of customer service contacts they have and divided gross revenue by that number. They even went so far as to divide gross profits by the number of customer service contacts (to sound fancy and MBAish I should call these CSC’s).

Example:

$100 / 10 CSC’s = $10/CSC

They measure this quarterly, annually and use it as a measure of impact of specific marketing campaigns. What they have found is when they simply invested in customer counts (advertising to increase traffic) the revenue per CSC only increased marginally and in some cases when backwards. When they invested in programs that focussed on Customer Service, $/CSC increased by 15-20%. When they invested in customer service programs and supported that with advertising to encourage more customer contact, not only did gross revenue and profits increase, but the $/CSC jumped 50%.

Here is the other thing they realized. Greater loyalty and engagement from their customers and staff. Messaging to staff no longer had to be dumbed down, rather messaging to staff encouraged discussion debate and innovation. Wierd hey?

If you are not doing this at company start. Start my simply creating a starting point by doing the math. Gross Revenue/Customer Service Contacts.

Thanks for reading this.

How Many Fingers Do You See?

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do you remember the movie Patch Adams. Robin played the role of Patch Adams who was a doctor that brought the power of laughter and smiles to bear on the medical community. Part of his route to becoming a doctor and understanding the value of positive attitude was spending sometime in a mental institution. A recurring theme is Patch being shown 4 fingers and being asked “how many fingers do you see?” Eventually Patch looks past the fingers and focusses on the old man. In the process he sees double the number of fingers.

There are a lot of people out asking the wrong question in a effort understand what social is. The questions are centered around What is Twitter? How do I do it? If these are the questions that you have been asking, look beyond the platforms and see the purpose. The purpose, of course, is to see the person on the other end of the platform. Why? Because they are asking to see you.

Falling & Social Media

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

One of my favourite podcasts is this American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/). I know, I know, I am Canadian but the stories they cover are always interesting. Take for instance the episode they did on Falling. It starts with a guy who, as a kid, falls off a roof of a house under construction. He falls off a roof after being forbidden by his father from playing around the construction site because it is too dangerous. However the fall this guy took changes forever his life. In fact his profession is now the study of falling and what the brain does when it happens.

He starts by recounting the story of how he approached the edge of the roof, looked over, felt an element of un-ease, but, like kids do, the sense of excitement and discovery overcomes his fear and he takes another step. His step is onto an overhand of tar paper that clearly can not hold his weight and he starts to fall. He remembers this so clearly. He remembers thinking about how to turn his body to try and grasp anything. When that doesn’t work he sees himself falling to the red brick pavement below and all he thinks about is what it was like for Alice In Wonderland to be falling down the rabbit hole. He pictures the sides of the rabbit hole, can see the light above him and nothing below, he sees it all in detail. That my friends is a lot of detail to think about. That must, as the host says, take some time to think about all that “how long did it take you to fall?” Answer .86 seconds.

Turns out that the conscious brain is a sieve. It has to be. Consider all the trivial detail that there is in front of you right how as you read this. If the conscious brain saw and focussed on it all if would be impossible to function. Rather the brain filters tons of stuff out. That is until you are in a life and death situation. Then your brain grabs onto everything.

Social Media is no different in my opinion. If you use a platform like Tweetdeck of Hootsuite to engage with Twitter you know what I mean. Right in front of you are hundreds, sometimes thousands of conversations. If you can accept it, it is almost a liberating feeling. Now you can be that flye on the wall. If your mind is open to it, don’t ask me how as I am still learning the how, you can see the world and the people around you in slow motion and in such vivid detail that you can see yourself that much better.

Again as for the how to open your mind, I’m not sure but I do know the feeling. Your shoulders are back, your eyes are wide, there is a smile a little grin on your face and your mind and fingers become one. No typos, just sheer engagement. What’s better is that in those moments it doesn’t matter if people engage you back, but they do and it feels great.

Thanks for reading this.

Hello world!

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

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