Focusing on Patient Needs

I have been dealing with arthritis in my foot for about a year now. On the recommendation of an acquaintance, I made an appointment to see a physical therapist who apparently works wonders.

As I traveled several miles and nearly an hour to see him, I kept hoping that he lived up to his billing. The office is not in the most attractive location. In fact, many of the businesses around him are closed. And it feels almost like the middle of nowhere.

When I walked in 20 minutes late, the person greeting me was intensely and genuinely kind. I filled out my requisite paperwork and sat for a few minutes until it was my turn.

After a 10-minute consultation with the therapist, he offered his thoughts for what would get me back running. And he suggested two other PTs closer to where I work so that my rehab would be far more convenient. When it was time to go, I tried to pay, but he wanted to see what the insurance company said first. If there was any amount for which I would be responsible, he would just send a bill or call. Later that same day, the call came, and I gladly paid the amount needed.

A few days later, the receipt came in the mail folded in a personal note thanking me for coming in and wishing me well on my rehabilitation.

He truly just wanted me to get better. In the process, he created another raving fan who will recommend him in a heartbeat. Why? Because the focus was on what I needed, not his sale. It makes a difference.

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The Window Can Be Dangerous

People want to know. Maybe not everything, but most things. There is still some bliss associated with ignorance, particularly for those messier details. So, companies are putting more of themselves “in the window”, showing the world how they function and what they actually do.

When you put yourself there, honesty and openness rule the day. With that honesty, innocent mistakes can be forgiven. Companies that insist on the constant spin that everything is perfect need only one thread to see it all unravel. Simply look to the individuals and organizations that quickly find themselves cowering in disgrace.

At the same time, having that type of transparency, especially for a company that has been around for a while, requires that you have your act together. Let me offer a personal example.

Traveling home from a business trip last week, I stopped at a familiar vendor (they have stores across the country with a good reputation) to grab a sandwich for the flight. I placed my order and could watch the staff just to the side making the sandwiches and wraps. The line of people waiting for their food grew, yet the workers showed absolutely no sense of urgency. They also looked as though they didn’t really know how to make what they were selling. They ran out of most types of bread, even though that is their specialty. And they fulfilled the orders out of sequence.

All of this is happening before 6 PM on a Friday in one of the country’s busiest airports.

There were other problems as well: inconsistency in calling out the finished order to patrons; other staff not stepping in to help; a manager trying to decide with another manager which one would stay and which would go to the other location in the terminal. And yes, everything took place in plain sight.

Take a lesson. Get your processes and procedures in place. Train your staff to be customer-centric. Create a sense of urgency in fulfilling customer needs. Then, put it in the window for all to see.

Oh, and if you’re worried about your competitors stealing your ideas, fear not. Out-execute them, and you’ll stay ahead of the game.

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Recanting a Rant

Yesterday, I started to rant about the hoops I was jumping through to cancel an account. I am going to say that, on the surface, I was getting ahead of myself. Any company has a right…no, a duty…to know why a customer wants to leave. The best way to do that is to offer various avenues for the customer to offer feedback. Let them tell you via phone, e-mail, online response form, whatever makes them happy. Remember it is all about them.

So, getting back to my original rant, I called the company, as they required, to cancel my account. As I predicted, they tried to make me an offer to stay. Here’s the thing. The offer was a special deal for people that don’t really use the service that much. And it’s not offered as an option on their website. In other words, it’s an act of desperation to keep a customer on a continuity program.

When a customer wants to leave because they don’t see the value in your service, you either have to show them the actual value you are providing (which they didn’t) or make some other real change. But if the customer has to work harder than they deem necessary, there won’t be any value to them, regardless of what you do.

The customer comes first. And you have to meet his needs on his terms. Companies that are too strict in their one-sided agreements (like credit card companies and mobile phone providers) are going to see a high level of churn because the customer feels he is being screwed. That’s just the way it is. Treat the customer with respect and honor his wishes. If you wouldn’t put up with one of your policies, get rid of it. Chances are the people you serve won’t put up with it either.

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Ensure Your Customers Are Successful

Here’s a quick question for you. When you sell to your customers, what are you doing to ensure their success? This most likely is targeted to you B2B folks, but it could go to just about anyone selling anything.

Because to the best companies, selling isn’t just about the sale. Or even the repeat sale. It’s about making sure your customers truly are successful in using your product. It’s about building a long-lasting relationship focused on mutual growth.

In other words, when your customers are successful, so are you. When they aren’t, neither are you.

So I go back to my original question: what are you doing to ensure your customers’ success? Train them on how to most effectively use the product. Show them how to price it for resale. Offer them assistance on managing their business. Learn about the results they are getting with your product and why.

Invest in them and their success. It’s what will lead to your own.

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Closing Loops

Quality service is the key to business success. That means meeting or exceeding the needs external as well as internal customers. And to do that, you have to close the loop.

Closing the loop is how you follow up. It’s how you answer the question or resolve the complaint or respond to a request. Your ability and willingness to close loops is a direct reflection on your level of service.

That implies, of course, that you actually answer the question, resolve the complaint and respond to the request. It may not be to their complete satisfaction, for any number of reasons. But if you are making a sincere effort, and you are open and honest about why you cannot meet the specific need, then you’ll score some points.

Say anything you want about how good you are. If you don’t close the loop, what you say won’t matter. At that point, it’s just talk.

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Service Contracts

Since moving into my new house, I have had the occasion to work with a couple of companies using service contractors and one using its own staff. In each instance, the experience has been fine. Using contractors for your in-home service work makes sense in the right situations:

  • The contractors’ vision and mission aligns with your own
  • The contractors seek to exceed your customers’ expectations
  • The contractors offer a greater value to your customers and to you than you could do on your own
  • The cost of have the contractors is equal to or less than the cost of handling it yourself
  • Your customers agree that your contractors provide a needed service and do it well

If these things aren’t happening, then hiring out might not be right for you. Thrill your customers, and it won’t really matter who is doing the work.

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Selling It Back

This past weekend, I heard a co-worker talking to a customer, and she said she didn’t want the customer to sell the product back to her. I hadn’t heard that phrase in several years. But it’s one of those that makes perfect sense.

We sell all sorts of things to all sorts of people. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you are selling something to someone. The key is selling the right person the right product, not selling just anybody everything you’ve got. Why? Because if it doesn’t do what you promise or meet their needs, they’re going to sell it right back to you. And it’s going to cost you more than it cost them.

For you to be successful in your business, you need results—the positive kind. Over the long-term, those results need to come from taking the time to make the right match of product and consumer. Satisfied customers typically don’t sell their purchases back. But when they do, that is your opportunity to sell them the right product.

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