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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Target Customer Intelligence

I’m stunned at the number of companies targeting fools and idiots in their commercials. Geico continues with its ridiculous caveman ads, Cox has their talk show ads, Dunkin Donuts introduced a new product recently with the same concept, and Staples reduces people’s intellect to pushing a red button.

Maybe they are seeing something in their market research that identifies the less intelligent as a significant potential market. Perhaps they don’t think their customers recognize the insult. Or it could be they are counting on their customers not caring about being equated with nincompoops.

Here’s a thought. Advertise the actual features and benefits of the product. And move away from attempting to sell based on the “only the dumbest of the dumb haven’t bought it yet” philosophy.

Of course, I am assuming that these products have features and benefits worth selling and that they aren’t using these tactics as a cover.

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Managing Expectations

On Friday, I wrote about closing loops on everything—questions, requests, complaints, whatever. One thing that will make closing those loops much easier is by properly managing expectations.

This concept is one of the most important business lessons I have learned. It truly is a 360˚ method of management, because it goes up, down and sideways. And managing expectations works because it keeps people on the same page, it gives everyone a basis for assessment and it gets things done.

Here’s what I mean. Your boss tasks you with a project. Keeping him informed of where you are, what obstacles you face and why you will or will not meet the deadline is the only way to ensure you’ll get through it. Without managing his expectations, the first hiccup you hit looks like incompetence.

Look at it from the other side. Suppose you task one of your employees with a project. If you are telling them what your expectations are of them, there is no telling what you will get or when it will be done. Manage it from the beginning and you’ll get a better outcome.

It also works with colleagues. If your working on a project together, keeping your team informed about your particular piece allows them to manage their portion better. And there are far fewer surprises.

Of course, managing someone’s expectations is useless if you aren’t delivering.

What about your customers? How well are you managing their expectations of what you say you are going to deliver? How well are you meeting those expectations?

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Great Service Leads to Success

My family is in the midst of a move to Phoenix. Through this process, we have worked with a number of different people providing various services. Some much better than others. It’s easy to see, based on the quality of service received, who will be successful and who won’t.

First, let me start with the two real estate agents we used—one in New Orleans and the other in Phoenix. Each has a good understanding of their respective markets and gives what appears to be good advice to clients. Where they differed (greatly) was in their follow-up. One followed up at every turn, often calling as soon as she had something to tell us. The other, not so much. In fact, more often than not, we were calling looking for answers.

The agent that had hardwired the follow-up into activity is, by far, the more successful agent.

Next, comes my lawn guy. I have the misfortune to be allergic to most grasses. Cutting my grass tends to put me into a bit of a sinus coma. It’s not fun. So, we had a lawn guy in New Orleans take care of our yard. He had been doing it for us for the past few years normally was highly reliable. This year, proved to be a much different story. Weeks would go by without us seeing him. Other things he had promised—weeding our front garden and powerwashing the house and sidewalk—simply didn’t happen.

As we were showing the house and getting to crunch time (receiving and accepting offers on the house and going through the inspections and appraisal), he was nowhere to be found. The grass crept about ankle level, approaching mid-calf. I called him, and he promised to be out that day. Two days later, he still hadn’t shown or called back to say he wasn’t going to be there. I called again. Same thing. I called two more times before he showed up—after we’d made the sale.

My guess is that after the owners settle in, he’ll approach them about continuing to care for the yard. Since they saw how “well” he maintained it, I’ll bet they turn him down. Other neighbors probably won’t look to him for his services either.

I had similar experiences with other service providers, just with this one event.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to service, you need to go above and beyond. Keep people informed. Make certain that your work can speak for itself. Exceed people’s expectations.

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Set the Right Tone

Following yesterday’s post about people ranting on the internet, one thing that companies can do is set the proper tone. And the best way to do that is to establish a set of core values and standards of behavior.

People often don’t give these enough credit, viewing them merely as touchy-feely PR stunts aimed at consumers or employees. When done properly, though, they are so much more than that.

It’s important to note what core values mean to an organization. Core values:

  • Govern our personal relationships
  • Guide our business processes
  • Clarify who we are
  • Articulate what we stand for
  • Help explain why we do what we do
  • Inform us on how to reward
  • Guide us in making decisions
  • Underpin the entire organization
  • Require no external justification

They are not:

  • Operating practices
  • Business strategies
  • Cultural norms
  • Competencies
  • Changed in response to market or administrative changes (unless that is what got you in trouble in the first place)

Standards of behavior illustrate the core values in action. They define what is expected and acceptable of organizational representatives. They also must be measurable and used in performance reviews.

Once you have established your core values and standards of behavior, then everything you do as an organization must reflect them. If not, they are just words on a page. And you give people reasons to rant.

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Bad Drivers Lead to Business Lesson

My friend is one of those people that likes constant control. Twice a week we travel together to the gym for a still-dark-outside workout. We tend to share driving duties, although I try to drive more often. It’s safer. This particular morning, he was at the helm.

He’s a good Catholic who attends daily mass. As we were headed back from the gym, he was rushing a bit, wanting to get home and back out to Church, and we found ourselves behind a pokey driver. He complained with a “C’mon!” and swerved around her. Once he sped past, quickly approaching our turn, another driver, apparently unsure of what he was doing, casually drifted into our way. Again a complaint with some additional verbiage.

He realized the irony of complaining about his fellow man while trying to get home, cleaned up and out to mass on time. He put his feelings to me this way, “All of it really comes down to two commandments – love God and love your neighbor. The difference is in the Testaments.”

According to him, following the Old Testament is a piece of cake. It’s easy (for most of us, at least) not to do wrong, like killing someone or stealing. It’s much harder to follow the New Testament, because you have to actually love the people around you, even if you don’t like what they are doing.

We joked about it some more, then it got me thinking. Doing the right thing really is hard work, especially in business. Maintaining your integrity and the organization’s credibility when you have quarterly numbers to meet challenges all of us. Making promises in your marketing that you can actually keep? We tend to stretch it. It’s human nature. But those who make the effort to consistently do what is right by their customers, their co-workers and all other stakeholders will reap the greatest rewards. Make realistic promises, then deliver.

My friend made it to mass on time. And the gospel was about the exact discussion we had in the car that morning.

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What if Someone’s Watching?

As much as I love new technology, I have resisted things like social bookmarking…until recently. My wife introduced me to Stumble the other day, so I signed up to check it out. While stumbling through websites, I found a long (and I do mean long) article on Edmunds.com titled Confessions of a Car Salesman. It’s well done and gives a scary, behind-the-scenes look at what happens at a dealership. Much of it confirms our greatest fears/beliefs/rants.

That got me thinking. If your organization gave consumers or the media an all-access pass to your daily activity, what stories would they tell? Would it make you proud? Or would you want to run and hide?

I’m not talking about someone visiting for a day or so. Or even a week. Anyone can plan those out enough, putting their best foot forward.

What I am talking about is what happens when you think no one else is watching or listening. You know, like those employees that may leave…

Imagine there are hidden cameras and recording devices everywhere. Did you just shudder? If so, something needs to change. Now.

What goes on behind-the-scenes sets the tone for the entire organization, directly impacting the value of your brand.

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