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Sunday, May 15, 2016
Volume 21 | # 504
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There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day. » Alexander Woollcott

Devaluing Valued Customers

A recent interaction with our longtime cellphone service provider reminded me that the way you make customers feel in your interactions with them often matters as much as the results of those actions.  If you do the right thing only as a last resort, the impression is not going to be a positive one.

Over the course of the past several months, there has been a noticeable drop in the signal strength on our cellphones within our home.  We don’t exactly live in the woods. Our suburb is a driver and 3-iron from the fourth largest city in America.

After several tiresome assaults on their intentionally-difficult-to-penetrate phone menu tree, my wife was able to connect with an actual human.  When she explained our problem, she was given one possible reason for our deteriorating service.  

It is likely that the tons of new construction and new households in our area are affecting our service.  They have far more customers now in our area.  

Well, gee, that is just awful for them.

We were given the options of getting a network extender for their “reduced price” of $250 or they would let us out of our contract.  After she put the call on speakerphone, I asked the nice woman if she was asking us to pay $250 to return our phone service to the level it was when we first bought it.

She then proceeded to tell us about how they didn’t manufacture the extenders, but would sell one to us without a markup.  We told her that we guess we would go with Option B and switch providers.

That triggered the next level of “negotiating tactics” that had someone calling us back.  After again trying (vigorously) to sell us an extender for $250, the next guy said, “Well, because you are valued customers, we can send you the extender at no charge.”

Apparently, we became valuable as soon as they realized we were actually leaving.

Sure, they eventually did the “right” thing.  However, the road to get there left us exasperated.  

The network extender now sitting in my office isn’t a reminder of how that company valued our relationship.  It is instead a reminder of the fight we had to have with them to fix their service issues.    

Of the many things customers ask of us, few are more crucial than simply being able to trust we will always treat them fairly…without needing to be forced or argued into it.  

How will you show your own customers you are looking out for them this week? 


Striking a Competitive Chord

I had to laugh at myself just a little last weekend when I realized that I had become engrossed in a documentary on the Nashville music scene.  I joke with friends that liking classic country music does not mean you are old.  

But you can probably see old from where you’re standing.

This particular documentary talked about Nashville’s country music roots and the eclectic music scene that has exploded over the past decade or so.  I found the stories of musicians from very diverse genres influencing each other fascinating.

However, I thought a comment from country musician Keith Urban was particularly educational and maybe even motivational.  He said that when he arrived in Nashville years back, he truly discovered that it was a “guitar town.”  

He explained that there were more talented guitar players in Nashville than he could have ever imagined.

Urban arrived confident in his talents.  Yet he explained, “I had to improve my game if I was going to make it here.  Everyone is just so good.”

It reminded me a conversation I had with friends while in New Orleans recently.  You simply cannot keep even a hole-in-the-wall restaurant open in that city if you aren’t a great chef (or employer of one).  

The culinary talent level in that city creates an environment in which either your restaurant will be really good or it will be really gone.

I’ve long encouraged senior managers to look for ways to leverage the successes of their top producers to inspire their peers.  When top producers are just faceless names on top of a report, folks ranked “with the pack” too often attribute others’ successes to better markets, luck, or even cheating. 

Do some folks get lucky?  Of course they do.  But the amount of “luck” top producers find is highly correlated with the amount of work they’re putting in.

The best guitar players in Nashville and chefs in New Orleans are undoubtedly “naturally” talented.  The most successful ones, however, have work/practice ethics and networking habits that separate them from the pack. 

How often, and in how many ways, are your team members interacting with top producing peers?  Strive for opportunities that allow your top producers to teach and motivate by example.  

Even if in casual and unstructured settings, interacting with top performers tends to improve everyone’s game. 


Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. » Samuel Johnson

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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