Who’s the Boss?

Business to consumer (B2C) relationships can be one of the most complex relationships to have. Unlike personal relationships which have a foundation of emotional attachment, history and mutual understanding, B2C relationships are very temperamental and customers can easily find other “fish in the sea”.
In business, you should always try your best to accommodate the customers’ needs. In fact, this is a critical step in business relationship building. However, accommodating customers has its boundaries. You shouldn’t do anything that would compromise the integrity, security or financial strength of your company. So although you may occasionally bend the rules to accommodate a customer, you should never break the rules completely.
Sometimes you have to show a customer who’s the boss in a very polite, yet assertive way.  Your primary goal is to maintain a successful business while helping your customers understand, that although you want their business, they have to respect yours. Here are a few tips for showing your customers who’s the boss:
1. Create policies and procedures then publicize them and enforce them: Taking the time to create guidelines for how your business will be operated is not only a good practice, but it will save you a lot of hassle when it’s time to apply the rules to a situation. If a customer is well-informed of the guidelines in doing business with you, they are more likely to stay within certain boundaries and respect your decision to enforce the rules.
2. Don’t negotiate too much: Sometimes when you give a customer an inch, they’ll take a mile, which means that if you give them a little wiggle room with the rules, they tend to bend those rules consistently. Remind customers of your terms and conditions when negotiating a deal. Make sure they understand that although you may be negotiating or making an exception this one time, your policies remain in tact and the exception can not be applied to all transactions.
3. Be friendly and firm: Always apply rules of customer service to every business dealing or interaction. However, don’t be so courteous that you are taken advantage of, or worse, you aren’t taken seriously. Customers should respect and appreciate your service at all times– regardless if there are rules they don’t like. So although you may share a laugh, open up a bit or get to know your customer, remember business rules come first!
4. Don’t let a customer’s concerns fall on deaf ears: Being the boss doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empathize with your customers. In fact, simply listening to your customers gives them a feeling of appreciation. Hear their concerns regarding your business because their points may be valuable to your continued success. Additionally, if a customer is having difficulty adhering to your policies and procedures, listen to their explanations. Sometimes customers need to vent before they accept the rules.
5. Make an executive decision: You know what’s best when it comes to your business. You know when to bend the rules, when to enforce them or even when to change them altogether. Remember this is a business relationship, not a dictatorship. So although you may be compelled to make a big decision that impacts customer relationships, keep in mind that rules or processes which are too stringent could backfire and cause additional problems.

These are just a few tips on letting a customer know who’s the boss. For additional tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

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Do you understand what I’m saying?

There will be countless times in your professional relationships that you will be required to convey a message to a group of people. It will be critical that your message is detailed, clear and to the point so that your message is comprehensive and well-received.
Equally as important, you want your audience to make a decision on what to do with the information you share with them. In order to do this effectively, you must convey your messages properly.
A strong message creates a call to action for the reader or listener. They should feel compelled to make a decision based on the information you’ve presented and the energy behind that message.
Whether written or verbal, your statements should help shape the actions of your audience. Your message should be easily understood and have the ability to be correctly interpreted and shared with others. Here are a few tips on conveying your messages:
1)Know what you’re talking about: Clear messages are delivered when the speaker is knowledgeable about their topic. This instills confidence in the speaker and brings a level of confidence in their delivery of the message. Additionally, if the speaker is also passionate about what they’re saying, the message is informative AND and energetic. Make sure before you deliver any message, whether written or verbal, that you not only know what you’re discussing, but that you care about it as well. This step will help produce better audience engagement.
2) Written and verbal outlines are key: Sticking to the point and being concise is critical in delivering comprehensive messages. Resist your urge to create multiple anecdotes, over explain or toggle between topics by creating an outline. Know the most important points you want to discuss and then decide what information must be discussed within those topics (most likely the 5 W’s– who, what, when, where and why). This method will ensure that your message, whether verbal or written, will make sense, stay on topic and produce a productive conversation.
3) Test the level of engagement during the conversation: A true measure of determining if your audience is receptive of your message is to test their engagement. In verbal conversations, asking questions at certain points will help you determine who’s listening and the general tone of the audience. Head nods, smiles, or other reaffirming body language shows that your message is understood. Uncomfortable movements, folded shoulders or the resting of a chin on the hand can indicate that tour audience is bored, unresponsive or not pleased with tour message or its delivery. When writing your message, check engagement in the same manner by asking questions. However, since you obviously can’t read body language, substitute it with call-to-action phrases. Ask your reader to try something, visit a website or some other tangible measure which allows you to test track their engagement.
4) Get the audience involved: Although audience participation can be uncomfortable, it generally breaks the ice and makes people pay attention. If you can get people in the audience to play a role in your message such as taking notes on an easel, distributing literature during your delivery, taking requests for questions or feedback, assembling teams, etc., it puts the audience in charge of their engagement and making sure they understand your message. Think of it this way, if your message is clear, your audience members will be able to follow instructions regarding their participation and actively become involved in making sure others understand the message as well.
5) Follow up effectively: Performing all of the above steps will definitely produce an outcome. But how do you know if the outcome is favorable? Follow up! Ask questions via surveys, polls, one-on-one meetings or any other method which allows you to solicit feedback. You won’t know how clear your message was or how engaged your audience was unless you ask. Try to do this within 24 hours of delivering a message, otherwise you could have fewer response results because your audience has moved on.

These are just a few tips for delivering clear messages. For more detailed tips, contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Bouncing Back from Rejection

Who knew two little letters could cause so much grief? Hearing the word “no” probably evokes the worst feeling, especially when it comes to a matter that was of extreme value to you. Perhaps you were pitching a new idea to your colleagues, asking for a raise or trying to close a sales deal. Rejection and the accompanying sentiment is enough to make you evaluate your skills, growth and sometimes, even your worth.
It’s important to remember that rejection is an important part of the growth and accomplishment processes. The word “no” provides you with the opportunity to re-evaluate and revise your approach to a situation. It also requires you to hone in on strengths and techniques that you may have overlooked or even dismissed initially. “No is a transitional word that demands that you persevere. Here are some tips to help you bounce back from the word  “no”:

1) “No” is not never— Rejection is temporary. In fact, as much as you were hoping for a “yes”, you only have a 50% shot of getting that answer. Think of it this way, no is not definite. It can also mean, not yet or maybe after a few improvements have been made. Don’t allow those two little letters to deter you from continuously pursuing your target. Who knows?  Your “yes” could simply require one more try.

2) Don’t shoot the messenger— Although the person bearing the bad news is just as discouraging as their negative response, remember, they are still a powerful tool in your success. So reconsider your thoughts about lashing out at them. Instead, ask them to give you feedback on improving your chances for next time. Figure out if they can help you achieve your goals through a stringent evaluation, constructive criticism, successful examples or even a point in the right direction. The messenger may have the information you need in order to get past “no”.

3) Narrow your focus— Sometimes “no” is the result of the wrong approach or the wrong focus. If you’re not completely qualified or capable of handling a task, you may be setting yourself up for failure in the first place. Make sure your target is aligned with your capabilities. As bold as you may be to pursue something out of your reach, you may actually be pushing it further away. Try narrowing your focus with your pitch– no matter what you’re pitching about– this should help you pursue the best opportunities that bring you more positive results.

4) Dust yourself off— Don’t wallow in self-pity. No can be a harsh word, but self-pity can make the sting last longer than it should. After receiving rejection, allow some time for it to settle in, vent appropriately, then dust yourself off and try again. You’re going to face a decent amount of rejection in your lifetime– even with tasks that you thought you were surefire to win.  It’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be willing to give anything you really want another shot.

These are just a few tips on dealing with rejection. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have ideas of your own? Please share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

You’ve made a BIG mistake!

                                                                            Photo courtesy of thecoolwind.info

Mistakes happen everywhere, but in business, when a mistake happens it can cause system malfunctions, product recalls, brand crises and ultimately revenue decreases. These mistakes cause panic. However, it’s important to remember that mistakes are still a process in the way we learn. If we don’t accidentally do something wrong, how can we ensure to do something right? It is inevitable that a colleague or staff member will make a mistake that costs you time, money or resources. You may become frustrated having to report the mishap to a superior or possibly deal with the consequences on your own. But remember, you’re a part of a team and at one point or another, everyone will have their share of taking the blame or causing the mistake.
No matter the error, there are proper ways to deal with a mistake so that it is treated as a lesson well learned versus a an irreparable flaw. Here are a few tips:
1) Admire before you admonish: Take a moment to tell the person at least one positive thing related to their mistake. After you’ve genuinely discussed their effort and contribution, outline the mistake and what has happened as a result of the mistake. For instance, “Mary, you did a great job enlisting the team on this project. Everyone talked about your enthusiasm and willingness to assist them during this long process. I appreciate your effort. However, the client has stated that you omitted their updated contact information and slogan. As a result, they are asking us to redesign a new campaign in less than 24 hours for free. We have to accommodate this request.”

2) Ask why the mistake may have happened: The best way to revise a strategy is to figure out what went wrong in the first place. Ask questions that don’t directly place blame on a person; uncover their reasoning or oversight instead. The mistake may have been completely out of their control. In which case, fixing the problem may involve other people or resources. For instance, “Mary, would you happen to know why the updated contact information was omitted?” The reason could be because the client sent the information after a critical deadline. This would change the situation drastically.

3) Allow the person to accept the mistake: Most people feel bad when they’ve made a mistake. So don’t rush into scolding them or creating a hostile situation. Let them be forthcoming with information that may not only create a resolution, but helps them deal with the embarrassment, shock or consequences.

4) Allow the person to reject the mistake: Most people who honestly feel they are not at fault for a mistake, will openly reject any association with the blame. Allow them to express what they feel has happened and work with them to discover facts about the situation. If they are not at blame, offer a sincere apology and follow-up with them to let them know the status (not details) of the situation. If they are, in fact, at fault show them how you’ve come to the conclusion.

5) Give them an opportunity to assist with correcting the mistake: Putting someone “in charge” of their mistake allows them to accept responsibility to fix the mistake as well. Pulling from their strengths and understanding of what went wrong, work together to develop a strategy to resolve the issue. Create an open door policy to facilitate feedback and discuss progress or concerns as they work to fix the problem. Don’t forget to congratulate them after the mistake has been successfully corrected.

 

These are just a few tips for dealing with a mistake. For other tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.

Hey, are you ignoring me?!

How many times have you proposed an idea, requested information, tentatively scheduled a date or been promised a return phone call? And of those instances, how many times have you been left hanging? There’s a good chance that at least 50% of the time you’re waiting for an update on a matter of importance, you’re left in the dark. Besides negligence on the other person’s behalf, the reason you may not be getting any results from your “call to action” is because you’re not practicing effective follow-up.
There’s an art to effective follow-up that dances on the line between assertive and overbearing. So be cautious that you’re not hounding someone. Instead, let them know that you’re serious about receiving valuable feedback. There are methods you can use to practice strong follow-up. Here are a few tips:

 1) Confirm a date to check in within your initial proposal: If you tell someone ahead of time that you’ll be checking up with them on a specific date and time, they can better prepare their feedback. For example, you can say “Hey Bill, let’s talk about your input Friday at 1pm. This gives you a few days to become familiar with everything and think of some questions you may have.” You can email a meeting reminder so the other person can schedule accordingly. Stick to this time! If you wind up rescheduling or not acting on your proposed time, you risk loosing traction and getting any results.

2) Value the other person’s time: Your priorities may not be priority for someone else. It’s important that you keep this in mind when requesting and waiting for follow-up. Although you’re thinking 10 minutes should be reasonable time for someone to respond to an urgent matter, the other person may be thinking 24 hours is reasonable. So wait 24 hours for some type of response before doing any follow-up. You want to be effective, not annoying.
3) Limit the back and forth: Sometimes solid connections and feedback get lost in several chains of emails, phone tag and rescheduled meetings. Eliminate the back and forth by gradually progressing your follow-up. Email your request, then call to check in. Schedule an in-person meeting (with all of the resources and materials you need in order to prevent ineffective meetings) then make a final phone call to seal the deal (if you haven’t done so at the in-person meeting). Effective follow-up is all about progressing your status.
4) Sometimes your answer is “NO: We can’t control the final outcome of someone’s input. Perhaps you’ve done everything correctly and you’re good at what you do. That doesn’t mean that your follow up will always result in a “yes” answer. However, be sure to ask what you could do differently to improve your chances for next time.
5) Suggest someone else to handle the task: If the person you’re trying to connect with says (or shows signs of) being too busy, ask if you can include someone else in the conversation. Don’t step on their toes by excluding them or going around them. Simply ask if they can include a team member who would help to get the ball rolling. For instance, if you’re planning a meeting and the director is to busy to provide input, suggest getting the assistant and project manager involved. Everyone is welcomed to chime in and now you have a team of people working on your request.

These are just a few tips for improving your results from follow-up. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have follow-up tips that work for you? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.