Archive for the ‘employee training’ Category

What can your business learn from Rio?

August 4, 2016

RIO 2016 OlympicsI love the Olympics!  I clearly remember reading all there was to read in Sports Illustrated and in Newsweek when the mail would arrive! Yes, I am dating myself and my kids would be astonished to be reminded we did not have cell phones and internet to get live updates of athletes’ performances.  We sat in the ‘family room’ and watched TV as a family with no disturbances from everyone being on their own device.

With Opening Ceremonies tomorrow night, I can’t help but wonder what all of us can learn from all that is swirling around Rio 2016:  Zika, plumbing issues, contaminated water sources where athletes will be competing, corruption, a very pricey train that stops 8 miles short of Olympic Village…and the stories go on and on.  Perhaps there were such challenges in other Olympics as I was growing up, but this one in particular seems rampant with issues.  So what can we learn?

I would propose that Rio highlights the fundamental need for and importance of planning.  Both planning ahead and contingency planning.  Just like any major project in your company (or even a small project or initiative), one develops a plan. The plan includes critical milestones, dates that have to be met (e.g., opening ceremonies, arrival dates for athletes), resources (financial and human) that need to be available and trained to support the project.  Define the top-level goals of the initiative/project (insert the word Olympics) and then expand the plan by logical work streams (e.g., security, transportation, living quarters for athletes, venues, etc.)  Assign experienced owners to each work stream and develop formalized structures for meeting, coordinating, communicating etc.

Take security as one example.  Can anyone fathom leaving such a vital effort until Live Date minus ~45 days?  I was stunned to read the company hired to handle security (and now replaced) was only hired about a month ago!  They were supposed to hire about 3000 people and get them trained and they had achieved hiring about 500 and apparently the training was basically non-existent.  Yikes. So in addition to planning, once could also learn the importance of allocating the necessary time to properly train people on their roles; ensuring they have the tools and information they need to perform their roles.

When I meet with CEOs to discuss their marketing needs, I ask them if they plan. Do they have a strategic plan? Do they value a plan? Recently a prospective client stopped in his tracks as he paced the boardroom we were meeting in. “Why did you ask me that question?”, he asked me.  I smiled and explained that I ask it to evaluate the fit for us working together.  I value planning.  A key part of our value proposition is planning and accountability to delivering on the plan.  I have worked with clients who value the entrepreneurial spirit and insist that plans are not necessary; they insist they need to be nimble (inferring a plan is confining and restrictive) and they end up valuing activity over progress, ineffectively leading across the organization as there lacks alignment and focus. Plans bring people in an organization together. It provides focus and discipline and sets priorities.  He nodded and said – “Of course we plan. We have a business plan and I would see no other way to run our business”. Great – sounds like a good fit.

I would not go to this Olympics if someone offered me the experience for free. It is a shame that there appear to be so many aspects of the experience that present real risks and that for whatever reason have been poorly planned and/or executed.  As you watch the athletes compete, as you cheer on Team USA, reflect on the strength of your company’s plan.  When was the last time your business plan was reviewed? Do you have a marketing plan that aligns and supports the sales plan? What about training and employee development? For many companies the next quarter is the planning phase for 2017. Let’s hope and pray that all athletes and visitors to Rio 2016 are safe and sound. But for our businesses, remember that hope is not a strategy. Don’t leave your company’s future to chance.

 

 

 

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The power of empathy

August 26, 2015

Can adults learn empathy?  Mass General believes so and has launched an innovative training program to improve empathy among its doctors. In reading a recent article on this program in the Boston Globe, I was struck by how smart this training is for medical professionals. Mass General has deconstructed the doctor/patient relationship and patient experience to identify critical aspects that affect the overall delivery of their service: patient care.

Most people secure primary care physicians, pediatricians, dentists, oral surgeons, dermatologists and orthodontists from referrals. When it comes to medical specialists, your personal referral network may be significantly smaller and you are likely to rely on your primary care and other medical professionals referrals.  For many of us the ‘day to day’ core medical professionals in our life come from referrals. Think of how critical it is for these practices to have secure, solid relationships with their patients!

So where does empathy fit in?  Mass General has zeroed in on a critical aspect of patient care that many of us subconsciously value and seek in our relationships with doctors, but in some cases may not notice…until there isn’t any. I recently had lunch with a dear friend and colleague and as we covered many topics during our conversation she asked me – who is your primary care doctor? She immediately followed her question with “I hate mine.”  I described my doctor and shared how pragmatic and kind he is. He listens, and then I joked how he told me to never look up symptoms on the web. He commented that I would have myself half buried by researching symptoms online. Just call us or come in and see us he advised. Advice I appreciated and follow.

So the referral trail for my primary care came from my dear friend, Fran, when I first moved back to the Boston area.  She highly recommended him and 15 years later he is still my doctor. I have referred him to my neighbors when they move in from out-of-town and referred him to my nephew who just settled into the Boston area. Next my friend Edith and the referrals will continue!

Empathy is something we as marketers talk about a fair amount with our clients, especially clients in the B to C space. For one client in particular, customer service is a critical differentiator. A periodic training program developed by For Marketing Matters emphasizes the importance of empathy. We use examples of customer interactions to raise the awareness of being empathetic; being sensitive to the customer and how he/she may interpret the information being shared. In this particular case, the dollars being discussed are significant and the training focuses on reminding the sales people that they can become de-sensitized to the cost impact to the customer.

As you think about your industry and customers/clients or patients, here are 3 things to think about as it relates to the unique training that Mass General is doing:

Point 1.  What can you learn about your customer relationship by deconstructing the customer experience into the factors that most affect customer satisfaction (leading to retention and referrals)?

Customer image

Point 2. Once identified, how can you incorporate training or ongoing reinforcement of behaviors to improve one or more of these factors?

Point 3. How can you measure the impact of your investment in time and resources to measure an ROI?

It’s all over but the crying

May 11, 2015

As the songs say, It’s all over but the crying.  Hank Williams Jr. or Garbage depending on your preferred genre.

It's all over but the crying.

It’s all over but the crying.

The college process is over…for now.  And all that is left for me, the Mom, is the crying. The crying at this week’s Mother/Son breakfast.  Seeing my son speak at a graduation event Thursday night.  Baccalaureate on Saturday night and finally, watching him cross the stage on Sunday to receive his high school diploma from St. John’s Prep. People tell you it goes by fast. They are right – it flies.

So a blog about reflections of the college search, application and selection process from a marketer. My top ten list for college admissions officers to learn from:

10. Map the customer experience – it starts with parking. Make visiting your campus easy and hassle-free. Validated parking tickets for free parking is a nice touch. If not possible, clear notification and availability of quarters for meter parking by BU undergraduate admissions office was well thought out. Frustrated parents do not make for a happy and supportive tour group!

9. Survey your prospective customers!  After a campus visit, find out what they liked and what they did not so you can continue to improve. Consider perspectives of BOTH students and parents in your survey design and sampling.

8. Marketing 101: Update your value proposition. Review and update your key messaging.  Make sure it is accurate and is relevant to your ideal target audience. Kudos to Drexel University.  Liked their tagline. Like that they clearly document and present The Drexel Difference.  They know who they are and clearly present and appeal to their target student.  Impressive.

7. Automated, inaccurate emails damage your brand. Just like any other consumer-interaction, there is nothing more stressful than receiving indications of missing information as part of an application process only to discover that was ‘an automated reply’ and can be ignored.  Yikes. Get your internal processes in order!

6. Book store. Make it part of the tour.  Best tour route:  Georgetown University. Ended in the student commons by the book store. Basic stuff. Smart.

5. Food.  It is important.  It is a differentiator.  Prospective students care about food.  Parents care about food and healthy options.  Kudos to tours that ended with coupons to try the food. Kudos to tours that took us through actual dining areas.  A big thumbs down to schools who do NOT address allergies and the demands of prospective students.  This is not a new requirement.  There is enough stress of thinking about your 18-year-old being on their own without wondering if kids with allergies will be at risk walking into a dining hall.

4. Tour guides make or break it. Critical success factor for any school to have top-notch highly trained tour guides! These students need to be vetted, trained and mystery-shopped! It is amazing how many stories I have heard in the past 18 months of prospective students removing great schools from their list due to the impression the tour guide made. Admission officers take notice! These kids are a critical success factor.

3. Shout out to University of Loyola in Baltimore for great emails to prospective parents, well-designed mailers to prospective students and for their impressive and timely communications the week of decision-making to address head on the safety of its city as the city was erupting.  A job well done. I was very impressed with the tone of the communications and the consistent affirmation that this school has a strong brand identity that came through in all of its written communications.

2. Use video. It is engaging and interesting. Hint:  George Washington University. Sitting in a large room for our 3rd college tour of the day with no video was rough. When a 12-year-old comments on how poor the group presentation was, that is a big clue!

1. No one cares how many volumes are in the library.  Remove these stats from your standard tour.  Prospective students don’t care and either do parents. It is a useless fact. Not a differentiator.

So, it is all over but the crying…at least for me. Likely a two-year break before we ramp up the process again as my daughter heads into high school next year. Oh, and the winner is:  Bentley University.  Very proud.

 

Is your business sending mixed signals?

February 4, 2015

How could a sweater be backordered til end of February and ship the same day?

Is your business sending mixed signals? 

mixed signalsPost Christmas we had some returns to take care of.  Turns out that a catalog company that up until now, I have really liked has a silly policy of “free shipping” BUT deducts a flat rate of $6 for any returns.  Really?  Seems like a stupid policy to me and plants the seed that makes me think twice about ordering from them in the future. But I could get beyond that silly policy, but there is more.

We ship two items back – one item a return and another an exchange for a different size.  In the same day, I receive a voice mail form the company  explaining (poorly) that the exchanged item referenced by all their internal-only codes (blah blah blah) is backordered and will ship at the end of February.  No indication if I need to call and confirm that I still want the order.  Strange message and really lousy use of internal gibberish that a customer does not care about.  Fast forward, 3 hours from the voice mail message.  Email received.  The SAME exchanged item that was backordered 3 hours ago has shipped via UPS and the tracking number is provided.  HUH?  What the heck is going on and who the heck is in charge?  Mixed signals.

Carbon2Cobalt has nice, unique items.  The items are not inexpensive and as far as I know, the only option I have to purchase such items is via mail order. Their brand image has taken a hit.  They have been knocked down many pegs in my book.  First detail happened before Christmas!  I had to return a gift purchased for my nephew PRIOR to Christmas as when the item arrived it had unique top stitching that my teenage son did not like and told me his cousin would not like either!  Note to the reader – the stitching was not visible in the images online and there was no mention of this detail that was prominent on the real item. Details matter.)  Second, the sweater being exchanged would not have had to be exchanged if their website included such notes as this style runs large – suggest you order down one size.

This is not a blog to trash Carbon2Cobalt.  It is a heads up to ask yourself – are your signals clear?  Are you sending mixed messages?

Whatever your business (retail or not), I suggest the following 10 steps to protect your brand and your business from taking the significant hit that Carbon2Cobalt has taken based on my experiences over the past month. This story does NOT just relate to retailers.  Do you Mr./Mrs. CEO know what it is like to be your own customer or client?  Is it painful to receive inaccurate and conflicting information?  Do you consistently come across to your customers as though you have no clue what is happening and who is in charge?

Recommended action items to see how clear your signals are:

1. Review your return policies

2.Return your phone scripts.

3. Listen to your on-hold messages.

4. Review and audit product and service descriptions. (e.g., sweater runs large; note top stitching around zipper in bright contrasting color)

5. Review patterns of returned products or customer feedback indicating product/service did not meet expectations.

6. Lose the jargon.  Get rid of codes and acronyms in your customer communications that mean nothing to the customer! Don’t talk about stock numbers – in this case describe the sweater! It is that simple.

7. Document and prioritize your customer moments of truth.

8. Measure and manage to these moments of truth.

9. Train new employees on your brand; your tone; your core values.

10. Repeat items above and never assume they are working correctly.

I am not saying these things are easy.  However, they are basic.  Get the basics right before you are focusing too much time and energy on the ‘nice to have’ items.  Get down to basics.

Carbon2Cobalt you have some work to do to earn back a loyal customer. I am now skeptical and honestly curious what will be coming in the mail.  Any bets on if the correct item in the correct size will ship anytime soon?