Archive For March 27, 2017

Communicate to Preempt Problems

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Every organization—corporate, nonprofit, religious, recreational, etc.—no matter how large or small, will have problems with clients, vendors, and staff at some point. The trick of every organization is to anticipate and preempt problems to the greatest extent possible. The key to preemption is communication.

The Harvard Business Review and CEO.com tackle the topic of using communication to forestall unproductive conflict in teams. Conflict does not mean that every team member must think alike and agree upon everything. Resolution of unproductive conflict does not require the absence of dissent or disagreeing opinions. Writers Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux state in their article “How to Preempt Team Conflict” that “Good conflict fosters respectful debate and yields mutually agreed-upon solutions that are often far superior to those first offered. Bad conflict occurs when team members simply can’t get past their differences, killing productivity and stifling innovation.”

The newsletter Accelerating IT Success agrees with Toegel and Barsoux in that “[a] little conflict can produce great, innovative results, but bad conflict can result in all-out anarchy.” The preventative medicine to ward off conflict is, once again, communication.

The consensus that effective communication works best to anticipate and prevent problems has become a truism. The stumbling block is how to communicate to effect the desired result. Coming to the rescue, MindTools offers tips on the how. The MindTools editorial team breaks down the how into a 3-stage process with each stage being comprised of multiple steps.

Prepare for Resolution

Before embarking upon the work to resolve the conflict, leaders must first acknowledge that there’s a problem and then convince himself (or herself) and everyone else that the problem can be resolved before collaboration breaks down entirely. This involves discussing the impact the conflict has upon the team, the project, custom relations, and so forth.

Understand the Conflict

After acknowledging the conflict brewing among your team and resolving to fix it, leaders must understand why there’s a problem in the first place. This requires face-to-face conversations to ensure that each person is heard and understood. While listening to understand, not to reply, and list and confirm the underlying facts, assumptions, and beliefs for each person’s grievances. Conflict may arise from erroneous perceptions based on appearance, mannerisms, or other traits to misjudging behavior that can aggravate stereotypes and alienate people. At this stage of the process, it’s important that leaders exercise a nonjudgmental attitude and convince team members that negative expression will incur no retaliation.

Reconvene and Reach Consensus

Once everyone understands everyone else’s opinions and why and have worked on ideas for resolution, reconvene the team and work together to fashion a course of action that will take into consideration fears and assumptions as well as factual data supporting each position.
Leaders seeking to resolve conflicts before they become ugly problems must possess the trust of their teams. In the absence of that trust, an impartial and objective third party—a consultant—can facilitate the resolution process to great effect, but only if leaders follow through on the course of action agreed upon by the team. The Heggen Group has built a reputation for bringing order from the chaos caused by unproductive conflict.

 


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The Service & Delivery Conundrum

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Look up “under promise” and “over deliver” in any online search engine and you’ll come up with conflicting results. Some business experts advocate for this business strategy, others caution against it:

  • Inc.magazine advises abandoning the “underpromise and overdeliver” tuism, as there is no benefit to the party who goes above and beyond a promise. Clients, they say, don’t appreciate the extra effort.
  • Obelis Media also advises against it because doing so communicates a lower level of service or product benefits, which reduces the number of customers your business attracts.
  • Money Smarts supports the “under promise and over deliver” philosophy, stating that doing so avoids client exasperation and enables the vendor to allow wiggle room for setbacks, delays, and do-overs.
  • M4B Marketing joins the chorus of nay-sayers, noting that clients come to expect additional effort without having to pay additional compensation.
  • The Adventure, LLC agrees with M4B Marketing: Customers “practice the Law of Increasing Expectations. Every time they receive some type of bonus from a supplier, the future bar of expectation automatically goes up.”
  • Crew joins Money Smarts in the minority opinion supporting the “under-promise and over-deliver” truism as a way to ensure one can keep his or her promises.

 

Myriad more examples for either opinion can be listed; however, the common thread is that client satisfaction entails a delicate balancing act that focuses on one key concept: reliability. Reliability serves as the fulcrum upon which you balance customer expectations.

Trust vs. Confidence

There’s a subtle distinction between trust and confidence, although people often use the two words interchangeably. As explained by DifferenceBetween.com, “Confidence refers to the assurance that we have on someone. Trust, on the other hand, refers to the firm belief that one has on another individual.” Confidence means you can delegate something to someone else and know it will be accomplished. This indicates an assurance in that person’s or company’s ability to do what is asked and to deliver as promised. Confidence develops based upon the evidence of past performance and can be enhanced by the recommendations of other highly regarded individuals. Trust, on the other hand, requires no evidence. Confidence is earned; trust is given.

Confidence, in short, arises from reliability. This is how brand loyalty is built.

A successful business depends upon the confidence of those who purchase its products and services. That confidence can be built by establishing and maintaining a reputation for integrity and consistent performance. People find consistency reassuring and a strong based built on confidence can withstand the occasional setback, because–as we all know–we cannot control every aspect of our lives and sometimes things happen that we cannot avoid. Trust, once broken, may be impossible to re-establish.

The Heggen Group offers past and prospective clients a viable track record of delivering on promises made. We help our clients to manage their customers’ expectations by analyzing what the do and how they do it to establish feasible processes that guide the delivery of top quality work as promised, on time, and within budget. By implementing processes that ensure reliable performance, clients can then build or increase their customers’ confidence which contributes to brand loyalty.

 


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Early Signs that Your Client Isn’t Happy

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Thanks to big box stores and a pervasive “not my job” attitude, today’s expectations for customer service set a low standard and still clients aren’t happy. Whether you’re selling a product or service directly to the public or a product or service to another business that sells to the public, your concern lies in ensuring that the satisfaction of the end-user of that product or service. This opens up opportunities to improve upon client service and set your business apart from competitors. However, unless your clients deliver pointed feedback, you may not know your clients are dissatisfied until they’re gone, never to return.

In their June 30, 2015, blog, InfoSurv reports the insightful results of research conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. They cite the top four causes of customer dissatisfaction:

  • Inconsistency. Regardless of whether your customers connect with you via phone, social media, email, or in person, they expect consistency in their interaction with your business.
  • Tardiness. Customers want to know about your special promotions before they occur and technical glitches or service problems before they find themselves convinced to lodge a complaint. Customers want to know that you care about them and have their best interests in mind.
  • Inflexibility. Customers expect service to be personalized to their needs. They see it as a fair transaction: in exchange for their personal information, time, and money, you accommodate them with service tailored to their preferences.
  • Inefficiency. No matter how personalized service must be to keep a customer happy, they still require efficient service. Blame technology and the 1980s for the expectation of instant gratification.

 

That of course, just tells you what your business should ward against, not how to discern whether your current customers are considering taking their business elsewhere.

The first thing to remember is that you cannot make everyone happy. Customer relationship management seems to forget that little caveat, but bending over backward and grabbing your ankles to make each and every customer happy will flout your company policies and frustrate your employees. Yes, sometimes, you must stiffen your spine and tell a customer, “No.”

The trick is to make sure the right customers remain happy. Writing for Layer Cake Creative, Kimberly MacArthur Graham’s September 8, 2015, article “3 Early Signs Your Client Is Not That Into You,” specifies the following indicators that should ring those internal alarms warning you that you’ve got an unhappy customer.

  • Lack of engagement. When a formerly responsive client stops engaging with you, even if you’re offering special promotions and discounts, then the customer has lost interest in your service or product.
  • Slow payment. A client previously prompt in payment who begins to pay late or to nitpick the charges on the invoice–or even fails to pay at all–“no longer sees the value of your services,” says MacArthur.
  • Criticism. Complaints, says Jawad Khan writing for Hiver, indicate client frustration.
  • Comparisons. Clients who repeatedly compare you to your competitors are ripe for departure.

 

All four early warning signs merit follow-up with the client. They may result from a single bad experience or consistently poor delivery. If your company fails to honor its commitments and treats customers as though they’re all the same, then it’s time to improve your client service model. Open a conversation to gently probe into the source of the client’s dissatisfaction, ask what you can do to make their lives better, and then commit to keeping your word with follow-through action.

 


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