Dealing with Cancellations

Peter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, EditorBy Peter DeHaan

How does your company handle cancellations? Do you allow anyone to process terminations, quickly and without hassle? Or do you have a specific “cancellation” strategy, with a team assigned and trained to follow an exact protocol? Either approach has its strengths and limitations; both fall short of the customer’s best interest.

I once signed up for a credit card simply because of its rewards package. Although I built up a great number of points, I never redeemed them. Over time, my priorities changed and I realized I would never use them. I called to see what else they could offer. Was there another reward incentive I could switch to? Could I get cash back? How about merchandise? Are there other options they could offer?How does your company handle cancellations? Click To Tweet

The answers were “no,” “no,” “no,” and “no.”

“I guess my only option is to cancel the card,” I ventured.

“Is that what you want to do?” the agent replied matter-of-factly.

“Let me think about it,” I evaded, seeking to delay the decision.

It took awhile, but eventually all uses for that card were switched to another. I called again, this time to cancel. I was transferred to the cancellation department. This agent feigned shock at my intent and tried to dissuade me. She offered a lower rate, better terms, and more flexibility on the rewards package. Her arguments would have retained me as a cardholder, if not for the fact that they were offered too late. I cancelled the card.

This scenario has repeated itself on numerous occasions: with my cell phone provider, satellite and cable service, long distance, and local phone service. Each time, the agents answering the phone are not empowered to take steps to retain me as a customer. Each time I make careful plans, arranging for service from their competitor. When I call back to terminate my service; the cancellation department would step in and suddenly sweeten the deal. Often they offer the concessions that I wanted—and which I suspected were available all along—but not presented by their front line staff.

They express their regrets over my decision and ask me to call back if I change my mind. If only their solutions had been offered earlier in the process. Then they could have retained my patronage and saved me the aggravation of switching.

The solution seems obvious. Just pretend you are going to cancel so that you can get to the “cancellation” department on the initial call and obtain their best deal. I tried that and it went like this:

“I want to cancel my service.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Let me see what I can do.” I wait, expecting to be transferred. After a few seconds, the agent announces, “Okay, your service has been cancelled. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

I am too embarrassed to ask that it be reinstated, so I thank the agent and hang up.

In the first examples, the staff was trained and empowered to retain me as a customer were interjected too late into the process; my decision had been made, the alternative in place, and my call was mere formality to end the process.

In the latter scenario, the agent was empowered, but apathetic and untrained. She was highly efficient, but completely ineffective.

There has to be a better way.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Harness the Power of Spiritual Investments in Your Business

By Baldwin Tom

Badlwin Tom-spiritual investmentsThere are seven types of investments available to every organization, and each has its use in growing a business. Organizations grow or die with investments. Used poorly or ignored, investments can destroy a business. Of all the investments, spiritual capital is special. Spiritual capital is the single investment that catalyzes all of the others. When there is robust investment on the spiritual side within an organization, there are significant transformative changes possible because, not only do people care about their jobs and the company, people also want to contribute beyond their job descriptions. Spiritual capital not only serves as a catalyst for other investments, it serves as an internal power source to motivate people to work harder and smarter for an organization. This in turn creates energy in organizations along with positive results that follow.

How is the word spiritual defined? It is not defined in a religious context, nor part of an organized belief system. From various sources, this is spiritual: It is about emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or artistic performance; it has to do with human personality—intellect, will, and emotions; it consists of mind, character, thoughts, and feelings; and in Christian circles, one considers mind, will, and emotion as a definition of the soul of a person.If leaders build a culture around what is meaningful for their people, there is a high potential for new energy release leading to creativity and innovation Click To Tweet

Can we suggest that when investing in spiritual capital, one is engaging the soul of an organization? It is no wonder that spiritual capital investments have tremendous impact in and on organizations. The catalytic potential of spiritual capital is broad. For example, when spiritual capital is coupled with human capital, the investments support enhanced leadership and management, and support a competitive edge from people who build intellectual capital with social interactions that lead to fostering collaborations. When spiritual capital and relationship capital are invested, the culture of an organization is altered to favor resiliency as this generates a culture of caring and support for each other—establishing a desirable workplace. In a real way, it is about taking care of people so they care about the organization and its customers. There is tremendous creative energy in such environments. Just look at some of the technology companies where the norm is to provide employee-friendly needs, like food, health, rest and recreation, at no additional cost to the employee—and during the work day at that! Think Google.

In addition to the organizational implications, a most important aspect of spiritual capital investment is that it encourages people to action. People act from a spiritual foundation with higher motivations in doing good rather than making money. It is about long-term benefits rather than short-term profits. It’s about improving the quality of life. It’s about making a difference in peoples’ lives as a primary goal. Sounds like that’s how the current millennial generation is characterized, where accumulating material things is not a focus, but on spiritual capital that provides internal nourishment.

Interesting observation: The healthcare industry has been legislated to move from a fee-based (monetary-focus) to a value-based (people-focused) compensation system. This is looking like moving to spiritual capital investments from financial investments of the past. This is a good thing.

How do Spiritual Capital investments keep giving?

  • Self-sustaining: As the aspects of spiritual capital become embedded in the DNA of an organization, those new norms continue to remind people what the organization stands for and is willing to do to support their efforts. Everything that leadership does, by their words and actions, in an organization that values people leads to a confidence that peoples’ efforts in helping to do better will be appreciated. This belief is contagious and will spur others to do likewise. For example, if people are acknowledged and/or rewarded for taking initiatives to improve products, services, or processes, such recognition becomes a powerful incentive to do it yet again. Everyone loves a pat on the back from time to time. Benefit? Employees love working here because they are respected for who the are and what they can do. Leadership loves working here because they have highly motivated staff who they know will do what it takes to improve on what they do.
  • Self-leveraging: The high energy and high morale that results from successful high-level efforts is infectious. This spurs others to also step out beyond their comfort zones in support of the organization and its customers. In life, competition is built into our personalities. If you can do it, I can do it too! Even if an effort falls short of expectations, there is no reprimand, just guidance to do better next time. In an ideal work environment, our innate desire to please our superiors creates a pattern of continuous improvement, as each success is recognized. Benefit? Employees believe that this is a place where they can grow and advance as long as they take the initiative to help themselves excel. When people see a future, they are happier employees.
  • Renewable energy: Each time a person engages in this environment, they know they are supported and are valued. This understanding reminds them of the support that will come from the organization and rekindles their willingness to do more. Success breeds success! Renewable power is stored in an organization from the energy generated by the efforts of those who stepped out to improve their condition beyond their job description. New energy is created by others when they believe that the organization is consistent and will continue to honor its ways to support the environment established by investing in spiritual capital. When the organization helps employees to succeed, employees help the organization to better serve their customers. A clear win-win scenario!
  • Fills (supports, energizes) the soul: The collective energy permeates the organization and is captured in its processes, procedures, interactions, events, and standard operating procedures. The culture becomes one of doing good for people while doing well financially, a collective win for all concerned. An overall feeling of well-being is created when there is coherency in values and belief—when walking-the-talk and talking-the-walk are in synchrony. There is a strong positive feeling working in an organization where one does not have to be guarded in what they say and do. An organization that has strong spiritual capital investments exudes positive vibes to everyone concerned. Visitors can feel the positive nature of the environment. Benefit? Employees love working here because they have pride in what the organization stands for and how it helps people, including themselves. Leadership loves working here because there is satisfaction in seeing people they lead excel.

It is clear that if leaders build a culture around what is meaningful for their people, there is a high potential for new energy release leading to creativity and innovation. Effectively, focusing on building spiritual capital brings into alignment the values of the people and those of the enterprise. This catalyzes your company for transformational change—ultimately moving to new plateaus of success.

Baldwin Tom is a management consultant, professional speaker, and author of 1+1=7: How Smart Leaders Make 7 Investments to Maximize Value. A medical school scientist, professor, leadership program developer, and founder of an award winning science and technology firm, he leverages his experiences in those fields to provide insight and strategies to fit client needs. Baldwin is a Certified Management Consultant and served as the National Board Chair of the Institute of Management Consultants USA. For more information on Baldwin Tom, please visit www.geoddgroup.com.

Sales Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

By John Waid

How to Create a Sales Culture for Increased Profits, Faster Revenue Growth, and Better Salesforce Retention

John Waid-sales cultureDon’t you wish your salesforce sold twice as much as your competitors, your business was extremely profitable and your salespeople and customers loved you? Is this even possible? Chik-fil-A produces twice as much revenue as any other fast food chain and they are closed on Sundays. An investment in Southwest Airlines in the early 1970’s of $10,000 dollars was worth close to 12 million dollars in 2000—the highest return of almost any company in a thirty year period—and it’s a low cost airline in a very competitive industry. Zappos shoes went from start-up to being bought by Amazon in ten years for more than 1 billion dollars. These companies all have one at least one thing in common.

When sales managers are asked what makes for a great salesforce they’ll often cite characteristics like great products and services, excellent strategies, sound processes and systems, and being in the right place at the right time. Although these elements are important, there is one secret that the really successful sales leaders have.

When the founder of Chik-fil-A was asked why they were so successful, he mentioned that the company’s success comes from its people. Regardless of your particular industry, once you establish the mindset that you are in the “People Business” then it almost does not matter what you sell. The mindset of the great salesforces starts with focusing on the salespeople and their attitudes and behaviors.

Below are three mindsets you can work on with your sales leaders to move towards having much better employee and customer loyalty and amazing financial results.

The company’s success comes from its people. Click To Tweet

Salespeople First, Customers Second, Money Third

Let’s face it: we are driven in companies to push the salesforce for results, and in many cases, financial results. This focus on money first leads us to then focus on customers (where the money comes from) and then as a distant third, fourth, fifth or more, we spend some resources on the salespeople.

This order is actually leading to less profits, upset customers and high employee turnover. What would happen if we changed the order in which we focus on these three elements to employees first, customers second and money third?

Richard Anderson, the former CEO of Delta Airlines, realized that if his company was to survive (he helped bring two airlines, Delta and Northwest out of bankruptcy) it was going to be because of the people. During his tenure at Delta he focused his time and communication on employees (who he thought of as all selling the Delta brand) and making sure they followed the company founder’s values and behaviors. To do this, Richard found an employee manual from the 1940’s and rewrote it into what became the driving principles at Delta. This led to a rebirth in a sales and service culture which led to record profits.

If you want to be truly successful, change the order in your mindset to focus on salespeople/employees first; this drives customer satisfaction and as a result more profits.

Sales Culture First, Structure Second, Strategy Third

For at least the last century the focus has been on sales/company strategy, creating a structure to support it and finally (as an after-thought many times) creating a generic culture. What has this led to?

As companies focused on getting things done, too many strategies) were completed which did not fulfill the key element of strategy, which is to create a sustainable competitive advantage. While sales managers pushed to get things done, they created structures to support this frantic activity. After the strategy and structure were created (with little employee involvement) sales managers wondered why employees did not want to execute the strategy and why restructuring the salesforce was not working.

Make your sales culture the focus of your efforts and then the structures and strategies to support that culture. This will lead to highly productive and happy salespeople who customers love and buy more from. A good culture to start out with is one based on the C.A.P. values of Curiosity, Accountability and People Skills.

Sales Leaders First, Coaching Second and Managing Third

A leader focuses on salespeople and sales culture, a coach on sales processes and a manager on sales strategies and results. It is important as a sales leader to focus on all three of these areas, in the order mentioned, as people first need to be inspired and have a culture to live, then be in a structure that grows and then be held accountable for producing great results.

There are currently too many sales managers, a few sales coaches and hardly any sales leaders. This heavy emphasis on managing the salesforce with quotas and a “Beatings will continue until morale improves attitude” is leading to salespeople who sell because they have to, customers that buy because they have to, and profits that come in below expectations because everyone is being forced to do something sometimes against their will.

When you lead first, coach second and manage third you will have a salesforce that likes and is successful at selling, treats customers well and produces great results.

A secret to having a great salesforce is to hire and promote well and this is again done with an emphasis on hiring people that fit your culture, growing them with coaching and training and holding them accountable to reach the high levels they are capable of.

Remember: Sales culture eats sales strategy for breakfast, and ensure that you adopt a culture-driven selling mindset.

John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker and author of the book, Reinventing Ralph. With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer and subject matter expert, John Waid holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit: www.CorporateCultureConsulting.com.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

By Peter DeHaan

Key Lessons in Customer Service

Peter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, EditorWhen my interest service goes down—I seldom call customer service to report it. I simply don’t have the time to waste with my provider’s nonsensical troubleshooting process. Instead I usually wait in hope that someone else will report the outage and achieve a timely resolution.

This hasn’t always been my approach. When I first had internet service, I would dutifully call customer service at the first sign of an outage. However, their agents’ poor customer service skills and time-consuming nature of their queries left me feeling angry and frustrated. The agents acted as though the problem was my fault and proceeded on the assumption that a correction would be found by reprogramming my computer or repeatedly resetting my modem. And after several years of service working, asking if I installed the modem correctly is ludicrous.

In essence, they operate on the assumption that I and my computer are guilty until proven innocent. Feeling remorse over forcing me invest up to an hour of my time before a trouble ticket can taken is seemingly beyond their comprehension. Even more astounding is that apologizing for an outage is apparently not part of their protocol.

Even if the customer is at fault, agents should back into that conclusion, assuming that there is a network problem until a contrary conclusion can be correctly ascertained. Click To Tweet

To compound the situation, in the process of “troubleshooting” they instruct me to make all manner of changes, which would result in leaving me unable to connect to the Internet once access is restored. Never once have they given any instruction on returning my computer to its original configuration. They even neglect to suggest that I make note of the original settings so that I can later restore them. Fortunately, I am wise to their foolish ways.

In a monopoly environment this indifferent attitude would be understandable, albeit untenable. However, I have options and will select the provider that irritates me the least. Notice that I did not say that I seek a provider with excellent service, or who delights the customer, or that has first-call resolution. My customer service expectations are so low that I merely desire to minimize my annoyance.

I will not even suggest that my phone company pursue customer service best-practices. They can go a long way towards improvement by merely adopting a few commonsense ideas.

Take Responsibility

The people I talk to act as though their network is impervious and the blame lies with me. Even if the customer is at fault, agents should back into that conclusion, assuming that there is a network problem until a contrary conclusion can be correctly ascertained.

Isolate the Problem

The final troubleshooting tests they perform is to connect to my modem. This should be the very first test. If they can connect and run diagnostics, then the problem resides on the consumer’s end. If they can’t access the modem, there is no need to harass the customer with needless tests and counterproductive reprogramming.

Apologize

Is it that difficult to say “I’m sorry that you are experiencing problems?” Even more germane would be to say “I’m sorry that I hopelessly messed up your computer configuration and have no idea how to put it back to the way it was.” Of course, if they followed the two prior suggestions, the first apology would suffice, and the second would be unnecessary.

Use Customer Relationship Management Software

If they had a functional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the agents could readily determine that every time I call it was because of an outage and never once have I called because of a problem on my end. They should be able know that I have a history of being credible and not wasting their time—even though they have a history of wasting mine.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

7 Habits to Take Your Workplace Culture to New HEIGHTS

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormick“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”—Vince Lombardi

Your beliefs dictate your behavior and your behaviors create habits that determine your destination. You’re either going towards greatness or obscurity; there is no neutrality to your momentum. So, where are your habits taking you?

Leading your organization towards a specific destination or goal is like being a pilot of a passenger airplane—wherever you go, your company goes. There isn’t an auto-pilot setting for you if you expect to take your team to greater heights.

If you find yourself and your organization stuck, or you’re ready to rev up your engine to soar higher, it may be time to engage your discipline and do the difficult things that other leaders may not do.Encourage a company culture where employees at all levels have the chance to share their ideas, talk about what they do, and possibly mentor new up-and-comers in your organization. Click To Tweet

Here are 7 habits that can help you take your organizational culture to new HEIGHTS:

1. Hopeful Expectations: Whatever you look for is exactly what you will find. If you expect to find problems, you will. If you expect your team to discover creative solutions, exceed their potential, come together as a team and support you, your vision, and your company goals—they will. A positive mindset is the first habit you need to cultivate and grow a winning mindset. Without it, you will fail to see what’s possible.

ACTION PLAN:  When faced with a new idea, prospect, or proposal (especially in a meeting with your team), always communicate the positives first. Encourage and engage your team members to participate in developing new ideas. Cultivate innovation by asking them to spell out the pros and cons of their ideas. Then, when they’re ready, empower them to run with it.

2. Eliminate Multitasking: Just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you are productive. When too much emphasis is put on multitasking, it could lead to miscommunication, mistakes, frustration, and unmet goals. It’s not about how much you can multitask, it’s about knowing which task can multiply your results.

ACTION PLAN:  Remove all distractions and then decide which task needs your attention and work on it until it’s done. This works for meetings too. Put your devices away and give your full attention to your team. Before you know it, they will follow your lead.

3. Intentional Kindness: Many people have experienced random acts of kindness, but it’s time to be more intentional in showing kindness to yourself and your team members. Become more aware of how you can encourage others, add value, meet the needs you see, and extend grace whenever needed. As you do, you’ll begin to see that spread throughout your organization and beyond.

ACTION PLAN:  Set up a charity of the month. Assign a twelve-person committee with each member taking ownership of one month. Some ideas include collecting Winter Coats and canned food, walking as a team in a fun run or 5K fundraiser, hosting a blood drive, adopting a highway, or spending a day with Habitat for Humanity. Encourage involvement by participating full out.

4. Gear Down: In today’s world, it’s tough to find time to think, yet that’s one of the more critical elements of success. Studies show that intentional down-time improves productivity, energy, and results. Don’t fall for that top-speed mentality or you’ll eventually run out of fuel. Schedule some time to gear down.

ACTION PLAN:  Prioritize some non-negotiable time on your calendar just for you. Create a distraction-free space where you can clear your mind and unplug from everything. Start with just 10 minutes if that’s all you have, but just start. You’ll be amazed at the clarity and productivity you’ll experience as a result.

5. Hidden Opportunities: Being proactive is one of the hidden opportunities that leaders often miss. Instead of waiting to see what the day holds and reacting to that email, phone call or situation, a more strategic approach is to determine responses before calamity strikes.

ACTION PLAN: Along with your yearly planning meetings to finetune the company’s vision and goals, be strategic about anticipating potential problems.  Have an “Anticipation Meeting” with the goal of creating contingency plans and ask each department to develop a “what if” list, along with solutions. This type of strategy allows you and your team to be more creative in your problem-solving abilities while in a calmer state than an emergency allows.

6. Talk It Out: Make it a habit to communicate openly with your team and allow them the opportunity to take part in the conversation. When communication is lost, your teamwork and productivity will suffer right along with your company’s goals.

ACTION PLAN: No one likes to be kept in the dark. Be clear in meetings about expectations, goals, and their command structure. You can also set a time where everyone knows your door is open to talk for topics that need to be dealt with one-on-one.

7. Share the Load: Establish a habit of sharing the load. Delegating important tasks is another way you can honor and empower your team to take on new responsibilities that help to sharpen and show off their strengths.

ACTION PLAN: Encourage a company culture where employees at all levels have the chance to share their ideas, talk about what they do, and possibly mentor new up-and-comers in your organization. When leaders at all levels take ownership of the company vision and goals, there’s no limit to what you and your organization can do.

When you choose winning habits by believing in the potential of your team, looking for the best in others, extending kindness, and creating space for them to give back, share ideas, and lead, you provide the jet fuel to ignite their creativity as you empower them to discover new levels of success. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo—make winning a habit so you and your team can soar to new heights.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Keynote Speaker specializing in Leadership, Sales and Safety presentations. She was recently named #4 on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online.  A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life;” Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.

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