Archive for August, 2010

3 Tips on Increasing Customer Loyalty

August 31st, 2010 No comments

Some days, the business world feels like a “dog-eat-dog” world.  Many of us learn the hard way, through hurtful experiences, how people can’t be trusted.  On those occasions, loyalty appears to be a rare commodity. Napoleon Hill says, “A lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure.”

Does this mean that everyone is disloyal?  Is loyalty as out of date as your grandmother’s wedding dress?  I believe, for some people, loyalty is not an important trait to have.  They see no value in being loyal to their friends, spouse or country, much less a team or company. To them, loyalty is passe and obsolete.  But, I think, the majority of people value being able to trust and believe in someone or something.

If that is the case, as a business person, how do we foster loyalty from your customers or team mates?  Today, I am going to give a three tips to increasing customer loyalty.

1.  Give your customers what they want. They want to feel good about who they are doing business with.  They must feel that they have received the greatest satisfaction when they deal with a salesperson or company.  They see this when we go out of our way to make sure they are happy with our service or product.  Have you ever been in a restaurant where you may have found a hair in your food or something equally disgusting?  How did the restaurant handle your concern?  I am not a surly, hard to please, customer.  When I have a complaint, and it is met with indifference, I won’t got back to that restaurant.  When the restaurant name is brought up for a return visit, I tell people why I won’t go back.  On the other side of the coin, when I have been treated with respect and given something complimentary to make up for my dissatisfaction, I will come back to them.  Doesn’t this leave the restaurant or business open for scammers.  Yes and no, if you could keep 10 customers satisfied by the way you handled their complaints wouldn’t be worth 1 scam for a free dinner?

2. Believe in and show your ethical principles. When customers see you have principles such as honesty and trustworthiness, it makes an impression.  They know, if you have those characteristics, they are in safe hands. Here’s an example.  My husband and I go to the Ozarks often.  We always stop at a little shop on the way there.  It is run by an Old Order, Mennonite family.  They sell a few antiques along with candy, produce, spices, etc.  On one of our first visits we stopped in to check them out.  My husband fell in love with an old cooler, called the “Pleasure Chest”.  We happily paid for our things and a way we went.  The next time we stopped by, the proprietor recognized us and told us he had overcharged us 90 cents.  He even had a note hanging up beside the adding machine.  We were shocked and very pleasantly surprised.  We didn’t know we had been overcharged.  We were convinced that this is a trustworthy, honest and ethical business owner.  We make a point to always stop in.  We always find something to buy when we do.

3.  Let your customers know you appreciate them. Be the master of the “thank you notes”.  It only takes a few minutes to hand write a note and drop it in the mail.  Thank them for their business, for a referral, etc.  When I was in sales, I always included a referral card with my thank you note.  I was always appreciative when the card came back, filled out with their referrals. I would then send a thank you note to the person who made the referral every time I closed one of their referrals.  Because I did this, very rarely, did I have to prospect in the cold market.  It is always a nice surprise to receive a personal thank you note in the mail.  It is a huge giver of “warm fuzzies”.  Pick up the phone and leave a message or a quick “thank you” if you reach them.  We always took our car to one place to have our car worked on.  Not only were they reasonable and did good work, but they always called a few days later and said thank you for the business.  We referred many people to them over the years.

Not everyone will go the “extra mile” to make their customers feel appreciated.  The businesses that do will reap the benefits of increased customer’s loyalty and many repeat visits and referrals.

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John C. Maxwell and The Decision You Make Shape Your Life

August 26th, 2010 No comments

Every day, we are presented with a clean sheet to write our life’s experiences upon.  Do you believe that?  In some ways, that is correct.  This day hasn’t been lived before.  We can do with it as we wish.  What does matter, is the decisions we have made in the past.  Each new day has been colored with the crayons of our past decisions.

I watched a movie several years ago called 50 First Dates.  The premise of this movie was that Drew Barrymore’s character had an accident years before that left her with short term memory damage.  Every morning when she woke up she had forgotten the last 10 years of her life.  Life was moving on for her, she continued to draw, she fell in love, she just couldn’t remember any of it the next day.

Why do I bring that movie up?  Each day, our lives move forward.  We continue to go to work, have families, and live our lives.  Unlike Drew Barrymore’s character, we don’t automatically forget what happened yesterday, last week or last year.

Let me propose something to you.  How could someone get to the place in their life where they have lost their sense of proper business ethics and embezzle a million dollars?  They wouldn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll embezzle some money today.  A million dollars sounds about the right amount.” No, they make little decision all along the way that eroded their honesty and make the theft a logical thing in their mind.  They made the decision years ago to become less than ethical.

Most of us don’t go the route of doing criminal things.  Yet, our success or lack of success has been practiced every day by the habits we decide upon.  Today, I have a great video from John C. Maxwell taking about successful habits.  It is 7 minutes long and I believe you will enjoy it!

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Are Ethics Really Important in Today’s Business World?

August 25th, 2010 1 comment

There is a pervasive belief, in the world today, that to get ahead in politics and business a person can’t have principals.  Some people have high moral fiber in their home life and may even be pillars in the church, but when it comes to business they are unrecognizable as the same people.  I have had managers tell me, “ethics don’t add to the bottom line.”  I have even been told, “Stop being childish, everyone compromises their ethics, sometime.”

There are many opportunities in business today where we will be in a position to make a choice.  In business, and in life, there are many forks in the road.  It may appear to be the faster road to success, to take the road to doing something, we know in our hearts, is not right.

I believe that particular road is built on sand.  It may feel solid at first, but as trials and tribulations happen the road quickly begins to disintegrate and success is lost.  In leadership, it is even more important to have principals.  When we teach and lead people, they will do as we do, not as we say.  We would quickly become a leader of unprincipled people who will do anything unethical to succeed.  This behavior, eventually, opens up the business to legal and regulator issues.  Most of all, to the disappointment and distrust of the customers.  This is very evident in the business of politics, today.  Who can we trust and believe in?

In business, a reputation is everything.  Not only will customers, eventually, mistrust and avoid the wrong doer, but people talk.  Word of mouth is a powerful thing.  It can make, or break a company.  It is said that when someone is happy with a product or service they will, on average, tell five other people.  If they are unhappy with how they have been treated, they will tell eleven to sixteen people. Those eleven to sixteen people will, not only not do business with that company or person, they will tell others.  It doesn’t take long to ruin a reputation.  Soon the business is gone.

We have to strive to be right, in our ethics, as well as our customer service, 100% of the time.  When you are a leader of people, those people are putting it on the line for your company and you every single day.  They are assuming, you know what is right and in their best interest.  We have to know from the very beginning what is right and wrong.  Our lives depend on it.

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What Do Great Leader Do That Others Don’t?

August 23rd, 2010 No comments

There are advantages to leadership.  The leader set the goals, develops the game plan to meet those goals, and makes the decisions along the way.  Great leaders know this freedom comes with many rewards, but, also, a tremendous amount of responsibilities.

Great leaders knows the ultimate “buck” stops with them.  Whether their team wins or loses, the responsibility for those results falls to the leader.  I have found, that the toughest thing, for some leaders, is to accept the responsibility for team failures.  The easy route to take, is to blame the members of the team.  Whether they say it themselves, or anyone else, they justify the loss by thinking their team’s a bunch of “donkeys” with no ability.  Or, they make excuses, such as, the competition caused this.

A strong leader accepts the responsibility, learns the lesson from those failures, and takes steps to never, ever, do it again.  When the leader can do that, the team will learn the lessons of being responsible for their own actions.

A leader, should set a team goal, pass out the responsibilities of that goal to each team member, and step back and let them do it.  I have seen leaders who do a great job of setting the goal, delegating the task, and then step all over their team mates.  They begin to micro manage the tasks.  They don’t trust the job to get done to their specifications.

I believe one of the most frustrating thing a leader can do to their team is to tell them how they, as the leader, would do the task.  It creates a dependency in the team and fear of not being able to do the task without input from the leader.  It is good to test the team’s ability to do the task by giving them the freedom to do it.  Each team mate is responsible for getting their own part of the task done.  The leader’s responsibility is to give their team support and encouragement.  By asking them to imitate the leader, their true abilities will not be given the opportunity to shine.  The leader will never know their potential and neither will they.

The sign of a great leader is not that they win every battle or game.  It is their ability to grow other strong, independent leaders, capable of getting the job done.  Great leaders spawn great teams, that creates other great leaders, who create strong teams…and the cycle goes on and on.

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Do You Have Ownership of Your Career?

August 20th, 2010 3 comments

There is nothing worse than the feeling of being out of control in our lives.  That feeling when someone, or something, has so much control over us that we are no longer free.  We don’t want our government, our job, or our relationships with other people to take our freedom away.

People enjoy the feeling that they have ownership in their job or career.  Many people are attracted to starting their own business because they have a desire for more ownership in their lives.  Starting a business comes with many distractions.  There is the freedom to do just as we wish because we own the company.  That presents the challenge of disciplining ourselves to do the work that it takes to get the job done.  We have the freedom, but it comes with responsibility.

Some folks are afraid to take the leap into business ownership.  I have heard people say they need structure, because they aren’t a self starter.  The freedom scares them.  They would be leaving the security of guaranteed income and benefits to start something new.  Even though, their job security may only be as secure as their boss’ next mood change.

A job or career, without the feeling of ownership, is similar to having a car given to you as a teenager.  My husband and I always provided our children with their first car.  In the case of our youngest son, it was something he expected to happen and he didn’t value it.  Before the car was 6 month old, he had rolled it doing something stupid.  The next car was on him.  He had to take the school bus every morning to school. He was back to being chauffeured to his job by his parents.  His freedom was severely curtailed.  He worked hard to earn the money for his next car. He took much better care of car #2. He learned a lesson and so did we.

When we invest ourselves into something and are held accountable for what we personally have put into it, we have a feeling of ownership.  We, as leaders of people, need to understand this principal of ownership.  Making people responsible for the outcome.  Evaluating that outcome, in a measurable way, gives them a sense of ownership of their job.  Increased income, more freedom, responsibility by accountability, praise, and recognition for a job well done will help give them the ownership so many people desire.

Feelings of fulfillment and ownership brings the feelings of having more control over our own lives.  More feelings of control in our lives leads to more fulfillment and ownership.  The cycle continues….

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5 Ideas on How to Use Praise and Recognition in Your Business

August 19th, 2010 No comments

In my many years of business, I have had many opportunities to visit many different companies.  When I interact with people in corporate jobs, I am always interested to see how much importance their companies put into praise and recognition.  I can always tell by the little tell tale signs around the office and in each individual work area.

The companies that find value in using praise and recognition seem to attract happier people.  In corporate situations, I have seen little notes in their employee’s work stations.  Each time the employee sees that note in their work area they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Not only do they get continuously more from the note, but the other employees see those notes and they would like to get recognized, also.  End result, better moral and more productive people.

Multi-level marketing has latched on to the importance of praise and recognition with a vengeance.  That has been one of their strengths.  MLM’s appeal to people because of it.  When a company doesn’t have employees, but has an army of part time people that are striving to build a business and are living on commission, recognition is the life blood that keeps them going.

Praise and recognition is the nectar to the ears of an employee or team mate.  Used effectively, praise can be used in private but is more effective when used in public for more ears to hear.  Never keep your praise and recognition “under a basket”, as the old saying goes.

Here are a few ideas to use for recognition.

1.  If you are handing out an award, it should always be in a public setting.  Talk a little bit about the award and about the person receiving the award, before handing it out.  An award should never be handed out with just a handshake, no matter how late your meeting is running.

2.  Always recognize a fourth of the people who are attending.  For example, if you have 20 people at the meeting, 5 of them should receive award.  300 people, 75 would get awards.

3.  Be creative with the awards.  Make them tangible and personal.  Awards can be trophies and plaques, or they can be as simple as candy bars, t-shirts, or pens.  Make sure that it isn’t just a few people getting all the awards.  Be creative on the awards to give people that are on their way up a chance.  Always being sincere with the recognition is a must!

4.  Make the time spent on awards as fun as possible.  Play upbeat music before or during the presentation.  Of course, don’t drowned out your speaker!  Make it a time that everyone looks forward to.  It should be the highlight of any meeting or event.  There should be awards at every company meeting no matter how big or small it is.

5.  If possible, have the spouses attend.  Awards are great at company picnics when all the family is there.  Nothing impacts the children more than making their parent a hero in front of them.

Sincere praise and recognition can be the glue that holds a company together,  increasing motivation.  There can never be too much sincere praise or recognition given out.  It can be the highlight of any meeting or function, so have fun with it!

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5 Ways to Use Praise and Recognition to Skyrocket Your Business

August 18th, 2010 2 comments

Everyone has a reason for working.  Whether it is a traditional job or an entrepreneurial career choice.  One obvious reason for earning money is to bring it into the household to purchase goods, services,  savings for “rainy days” or retirement.  Another reason for working is to pay off our debts.  Like the bumper sticker says, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”

While those may be compelling reasons, there is another one most people don’t think about or talk about.  It is the secret reason some people find their job satisfying and enjoyable.  What is that reason?  It is praise and recognition.

I have had people tell me that they don’t work for praise and recognition.  They say it isn’t important to them. If they are being truthful, they are not the norm.  The majority of people have an increased sense of well being in a job or career when their accomplishments are sincerely praised and they are recognized for those achievements.

If you are a leader of a team and want to increase productivity by using praise and recognition, here are 5 things you can do:

1.  Identify the behavior that brings the results you want.  When the successful behavior is recognized with praise, it makes that person want to do the thing again to earn more praise.  Not only will that person want to duplicate that behavior, but the team mates around them will, also, want to do what it takes to receive praise and recognition.

2.  Always look for reasons to praise.  Effective praise is spontaneous.  Look for genuine reasons to praise.  I, personally, don’t believe sincere praise can be overdone.  I don’t believe that you can love and appreciate your team members too much.  Praise can be in the form of using their name in a speech or a smile with the words “well done” attached.

3.  Think of it as being a good will ambassador, always saying something nice about someone.   Sometimes, is may be tough to find something good about someone.  But, keep looking.  Everyone has something nice about them, worthy of praise and recognition.  It is worth the effort when you do.

4.  Above all, it should appear natural.  At first it will take conscious effort to find those good things and praise them.  But, with practice,  it will begin to flow naturally.  It won’t seem phony or contrived.

5.  An effective way to praise and recognize is to send short written notes.  Those short notes are usually kept and can be read over and over.  Better yet, send a short note of praise to their home to their spouse or loved ones.  When you make them look like a hero in the eyes of the people they love, wow, what a powerful recognition.

Praise and recognition, used correctly, can increase productivity, help everyone reach their goals and increase the positive feelings of your team members.  With all that juice, doesn’t it make sense to get really good at it?

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