Posts Tagged ‘Service’

Weighing the pig won’t make it fatter, but feeding it will

July 28, 2014

How top companies are changing their approach to sales

When the influential management analyst Dan Pink conducted a poll for his latest book To Sell Is Human, he found that the most common word associated with salespeople is ‘pushy’ – no surprises there. But this cliché of sales as the domain of ruthless hustlers is as tired as it is tenacious. Fuelled by new research and innovative thinking, the UK’s best sales teams aren’t just driving the bottom line, they’re taking a lead role in generating customer advocacy and loyalty, not to mention boosting employee engagement. They’re game-changing the industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.

The days of ‘hooking’ the client, fielding objections, and constantly pushing to close are over. Thanks to social media, customers are unprecedentedly informed and empowered; recent research from the Sales Executive Council finds that most buyers are 60% of the way down their decision-making cycle before they even talk to a salesperson. Distrust in big business has skyrocketed, and regulatory changes are causing massive upheaval.

Weigh the pig

Stop weighing the pig

Doing more of the same – selling faster and harder, to bigger targets and shorter deadlines – will not lead to different outcomes. Instead, leaders need to help salespeople redefine who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s urgently important, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let’s begin by examining the ‘who’. When it comes to personal sales styles, it’s time to give pushiness the shove. A study published by Adam Grant last year in the journal Psychological Science found that ‘ambiverts’ – people who are equal parts extroverted and introverted – perform best. Dan Pink’s essential ABC of sales traits are Atunement (an ability to connect and understand needs), Buoyancy (an ability to bounce back) and Clarity (being clear what you’re offering). The Challenger Sale, a new book by the Corporate Executive Board, outlines five typical sales personalities – the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Experiments reveal that it is the Challenger, the commercially savvy, far-sighted and well-researched self-starter, who really moves the dial.

So emotional intelligence, sensitivity to context and a sophisticated perspective are the personal qualities that win out, but the way in which organisations frame the function of sales itself is equally important.

Earlier this year, Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, popularised the concept of H2H (Human-to-Human) sales and marketing, in which he advocated discarding the concepts of B2B, B2C and D2C in favour of a connection between equals: “Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form […] Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

This includes understanding that salespeople are not just there to sign off order forms. Research from the Corporate Executive Board finds that a good sales experience accounts for 53% of what drives long-term loyalty, so although price will always be important, focusing on value at the expense of service can be a false economy.

Of course, these new mindsets will only take hold if they’re embedded in a whole ecosystem of suitable management, process and reward. Encouraging advisors to provide authentic experiences rather than setting restrictive sales targets, coaching Challenger skills, and tweaking recruitment criteria are all part of the mix.

In his previous book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink suggested that 80% of the workforce is motivated by a sense of purpose, autonomy and mastery more than they are financial gain, so leaders also need to balance a fair and transparent pay structure with the sort of flexible, empowering culture seen in young hero companies such as Innocent and Netflix. Sometimes this involves getting rid of people who cannot or will not adapt. Netflix is as ruthless with ‘dead wood’ as it is supportive of bright stars, so if you followed this approach, your own Lone Wolves will gradually have to be rooted out.

It’s challenging stuff, particularly for large, established companies operating in sectors such as energy, finance and telecoms. Thankfully, there are leaders out there proving that it absolutely can be done.

A leading energy company has 15,000 people in their energy sales channel, 4,000 in their homecare channel, and 500 in field sales. A few years ago, they hired a brilliant new sales director who believed that current perception of the energy sector begged a whole new channel approach, and called on Blue Sky to help. Starting with the 1,200 people in their outbound channel, we helped them remove the frontline sales-per-hour target, instead encouraging salespeople to focus on having a great conversation with the customer, building the brand and being genuinely helpful. If customers didn’t wish to make a sale at that time, they were given a number to call back on later if they changed their mind, rather than being pushed to confirm a sale straight away.

The results? Sales per hour stayed largely the same, and from an engagement perspective, the workforce was far more motivated. Plus, thanks to the ‘call back’ mechanic, they saw a significant increase in the volume of inbound calls – which had double the conversion of the conversations on the outbound line.

“Selling, I’ve grown to understand,” says Dan Pink, “is more urgent, more important, and, in its own sweet way, more beautiful than we realise.” Sales leaders need to stop selling themselves short. H2H makes for better results – but it’s also a sales approach of which we can all be proud.

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementSally@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

Advertisements

Friday Night In

November 11, 2013

Tesco-Van-BSI was sat in last Friday night, anticipating some great TV moments ahead. I had already started to plan out the mindless action films I was going to watch, the rubbish I was going to eat…..My better half was heading out for the night leaving me to put the kids to bed and sort the food shopping delivery. The latter task for some reason I build up in mind as something I hate doing.

The food had been ordered online; the man had packed it up and had delivered it to my doorstep! What is there to hate about the process….maybe it is me being a grumpy old man…but my experience tends to be…..The van pulls up, the guy then proceeds to pull 3 huge boxes from the back, rings the door bell and then drops them outside and grunts a hello. I then have to become a human shopping sprinting machine.… where I have 5 seconds to pick up all 12 bags at once, race to the kitchen, dodge the kids who have started to unpack the goodies as I carry the bags, catch tins that have fallen out of the wafer thin bags, unload it all and race back before the guy puts another 3 huge boxes down in front of me. This process repeats until I have no breath left and no room on my kitchen worktop or floor to put more bags down!

I saw from the corner of my eye the supermarket van pull up outside.  I sighed here we go…..The doorbell rang….anticipating the normal grunt and ritual cliché exchanges. Not this time, I was met by a middle aged guy who can only be described as a very happy man, who loved his job! He immediately scanned the situation and observed that I had two children poised ready to take any chocolate from the bags that they could see. He must have noticed I was a little flustered, he calmly said…. “There’s no rush, I will give you a hand to bring these ones in before we get the rest!”. Could I believe what I was hearing… I had readied myself and limbered up even for the customary race  back and forward to the kitchen. But it looks like this time it would be different, the delivery guy was helping me.

As the chap walked back through the lounge he noticed my daughter who at the time was holding her guitar, practicing 3 Blind Mice from memory. He stopped in his tracks and started asking her about the guitar and how long she had played. Loving the attention my daughter proceeded to tell him her musical career (all 2 weeks of it). He asked if he good borrow the guitar for a moment and started to show her a couple of chords… which he then wrote down on the back of the receipt so she would not forget them. All I could think of was…. why don’t more people take the moment to scan the other persons situation and seek ways to help them in the moment? This is what great attentive and thoughtful service is about…. make it easy for people, connect and leave them with a peak ending they will remember.

The delivery guy could have chosen to be oblivious to what was going on for me, but he didn’t. He took a few precious seconds to slow down the process to allow me to only break a moderate sweat moving the bags, he took the time out to engage with us and most importantly he left a lasting memory of the service. That is what I call a peak end to a customer experience. I would love to hear about your stories.

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Seanatbluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The Cost of Poor Service

July 5, 2012

David Carroll is a musician, who travelled United Airlines, and on one occasion put his precious guitar into the baggage marked as fragile! That’s where the story began. Sitting on the plane, waiting to get off, he saw the baggage handler throw it without care onto the truck. He tried to complain to the company representatives immediately but was dismissed. When he collected his guitar, it was damaged.  He went to the customer help desk, where no one seemed to care, and he was told to write in. He wrote in on numerous occasions, and got little or no reply. He called up and still no one took ownership, responsibility or tried to fix his customer experience.

Eventually he decided to write a song about it, and he posted it on YouTube. The result? Millions of people worldwide viewed that clip and United Airlines’ share price dropped! The Times reported that $18 million of shareholder value was lost!

Discover - TV - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

One happy customer is a powerful thing as he or she will tell some people. One unhappy customer is a very damaging thing as they will tell more people! We call this the power of one.

What is the lost opportunity cost associated with customer churn?

I believe all businesses should use great care and concern when determining how their customers and clients are treated. The time, energy, and cost associated with acquiring a customer are substantial, the benefits of retaining customers are considerable, and the costs associated with customer churn are significant. I’m always amazed at how much money will be spent to acquire a new customer, but how little care is given to insuring customer satisfaction after the sale.  There is great truth in the old axiom that states: “if you’re not serving your customer well, someone else will.”

If you believe customer service is someone else’s problem, you have a much bigger problem than you realise. Most businesses these days will have a grasp on the concept of lifecycle value, I’m not sure they really understand the true cost of losing a customer. Let’s just assume that the lifetime value of a customer for company X is £2,000. If company X loses just one customer, the total lifecycle loss could run well into the tens of thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands. If you don’t believe me consider the following points:

  1. The Initial Churn: First you have the £2,000 lifetime value loss attributed to churning the account itself.
  2. Sunk Acquisition Costs: Don’t forget to add in the cost of acquiring the account to begin with. You spent money to acquire the account so you need to factor that into the total equation. I’ll let you pick the percentage you want to use and add that into the total number.
  3. Replacement Costs: Remember the cost of acquisition number you just calculated above? Well, you need to add it back in again, because now you have to go out and replace the customer you just lost. By the way, you should probably multiply the cost of acquisition number by 5 since it costs about 500% more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
  4. Lost Ancillary Revenue: On average, a single account is good for a 30-40% cross-sell/up-sell revenue increase over time as new products, services, joint ventures etc. are brought online and offered to existing accounts. This means you can conservatively expect to lose another £600 of upside in our £2,000 example.
  5. Lost Referral Revenues: Depending on your business, and whether or not you have a solid customer acquisition process in place, a single account should be good for a minimum of 2-3 referrals (direct or indirect) on an annual basis. Over a 10 year period of time, assuming only 2 annual referrals, without any cross-sell or up-sell value being added-in, you just lost another £200,000.
  6. Loss of 2nd and 3rd generation referrals: But wait; it just gets worse. Those lost referrals mentioned above would have also given you 2-3 referrals each year, and if you carry this formula out over 20 years the loss of a single account could easily cost your organisation more than a million pounds in lost revenue.
  7. Negative Brand Impact: If it isn’t bad enough already, a lost account can easily have a negative impact on future sales due to spreading the news of their bad experience with your company.  The average dissatisfied customer will persuade 10-20 other people from doing business with your firm. If the upset customer takes their dissatisfaction online and amplifies it via social media you could see a much bigger problem. This will not only impact your revenue, but can also taint your brand equity. Just think back to Dave Carroll!!!! If you like that story, why not visit ihateryanair.org for another example of this.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

FLEXing your letter writing

December 1, 2011

My passion for changing the nation’s service extends to written responses.  I have spent the past 20 years paying more attention than perhaps the ‘normal’ person to the written responses that come from organisations.  In fact, I have built up quite a portfolio of written communication from some of the more recognised brands – I quite often send emails and write letters to companies I have no connection with, JUST to see how they respond.  I’m mostly curious about whether organisations have managed to translate their ‘tone of voice’ through the letters sent out to their customers.  Sadly, in my experience, very few companies are any good at this.  Mostly what you get is a cut and paste job full of the phrases that lack authenticity, written in anything but plain English and without any attempt at personality or emotional connection.

Here are some you might recognise, all lacking colour, imagination and a personal touch:

‘I can assure you this is not indicative of our usually high standard of customer service…’

‘I was disappointed to learn of your poor experience with our (insert department, product, service)’

‘I hope this clarifies matters and we apologise once again for any inconvenience caused.’

We often get asked to work with letter writing teams as part of broader customer experience programmes and when we do, the teams involved usually feel a sense of liberation, having been freed from the straight jacket of business scripting, minds opened up to being able to write with warmth and personality.  It’s actually really quite easy to write good letters, so, inspired by my most recent addition to the portfolio from Innocent Smoothies (shared below) I thought I would pass on some of our top tips.

Put the Good News up front

How many times have you waded through the lengthy paragraphs of explanation (excuses) in search of the outcome – are you getting your refund/compensation or not? Putting the good news up front allows the customer to get quickly to the outcome and then read on for the explanation if they want it.  It really makes a massive difference to the response – if you are going to give something back, let the customer know sooner rather than later.  I also think the phrase ‘gesture of goodwill’ should be banned whilst we are on the subject of refunds or compensation.  It’s much better to say if it is acknowledgement of having made a mistake, or by way of an apology for having let the customer down.

Use plain English

I don’t know what drives people when writing a business letter to use wordy phrases, many containing words you would never actually say out loud in general conversation.  Why say ‘at the present time’, when you can say ‘now’, or ‘due to the fact that’, instead of ‘because’.  Every time you write a sentence, stop and think – is there a shorter, simpler way to say this?  A quick search for Plain English guides on Google will deliver you hundreds of examples to help you if you get stuck.

Respond to emotion as well as key points

When you review business responses to customer letters, what you mostly see is that the key points and facts are given a response, but the opportunity to acknowledge some of the emotion is missed.  If a customer writes, ‘I was disgusted by the level of service and don’t fob me off with a ridiculous excuse’, you’ve got to respond to that.  Something like, ‘You mentioned how disgusted you were with the service we delivered and my intent with this response is to explain what happened.  I hope it doesn’t read as a fob off, as that is definitely not my intent. (Or something like that).  It makes it much more personal and considered.

FLEX to the customers style

Using the company ‘tone of voice’ will get you so far, but there comes a point when you need to reflect the style of the customer in your response.  If the customer is very specific and detailed, reflect that back in your response.  Look for words or phrases that the customer has used that you can play back in your response and try to find something you can agree with to demonstrate a level of rapport and connection.  The Innocent letter does that brilliantly.

Create a Peak Ending

The way an experience ends impacts our memory of that experience (positively or negatively) more than any other part.  So the ending of a letter is really important.  In my experience, most business letters finish with a bog standard phrase that lacks thought, imagination of connection.  Think carefully about the best way to finish and try to refer back to something personal that the customer has given you in their letter.  If you find yourself using cut and paste at the end, you are probably missing an opportunity to end on a high.

Adapt - Flexing your letter writing - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

As promised, the latest addition to my collection from Innocent Smoothies.  I was intrigued to know if they would stand up to the funky and fun brand image they portray and I was not disappointed.  As an aside, I am not a freaky mother who worries incessantly about my children, I just couldn’t think of anything else to ask!

Here was my letter:

Hi there,

I am writing to check in as to the suitability of innocent smoothies for babies. My littlest won’t let my older two swig their smoothies without wanting some himself and if we don’t let him he goes mental. I know it says only fruit, but I never believe what I read on the packaging. Supermarkets have a habit of lying to customers and I am not keen on putting anything unsuitable into my baby’s diet.

Let me know what you think.

Sally Earnshaw

Here was the reply that I received:

Hello Sally

Thank you for your email – I quite understand that you want to be certain about what goes into your little ones mouths. I feel just the same with my little boy.

However I can assure you that all of our smoothies are made of 100% pure fruit and absolutely nothing else. However this does come with a BUT for children under 36 months and I have given you all of the information below so that you can make up your own mind. I do give smoothies to my little one (18 months) but at least you will have all the information to make an informed decision:

With everything we make we have to err on the side of caution as the last thing we want is for someone to become ill from one of our products.

All our products are 100% natural and as such are dependent on the elements. Some fruits, in this case apples, contain micro bugs that aren’t suitable for younger stomachs. The weather conditions last season meant that our suppliers couldn’t guarantee our usual level of bugs and so to be prudent we’ve put this warning on our fruit tubes to make sure that we look after those little ones, with more sensitive stomachs than us. As I mentioned before, children under 36 months have very sensitive stomachs and there is a stricter limit for them, within food production, about what they should eat. The tubes are completely fine for children over the age of 36 months. Please rest assured that the level of bugs in our fruit tubes is still well within all normal levels and legislation and is nothing to be concerned about.

None of this is said to scare you – but we just want to ensure that our products are doing people good.

I hope this helps to explain things more to you.

All the best,

Jenny

A great example of flexing style, to meet tone and deliver service.

Sally@Bluesky

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Features & benefits – who’s the real winner?

July 20, 2011

Features and benefits are the cornerstone of selling. All products and services have features but the features on their own won’t make the potential customer want to go ahead as people need to see what’s in it for them – and that’s what benefits demonstrate. Advantages are potential benefits, but they don’t become benefits until we link them personally to the customer.

Features & Benefits - Who's the real winner?

Great sales people focus their questioning on establishing what the customer needs, really getting under the skin of ‘why’ a customer buys a product and uses this information to present the benefits of a product to the customer linking to what the product will do for that customer on a personal level. When this level of tailored selling is achieved it has a massive impact on customer experience as well as sales results….when it goes wrong it can have the adverse effect, have a look at this video and see the impact of getting it wrong

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Great service in the most unlikely places..

July 13, 2011

Trains are not usually the sort of places that you would expect to find excellent customer service, especially not trains packed to the gunnels with over tired business people during the morning rush hour.  But here I am on the early morning Grand Central train from York to London having a conversation with the ticket collector and thinking how great his service has been. To backtrack a few minutes, I’d boarded the train and was in the process of buying a ticket from the collector when he suddenly stopped in mid sentence, excused himself and started running down the carriage calling after a lady who he’d just let past.  I looked at my fellow passengers and we wondered if he’d realised that she had the wrong ticket and needed to pay an excess.

inspire

A minute later he reappeared and slightly out of breath told us that “I just realised that she was heading to the buffet car to buy a drink and I’d forgot to tell her that it would be free if she showed her ticket”. It was a simple gesture and one that was delivered with absolute sincerity. When I commented on this he simply said “well, it’s part of my job to look after the customers” and then he added “Grand Central is a really good company to work for, we all like coming to work each day”.  I wish I’d had time to explore this comment further but of course he had better things to do than to talk to me. But it did inspire a conversation around my table about customer service and how the simple gestures like this leave you with an overwhelmingly positive impression of an organisation.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever moan about broken air conditioning, delayed trains or overcrowded carriages, but this is definitely a company I want to travel with again.

Robin@Bluesky

Robin Mar - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement