Customer Service

Why Your Customer Service is Failing

Are sales not what you expect? Are repeat customers non-existent? These are two indications that your customer service is failing!  Customer service is not intended to be just words that business owners or managers talk about. Customer service is meant to be the beliefs, words and most importantly the ACTIONS of every person who works for the business.

Let me give you examples of the the really good and the really bad in terms of customer service that I have had in the last year – starting with the really bad first:

Not long ago I heard about a clothing store that was not only supposed to have great work clothes (a.k.a suits, etc.) but also very reasonably priced suits. Hey, who doesn’t like a bargain? So, on a particular weekend I trekked across town to a store called Olga. As I approached it looked promising. I saw some nice things.

The positive experience really ends there however. I was there to buy. Let’s make that clear. Despite this however, I could not get either of the people working there to even acknowledge me. Now, being nearly 6′, it’s not like I blend in to the clothing racks. I covered the entire store, selected some items off the racks and looked to the people working as I had questions. I even said “excuse me” at one point and the response…well, might as well have been chirping birds. Nothing. Nada.  Then to add insult to injury two other potential shoppers came in. And while you can’t judge a book by the cover, I felt confident that these shoppers would not be the typical customer. Their style was just completely different. Both employees…did I mention both employees greeted them and asked if they needed help. One of the ladies responded saying “Nah, we were just walking by and didn’t realize what kinda store this is. There’s nothing here that I would be interested in.” And, they left. Meanwhile I am still standing there and still nothing. So, I put the items I had in my hands back on the rack and walked out. I won’t be going back. This store offered zero customer service. It was clear, in my opinion, that the workers in this store had no idea what customer service is.

Why do I classify this as “ugly?” Simply put, the workers in this small store were not young kids. In other words, they should “get it”. One or both might have been an owner, but that is just an assumption. I don’t believe that this is a chain store either. All of these things combined result in the owner(s) of this store being in a position to build their brand and their customer base based on the quality of service and product offered. They really can’t afford to dismiss people.

Customer Service

On the other hand, there is cleo. Now cleo is a chain. There is some brand recognition associated with the chain. It is also clear that the staff have been trained. The key here? Did I mention that the staff have been trained. They have been trained to represent the brand. A brand is more than a logo and this is probably where a lot of people fail. Rather than thinking that your brand is what you promise to deliver, many people focus on the logo and the colours. cleo on the other hand has gotten it right. They know that their brand is focused on the professional women looking for on-trend clothing options at reasonable prices. This is what cleo means to me. To me this is their brand.

What is the Olga Moda brand? Again, this is my take based on my experience of what they deliver. Olga is a clothing store that doesn’t know who they are or who their customers are. As a result, they don’t understand the value of a person walking into the store and therefore ignore people willing/wanting to buy. They represent a bad experience. To me, their brand is not caring, not knowing and just not the place to shop.

It really is unfortunate when a business has not taken the time to identify their values, develop what they want to be in the eyes of their customers and potential customers. Finally it is a hug mistake to train your employees on the importance of who you are and what the brand is. These are all big misses that are completely avoidable!

Want to learn more about how you can develop your brand, train your employees and develop your business? Contact us. We can help.





The Customer Service Lies You Continue To Tell

Customer service! It can set you apart from your competitors. It really can – either in a good way…or a really, really horrible way. If you and your staff really understand and “care” about your brand, both you and your staff will deliver GREAT customers service. Unfortunately, if neither you nor your staff care, it is quite obvious. Customer service in this case is non-existent.  Customer Service

About a month ago I experienced the latter. (I actually wrote this blog post the day after, but decided to wait to see if I would still feel the same weeks later. I do.) I was meeting up with a couple of different people and decided to go to a new Starbucks in my city. I was looking forward to checking out the new spot. It’s location has great parking and it was convenient for me as I had other errands to run afterwards. Overall, they “get” location, location, location.

When I first walked in, I was impressed with the ascetics. It looked great….on the surface. Once I was in and my eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight, there was more than first appeared. First and foremost there were six people working behind the counter. Three were working the drive thru – although there were no cars going through. They were engaged in conversation with each other and two others that were behind the counter. Meanwhile, I stood patiently and waited for someone to wait on me. Did anyone disengage from their personal conversations while a customer waited? Nope. I timed it – six and a half minutes. In the big picture, not a lifetime I realize. In customer service terms however…ya, it was a #fail. I did “finally” get waited on  by the sixth person working, but only after she finished flirting with the guy in front of me and messing up his order in between the giggling and goings on. Hey, I get that. I was a teenage girl once too. But..and there is a but, I would not make a customer wait. I worked as a teenager too! I would ensure that “someone” else took care of the customer waiting. After all, there were five other people standing behind the counter. The rest of the crew however, were just too engrossed in their own socializing. Again, a customer service #fail. I should also note that there was at least one other staff person on site.Customer Service

After being served my coffee and a snack I headed to get a napkin and a lid. This area was a complete and utter disaster. Someone obviously didn’t know how to use the cinnamon shaker. The stuff was all over the place. There was garbage everywhere. It was clear that the six people working there had not cleaned this area in some time. Considering I was there in the morning, I think it was safe to say it was like that the day before.

When I claimed a table, it was not much better. I had to remove the dirty dishes, used napkins and clean up the crumbs. I did look for a cleaner area, but this one was the best, so I settled in.

Approximately 15-20 minutes later, I saw another person emerge from the back of the store. I almost think that she might have been a member of management. This is an assumption on my part because she was clearly more mature than the rest of the team. I thought, o.k. finally someone is going to get these workers..well..working. To my dismay she walked out, looked around and smiled at everyone in the restaurant, but she seemed completely oblivious to the employees who were much more interested in socializing amongst themselves than serving customers and keeping the place clean. She quickly retreated to the back area again and I didn’t see her again.

This was quite disappointing to me as I have a lot of respect for the Starbucks brand. I often use them as case study examples in a lot of my workshops that I deliver. They really do a lot of things well. And, in fairness I did live Tweet about the incident and @starbuckshelp did respond. This is one of the things that they do well – social media. I appreciate that they were listening and did take steps to correct. I haven’t been back, but I will give the new store one more try. Customer Service

So, what is GREAT Customer Service? Here is my take on it:

G = Genuine people are easy to pick out. This can also be said about people who are not genuine. 

Employers need to consciously hire for genuine people. If your staff are more interested in flirting with the cute guy in line versus serving other clients and/or keeping your restaurant clean, you have a serious issue. Employers need to be fully convinced that the staff they are hiring genuinely believe and can extol the values of your business and deliver on your brand promise.

R = Respectful people believe that everyone should be treated well. They understand the value of each person.

E = Exceptional people have a need, no a desire for continuous improvement. Exceptional people can and should be at all levels of the organization. Of course the trick here is that employers need to reward exceptional behaviour. This is a must.

A = Attention to Detail is an asset not everyone has. Unlike some other attributes, this is one that you can train someone to be good at. Taking the steps to ensure that the small things that make a difference are taken care of is something that can set your organization apart. Of course ensuring your establishment is clean is not something that falls into this category. That is something that “just” meets minimum standards.

T = Thoughtful people think of others and how their actions impact others.

Are you hiring for GREAT customer service? Want to learn more about how GREAT customer service can make a difference in delivering on your brand promise, contact us for a *free consultation.

NOTE: *This is a limited time offer.

6 Easy Tips to Overcome Communication Failures

We all think we can communicate. After all, we are all good listeners. We are all very good at sharing information and conveying messages. Right?  Wrong! Most people are not good communicators. As we move through the corporate world, we are sensitized to “time is money”, “get to the point” and “what’s your ask?”  Our leaders, mentors and peers share these messages with us constantly through words or body language.  Add to that, we all have our own agendas.  We do.  You can deny it, but if you do, you are only fooling yourself. So, we add all of this together and we are hard-pressed for time and we want to achieve our objectives and meet our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Now, think about your customers.  Think about your prospects.  How are you communicating with them?  There is a good chance that there are some communication failures happening.  Here are 6 easy tips to overcome communication failures:

5 tips to over communications failure,, taylormade solutions (Canada)

Image courtesy of

1.  Know your Audience

This is by far the oldest piece of advice going when it comes to communications. Despite this, I am often surprised by how many people and as a result organizations, just don’t know their audience. They use communication media that they feel most comfortable with and communicate when they want to communicate. They often have more than one audience, but choose to communicate in exactly the same manner for each.

Key Take-away:  What is (are) the personas of your audience(s)?  Are they in their 20s, 30s or 60s?  All of the above?  How do they consume content?  How often do they want to hear from you and consume content?  Do they prefer mainstream media, social media or public forums?  Does it depend on the situation?  If you can’t answer these questions with validated data, you have some homework to do.  If you don’t have the resources in-house, hire a consultant to find the answers for you.

2.  Slow Down

Yes, this is hard for most of us. Everything is a rush. After all, time is money right? It is..but and there is a big BUT..if you fail to communicate with your customers or prospects, the costs will be much higher. Customer retention becomes an issue. Reputation management becomes an issue. Stakeholders, including boards of directors get riled up as profits dip and stock prices follow. Slow down and pay attention to what is happening in your environment. When you do this, you hear, see and learn a lot. People notice that you are present. They appreciate this. Showing up only when you want something also gets noticed.

Key Take-away:  Be present. Don’t just show up when you want something or when there is a problem to fix. Your customers or prospects will soon associate you with only being there when YOU want something or when something has gone horribly wrong. Customers and prospects are people. People need and want relationships. They need to have confidence in you. They need to trust you and trust that your organization will do the right thing.

3. Follow-up and Follow-through

Similar to knowing your audience, this is one of the oldest and best pieces of advice when it comes to communication.  As mentioned in Good Customer Service:  What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, be sure to follow-up on your customers or prospects.  This builds real trust and confidence.  And always under promise and over deliver. This can be hard to do at times, but consistent application will pay off in spades.

Key Take-away:  If you aren’t sure of your answer, then say so.  If you can’t deliver the product at a specific time, be up front.  The sooner the better.  And, when you do execute on “whatever” it is, circle back to ensure that your customer or prospect got what he or she needed. Yes, it can be time consuming, but it will be worth it.

4.  Put Your Best Foot Forward

Just like meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, you want to put your best foot forward.  For a brand, this might be about the person they send to a meeting or the one that acts as their spokesperson.  Regardless of which scenario it is, you want to ensure that your point person has the facts, can present the corporate brand meeting or exceeding the brand standards and that that person or persons have the ability to make decisions and answer questions – any questions.

Key Take-away:  Putting your best foot forward, or your best people forward does not necessarily mean the most senior and certainly not the most junior. Each situation requires consideration and judgement. You need to consider your audience and the situation.  Who will provide win/win results?  Who will irritate or provoke?

5.  Be Timely

This one is quite important.  For any communication, it needs to be timely.  Your communications’ professionals need to always be thinking about timing. Depending what the communication is, too early and you sell the farm.  Too late, or too little you will lose creditability and trust.

Key Take-away:  Communications should never be an after-thought or relegated to lower importance.  Communications is a strategic component of everything you do.

6.  There is No Such Thing as Over Communicating

Once a upon a time someone actually said this to me – that we were over communicating. Think about that for a moment. Think about how people process information. Think about how people receive information. Think about how many times a message MUST be shared before it is actually absorbed. This is all proven documentable information.  If you apply fact and research, you cannot possibly over communicate. It is that simple.

Key Take-away:  Just because you know the answer or a few of your stakeholders know the answer, doesn’t mean your audience does.  People absorb information differently. Therefore you must apply proven communication techniques using various media and multiple messages to reach your audience.

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather


Good Customer Service: What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You

We are all customers.  We are.  So, I am not sure what happens from the time we leave our homes until we reach our respective workplaces. For some people they clearly forget what it is like to be a customer.  For others, they don’t. And for the latter ones, we are most grateful.  Today I want to look at one company and two very different experiences I had.  One not so good and one fantastic.  Both are learning experiences for others.  So, good customer service is important and what you don’t know does hurt you, your corporate reputation and impacts the trust that your customers have., taylormade solutions, marketing best practices

Image courtesy of

Think Before You Act

Last week I received my monthly bill from my telephone and internet service provider. Immediately I noticed that the bill was significantly higher than normal. On top of that I had a late fee. As I looked closer it “appeared” that I only paid for part of my bill. I knew that was not the case. So, just to ensure I was not loosing my mind, I pulled out the previous bill. Sure enough, the amount showing as paid on my current bill was the total amount owing from the previous month. Now, I should note that when I received the previous bill I recall that it was lower than normal. Regardless, I paid the full amount owing and went on my merry way.

So, naturally I called the customer service department for my provider and relayed my story. I also asked why I was being charged a late fee when I paid my bill in full.  The person on the phone was great. She was professional and helpful. I can’t take that from her. I could also hear that she was perplexed. She could see that I had done exactly as I had told her. She had to put me on hold to investigate further. Again, very professional and I take no issue with her performance. When she came back on the line, she informed me that the mobility part of the business had failed to get their billing information in on time and therefore, that part of the billing could not be included. Fair enough and I acknowledged that I did recall that the bill was lower than normal.

“My exception to this issue is that the company – “they”- failed to get their billing information in on time in order to be included in my monthly bill.  I paid what I was billed – in full. So, why was I being charged a late fee for their failure to perform?  “They” knew that they had failed, but yet “they” didn’t take that into account.  I also realize that things are system generated, BUT and there is a BUT, I also know that they could have manually adjusted the bill if their system was not intelligent to recognize that the previous bill sent was paid in full.

Now, not everyone checks their bills as closely as I.  Many would not have even noticed. It wasn’t even a lot of money. It was less than $10. It was the principle of the matter though. I should not have been charged and I should not have had to call. It is incidents like these quite frankly that cause me to check my bill carefully. Sadly this is not the first time that I have found errors in my bill. This naturally affects my trust.

Key Take away:  Be sure to staff your contact centres with great people who get customer service AND ensure that if you make a mistake in billing that you don’t penalize your customers. Address before sending out your bill.  This will help maintain trust rather than risk eroding the belief that you have the ability to accurately charge your customers.

Be a Great Listener

Now, let’s switch gears. This past week Tropical Storm Arthur decided to pay a visit. My little part of the world had never quite had a storm like this. It alone is a blog post. But the damage done was significant. I was without power, water and landline phone service for more than five days. I have never experienced this. When our power returned, all our other services immediately worked too, except our landline. After about 12 hours of the phone not working, I did a Tweet to our local news radio asking if they heard anything about restoration of telephone services. A follower @mentioned, Bell Aliant my provider, and within a few hours they jumped into the conversation asking me to Direct Message (DM) them with the details. Turns out it was an issue with my phone and they could do a reset from their office. Thankfully it was a quick fix and we were back in service.

“And, they checked back with me via Twitter to make sure that everything was good. I appreciated that and I appreciated that they were actually listening. In my opinion not enough companies do this so. They also offered a quick survey to review and rate their Twitter Customer Service.  This is GREAT customer service. Well done!

 Key Take Away: Be a great listener.  Be sure to leverage and use social media properly so that you can hear conversations about your brand and jump in when appropriate.  Many customers, like me, live on social media.  And, “sometimes” it is easier and faster to get results.  Be sure to follow up with your customer to ensure that the issue is resolved and then ask for feedback. You can’t improve if you don’t know how you are really performing.

Like this post?  Feel free to follow me on Twitter.

The Shocking Way You Are Alienating Your Customers

Have you ever been a loyal customer? Sure you have. Have you ever been put off by something by something that the brand you have been so loyal to has done? Of course you have. Sometimes it is something so innocent that they that don’t even know that they have done it. Nonetheless, while innocent, it is a shocking way to alienate customers.

Shocking Way to Alienate Customers,, taylormade solutions

Image courtesy of

This past weekend I was flipping through one of my favourite magazines “House and Home” when I came across an article, and specifically the image to introduce the piece, that just stopped me in my tracks. But let me back up a bit before sharing with you my gut reaction to what I was seeing. I love House and Home for its simply beautiful pictures and stories about homes with good design. They are wonderful at curating a story and helping people visualize what is possible within their own homes. Page after page is a visual delight of gorgeous places decorated in a simply stunning way.

The magazine has wonderful pictures of beautiful, and most often, very expensive homes, cottages and cabins. Gorgeous! A lot of these featured abodes are located in Ontario, Quebec and the Western Provinces of Canada. Hopefully, I have painted a picture for you. Occasionally they will feature a location in Atlantic Canada, but not very often. In fact, they do feature a Nova Scotia home in this very feature…but and there is a big but here…and this is where I feel that they failed and did somewhat alienate me, and I am sure others. They succumbed to stereotyping. Yes..yes they did. The article which was focusing on seafood, certainly stereotyped Atlantic Canadians, and particularly fishermen as living in much, much, much more humble abodes than our neighbours to the west of us. While I did not grow up in a family of fishermen, I did get to meet and know a few over the years and none lived in a house remotely close to what was pictured.

But here is really the crux of the matter, stereotyping is dangerous in marketing/selling. It is a very easy way to alienate your customers and your prospects. I know that, in this case, they were attempting to paint this quaint lifestyle, but it is not accurate. It was innocent enough, but it does demonstrate that the editors likely have a picture of what most Atlantic Canadians do and how we live. Now, they might not be impacted by this at all since they also featured another piece on a lovely Nova Scotia property, but not all businesses would be this lucky.

Depending on your business, you might not even realize that you have alienated people. You just might notice that some customers have retreated. For a restaurant, coffee shop or another such business where you get to know your regulars, you would actually notice that some customers have disappeared; but for utilities, magazines, airlines, etc. you likely wouldn’t notice. Depending on how serious the alienation is, it could really hurt your bottom line. It is very easy for stereotyping to become a social media crisis, which impacts your reputation and trust that you have built. A brand can take a real hit when this occurs.

Key takeaway: This one is such an easy fix. Throw out stereotypes. The risk is just too high.

If you like this post, feel free to connect on Twitter: @MacLeanHeather


3 Tips on How HGTV’s Timber King’s Conquered the World

In Part 1 of this two part series, I interviewed Bryan Reid Senior, founder of Pioneer Log Homes and learned how passion, people and relationships built this world class business.  In this post, we will learn about Joel Roorda, one of the brilliant craftsmen of Timber Kings and the 3 proven tips on how HGTV’s Timber King’s conquered the world. HGTV Timber Kings Conquered the World

If there is one thing I learned from interviewing Bryan and Joel, its that these guys love what they do.  It all starts with passion.   If that is the only thing that readers take away from these two blog posts, I think that is a great.  However, we can learn some very important things from them to be truly customer-centric.  These guys just aren’t just Timber Kings, they are royalty when it comes to understanding the customer.  So, let’s jump into what I learned from Joel.

1. Listening is An Art Form

There are tons of business books and even courses that tell us that we need to be good listeners to be successful.  Listening is work.  Regardless of what people say, listening is a lot of work.  You need to focus on the individual or individuals, tune everything else out and pay attention.  Listening to Joel, I have a new respect for doing it the right way.  In fact, it is listening with your eyes, as well as your ears.  Here’s what Joel had to say about getting to know his clients:

“I always spend time before each project to learn about the client. It is my personal mission to try to satisfy each client with the style of log home that he or she is dreaming of.  Not only do I ask a lot of questions and really listen to what they are saying about everything, but I pay attention to things like what type of vehicle he or she has drives, what types of clothes they wear, etc.  These details outline the type of person they are and the type of life they live.  These are important details to match the house we build for them, to the dream they have for their house.  Like Bryan said, we aren’t just building houses, we are building dreams.”

After hearing Joel’s approach to getting to know his clients, I can certainly see why the homes he builds are so spectacular and special.  Each home is a piece of art, and as unique as the owner.  No wonder their clients come back over and over again.

2.  Building Relationships is an Extreme Sport

Again, there are tons of blog posts, books and gurus that tell us that we need to build relationships in order to be personally and professionally successful.  What these resources don’t convey however, is that building relationships is more of an extreme sport or a lifestyle.  Here’s how Joel approaches it.

“All my clients have my personal contact info, know me well and can contact me at any time. In fact, most have come to my home, spent time with my family and walked through my home.  They experience my dream of my log home and how I achieved it through hard work.”

The other thing that really impressed me about Joel is that over and above this being a lifestyle for him, you know it is authentic based on how his clients treat him.

“We work in countries all over the world and on every job I have the homeowners giving us gifts and cooking us meals.  On a recent job in Moscow, our billionaire client prepared a traditional meal for me and my crew, and then he gave me a very expensive bottle of Scotch. I truly feel blessed to meet these incredible people and to get to know them and their families.  I feel blessed that we remain great friends and I always have a place to stay, regardless of where I am in the world.”

3.  Achieving Implicit Trust Can’t Be Faked

It struck me when speaking to Joel that he and all of his colleagues are not only expert craftsman, but really, there is a lot more to what they do.  While we didn’t speak of trust specifically, Joel and all of the Timber Kings are experts at achieving implicit trust.

“I love the challenge of the big unconventional and complicated projects that are logistical nightmares. I have built homes all over the world from mountain tops to islands, secluded lots to fly in type resorts.  I truly love my job and it is actually a lifestyle.  I work a lot of long days and last year did a stint of sixty-two days straight.  I don’t need to work this much but, it drives me, and it satisfies me.  It is a great accomplishment to build a complicated home from raw logs that you shape, mould and cut to create a client’s dream home. I do not think I could do anything else, except maybe be a fishing guide for myself and Bryan.”

When you dissect what is being done when building these homes with behemoth logs and complicated structures with weights that would scare us all, it really does come down to implicit trust.  Joel and all the Timber Kings are being trusted with the most precious commodity of all – human life.  They are building dream homes for people – families, young and old.  Maybe this is a little more at the forefront for me after experiencing the winter from hell and looking out at the still present mountains of snow that normally would be long gone by now.  Maybe the recent collapses of roofs on commercial buildings and homes that are no longer safe to live in, is this part of my psyche right now, but regardless, the fact that their customers keep coming back and welcome Joel and his colleagues into their homes and lives is completely indicative of implicit trust.  That can’t be faked!

I sincerely want to thank both Bryan and Joel for taking the time to answer all my questions – it was a true East-West Canada Connection – From New Brunswick to British Columbia.  I can’t wait for the next season of the show to see some more spectacular homes.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

How To Be Customer-Centric Like the HGTV’s Timber Kings

We all talk about customer service and being customer-centric, but few of us really live up to that standard quite like Pioneer Log Homes, also known as HGTV’s Timber Kings.  If you have ever watched the show, you know what I am talking about.  These guys are not only absolutely amazing craftsman and engineers, they are some of the best at being customer-centric.  So, want to learn how to be really customer-centric like HGTV’s Timber Kings?  Here’s what I learned from an interview with the founder, Bryan Reid Senior:HGTV Timber Kings of Customer Centricity

1. Passion is Innate

This is not lip service.  You learn very quickly that Bryan, does what he loves.   When asked how he got into the business, it is obvious that it is something that “just happened.”    When it just feels right, I guess you know it.

“My step dad was a trapper and I worked with him a lot.  At the end of the day, with temperatures dropping to -40 to –50 degrees in the winter, we would get to the old trapper log cabin and light a fire and half hour later, we had no more worries. There was just something about being in a log cabin.  After I finished high school, I built my own log home with help of First Nations man, Samson Jack. It wasn’t long before others wanted me to build them a log home.  It also didn’t take a long time for me to realize that I loved doing it and there was a need to fill.”

When I see someone with passion, it really helps me realize what a difference it makes.  I couldn’t help thinking about the times in my career when I was truly passionate.  Like Bryan, it was something that just felt right!  It didn’t feel like work.

2.  People First

I asked Bryan about his incredibly skilled craftspeople and what it is like to work with so many gifted people.

“Where would we be without people?  Whether it is working with my team or working with clients, our business is about building dreams. My guys are my equal at very the least, and even my boss at times, and never critiqued for over delivering.  They are praised and rewarded equal to me. In the recession of 2008, I cut my wage to zero and kept my guys on. They mean so much to me!”

When it comes to his customers, Bryan has some pretty simple but powerful advice.  In fact, it is  so simple, that we probably tend to forget the basics, but Bryan doesn’t and it is refreshingly honest.

“Many companies spend their entire budget on advertising, etc. and don’t take care of the customer right through to the end of the process.  It was our goal to always over deliver and we wanted to.  Going that extra mile and giving the customer more than they expected, sets us apart.  And really, when you think of it….what a novel idea?…Give the customer value for their dollar and in return they recommend you to their friends.   In fact, many of our customers are our friends.  This is a very, very basic human behaviour.  Treat people well and they treat you well.  Some of our original customers from more than 35 years ago still call us and visit with us. For us, this is priceless.”  HGTV's Timber Kings of Customer-Centric

3.  Relationships Are Forever

If passion is innate and people are first, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that for the Timber Kings (Pioneer Log Homes) team to be truly customer-centric, the relationship with the customer doesn’t end when the sale is complete.

I asked Bryan if there was a specific customer story that stood out for him over the years and here’s what he had to say:

“There are many great stories for me, but one that often comes to mind is one couple who were buffalo ranchers in the US.  Over 22 years, we built three different homes for them.  They are a wonderful couple whom we have become very close to.  They are now in their 80s now and have decided to downsize, and they want us to build them a smaller log home!   Now that’s a story.”

 4.  Use Your Brain

I asked Bryan what advice he would give to people just starting out.  Here’s what he had to say:

Bring your brain to work every day. If strength was everything, horses would rule the world. Watch what successful people do and try to translate that to your business. Same rules different industry. I learned a lot from how Las Vegas did things. They made the whole world aware of them – quite a feat when they are not the biggest.  Finally, take care of the customer and they will take care of you.”

And, of course I had to ask if being Canadian made a difference when it comes to dealing with customers.

“As Canadians we are the luckiest people on earth. Being born in North America is like winning the lottery. We are intelligent, well educated and are entitled to work hard and get ahead if we are wise and treat people right, respect our resources, and plan ahead for the next generation. We can do well and leave the world a better place. Expect the best, plan for the worst.”

It was a real pleasure getting to know Bryan through this interview.  In Part 2 and final piece of this series, we will learn more about Pioneer Log Homes through Joel Roorda, one of the master craftsman that build those stunning homes.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

The Cost of Ignoring Social Media (What You Need to Know)

Is your company still in denial thinking that you don’t need to embrace social media? If so, you are suffering a great cost which can be documented through research. For example, McKinsey & Company research shows that unlocking value and productivity through social media is significant. In fact, the study reports that social media could potentially contribute between $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four commercial sectors studied.

Research from Genesys points to the fact that more than half of customer-facing Fortune 500 Corporations “suffer from social shyness”. Specifically, 55% fail to list a Twitter handle and 51% fail to list a Facebook page on their “contact us” page.

The Cost of Ignoring (COI) social media is more significant to businesses than just being socially shy. It comes down to dollars. According to a recent Forbes piece, “social media is more pervasive than ever among customers: 50% of the population currently use Facebook and more than 37% use Twitter.”  This same post also suggests that only 16% of surveyed CEOs were participating in social media. The logical conclusion? Your customers are using social to connect and communicate; therefore, you should too.

The COI of social media comes down to missed opportunities. As a business, you need to question your opportunity costs. If you and your organization don’t have a listening and engagement plan in place, here are five areas where you are experiencing COI right now:

1. Customer Service

Conversations are taking place right now about your products and/or services. Some are very positive and helpful to you.  Some are very negative, perhaps even inaccurate. If you are not listening and engaging, you aren’t taking the steps to correct misinformation.  You are also not taking the steps for a rapid response to fix an issue and delight your customer. Rapid responses save time, which saves money.

2. Reputation Management

If you haven’t secured your company’s social identity, someone else will. They could communicate with your customers under the guise that they represent your brand. We all know that one of the things keeping the Boards of Directors awake at night is the possibility of a social media crisis that damages the company reputation.

3. Crowdsourcing to Build Loyalty

Perhaps one of the most effective companies at utilizing crowdsourcing for this outcome is Starbucks. They have successfully built brand ambassadors through contests and more. Best of all, when done well, it also engages their employees and results in profits.

4. Collaboration

Companies like Dell use their invention of IdeaStorm to bring collaboration to life. According to McKinsey & Company, improved communication and collaboration through social media could raise the productivity of interaction of workers by 20 to 25 percent.  This has huge potential.

5. Recruitment

Some of the savviest candidates have strong social profiles. They have their resumé on social networking sites like LinkedIn. They are researching potential employers through social sites, commentaries, and the social profile of an employer. Being absent can send a strong message to potential candidates.

Want to learn more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

A version of this post previously appeared on the Marketing Cloud blog.

Mitigate Business Risks: Implement a Social Media Council

Collaboration and cooperation are important components of a business ecosystem. They can help us mitigate risk. We all know this. Interestingly enough though, not enough people consider this when developing and implementing different components of their operational functions and some of the communications associated with the various operational aspects.  For example, not enough organizations are implementing social media councils.  These councils are an important component of your operations; and here are the top 5 reasons to start your social media council immediately.

5.  Eliminate Functional/Communication Silos

Unless your organization is small and centrally located, then you have experienced the fact that different people in different departments could very well be duplicating efforts.  Some examples include communications with customers through such channels as Twitter for customer service. The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers about what channel is the right one to reach you in the event of an issue. Approaching your social media as a collective can bring good ideas to the table sooner and ensure that everyone approaches it the same way.  A social media council will foster collaboration. Want tips on how to break down silos?  Check out Busting Silos: Workplace Design Offers a Smart Solution, Barbara T. Armstrong. Click to Tweet

 4.  Reduce costs

Silos not only increase confusion, they increase costs.  Creating a social media council can ensure that the right number of resources are identified and trained to monitor and engage on behalf of your company.  This will reduce costs.  Click to Tweet A social media council will also ensure that multiple resources are not carrying out the same function at the same time.

3.  Manage & Protect Reputation

Eisner  Amper’s 4th Annual Board of Directors’ Survey continues to show Reputation Risk at the top of the list, primarily due to the concerns around social media.  Developing and implementing a social media council is your first step in your defence. A social media council should be made up of people from different disciplines, including Human Resources, Legal, Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, etc.  Including Human Resources and Legal is absolutely essential.  Their approach will provide a different perspective that will make your overall effort more focused.  They will also learn about the issues of Sales, Public Relations and Marketing in a new context.  This will further foster collaboration and learning for all. Click to  Tweet

2.  Create an Informed and Educated Workforce

Creating a social media council, when done well, means that you are building a multidisciplinary   team.  This group of people should not only bring information, ideas and issues to the Council, they are also to bring information, ideas and issues back to their respective departments.  A successful, highly functioning Council gives and receives information.  It becomes a powerful communication channel for the entire enterprise – from the frontline workers all the way up to and including the C-suite.  Click to Tweet

1. Identify and Mitigate Risk

It all comes down to this.  If there is just one reason to implement a social media council, it is about identifying and mitigating risk.  When you look at each of the reasons above, it can all be boiled down to this.  I don’t know one organization that isn’t concerned about mitigating risk.

If you would like to learn more about social media councils and mitigating risk, let us know.  Check us out at TaylorMade Solutions.

How You Tell Your Customers (on a daily basis) That Your Brand Sucks

First off, a brand is not a logo.  A brand is about the emotional reaction that your product and/or service causes.  For example, how do you feel when you think:  Apple, Range Rover or Canada Goose? What you thought and felt is the brand – good or bad!  More importantly, ask yourself how do you want people to react to your brand?  What do they think when they hear your name?  So, repeat after me:  a brand is not a logo.   And people who continue to think that a brand is a logo are likely the same people that don’t understand why they are having customer retention issues.  These same people are telling their customers and prospects that their own brand sucks in these three ways:

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

1.  Unknown Company Values

If you haven’t really thought about what your company values are, your employees will be left to make them up. Needless to say, consistency might be an issue at best.  Worst case scenario?  Your customers won’t like what they see and bail.

It is not enough to say that you strive for excellence for example, you need to ensure your entire team knows and understands what this means.  What excellence looks like and what it does not.  In December I wrote of an experience with Keurig Canada that demonstrated that they weren’t operating on that premise of  excellence.  Thankfully they were listening on social and called me to rectify the situation.  You can read about that experience here.

2.  Not Responding to Customers

This is no doubt the best way to tell your customers or prospects that they don’t matter.  First and foremost you have to be present in the channels where your customers and prospects are.  So, that means telephone, email and in some cases social media. (I differ from most marketers with respect to social.  I believe you have to be realistic about your business and who your customers are and make an informed decision, but this deserves its own separate blog post.)

Here is the critical piece, however:  be sure that you properly staff these channels and respond.  Seems logical right?  Unfortunately not.  Would you sit next to a ringing phone and not answer it?  Probably not. At least I hope not.  So, why then do some brands ask people to email them and then never respond?  The same goes for social media?  You are sending the wrong message.

Not responding to customers happens all the time.  Not responding to prospects happens all of the time.  These results in lost business.

Here are two recent examples:

  • Robert Burns Day got me thinking about Haggis.  So, I wanted to buy some.  I googled and found Stahly Quality Foods. Great!  However, not so great!  When I tried to order a notice came up for North Americans.  Not to worry, I could reach out to a regional distributor via email.  I sent that email more than two weeks ago and have not received an acknowledgement or answer.  So, I put a message on Stahly Quality Foods Facebook page…and you guessed it…nothing.  In fact the last time they actually posted on their Facebook page was October 2013.  So, exactly why do they have a Facebook page?  Why do they list their distributors with their contact information?  Frankly I have formed an opinion of this brand.  It is not a good one.  I now can’t imagine buying food from them.Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.04.12 AM
  • I was helping a student with his cover letter and resume for a specific job.  The company doing the hiring requests that applicants send their information via email or snail mail.  They are a large company with a full HR department.  They had approximately four jobs listed on their website at the time this student applied.  The issue that he faced is that he could not get anyone to respond to his request to confirm receipt of the email.  He even tried a delivery receipt, but received a notification that their system was set up so that a delivery acknowledgement was not possible.

Many HR departments that do this often claim that because of volume of applications and only successful candidates will be notified of an interview.  I say “B.S” to that.  First and foremost you can have an automatic response that acknowledges receipt of the email.  Secondly, you can set rules to sort applications by job number.  So, saying that you get too many email is really and truly B.S.

What you are doing is setting the tone for candidates.  Some may decide that this is not the type of organization that they want to work for.  This could certainly be the case in markets where there are more jobs than candidates.  Or, you can be setting the tone for how, if successful, they should act towards their colleagues, prospects and customers.  After all, mediocrity begets mediocrity (tweet this).

3.  Lacking of Training and Management

We all need training.  Sometimes it is training rooted in the technology we need for the job, some times it is in safety, working hours, etc.  What many brands forget to train their employees in, is customer interaction.

Have you ever gone into a store and saw a number of employees clustered together laughing and carrying on?  There are many things that could be going in here.  The first thought might be, wow, this is a great place to work. These people are happy.  This is great.  However, as you are in the store longer you see that these same employees continue to stay together and are completely oblivious to the customers around them.  They don’t see the customers who need help.  They deliberately avoid eye contact.  This is often systematic of a lack of training and management.  It can be a very easy fix.  Train your employees on the importance of the customer. Ensure that your managers are always focused on the customer and lead by example.  There is nothing wrong with a team huddle and good camaraderie.  Actually it is great.  It only becomes an issue when your comrades don’t focus on the customer and the customer walks out.

The Fix

These are three ways that you and your employees tell your customers, on a daily basis, that your brand sucks.  Thankfully there are easy fixes:

  • communicate your values to all employees
  • consistently enforce your brand values and acknowledge your employees when they live the brand values
  • make brand training a regular operational practice
  • ensure that your customers are prospects are at the forefront of your communications and expectations
  • communicate your expectations
  • test your employees – secret shoppers help identify issues for improvement
  • remember to focus on issues and not individuals – praise publicly and coach privately

What would you add to the list? Want more information or help? Feel free to connect with us.