Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sure Fire Ways To Drive Customers Away!

Call it a blind spot. Call it regimented thinking. Call it the-way-we-have-always-done-it. But by any name, there are actions and practices that far too many businesses engage in that can unknowingly drive customers away.

When I observe such practices, I move from being angry to just plain sad. Really sad. Because the truth of the matter is that no one CONSCIOUSLY set out to ruin my day. No one sat in a board room and dreamt up procedures that would have us leaving in droves. No one woke up and said, "I can hardly wait to make you miserable." It happened "because". Because the truth of the matter is that it takes courage to stop and ask the critical
question: Does this serve our customer? Our member? Our community?

We all "know" the rules of service. But sadly, sometimes we don't take the time to think through just what our actions might be do or say to the customer. Here are some actions guaranteed to drive folks from the doors of an enterprise. It's time for all of us to sit up and notice!

Over promise and under deliver.

Bring people to the conference with the promise of cutting edge material. Lure attendees into thinking that the hotel is a four-star marvel. Tell customers that they'll have all the material they need in three days. Promise the meeting planner that the press kit will go out overnight. Then sit back and watch. Really watch. If it isn't true 100% of the time, it's a bait and switch promise.

Take the idea of "cutting edge material". I've attended conferences in which the only cutting edge was the serving knife on a buffet table. Same ideas. Same methodology. Same format.
Get a clue! Shake it up. Be provocative. If we say it, we better deliver.

How about that four-star hotel? Brochure looks great. The conference walk through is stunning. But then, could that ghastly-looking luncheon plate REALLY be the same chicken marsala you were served in the tasting? And, how about the fact that the hotel "forgot" to tell you that the major dining room would be undergoing renovation. Yikes!

The three-day guarantee. If you can't deliver it all the time, it's not true! Now, perhaps Three Day Blinds has reversed its practices, but years ago, I ordered window coverings for our new house. My mother was coming to visit us over Christmas and I needed shades. Alas, the third day came and went. I discovered that only "some" shades are three-day, not all. Beware of the implied promise.

Never walk the talk.

The brochure for the conference said, "a celebration of members", a "community that listens." Too bad it didn't play out in reality.

The setting is New Orleans. A couple thousand folks have gathered for the "celebration" and the "community". Alas, the reality is another fact. I discover that people are invited to parties based upon their status in the organization. The luncheon session I am addressing has some 50 "important people"
file into the banquet hall and take their places on a stage that is three tiers deep. Talk about a "we"/ "they" set up. I am told, "This is the way we have always done it." The intent to "honor"
these 50 people was to have hundreds watch them eat and to also set up the boundary between the "us" and the "them".

Come on. There are a few more creative ways to showcase the "us"
that is far more inclusive, educational, and community building than a camera shot of folks eating. I end up addressing an audience while have my back to 50 plus people. It's rude, off-putting, and the exact opposite of what the organization, in all good intentions, wishes to create.

Our lives had better mirror the words we use and the beliefs we profess to all. Otherwise, we're merely impersonators. I watched a very well known speaker who specializes in relationship building turn into a snarling, demanding customer who treated the flight attendants like personal servants. How many disbelievers were created on that day?

Make technology your primary form of communication.

Make sure there's a voice mail doom loop from which someone will never emerge to actually speak with a live human. Conduct all business via e-mail, assuming that a message sent is a message received. And while you're at it, hit send as soon as a message is written.

These three practices can doom any business relationship.
Amazing isn't it: having a person answer the phone can actually be a competitive advantage! How easy do we make it for people to do business with us via the telephone or even our web site? I tried to book a reservation in a lovely hotel, only to be treated to a lovely online tour of the property without ever finding a contact number!

E-mail is great for data but not perfect for relationship building or critical pieces of information. In fact, often the E in e-mail stands for escalation and error. Two colleagues almost became bitter enemies over rapid fire e-mails that had the sting of a viper and the warmth of the Arctic. Neither thought to pick up the phone and talk things out. Thus, the lop-sided "chats"
turned into internecine warfare. Talk about beating folks up!!

I discovered fascinating information about a client when we talked through my normal pre-program survey rather than depend upon an electronic transmission. I had thought my online survey was a time saving device. Instead, what it became was a gatekeeper, preventing me from digging deeper into an issue.
Likewise, multiple choice answers on written or online customer service surveys will never result in information of substantive depth.

Forget the wisdom of the outer circle.

In organizational life, there's always an "inner circle" of power and control. Boards of Directors wield it. So do powerful departments. When practices and policies come only from the inner circle, the rank and file is not only unheard, but can turn its back on the organization. Members leave associations when they feel discounted and "not in the know".
Never say "thank you".

Mother was right when she made us kids write notes to relatives after Christmas. It's a forgotten habit that can go a long way to letting people feel appreciated. Likewise, pick up the phone and call a client or member who has a complaint and THANK THEM for making that complaint known. You'll discover a huge dividend in goodwill after they recover from the shock of your call.

Three Practices to KEEP customers and members.

Common courtesy isn't common. Be uncommon.

Service is an unnatural act. It takes emphasis away from ourselves and gives it to others. Be unnatural.

Time is the only non-renewal resource. Never waste people's time.

Hope I haven't wasted yours!

(c) 2005, McDargh Communications. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Named by Executive Excellence Magazine as one of the top 100 thought leaders in business, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE authored one of the first books on work/life balance. Eileen is an award winning professional speaker, consultant and facilitator. Find free articles, surveys, book reviews and more at her professional speaker website.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ignore At Your Own Peril - Article Submission Mistakes

The most important task in the world of marketing with articles is to create relationships with editors. This is not to say that you need to invite them to dinner or even call them on a regular basis. You do have to be polite, reliable and submit quality articles. If possible, engage the editor in conversation via e-mail and let them know to ask you for additional articles when they have a need. Don't be one of those authors that drive editors crazy. If you do, editors are likely to make sure your articles end up in the "delete" folder. Follow the best practices below and editors will likely put you at the top of their "favorite authors" file:

* Be courteous and use professional language when approaching editors. Treat editors the way you expect to be treated.

* Using correct spelling, grammar and punctuation is vital. Experienced editors will throw out an article with even one of these mistakes.

* Format articles properly in a text editor. Never use a traditional word processing program when writing your articles or your format will be garbled.

* Avoid boring titles and boring text. Tell a story, add a twist and have some fun while writing. Editors love receiving something new and exciting.

* Write only about things you know. You are not an expert on everything.

* Submit only your own original documents. Don't copy from someone else.

* Read the guidelines and view archived articles to make sure you follow all the rules.

* Submit on-topic articles only. Today I wasted time getting rid of articles about diving, nursing and frugal living. My guidelines clearly state I only accept articles about article submissions!

* Fill out forms completely and include contact information with e-mails.

* Savvy article writers never submit articles that are thinly disguised sales letters or advertising.

* Some editors will send you an e-mail when they use your article and some don't. Never, never, never bombard an editor and ask when and if your article will be published.

* Remove editors from your list promptly when asked. If you continue to submit when told not to then you are in violation of spam laws.

* Submit only one or two articles per week to your list. I know writers who submit dozens of articles a week to their list. This is annoying and can be seen as "spamming" even if you follow all the rules.

Remember that editors are busy people just like you and me. Don't waste their time, be professional and let them know you appreciate the opportunity to work with them. Carefully cultivate your relationship with editors and your article submission efforts will bloom!

(c) 2005. Davis Virtual Assistance. All rights reserved.
Permission to publish online or in print granted provided the
article and byline are printed intact with live links.

Ready to launch your business into the stratosphere using the proven marketing with articles technique? Learn from an article submission expert, Bonnie Jo Davis, and benefit from her wisdom by visiting Sign-up for her no cost monthly e-zine focusing on marketing with articles by sending a blank e-mail to