The Gift of a Customer

So let’s be honest, there are some people out there that we wish we never worked with/for. Some customers drive us to drink, and even maybe consider throwing in the towel and getting a job. Sometimes you just can’t help but have these bad customer experiences, especially if you’re a really big brand like a chain restaurant or well known box of cereal that can be found in just about every food store around the US. But for most of us we can put up some guards at the door to check with potential customers before they become customers, or at the very least clearly communicate on our website, social media and newsletter who we’re a good fit for, and who should look elsewhere. Personally, I have no problem or guilt in sending someone that I’m not capable of helping to someone else. For example if a guy I was considering coaching or consulting for consistently flirted with me in an obnoxious and unavoidable way, I’d tell him that we wouldn’t be a good fit and he should look for other help. It’s certainly possible that I could have helped him, but I’m not interested in that stress. Or if a Japanese company comes to me and asks for help but all their marketing materials are in Japanese, I’m just not the right person to dive deep with them on expanding their marketing within Japan (unless it’s to English speaking people).

But on the flip side there are some business that we’re sorry we’ve purchased from as customers, whether we’re talking as an individual/family or b2b. Maybe we’re sorry because we didn’t realize what we were getting up front (the sales pitch was just that good that we were tempted into signing up without asking lots of questions), and then we end up wasting time and most likely some money too. Or we ask for one thing and end up getting several, most not related to what we’re interested in. Or the company just plain out spams you and sends you tons of sales pitches and promotions. All of these are great ways to not only lose customers, but to make people mad; people who go tell other people about their bad experience.

Money is one of the most important things in business, the value you bring to the table is another, and the trust you build with your customers is a third. Without the value you can’t build the trust with your potential customers, and without potential customers (let alone actual customers) you have no chance of bringing in money, which means you’ve got a hobby and not a profitable, sustainable business.  Do you see your customer as a gift or an annoyance?

So this week I encourage you to take a look at your practices and actions when it comes to your customers and potential customers. Are you living up to the trust they’ve placed in you? Just about everyone has room to grow, but if you don’t start from a good place, you’ll never be given the chance to grow.

Trust in Listening

I’ve shared on several occasions this month about the connection between listening and success. As I think about some of the people I’ve interacted with or worked with, I’m struck by the challenge that listening can present, even becoming a barrier for success at times. I don’t believe that you can reach your full success potential without listening to others and getting feedback on your actions and direction. In fact not only can you hinder your success because you’re not listening, you can isolate yourself from others and hurt your relationships with them.

Ignoring what people tell you, ignoring what people ask you, ignoring their opinions, second guessing everything that anyone tells you, and asking for second and third opinions all the time on everything are just a few of the indications that you’re not using your listening skills well and an indication that you may have some trust issues with people. I’m not suggesting that everyone is to be trusted or all answers believed as fact, but first to give the benefit of the doubt rather than just judging someone based on a first impression or opinion. And second if you’ve known or worked with someone for many years and you still don’t trust them to give you an educated, researched or complete answer it may be time to part ways or have a serious discussion.

I can tell you from being on the other side of the conversation, that it’s really difficult to constantly have your answers questioned or questions ignored. I can remember times when multiple people in the same office were asked to research the exact same item, and not because it was difficult, obscure or an extensive topic. I can also remember many times when I’ve repeated the same question over and over in an email correspondence to have the question ignored or not directly answered. It’s incredibly frustrating to be an adult and be treated as a small, irresponsible child for no particular reason.

I get that sometimes you can have a difficult day, but these situations we’re talking about aren’t one-off situations, but rather things that go on day in and day out. If you’re in the situation of being questioned constantly I encourage you to take time to really consider if the situation is that beneficial for you or if it’s time to move on to where you’re more respected and valued. I’d also suggest if you’re constantly being questioned that you sit down with a trusted friend to talk about whether your communication skills (or lack thereof) or communication style could be a factor in the issues you’re facing. If you’re someone who struggles with listening, I’d suggest taking a serious look at your life and relationships and evaluate if you’re feeling fulfilled, frustrated, challenged and/or valued. If your life is not all you want it to be it’s time to evaluate the people in it and the habits and practices you have.

While it can be challenging, communication is one of the most valuable skills we have as humans in 2017. If we all worked a little harder at communicating with each other with respect and clarity and taking the time to really talk things out, we’d solve many of the world’s issues quite quickly, or at least put a plan in place for resolving them with less anger, confusion and bloodshed.

Pursuing a True Partnership

Are you thankful for your life? This is one of life’s greatest secrets: to truly be thankful for what you have, where you are, who is part of your life and what the future holds. Of course, in order to be thankful for those things it’s necessary to have those things. Each day we’re making choices about things that we want as part of our lives, choices that affect our customers, our kids, our partner and/or our family, and choices about what the future holds. Whenever we make a choice we have to live with it, change it, embrace it or deal with the fallout.

One of the things I’m most thankful for is my partner. We work well together, we don’t mind each other’s quirks, enjoy the quiet moments and work through the hard ones. I’ve experienced what it’s like to have a partner who isn’t on the same page as you and it makes things incredibly difficult, not to mention not as much fun or as motivating to do the work required in a relationship.

I’ve said before that your happiness is really your responsibility, not theirs, and I still believe that. But part of being a partner is about seeing to their needs and desires, making sure they’re cared for, encouraging them, supporting them through the tough times, pushing them to be better and/or meeting them where they’re at depending on what is called for at that time.

A relationship that is a partnership works off mutual trust, happiness, interests, goals, chemistry and love. In a true partnership that’s meant to last these things take time to develop, they’re not instantaneous. But romancing each other, learning about each other, discovering the secrets, creating new stories and memories, and embracing what could be forever are part of the fun of a building a partnership.

If you’re in a good partnership have you told your partner lately how grateful for them you are?

“Marriage has made me a lot happier and I’m deeply in love with my wife, and I thank God for her every day…It is really rare to find someone you really, really love and that you want to spend your life with and all that stuff that goes along with being married. I am one of those lucky people. And I think she feels that way too. So the romantic stuff is easy because you want them to be happy.”  Harry Connick, Jr.

Why You Might Really Hate Change

I talk about change a lot because it’s absolutely essential to our continued success.  Not everything changes all of the time, but there comes a time that something will change that will impact your business if you don’t prepare for it with changes or change in response to it.  But many of us struggle with change, simply because we like things how they are or aren’t interested in doing the work that’s necessary if we do decide to change.  Because it’s something that so many of us struggle with I spend a lot of time each week reading and thinking about how to better help us deal with it when it happens.  So this week in my readings I found a statement that totally blew me away because it’s so true and yet says something really ridiculous about us.

“People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.” Carey Nieuwhof

Yep, that makes us sound really bad.  How immature are we if we only like change because we thought of it? How huge is your ego to think that you’re the only one with any good ideas?  But ultimately it comes back to us being unwilling to recognize how essential to our lives, health, success and finances it is to be willing to trust others and work with them rather than against them.

What if I told you that there was one thing that you needed to do and if you did it it would bring you all the success you wanted?  You probably know where I’m going with this, it’s simply to learn to be a better partner in this great world we live in.  If we learned how to work together we would all end up with more of what we want and need, and less of what we don’t want.

When we all bring our personal strengths to the table, when we all contribute and discuss ideas, when we all take part in making things happen, we have the potential to change the world in amazing ways that have not yet been conceived of because we have not yet been willing to accept the brilliance of others.

This week I encourage you to do some evaluating.  We’re getting into the busiest time of the year for many businesses so now is the last chance you have to set yourself up for success and making a lasting impression on the customers that visit you in the next 3 months.  Don’t dismiss an idea just because it came from a stockist, secretary, intern or customer, instead consider what they’re actually trying to tell you, and the ways they’re trying to help you be more successful.

Vulnerable Relationships

This week I challenge you to stand up and ask your partner for some help, support or a favor.  I’m not talking about the things you always ask them to do like clean up the kitchen or put their clothes in the hamper, I’m talking about something that shows them that you need them.  Like asking them to pick you up a coffee when you’re not feeling well, or asking them to listen while you share about something troubling you at work, or asking them to set aside time for just the two of you to be alone.  Yes, you’ll be vulnerable because they’ll know that you don’t have everything together, yes they’ll hear the struggle you’re going through. But those are things that can make a relationship stronger if only you let them help you and you help them.  There are several reasons why this is important, and can really help your relationship.

First, it shows you’re not all strengths.  When you admit you’re not perfect it’s easier for other people to work with you and partner with you in life.  If you talk and act like you can do it all, people forget after a while that you may not be able to do it all and just assume that you can always do it all.  When you have sick days (which of course being a strong person you never do), the whole world seems to fall apart because everyone around you is so used to you doing and being everything.

Second, it makes for a partnership. I usually avoid the word relationship when talking with clients and friends and refer to these parings as partnerships because it helps people create different connections and associations in their minds.  A partnership cannot exist without two or more people working together.  A relationship can be more one sided, which leads to dissatisfaction, and often separation.  In this partnership it is essential to not only support each other, but intentionally ask how you can better support your partner and the partnership you have.

Finally, it builds trust.  Trust is something that everyone works towards and is hard to repair once it’s been broken.  Trust takes time to build because we’ve all had people lie to us and be underwhelmed by delivery of promises.  When you are open and honest with your partner it’s a chance to weave that relationship a little tighter and stronger.  Not only will that help in the long run, it helps with the present situations too.

Don’t hide your needs from your partner.  Being open and honest may be a little scary at first, but the more you do it the stronger both of you and your relationship will be!

Hope and Honesty

If there’s one thing I dislike, and most people hate as well, it’s businesses (and people) who aren’t honest.  When it’s clearly evident that you’re either lying or not telling the truth, people wonder what or why you’re hiding and how the lack of honesty they’ve glimpsed impacts the rest of the business.  The most obvious are statements like “we care for our customers” when customers or potential customers get treated like dirt and aren’t treated as valuable humans, and beyond that customers.  Your lack of honesty. whether intentional or accidental, breaks the trust that a customer has in you, and damages the relationship you were trying to create or had created.

With the thousands of choices we make each day and the dozens of options for each choice we have it’s easy to find a new option when one breaks our trust.  The biggest shame in that is the business that is willing to say “eh who needs them, we’ve got others.”  Ouch.  I certainly don’t like being treated as second best, or second string, and many businesses know how to do just that.

By being honest and upfront (or at least not denying), about your not so great customer service, your average products, your slow response time, or owning up to issues that happen you’re creating an opportunity to rebuild the trust that could be so easily lost.  Without trust you won’t create a repeat customer relationship, in fact you could easily create an enemy who goes and trashes your business online and around town to their friends.

When you’re willing to be honest about who you are and what you offer, you show the customer that you recognize your flaws and give them hope that the best is yet to come.  Most people I know are willing to accept works in progress, even ones with lots of faults.  But if you’re not acknowledging the faults, and certainly not doing anything about them, most people steer clear.

Who needs to hear honesty from you today?  I encourage you to approach that person or those people and be honest with them.

Trust in Business

Each month I like to work and write around a theme.  This month’s theme is trust.  As a business owner one of the things you’re trying to do is get people to trust you enough to listen to you and then to buy from you.  Once you’ve got them to trust you and make that first sale, depending on whether they feel their trust was validated or not, they’ll consider buying from you again and referring you to their friends.  So what can we, as business owners, do to help build that trust?

1-be available.  If you don’t have multiple ways for people to contact you on your website (or don’t have a website!), you’re missing out on a chance to build trust.  Include a phone number, email address and contact form on your website.

2-be consistent.  If you find yourself blogging and on Twitter, Facebook  just once a week, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to connect with people and build a relationship with them.  I recommend posting inspiring and helpful content daily on Facebook, posting content on Twitter several times a day, and blogging at least once a week, not to mention the time you should spend on Facebook and Twitter connecting with other people and businesses.  I also suggest that you send out a weekly newsletter.  Depending on who you’re building a relationship with they may only subscribe to your newsletter or connect with you on Twitter.

3-promise what you can deliver.  If you don’t think you can improve someone’s sales to be over $1 million, don’t say that you can!  If you know you can do $50 thousand, it’s better to do that and over deliver whenever possible.

4-be open.  The shady people of the world don’t exactly ooze trust.  If you want people to trust you, you don’t have to be a naked book, just an open one.

What do you do to help build trust in business?

Trust in Families

This month’s theme is trust!  It’s a topic that’s a sore spot for many families and couples, yet it’s an important topic that through our conversations, tweets, posts and messaging I hope we’ll be able to rebuild.

“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.” Henry L. Stimson

There’s a fine line between trusting your kids and your partner and not having rules, so if you’re looking to build trust, here are a few things to help you get started:

1. Consistency

2. Punctuality

3. Flexibility

4. Eye Contact

5. Discretion

6. Transparency

7. Competence

8. Face Time

Notice what most things here have to do with building trust?  They have to do with your time!  The more time you’re able to spend with someone (face time), the more to your word you are when you’re with them (punctuality), more you look at them (eye contact), and the more consistency your time together has (consistency), the more likely you’ll be to build trust.  This is especially true with intimate and family relationships.

Let’s start this month by being honest: what trust challenges do you have?  What don’t you trust your kids/partner/self with?  I invite you to share your trust tests below, because it will help you be more open to becoming more trusting and it may help someone else come to grips with their trust struggles.