Sales or Service, You Decide

Is your organization sales-centric or service-centric?   Typical responses sit somewhere on the fence, “We want to provide the best service experience while maximizing every sales opportunity.”  Nice, but it is important to decide because it will influence the experience your customers have and the decisions your organization makes.

One quick and easy way to discern the real priority of your business is to determine which of these two outcomes are preferable:

  1. The customer has a disappointing service experience, but they bought your product anyway.
  2. The customer has an excellent service experience but doesn’t make a purchase this time.

For those of you who think this is a trick, it’s not; it is a test of integrity.  It is easy to choose #2 when the sale is a small one but #1 becomes more appetizing when we’re talking about perhaps a $100,000 purchase. Here’s the rub, if you say you are service-centric, it is about the customer…all of the time…not just when it’s convenient.  You deliver a great experience whether they purchase or not.  You do not accept less than stellar service performance…for any amount of money.  You never make a sale for the money, you make it to help your customer succeed at something or achieve something. Period.


Stop with Band Aids. Fix the Real Problem.

Image result for band aid

There is so much talk these days about improving the customer experience and it is probably warranted.  Think about it, how is your typical experience?  I find it pretty average and lacking in what makes me want to advocate for a business.  Only once in a while do I come across an experience that makes me want to put out an ad and announce to the world how great a company is and how they’re different and better.

With all of the channels now available for customers to yell from the rooftops, companies are waking up to find a new landscape where how they treat customers and what hoops they’ve got in their systems have become a big focus for improvement.  It seems today that everyone is clambering to find the magic bullet to bettering the customer experience.  While all of this is surely needed and a welcome sight to customers, most companies are missing a critical part of the prescription for making things better.

You see, most businesses are doing a lot of mapping of customer journeys, finding pain points, changing processes to take away obstacles, training employees to shake hands and smile, etc., and while all of this is beneficial, it is missing the most crucial fix that needs to be made.  Training, mapping, workshops, designing new experiences and the like are all just band aids unless the key elements of employee engagement and experience are addressed.

I believe businesses are kidding themselves if they believe employees will deliver a better customer experience because they get some training or a new SOP.  Ultimately, unless employees are part of an organization where they are valued, listened to and included as part of a collaborative effort that starts in the C suite and progresses all the way to the front line, the training and SOP efforts will be short lived and produce inconsistent results.  The only way to really make the customer experience better is to first make the employee experience better.

A key to this is creating a culture where everyone knows what it is the organization does to help customers and then commits to having everyone help each other to do that.  No silos, no self-interest, only team members finding ways to help each other to help the organization reach its goal of helping customers.

Making the employee experience better is the real key to better customer experiences and no amount of training, mapping or other band aids will improve the lot of customers until that is addressed.  What will you do to lead and move that agenda forward in your organization?

Winning In Business As a Family


Back in early August, I watched the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony.  I find it inspiring to hear these men who have achieved the pinnacle of their profession speak about how they got there and who helped them along the way.

One of the things that struck me was how many times these men, players in a hugely aggressive sport full of testosterone, spoke of how the various teams they played on were like a family.  Such touchy-feely stuff in the harsh environment of pro football is not what you might expect. Of particular note were the words of Eddie DeBartolo, former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who spoke about everyone in the entire organization as part of an extended family.

“I understand that our success wasn’t just on the owner and the players, but on everybody. I stand here today for the equipment managers and the groundskeepers, and the laundry crew who worked hard every day. I stand here for the executive assistants, the PR team and the interns who worked through the weekends. I stand here for the scouts and the bus drivers, and the cooks and the schedulers and (hot) dog venders, and the community reps who might never ever see their name in lights, but who are every bit as important to building a winning football franchise, as the players we root for on Sunday.”

He went on to talk about how he did not see his players as worker bees, but as people who had lives outside of their profession, and the importance of recognizing that reality and supporting it.

“We did not see players as simply players. We saw them as men. We saw them as sons, husbands, fathers (and) brothers, with families and responsibilities,” DeBartolo said. “We knew that if we helped make it possible to bring their whole selves to work, they would give us their all. That’s why we welcomed mothers, wives, girlfriends and children to the team. We sent gifts to them on special occasions and celebrated with them on holidays.

“We weren’t just a family on Sundays; we were a family every single day.”

Why do I share this?  Well, I am often struck by people who say business is business and it has to stay impersonal and somehow removed from “real” life.  If you’ve ever seen the movie You’ve Got Mail, you probably remember the scene where Meg Ryan’s character talks about how people say, “It’s just business, it’s not personal,” to which she responds, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”  No matter what you believe, business is for and about people.  As anyone who has read much of this blog knows, I believe the business of business, all business, is to help people and that my friends is the definition of personal.

So, is your organization personal or impersonal, is it a family or a group of replaceable workers?  Do you recognize the extended family that makes your organization run?  Do you actually see that person who sweeps the shop floor or cleans the bathrooms or does some menial job and do you show gratitude for what they do and the contribution they make?

Do you see your employees as more than workers?  Do you do things to support their “life” so that they can be more effective at work?

Is your organization a family or just a place to work?  During DeBartolo’s tenure the 49ers won 5 Super Bowl championships.  Not bad for a guy who brought a touchy-feely family vibe to the rough and tumble world of professional football.  What can you bring to your organization to make it more like family and how can it help you win more?

Rowing together for the people on the shore.

Imagine people in a rowboat where each is rowing differently, perhaps wanting to go in different directions.  The boat doesn’t really move anywhere, or at best, moves in fits and starts going slightly one way and then another.  In addition, the people in the boat are most likely showing signs of frustration with each other and may even be fighting and arguing about how their individual needs are most important and why everyone should take their lead.

Does this sound familiar?  I see it a lot in business.  This sounds like many companies and organizations.  It certainly sounds like a lot of churches I’ve been in.  Many people together in a group without a clear common objective is a recipe for a boat that goes nowhere, and in business, the most critical people, the customers, the very reason why you are rowing in the first place, are typically the ones looking on from the shore wondering why they are being paid no attention.

To carry the boat analogy a bit further, imagine your boat has a slow leak and that those shore people, your customers, not only need to be ferried across the water to the other side but also have the necessary putty to close up your leak.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the people in the boat to stop and think about how they can best get to those customers, move them as efficiently as possible to the other side and then get that needed leak-stopping putty?  Wouldn’t it make the most sense for the people in the boat to help each other so they can help those folks on the shore?  Do I hear a resounding “of course” coming from you?

When we see it this way, it’s so practical, but why is it that businesses cannot see this simple fact?  The goal of every business, whether they know it or not, is to help ferry customers from where they are to where they want to be yet so many businesses are paddling away doing their own things and fighting their own internal battles while the customers stand on the shore waving their hands wondering why no one is paying attention.

A simple way to maintain a focus on the people on the shore is to always ask three key questions when you are making decisions about your business. These questions act as guides, like a compass pointing us toward our customers because they are centered on the keys of a great customer experience: Ease of process, Enjoyment of the experience and Success with the product or service.

  • Question 1: Will this decision add or subtract obstacles for the people we serve?
  • Question 2: Will this decision make things more or less enjoyable for the people we serve?
  • Question 3: Will this decision make the people we serve more or less successful?

If the answer to any one of these questions is on the negative side, a rethink or adjustment is necessary as anything else would get our boat going back to internal arguing and losing focus on those people on the shore.  Using these simple questions aligns everyone in the organization with a clear focus on a common objective, namely, ferrying those shore people to their destination.