Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Our company has recently released a new service without giving any instructions or guidance to customers, which caused a lot of confusion. What’s the best way to regain the confidence of our customers while fixing the problem?
LA: Would Brazil have won most of the World Cup championships in history if management and players didn’t work together? Would home-garage startup Apple have grown to be one of the largest listed companies on the NASDAQ if they didn’t communicate with their teams and excite their customers? Not possible. The key to prevent or minimize negative experiences for customers is to communicate with them as soon as possible. Naturally, instructions, demos, FAQ’s and How-To material should’ve been prepared ahead of the service release date not to spike calls to the Call Center or the customer care lines or generate needless negative word of mouth. Having said that, don’t faint and lose hope. Here’s an actual story that you can learn from to improve your customers’ experience. Keep reading.
A few years ago, on a beautiful sunny busy Monday, the Piccadilly Line at the London Tube Gloucester Road Station was not operating. As a responsible organization that appreciates and values the time of the public, TFL (Transport for London) have a clear policy on communication and that’s to keep it immediate and honest. So, near the elevator a large poster displayed a letter from the station manager explaining how a sudden technical failure occurred and that urgent maintenance was required. The most interesting part about that letter is that it started and ended with a sincere apology and in the middle it had a full explanation, alternative temporary routes and taking full responsibility for the incident. When the damage is done you can’t take it back, but you can show customers respect by honoring their pain and fixing the problem…and that’s just my two cents.
Firing is a lot of drama in our company. Employees are in shock. The fired person throws a fit. Some managers badmouth the ex-employee and exit interviews are too theoretical to handle such a mess. What are the best ways to manage the firing nightmare?
LA: Firing is not fun unless you are Donald Trump in The Apprentice. The best way to get out of any problem is to avoid getting into it in the first place. I’m not saying don’t fire anyone ever, but rather set the policies and processes you need to avoid soap opera episodes or at least reduce them. Let’s start with the ‘fired employees being shocked’ part. Unless your company is doing mass layoffs, employees’ shock when they’re fired is an indication that there isn’t much guidance, coaching and constructive dialog going on between managers and their staff. If you never told an employee what’s wrong in their performance or worked with them on how to fix it, and then give them a hidden ninja punch (i.e. fire them), shock is an understatement. The fit is also a spontaneous defensive reaction to save their image among colleagues, which is provoked by the sneakiness of the manager’s kiss of death.
To minimize the firing fiasco hire better people that fit well within your brand’s culture in terms or personality and behavior. Chances are you’ll have to fire less of that bunch that already is a good match for your business. As for the managers, badmouthing ex-employees this is an ethically wrong and professionally stupid action. Current employees will not be happy about that because they will assume their managers are saying similar things about them to other employees or managers. It is a stupid move for the manager’s own reputation to be unprofessional. One day, an employee of his might end up as his boss in a future job somewhere or even a client. Rule of mouth is never talk about someone unless you’re about to say something positive, true and important…and that’s just my two cents.
We’re dealers for a photographic cameras brand. Because our sales volumes are much smaller compared to the US dealers our prices are not as attractive. While many customers still purchase from us, some visit us but then decide to buy online. The Internet is killing our business. What can we do when our cost is higher than online selling prices?
LA: Price is what you pay for something. Value is what you receive from your purchase. Instead of focusing on price, let’s talk value. There are some obvious benefits that you can highlight. For example, customers who purchase online won’t enjoy the local warranty in many cases. The convenience of walking away immediately with the camera is an advantage over waiting a week or two to use it. However, on a deeper level, offering a free or discounted local photography club membership with certain benefits and tips for local purchasers of the brand might be exciting enough to attract some. Maybe offering an automated monthly installment for three to ten months with no interest on the higher-end models can be a winning factor for others since they have to pay 100% upfront online before their camera is shipped.
You can also negotiate with dealers in neighboring countries to make collective orders to lower the cost of all your products or at least some of your most commonly ordered items. As customers have a choice so do you. Instead of competing on price, which is a losing battle, compete on other grounds to win the war…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected] Please note that only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management consultant and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.