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Martin Grunstein
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Promise + deliver

Thursday, February 14, 2019

I’m a pretty good talker but there’s one situation I can’t talk my way out of! “You lied to me last time so why should I believe you this time?” So I make sure I never get into that situation.

And it’s not that difficult.

Yet the above situation is the most common cause of lost customers, even customers of long standing, and in the majority of cases they have no complaints with the company’s products or prices.

Despite all the time and money we put into product development, quality control, advertising, merchandising and other business activities, the major cause of customers deserting us comes down to little things like unreturned phone calls, missed deadlines and basically not keeping our promises.

And quite interestingly, this is almost always totally avoidable.

If you make a promise, you create an expectation in a client’s mind. If you create that expectation, you must meet or exceed it to maintain the relationship. If you fail to live up to it, you have no right to do business with them.

But most businesses put unnecessary pressure on themselves by creating unrealistically high expectations in their clients’ minds - then disappointing them.

Let me give you a relevant personal example.

It took me seven travel agents to organise my honeymoon a few years back.

The first six travel agents let me down so I refused to give them my business. The seventh travel agent had an easy job. I gave them the money, they gave me the tickets.

In February, we were planning a three week trip to the U.S. for November.

I went into a travel agent and, after chatting, asked him to put together an itinerary for the trip. I had every intention of doing business with this travel agent. I told him I was in no hurry but the travel agent promised the itinerary would be ready the next Monday.

When I hadn’t heard from him by the next Wednesday, I rang him and he promised it would be in my hands by Friday. The next Tuesday I still hadn’t received it and that’s why I decided not to do business with travel agent number one.

He broke his promise to me twice and I didn’t trust his future promises when it came to looking after my travel plans. And that’s what we buy from people we do business with - TRUST!

But the crazy thing was that he put all the deadline pressure on himself. I even told him I was in no hurry. However, once he made a commitment to have the itinerary to me by a certain date, he created an expectation and when he failed to live up to it (twice, mind you), it all came down to “You lied to me last time, why should I believe you this time?”

Believe it or not, this happened on five separate occasions with five different travel agents. All made promises, put deadline pressures on themselves and failed to keep their promises.

The sixth travel agent abused me for suggesting a change in the itinerary after all the trouble she had gone to and the seventh travel agent got the money, did very little work and benefited from the ineptitude of the previous six travel agents.

May I offer some simple solutions?

Please ask questions as to the urgency of a task and, most importantly, if you take on the task, commit 100% to having it completed on or before the agreed deadline.

If the first travel agent, after asking questions, would have promised me the itinerary in three weeks, and delivered, I would have been totally satisfied.

I believe a lot of the problem comes from “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome.

Sadly, we are so used to being let down that we often give artificially urgent deadlines so that if the task is completed “late”, we still haven’t missed our real deadline.

This doesn’t just happen in business either. Haven’t we all told certain people who traditionally turn up late to social events to be there at 7.30pm. if we want them there by 8pm.

But in business, it happens with internal as well as external customers.

For example, a boss needs a report typed for a meeting with his superior at 4pm. He tells his secretary he needs it by 1pm because he knows she often fails to respect his deadlines but if he tells her 1pm she should have it done by 4pm.

But what does the secretary think? “He always gives me fake deadlines. If he says he needs it by 1pm, he probably only needs it at 4 or 5pm. I’ll have it done by then”.
You know, a lot of internal and external customer relationships work that way. Who suffers? Everybody! It leads to fighting internally, usually with everybody blaming everybody else, and lost customers externally.

The solution is a few questions upfront and a respect for your word.

If the boss and secretary agree to stop playing games and that the boss will never give the secretary artificially urgent deadlines and the secretary will deliver on time as long as the boss appreciates their situation and doesn’t expect everything at once. Perhaps the boss and secretary may work together in prioritising the urgency of the work given to the secretary, who is then freed her from the responsibility of hitting unrealistic deadlines and being a mind reader with respect to which piece of work is the most important. With a little mutual respect, harmony should be the end result.

In the external customer situation, let’s ask a few questions to establish the real deadline for the task and find out whether we can deliver before we commit to the activity.

I would rather deal with a company that said I can’t do it by Monday but I promise I can have it done by Thursday than one that promised completion on Monday just so I wouldn’t go elsewhere and then failed to deliver on time.

I know where I wouldn’t go next time!

This same principle should apply to everything from a multi-million dollar order to returning a phone call.

Keeping your promises is not just good manners, it is the foundation for a business that wants to grow based on repeat customers. And all it takes is a simple understanding of the impact of time management on your customer service.

I challenge you to do two things.

Firstly, ask questions to establish realistic deadlines so you don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself and secondly, commit 100% to any promise you make.

A business that does these two things will have enough positive word of mouth, internally and externally, to be a leader in its field.

Martin Grunstein’s work with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries has made him the country’s most in-demand speaker on Outstanding Customer Service. He can be contacted by email at martin@martingrunstein.com.au.

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What’s your first impression like: mean or keen?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

There is much written and spoken about the importance of first impressions. Lines like “There is no second chance to make a good first impression” and “People judge you in the first five seconds after they meet you”.

If it is acknowledged that first impressions are so important, then why do so many “professional” businesses make such a poor first impression.

What’s the first thing they ask you for when you check in to a five star hotel? A credit card imprint. Why? Because you’re a thief! And that IS the real reason.

How many businesses can you think of that get a credit card imprint before they’ve even served you? Would you put up with it in a restaurant? I don’t think so. Would you accept it if a retailer took a credit card imprint when you entered the store in case you did a runner with some stock? I don’t think so. But in the industry reputed to have the best service in the world, they create a terrible first impression.

And what’s much, much worse is that you can stay at the same hotel 10 times and pay your bill every time and they STILL ask for a credit card imprint when you check in the eleventh time.

One of the oldest truisms in life is that people act the way you treat them and that is why so many people steal things from hotels. They treat you like a thief, so you act like one. In fact, I was once told the rule at hotels is quite simple - If it’s not nailed down, it’s complimentary! Someone else even suggested that if you can pry it loose, it’s not nailed down but I think that’s taking it a bit far.

Ironically, I was running a seminar in Ulverstone, Tasmania and a lady told me she had run a bed and breakfast for 22 years and never asked for a credit card imprint because that’s rude. And in the whole 22 years she never had one bad debt! I guess people do act like you treat them.

Why do the big hotel chains treat you like thieves? Because all their competitors do. If Hyatt stopped asking for credit card imprints from customers (or even just stopped taking credit card imprints from people who had stayed there before and paid their bill) so would Hilton, Sheraton and all the others. At the moment, it’s not costing them any more because their competitors are making no better first impression.

But you might not be so lucky.

A lady told me she was browsing in a newsagency and one of the staff came up to her and said “This is not a library, either buy the magazine or put it back”. She did buy it - AT THE SUPERMARKET ACROSS THE ROAD and continued to buy three magazines every week from that supermarket for the next FIVE YEARS!

A businessman told me that having moved to a new area he rang up a local printer and asked about starting an account there. The printer growled back at him “You have to do a minimum of $70 a month to start an account”. The businessman hung up the phone and went to another printer where he did approximately $4,000 a month in business for the next 11 years.

Am I saying the printer shouldn’t have minimum transaction level for account customers? No! Am I saying that the newsagent has to watch someone read but not buy magazines every day for months without saying anything? No! I am saying that we should give people the benefit of the doubt and not yell at everybody because of the sins of those who went before them.

In the printer’s case, set up the account and if the transaction level is seen to be low after a few months, have a quiet word with the customer and explain that it is not profitable to run an account for the low level of business.

In the newsagency, watch your customers and let them browse but if you see the same person reading magazines day after day without buying any, have a quiet word with them.

It’s hard enough to get people to do business with us without treating them like criminals before we’ve built a relationship with them. And it’s potentially very costly as in the above cases.

Have a look at the first impression your business creates. Are your customers welcomed or treated with suspicion?

You think bad first impressions are not common? How many of the following situations have happened to you? You are waiting to be served in a department store while two staff members are having a personal conversation ; you ring a business that takes 10 or more rings to answer the phone; you are put on hold by a receptionist and not returned to for what seems like an eternity; a tradesperson says they’ll quote on a job and you never hear from them again; a salesperson says they’ll return your phone call and you never hear from them.

I have had ALL those things happen to me and I wouldn’t be surprised if ALL of them haven’t happened to you too.

Newsagents of this world: let me browse for a little while and I’ll be happy and the odds are I’ll buy that magazine from you rather than the supermarket across the road.

And if you ever have some time on your hands and want to have some fun, check into a hotel and when they ask for a credit card imprint, act surprised and ask them why. After a lot of sidestepping with lines like “it’s the policy of the hotel” to which you reply “why would that be the policy of the hotel?” they’ll eventually tell you it’s in case you run off without paying your bill. It’s nice to watch the reception staff squirm before they have to eventually tell you the truth!

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How to compete with the internet

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

For many years at conferences one of the questions I often get asked is “how do we compete with the prices people can get on the internet?”

My answer is always the same.

I tell people that the internet helps people make bad decisions quicker!

If a business provides nothing more than a basic product at a price, I may as well get that product cheaper on the internet – but I hope YOUR business doesn’t provide a basic product at a price because the only businesses that can survive with that strategy are the huge mass merchandisers who make their profit from high volume, low margin transactions.

If you are competing with the internet or any high volume, low margin competitor, you need to sell what they are NOT selling and that is things like peace of mind; service; stress management; added value etc.

Let me give you a classic example from the travel industry which is an industry that really competes with the internet because more and more people are booking their flights on line.

A customer was organising a trip from Melbourne to London and a few other places in Europe with their travel agent. When the travel agent organised the itinerary and did the quote the client came back and said “I’ve been doing some investigation on the internet and I can get a flight home from London to Melbourne $500 cheaper if I book on line.”

The travel agent, who has access to the same internet sites, said that there was no way she could match that price and left the customer to organise the travel herself.

Everything proceeded smoothly until the customer came to the airport to board her cheap flight home. It turned out the flight was going to Melbourne, FLORIDA in the United States rather than Melbourne, Australia. It took the customer time, money and huge amounts of stress to get back to Australia and she never questioned her travel agent again when it came to booking airfares. And the travel agent has a story to tell all her customers who suggest that they can get something cheaper on the internet.

Now, the travel agent sells stress management rather than cheap airfares and this is a much less price sensitive product to sell.

This applies to all industries.

A golfer turned up to his regular Saturday game proudly showing his mates his new driver. He proudly told them that this driver normally costs $700 but he got it on e-Bay for $499. Four hours later after hitting every drive badly he told his mates sadly that he was putting it back on e-Bay and was hoping to get $100 for the club. If only his local golf pro or retailer would have told him that he can have a free trial of any club he chooses to make sure it suits his game before he makes the purchase, maybe that would have saved him a lot of money and even more embarrassment.

That’s how to compete with the internet. Sell risk management and peace of mind, not a commodity product. The travel agent shouldn’t have been selling a point to point airfare, she should have been selling “I’ll take the worry out of everything for you, you just enjoy your holiday”. If you’ve seen me speak, you will have heard my story about six dollar haircuts. Well, there are lots of “six dollar haircuts” to be found on the internet.

Of course there are lots of genuinely good deals for genuinely good products and services on the internet but what you’ll never get from an online transaction is a relationship with an individual you can trust and accessibility to someone who can reassure you about your decisions if you are feeling nervous. Now, that may not be tremendously important in ordering a home delivered pizza but I think it has to count for something when I am planning my financial future; or going on a world trip for the first time; or even investing a significant amount of money in a golf club.

One of the key points I make in seminars is “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water”. Don’t do what your competitor does, do exactly the opposite! If he discounts his price, you reinforce the value added services you provide to show that your offer has more value.

A classic case where this was successful was in the steel industry. I was working with BHP in the mid nineties when steel imported from Asia started to have a significant effect on the Australian company’s sales and profits. We developed a great sales strategy against the imported product. “Is it worth saving a few dollars a tonne on steel if there is a union dispute and you can’t get the imported steel into your construction causing your whole project to be delayed? That will never happen with Australian made BHP steel.”

The nineties was not a time of turbulent industrial relations and most imports got into the country on time. BUT WE SOLD FEAR and some of the companies didn’t want to take the RISK that their whole project would be held up so they paid a little more for the local product. Peace of mind was a value added that was worth the price difference in the minds of some of their customers.

I think you have to do the same to compete with the internet.

If we use the golf club example, the retailer should sell the following value added: Try my whole range of products so you can choose what suits you best; Take a trial club for a round or two to make sure you can get results with it on your course before you buy it; I can even have a look at your swing and give you a few tips that will help your game as well as getting you better results with the club. You can also ring me any time to ask any questions you may have about the club or golf in general; And I’ll remember you when you come back for another purchase and we can work together to help you get the most enjoyment you can from your golf.

Where are all the above value added when I pick up a “cheap” club overseas or on the internet? They are just not there.

But the timing is the key issue. We need to communicate the value added BEFORE the customer makes the purchase.

If you are losing business to the internet, the chances are you are not communicating effectively to the marketplace what they get from you apart from the basic product at a price. The solution is to stop selling the product, sell risk management; sell convenience; sell your human relationship; SELL FEAR!

Martin Grunstein’s results with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries has made him an in-demand professional speaker on Outstanding Customer Service. He is contactable on martin@martingrunstein.com.au.

 

 

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How much ineptitude do you tolerate?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I have just had a frustrating experience with a bank! I understand this does not make me a unique individual. But due to the ineptitude of the bank’s lending officer, I almost lost a property that my family had their hearts set on!

Again, being on the receiving end of a BIG stuff up by a bank doesn’t create a ripple of surprise when you tell your story to friends or anyone who’ll listen. In fact, you often hear more and bigger stories back from the people you’re trying to astound with the level of ineptitude you’ve been a victim of!

But what IS interesting is that people telling the stories, like myself, continue to deal with that bank. And why is that? Surprisingly, the answer has nothing to do with marketing and much more to do with human nature (which in my opinion is what marketing is all about anyway) reflected in a simple adage: “It’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. No matter how inept your contact is at your bank, there is no guarantee the contact at a different bank is going to be any less inept. So we stay with the inept person we know.

Is that strange in the context of human behaviour? Actually, it’s not. For example, when people go to conferences, they sit with people they know rather than people they don’t know. Now, I don’t specifically mean friends they know, just people they know. In fact, most people would rather sit next to someone that they know but don’t particularly like rather than sit next to someone they don’t know (better the devil you know....). Can you relate to that?

Let’s now apply this concept of human behaviour to the real world marketplace.

How much ineptitude will the consumer tolerate? The amount of ineptitude that makes the competitor a perceived credible alternative. And that is different for each consumer.

If you just read the above statement once, it sounds very basic and not very insightful. But, if you read it the context of the rest of this article, I assure you it will impact the way you view your competitive situation.

When I’m angry with a bank, I look at alternatives. Apart from a couple of lateral alternatives, if I have a business and a private account to run, the competition is another major bank and the general perception is that they are all just about as good or bad as each other, therefore, better the devil you know...

However, let’s look at what happens when circumstances change.

I was doing some work in the telecommunications industry around the time that Optus launched on to the market. Telecom (as they were called at the time) lost 15% of its business in NSW. to Optus. Despite the proliferation of price advertising at the time, the overwhelming majority of people who went to Optus left because they had a grudge against Telecom and would have gone to Optus even if they were more expensive. There was finally a perceived credible alternative.

Monopolies are rare but in all sized businesses, the skill of the game as a new entrant or growing business is to provide this perceived credible alternative. And the key here is the word PERCEIVED.

I have heard people at seminars tell me amazing stories of the lengths to which they have gone to punish businesses who treated them poorly. One man said he drove over 150 kilometres rather than buy a car from his arrogant local dealer; a lady told me she walks an extra half a kilometre to get her lunch every day so she doesn’t have to give her money to the rude person in the sandwich shop next to her office; a lady told me she goes to a hairdresser a suburb away from where she lives because one of the juniors at her local salon told her that her hairstyle looked terrible and she should try something different (she’d had the same hairstyle for 20 years); a couple said they’d not buy the home they’d fallen in love with rather than give commission to the sleazy real estate agent listing the property. Stories like these are common and I’m sure you have a couple of your own. I know I do.

The important thing to learn from this is that what is a substitute (or a perceived credible alternative as I referred to it previously) is subjective. One person will drive 150 kilometres to punish a car dealer, another won’t; one person will walk half a kilometre to punish a rude sandwich bar manager, another won’t. The key from a marketer’s point of view for a growing business is to provide as credible an alternative as possible to the market leader and keep attacking the leader’s weaknesses.

A perfect example I heard at a conference was that Dick Smith in building his electronics empire (which was one of the fastest growing businesses in Australian history) had a strategy. He always opened a new Dick Smith Electronics store as close as possible to an existing electronics store that was providing poor service. That way he had a natural flow of new customers from day one.

Of course, sometimes you have to create the discontent in the existing customers’ minds. A new launderer had an opening offer of 20% less than the existing provider. The existing provider’s response was to match price to wipe the new guy out. The new launderer found a way to create discontent. He told the customers who rejected him because the incumbent had matched price - “If he’s dropped his price after all these years just because I came into the market, he must have been ripping you off in the past. Why don’t you ask him to refund you the 20% he’s been overcharging you for the last 10 years?” And do you know what? A number of those customers thought about it and gave the new launderer the business because he had created the discontent that made him a credible alternative.

This concept applies to many areas. For example, a lot of people were surprised that, after the “cash for comments” scandal of the late nineties when both John Laws and Alan Jones were found guilty of duping their audiences by giving their sponsors’ preferred opinions as their own, amazingly their ratings were almost unaffected. I believe their continued ratings success was not so much a function of their audiences being blindly loyal or very stupid, it was a function of the fact that in breakfast and morning radio there was no perceived credible alternative. Their listeners had to listen to SOMEONE on the radio and even though they might have been peeved at the announcers’ behaviour, there was nobody else offering a similar, acceptable alternative in the minds of those listeners. Again, better the devil you know...

We’ve talked about how growing businesses can attack existing arrogant business. What about the existing business? How does it stay strong in the face of competition?

Firstly, don’t rest on your laurels. A solid market share today doesn’t guarantee a solid market share tomorrow. A technological advantage can be duplicated; a location advantage can be wiped out by a competitor moving into the area; a people advantage can be lost by an employee going to work for the competition.

The intelligent strategy is to keep your levels of service and recognition high, even if there is no immediate threat. The more goodwill you create by recognising your customers now, the less likely they are to consider your competition tomorrow. Things like thank you cards; remembering customers’ names; recognition functions for top customers; “how’s things?” phone calls to talk to them when you’re not selling them something all add to the goodwill of the relationship and build your buffer zone to the existing or potential competitor who will try to position themselves as a credible alternative.

I don’t care if you do it for the right reason - because you genuinely care about your customers - or for the wrong reason - because you are scared someone is going to steal your customers - the important thing is to JUST DO IT.

Martin Grunstein’s results with over 500 companies across 100 industries have made him an in-demand speaker on Outstanding Customer Service. He is contactable on (02) 96623322 or email martin@martingrunstein.com.au.

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Get off my back

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Those who’ve been in business a while will appreciate that in the last five to 10 years more people are putting their “two cents worth” into buying decisions than ever before. And many of them have no expertise in the area in which they are asserting their influence.

For example, CFOs are telling people in all departments to cut costs; husbands and wives are telling each other to trim their budget on “non-essential” items (and what one person calls non-essential is very different from what the other calls non-essential); employees are having to justify to management why they are making purchases that used to be automatic – these could be everything from the type of motor car they receive as part of their package to chocolate biscuits in the coffee room.

So, as a salesperson, in many cases the greatest obstacle to making sales at satisfactory margin is a person you don’t even get to see!

So what do you do?

Most businesses have dropped price as a strategy and claimed it’s just a part of the “tough times” mentality and that skinnier margins are a fact of modern business life.

I beg to differ!

I believe the correct strategy is to give the customer reasons to get the other person off their back even if they don’t tell you they have someone else to get off their back (and in most cases they won’t tell you).

Let me relate to you a story from my own consumer experience that illustrates the point.

Several years ago I was walking through a Sydney shopping centre with my wife and I came across a franchise called the Muffin Break. Now, Muffin Break sells muffins that are full of fat and sweet stuff and other rotten things………and I wanted one! But I had a problem in that my wife wasn't going to let me have one.

I was resigned to missing out on this wonderful taste sensation when I noticed a sign that said “NO CHOLESTEROL, HIGH FIBRE, LOW SALT” (none of which matter to me but those things are important to my wife, she’s a health professional) so I said to my wife in my most timid voice “Look darling, no cholesterol, high fibre, low salt. I think those muffins are good for me”. And after a short pause, my wife said “in that case, dear, you may have one”. And I felt terrific because not only did I get to enjoy the muffin but I out argued my wife (a rare occurrence which I savoured more than the muffin itself).

I reckon that sign is the difference between whether the franchise owner takes home $20,000 a year or $120,000 a year because it gives me the reasons to get the other person off my back without me having to ask for them. It’s not just my wife and myself, it could be the young person on a diet saying to themselves (another person we have to get off our backs is our own self!) “high fibre, low salt, I can justify it”. Or the elderly couple who’ve just come from the doctor after finding out they have sky high cholesterol so they see the low cholesterol sign and they buy the muffins. Now, you and I and the franchise owner knows the fat in those muffins will kill them in a fortnight but making the sale is all about giving people reasons to justify to themselves and others at point of purchase.

Now, let me turn this around and tell you how I use this concept in my business experience to sell my services.

Since the mid-nineties I have been offering 12 months marketing consulting, FREE OF CHARGE, to all clients who book me to speak, even if it’s just one presentation at a conference. I write articles for their newsletters; I critique the “reasons why” they brainstorm after the session I run with them; I am even happy to critique their copy for their print advertising. I promise to reply to every email I receive (or faxes in the olden days) and do all I can to contribute to their bottom line even when I’m not speaking.

Why do I do this?

Simple. I get much of my business, in fact, most of it, from someone in a seminar audience who goes back to their boss and says very enthusiastically “we should get Martin to speak at our conference”. When they find out how much it’s going to cost the boss says something like “we’re not paying that much money for an hour”.

The person from the audience can then say “we don’t just get Martin for an hour, we get him for a year!” They then explain the free consulting and in many cases the boss can justify my fee over a year but he/she can’t justify it over an hour.

Two factors come into play that work in my favour.

Firstly, I get paid up front so I don’t have to wait a year for my cheque and, secondly, most of my clients NEVER take up the offer of the consulting – it is just a reason to justify the expenditure. Ironically, the ones who do take up the consulting are my best clients and I get more business and referrals from them so I win either way. But giving people reasons to get their bosses off their backs has been instrumental in winning me some terrific jobs that I don’t think I would have otherwise have won.

Another very important thing from a marketing point of view is the fact that after doing this automatically for so many years I have worked out that the marketing consulting is only critical in the purchase decision to about 25% of prospective clients BUT I DON’T KNOW WHICH 25%, SO I TELL EVERYBODY.

I can’t emphasis enough the importance of giving everybody all the “reasons why” even if they tell you they don’t have anybody they have to get off their back because sometimes their ego prevents them from telling you the truth. I say in seminars that some of the people who tell you that they make all the decisions are the same people who have to go home and ask their wives if they can come out and play with you!

These days we have to give people 10, 15, 20 “reasons why” because two are going to matter to me and a different two will matter to my boss and if you don’t get the two that matter to my boss into the equation, you may miss out on the sale or have to discount your price significantly to get it.

Martin Grunstein works with over 500 Australasian companies across over 100 industries in the area of customer service. He is contactable at martin@martingrunstein.com.au

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The great website fraud

Thursday, December 06, 2018

I like IT people. I really do! They are sweet, caring human beings who need recognition and respect like everybody else…but they are “helicopter heads” and should not be allowed to talk to the general public!

Yet most websites have been created by IT people. And most websites are terrible!

There are two pages that should be on EVERY website and I bet they are not on yours.

The first is a page called WHY CHOOSE US?

Most websites have a COMPANY HISTORY page or an ABOUT US page, which gives background information on the company e.g. Bill used to work in a bank but left and founded BILL’s FINANCIAL SERVICES in 1993. He is passionate about customer service and he loves kittens.

Guess what? Nobody cares!

All prospective clients want to know when they visit your website is “what can you do for me and why should I contact you and not your competitor?” They want to know what differentiates you from your competition. They are not interested in your life story or your mission statement. They want to make a decision quickly, in as few clicks as possible, as to whether they will contact you and most COMPANY HISTORY pages and ABOUT US pages do more harm than good. They sprout a lot of clichés and rhetoric that actually turn customers off rather than encouraging them to make contact.

Here’s what should be on your WHY CHOOSE US? page: Your years of experience; the range of services you provide; the awards you have won; your qualifications and expertise you have that not all your competitors have; what you give back to the community; your environmental policy; your QA accreditation; your industry association membership; your personal accessibility; guarantees associated with your product/service etc. etc.; and anything unique about yourself and the services you provide.

It should be in bullet point form and it should be OBJECTIVE, making it easy to compare your offer with that of your competitors. You DON’T say subjective things like “I care about my customers” and  “our staff are friendly” because even the companies that don’t care about their customers, say they do, so why should I believe you and not them?

The WHY CHOOSE US page is for purely OBJECTIVE criteria in the decision making process. e.g. you have 30 years’ experience, the competitor has 15 years’ experience – advantage you; your product has a 10 year guarantee, your competitor’s has a 20 year guarantee – advantage them; you have QA accreditation, your competitor doesn’t – advantage you etc. etc. so the customer can make a decision based on the facts. And they can make that decision quickly.

I am not saying you don’t have other pages on your website. You may have a page on the explanation of your environmental policy but on the WHY CHOOSE US page you say you have taken action to minimize your carbon footprint (and if people want to read more they can click on your ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY page and they can read about it in full). But many people WON’T want to read all about your environmental policy in full, they just want to get a feel for whether they should consider you in one or two clicks.

The second page that should be on EVERY website is WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY with glowing testimonials from satisfied clients talking about how great your service is. If YOUR CLIENTS say your staff are friendly or that you act with honesty and integrity, I will be much more likely to believe it than if you say it about yourself.

If you look at the success of websites like tripadvisor.com and the importance of likes on Facebook, the marketplace is saying “I don’t believe the seller, I believe the buyer”. This is an indisputable fact. If you take the travel industry, look at the changes. Many years ago when planning a holiday, you got a whole lot of brochures from hotels and destinations and you made your decision based on what they told you about themselves. Nowadays, you don’t even go to the hotel’s website, you go to tripadvisor.com and read what people who have stayed at the hotel said because you trust them more than you trust the promotional material of a hotel.

Understanding that this is the way consumers are making decisions, you NEED to have testimonials on your website because the perception is that if you don’t have testimonials, you don’t have happy customers. Yet, most websites don’t have testimonials!

And you need to use testimonials correctly.

Firstly, you need to get the client’s permission to use their testimonial on your website which most people will happily give you but if they don’t you need to respect that and not use it.

Secondly, you need to put their full name and title if it is a corporate e.g. Martin Grunstein, CEO, Success Communications Pty Ltd; and their name and suburb if it is a consumer e.g. Mr. Martin Grunstein, Kensington. Why? Because testimonials are about credibility and verifiability. I have seen websites with testimonials from “Mary” or “Mary, Sydney” and that’s just ridiculous. Those could be made up for all the prospect knows. It is a very rare person that checks the veracity of testimonials by ringing the person to see if they are true but for testimonials to be credible they must be verifiable if the prospective customer wants to confirm their validity.

Another tip with testimonials is to never have a date on them. If you are lazy and don’t regularly update the testimonials on your website and there are dates on them, it looks like you have gone a long period of time without a happy customer.

And a final tip on testimonials – have LOTS of them. On my website I have over 30 testimonials. I don’t suggest that all my prospective clients read every one of them but I want to create the first impression that I have LOTS of happy customers. And a key part of business is creating a good first impression. I see some websites where the company talks about being in business for over 50 years and they have two or three testimonials and the first impression is “50 years in business, three happy customers”. Not a good first impression.

Another thing you may not realize is that the testimonials page talks about the RESULTS of what you do and that’s the picture you want to put in a prospect’s mind.

Unless you are running an online business, the purpose of your website is to get prospective customers to contact you. And in this world of short attention spans, you want people to be able to do that as quickly as possible. The ideal path for a browser should be HOME PAGE – WHY CHOOSE US – WHAT CLIENTS SAY – CONTACT US.

A major change I have made to my own site is to have video excerpts from live presentations ON MY HOME PAGE. When booking a speaker, people want to see them present live so my video is my strongest selling tool. I also have a CONTACT ME button on the home page as well. This enables people to book me with a minimum of clicks – HOME PAGE – WATCH VIDEO – CONTACT MARTIN (all on the same page). Some of the browsers will go to the WHAT CLIENTS SAY page and some will go to the REASONS TO BOOK MARTIN page but I have had a number of clients say to me they googled customer service speaker or keynote speaker or whatever, clicked on my site, watched some of the video and contacted me straight away. That’s wonderful. It was my job to make it as easy as possible for them to contact me.

Have a long hard look at your own website. Do you communicate the benefits of doing business with you succinctly and on one page? Do you have testimonial evidence to prove that the claims you are making are true? And can people get enough information to make the decision whether to contact you in two or three clicks? If not, you have an IT FRAUD WEBSITE and it is probably costing you money.

The changes above are simple and inexpensive to make and if the IT guy tells you they are not, get another IT guy. When it comes to the very important business of marketing, and your website is one of your marketing tools, it is important that the marketing guy does the talking and the IT guy does the listening, not the other way around.

Martin Grunstein is contactable on (0414) 933249 or www.martingrunstein.com.au

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Must you always be right?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The need to be right is a basic psychological human need and it is the catalyst for destruction of relationships, both personal and business.

How innate is it? See whether you relate to this as a parent.

You catch your toddler drawing with crayons on the wall. They have the crayons in their hand and a guilty smile on their face. You say to your little angel “Who did that?” and what does your child reply? “Not me, Mummy!”

I have given this scenario to audiences at many conferences and the response is almost universal that they can relate to the above example.

Why? Because our need to be right, or more correctly, our need not to be proved wrong, is fundamental and psychologists say that the younger your child is when he/she starts to lie, the more intelligent he/she is.

How does that apply to customer service? Very directly.

Say, you are the owner of a restaurant and a customer says the food is terrible. Your first instinct as a human being is to defend yourself from the heinous accusation. You may tell the customer that the chef is world renowned or that you have won awards for your food AND THAT IS THE WRONG THING TO DO and is more likely to lead to you losing that customer than the quality of the food itself.

Our need to prove ourselves right at the expense of the customer is the single major obstacle to becoming a business with a reputation for outstanding customer service.

The adage “the customer is always right” is definitely not true. Many times the customer is wrong and sometimes they are a pain in the neck. But the customer must walk away THINKING they are right, if you want them to come back. And if there is a complaint, the customer must be able to save face as well as have the complaint resolved, if they are to be a customer again in future.

When customers are spending their money in any situation, fundamental to the relationship is that their ego is preserved during the experience by everyone they come in contact with.

If we stick with the restaurant theme, my wife and I were out at a restaurant with another couple and the waiter was taking our drinks order. I ordered a Coke and the waiter said they didn’t have Coke, they had Pepsi. I said that’s fine. I then said to my friends that I remember from my old marketing days that Pepsi used to beat Coke in blind product tests and most people couldn’t tell the difference anyway.

The waiter corrected me. He said that he had also studied marketing and the recent evidence is that Coke beats Pepsi and people CAN tell the difference.

I wanted to tell the waiter to piss off!!!!!

 It’s not his job to correct my errors. But his need to be right was greater than his need to have a satisfied customer. We laughed about the incident at the table but I was embarrassed and my wife and I have never returned to the restaurant and I have told many people about the experience and the restaurant in question.

The best story I heard of a customer being humiliated by a service professional came when I was doing work in the golf club industry. One of the lady members complained that she was a vegan and there wasn’t sufficient variety in the club’s menu to keep her happy and she suggested that the club change its menu to accommodate her. The staff member (who was having a bad day – but that shouldn’t be the customer’s problem) told her “There’s plenty of grass out there. Why don’t you just have a munch on some of it while you are playing?”

Am I saying that we need to suppress a basic human need to be right to be providers of good customer service? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying!

So what do we replace our first instinct of defence and justification with when we receive a complaint or hear something we don’t agree with?

EMPATHY! 

When you are kept waiting by a dentist or an accountant or anyone in business for that matter, the first thing they should say is “I am terribly sorry for keeping you waiting. I appreciate your time is valuable”.

AND VALIDATION!

The last few weeks of my father’s life were very traumatic for me. I was at the hospital every day and I was becoming quite a pain in the neck to the staff when I couldn’t get answers to questions or talk to his doctor when I needed to. One day his doctor took me aside one day and said “I need to speak to you”. I thought he was going to reprimand me for my poor behavior but he did exactly the opposite. He said “I appreciate your frustration but we are doing everything we can for your father. I also want to tell you that you are a very good son. You are here every day and many other patients don’t have a loved one who cares for them like you. I hope when my time comes, my son will be there for me like you are for your father”. And I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and ceased to be a pain in the neck to the staff.

Sometimes when customers act poorly, there are other issues in their life that are causing that. A little empathy and validation that they are a good person can make them much easier to deal with.

I have taught the use of validation with great success in the child care and aged care industry. But it applies much wider than that.

When most businesspeople receive a complaint or hear something that makes them feel uncomfortable, their first response is to protest their innocence. The first step SHOULD be to acknowledge the concern of the customer.

And this applies importantly to social media.

If you receive criticism on Facebook, don’t fight with the customer online. When people complain on social media, they are angry and often will embellish the story for increased effect. If you try to prove their accusation false or ridiculously exaggerated you can come across as unconcerned at best and a bully at worst. People reading the communication will often relate to the customer rather than the service provider and may decide not to do business with you purely based on the way you communicate with the complaining customer.

When you receive criticism, the first thing you should do is acknowledge the customer’s inconvenience and say how sorry you are that they feel the way they do. Don’t try to work out who’s right and wrong online. The best thing to do is to try and resolve the issue offline. Tell them you’d like to buy them a cup of coffee and listen to them in more detail and help resolve the issue.

Even if they don’t turn up for the coffee, the fact that you acknowledged them and offered goodwill to resolve the issue may stop them taking more revenge upon you by badmouthing your business AND people reading the communication see you as a business responsive to the needs of your customers rather than someone who abuses those who complain.

If we can change our instinctive response of defensiveness and justification (the adult version of “not me, mummy”) to empathy and a desire to make the customer happy, we can massively enhance the perception of our business in the minds of customers and those who they communicate with.

I remember many years ago hearing Oprah Winfrey say on her show when talking about relationships “You can go through life being right or being successful and happy – but you can’t have both!”

I am happy to give up the need to be right for a little bit more success and happiness. What about you?

Martin Grunstein’s results with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries have made him an in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable at www.martingrunstein.com.au

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I'm not in the mood for your anger

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I’ve been in the speaking business since 1985 and heard some atrocious stories of poor customer service over the years but I had an experience on my recent family holiday that is up there with the best of them.

My wife, two children and I spent a week at a five star Australian hotel that was part of a respected chain of hotels. As a hopelessly addicted golfer, one of the value adds of this hotel was a shuttle transfer to and from a nearby golf course and I arranged a couple of games before I went.

On the Thursday, I was dropped at the golf course and told to ring from a certain phone to go straight through to the porters and they’d come and pick me up. I had a lovely game of golf and was in a good mood but looking forward to getting back to the hotel for a swim and to see my family.

I rang from the special phone and after a couple of minutes of hearing it ring, I looked at my watch to see how long it would take to get through. It took five and a half minutes (that’s a lot of rings) and the polite lady said she would send a shuttle to pick me up straight away.

I had a drink, read a bit while waiting but after 28 minutes there was no shuttle so I rang back. I was on the line for EIGHT MINUTES with no answer so I hung up the phone and rang the hotel’s external number and after teleprompting I was put through to reception. I had been waiting again for over four minutes with no answer when a staff member of the golf club asked me how I was going and could he do anything to help. I explained the situation briefly and this nice young man said he’d just finished his shift and would drive me back to the hotel, which he did. He explained the hotel used to own the golf course but didn’t anymore and he’d seen quite a few angry customers waiting a long time for shuttles back to the hotel. I thanked him profusely for the lift and told of my experience to a person at reception. He asked if I wanted to see a manager and I told him I wasn’t interested in making a complaint, I just wanted to enjoy my holiday but I had arranged to play golf again on Saturday and didn’t want to have the same experience again.

Saturday comes and another enjoyable day on the golf course. I ring for the shuttle back and this time I wait six and a half minutes on the phone before I get through to the porter. He tells me he will send a shuttle straight away and I say to him “before you get off the phone, I need to tell you what happened on Thursday because I really don’t want that to happen again. I begged him to come soon or please send someone in the next 10 minutes.” When he arrived I thanked him for coming to pick me up and told him I wasn’t angry at him, I was angry at the system that made me wait so long without the phone being answered.

He then hit me with possibly the worst line I have ever heard in the customer service business, let alone the hospitality industry, which is reputed to be the best customer service industry in the world.

He said “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER. I have 1,000 guests at the hotel to look after, not just you”. I said “I am one of those guests and I think I have been treated really badly”. He told me he thought I was overreacting and I should “chill out”. I asked him if he’d done the training offered by his hotel and did he learn anything about empathy. He said he’d done lots of work on empathy and I told him I thought he’d failed in that area.

He told me I could take it up with his boss if I wasn’t satisfied and I told him I’d like to do that. His boss sat with me and did everything right. She apologised and said that she was embarrassed by the behaviour of the porter and said she would report this experience to the GM and would make sure things were changed. I gave her my business card and said that I wasn’t after any compensation or free gifts from the hotel, all I wanted was to hear back from her that she had spoken to the appropriate people and no other guest of the hotel would be treated that way.

She promised sincerely she would.

I never heard from her!

I will never spend my money to stay at the hotel again and if my clients ask me my opinion about holding their conference there, I will encourage them to choose another venue.

The hotel let me down in three separate ways and each way was worse than the one before.

Firstly, all businesses have action standards for answering the phone. Some business like to answer within three rings, some within five rings but five minutes; eight minutes; six minutes; and four minutes, which are all over 100 or 200 rings, is just ridiculous. Remember, this happened four out of four times, it couldn’t be claimed to be a “one off” aberation.

Secondly, “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER” may be an appropriate statement for a boxer or a wrestler but it is NEVER, EVER appropriate in business, especially in the “hospitality” industry where the word “hospitable” means friendly and welcoming to guests. The porter was so out of line I suggest that he should never have chosen a career in the hospitality industry.

Thirdly, the rooms manager, after doing everything right face-to-face, was the worst of all because she never came back to me after promising sincerely that she would. That is my last impression of the hotel and influences my perceptions, the stories I tell other people and was the trigger for me writing this article.

Here’s what the hotel could have done, even if they weren’t able to change their phone system.

Ideally, after a senior manager was told about my experience on Thursday by the fellow at reception, he could have called me in my hotel room and apologised and told me it wouldn’t happen again on Saturday and he could have given me his mobile number and said if you can’t get through on the direct line call me and I’ll make sure a shuttle gets to you straight away.

That would have been outstanding and I would have told people about this brilliant manager, who really cared. My perception of the hotel would have been a very positive one.

The next best thing would have been a porter with a great attitude. He would have told me he would be there to pick me up straight away, he would have apologised for what I had experienced on Thursday and said if there’s anything you need around the hotel, please ask for me and I’ll do whatever I can to help. He would have told the rooms manager of my experience and there would have been a bottle of wine delivered to my room, with compliments of the GM, as a token of the hotel’s embarrassment for the inconvenience I had experienced.

I would have walked away telling people of the bottle of wine and the good attitude of the porter, rather than the miserable experience I had suffered.

But even if none of these were done, a simple phone call from the rooms manager telling me of the action she had taken to reprimand the porter and look at the system from a guest’s perspective, so that what happened to me won’t happen again, would have been appreciated.

I wouldn’t have been thrilled but that would have pacified me and stopped me telling negative stories about this hotel.

But what I got instead was inconvenienced by a system; insulted by a staff member; and ignored by management.

If you are looking for a recipe for corporate bankruptcy, I think INCONVENIENCED; INSULTED; IGNORED would be about as good as you could get.

What I find amazing in this day and age is how few companies have their staff trained in the skills to deal with complaints. I appreciate it may be hard for a small business to justify investing in training in this area but even this international hotel group is not getting it right. And if they have made the investment in training in this area, it is patently not working.

When a customer complains he/she wants three things: They want to whinge without being interrupted; they want acknowledgement of their inconvenience; and they want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.

Let me give you a real world example of the difference this can make to profitability.

Quite a few years ago, I ran some seminars for a company called PIERLITE, who sell professional lighting solutions. Their policy was that if a delivery didn’t arrive on time via road train and the client complained, they would airfreight the delivery the next day. This was a very expensive exercise because the cost of airfreight almost always took away all the profit on the job.

I taught the frontline people the basics of complaints handling. Let the customer whinge without interrupting them. Then apologise for the inconvenience they have been caused (an apology for inconvenience caused is not a legal admission of liability, it is an empathy statement), telling them you understand how that has affected the running of their business.

Then, instead of agreeing to airfreight the job the next day, I got them to ask the customer (after pacifying them) “what can we do to put it right?”

It turned out that over 80% of the clients did NOT need the delivery air freighted the next day, they would say things like “just make sure it doesn’t happen again” or “make sure it’s on the next road train” or “tell the dispatcher he’s a dickhead”.

PIERLITE arranged for the delivery to go on the next road train and with the top 20% of clients they included a nice bottle of red and a card from the customer service person saying “I am terribly sorry you were stuffed around, I hope you’ll accept this bottle of wine with our compliments as our way of saying sorry.”

Two things happened that affected profitability.

They saved air freight costs in over 80% of cases of complaints. And they picked up referral business from word of mouth because their competitors, who also made mistakes, did nothing to pacify and acknowledge their customers when they got it wrong. And some of them moved all their business to PIERLITE.

The most important impressions in business are first impressions and last impressions. Do you want your customers’ last impressions after a complaint to be the apology and the bottle of wine…or INCONVENIENCED, INSULTED, IGNORED?

Martin Grunstein is this country’s most in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable on (0414)933249 or through his website www.martingrunstein.com.au

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The case of the eroding margin

Monday, November 05, 2018

Margins in most industries are eroding, some quite markedly. Fifteen years ago, the retail margin on computer hardware was close to 50%. Today, it’s less than 10%. Fifteen years ago, real estate sales people could get at least 3% commission on the sale of a property. Today it’s 2%, if they’re lucky. In 10 years, it will probably be 1%. In many industries, I can buy goods online that retailers would have to sell at a loss if they were to match price. 

Why is this happening? What can be done to arrest the decline?

The “why” is simple and is self-inflicted. The “how to arrest the decline” is also simple and is within the ability of each of us.

The reason margins have eroded is because players in each affected industry have commoditized their offer and made price the only differentiator in their marketing.

Take the travel industry. Years ago, we would go to the travel agent and discuss the excitement and possibilities of our future overseas trip. The discussion would be on the experiences and adventures we might have and the consultant’s advice would play a big part in the decision we made. Today, it is all about cheap airfares on the internet. We don’t seek the advice of the travel consultant because tripadvisor.com gives us information, which is more powerful – feedback from other travellers, and we make our decisions accordingly.

What about the car industry? Almost every car dealer advertises they will match the price of any competitive offer. It used to be that Ford’s biggest competitor was Holden, now a Ford dealer’s biggest competitor is another Ford dealer and a Toyota dealer’s biggest competitor is another Toyota dealer because the car has become a “commodity”. How is that affecting the industry? Thirty years ago, a car dealership was a hugely profitable business and many multi-millionaires were made from selling cars. Today, the sons of those multi-millionaire car dealers have taken over the business and struggle to service their mortgages because there is little profitability in selling cars these days. I was at a conference of a major motor vehicle company and they announced to the dealer principals in the room that dealer profitability on new cars nationally for the whole brand was HALF OF ONE PERCENT.

There are many, many other examples of industries that have given their margins away and are now blaming the consumer for being price-preoccupied and complaining that they can’t make any money.

The more interesting question is: how can this decline be arrested and what can businesspeople do to get the margin back into their business?

I have a simple answer to this dilemma that I have seen clever companies use in their businesses. I use it in my business and you can use it in yours. You need to sell an INTANGIBLE and not a commodity! People will pay more for an intangible than they will for a commodity, even if the product concerned is identical.

Let me give you several examples:

CRIMSAFE is a company that sells security screen doors and it has quite a few competitors. About five years ago, they ran one of the best radio advertising campaigns I have ever heard. The voiceover said something like “Imagine what it would be like if someone broke into your house and hurt the people you love the most”. There was a pause, so the listener could imagine something terrible happening to their loved ones. Then the voiceover continued “CRIMSAFE. Makers of the best security screen doors in Australia”. And sales skyrocketed. Why? Because CRIMSAFE stopped selling screen doors, which are a commodity and started selling FEAR, which is an intangible. And people will pay much more to avert their fear than they will pay for screen doors. When our children were young, my wife and I were planning an overseas trip to celebrate a landmark birthday, leaving the children with a live-in nanny for two weeks. A month before we were due to leave, someone broke into our house while we were asleep and stole cash from our bedroom. We made the decision the next day that we would not travel overseas if we didn’t have the best security screen doors on our home to ensure the safety of our children. And we bought those screen doors and we didn’t care what we paid. The people in the security screen door industry say the best thing for their business is when people get their home broken into. It creates the demand for their product and price is rarely an issue. CRIMSAFE worked out the second-best thing. And that is to plant the image in the consumer’s mind of the fear that something bad might happen to them and offer CRIMSAFE as the solution to the problem. And that’s what they did.

Margins in the FEAR industry do not erode! What intangible does the expensive nursing home sell to the children of the prospective resident of that home, knowing that the costs of looking after that resident will come from the children’s future inheritance? If you can’t get it yet, let me make it easier. Imagine the salesperson from the nursing home saying “After all your mother/father has done for you, don’t you think they deserve the best of everything in their final years?” They are selling GUILT. Of course, they are. And guilt sells!

I have a friend who is a retired wedding photographer. His fees were usually up to 50% higher than his nearest competitor. His strategy had a 90% conversion rate. After he presented the father of the prospective bride with the quote (which usually led to a jaw dropping), he looked him in the eye, while the mother of the bride and the future bride, herself, looked on, and he said “Do you love your daughter enough to have the best of everything on the most important day of her life?” And then he just paused and waited for the reply, which was YES in over 90% of cases. You can make much more money selling GUILT than you can selling photography.

 It can work in just about any industry. I got my own personal strategy from the cosmetics industry. Do you know what REVLON and other cosmetics companies sell? They sell HOPE to women! It may not be in their public mission statement but you can bet their marketing people understand it. And that is why cosmetics that cost $75 for a small bottle of goo sell better than cosmetics that cost $20. Because there is more HOPE in an expensive bottle than there is a cheap one. And when you link that with a celebrity who endorses the product, you get the consumer making the irrational (but profitable for the cosmetics company) decision that if they buy that $75 bottle of goo, they can look more like that beautiful celebrity.

If you are a man and you are now laughing about how vain and stupid women must be to fall for that, how do you think the golf industry works? It has been said by more than one golf equipment marketing executive that “golf is a multi-billion dollar industry based on irrational hope”. NIKE can sell expensive golf clubs to hacker golfers with minimal ability (but lots of money) on the ridiculous premise that, by buying those clubs, they will be using the clubs that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy use and they will play a bit more like them. Unbelievable? Yes. Effective? Also yes.

HOPE is also what every consultant sells. It’s just that most of them don’t know that’s what they are selling. And I can make more money selling hope than selling a 60-minute presentation at a conference. How do I do it? I make my testimonials the centrepiece of my marketing. I have a page of about 40 testimonials on my website and while some of them talk about the humour in my presentation and the work I did in customizing my message to the audience, the overwhelming impression to a person who reads some or all of them is “These people were really happy with their decision to engage Martin’s services” and I am urging them to HOPE (and believe) that if they hire my services, they will feel the same way after THEIR conference. If I sell an hour of my time, that’s a commodity, if I sell the hope that the CEO of my client company will feel he/she has made a good decision, that’s an intangible and is harder to put a price on. What we must do as salespeople who value our margins, is get focus on the result rather than the product/service. An hour of my time is worth $X and can be undercut by a competitor offering an hour of his/her time cheaper. The CEO picturing the good feeling after the conference (like so many others have had) and calculating the return on investment by his people changing their behavior as a result of my influence – that has to be worth much, much more. And it is.

What are you doing in your industry? Are you selling a commodity or an intangible?

Indulge my humorous side for a moment.

Here’s how a retail shopping centre would look if retailers sold intangibles instead of commodities:

1. The jeweller wouldn’t have “50% off” in the window, he/she would have a sign that says MEN: ARE YOU TAKING YOUR RELATIONSHIP FOR GRANTED? BUY YOUR PARTNER SOME JEWELLERY BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES AND YOU LOSE HER FOREVER.

2. The optometrist wouldn’t have “Buy one get one free” in the window he/she would have THINKING OF GETTING MARRIED? COME IN FOR AN EYE TEST. YOU MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND.

3. The pet shop wouldn’t have “Puppies half price”, it would have PARENTS: IF YOU DON’T BUY YOUR CHILDREN A PET, THEY WILL REMEMBER IT FOREVER AND THEY MAY NOT DO EVERTYHTING THEY CAN FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE OLD AND DEPENDANT ON THEM.

Obviously, I am being facetious with the above examples BUT if they were the type of signs in the window rather than “SALE” or “50% OFF” which seem to dominate the retail landscape, don’t you think the retailers’ margins might be a bit better than they are?

My challenge to those of you who are in industries whose margins have eroded is to shift focus. If you take the two industries I quoted at the start of this article, if real estate agents were selling STRESS MANAGEMENT to vendors, then commissions may go back to 3% instead of down to 1%, where they are heading at the moment. Other computer companies should learn from APPLE, which got out of the computer industry years ago and got into the ENTERTAINMENT industry, which is much harder to put a value on.

And if you are lucky enough to be in an industry that isn’t suffering from eroding margins, you are probably selling intangibles already. But if you aren’t, do it before your competitors do because there is no reason why healthy margins can’t be maintained or improved upon, if you provide the right solutions.

I hope the above is helpful and I look forward to Saturday when I can enjoy my game of HOPE, I mean golf.

Martin Grunstein’s outstanding results with over 500 Australian companies across over 100 industries has made him this country’s a highly in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable on 0414933249 or through his website www.martingrunstein.com.au.

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