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Ten Values Of Business Success In Hard Times

Ten Values Of Business Success In Hard Times
By Bart Allen Berry
In these harsh economic times everyone is looking for solutions, and a dependable approach that they can rely on as they attempt to run a successful business in an uncertain future.  There are a set of ten principles that will insure success, and there is no better time than today to begin implementing them. 
I define business success as:

  • Increased Sales
  • Retaining Existing Accounts
  • Increasing Customer Satisfaction
  • A Mission Closely Aligned With Customer Needs and Priorities
  • An Energized Workforce
  • An Optimized and Efficient Operation
  • Strong Competitiveness
  • A Strategic And Dependable Long Term Approach
  • Increasing Market Share and Improving Market Position

There are a set of ten values that, when integrated into your business, will dependably create this kind of success for you.  Before introducing these values to you however, it is important to understand where they will be applied. 
The Customer-Supplier Relationship
A successful transaction in your business means that you have delivered your product or service to a customer and made a profit or earned some kind of reward. Success over time means that you have a stream of customers to provide your products or services to- more and more who want what you are offering.
            The stream of customers is made up of:
            Some who try you for the first time
            Some who return to buy again
            Those customers that are recommended or referred to you
            To succeed over time you need a consistent stream of customers, in fact you would like this stream of customers to grow. In today’s economy, customers have less spending power, and there are fewer customers out there than in more prosperous years.  Unless you are in a great ‘have to have’ kind of niche business, you have seen this belt tightening manifesting itself as reduced sales.
            So the challenge for every business today, is to not only maintain a healthy stream of customers, but to also make up somehow for the loss of customers that has happened already in this recession.  To venture the idea of actually growing your customer base in an economy like this would mean that you must have a very powerful and effective approach to the market. 
By integrating the ten values illustrated here, you will have the approach to achieve this.
            Before we can apply this tool set, however, we need to understand the fundamentals of the customer-supplier relationship- where the rubber meets the road, and where these values are applied. This makes sense as what we are trying to accomplish is turning a trickle of customers into a stream into a river that can fill up a lake..
(When we say Customer-Supplier relationship, YOU are the supplier of the product or service).
The first fundamental of Customer-Supplier relationships is that:
“Customers Want To Have A Relationship”
            Customers begin with a positive and hopeful expectation that the supplier understands their needs, is open to fulfilling them and will take a genuine interest in doing so.  
            Let’s look at what this means to the two types of customers that will make up your ‘customer stream’.
            The first group- those who will try your product or service for the first time need to be attracted to a relationship with you.  A variety of factors can influence that but basically, the challenge is to communicate to the potential customer that there is a great relationship available with you and your products/services if they will give you a try.  Most advertising seeks to articulate the benefits of a relationship with the supplier.
            Without understanding the dynamics of welcoming a relationship with customers, many businesses shoot themselves in the foot before they even get a chance to establish a new customer relationship.  Through laziness  and neglect, inappropriate cost cutting, lack of employee training or inconvenience for the customer- the customer turns away before they get a new relationship started. Openness to receiving customers and willingness to create great relationships should be a starting point for every business.
            The second group of customers- those that return to buy again and those that are referred – require a different approach.  In this case a successful transaction has taken place and the challenge for you, as the business, is to make sure that the transaction was as satisfying as it could be, to increase this ‘return and recommend’ rate from each customer- returning to buy again and recommending your business to others. 
            Customers begin with the expectation of a positive and satisfying relationship and if they are not disappointed, but in fact are actually satisfied they will come back for a second date, and maybe a third because they feel that they “Win” in the relationship.  As suppliers we love long term accounts where customers continue to return and to re-order. 
Statistically, the only relationship that will sustain itself over time however, is:
The “Win-Win Relationship”.
            Fundamentally, customers need to feel satisfied if they are to return again, or recommend you to others and you as the business, need to have a successful transaction where you can make a profit. Structuring your transactions so they are a ‘Win’ for your customers is critically important.
            Think about this carefully as you consider raising prices to cover lost revenues, or cut back on value that customers have come to expect from you.  However possible, while still making a profit of course, you need to maintain and maximize the customer perception that they are ‘winning’ by doing business with you.
            This ‘synergistic win-win relationship’ is at the heart of many successful businesses, and yet there are some enterprises that work on a different model.
            Unfortunately, the ‘Win-Lose’ approach to business is all too prevalent.  In the Win-Lose scenario, the supplier is only interested in a one time purchase- because they don’t care about establishing a long term relationship.  The idea is to soak the customer once, they know the customer won’t be back unless they are gullible or stupid.  Think used car dealer.
            Another Win-Lose scenario is the monopoly supplier, who because of location or contract or availability has navigated themselves into the position of being the only game in town- and like it or not, the customer has to deal with them. Phone companies, airlines, and car dealers come to mind, where historical reputations of win-lose relationships are the norm. 
            Operating with the Win-Lose approach is a risky undertaking in the long run, while the opportunity to gouge customers or provide less than satisfactory products or services exists, the backlash of negative reputation, harsh complaints and the risk of punitive penalties is always there.   When another higher quality or better value supplier appears on the scene- customers will flock to them, leaving the Win-Lose supplier, justifiably, by the side of the road. 
            Everything in this articleis geared towards the establishment of Win-Win customer supplier relationships. I have developed a Small Business Help Recession Success Kit which utilizes the values introduced in this article, at the heart of an entire business revitalization strategy.  The entire set of audits, tools, exercises, planning guides and self assessments is a powerful self-lead way to improve and continually sustain your business for higher and higher levels of success over the long term.  That can only be accomplished through the establishment of strong Win-Win customer-supplier relationships. 

Win-Win is the only relationship that is sustainable over time


            If yours is a Win-Lose scenario business, do not look to this article for support. 
            Suppliers want to make a profit- and no business should ever feel guilty about that- it is the entire purpose of capitalism and for starting a business in the first place.  The challenge to your thinking emphasized here, is to think about profit coming from the establishment of a ‘customer stream’ which gets stronger and deeper because of high return and recommend rates, rather than squeezing a nickel out of every interaction.
            Win-Win customer relationship thinking is about understanding the long term potential value of each customer’s repeat transactions and the value of all the additional customers they will recommend. A healthy customer base is what successful businesses have. 
To be successful, your job as a business is:

  • To Attract And Welcome New Customers


  • To Create Satisfying Transactions


  • To Maintain Customer Relationships

            That seems pretty basic, you might be saying to yourself right about now.  Don’t we do that already? 
            You might be reading this article thinking that there is some magic bullet scenario here to create a mountain of orders for you this week, and that this would solve all of your current business problems..
                        Illustrated here is a way of thinking that will actually result in more orders and sales if you begin implementing these concepts right away..  but we are getting ahead of ourselves.  The Win-Win customer supplier relationship is like magic  because it is a statistical reality, strongly correlated with successful companies who focus on that relationship- in great detail. 
            When you apply the values here- it will have a very positive effect on your business.  It works, predictably and dependably, like magic.
            For now, what is important is to understand that you are going to be very methodical about understanding your relationship with customers, understanding in great detail what your customers want, and how to orient everything you are doing to the establishment of increasingly higher levels of satisfaction that will create more business for you, and also make you more competitive.
            The next section covers the heart of my customer satisfaction research regarding the interrelated set of ten factors that must be addressed, and optimized to create ‘satisfied’ customer relationships and a successful enterprise. Rather than detailing the background of more than two million satisfaction study respondents and work with hundreds of companies that has lead to these statistical satisfaction predictors- suffice it to say that this material and model continues to validate itself with every sized business I have worked with- from Mom and Pop garage start ups to the Fortune 500 to The US Air Force in the Middle East. 
            These values were discovered by analyzing and correlating mountains of data and testing it in many formats and iterations with industries of all kinds for the past fifteen years.  What I have discovered are a strategic set of insights that can be used to revitalize any business and it’s ‘effect on customers’.  These are the things which customers repeatedly express that they want, but that highly successful, World Class Companies, are known for doing.
            Each of these factors will be applied to the attraction of new customers, as well as the execution of successful transactions and the maintenance of strong customer relationships who can refer others.  Much more than simple customer service focus, the values presented will touch every part of your business operation. 
The Customer Satisfaction Behavior Curve
            There are ten inter-related ‘values’ that cover all aspects of customer satisfaction.  When a business scores well in each of these ten areas, (on a 1 to 10 scale) return and recommend rate goes up.  When all scores are averaged, the ‘mean score’ falls into one of three major zones;
The Zone of Dissatisfaction (0.0 – 4.1)-
The Zone of Indifference (4.2 – 7.8)
The Zone of Satisfaction (7.9 – 10.0)
            In the zone of dis-satisfaction, actual loss of customers and negative reputation can develop for the supplier.  In the zone of indifference there is no demonstrable loyalty, and although customers may patronize this supplier out of convenience, will just as easily shop somewhere else, and will not necessarily return. 
            No positive customer return and recommend rate behavior takes place at all until overall scores reach at least 7.9 or higher.  When customers are so satisfied that they refer to a business as ‘World Class’, where the company is nearly synonymous with high quality and dramatic levels of loyalty and preference result in 1200% referral rate (people telling people who tell people etc.) this is called World Class Status.  The overall score of 9.24 correlates with customer perceptions of a business being ‘World Class’. 
            Throughout this article, the terms ‘World Class’ and ‘World Class Leadership’ are used to describe this phenomenon of very high levels of customer satisfaction, and the resulting positive effect on sales and success.  World Class Leadership then, is the overall goal to strive for as an identifiable destination of outstanding success.
            In short, we want to optimize each of the ten values as they are demonstrated within your enterprise to create increasingly higher customer satisfaction and return and recommend rates that will drive more and more business to your enterprise.
            The next part illustrates all ten of the predictors of satisfaction in any customer-supplier relationship and goes into detail regarding the finer aspects of each.  These factors have emerged from literally millions of customer satisfaction survey respondents in many industries. 
            These factors continue to validate themselves and resonate in any business operation they are applied to- whether the output of an individual employee or small businessperson, to the collective effect of the operations of a multi-national corporation.
            These Ten World Class Leadership Values Of Success are always present, and can be readily identified, with any product or service delivery system, and accurately measured once you become familiar with them.
            As you read each value covered, you will quite naturally, begin to think about them being applied to your own enterprise. 
            You will find nearly every aspect of customer satisfaction represented in the following. It is helpful to think of brands or organizations you might admire now as being the best such as Rolex, Mercedes Benz, Sony, Pebble Beach etc. as you learn about each of the values.  Inevitably, you will also think of customer experiences  where each of these values was lacking.  Your understanding of the Ten World Class Leadership Values Of Business Success will give you a new set of filters and language for evaluating your own satisfaction, and the effect your business has on customers.  
            As you review each of the values, you will inevitably begin to think about where your own situation at your business could benefit from improvement.  Also included at my website, is a Free Online Organizational Audit– that you can use to self-assess your own business. We will compile a report, charted on our World Class Leadership Values Impact Chart and calculate your projected return and recommend rate, based upon your answers to this 40 question audit of your business.  We will set up a time to email this report to you and contact you by telephone to discuss.  Please don’t use this free service unless you are serious about improving your business, as it takes significant work from us to provide this for you.
            The thrust of The World Class Leadership Values Of Business Success is that you, the leader, becomes the champion and the advocate for driving a high standard for each of these values within your own sphere of influence, for your entire business or inside of the department or division you work in.
For the highest quality, customer’s expect  zero defects, mistakes, or inaccuracies. 
Perfection is a nice goal, and it is not as unrealistic as you think.  Manufacturing quality control standards in many industries today are one mistake per million parts- and that is statistically attributable to special cause variation (an unavoidable, or unanticipatable cause).   What this means for six sigma oriented manufacturers is that they have controlled every variable in the process to an extreme level.  They watch the quality, they measure and analyze the quality, the adjust until they consistently get the quality they are looking for- and then push it some more. 
In this scenario, by the time a product gets to a customer, there is virtually no chance that it will have defects.  Although manufacturers do this every day, how many other industries can make such quality control claims? 
Customers want it right the first time.
Customers want their product or service to function as promised correctly the first time. We’ve all tried to assemble a present on Christmas morning, downloaded a piece of software, or got a different airline seat than what we reserved, and were disappointed. An accurate report for you boss, shipping the correct part number, playing the right song for the first dance at the wedding, matching the color of the paint, spelling the customer’s name right, and getting the amount correct on the invoice- you get the idea.
The problem for the supplier is to try to recover from a lowered level of satisfaction when the customer gets disappointed, has to return the product or asks for a refund. Reputations are fragile things and quality shortfalls are remembered by the customer, in every area.
It is unconscionable that some suppliers actually ship products they know will contain a certain percentage of defects and chalk it up to the cost of doing business.  These suppliers are not known as World Class enterprises. 
The customer wants the quality of the product or service provided to be consistent with the best available. 
The theme of ‘benchmarking’ will be repeated throughout the World Class Leadership lexicon.  The idea of  the customer’s perception of quality is based upon what he knows or has heard about or seen available elsewhere. Comparisons are very important to your competitiveness as we will see in a later chapter.  If you are on your game, you will know your competitor’s level of quality. 
Intangible Attributes of Quality
“Oh but my dear, that’s Pierre Cardin!”   Whether we are susceptible to the peer pressures of popular brand consciousness, customer perceptions of quality can be strongly influenced by these artifices.  Surely the Wal-Mart handbag will carry as much as the Pravda bag right?  Why is one thirty times more expensive than the other? 
Suppliers carefully cultivate brand images of exclusivity, tastefulness, etc.  as an intangible attribute of quality. 
This careful marketing strategy can be difficult to compete with when your six yr old throws a tantrum in the store because you don’t buy the doll she saw on the commercial.  The same is true of golf clubs,  shoes, tools or corn flakes.  This dimension of quality in the eyes of the beholder gets more psychologically complex when you bring home the ‘name brand’ product and it doesn’t live up to it’s reputation- or what if, God forbid, it is so ‘last year’.    The implications of this form of neurosis is beyond the scope of this book.
Although many organizations are reaching for the market share and profitability that comes with being World Class in the eyes of customers, this position cannot be achieved or sustained by leaning too heavily on intangibles and pure branding without substance when it comes to quality.
The customer expects the supplier’s organization to have general systems knowledge, know their own product line and be familiar with the latest developments in the organization.   Even though you may be the expert in your office who deals directly with the customer, your secretary or anyone else who answers the phone should also have an idea of what goes on around here.
Support personnel are a reflection on the quality of an organization so this is important  as it can make or break a customer relationship without anyone ever finding out about it.  Knowing the product line and where to find things is another point.  How many times have you gone into a department store and the retail clerk couldn’t tell you whether or not they carried something or where it might be?  Many of us can recall knowing more about an upcoming sale than the person in the store waiting on us.  Everyone in the organization is on the quality team.
A World Class Company will set the standard for consistency and accuracy, a level of quality  comparable with the best, with all support personnel well- trained to support the delivery of quality. 
The customer wants the best price that is available. Each of us has a sense of fair play and no one likes to be taken advantage of.  Shopping has become an art for some who enjoy chasing the lowest price.  Many have personal Ego’s and need to feel their ability to negotiate or bargain will make a difference in the final price paid.  No one likes to find out that the same item or service was available at a dramatically lower price somewhere else after they have made the purchasing decision. 
Whether accurate or not, most of us start out with some sort of feeling or range of what something should cost.  Usually this is based on actual or anecdotal pricing information for at least a similar product or service. This is the departure point for evaluating whether or not something is a fair price.  Pricing is a careful game and the supplier needs to know if and be prepared to defend why their particular price may be higher than a competitor’s. 
Purchasing agents everywhere are tasked with managing supplier negotiations to get costs as low as possible.  If you are the supplier you may be asked by purchasing agents to make concessions not only on price, but on payment terms as well.  In today’s economy, there is no guarantee that automatic annual price increases will be accepted by your faithful customer, in fact the trend is to lower prices in subsequent years. Today’s manufacturers are under incredible pressure to cut costs annually just to keep their doors open, in light of lower cost competitors from overseas.     
The customer wants the price paid to be historically appropriate based upon the price paid in the past.  From disproportionate increases in gas prices to shocking jumps in health care costs and airfares, customers don’t like it when their sense of predictability is violated when it comes to how much they are expecting to pay.  This is one of the surest roads to customer dissatisfaction.   Monopolistic corporations like oil companies and airlines can get away with it, but at the risk of real animosity from customers.
The Customer doesn’t want his money wasted.  Whether it’s the company expense account, federal tax dollars, home owner’s association dues, or start-up venture capital,  the customer wants to see a degree of due diligence that assures them their hard earned money is being spent responsibly.  The customer will project his own conservative and frugal values onto the supplier who would be smart to illustrate this careful handling of funds as often as possible. 
The World Class Supplier is not afraid to make concessions or provide additional value to maintain the customer-supplier relationship.  Smart business means when a customer is happy they are that much closer to being extra happy.  Giving in a little, or adding extra perks, short of unethical bribery of course, is always welcomed and can go a long way towards creating positive word of mouth from satisfied customers who become very satisfied customers. 
The customer wants the product or service to remain a good value long after the sale.  Good buying decisions demonstrate themselves over time.  The World Class Leader understands durability, long term investment and the relationship between spending a little more now and spending less later.  World Class products and services that have been designed with a long term perspective become ubiquitous classics, and continue to act as brand emissaries year after year.  Think of the old classic Mercedes, the dependable work horse laser printer, the forty year old Craftsman hand tools.  Long term brand satisfaction leads to generational relationships with a supplier. ” We have always been a Ford family” etc.
World Class Suppliers can charge a premium.  There will always be a customer base who is willing to pay for the best.  Suppliers who achieve the highest levels of satisfaction are ‘worth it’, in the mind of the customer.  We have all justified an expensive purchase with the old adage-“You get what you pay for“, although this might not always be true, the customer of a world class supplier will likely be proud of what they purchased, even at very high prices.
The World Class Company will be an advocate for getting good value out of money spent, spending responsibly and negotiating fairly whether buying or selling.   Pricing is set in reasonable terms compared with competitors and is historically appropriate.  World Class products and services demonstrate their value over a long period of time.
The customer wants the delivery of the product or service and all interactions with the supplier to be on time.  In this frenetic world, everyone has a lot to do.  Being on time is a professional standard that communicates respect for the customer’s time, and the fulfillment of an agreement to be at a specific place at a specific time, or to deliver the product or service at the time specified by or promised to the customer .  World Class Leaders are early, or on time.  Being late is not a World Class behavior, and not meeting critical customer deadlines has the potential to ‘crash the plane’ of a healthy customer supplier relationship.
When timeliness is a heavily weighted Value (see chapter IV ),  World Class Leaders need to be careful what they promise.  The challenge is to demonstrate a commitment to the customer and fulfill their needs, but to do so within the supplier’s realistic capabilities.  The temptation is to ‘over promise’ to get the business, but missing a delivery date may cost you the relationship — and the accompanying value of the life of the customer relationship over time. 
The customer wants to take the minimum amount of time to get their needs met.  World Class processes, systems, and interactions with customers are designed with minimum wait times, adequate staffing to handle multiple customers, and optimized transactions that take only as long as necessary. 
Fast food restaurants are a great example of processes which have been totally optimized for the convenience of the customer. The customer stares at the large well lit menu positioned up high where he can see it while in line so when they get to the counter they are prepared to order.  Most popular menu choices are grouped and reduced to a short choice of #1, #2, #3 etc.. and the clerk hits a single button to execute the transaction. 
A continuous production of the most popular items is always in process with a set number of sandwiches, fries etc. ready to be instantly bagged at any time.  A cup is handed to the customer to fill their own drink, and even though the customer may make a mess at the soda fountain, or refill his cup many times, the restaurant has calculated that this is still much cheaper than the labor of clerks behind the counter to control how much soda is consumed.  It also reduces time to fulfill each order and frees labor up to get to the next transaction faster.  Customers filling their own drinks also takes people out of line for refills which makes the line go faster for new customers. 
It is relatively easy to control timeliness in repeatable processes which are fixed with little variation, and fast food restaurants have clear incentives to continually optimize transaction processing to fit as many lunch orders in as possible in a limited timeframe.
Most suppliers aren’t used to looking at everything they do as a repeatable process, but many are.  Most organizations will benefit from time and motion studies and root cause analysis (See chapter VIII) to find ways of optimizing what they do.
Customers regularly prefer to shop where they can get in and get out fast.  This is why they’re called convenience stores.  Customers resent waiting in line, especially when there are ten check stands available and only two are staffed with cashiers.  Lean staffing decisions by store management send the message that the customer’s time is of secondary importance.
When staffing decisions or other business trade-offs need to be made, the World Class Leader pushes the burden to other resources behind closed doors, out of view of customers, rather than impacting the front line customer experience. 
The Customer wants the supplier to take all the time required to achieve satisfaction. 
The flip side of the coin with timeliness is that there is a danger in going to fast.  Shortchanging the customer by pushing him along too fast, or not spending the time with them to fully understand and fulfill their needs can alienate the customer who wants a deeper interaction.  Spending more time with customers is strongly related to the World Class Value of Commitment (see below).   
The World Class Business makes timeliness a priority, maintains benchmark standards of on time appointments and delivery, optimizes processes and systems so little, if any time is wasted, and makes it a priority to spend more time with customers when necessary to achieve desired results.
The customer wants optimized processes which are as simple and linear as possible. In these days of increased productivity there is no excuse for redundancy, non-linear processes, and inefficient systems design.  Wasting time and energy because you haven’t thought of a better way to do things is a poor excuse.  We’ve all been to a bureaucratic government office and been sent here and there,  or had to come back for multiple appointments, only to find out that what you really needed was something else entirely etc. etc. Customers want processes to make sense.  The minimum number of steps, requiring the least amount of effort is the World Class ideal.
One is lead to believe that the bigger the organization, the more inefficient, when it is precisely the opposite that is needed.  Organizational cost cutting seldom considers the impacts on process efficiency.  Each individual’s job description, each department’s day to day processes, each company’s front line customer transactions and back of the house vendor relations need to be examined critically and continually to see what steps can be optimized, re-ordered, or eliminated completely.  A commitment to finding more efficient ways of doing things (without sacrificing customer requirements), will yield it’s own cost savings in areas previously unconsidered.
Customers want a single point of contact.  This is a worthwhile standard to shoot for in any customer-supplier transaction.
World Class Businesses see process optimization and continually increasing efficiency as routine. World Class Businesses give attention to internal process efficiencies as well as the processes customers must interact directly with. 
The customer wants the supplier’s environment to be clean,  well organized and aesthetically pleasing. A well organized environment provides assurance that the supplier has their act together.  A disheveled, dirty , disorganized work environment immediately creates a question of confidence in the mind of the customer 
Standards of cleanliness vary widely from industry to industry- the cleanliness and organization standard of a car mechanic is different from that of your dentist for instance, but there is a benchmark for cleanliness in each industry and it seems a simple thing to observe the common standard for the business you are in.
World Class Leaders implement higher levels of organization, cleanliness, and aesthetics.  This is a tangible feeling one gets the first minute they enter a World Class business.  The environment feels pleasing to the customer and puts them at ease.
The customer wants to feel safe physically in the supplier’s environment.  Safety should never be an issue, but customers are regularly exposed to physical risks from exposure to coughing employees who should have stayed home, to icy steps, to dangerous equipment, or to confrontations with unsavory characters at the corner bar. 
World Class Leaders anticipate safety risks and clearly understand that an injury to a customer automatically turns them into a source of dissatisfaction dialogue that will spread to many, potentially effecting a reputation for some time to come- not to mention potential liability concerns from neglecting customer safety.  Customers appreciate having their safety looked after, and this is another way to demonstrate Commitment in the customer-supplier relationship (see below).
Psychological safety means making customers feel welcome.  If you have been to a traditional Japanese Sushi restaurant, they often make a big deal about welcoming you and greeting you when you sit down at the counter.  This makes customers feel immediately acknowledged and respected, emphasizes a willing service-ful attitude and lets the customer know that they are specifically there to serve their needs.  How many government offices could benefit from this approach?
Often it is the customer that must facilitate their own satisfaction by having to gingerly sweet talk or somehow manipulate an intimidating or irritating front line worker to get their needs met rather then experiencing a welcome feeling.  Sour employees with a disdain for their own job or other negativity can give off a vibe that makes customers feel uncomfortable.  Customers should never be exposed to the negative supplier moods in the workplace. 
World Class Businesses create well organized, safe, aesthetically pleasing and psychologically welcoming environments. 
Connection –
The customer wants to be able to access the supplier’s products and services easily.  Store or office location, hours of operation, and ease of parking are factors that need to be organized based on the customer’s convenience.   Even banks are recognizing the importance of this and are beginning to put bank offices in supermarkets and opening on Sundays as well as offering internet access to account transactions 24/7. 
Clear pathway signage can help customers find the supplier- from signs on the highway and office complex directories to main street business information kiosks and arrows literally painted on the floor in the case of factories and hospitals. 
Being accessible by customers means increasing use of the internet to be searched for and found.  Websites, blogs, digital media such as video, RSS feeds, chat and other various online events can be utilized to share information, teach, communicate and interact with customers to give them more of what they need to find. 
Increasing use of social networking makes sense as a way of adapting to where customers are found, making it easier for them to find you.  Social networks typically participate in several dimensions of social media, taking their experience with them as they move from face book and twitter to Yahoo and Gmail, linked-in and hundreds of other internet sites.  New ground in being able to virtually connect with customers is being pioneered as we speak and is one of the most exciting customer relationship technology developments.
Customers don’t want barriers to contacting individuals or customer service.  Email, Skype Phone, website URL, office and Cell phone numbers which are also set up for receiving texting, interact with I-touch or blackberry apps and more are today’s connection essentials for the World Class organization.  Customer response times have been dramatically accelerated, where mobile devices are set up as fully functional platforms and business communication can happen from almost anywhere, at any time. 
This level of connection can extend to ordering and buying, customer experience measurement, and much more beyond just leaving a message.

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Customers don’t want barriers to accessing information
. Current trends in banking, telephone service, and others enable customers secure access to their information, accounts and files.  Soon complete medical history records will be shared internationally including high resolution images and document scans that could previously only be referenced with the original paper version.  Downloadable product specifications and diagrams, articles and white papers,  directories of company representatives, product available inventories and more are made available for the customer’s convenience.  Availability of rich information is often the key to a faster customer buying decision.
Connect with all cultures.  World Class Leaders recognize the importance of including all groups and persons.  Openness to connection is demonstrated by public statements to various groups, language translations, and accommodating various cultural preferences so they feel welcome and included.  In today’s diverse society, each niche represents and potential constituency that might mean more business.  Inclusion as a business practice and strategy eliminates barriers to connection and increases potential business.
Customers want you to be available, personally.
Answering your phone, or at least getting back to customers quickly after they call is considered a respectful best practice.  Many are surprised at the number of CEO’s who actually answer their own phone today that recognize the importance of this.  In the case of the screened call, rigorous hard edged phone screening by assistants needs to be softened to maintain respect for the caller, even when the caller is forced to leave a message- then, someone should call them back.
Voicemail is Hell.
If an organization has optimized itself out of a human to answer the phone, it should think carefully about how much a potential customer has to listen to and how many buttons they have to press to get through to the person they are looking for– or God forbid, how to talk to someone who can help when they don’t know who they are looking for.  If you are going to be in business, at least have the self respect to answer your phone  with a human being during business hours.  Who knows how much business is lost from many customers won’t do business with firms like AT&T because of their hideous voicemail system.  A phone company should know better. 
If it’s necessary to have a telephone receptionist, take care to train this person well so they will effectively support the caller’s interests, record their needs accurately, and leave them with a clear expectation for follow through so the customer can get what they need.  Billions have been lost by receptionists who were too lazy to understand that the caller was looking for a supplier to give them a fat new contract.
Many of us will make an immediate decision not to do business with a firm when it is just too difficult to talk to someone, regardless of their reputation or quality.  With all the technology available today, everyone can easily do better.
World Class Companies make connecting with their customers and stakeholders a priority and use a wide variety of up to date methods and technology to make themselves more accessible at the customer’s convenience.    
Self Management-
The customer wants the supplier to be well mannered, courteous, and attentive.  Front line service behaviors are one of the easiest areas of the customer experience to manage well and unfortunately, one most often overlooked.  The customer absolutely has no interest in hearing or seeing a bad mood, rude behavior, in being ignored, or talked down to.  Suppliers who consistently bring unnecessary negativity or poor manners to their customer interactions will shortly find themselves looking for new customers.
Personnel who work solely on the phone must be extra careful to communicate warmth, receptivity, and respect as they are forming an impression with customers.  In telephone situations, the voice and tone of the employee may be the most important part of the customer -supplier relationship.
The  customer wants the supplier to have an appearance consistent with the highest expectations for the industry. Dress, cleanliness, haircut, piercing and tattoos, shoes, makeup and more do make a difference.  Benchmark appearance standards, although they may be informal, are easy to see in your own industry if you look around.  World Class Suppliers strive to exceed the normal industry standard.
Front line personnel are the supplier’s emissaries, or in the case of the individual- how you appear is part of your brand image.  First impressions of the entire organization start here.
Attitude of Service
An attitude of service doesn’t mean you are subjugating yourself or demeaning yourself in any way.  Demonstrating a high level of consideration for your customers, anticipating their needs, and doing your best to fulfill their requirements is a fine art and is to be respected when done well.  An attitude of service is always welcome in the customer supplier relationship.  Bringing an attitude of superiority, entitlement, or other negative Ego manifestation is not what customers are looking for in the relationship.
World Class Companies demonstrate excellent manners, a great appearance and the highest level of consideration and attitude of service for their customers which is consistently positive and mood free. 
The customer wants the supplier to demonstrate that they have the customer’s best interests in mind over the long term.   
Maintaining a committed relationship with customers over time may mean staying in touch even when there is no business going on, and having other interactions that show consideration for them.
The Customer wants the Supplier to be honest and up front about all terms and conditions. 
As any couple in a relationship will tell you, honesty is important.  Suppliers who are caught being dishonest with customers have little hope of maintaining a long term relationship.  Providing all information up front provides assurances to the customer that there is trust in the relationship and relieves potential customer anxiety on the front end.
The customer wants the supplier to take responsibility when things go wrong.
In every customer supplier relationship, mistakes can happen.  Customers want the supplier to inform them up front or as soon as possible when disappointments occur.
Customers want the supplier to take responsibility when things go wrong.  It’s one thing to say  “I take full responsibility” but it’s another to have mistake recovery systems.  A recent story illustrates this point:
            Our thanksgiving group all ordered the turkey except for one person who ordered the prime rib.  The prime rib was overcooked, and it was sent back.  We all finished our full turkey dinners before the prime rib came back out. Our lonely beef eater finished the prime rib while we all sat there and watched her eat every bite.  The manager was working the restaurant floor, greeting patrons while pouring coffee, asking them about their thanksgiving experience at the restaurant, and finally came over to us. We communicated our disappointment with the quality of the prime rib and the timing of the episode.  “We’re sorry about that, he said, and all of your desserts are on the house”.
 Now it could have been that our thanksgiving experience might have caused us never to go to that restaurant again, but when the manager took responsibility for their mistake and more than made up for it with free desserts for everyone, our whole attitude changed. This mistake recovery system was something the restaurant had prepared  ahead of time, and was probably a standard practice.  For a piece of pie the manager saved relationships with six customers who would, it turned out, return to frequent his restaurant many more times instead of never returning again. 
World Class Companies demonstrate their commitment to the customer by soliciting their needs, honest up front dealings, taking responsibility when things go wrong and demonstrating a commitment to the relationship over time. 
The customer wants consistent quality interactions with all of the supplier’s departments and personnel and expects these departments and personnel to work well together to meet the customer’s needs.
It is easy for those who are not on the front line with customers to disassociate themselves from the responsibility of a high level of service to the customer.  It is not only important to emphasize a customer satisfaction oriented culture in the workplace, but it is important for each employee to understand how what they do directly relates to the customer’s experience.  
When the janitor mopping the floor at the hospital was asked- “What do you do here?” he replied- “I am maintaining the highest standard of environmental cleanliness so World Class medicine can be practiced here.  None of this can happen without me”. 
Teamwork Between Departments
Managing interdepartmental handoffs should be executed seamlessly, with personal introductions by the first employee to introduce the next representative to the customer when this is necessary- often with the original employee available for some time to support the new relationship if necessary.  The customer wants to have the same great experience regardless of who they interact with in the organization, and wants to count on their needs being understood by everyone in the supplier’s organization.
Customer Satisfaction is The Team’s Responsibility
Teamwork also means sharing negative feedback from customers, even when it means bad news for another department or employee.  If you know what’s wrong you have a better chance of fixing it together.  Teamwork means that a mistake in customer satisfaction is everyone’s problem.
Teamwork Culture Produces Better Results
A World Class organization puts high importance on teamwork and supports team building at every level.  Breaking down divisions and silos between departments, and creating an atmosphere of trust and respect all contribute towards higher levels of communication and information sharing, collaboration and cooperation- especially when it comes to working together to meet customer needs.  Employee pride and ownership will improve when they are more involved and can see a direct relationship between what they do and the effects on customers.
Teamwork Is An Individual Responsibility
Individual employees need to take inventory of their own teamwork behavior and honestly evaluate themselves and their own willingness to work well with others-and improve where they can.  Each individual has the potential to bring synergy to the work group by adjusting and modifying their behavior to what will be most effective and productive in a collective effort.    
The Entire Supply Chain Is Part Of The Team
Vendor’s and suppliers should be made to understand and feel valued that they have been selected as a vital part of delivering satisfaction to this organization’s customers.  Developing these relationships with all parts of the supply chain has many benefits especially when the supplier needs special concessions, emergency shipping, or a sample in a different color to demonstrate excellent customer service.
World Class Companies are great team players and promote a teamwork culture with all those they interact with.

The customer wants the supplier to utilize up to date technology, processes and equipment consistent with the best available.
Customers want to deal with the best, the latest, the best practice for the industry, product or service.    World Class companies continually look for new approaches, new software, machines, processes, and knowledge.    Benchmarking outside of your industry is a good way to find new ways of doing things. 
Suppliers need to be keeping it fresh by continuously introducing new product and service innovations to the Customer.  The customer should not be the one advocating that the supplier refresh their offerings or methodology.
Progressive suppliers promote a culture of innovation in their own organization and are continuously open to new ideas generated from all quarters. 
Suppliers who embrace innovation frequently involve their customers in generating new product or service ideas. 
Competition is Healthy
Competition can be the healthy stimulus that pushes the supplier to try new things, often leading to improvement.  World Class companies are more proactive about looking ahead even when they have a seemingly secure market position.  
World Class Companies are advocates for innovation, and tirelessly look for new solutions to old problems, and among  the first to experiment with new methods.  World Class Companies foster idea sharing and creativity and embrace new contributions from any quarter including from the competition.
These ‘Ten World Class Leadership Values Of Business Success’ are the age old fundamentals of what customers want- captured here based upon more than fifteen years of customer satisfaction research. The relationships between these values as an integrated set correlate with positive behaviors customer’s exhibit when these World Class Leadership Values are found to be well implemented.
In short, the World Class Leadership Values are the formula for excellence in the customer-supplier relationship- which will lead to increased return and recommend rate behavior- which will translate to more business, higher levels of competitiveness and a more productive overall business operation.  This is exactly the right  approach to lead your business out of today’s hard economic times and establish a foundation for a solid and dependable future.
But how do you integrate these values into your business?  With all of the things on your plate right now, managing a new business direction change seems like it might be a daunting project- but with all the pressures of today’s economy- change you must.
With this need in mind, and now that you understand the potential for revitalizing your business -(no matter how large or small), I can offer you several options to help you start turning things around for greater success with your own enterprise, right away.

which is my most comprehensive business revitalization tool kit yet.  Includes all the Values and backgrounds, organizational audit, Values prioritization Matrix, World Class Leadership Values Self Assessment, Competitor Analysis Guide, Planning and Improvement Tools, Guidelines for Organizational Change and more.  This is a click-bank download and comes with a bonus download of my individual recession impact planning guide for individuals called:  How We Will Endure – Values Strategy and Leadership In The New Recession.  This product has an affiliate program if you want to help spread this powerful knowledge in the economy and make a few dollars while you do it. 
If you are serious about making a difference in your enterprise right away, and you’d like our assessment and advice, take the Free Online Audit right now,
and we will get back to you with a personalized results report, impact chart graph, recommendations and findings and share a telephone consult with you- at no charge. 
We are interested in helping every business we can in this tough economy- to renew and revitalize with a solid foundation for a healthy economy in the future. 

About the Author

BART ALLEN BERRY  is a veteran organizational development consultant who has been helping organizations reach their potential for the past 27 years.  Bart has trained more than 200,000 employees and managers, authored a host of books and assessment instruments to help build productivity, teamwork, and revitalize businesses in the recession. Bart is the Founder of Southern California based- Aquarius Training & Development and regularly consults with the Fortune 500, Government and international firms worldwide.

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