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Competition Customer service E-myth Management Positioning Sales Small Business systems

The value of follow up

Previously, we’ve talked about how my old software company did every-30-day follow ups with clients and why it was so valuable. If nothing else, it made up for things that we maybe didn’t do so well.

When I have conversations with business owners about following up, it often comes up that these things are a lot of work. They don’t mean the follow up itself, but the act of getting their staff to actually do it, much less getting them to remember to do it, and so on.

First of all, a follow up system has to become part of your system for doing business, just like the bubble wrap that you insist must be wrapped around that expensive English bone china egg coddler before shipment.

Your staff wouldn’t dream of shipping a fragile piece of china without bubble wrap, and if you train them properly and make it part of the way you do business – they also won’t dream of blowing off the follow up.

The other side of this is that it isn’t rocket science. You don’t need an expensive system to make this stuff happen. A system could be an extra, documented, managed step that you insert into your paper-driven process.

So what about the value?

As I mentioned yesterday, I had some suspension work done on the Suburban. This is the same place where I bought the tires that are on it.

In the 13 months since I bought those tires, I have yet to receive a phone call, postcard or email offering to check those tires for uneven wear (a sure sign that something else needs to be repaired, or that I’m too stupid to inflate my tires properly).

Likewise, I have yet to receive any sort of contact to check alignment, brakes, or even to rotate my tires.

I don’t receive a contact in the early winter when lots of car owners change out regular tires for studded ones (I don’t, but many people do). I don’t receive a contact in the spring when the studded ones come off and are replaced by regular ones.

Not only are these things that naturally bring people to that store, but they also are ideal inspection times. Swap out time is an ideal time to determine that the other tires you are switching to might need to be replaced.

All this non-contact despite the fact that this store rotates and does flat fixes for free (they appear to understand Cialdini). It’s fairly clear to me (because of other things they do and how they do them) that they want me to come back and buy tires there again.

There is a pile of opportunity to offer a little care for those tires, and while showing they are trying to help me get the most from them, possibly earn a little extra cash by finding something during various inspections. And maybe sell me new ones.

Doing the math

For my rig, new tires are a $500+ expense. If you have 1000 customers (and they probably do), at any one time, research shows that about 3% of them have an immediate need for whatever you sell.

That’s 30 sets of tires waiting to be bought any any one time. $15 grand. Is that worth a little follow up effort?

We also talked yesterday about the batteries and how a free inspection routine for ANY vehicle would increase sales as well as improve the relationship. You see this in quick lube shops, sometimes to the wrong extreme. That isn’t what I’m proposing.

If you see 12 people an hour in a 10 hour day, that’s 720 clients through the door per 6 day work week (remember, it’s a tire store). If only 1 client per day needs a new battery (for example), and they buy a $45 battery, the free inspection will result in $14,040 in battery sales.

And that’s just batteries. Who knows what other sales you’ll make and what safety issues you’ll find.

Sure, maybe most of those people will buy a battery from you anyhow, but your inspections will have them buying before they are stranded somewhere, late for work, late for an appointment, stuck in bad winter weather, unable to drive their pregnant wife to the hospital and so on.

And you were the one who caught the fact that the battery was about to fail.

Look at your numbers like we did here and put a value on them. I suspect you’ll find a nice green reason to make it a part of your way of doing business.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t sell tires and batteries. You can use this too.

Categories
Competition Corporate America energy Honda Leadership Management Positioning Small Business Strategy

Doing one thing really well

Anyone who has ever driven or owned a Honda vehicle knows one thing that is consistent about them.

They make a tight, efficient vehicle that lasts a long time, and costs little to drive day to day.

They started doing this when gas was under $1.00 a gallon, long before it was fashionable, much less necessary to reduce fuel expenses.

Now that gas is approaching $5 per gallon, little has changed at Honda.

Except of course, sales volume, and the fact that they manufacture many of them right here in the US.

Is everything you do as a business owner focused on achieving your company’s core goals?

If not, why not?

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Management Small Business Technology Tiger Woods

Denying service to Tiger Woods

Denial of Service (DOS) attacks occur when slimy types hit a web server with thousands (millions, whatever) of requests for access all at the same time.

Their goal is to bring a website down under the unanticipated workload.

A common strategy is to focus these thousands/millions of requests on a website all at once during an important time – like when Tiger misses an eagle putt on 18.

It wasn’t hackers this time. Just a bunch of golf fans trying to watch Tiger and Rocco.

You see, the U.S. Open playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate was streamed live on the web last Tuesday, as well as followed in Twitter via Summize.com, and elsewhere.

A network engineer at Arbor Networks, noticed an interesting pattern to the Flash video traffic on the internet during Tiger and Rocco’s playoff round.

The oddest things can make your life interesting in business.

Last Tuesday afternoon, a lot of network engineers were trying to keep the internet’s pipes flowing – and maybe weren’t sure why things were hopping all of a sudden.

Consider this encouragement to think about the events going on around your world, and across the globe.

Something like a missed putt just might impact your business more than you think.

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Automation Competition Customer service Employees Management Marketing Positioning Productivity Small Business SMS systems Technology The Slight Edge Twitter

Operations and Details: Why you need a passion for crossing the T and dotting the I

One of the very few troubling things about living in a small town or a rural area is that sometimes, not all that often, but sometimes (yeah, I repeat myself), you find yourself “forced” to use a vendor that drives you crazy.

Because of what appears to be a lack of passion about operations and details.

Talk about timing. As I was writing this post, up on Twitter pops this tweet from @ChrisBrogan :

“Is anyone really *passionate* about operations and details?”
Chris Brogan

To be sure, when I say “passion”, I don’t mean that your hormone levels start rising when you are making sure your business’ detailed operations are just so – and have processes in place to keep them that way, but I’ll tell you what: I’ll bet you ARE passionate about the lifestyle that your business provides for you.

You know. Things like being able to make that Boy Scout meeting, that piano recital, that Wednesday afternoon golf “meeting” every other week, the choir practice, your kid’s soccer games or the bridge club.

Whatever it might be…the passion that you have for the lifestyle you lead has a direct relationship with the passion you have for crossing the T and dotting the I.

You probably think I’m nuts, so let’s talk about a few examples from my business life. I suppose this could be a reference to the pet peeves discussion of a few days ago, but this is really a bit different because the kinds of things I’m talking about here could be a part of any business.

In my case, it’s a local business whose services I use every month. Likewise, several of my clients use this service every month because they produce the production version of what I created for my clients (gee, is that vague enough?)

Why do I put up with the annoyance?

One reason and one reason only: There is no viable alternative business that provides this service within the community with the slate of features I need.

These are the kinds of things that any service business could be doing, and quite a few online or brick and mortar retail product stores could be as well. That way YOU can fix the ones you might be doing.

Number 1 – They deliver, but they can’t tell me for sure (in advance) when a produced job will be delivered.

When they do deliver, they don’t notify me that they’ve delivered the product. Because I happen to be one of those “Likes to know if the client got the stuff I ordered for them” kinds of guys, I have to call back (and remember to call back<g> and ask if the stuff was delivered. Today, I had to do this and they had to call me back because they had no idea.

Number 2 – They don’t notify me when the job is done/delivered unless I ask (and sometimes not even then). They clearly have no system to keep track of what needs to be delivered, what is on the truck, what has been delivered and what couldn’t be delivered. My guess is that they might have a clipboard nailed to a wall somewhere. Maybe.

Note that the big box store that competes with them (but doesnt offer enough services to make me switch), DOES have automated email notification that the job is done and I can pick it up.

Little things make a difference, especially when I can decide to give them my cell phone’s SMS email address, forcing their email to my phone.

Why is this apparent triviality even important?

Lessee…In the days of $4 gas, an emailed notification that goes to my phone could save me a 40 mile round trip drive (if I’m already in town for something else), PLUS 40+ minutes of their productive time if I have to turn around and come get that job because it is time-bound.

I don’t like doing business with companies that waste my time. Do you?

It might not just be my time. Maybe I have my virtual assistant (who lives here) pick them up. Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to take the email and forward to her, or call her? Sure, they could email directly to her – but if they aren’t emailing, what difference does it make? So now we’re talking about contractor or employee time, depending on your situation.

Number 3 – Out of control accounting. OK, I admit it, I *hate* bookkeeping (yes, I do appreciate and take action on the reports).

This is important with them because I often pay by credit or debit card and then get invoiced for the same amount at a later time. This happens repeatedly. So much so, in fact, that I have to get statements and make sure I haven’t paid for something twice. Sometimes I pay in person. Sometimes I pay over the phone or even via email. It doesn’t seem to matter, because double payments or unlogged payments are a frequent issue.

In the case of the in-store payment, this occurs despite the fact that they appear to enter the payment on the computer when I’m in their store. In fact, most of the problems originated from in-store payments.

Call me confused.

By now, you’re probably still wondering where the “why cross and dot” in all this is.

Simple: It’s those lifestyle things that make owning a business worthwhile. If your business is out of control, you don’t have time for that every other Wednesday golf meeting with friends you treasure. You can’t make that Rotary meeting once a month, much less once a week.

You can’t go on that photo safari across Montana, much less across Africa. And you sure can’t leave at 10am or 2pm for that school play or soccer game out of town that you promised your kid you’d make, even though they know you’ll be on your cell phone the whole time.

Why? Because you can’t leave your business for a week for fear that it will collapse into chaos when you aren’t there.

Cross the T and dot the I, and put systems in place to make sure it happens even when you aren’t there.

Imagine if you don’t have these things in place. That ONE important delivery to your best client gets messed up, or forgotten and that client leaves forever taking 5 or 6 figures worth of business to a competitor.

Now you feel like you can’t ever leave to watch a kid’s recital, ball game or what not.

Is that really worth not putting some effort, some passion into systems that cross the T and dot the I?

Don’t you want your business to be the one that is known as the one that never drops the ball?

Categories
Competition Customer service ECommerce Management Marketing Small Business Strategy systems

Making it easier – isn’t that what your clients really want?

Easy Cheese photo credit: xiaming

Yesterday, we talked about making it easier for your clients to do – whatever it is that you make them do, hopefully not making them do it at all.

But what about making it easier to do the things that you can’t eliminate? One example is making it easier to reorder from you. You already know what your clients buy, right?

What do you do to remind them it’s time to refill, replenish and reorder? Since you know what they ordered, it should be easy for you to do this.

How do you know? It’s in your order database, point of sale (POS) system or online store order history.

You know how long it has been since they’ve visited your store or ordered online.

Is that number of days getting close? Shouldn’t you send them something (or call) to make it easy to order?

Has that number of days already passed? Shouldn’t you be contacting them to make sure all is well and that they haven’t run out of whatever they buy from you?

Do you have a system in place to get regular reorders pre-authorized by your clients? Makes life easier for them and more fruitful for you.

If you have automated reorders in place, isn’t it that much harder for a competitor to steal your clients from you? And aren’t your clients that much happier with the way you’ve added a little non-stick Teflon to their day to day lives?