genuine business practices

How Just 1 Negative First Impression Can Leave a Lasting Impression

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What kind of first impression is your team making?

More than 10 years ago, I worked at the front desk of a storage and distribution warehouse. It was a very small satellite of a Canadian company with about 10 employees. One day, I received a call from a large postage meter company. Since part of my job was to thoroughly filter incoming calls and only put through a very limited number to my manager, I had to prevent him from having to take any unnecessary calls.

I allowed the salesperson to make his initial spiel, but being a small company and mailing very little, we didn’t have a need for such a service and I informed of that. He continued to try to sell me on the idea, and I continued to let him know we only mailed maybe a dozen items a month. I’m not a pushy person and probably much more polite than I should be, especially since that was one of my first desk jobs. The salesperson was not pleased with my answer, so he hung up on me.

Yes, the salesperson hung up on me.

To this day, every time I hear that company name – and it’s a big company – I think of that incident and the horrible first impression I have of that company. And even though he was just one person there (who hopefully didn’t work there much longer after that incident), he was a representative of the company providing a very negative lasting impression. So lasting that I saw a competitor’s product at work yesterday and told that story to my coworker, and this is more than 10 years later!

Maybe some don’t think this is a big deal, but what if down the road, I decided to give them a second chance? And what if I had an issue with my account or their product which is bound to happen? Would they be willing to help me or would they hang up on me?

Conversely, had the salesperson been understanding and helpful, perhaps providing his contact information for me to have on hand if perhaps some day our needs changed, I would have remembered that. And if I had needed their services, I would remember that and probably would be much more forgiving if any account or product issues arose. I would also be much more likely to pass that information on to those I knew as a recommendation.

That wasn’t the only time I have been hung up on, but another experience goes to show how a negative situation can be turned around. I took a sales job at my next company selling uniforms to law enforcement. I received a call one day from a police chief and although I was being as helpful as possible (and polite), he hung up on me. That’s fine, I get people have bad days, especially in the law enforcement field. But what turned the situation around was that he called me back moments later and apologized. Yes, he was having a bad day, and no, I hadn’t done or said anything wrong.

While it’s important to provide everyone with excellent customer service, it is imperative to provide a good first impression because as my example shows, bad first impressions can last for decades. And negative experiences spread like wildfire, especially with social media and review sites. Too many negative reviews about a business can quickly kill future business or even put a company out of business.

So make sure if you talk to customers, you are always as helpful and polite as possible and instill this in your team members who talk to customers, because just one negative impression can leave a lasting impression and lose a potential customer, possibly forever. If a negative situation does arise, be sure to quickly respond to try to mend the situation. People can be very understanding and forgiving if you’re sincere. In fact, reaching out to a customer and repairing a negative situation can change their impression and make them a customer for life.

Building positive relationships in and outside of your company will make it a much more pleasant place,  and will also grow your business.

Tell me about your good, bad or redeeming first impressions of a company in the comments – I’d love to hear your experiences!

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4 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy Likes for Your Facebook Page

Managing a Facebook page is very challenging.  The rules change frequently and keeping your fans engaged is a continually evolving process.  Just getting fans is challenging.  So some Facebook page administers resort to buying likes.

But there’s more to a Facebook page than just the number of its fans.  Facebook pages are about building relationships as an extension of your business so when your fans want or need your product or service, you’re fresh in their mind.  Fake fans won’t buy into your real business.

Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t buy Facebook likes:

  1. Buying likes violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  If you get too many likes too quickly without organic methods such as Facebook ads or links from a website, Facebook has spam detection methods of detecting this and can disable your like button or even unpublish your page.
  2. Purchased fans won’t be your customers.  They are for numbers only and many are in different countries or are fake accounts without a real person behind them.  Since the main purpose of having a Facebook page for your business is to build and maintain relationships with customers or potential customers, you are defeating your own primary goal.
  3. Purchased fans will decrease the percentage of real fans who actually see your posts.  Since only a small percentage of your fans see your posts, Facebook decides the percentage based on how many are interacting with your posts (EdgeRank).  Increased interaction increases this percentage and vice versa.  So if your fans aren’t engaged in your posts, Facebook will show fewer fans your posts and chances are many of the fans who do see your posts will be fake.
  4. You can easily get real fans using inexpensive Facebook ads.  Why should you pay to advertise on Facebook?  Because it’s extremely effective.  Facebook offers amazing targeting capabilities to ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising budget.  And since you set your daily or campaign budget, you can get a lot of likes for a very low amount.  (I got 51 likes for just $25 on one page.)

So while it may be tempting to purchase likes on your Facebook page, in the long run it’s only going to hurt the effectiveness of your page.  Instead, stick with legitimate methods to get real fans so you can build real relationships with them and eventually turn them into real customers.

Recommended Books About Facebook

Don’t forget to check out my book!

Everything I’ve Learned About Facebook: A complete guide on how to create, strategize, manage and promote your Facebook page to increase customer base and brand awareness for any size business

5 Steps to Incorporate Lean Manufacturing Into Your Business

Lean manufacturing is maximizing production with minimal waste.  It sounds simple enough, but many companies do not take the time to evaluate their processes to determine how they could be run more efficiently and this can severely impact the bottom line and cost the company hundreds to millions in dollars each year.

It’s not that companies don’t want to maximize productivity, it can be for several reasons including the following:

  • Management is unaware that there is a problem
  • Those who can make change are resistant to change
  • Management believes the processes are already the most efficient
  • Management does not revisit or re-evaluate fixed processes to ensure they remain efficient

Companies want to run efficiently because the more efficiently they run, the higher their profit margin, the happier their employees and customers are, and the more successful they become.  However, management and executives are not always aware of the minute details of every function within the company, only that  processes are being performed and production is consistent.

Here are a few steps companies can take to make processes leaner and more efficient:

  1. Document processes: The first way to determine whether processes are running as efficiently as possible is to closely review them and document them thoroughly.  Have employees outline how they perform regular tasks thoroughly enough that someone else could complete the task by following their instructions.  This will provide each step required and allow thorough analysis of the process.  The goal is to have every process documented to the extent that any other person could complete the task as it is written.
  2. Review processes: Once processes are documented, review each step to ensure it is executable by someone else.  If not, have the employee revisit and clarify any missing points.  Once clarified, start highlighting any steps that seem unnecessary or those which could be replaced by more efficient steps.  This is also a way to quantify processes by determining time and resources required to complete each task.  The goal of initial review is to find bottlenecks and unnecessary steps that can be eliminated in each process.
  3. Cut waste: Determine which steps are unnecessary and remove or replace with more efficient methods.  This can include authorizing employees a small dollar amount to approve for purchasing or defectives, rather than wait for their manager to review and approve or to authorize email approval versus signature approval.  The goal is to remove any unnecessary steps and replace with more efficient, logical steps.
  4. Streamline processes: In manufacturing, lean processes focuses on literally reducing the number of steps—footsteps—required to accomplish a task.  Documenting processes is a way to determine the “footsteps” within a process in order to maximize efficiency.  Once you have cut the waste from processes, they need to be re-written to reduce the number of steps and increase the output.  The goal is to maximize the efficiency of each process to result in maximum output with minimum waste.
  5. Review & improve processes: What works best at one point in time is not what works best forever.  It is vital to revisit each processes periodically, quantify the work versus output and determine whether a more efficient process could be put in its place. Set goals and benchmarks so you have quantified points to reach and a method to evaluate qualitative processes.  The goal is to ensure your processes are running as efficiently as expected and to determine whether further review is necessary to increase productivity and efficiency from each process.

Employees can become nervous when asked to document how they do their jobs.  They often feel as if this is a way to get rid of them and have an instruction manual for their replacement to follow.  This is not always the case.  They are tasked with documenting their processes because they should be the expert at it.  A review of their processes is necessary to keep the company’s processes streamlined.

In some cases, it may be determined that some employees are no longer needed because their work can be absorbed into another employee’s processes.  While difficult, this can be beneficial for the company in cutting excess expenses and maximizing efficiency.

In a lean manufacturing company, employees should have enough work to do to make them a vital part of the company, however, they should also never drop below a point of necessity within the company to the point of their position not being needed.  Employees will be most functional when they have just enough work to do to keep them busy for their shift, but not too much work that would cause them to be careless in completing tasks too quickly to complete the tasks properly.

Lean manufacturing should not be a one-time action—it is ongoing for continual improvement.    Think of it as maintenance after weight loss.  If you make the effort to follow the rules and put in the hard work to lose weight and reach your goal, you need to continue a healthy lifestyle to maintain your hard-earned body.  However, if you go back to your old habits, your hard work will be lost and you will end up right where you started.

However, once the initial stages are completed, with regular maintenance, you will be able to maximize your efficiency with regular evaluations which will result in smooth, efficient processes with minimal waste and maximum productivity and profit.

The Power of a Positive Customer Experience: The Quick & Easy Shopping Experience

We’ve all heard the adage of “receive good service and you’ll tell one person, but receive bad service and you’ll tell ten,” but do companies heed this advice?  Not all.  If you’ve ever visited yelp.com, you’ll see loads of exactly what customers think about businesses.  Granted, everyone and every business can have a bad day, but if there are repeated negative comments about a product or service, it may be wise to fix the problem lest you risk losing your customers to another business.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that customers don’t want to be bogged down by excess information and aren’t concerned with what will make things run more smoothly for your company; they are interested in a fast, easy transaction, satisfying product/service and minimal disruption to their daily life.  If you want happy customers and repeat business, you must cater to their needs.  The easier and more positive you make their experience, the better results you will yield.

Take for example two grocery store chains.  One is a super mega store with additional household products and generally lower prices, the other is a regular grocery store with a savings club card.

Mega store is appealing because you can find just about whatever you’re looking for there and the prices really can’t be beat.  Sure, the store isn’t as clean and the employees don’t necessarily help you very efficiently, but you can usually find your way around the store easily and the savings mean you can buy more for less.

Then consider regular store.  The store is clean, well-stocked, the employees are friendly and helpful and there are often great deals on products you need.  The prices are a bit higher, but you get that extra bit of service and the confidence of a clean store which increases the value of your experience.

Now flash forward to the end of your shopping trip: you’ve loaded everything you need into your cart, spent a good hour at the store, are hungry, maybe you spent all day at work and you’ve got a ton of things to do at home.  In other words, it’s time to get out and move on with your busy day.

Now mega store has 30 check stands, which looks promising, but only 3 of them are open and each has at least 10 people waiting.  If each transaction takes 3 minutes, that means you’ll be waiting in line for 30 minutes!  What about your frozen and refrigerated foods?  They’ve already been in your cart for at least 15 minutes and will be in your car on the ride home for another 15 minutes (because most mega stores aren’t right in your neighborhood) so your cold food will have been out for at least an hour by the time you get it home.  Maybe it’s not a big deal, but knowing that, if your milk tastes a little funny in the next day or two, it will surely cross your mind that perhaps your food could have gotten out of the “safe” temperature range while waiting at the grocery store.  You spite the fact that you spent so much time at this store but tell yourself it was worth it because you saved some money.

Regular store has about a dozen check stands and at least half are attended.  The lines have maybe two or three people in each and occasionally, you are the lucky one who gets called to go to a newly opened register to expedite your checkout process.  You spend maybe 5 minutes in the checkout and another 5 minutes driving home because regular grocery stores are usually much closer to neighborhoods.  Your cold food has been out of the cold for approximately 25 minutes and you arrive home 35 minutes faster than you would have, had you gone to mega store, plus you don’t feel rushed due to being forced to wait to pay for your purchase.  You realize you may have spent a bit more money than you would have at mega store, but you saved time and frustration so you don’t mind spending a little more.

These two scenarios are very real customer experiences existing today.  One of a customer’s final impressions of a shopping experience is checking out, when they are paying a company so it can stay in business.  How do you want to than your customer for keeping you in business?  By providing sub-par customer service then making them wait in line half an hour so they can pay you for it?

Eventually, this kind of treatment starts to grate on customers and they decide it’s not worth the savings to put up with the hassle involved.  This is when the regular stores can step in and win over these frustrated customers with exceptional customer service and quick check out.

But it’s not limited to just grocery stores or even retail stores for that matter; this situation goes for any business with customers.  While it can be tempting to undercut the competition in price, it’s important to focus on making the customer experience as positive as possible, even if it costs a little more.

Another example is an auto insurance company that takes an hour-long phone call during business hours and multiple call transfers to handle a policy change that another company lets its customers manage online at any time of day in minutes.  Or how about a cable service provider who arrives at the end of a 4 hour window, causing you to miss a day of work versus another company that can schedule a 2 hour window on a weekend?

It is the ease of transaction, the satisfying product and/or service and the minimal disruption of daily life that create positive customer experiences and can land you life-long customers.

What examples of positive or negative customer experiences have you encountered?

Ocean Marketing: A Public Relations Nightmare and How to Avoid it

If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s the importance of getting things in writing as well as being courteous to your customers—the lifeblood of any business. Getting things in writing not only serves as a helpful reminder of what needs to be done, it can also help trace the cause and lead-up to both successes and failures to help you succeed in the future.

Email chains serve as a timeline between multiple parties and since everything is in writing, there’s no confusion about what details were spelled out, unlike remembering chicken scratch notes from a meeting. Have you ever been in a long meeting and left remembering only a few vital points and some humorous commentary that didn’t have anything to do with the main topic? This is a time when getting things in writing can help you succeed.

Now, imagine that same meeting with a written agenda with room for note taking then receiving a summary of what was discussed with a plan of action laid out? This way of thinking follows the basic presentation training of “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to talk about, I’m going to talk about it, then I’m going to tell you what I talked about.” Three chances to get the information in your head.

Another great reason for emailing information is it enables you to search for it at a later time in the event you need to obtain information or follow-up. I’ve made a point of including order or model numbers in emails so if I want to trace the lead-up to an order or follow-up on a particular order, all I have to do is search for the order number.

There are times, however, when getting things in writing can be negative. As with anything digital, it is important to understand how easily information, photos, videos or even sound clips can be spread. While the intent may not always be malicious, it can quickly turn that way, especially if emotions get involved.

Take for example, the recent case of Paul Chrisoforo from Ocean Marketing. If you haven’t heard of him yet, he is a public relations professional who forgot his manners and how easy it is to forward an email. What started out as a simple inquiry from a customer regarding the delivery date of a pre-ordered a video game controller, quickly turned into a career train wreck for Paul. Instead of just giving the customer a straight answer, he was vague, got irritated with the customer, then completely insulted and spoke inappropriately to the customer.

In his tirade of insulting the customer, he, in return, let the customer know just how important he was, how many powerful people he knew, and how many gaming expos his company would be attending. When he mentioned PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, the customer decided that it was time to inform Mike Krahulik, creator of popular comic and blog Penny Arcade, as well as head of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).

When Mike read the disastrous email chain, he let Paul know he wouldn’t be getting a booth at the expo. Rather than calm down or even look into who this Mr. Krahulik was, Paul continued the insults, power trip and name dropping. By that point, Mike decided he’d had enough of the drama, and informed Paul that he would be featured on his blog Penny Arcade the next day. Paul was still excited for the feature and PR until he realized who he was dealing with. Now he’s begging for the publicity to stop and has written an apology to both the customer and to Mike, but at this point, he’s completely damaged his reputation as a PR professional.

Although this put Paul and his company in a very negative light, I would say that this could actually help his career, similarly to the way the E. coli scare at Jack-In-The-Box helped their sales.  At the time, no one wanted to eat there, but shortly thereafter, it was regarded as one of the safest places to eat because the restaurant chain was taking extra precautions to ensure no one else got sick from their food.

Could this be the same case with Mr. Christoforo? Could he really be a brilliant enough PR professional to swing his career into a successful one or has he ruined his career in public relations forever?

I’m sure there are times when it might feel good to really let a customer know what you think, but in the long run, it’s not good for anyone. And worse, as Paul Christoforo so clearly demonstrated, giving a customer that kind of ammunition can be extremely damaging, not just for the person who sent it, but for the reputation of the company as well. Even if you aren’t intending to be insulting or short with someone, because it is in writing and not spoken, it can sometimes come off that way.

So keep your customers happy and your reputation safe with a few tips:

  • Write every correspondence with the knowledge that it only takes one click to forward your message. If you wouldn’t want someone else reading it, you probably shouldn’t write it.
  • If the person you’re communicating seems unclear about what you have written or seems to be getting frustrated, call the person or allow them to “please call” you so you can ensure you are on the same page. If you want to keep that record in writing, it is perfectly acceptable to write a follow-up email “per our conversation” to reiterate your points.
  • Always be courteous and polite, opting to close the email with “thank you” or “best regards” rather than “thanks…” or just your email signature. Make them feel special.
  • If you’re not sure how your email will be taken, have someone else read it. Don’t read it to them because they need to read it as your customer would—without your tone of voice.

The customer may not always be right, but no one likes to be told they are wrong and if someone is paying for a product or service, they want the respect they deserve from that company. Treat them well and you will prosper. Treat them poorly and you will damage your and your company’s reputations.

Penny Arcade Blog Post: http://penny-arcade.com/resources/just-wow1.html

Word of Mouth Marketing: Natural vs. Enhanced Marketing

Two types of word of mouth marketing that occur are natural and enhanced.  Natural word of mouth marketing occurs when consumers take it upon themselves to spread information about your product or service out of experience and enhanced is when your company interacts to influence or create word of mouth marketing.  Enhanced word of mouth marketing occurs when steps are taken to enhance existing marketing efforts or to create new marketing efforts.

Natural word of mouth marketing can be viewed as reactive, for example if someone receives excellent service or is satisfied with a product they purchased and leave a positive review of it online.  It is a natural reaction and many online vendors request buyers to share their experiences for the benefit of other consumers.

Enhanced word of mouth marketing can be viewed as proactive.  This includes creating mediums where consumers can comment on products or services or finding other ways to start conversations about your company.

Now, if you are starting communication about your company, it is wise to always give a positive twist on it.  Instead of asking “what do you think about this product?” try asking “what do you like best about this product?”  By starting on a positive note, you are more likely to reap positive results.  And positive results are what you are seeking in the first place, correct?

If you encounter negative natural word of mouth marketing, don’t be afraid to confront it.  Negativity attracts more negativity, but if you can incorporate positivity, you can control your image.  This brings to mind a local bar that hosts BINGO night.  When we first started playing BINGO there, when someone won, everyone else would groan.  We decided to put a twist on this and applaud every winner.  The applauding caught on and with very little encouragement, those who used to groan at the winners now applaud.

This same methodology can be brought to your company.  If we can convince BINGO losers to applaud those who beat them at the game, surely a company can convince their customers to applaud their product or service even when not always 100% what they wanted.  Perhaps an item is on backorder.  How about suggesting a complementary item at a discount?  Perhaps your customer’s tee shirts are slightly delayed.  Why not suggest branded logo drawstring bags or water bottles at a discount.  Find ways to put a positive spin on negative times so you will receive naturally positive word of mouth marketing.

What are ways your company can use enhanced marketing to influence your natural word of mouth marketing?

Word of Mouth Marketing: What NOT to Do

In a virtual world of online polls, reviews, shopping and marketplaces, it can be tempting to fake positivity toward your company.  Even in an anonymous online world, people are by nature somewhat suspicious, especially if a reviewer sounds a little too knowledgable about a product or company.

In order to be effective, word of mouth marketing MUST be genuine.

Here are some examples of word of mouth marketing that may seem to be a good idea at the time but will ultimately work negatively against your efforts:

Fake reviews: people are getting increaingly better at spotting fake reviewers.  There are actually lots of sites explaining how to find fake reviewers (presumptually from the company that is producing the product or service, thus negatively impacting your company even more than actual negative feedback from an actual customer)

Paid reviewers: have you ever seen a commercial with a disclaimer that the person speaking is a paid actor.  It doesn’t do that great of a job convincing you the person is actually that enthusiastic about the product. However, if your parents, friend or sibling told you the same thing, you would be much more likely to believe them.  Paying someone to promote your product can negatively impact your company unless they are convincing enough. Even if the promoter is truly your biggest fan, consumers will question how genuine the promoter is if they are getting paid.

Email Spam:it seems like no matter how hard I try, I still end up getting inundated with unwanted communication from companies I have never solicited.  Not only is this illegal, it can greatly negatively impact your company.  Keep in mind, even if you require your customers to opt in to your email list, they will not take the action to actually opt in.  But when you solicit consumers without their permission and bombard them with unwanted information, they will have a negative reaction.  Make sure if you contact your customers with a bulk email, that they have clear ways to change their subscription or unsubscribe and also that you have a clear message about  why you have contacted them.

Comment Spam:there are programs or bots that will post comments unrelated to the topic or item listed and promote your company.  While you may initially see an increase in your audience, it won’t be long before these bot comments are marked as spam and your message gets lost as an annoyance rather than an effective marketing message.

Deception:people don’t like to feel like they’ve been deceived so offering a deceptive marketing device should be an obvious no-no.  However, that doesn’t stop companies from spreading false or misleading information about their company to try to gain fans.  Sure, it’s exciting to think you can lose 20 pounds overnight, but in most cases, this is not a typical result and will lead to consumers dismissing your message before they’ve even considered your product or service.  By being up-front and honest, you will gain many more supporters than by being deceptive.

You should always strive to keep your company in a positive light.  Being deceptive will only get you ahead for a very short period of time then negatively impact you for much longer and with much more expensive and long-term repurcussions.

Practicing ethical business marketing methods will prove positive results over time and you will reap the benefits long-term.  Reputation is everything and it only takes a few moments to damage it.