The Simplest Customer Service Trick in the Book

I really don’t mean to over simplify this, but customer service is really simple. And the number one trick is the one so many of us overlook.

It’s returning a phone call.

To restate it, always take your customer’s incoming phone call.  If you can’t, then always return it as soon as possible.

We are constantly interviewing our clients’ customers and vendors as part of our services. This gives us an unpolished view of our client so that we can get the most street-level picture of how the market views our client. Good, bad, or indifferent; warts or beauty marks.  Every blemish.

On a recent assignment I had an unexpected and unsolicited opportunity to interview a client’s customer. I was having lunch with an associate when he informed me that he was a customer of my client. He bragged on the quality of the work and the level of expertise that everyone there showed. But – and this was a big “but” to him–they were horrible at returning phone calls. After inquiring why that stood out so much for him, he explained his reasoning.

First, a little background: they, both my client and my associate, are in a project-focused businesses where time lines and benchmarks are critical. That means there needs to be constant back-and-forth communication about progress and status of various elements of a project.

My associate, while glowing in his compliments about my client as to his abilities, he was extremely frustrated to the point of considering discontinuing any future work because he just simply didn’t hear back from him when he called. Note that he didn’t say “he got bad service or production or bad results.” He just didn’t get timely information. And many times all it would have taken would have been a call back to say, “I’m still working on it, everything is going ok, but I don’t have any changes to report.”

Simple, right? Well, if it’s so simple, why do I find this to be a common complaint? I haven’t done any real scientific or serious analysis on this, but my practical experience informs me that this is really prevalent across all businesses.

Let me just leave you with this challenge. Return your phone calls, even when you have nothing to report. If you don’t have time for a full conversation, then send an email saying you got the phone call, there’s nothing new to report, and you’ll be calling back shortly–and then do just that.

Hey, this stuff really is simple!  Remember that old line about “90 percent of success is showing up?” This is a variation on “showing up.”



Singles or Home Runs?

We’re coming up on Major League Baseball Opening Day. Spring time in America! You just can’t beat it!

There’s probably nothing more exciting in all of sports than to see a grand slam home run. The bases are loaded and the batter knocks it into the second level of the left field bleachers. There’s just something about that event that makes the rest of the game almost fade away. You’ll remember that play probably long after you’ve even forgotten the final score of the game.

So what?

Way back in an earlier life, I had the privilege and challenge of working with a company as the vice president and general manager of their computer distribution division. This was early in the computer business and all of us in the market were pushing and shoving and trying to differentiate ourselves. I was fortunate enough to work with a well-funded parent company, so we had the wherewithal to do some creative things–so, we did. Of course, we  were also competing many times with equally well-funded companies and that meant they were doing some of their own creative campaigns.

After trying several different programs, succeeding at some and failing at others, the president of the company challenged me with a baseball analogy (lesson?) that I’ve been applying ever since.

After a particularly costly marketing plan that did not achieve much, he said: “Dave, you’re really good at swinging for the fences with some of your campaigns, but I’d be much more pleased if you’d just give me consistent singles and doubles.”

He went on to say: “If you do that, we’ll make consistent progress and get more growth while the other guys waste their time and effort on their home run attempts.”

It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten, even though it’s still in me to want to swing for the outfield bleachers.

As we work with clients, we challenge them to define their ideal client and that then leads to developing a more defined “go-to-market” strategy to best reach those ideal clients. While we’re not marketing experts, we are “go-to-market” experts. Meaning, that we take the “singles and doubles” approach to getting new business and keeping it. No fancy “home run” efforts. Just good old fashioned approach to improving batting averages by doing the right things consistently and repeatedly. This has proven over and over again to result in healthy growth without major investment in unproven marketing or sales efforts. Just the basics of getting a hit most of the time you step in the batter’s box. Which, by the way, happens every day.

So, when you go into work tomorrow, hit consistent singles and doubles. Forget expecting your team to hit home runs. Make sure everyone is doing the basics.

  • Call your prospects
  • Return phone calls
  • Be honest
  • Be consistent
  • Be dependable
  • Be reliable
  • Be responsible

Be the best batter – that’s the one who consistently gets a hit – not the one who occasionally hits a home run. That will grow your reputation and your business more than any other strategy.

Be blessed out there!


Put Your Hands On It–All Your Planning is Done

When I was growing up my father had a woodworking shop that my brother and I were proud to work in. Ok, there were times we were proud to work in it:  other times – like Saturdays and holidays –not so much. Nonetheless, there were always lessons to be learned. The obvious ones, of course, were the skills required to do woodworking: planning, layout drawing, cutting diagrams, joints, material selections – and on, and on. In addition to all of those, there were also important life skills that, many times, I didn’t realize I was learning until much later. To this day, I find myself reciting some of those very lessons to my own children and to my employees.

One of the greatest lessons comes from my Dad’s most common way to get us to begin a project:

“Ok, it’s time to put the coffee down and get your hands on it.”

You knew when he said that, he meant it literally and he meant right now.

No more talking about what needed to be done or how we were going to do it – it was time to literally shove a board into the saw. From that moment, there was something magical that occurred. Things began to happen.  Until we put our hands on it, there was nothing but a bunch of idle tools and a stack of raw wood. The project started to take shape and, before long, there was a fully assembled table or cabinet sitting in the shop.

And it all started with, “Put your hands on it.”

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about planning out the new year.

  • What your plan should be.
  • Starting with looking back at what you’ve done in the past year.
  • What you can build on for the new year.

A lot of serious thought has gone into these plans. And then a lot of effort has been applied in getting everyone to provide ideas and input. Just like all the planning and designing that needed to go into our woodworking projects.

But now the planning is done. Now comes the really important phase: it’s time to put your hands on it.

If you want to see results, they’ll only come by your actions, not your plans. We are all judged by our actions and not our plans. It’s time to believe in our plan and now “put our hands on it.” And get after this new year with a passion.

Magical things will happen. When you take action.