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How to Leverage What You Do Right!

checkI saw a commercial today for an exterminating company that advertised the ongoing training their employees receives. I’m not looking for an exterminator but it made me think about the importance of using what your organization does right and leveraging it as part of your marketing plan.

We moved a few years ago and I researched moving companies to help us. The only way I knew to assess these kinds of companies (this was before Angie’s List) was to ask about their internal practices. I asked if they provided training for their employees and if they solicited customer satisfaction data. I was truly surprised at how different the response was from company-to-company. I ultimately picked a business that did both ongoing training and solicited customer feedback. This was important to me because it told me that employees were put through a structured training program (I didn’t want them dropping my TV) and if they asked for customer feedback, they were probably more likely to respond to customer issues.

So what kinds of things is your organization doing right that you can leverage?

  • Training: Depending on the industry, most people place value on training. Whether it is customer service training or mechanic training, most customers feel a level of comfort in knowing the people who are taking care of their needs have had the appropriate training to do so.
  • Background Checks: Whether you have service technicians who enter customer homes or are a daycare center who takes care of small children, communicating that background checks are part of your screening process can help ease the concern of potential customers. I worked with an organization that hosts a large summer day-camp every year and they do background checks on the army of volunteers they use to manage the children. Parents find comfort with that.
  • Accreditation: Accreditation and certifications demonstrate a person or organizations credibility in providing products or services. Whether your organization is accredited through the Better Business Bureau or have certifications in information technology, the paying customer is interested. These kinds of credentials are what separate the professionals from the not so professionals.
  • Financial Transparency: Nonprofit organizations that solicit and rely on outside funding and donors benefit greatly when they provide financial information to donors. Donors want to know that the money they are donating is being used wisely and for the purpose it was intended.
  • Customer Satisfaction: When a customer purchases a product or service, they want to be reassured that they will receive what was promised to them. Collecting, monitoring and advertising customer satisfaction data can be a powerful tool in marketing to new customers. Customers want to know that their voices will be heard.
  • Quality Data: Organizations that track quality data can use it to advertise products or services. Whether an organization has won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award or can claim a 0.001% product defect rate, quality data can be a great way to sell your product or service.
  • Best Places to Work: Customers like to do business with organizations that have happy employees. Being nominated or winning awards for best places to work is another way to demonstrate creditability with the community and improve employee engagement.

Organizations that advertise the things they are doing right have the advantage of attracting the educated consumer. The ever-changing consumer driven culture demands more and more transparency in how an organization is run so you might as well boast of your good practices!

What are other things you leverage in your marketing plan?

Writer Bio: Kathy Clark is an MBA who is passionate about helping small business owners see their vision come to life by creating corporate infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She writes for, and is the founder of http://thethrivingsmallbusiness.com.

photo credit: PNASH

Take Assumptions Out of Customer Listening

Rock the mic.Len Berry of Texas A&M University first told this story twenty years old. But, it still holds a very valuable lesson. Don’t assume you know what your customers want or need without asking! Especially today when their needs are constantly changing.

The new manager of the Chicago Marriott was going over year-end budget requests and came across a $20,000 line item to upgrade the black-and-white television sets to color in the bathrooms of the rooms on the concierge level. At first glance, it seemed like a really nice enough service enhancement. But something teased at the edge of his service vision.

So, the manager started asking questions of his people, based in part on the implicit assumption that they had been listening to guests and hence would have a good handle on their preferences and requests. First, he asked the concierge level staff and the people in engineering how many requests they had received for color sets in the bathrooms on that fancy floor level. “Actually, none” was their reply, “but we thought it was a neat idea.”

Then, he asked the housekeeping staff assigned to the concierge level what they were hearing from the guests on the floor–what was the most requested item that they didn’t have. Keep in mind, this was twenty years ago. Their reply: irons and ironing boards. Guess what he authorized for purchase under that line item? And as an unexpected reward for listening, understanding, and responding, it turned out that the cost of putting in irons and ironing boards was much less than the cost of upgrading black-and-white television sets to color. It freed up housekeeping to spend time on more critical tasks.

Listening is a contact sport! It is about listening to learn, not listen to make a point, instruct, or correct. It is listening like you would at a raffle! Listening without contact–listening without dramatic connection–is like looking without seeing. Given the uniqueness of being really heard, customers remember long those who listen well.  How can you replace your shaky customer assumptions with solid customer intelligence?

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do about it. They can be reached at www.wiredanddangerous.com.

photo credit: florianplag

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