What Your Customer Knows

I have heard one too many complaints lately about customers and most of the complaints have been from people in customer service roles. They have come from kind of a wide variety of businesses but the majority have been from people working in the retail industry. 

 

It’s those complaints and additional comments regarding customers that prompted this post. 

 

While the complaints and comments have come from a variety of industries they all seem to have the same underlying theme…. “we” would have much easier jobs if it weren’t for these pesky, demanding customers. 

 

Keep in mind that the vast majority of these comments have come from people specifically charged with caring for customers. 

 

I find that amazing. 

 

Now I don’t think they actually mean that they wish all their customers would leave; if they would just listen for a second to what they are saying I’m certain they would quickly realize how foolish they sound. 

 

It’s a couple of other comments however which are really concerning. A couple of people I had lunch with recently work in the call center for a huge brick & mortar retailer with thousands of stores around the United States.

 

It became clear that they really believed a good many customers they dealt with on the phone all day were just plain stupid. They assured me however that they were experts in hiding that “belief” from those same customers. I think these two “professionals” honestly believed that the customers were so dumb that they could not tell the true feelings of the reps on the phone. 

 

If you’re a customer service representative of any kind and you told me 1000 times that you had the absolute ability to hide your true feelings and emotions from the customers you interact with I would tell you 1000 times that you are wrong. 

 

And I don’t believe in telling anyone they are wrong. But in this case you are as wrong a wrong could be.

 

You can only hide the fact that you believe the people you’re dealing with are stupid for so long. Sooner or later, likely sooner, much sooner, the people will figure it out. A few words here, a little tone of voice there and your “professional” demeanor is betrayed. 

 

Your customers know whether or not you respect them. Your customer knows whether or not you value their business. They know when you think they are a pain in the butt. I mean seriously, you can tell when you’re annoying someone, you can tell when the customer service rep just wants to get you off the phone….well guess what, your customers can tell that too. 

 

But that’s not the important lesson in this post. The lesson is this: your customers are NOT stupid. Yes, they may get some things wrong, they might not understand all your “policies” and they may at times exaggerate because they don’t trust you enough to take the matter seriously if they don’t. You likely do know more about their situation than they do but hey, you’re supposed to, you’re getting paid for it.

 

If you’re in any kind of position where you interact with customers you must treat with them the full level of respect that they deserve and I didn’t say deserve by accident. They aren’t just paying for your products, they are paying to be treated fairly and with respect. If you find yourself unable to do that on a very consistent basis then you need to find another line of work. Sorry to be so direct with that but hey, if you’re not taking care of the customer you’re not taking care of the business. 

 

There is this great big hulking monster of retail out there largely unencumbered by bricks and mortar who will take care of your customer if you don’t and in doing so they will take your business with them. 

 

In today’s business environment if you think that outstanding customer service is optional you won’t need to be thinking much longer.


Think about that! 

When Goals Matter – Part Five

I’ve asked hundreds of salespeople through the years about their goals for an upcoming year and a common answer is “I’m going to sell more.” When I ask how they are going to do that the most common answer is, “I’m going to work harder.” 

 

I know that neither is likely to happen, not because they don’t want them to but wanting to sell more and pledging to work harder are not goals. At best they are hopes. At worst they are just lies we tell ourselves so we can more convincingly tell them to our bosses later.

 

They aren’t goals because they lack most if not all of the elements of the SMART method of goal setting. But most of all they completely lack specificity. Sell more? Wow, what salesperson doesn’t want to sell more? 

 

The obvious question is how much more but even that answer would be missing the specificity to truly be considered a goal.

 

At the end of this post you’ll see an example of a goal-setting form designed to promote the type of specificity required to set true goals. 

 

Pay close attention to every area. Your deadline to accomplish the goal is critical but so is the start date. Successful people know that “someday” is not a start date and neither is tomorrow. Write down the date and even the time of day on that date that you will begin. That’s specificity! 

 

When thinking about the investment you’re willing to make to achieve your goals think in terms of more than mere money. What amount of time are you willing to invest to achieve these goals, money is often the easy part. Time is usually harder to come by, that’s why I stressed “stop goals” earlier in this series. When considering the challenges you’ll face and how you will overcome them think also about who will help you. 

 

It’s not a weakness to ask for help and it’s not a bad idea to have that help lined up before you need it. 

 

Lastly, how will you know when you have achieved your goal? Is it really measurable? You absolutely have to be honest with yourself here or the whole goal-setting process is worthless. So be honest! 

 

Don’t forget to spell out what your first step will be. Starting is very often the hardest part of all. Once you get going you have the opportunity to build a little momentum. There’s nothing wrong with starting small, a little momentum is far better than none at all. So get going! 

 

Never ever forget, these are your goals. Pay no attention to the negative people who may just be afraid of your possible success. Listen to those who have your best interest in mind but always make your own decisions. 

 

Decide today that you will be unstoppable in pursuit of your goals and you will not be stopped. You will achieve the life you want and you’ll do it your way. I’d call that a pretty good definition of success! 

 

So, here’s the very simple form to guide yourself towards achieving the life you want:

 

 

 

Using the SMART formula, determine the goals that will help you reach your Vision/Mission.

 

Goal #1   Long-term   Intermediate   Short-term   (circle one)

 

 

Deadline to accomplish:

 

 

Start Date:

 

 

Investment I’m willing to make:

 

 

What challenges will I face?

 

 

How will I overcome these challenges?

 

 

How will I measure my progress?

 

 

The first step I will take is: 


When Goals Matter – Part Four

I remember asking one of my mentors many years ago what I needed to do in order to be successful. His answer, as usual, what short and to the point. He said you must have balance in your life. 

 

It was his opinion that you could be the most successful business person in the world but if your family hated you then you were not truly a success. He believed that an unbalanced obsession in any one part of your life kept you from complete success. 

 

I believe he was 100% correct in his assessment.

 

So I recommend setting goals in six key areas of your life. Those areas are family and home, financial and career, spiritual and ethical, mental and educational, social and cultural and physical and mental. (For those of you who think that’s 12 areas I’m okay with that too but the pairings actually go together)

 

I think you’ll find that having goals in each of those areas can help you achieve them all. You may not always be motivated to head out to work but when you realize that you’re actually working for your family it tends to make it easier. Perhaps you’re really kung ho about getting that promotion at work but when you also have a goal to have a thriving social network you may be more likely to pull yourself away from that desk. That means you have some balance in your life. 

 

Before we go any further let’s make one thing perfectly clear; when I say social network I’m talking about the old fashioned kind, you know, the kind where you interact with actual humans, face-to-face. Talking to them…with your voice. No amount of social media followers or friends will ever replace human contact and never kid yourself that it will.

 

Now, back to goals.

 

Once you’ve determined where to set goals you’re pretty much ready to start writing them down. I like the SMART method of setting goals, you’ve likely heard of it many times. Make certain your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed

 

It’s a great method for setting goals, it has just one problem….it seldom works. It’s not really that SMART goals fail because they are not smart, they fail because most people don’t seem to understand the definition of specific. They end up with MART goals and that doesn’t even sound smart. 

 

So, in the fifth and final post of this series we’re going deep on specificity. You’ll end up with goals that represent your roadmap, a detailed roadmap, to success.

 

Until then consider this… I’ve always heard it said that there are only two things certain in life, those being death and taxes. I’d like to add this to the certainties of life: if you’re willing to be stopped in the pursuit of your goals there will always be someone or something to stop you. 


The more specific you are in setting your goals the harder it is for someone else to get in your way. You’re looking at a substantial investment of time in order to be specific when setting true goals but it’s an investment with a guaranteed return because it’s an investment in yourself. 

When Goals Matter – Part Three

Hopefully since my last post you’ve been considering those activities you do with some regularity that provide you with no return on your time investment. Your odds of accomplishing anything new go way up when you’re prepared to give up something old to get it. I guess maybe that’s what “they” mean when they say life is full of trade-offs.

 

If you’re indeed serious about stopping something in order to start something new you’ll need to set a stop goal with as much specificity and accountability as any other goal. We’ll talk about those goal setting characteristics in our next post but the key thing to remember is that a stop goal is indeed a goal and the same rules apply if you plan on achieving it. Old habits die hard and unless you’re very intentional about killing them they tend to linger on indefinitely.

 

There is no magic to the number of goals you have but keep in mind if you’re focusing on 21 different things you actually have no focus at all. Prioritizing your goals in order to focus is a key to actually achieving them. It’s also perfectly okay, in fact it’s good practice, to occasionally adjust and rethink your goals.

 

If you’re serious about goal setting then it’s vital that you be honest with yourself. If you have a goal to be debt-free in 3 years then don’t try to convince yourself that you can go three years and never spurge on something. Build the occasional spurge into your goals, discipline is important in achieving goals but so is realism. Being overly aggressive when setting goals causes frustration and frustration is a short path to failure.

 

Your formal goal-setting process begins by determining your vision and your mission. You should write out an actual vision and mission statement to guide you through your goal-setting and your life. Your vision statement is a description of where you are going in life and what it will look like when you get there. Make it fun, make it appealing and make it truthful. This is YOUR vision, don’t be talked out of it by someone who wants to run your life. It’s hard enough to achieve your own goals; you’ll find it nearly impossible and totally unfulfilling trying to achieve someone else’s. 

 

Once you have your vision statement you’re ready to develop your mission statement. This is a statement that sums up the direction you want your life to take in the future. That direction should be leading you directly to your vision. Once developed your mission will become the driving force behind your goals, both personal and professional. 

 

Goals always matter but when you’re on a mission you’ll find that goals really really matter.

 

By the way, if you’re still wondering about those stop goals then a mission statement can really come in handy. If you’re doing something too frequently that doesn’t help you accomplish your mission then you may want to set a stop goal around it. That allows you to focus more energy on the things that do help you accomplish your mission.


In my next post I’ll discuss the areas of your life you may want to consider setting goals and exactly what a true goal looks like. Until then start thinking about your vision and mission. Understanding, with great specificity, where you want to go in life is absolutely essential if you truly hope to get there.


When Goals Matter – Part Two

I should probably warn you right up front that the process of setting truly achievable goals is serious work. It requires some heavy thinking and a substantial commitment of time. If you’re not at a point in your life where you want to have a measure of control over every aspect of it then maybe this post isn’t for you.

 

If however you want to be the driver of your life then read on, I’m talking to you.

 

A solid goal-setting process begins with the investment of some serious time considering what is important in your life. That might sound easy but here’s the deal, what is important in your life isn’t what you say it is, it is what you show it is.

 

For instance, you might say that losing weight and maintaining a good physical condition is an important goal for you. But if I followed you around for a week would I be able to “see” that in you. I’d have my doubts if I followed you up to the snack counter at the movies for your third popcorn refill. 

 

It’s so much easier to say what’s important than it is to show what’s important. Other people see what is truly important in your life, often before you do. Before you set a single goal you need to understand that it’s your actions that really reflect what’s important in your life. So don’t “think” about what’s important in your life, “watch” yourself and “see” what’s actually important in your life. Better yet, ask your mentor or a close friend what they think is important in your life. That could be a huge eye-opener for you.

 

Once you understand what is important in your life then you’re almost ready to set some true goals.

 

I say almost because there is one other absolutely vital step in the goal setting process that most people completely overlook.

 

Before you can set a true goal you MUST set one or more “stop goals.” These are the things you’ll stop doing in order to start doing something else. Achieving most goals means doing something that you’re not currently doing. That means you’ll take on something new, something which requires some sort of time investment. 

 

Most people set this goal without any consideration of where the time will come from. Unless you’re one of the rare people who sits around wondering how you can burn a few more hours before bedtime, you’re day (and night) is already too busy. Setting a goal which requires more time without the time to achieve it is merely setting a fools goal. 

 

If you have no time to invest in achieving a goal then the goal will not be achieved. Period.

 

One of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake people make in goal setting is not starting by setting stop goals. 

 

So, in my next post we’ll start the goal setting process by discussing stopping those time consuming, low return activities that all of us do without even thinking about them. They are often mindless little things but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly expensive in terms of the time it takes to do them.


Until then start noticing how you use your time and ask yourself what you’re doing that really pays no return. If you could stop doing it without anyone, including yourself, really noticing then maybe you should just stop doing it. Think about it! 

When Goals Matter

So, I’m on the tee box of a fairly long par four hole on a world renowned golf course. I hit a perfect drive, long by my standards and my ball rolls to a spot in the middle of the fairway. It leaves me with an easy shot to the green except that the green is well above me at the top of a sizable incline. I can’t actually see the putting surface but my golf map shows me the size and shape of the green so I decide to go at the middle of the green. I figure that’s my best chance at a par on this challenging hole. 

 

Well my shot felt perfect and I was certain when I reached the top of the hill I would find my ball at least near the center of the green. As I approached the top with great anticipation I saw my ball almost perfectly placed in the absolute center of the green. Another perfect shot!

 

In that same instant I looked for the hole to see how long my putt would be. I looked and looked but to my amazement I simply couldn’t find the hole. My playing partners couldn’t find it either. We couldn’t find it because there was no hole. I was crushed, the rarity of two consecutive good shots was for naught. I couldn’t finish the hole because there was no hole. Whatever happened the rest of the round no longer mattered either, I could not reach my goal of making par on this difficult hole.

 

With the goal gone I quickly lost interest in the remainder of the round. 

 

Or at least I would have if that had actually happened. (The part about the green not having a hole isn’t the only made up part of the story, the part about the two great shots in a row is even more unbelievable, at least for me) 

 

Imagine running a race with no finish line… how far are you willing to run knowing there really isn’t a finish? 

 

Imagine paying big money for front row seats to an NBA Basketball game and once you reach your high priced seats you see that there are no baskets. The players will just be running up and down the floor dribbling and passing the ball but never actually taking a shot. I mean why take a shot when there is nothing to shoot at?

 

You wouldn’t pay money to watch that because there is no outcome….the players work just as hard, it just leads to nothing. I’m betting they would be bored almost as quickly as you.

 

As unlikely as those scenarios may seem the fact is that a majority of people go through their lives playing basketball ball without a basket and they run a race with no finish line. You see, a majority of people, actually a vast majority, have no formal goals in their lives. They have nothing to shoot for, there is no finish line to cross. 

 

As a result they lose interest in whatever it is they are doing pretty quickly. They go through the motions of life without really living. They can tell you what’s important to them but you’ll seldom see it in what they do with their time. 

 

Most people spend on average 40 hours planning a vacation of a week or longer yet invest virtually no time planning the rest of their lives. Goals are the plan for the rest of your life. 

 

If you truly want success, long-term lasting success as defined by you and you alone, then goals matter. 

 

The most successful people in every walk of life have goals and a written plan to achieve them. In my next post we will look at where and how you may want to set goals, real goals, achievable goals, for yourself. 

 

Goals will guide you towards greater success and fulfillment in your life so be sure to catch part two of this post just a few days from now! 

The Need for Feedback

Some people want feedback on their performance and some people don’t. But if you’re a leader you need to understand this basic fact: ALL people NEED feedback. At least if their performance is going to improve in any significant way.

 

As a leader it is vital that you provide that feedback if you want your people to grow. By the way, if you don’t want you people to grow then stop calling yourself a leader. Just sayin’.

 

This feedback must be fairly consistent and very specific. It can be “scheduled” like during an annual review but it can also be spontaneous, occurring in the moment that you think feedback would be helpful. I should also point out here that if you are providing feedback only during those scheduled annual reviews you’re likely not providing your people with nearly enough feedback to be truly helpful. 

 

Let’s talk about specific feedback. “You need to improve” is NOT feedback, that’s criticism. Feedback involves much more detail. Be as specific as possible about where and how the improvement must occur. Let your people know how you will determine if the improvement has happened. Provide a timeline on when the improvement needs to happen and set a specific date and time to provide updated feedback to confirm that you’ve seen the required change. 

 

Do not ever tell someone they need to improve in a particular area by the end of the month and then leave them wondering if you think their improvement has been sufficient. You need to follow up with additional feedback.

 

I wonder sometimes if the reason so many “leaders” are poor at providing feedback is that they feel giving feedback could lead to confrontation. If you’re a leader who feels that way it could be because you see feedback as something you only provide when improvement or corrective action is required. However, the best leaders provide feedback in all circumstances, bad and good! 

 

It seems most every leader understands the some sort of feedback is required when improvement is needed. What many forget is the it’s also great to provide feedback when things are going well. When you give feedback for a job well done you reinforce the successful actions of your entire team, even if the feedback was provided to a single individual. Feedback for successful actions also needs to be specific, “nice job” barely qualifies as a compliment much less feedback. Tell the person WHY it was a nice job, share with them specifically where they went right and encourage them to continue the effort.

 

A couple of key points here; obviously feedback given to promote corrective action or improvement is best given in private, between you and the person you’re trying to help. Feedback for positive reinforcement can and probably should be given publicly to display a model of successful effort. 

 

Now, back to where we started, some people want your feedback and some people will “resist” your feedback so don’t attempt to force your people to drink from the well of feedback rather inspire them to have a mighty thirst for it. 

 

You inspire them to thirst for feedback by showing them you truly care. By showing them that you have THEIR best interests in mind. 

 

When your people know the feedback is intended FOR them and not directed AT them they will likely become much more receptive. 


One last thing for those of you on the receiving side of feedback. I’ve never in my life received negative feedback. The feedback I received may well have been intended to be negative, I simply refused to receive it that way. That’s a choice and it’s one I would encourage you to make as well.