Dunvegan Blog

How to radically improve problem-solving in your organization!

In the January 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR)[1], Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg demonstrates the power of “reframing” problems to identify optimum solutions quickly, consistently, and effectively.

He begins with an example that illustrates the importance of framing the problem.

When tenants complained that the elevators were too slow, meaning they had to wait for the elevator longer than they could tolerate, the obvious solution was to replace the elevators ~ a costly solution that would exacerbate the problem during installation.

When the problem was reframed as, 'the tenants are bored while waiting for the elevator', a more cost effective and timely solution presented itself; give the tenants something to occupy their attention or entertain them during the wait.

Have you noticed that most elevator lobbies and elevators themselves have mirrored walls? It turns out that people are happy to look at themselves (their reflection) while waiting and this opportunity effectively reduces the perception of a long and boring wait for the elevator.

So, how do we go about “reframing” problems to ensure that we explore all potential solutions?

Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends methodically applying the following steps:

  1. Establish legitimacy for the idea: Demonstrate the power of reframing to your team. The elevator example is a clear and simple example, or you can present them with a copy of the HBR article.
  2. Bring outsiders into the discussion: Whether from other areas of your business or external consultants, an “outsider’s” fresh perspective can be very helpful. These people will help to illuminate the options but cannot be expected to develop the solution.
  3. Have the individual team members define the problem in writing: This is to be done before you commence the reframing exercise so you can see the range and variety of definitions and ensure that the team is prepared to take responsibility.
  4. Ask “what’s missing?from the problem definition: Be sure that you have considered the full scope of the problem.
  5. Consider multiple problem categories: Ask “what type of problem is this?” A production problem? An attitude problem? A perception problem? An incentive problem? Can the problem fit into multiple categories? This may present several alternative solutions.
  6. Analyze positive exceptions: Identify positive outcomes achieved in previous problem-solving efforts. Consider what was different or unique about those situations and how you may apply the learning to the current situation.
  7. Question the objectives: Identify competing objectives or objectives that are out of alignment; reframe the problem to encompass all the objectives.

Having reframed the problem in one or more ways, it is time to gather evidence to support the reframed definition. Test your hypothesis using recognized research approaches: observation, surveys, prototypes.

Continue to refine the problem definition and the solution until you are satisfied.

To learn more about how you can apply reframing techniques to problem-solving in your organization, please contact Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group toll free at 1.888.281.3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com


 

[1] “Are you solving the right problems?” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, HBR January- February 2017 page 76-83

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Meaningful Customer Feedback for Meaningful Action

At the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association's (TMSA) recent Leadership Conference, participants representing such well known companies as Fedex, Saddle Creek Logistics, Supply Chain Brain, ODW Logistics and the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) gathered over lunch to discuss their company's use of customer feedback for meaningful action. The conversation was facilitated by Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group who encouraged all participants to share their experiences and best practices.

Receiving customer feedback did not appear to be a problem; the challenge lies in capturing the information from a wide array of channels and organizing it in a useful way. Some participants were compiling information from their inbound call centers, sales teams, accounts receivable, social media posts as well as incoming email and web inquiries. In some cases, text analytics were being used to identify themes within the feedback.

Some participants were reaching out to customers to capture feedback in an organized format which is much easier to tabulate and analyze; the information can be  stored in the company CRM so it is accessible to everyone who might "touch" the customer.

In either case, the biggest challenge arises in implementation of meaningful action based on the customer feedback. When customers are dissatisfied, the immediate reaction involves identification and resolution of the individual customer's problem/complaint. And, often the process stops there.

The time to ask for customer referrals and testimonials is when the customer is delighted; following up and actually requesting these referrals requires a process and practice, as well as tracking to ensure that it is being done and done in a timely and effective manner. All too often people get caught up in solving problems and neglect to capitalize on the opportunities for business development.

Another challenge is utilizing the content of the customer feedback to reveal topics/content of interest to the customer, opportunities for adding value to your products and services to better meet the customers' needs, opportunities to show customers how to extract full value from the products and services already available.

Customer feedback can provide a wealth of content for your content marketing efforts and help you build strong customer relationships in the process!

All participants received a complimentary copy of Miner's ebook "Measuring Up! A Guide to Success with Customer Feedback" available on Amazon.

To learn how your company can extract maximum value from customer feedback, please contact Anne Miner at anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com or toll free at 888-281-3074.

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Will 2016 be the Year of Customer?

Any time someone learns that my specialty is customer satisfaction and retention, they immediately rhyme off a list of companies that need my service, along with a litany of grievances about how those companies have treated them.

Despite the attention that customer service, satisfaction and retention has received over the past 30 plus years, it appears that customer care hasn't really improved. As someone who has devoted her career to helping companies create strong bonds with their customers, I am discouraged by the fact that so many companies are failing to meet their customers' expectations.

Companies recognize that positive customer experiences are of utmost importance. Customer feedback provides solid insight to what the customer is experiencing and how to make that experience positive. Virtually every company has some form of customer feedback system so, it cannot be that customers have no opportunities to be heard. And, with so many feedback systems in place, it cannot be that companies lack awareness of customer issues.

Why are we not making more progress in this area? Where is the point of failure?

I have observed that companies focusing on "scores" or "ratings" (e.g., NPS or CustomerSat), rather than on the insights customer feedback provides, are less successful at retaining their customers. Customers become cynical about spending time on customer satisfaction surveys when they see no improvement in the service they receive. This creates another issue as customers cease to provide feedback, and as the responding population shrinks, the measures become less and less representative of all customers.

I have observed that companies systematically measuring customer perceptions of service excellence, focusing on what the company is both willing and able to change, engaging their customers in identifying solutions and taking swift action to resolve customer issues, are better able to deliver positive customer experiences, meet customer expectations and create competitor-resistant relationships.

Where does your company focus its attention? Is this the year that you will decide to change your perspective on customer feedback? Will you listen to the customers who take time to provide feedback and focus on improving the customer experience rather than on "scores"? Will you implement processes to address customer concerns immediately and completely?

Need help? I am happy to invest 30 minutes on an Introductory call with you to explore how we can be of service. Click here to schedule a time to talk.

Wishing you and your customers a successful and positive experience in the year ahead!

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Competitor Resistant Relationships

In any business, you have two key assets: your customers and your employees.  Without either one, you will not have a business. Buildings, vehicles, inventory, cash, even good will … none of these assets make a business.

As the business owner, you will spend a great deal of time, energy and money finding customers and finding employees to serve those customers.  It is your responsibility to protect those assets by securing the relationships with hard won customers and the employees who serve them.

Why is this so critical?

  • It is much less costly to keep a great customer or a productive employee than it is to replace them.
  • When the time comes to sell your business/transition to new leadership, the company will have a much greater value if you can demonstrate that the customer and employee relationships are secure.
  • You will have a happier and more productive workplace when customers and employees enjoy working together.

How does your company address this challenge?

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We live in a "do-it-yourself" world!

Yes, we live in a "do-it-yourself" world; a world in which we have instant access to such a vast array of information, there is almost no question that cannot be answered with the help of Google and a few keystrokes. As a result, we think we can do anything ourselves and the truth is, yes we can.

The question is should we?

When speaking about customer satisfaction measurement, voice of the customer or lost business assessment, company owners often tell me they can "do it themselves" or "do that internally". My answer is, "Yes, you absolutely can. You can learn the process, study best practices, acquire the appropriate software, train your own people to be programmers, interviewers, coders and analysts.

Before you make that decision, the first question you need to ask yourself is this ... is conducting your own customer satisfaction measurement or voice of the customer program the highest and best use of your organization's time, energy and talent?

The second question is ... will this investment in internal resources contribute to your bottom line?

When the answer to either of these questions is "no", then you are better to outsource this work to someone who has chosen to master this subject area, someone who has invested in learning both theoretically and practically how best to perform this work; pay them to get the work done better and faster than you can do it yourself.

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Business Essentials - Customer Care Practices That Matter!

In "Simply Better: Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivering What Matters Most" authors Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan, argue that successful differentiation lies not in unique selling propositions (USP) but in generic category benefits, like good service, on time delivery and quality products, that any company can provide. The key  is to consistently deliver better than the competitors.

Over the past 10 years, The Dunvegan Group has conducted extensive research to identify the factors that contribute to competitor-resistant customer relationships. We have found seven fundamental factors that we refer to as "Business Essentials". Seven areas where companies can differentiate themselves through consistently delivering better than the competitors - or more precisely better than customers perceive the competitors as delivering.

Here are the seven elements of the Dunvegan Business Essentials Index™:

  1. Reacting quickly to customer needs
  2. Doing what you say you will do
  3. Being accessible
  4. Taking time to listen and understand customer concerns and needs
  5. Being proactive in communicating changes regarding how you are fulfilling customer needs
  6. Having accurate billings and statements
  7. Being easy to do business with

Consistently delivering on these seven essential customer care practices has the potential to set your company apart from competitors, strengthen the bond with your customers and help your company grow!

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Customer Care Rules

 

You do know that  a "one size fits all" approach to customer care is unlikely to succeed in building strong relationships with all of your customers - right?

And, you already know that applying the Golden Rule, "Treat others the way you would like to be treated" does not work for everyone.

So, what's to be done?

The Platinum Rule, "Treat others the way they would like to be treated" has a much greater likelihood of success, not only with customers but with everyone!

But, how will you know how to treat them?

Observe their behavior and adapt to it.

If they speak quickly - you speak quickly. If they speak at a more moderate pace, you do the same.

If they begin every sentence with "I", you need to acknowledge and compliment them. You begin each sentence with "You".

Do they make decisions quickly? Once they start nodding, you need to stop talking or run the risk of talking them all the way to "No".

Are they reluctant to make a quick decision? Respect and acknowledge their need to contemplate and validate before deciding.

Want to learn more about how to apply the Platinum Rule? Just ask ... Anne Miner, 888-281-3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com

 

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Customer Transferals versus Customer Referrals

 

As customer care and retention specialists, The Dunvegan Group is expected to maintain long term relationships with its own customers. And we do. In fact, we have served one of our very first customers since 1988!

 

Customer retention provides a high level of stability to any business. Organic growth can occur naturally as the relationship strengthens and new opportunities are identified. Non-organic growth through sales expansion requires acquisition of new customers.

 

We generally accept that referrals are a powerful source of new business; when existing customers offer their support through introductions and sponsorship the likelihood of success is much increased. In fact, the customer's willingness to provide a referral or recommendation is an indicator of the strength of the relationship.

 

During a recent discussion of the new business sources for The Dunvegan Group, we came to the realization that our own growth is more likely to be a result of “transferal” than referral. Transferal results when our key customer contacts, particularly those who are senior executives, move to a new company.

 

Transferal executives often uncover a need for Customer Care and Retention services and invite The Dunvegan Group into the new organization. While this does not guarantee we will win the business, it certainly provides a significant advantage when the executive can speak about the value we deliver, from their own personal experience.

 

Transferal creates an opportunity to continue working with a treasured colleague, in a new environment and the new company's Customer Care program will accelerate at a more rapid pace than is possible when all parties are new to the table.

 

Nurturing your customer relationships for both referrals and transferals makes good business sense!

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Do your customers recommend you?

Do your customers recommend you to others?

We all know that "word of mouth" or personal recommendations are the most powerful of all forms of advertising. But, is the likelihood that customers will recommend you enough to support continuous growth in new customers, retention of existing customers and growth of revenue from existing customers?

Some customers may say they are likely to recommend you but have no intention or need to do business with you again themselves. Perhaps they have moved to a condo and no longer require a yard service or perhaps their child is now fully trained and no longer requires Pull Ups. A recommendation may attract a replacement customer but will not necessarily indicate customer retention or lead to revenue growth.

Another customer may say they are not likely to recommend you ... yet they themselves stay with you and increase their spending! This can occur when your product or service is not an appropriate subject for polite conversation, or  your products and services provide the customer with a competitive advantage. In such instances, their unwillingness to recommend you will have no impact on their own use of your products and revenue growth may occur in spite of poor recommendation ratings.

So, what's the solution?

First of all, we must all accept that there is more to understanding customer retention than their likelihood of recommending you.

We need to know:

  • What customers value about your products and services - why they come to your and buy your particular offering
  • How customers see your products and services in comparison to the competition
  • Whether customers intend to continue doing business with you or are thinking about switching

And in each case, we need to understand the reasons behind the customer's perceptions and intended behaviors.

We also need to know how well your company performs when it comes to problem resolution. Every company will let its customers down from time to time; human error is inevitable. How you recover and remedy the situation is critical to customer retention. Our own research has shown that a problem poorly resolved (e.g., where the customer is not completely satisfied) is as likely to result in a lost customer as a problem not addressed. In other words, unless you are prepared to completely satisfy the customer, it would be better not to spend your energy on it as the customer is just as likely to leave.

The Dunvegan System™ provides continuous customer feedback from the beginning of your relationship with your customer, throughout their life-cycle. Clients have found that our system provides precise guidance on how best to serve each customer, how to ensure that customers are retained and where there are opportunities for revenue growth.

Sound like what you need? Give us a call and let's begin the conversation!

 

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Does your company's mission reflect your ideal customer?

Whether we think of your company's mission as a statement of the problem in the marketplace that your company exists to solve, or a statement of why your company exists, without customers to exchange money for your solution, your company will not succeed. Many a business has failed by focusing on producing a product or service to solve a problem that customers either did not know they had, or did not care to solve at that moment. Or on the flip side, offering the solution to a broad market when a very specific niche would have been more ideal.

Customers can be fickle and they can change their minds rapidly; what they think they want on Monday is discarded on Tuesday when the cost of the solution exceeds the value they think they will receive.

It is imperative that you have an on-going dialogue or conversation with your customers to keep up with their changing needs and expectations. Notice the reference to "keeping up with ... expectations"  rather than "exceeding expectations". What customers expect is that you will be there with the right product or service to solve their "problem" or fulfill their "want", at the moment it emerges - there is no need for you to exceed their expectations or provide them with something they did not expect. Remember, the minute we have an experience, it becomes entrenched in our expectations and thus, you will exceed any given customer's expectations only once.

Every business would agree that the cost of securing a new customer far exceeds the cost to keep a customer with whom you already have a relationship. The estimates range from 5 times the cost to well over ten times as much to acquire a new customer.

So, one would think that the customers with whom you already have a relationship would be treated like golden assets. And that these golden assets would be seen as the fundamental reason the company exists.

Your mission statement - the statement of why your company exists - needs to reflect:

  • Who you serve - who is your ideal customer
  • The problem you solve or want you fulfill
  • How your solution is better than other solutions available

 Above all, your mission needs to emphasize the value you place on the customers who place their trust in you!

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