Listening and Silence

I was reading this post from Diane R. and I found it quite interesting. For starters, I am a huge advocate of the “less is more” philosophy. The problem I find often is getting away with it.

In most meetings, I generally play an active role. Sometimes too much in my opinion and therefore I feel I miss out a lot on what Diane is suggesting. However the unfortunate part is that on those occasions when I do sit back and just listen, I feel that my silence is interpreted as distraction or lack of agreement. Quite simply sometimes I just want to make sure I can fully see where my team is coming from. Knowing (or thinking I know) the answer is not enough, I need to see the whole problem from as many angles as possible before I am confident. That’s why I always preferred math in school over other study subjects, I had to derive the answer, not memorize it.

Being silent more would also have its other benefits, as Diane discussed:

“I wonder if using silence more in meetings – being intentional about letting words hang and sit – would cause me to land on the ones that will net the most?”

The lady has certainly got a point.

She also mentioned the concept of less is more in advertising:

“It’s like Apple – less is more. I saw an ad today on a bus. All it said was ‘I pod’. And showed a picture of the product.”

In most ads that I have ever designed/developed, it has been a struggle to get that agreement with others on the perfect cutoff for content. An ad should spark awareness and/or elicit an emotional response that will later trigger a desired reaction. I don’t believe that an ad should be a fact sheet or a price list. (Unless I guess your company’s name has discount or bargain in it) I have always envied the Apple’s of the marketing world for their ample brand recognition and therefore flexibility in marketing. But then again, they had to start from somewhere didn?t they?

Relationship Theory for Customers

Ok now that I am feeling better from my flu I would like to elaborate on my theory of relationships a bit more. I admit it’s a little rough around the edges but I am pretty confident in its foundation and that it can be applied to real life examples. Relationships exist in many different channels of our life but I feel that the fundamentals are similar in all.

Consider the examples of a customer, a colleague, a spouse, an employee and an employer. Each relationship is different but certain principles remain important. As well, it is critical to enter each of the above relationships with the right attitude. In others words don’t try and enter a relationship with the “What’s in it for me” philosophy, the potential for success for both parties will be much greater if you use the reverse. Tonight for a little fun I will elaborate on the customer example.

To begin to understand the level of respect your existing and potential customers may have for you, consider your answers to the following questions under each category

Intelligence (I)

Do you ask the right questions to allow you to understand their problems? Do you understand how their processes work? Do you know where their real pains exist?

Do you demonstrate a superior knowledge of your products and services that allow you to effectively map problems with solutions?

Can you be creative when determining ways to service your client?

Can you identify strengths and weaknesses in your customer’s system and adjust your process to optimize service potential?

Don’t forget the basics. The reason a customer calls on you is because they need help - something isn’t right. They recognize their pains but they may not recognize the problem. As a vendor you need to use strategies and creativity to address their problems in a manner that is both helpful to them and appropriate to their position. So don’t write every patient the same prescription.

Morality (M)

Are you upfront and honest with your customers? Do you clearly identify items such as deliverables, pricing, and schedules in a manner that they will understand and agree with?

Can your customers receive support when they need it? If they contact your company, how long does it take for someone to address their problem? Are the available channels appropriate to their needs?

Are you genuine with your customer or are you just looking for a quickie? How will your customer be treated AFTER the sale has been made? Will they be hesitant to make future purchases? Will they recommend your product/services to others?

Do you give your customer an opportunity to express how they feel about their service?

Do you keep your promises?

Do you make negative references about your competitors or do you let your performance do the talking?

Never underestimate the insightfulness of your customers. If you start to cut corners and bend the rules, they will notice. Your customers make your business a business - don’t forget that. Be sure to communicate clearly with them and in a manner that is appropriate to their needs. In other words don’t set up a support centre that is available during your working hours but not theirs. Don’t use technology that your customers don’t understand to track issues. Make sure they can express their problems, and make sure you can address them. If you don’t intend on addressing certain things (maybe it’s not appropriate), let them know that before they sign up.

Balance (B)

Do you take time to listen to your customer explain their pain or do you presume to already know everything you need to know?

Do you allow yourself to learn from each new experience?

Do you review your performance regularly to identify potential areas for improvement?

Survival of the fittest? Definitely – but only when you accept that the fittest is the party that continually adapts to a changing environment and never stops evolving. You can’t stop learning and never presume to know everything. Every situation holds something new to learn. If it doesn’t then you weren’t paying attention. Make sure you always look back and ask yourself, could I have done anything better – then make sure you ask your customer the same. You may sometimes be surprised by the answer.

Work Ethic (W)

Will you do what it takes to deliver on time and on budget?

Will your customers refer to you as a leader or a follower?

Do you cut corners and reduce quality in an effort to increase profits?

Do you make sure all meetings with your client go ahead as planned? Do you attend them or make last minute substitutions?

I don’t believe that work ethic is something someone can learn but I do believe that it is something anyone should be able to understand and recognize. Before taking on a task for a customer you should evaluate whether or not you have the resources to deliver what you are promising. If you don’t, then get them. Never stand a customer up. Whether it’s by not replying to an email, not returning a call or canceling a meeting to attend a golf game – you should never stand a customer up. Whether you have 2 customers or 200,000, treat them with the respect they deserve because you NEED them.

Positivity (P)

Do your services provide a benefit to your customers? Do they express this to you?

Are your customers happy to hear you call? Are you happy to hear from them?

Do your customers return for repeat purchases? Do you offer any rewards for them doing so?

As mentioned already, a customer comes to you because they need help. Therefore you need to make sure that you are actually meeting that need. Your customers should be benefiting from your services , if they are not then you need to address this. Your customers are important to you and you should let them no this. Never take them for granted and like your mother always told you – don’t forget to say please and thank-you.

There is a mutually dependant relation between trust and respect, therefore a relationship cannot grow or succeed without one or the other. Now that you have an idea how much your typical customer respects you, its time to determine if they trust you?

Honesty (H) & Ethics (E):

Are you upfront with your customers? Does everyone get a fair deal or just those that ask for it?

Do they know what they are getting when they buy your products or services? Is your service consistent across the board?

Do you try to hide things in the “fine print”?

When times get tough, do you offer the same level of service as when times are good? What about the reverse?

Maybe some companies can make a quick sale by pulling a “fast one” on a customer but is that any way to treat the person who keeps your business a business? Customers appreciate honesty and will come back to you for it. We have all been down the road of dealing with those that like to hide things in the finer print but we also know that once someone has proven themselves to be dishonest, no one wants anything to do with them. Your customers are no different. Be honest and respectful to your customers and make sure your team does the same. However I have also learned that being upfront and respectful with a customer in the beginning creates a special bond that can easily withstand any adversity that may pop up along the way.

All of these items affect the strength of your relationship with your customers and determine the longevity of your business. A customer has hired you because they require your expertise or services however remember they are the experts on what their pains are. Don’t presume to know this. Always communicate with them and never ever betray their trust. Trust isn’t an easy thing to ever get back once it’s lost, and neither is a customer.

Compromise is often the key to success

As someone who is constantly seeking self-improvement and better ways to become more efficient (I admit to a fault at times), I have to say John Porcaro has written an excellent entry on the difficult balance between perfection and compromise. I have to admit I personally find it very hard to let certain things go that I don’t feel are done “just perfect”, but its also something I have been focusing on improving over past year or so. So this entry really hit home for me.

Powerpoint Presentations

Wired 11.09: PowerPoint Is Evil

I read this article after being directed to it via Scoble’s blog. It bought back many terrible memories of Powerpoint presentations that lurked in my past. My University days alone were enough to haunt thy esthetic soul.

Perhaps I too was amazed at how cool it was to watch text zoom across the screen the first time I learned to use the animations and text effects. But once any self-respecting speaker has sat through 20 consecutive presentations on the same subject where the only thing that changed was the direction and colour of poorly formatted text, they would vow to never do that to their audience as long as they lived.

The problem isn’t any particular piece of software. Think of the millions of websites that still exist to this day with “under construction” animated gifs, MIDIs and marquee tags. It?s not the fault of the language surely.

Even in the non-technical world there are many demonstrations of people who have completely different tastes than the rest of us. Maybe it?s the house on the corner with so many lawn ornaments that you can’t see any grass. Or the Dodge Shadow down the street painted at least 30 different colours…on purpose. Different strokes for different folks right.

I respect people for having their own unique tastes even if I don’t get it. The problem is that you need to keep your own flare and style separate from the needs of your audience.

What does your audience need? Surely it depends on the situation. But more than likely they are looking for relevant information, clarity and way to keep from dosing off too often in the middle of your presentation. And at least if they do fall asleep, give them some kind of quick aid when they wake up to tell them where you are.

Commercials

They just finished showing one of my favorite commercials on TV. Got me thinking to what my fave current commercials are:

Top 5 Favorite Commercials:

1. Any VW Ad but in particular the one where the guy licks the door handle.
2. The Bud Light one where the guy gets attacked by a crab.
3. Most Mitsubish ads – gotta like the tunes
4. The pager commerical where the girl gets in car before her boyfriend, and lets something go before realizing there are people in the back.
5. The Bud commercial where the guy dresses as a mascott

Some others include Apple commercials, The I AM Canadian Series, Xbox, and some of the new Coors Light commericals.

I miss the Adcritic, I used to go there all the time but its not the same now.