Archive for the ‘Future Thinking’ Category

Service, Thy Name is Customer

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Hello to you, the service person. It’s a service world out there. And, this essay will use the word service many times. But, it’s a curious word that has had more than a few vacillating meanings—when someone says “I’m servicing” another, I immediately think something dirty. Yeah … But what does it mean to work in a professional service business? If you’re like 75 percent of the country, you’re genuinely in it for the customer, and your product is your intellect or your ability or something that you “do” for another—a pretty abstract concept. The morass of information about service seems to show what’s right and wrong for those who toil daily for the demanding yet worthwhile customer; but it becomes more complicated when you need to figure out how to DO a service and RUN your own successful company—because you have so many people telling you how to do your job, including the customer.

So what’s with customers? Well, they pay the bill—they’re pretty much the key component to the business, right? But they’re not always right about the business. In fact, they’re usually not right unless they’re highly educated or expertly trained in precisely what the endgame is. And if they are, well, why would they need you? Your job is to instruct your clientele on how you do what they can’t on their own (while not giving away any proprietary goodies), and to show them why, since you’re The Expert, you need to be given the BOTD (benefit of the doubt).

I work in PR and we’ve discovered that most clients don’t really know how PR works or how it’s successful. Let’s just say they haven’t a clue how to judge our work or gauge PR success. We live on the theory that resolving to tell folks what’s right for them—whether they agree or not—is how to be a true service professional nowadays. Because, when you think about it, no matter how the customer feels about you when you tell him he is dead wrong, if you succeed, all the bad feelings go away quickly.

Keep in mind: Is this a popularity contest? Or are you there to get a job done? The good news about being resolute is that people respect you for it even if they won’t admit it. Respect from those who buy your services is tough to get. I’d like to tell you a little secret I learned about 10 years ago at the beginning of the tough-to-manage dot com revolution: Your clients like to be told what to do. They’re actually slightly submissive and want you to take charge, push them into a corner, stand proud, thump your chest and say, “This is me and this is what I’ve got to offer.” They just won’t admit it.

Most of the people I know in various PR and marketing industries slap me down when I go there. “Gosh, Richard, I have to do what the client wants.” But that’s exactly how you get into trouble. What makes you think someone who doesn’t have a clue about PR has good advice? Because he reads David Pogue’s column once or twice a month?

Customers, I’ve decided, don’t really like being asked what they want, because they don’t know! Henry Ford said it many years ago, and it still holds true: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have told me, ‘a faster horse.’ ” (Yes, I owned that horse in the form of a Fiesta.) What’s the point of asking a question to someone who doesn’t know the answer? Tell them what they need to do! Get the buy-in from them by non-lazily and passionately explaining why you are the person they paid to do it. Yes, an Expert.

Sounds like common sense and still most folks will ask the client “Do you have the time to …,” which makes me shake my head feverishly. What’s time got to do with it? Cue Tina Turner. So, here’s what you need to tell them if you really find the idea/request/pattern/next step worthy: Tell them why. Tell them precisely why. Get them to see what they’ll get FOR doing it and what they will get FOR NOT doing it. If the former is better, then make ‘em DO IT.

Remember how I learned a lot about pushing people around in ‘97? See, back then there were so many minor players managing businesses who should have been selling shoes (funding was everywhere; “dumb money” we called it aptly). These little people had a fondness for telling PR pros that he or she “deserved” to be on the cover of Red Herring (circ. 50,000). We would point out, firmly and simply, that even if their self-importance were to spread in that direction, they’d most likely GET NOTHING from it: the business they were growing would not get a lot of new business from The Cover since said company was too incomprehensible and without a fully developed message (or product). Being on the cover of a magazine would in fact do a good turn toward confusing the readers! We pushed back again and again. They pushed back again and again. But we eventually won because the piece we painstakingly placed in the quasi-reputable Silicon Alley Reporter (circ 10,000) got them more partnerships and wannabe customers than anything they thought they, uh, deserved. From that moment on, I resolved to never let anyone boss us around unless they did PR. Because otherwise, our service would just be … a disservice.

Twitter @laermer

Bandwagoning: Lazy Way To Success

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

You know how we’re always being told to do things better, to try harder, to reinvent, to reengineer, to break the rules, to innovate, to make a difference?

You know how “good” is never good enough? How we’re made to feel guilty for doing what’s been done before, for taking the well-trodden path? Just look at some wow-selling book titles: Good to Great; First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently; The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.

Well, maybe there’s just a chance that it’s okay to follow in others’ footsteps.

Not to reinvent the wheel, but instead to roll with it. Maybe we can live better, saner, even more successful lives by jumping on the bandwagon, not sitting at the reins trying to blaze the trail ourselves. I call it bandwagoning. It’s succeeding in your goals in a way that feels more natural… some might even say a “lazy” way.

Here is my definition of bandwagoning: it’s the lazy person’s way to success. But don’t let the “lazy” part put you off. I don’t mean lazy in a bad way, or, rather, I don’t necessarily think that being lazy is bad. In fact, I think that being lazy can be positively good for you. There is pseudoscientific evidence that being lazy not only is beneficial to the spirit and to our general well-being, but can actually make us more successful. Successful according to all the usual criteria such as wealth and happiness!

So please justify all things that are the path of least resistance in life, whether at home or at work, that feel right for good reason. Demonstrate to everyone that taking naps, bucko, is good, nay, a brilliant part of everyday life and leads to greater productivity. Watching TV opens your eyes to the world and provides undreamed-of moneymaking opportunities — those Ginzu knives must be making someone real cash! We’ll give you tips on how to avoid unwelcome social contact and how to survive when you’re traveling away from home.

Recognize that, as a bandwagoner, you’ll be ahead of the curve, and not everyone will be accepting of your new stress-free way of life; you can now proudly cover up so as to appear suitably frenetic and driven.

The above is a reference found inside 2011: Trendspotting, from McGraw-Hill.

Twitter @laermer112305im-so-lazy.JPG

TrendSpotting Tips For Marketers

Monday, November 16th, 2009

playworkstuff.jpgOn the 1-year anniversary of the launch of “2011: Trendspotting,” I have decided to ponder a variety of trends to look forward to in business:

    Out with the bad customers.

These days, businesses generally subscribe to the theory that it

Think

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

think.jpgThings are tough.

Good. Make time for self-examination. Companies should view the recent rough economic times as a gift. The slower pace of activity is allowing companies to take a step back and reevaluate what they are doing and how they are doing it. This break in frenetic action is important because

Kanye Swift: A Marriage Made In Heaven

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Wherefore art thou, decorum?

Let

Gossip Cop: To Protect and Serve Who?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is the first of an inane series on one of America

It

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

It

Is Socialism The Norm & We Just Don

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The country is currently immersed in a wide-ranging (and healthy) discussion about health care. This overhaul of the for-profit system we use is alarmingly overdue so the debate is on in every city and town.

Without going into detail for days, some Democrats, including President Obama, are trying to enact a plan that would revamp the entire industry. Part of it would mean Americans could essentially purchase low-cost insurance from the Government. This is called

Google Voice: Death Of Phone As We Loved It

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Few people noticed when Google shelled out $95 mill for a startup called GrandCentral in 2007. The company

Earth to Lou Dobbs: Hawaii is a “United State”

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

No matter what you think,today is not a wasteland of slow news. The Government is having its most thorough health care discussion ever witnessed, the climate is doing all sorts of strange things (summer has yet to arrive here in the city of New York), and Michael Vick is once again a free man. And playing.

Still, the lazy media finds ways to report on possibly the most asinine

Buy the Book - 2011

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