Every now and again, relationships with key customers get derailed. This usually results in a meeting between the client and me, often resulting in more business. Over the years, I’ve begun viewing these interactions as inevitable and accept them as a part of the business cycle. Wouldn’t it be great if we never had to get to the “hate me” part of the “love me, love me, hate me, love me” relationship cycle that we live on most of our large projects? Some advice from my last such meeting got me thinking about how to kill “hate me” once and for all.
During my latest atonement session with a key customer, he told me very simply what he wanted: “Be quick. Be brilliant. Be gone.” What great feedback! It seems easy enough to be any of the three most of the time, but it’s hard to be all three together every time. I took the admonition as a challenge and decided to break each commandment down and analyze it.
Be Quick. If the client has a need, have you anticipated it? If not, what do they need to do to get service? If it’s phone, will their call be answered right away by the right person in your organization? If it’s email, how do you track and triage it? It it’s texting, how do you route text messages appropriately? Turns out being quick is easy when you’re a small shop. Scaling “quick” is tough. We use a combination of CRM and live humans and only succeed 95 percent of the time. The “Hate Me” stage lives in that challenging five-percent no man’s land. Even after engaging clients quickly, scheduling them quickly is the next hurdle. How many of you are two weeks out at all times and have a hard time freeing up service resources? We sure do.
Be Brilliant. Congratulations, you’ve got the customer scheduled for the same day! Are you sending the right person? Do all of your skills lie with a few select individuals or have you cross-trained effectively? Being brilliant is only as good as your lowest-performing team member. Is there anyone in your organization not shooting for “brilliant?” They’re slowing you down. Get rid of them. We fired two people over the last two weeks that got in the way of getting to brilliant. They can’t all be trained up or fit into the right place at your organization. Sometimes you just make bad hires. If you’re like me, you hate to let people go, so hiring slowly and firing quickly makes the best sense for the good of the organization.
Be Gone. Did you disable the ambient light sensor on the TV? Did you test the ZigBee mesh? Did you test the “back” button on the remote or the client’s “Fox News” button on the touchscreen? Did you walk the job and test it 100 percent? We have a saying at Livewire: “Test it for the customer or the customer will test it for you.” “Be gone” means that you won’t be back (for this project, anyway) because you did it right the first time. Too often do we find ourselves missing one or two small details on large jobs. I’ve done it myself. Other than installing the same systems over and over again in the same environment, the closest we’ve come to achieving “be gone” 100 percent is to rack and test in-house. “Be gone” is like a hyperbolic curve approaching 0 but never reaching it. We’ll never get it 100 percent, but we’re always striving toward perfection.
Be Quick. Be Brilliant. Be Gone. Those words are now seared into my consciousness. We will improve because of them. If I saved someone from a “hate me” interaction with a client because of it, that would make my day.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.