Tags: Customer Service, Branding, Tony Alessandra, Success, Howard Putnam, Desi Williamson, Nido Qubein, Communication, Leadership, Lisa Ford, communication, leadership, customer loyalty, customer service, success, Brene Brown, Vulnerability, professional speakers, Dr. Brené Brown, vulnerability, shawn achor, the happiness advantage, positive psychology, Shawn Achor, customer experience, howard putnam, lisa ford, dr. tony alessandra, The Happiness Advantage, Dr. Tony Alessandra, adaptability, Peter Winick, thought leader, thought leadership, franchise, southwest airlines, Daring Greatly, customer service fundamentals, Sally Hogshead, Fascination Advantage, The 9-second fascination statement
It's interesting at the beginning of a new year to look back at what articles resonated most with our readers. With 14 speakers on our roster, we've covered quite a variety of subjects. The most popular articles covered such topics as positive psychology, customer service, branding, authentic leadership, adaptability, and franchising. We hope that you find our speakers' posts helpful, enlightening and inspiring.
Here are the ten most read articles on blog.speakersoffice.com/ in 2012:
1) 3 Ways Positive Intelligence Leads to Success - by Shawn Achor
Best-Selling author Shawn Achor shares his research on the "happiness advantage" and how it can boost your personal and professional success.
2) 5 Questions to Ensure Happy Customers - by Dr. Nido Qubein
International speaker and businessman Dr. Nido Qubein suggests 5 questions every organization should ask themselves to ensure happy customers.
3) The First 9 Seconds - by Sally Hogshead
We have been reduced to a 9-second attention span, says Sally Hogshead, which is why the most fascinating messages always triumph. Always.
4) 3 Ways to Strategically Leverage your Book & Platform - by Peter Winick
Guest blogger and thought leader, Peter Winick offers strategies for speakers and authors to leverage their book and platform.
5) Brené Brown: On Leadership, Love and Vulnerability
Dr. Brené Brown says, "As a vulnerability researcher, I’ve noticed a pattern in my conversations and interviews with leaders and entrepreneurs."
6) Lisa Ford's 12 Fundamentals of Exceptional Customer Service
According to Lisa Ford, there are 12 fundamentals of customer service every organization should follow.
7) Grow Your Franchise: An Unconventional Approach - by Desi Williamson
Desi Williamson’s successful Dickey's BBQ franchise is proof opportunities still exist. In this article, he explains his unconventional approach.
8) Howard Putnam: What Makes Southwest Airlines Different?
Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines recently chatted with Brian Lord of Premiere Speakers, about what makes a company like Southwest Airlines consistently great.
9) Are you Adaptable? by Dr. Tony Alessandra
Tony Alessandra says, being willing and able to adapt your behavior increases your ability to communicate and build relationships with other people.
10) New Book! Daring Greatly - by Dr. Brené Brown
Dr. Brené Brown recently announced the title of her new book, Daring Greatly which came out September 2012 and quickly became a New York Times' Best Seller.
Were there other articles that you enjoyed? If so, please let us know in the comments below.
Here is a quick quiz to test the strength of your brand. On a 1-10 scale how radically different is your brand from what your competitors offer? Now, rate how relevant that difference is to your target market on a 1-10 scale. Next, multiply your differentiation score times your relevance score to get your overall Overpromise Score. If you want a true test of your brand, ask potential customers and current customers to take the same quiz.
Companies like Apple, Google, Lululemon, Facebook and ZipCar get perfect scores of 100. My audiences often score them even higher! There are many companies with middling scores of 25-49 that wonder why they can’t seem to grow as fast as they wish. Those with lower scores are likely struggling. So what was your score and what can you do to raise it?
- Do a deep dive to really understand exactly who your customers really are and what is most relevant to them. Learn what is missing in their lives and find a connection to your products, services, brands or offers.
- Develop a new product, new offer or a new way to communicate what you already have. USAA Insurance recently launched a new suite of services under the Home Circle brand. By going to their new Home Circle website www.homecircle.com USAA’s military customers can tap a whole suite of products and services to help them buy, sell, rent, insure or finance their home. The new sub-brand and the site have been wildly successful. The irony is that all of these services already existed and were being offered by USAA, but their insurance customers were unaware of their comprehensive offering because each product or service was being offered separately. By bundling them under a new sub-brand, USAA was able to radically differentiate their company and become significantly more relevant to their core customer base.
- Communicate your innovation in an unusual way. Don’t spam your customers or fill their mailbox with trash. Find an unusual or creative way to break through, with social media, an event or engaging PR. Being radically different and highly relevant should never be boring!
Great companies never stop innovating. They are always looking for ways to push the differentiation envelope and become more relevant in their customers’ lives. The best companies make it a way of life!
Rick Barrera is a branding expert and customer service speaker, as well as the author of the bestselling book: Overpromise and Overdeliver: The Secrets of Unshakable Customer Loyalty.
Gone are the days when a company could hope to succeed by offering a good product and backing it up with respectable customer service.
In today's overstocked, cutthroat global economy, consumers demand a superior experience from start to finish. Notable names like the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, Chico's, and the Container Store, among others, meet the challenge by devising outstanding brand promises -- they "overpromise" -- to attract customers, and then "overdeliver" by giving those customers more than they ever expected, at the Human TouchPoint and at every other point of contact with their customers.
By making sure that their Human, Product, and System TouchPoints are all honed to perfection, they are practicing a winning technique that I call TouchPoint Branding.
The Human TouchPoint occurs the moment a member of your sales, service, or technical staff interacts in person or over the phone with a customer. The value of the Human TouchPoint derives from the fact that your frontline people can support your innovative brand promise in ways that only fellow humans are capable of -- by empathizing with customers, for instance, clearing up misunderstandings, and tailoring solutions to a customer's particular circumstance. They can bend, and sometimes break, the rules in a customer-friendly fashion.
In other words, they can overdeliver in ways that trigger instant customer gratification and long-lasting loyalty.
The downside is the unpredictability of human emotions. The degree to which the Human TouchPoint fulfills your brand promise depends on how the customer feels about interacting with your employee.
Control and consistency can never be guaranteed, which makes the Human TouchPoint less reliable than the other two critical points of customer contact. But the unpredictability can be mitigated by intensive training and a corporate culture and hiring policies that stress the importance of personal interaction. The personal touch reigns supreme at the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, a subsidiary of Marriott International.
People staying at a Ritz-Carlton hotel expect more than a comfortable bed and a hot shower. They want what the chain's founder, Cesar Ritz, defined as "the luxury hotel experience," and that means extraordinary human service with a winning smile. The hotel's fine linens, handcrafted furniture, and French-milled soaps are part of the luxury experience, but not the centerpiece. Each Ritz facility is a study in personal service, a global Human TouchPoint. At the Ritz Paris, for example, a staff of more than 500 serves only 106 rooms, 56 suites, and 11 apartments.
At Ritz-Carlton hotels, the bellmen are authorized to spend as much as $2,000 to help solve a customer's problem. Ask for directions to a location inside the hotel and you'll get a personal escort. All requests are met with the response, "It would be my pleasure, Sir (or Madam)." The phrase, "that's not my job," is expressly forbidden.
The Container Store, a purveyor of storage and organization products, is a role model for that kind of service and grounds its brand promise in a simple reality: It hires fewer frontline people than its competitors, but it trains and coaches them superbly and pays them from 50 percent to 100 percent more than the going industry average. The result: extremely motivated and enthusiastic employees who happily greet customers and seem to enjoy their jobs. They also listen carefully, respond intelligently, and suggest ingenious space- and time-saving solutions designed to simplify a customer's life.
To attain this preferred environment, the company espouses a set of guiding principles that stress the Golden Rule, flexibility, and intense training. Indeed, all first-year, full-time Container Store employees receive 235 hours of training, as compared to the industry average of seven hours. New part-timers and even veterans receive extensive training, too. All new employees, including office staff, spend their first week working in a store. An exceedingly low turnover rate -- a product of a pleasurable working environment -- is what makes this regimen affordable for the company.
When approaching a customer's problem, Container Store employees are encouraged to think big, to expand the boundaries in order to devise a great solution that not only wows the customer, but, as it usually turns out, also sells more product. Having hired the best people, paid them handsomely, trained them thoroughly, and indoctrinated them in the culture, the company expects them to perform at their peak. And they do.
It's true that Human TouchPoints are critical in virtually every business, but, as I said before, they do have their limits. Many organizations rely on their frontline people more than they should, consigning their company's fate to the vagaries of unpredictable human relationships. It's critical that you recognize the pros and cons of the Human TouchPoint, and do what you must to minimize the drawbacks.
Look around your business. Have you assigned sufficient resources to hiring and training the right salespeople and service representatives? Does your company's culture support them and inspire them to magnificent achievement? Have you created an environment of mutual trust between leaders, employees, and customers? Are you providing the proper rewards and incentives? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, you have most likely designed a Human TouchPoint that advances your brand promise. The payoff will be a higher level of sales and profitability.
Rick Barrera is a branding expert and customer service speaker, as well as the author of the bestselling book: Overpromise and Overdeliver: The Secrets of Unshakable Customer Loyalty. Rick Barrera's programs help companies to create breakthrough brands and deliver extraordinary customer experiences.
We are now reaching an interesting point in the growth of the Web. For the first time, you can run a search on a company or product and you will likely find more information about what other people say about them than what they say about themselves. Time was, we searched for the Internet site of an organization if we wanted to know about them. What we got was lots of marketing hype. Today, we might get a few pages from their Website, then some mentions in various blogs, a few Twitter comments, and links to videos from their latest event posted without their approval. With Web 2.0, the power has shifted to the people.
The United Destroys Guitars song on YouTube, which has been viewed over 5.5 million times in a few weeks, is a great example of this trend. When people want to know what the eWord of mouth is about you or your organization, all they need do is an addictomatic.com search to see what people are saying in the social sphere. Then they can run a socialmention.com search to see what your relevancy is on the Web. When you step back and think about it, we were able to live pretty anonymous lives ten years ago. Now we are torn between wishing we could be invisible from bad guys, but knowing we have to be visible in order to prosper in the business world. In the end, our reputations will be formed on-line whether we agree or not. People will talk about us, upload pictures and video of us, and generally post comments about us, and our performance in life. ORM is here to stay so we might as well figure out how to manage it.
Lots of people ask me when they hear about the concept of ORM, how they can get bad press off the Internet. As if there is some magic electronic Mr. Clean Eraser that can be wiped over the screen and a negative mention in a blog will simply vanish. I, of course, give them an answer they do not want to hear, which is to make sure it does not get on the Web in the first place. When people talk about social media being one of the most democratic devices known to man, I agree. In a democracy, there is freedom of speech. In a democracy, you can try and outvote the other side by working hard to gather people to your message. Will there be the occasional negative person that attacks you or your organization for no apparent reason? Sure there will be. These really are not the problem because they will be drowned out by the good in most cases. The problem comes when you do something to deserve the negative press. Like when you break a guys guitar, and then refuse to fix it. Or when you break up with your girlfriend through texting while on a date with the next girl. You will be flamed publicly, and you will deserve it.
ORM might be manageable in some ways, but it will not be controllable, and this is a great thing. In a world where one person can "talk" to 1.5 billion other people for free, it would be wise to treat people very well. Although that sounds simple, anyone that has had to call an AT&T help line could tell you, we still get shafted daily. Just as a person could be anonymous in years past, protected from public scrutiny by the lack of a technology to post and store feedback from the rest of humanity, organizations could also get away with horrible service. ORM will prove to be their undoing because it will be impossible to "manage" what you cannot stop from hitting the websphere. Social media will now cause people and organizations to reap what they sow - at the speed of light.
Powerful, passionate and creative, Scott Klososky is one of the first successful Internet entrepreneurs and is a highly sought-after technology and future trends speaker. You can read this article and others on Scott's blog Technology Story.
Original interview with Steve Farber by Dan Schawbel posted on the Personal Branding Blog
A lot of people think personal branding is only about self-promotion. What are your thoughts on this, taking into account you're all about leading/helping other people?
"A personal brand that's "only about self-promotion" is just another way of saying it's a lousy brand."
Think of it this way: A company/product/service's brand effectiveness is determined by its ability to convey unique value to the consumer. Coke's brand would be worthless if its promise was something like, "Drink Coke so we can make money." The same is true for your personal brand: it shouldn't say, "Do business with me because I'm so awesome"; it should say, "here's what I'll do for you." In other words, if your personal brand doesn't convey the essence of how you're going to help other people, you've missed the boat altogether.
Personal brands don't scale, which is why teamwork skills are highly applauded and encouraged in the workforce and for entrepreneurs leading a group of employees. What are some leadership skills you recommend people develop?
The most significant leadership skill, in my estimation, is the one that requires your putting to use all your other leadership skills, wisdom and experience. And it's the one skill that does make your brand scalable: your ability to create and develop other leaders who go on to become better leaders than you are. The truly great leaders at work-and in life in general-become so because they cause others to be greater than themselves. And if you do that in a conscious, intentional way, the greater leaders that you help to create will go on and do the very same thing for the people around them, and so forth. It's the proverbial ripple effect. That's leadership scalability, and if leadership is part of your personal brand, you've extended your brand's impact well beyond your own immediate time-and-space-bound influence.
Can you explain your leadership cycle: Expand Yourself, Give Yourself, and Replicate Yourself?
If you're going to take the idea of making others greater than yourself seriously (I call this practice GTY, for obvious reasons), you have to start, paradoxically by focusing on yourself. You have to Expand Yourself in order to have more personal resources to invest in and give to others. You need a deep and expansive sense of who you are, and you have to be getting better and better, more competent, smarter, more experienced and more connected to others all the time.
All for the purpose of Giving Yourself, because the real payoff comes not in the hoarding of the resources, knowledge, and experience you've expanded, but in the giving of those things to aid in another's personal and leadership development. And, finally, you Replicate Yourself by getting the expressed, verbal commitment from others that they'll go out and do the same for the people in their lives. Kind of like the "pay it forward" idea, but applied specifically to human development.
When it comes to networking, what is your take on giving value to others without asking for anything in return? Why do most people fail to capitalize on this gesture?
"We probably fail because we focus on the wrong perspective. We focus on the gold instead of the golden rule."
This do-unto-others sentiment, otherwise known as the "ethic of reciprocity" exists in literally every religion and productive school of thought on the planet. (Including, by the way, humanistic atheism). Everybody says it in their own way, but it's clear that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists all agree that human beings should do good for other human beings simply because it's the right thing to do.
And nowhere in any of these traditions will you find a footnote saying, "does not apply Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 and 5 or in any situation where a paycheck is involved." But-again, paradoxically-the act of giving without an expectation of quid pro quo is what usually brings about the greatest material returns.
Throughout your career, looking back, what would you have done differently and why?
I would have started practicing the art of Greater Than Yourself a long time ago. I'm proud to say that I've helped a good number of people in my career, but I wonder how many more truly world-class, world-changing leaders I could have had a hand in developing if I'd have done my small part in perpetuating this GTY ripple 20 years ago. That's a question that'll never be answered, I guess. Ask me again in another 20 years.
Original interview by Dan Schawbel posted on the Personal Branding Blog
Steve Farber is a leading business motivational speaker and the president of Extreme Leadership, Inc-an organization devoted to the cultivation and development of Extreme Leaders in the business community. His best-selling book, The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership was recently named one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. His second book, The Radical Edge: Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, and Change the World, was hailed as "a playbook for harnessing the power of the human spirit." His newest book, Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership, was recently published by Doubleday/Random House.
Happy customers buy more, upgrade more, consume more, pay more, tell others and put more dollars on your bottom line. Isn't it worth investing some time and energy to create a breakthrough customer experience that will keep your existing customers loyal and win new customers in their first encounter with you? It really is possible to create a breakthrough customer experience in the next 30 days and YOU can lead that effort.
Branding expert and author of Overpromise and Overdeliver: Designing and Delivering Extraordinary Customer Experiences, Rick Barrera shares 7 steps to create a breakthrough experience for your customers. In this 7 page eBook, you'll learn:
- 4 methods for dramatically changing your customer's experience
- What are the right metrics to measure from your customer's point of view?
- What you can accomplish in just 30 days - and how to get started
Read the eBook: 30 Days to a Breakthrough Customer Experience by Rick Barrera
When I address business audiences, I often ask people to share their companies' brand promises. To my amazement, many don't have articulated promises at all. And those that do are often given to promises so fuzzy as to seem indistinguishable from those made by thousands of enterprises in any and all markets. These self-deluders tell me their brand promise is "world-class quality," or "guaranteed best service," or "a company you can trust." My unspoken comment is harsh: So what?
In a world where winners shout distinctive promises, these misguided companies whisper sweet nothings and set themselves up to lose.
A generic promise has no meaning to the customer.
You have to be specific: First, discover who your consumers really are and what they expect from you. Second, tell them exactly how your unique product or service (or both) will consistently meet their needs and unfailingly arrive on time, in order, as advertised. Third, do exactly what you promise - always. Finally, forget about trying to use incremental product or service improvements to win customers to your brand.
In a time when every market is saturated and margins are paper-thin, small-bore fixes will never be enough to jump-start flagging sales and profits. Success demands that you create a brand promise so radically different from those of your rivals that you first set yourself apart from the competition, and then fulfill that promise - brilliantly. You must overpromise and overdeliver, as the title of my book suggests.
Many businesses are doomed from the get-go. They simply never invest enough time or money to pinpoint their markets, fully identify each significant element of their brand, and craft a unique promise consistent with those elements. To get off to a winning start, remember that a promise is a serious commitment, a pledge to do or deliver something at a particular time, without fail. And a brand promise, in particular, expresses all the things that set your brand apart from the competition, all the characteristics that make it distinctive - which is why it's so critical that you live up to your pledge.
Nothing kills a brand faster than an empty promise (just ask tire maker Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corporation, which had to mount a massive recall a few years back after tread separation was implicated in scores of auto-crash deaths; the brand suffered incalculable damage when it lost the trust of consumers who had relied on its tires to perform safely). To put it succinctly, a true brand promise sums up the essence of the brand.
Hardiplank's brand promise, for example, reassures homeowners that their siding will keep them snug and secure for years, while Orville Redenbacher's brand promise simply guarantees popcorn lovers that they will get more of what they love.
Whether simple or profound, the promise must be so radically different from what everyone else in the market is promising that the customer hears you even though you aren't shouting. In other words, great brand promises cut through the chatter because they speak directly to customers about an issue that matters deeply to them.
How to accomplish all this?
As with just about every successful venture in life, you have to start with a firm grounding in the basics - in this case, by truly understanding the meaning of "brand." When I ask audiences, "What is a brand?" I typically hear that it is the mark or logo you stamp on everything you make. It's true that the term "branding" comes from the practice of searing livestock with the mark of a ranch to signify ownership. But in today's business environment, branding has come to mean much more than a way to prevent rustlers from riding off with your property. The great adman David Ogilvy defined brand as "the intangible sum of a product's attributes: its name, packaging and price, its history, its reputation and the way it's advertised."
Brands also carry emotional impact and fulfill deep-seated needs. They connect with a customer's identity and deep aspirations, express personality, and telegraph one's role in the community and desired social status. In the end, your brand is shorthand for a host of qualities, features, benefits, beliefs, and business practices that the customer associates with your company, and that he or she is willing to lay out the money to acquire.
Take the Sony brand, for instance. When I ask people what Sony means to them, I get such responses as "high quality, innovative, expensive but worth the money, latest features, user-friendly, intuitive interface designs, and cool electronics."
Yet, when customers shop for a new DVD player, they don't say, "I'm looking for a high-quality, innovative, expensive-but-worth-the-money, cool, user-friendly DVD player with the latest features and an intuitive interface design." Instead, they use their shorthand: "I want a Sony DVD player."
So it follows that the only way you can know what your brand is, is to ask your customers. Whatever they tell you is the reality.
Your job is to minimize the variations and the changes by sharply defining the brand's promise and then holding it as steady as possible - until you decide it needs to be changed. Once you've crafted a strong, differentiating brand promise based on your understanding of what customers expect from you, you are on the way to building the value of your company.
As brands like Orville Redenbacher, Lexus, and Starbucks have proven, defining and delivering on the right promise can lead to near-legendary status as a company whose products are so coveted that sales continue to grow even as the price climbs. In short, radical brand differentiation that resonates with customers means enormous increases in your profit and the addition of untold value to your brand.
Do your employees know what makes your company radically different from all of your competitors? Do they understand the specific critical role they play in creating customer experiences that are so unique customers can't stop talking about them? Do they know how to talk about your company's products and services in the most powerful way? Is your front line ENGAGED?
If you want your customers to understand how great your company, your brand, your products and services are, your front line must be engaged with customers. What do I mean by customer engagement? I mean that every employee must understand what makes you different from your competitors, and they must know how to talk about that difference in a powerful way. They must know what words to use, what stories to tell and how to tell them. They must know how to engage customers both mentally and physically to get your customers involved in understanding how you are radically different from your competitors, why they should buy your products and services and most importantly, why they should stay loyal for life.
Why aren't your employees doing this already? Haven't you TOLD them all these things? Haven't you PUBLISHED all these ideas and examples in the company newsletter? Haven't they HEARD all the speeches at the annual meetings? Haven't they all been through TRAINING?
Of course! But, have you ENGAGED them? Have you asked for their ideas about what should be done to respond to the rapidly shifting marketplace? Have you forced them to confront your competitors' strengths and design a strategy for obliterating them? Have you asked them to reinvent their own personal role in engaging customers in radically different ways to get radically different results?
Read the entire article: “Is Your Front Line Engaged in the Battle for Customers?" by Rick Barrera
Why your recruiting methods should be as unique as your brand
When Hollywood directors cast a superstar they count on two things, box office draw and the professional actors ability to act, by which I mean the ability to stop being Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlize Theron or Jim Carey and instead become the three dimensional living embodiment of someone else. Watch Capote, Monster or Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and you will see the incredible transformations these actors make in their own personalities to literally become the character, even gaining or losing huge amounts of weight to ensure a complete and congruent representation.
Now think about your own employees, especially those who spend the most time touching customers. How willing (or capable) are they of completely transforming their bodies, minds, souls and personalities into the ideal personification of your brand?
I'm sure you would agree that most are not capable of these radical transformations and that even if they were, they would be unwilling to spend huge parts of their lives pretending to be someone they are not. Radical transformation requires enormous energy, rare talent and is highly stressful. Counting on radical transformation in each of your people is not the formula for creating consistent, positive, scalable customer experiences.
Instead let me suggest that you use a technique well known to the directors of high school musicals and local theatre companies...type casting. Type casting means that you put someone into the role who is already the character! There will be little acting required because they live and breathe the character everyday just by being themselves. Their thoughts are the characters' thoughts. Their beliefs are the characters' beliefs. Their actions are the characters' actions.
In the high school musical, for example, the prom queen is cast as the damsel in distress who mesmerizes all of the men, the school jerk is cast as the antagonist and the captain of the sports team is cast as the hero who will save the beauty. The result? A very successful play! Why? Because very little acting is required to ensure a consistent, predictable and believable outcome.
Using type casting to hire people who will naturally reflect your brand is a simple and proven method that ensures your people will behave as the natural extension of your brand at every touch point. To be sure, hiring to your brand requires that you are already clear about your brand's positioning and have defined the brand personality you want to project in the marketplace. Let's look at how some great brand builders have used type casting to extend their brand to the front line.
Read the rest of Rick Barrera's article "Hiring to your Brand: Why your recruiting methods should be as unique as your brand" to get real world examples of companies that hire to their brand, and why it works for them.
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