Monday, 17 May 2010

Inside Out

If you are given terrible service somewhere you probably think all sorts of things to yourself with variations on ’That’s the last time I am going there!”
When you think ‘Why on Earth do they do that?’ it has probably never occurred to you to answer that question.  Very often the basic answer is that they can’t see their business from the outside as you have just done. Whatever your business one thing you will never be able to do is to see it from the outside, and that presents a problem.
One partial answer is to try to get feedback. Mystery Shoppers have been around for years. As a Bank manager in a former life it was both a carrot and a stick. Our branch staff felt they wanted good results but also felt let down by the rigid, no room for negotiating reports. Large businesses can do these things with some relevance. One side issue is that you actually end up with a target for complaints. It needs to be a target for handling complaints well, but measuring that is hard so they usually just measure the number of complaints.
For a small business Testimonials are good but nobody gets bad ones and they certainly wouldn’t get published. Casual feedback from your business colleagues is good. Ultimately the small business ends up assuming things can’t be that bad if the orders come in or the phone keeps ringing.
The trouble with all of it is that word travels. ‘Word of mouth’ it is called which is an ugly phrase that is trotted out often when a business is not doing any active marketing.    Good words travel just as fast and every contact with the customers is carries a reputational risk that is positive or negative to some degree.
For that reason alone service, professionalism, accommodating, attentive,  are all words that should be in the plans somewhere. It is truly said that it is easier to retain a customer than it is to get new ones. It is very subtle. We are taught from our earliest breath all about body language and interpreting others. Most of it is unconscious by the time we have intelligent thought.
It all applies, to everyone in the business, to every contact made, by letter, email, phone, person, or even being observed when out and about.  See a group of smokers having a cough and a drag by the staff side door and it portrays something not entirely positive. In a business sense all very subtle and not to be ignored.
The best place to spot these things is from outside your business. That is why a consultant is better placed to advise you on this kind of thing. The idea of a ‘mystery shopper‘ touches on the same principle if a little deviously, and is also an attempt to measure the unmeasurable.  It can easily be seen in a negative light by staff and can be unproductive.  Marketing is a big subject and all this comes into it somewhere. Whatever you are doing, make sure you present the best picture to the outside world, your market. Bob Shepherd Associates  has a strong record in coming up with imaginative views on how to present a business. See the main website for contact details or go to  

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