Tag Archives: clients

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

5 reasons to reduce ‘clutter’ and grow your business

A recent visit to a local boutique was a stark reminder of the main drawback of trying to be all things to all people…

This shop is filled with many beautiful pieces of clothing, jewellery, accessories, giftware and even food. But there’s a problem:  too much to choose from! The ‘noise’ of all the possible options meant the choice I made was to leave the shop in search of somewhere less cluttered and less overwhelming.

OK – so I’ve never worked in retail but I have had decades of experience as a shopper! It surprises me how hard some retailers make if for us to actually purchase from them. Everything from overcrowded displays to lack of staff are barriers to actually handing over the cash.

What about your service business?

“You can’t please all of the people all of the time” was something my father used to say when I was disappointed about something. If he was still around when I started in business, he might have reminded me to be more selective about the services we offer our clients.

Over the years – and it’s an ongoing process – I’ve gradually applied greater discipline to what we will and will not do as well as who we will and will not do it with. I’m constantly reminding myself that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

What’s the situation in your business? Is it easy for a prospect to know exactly what you can do for them?

In my work with professional service firms, I understand the anxiety they often experience when confronted with the prospect of being more finely focussed regarding who they serve and what they do. Once they push through that anxiety, I’ve seen a number of related benefits arise for business owners:

1. Freedom to have the business they want to have, instead of the business they think the should have.  (This is most important because it’s closely linked to the freedom to be themselves.)

2. Prospects make faster decisions about working (or not working) with them, shortening the buying cycle.

3. Staff have more clarity about what the business does and their role in it.

4. They have more confidence to say ‘no’ to the wrong clients and more enthusiasm when saying ‘yes’ to the right clients.

5. By becoming experts in their specialty, they grow in business knowledge, skills and reputation.

All these things have a positive impact on the business productivity and profitability.

What will you do to make choice easier in your business?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Want better customer service?

Qantas is planning to give financial bonuses to cabin crew and other staff based on customer satisfaction (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2012). Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the Herald “Incentivising people for doing a good job is absolutely the way to go. The Apple guys do it and it’s very powerful.”

What’s wrong with Alan Joyce’s  approach?

1. If you have to pay bonuses to get good customer service, you’re employing the wrong people

The people you want working with your customers are people who give great service because, to them, it’s the right thing to do. They don’t have to fake it for a bonus because they genuinely care about people.

Select staff who are naturally helpful, friendly, tactful and enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life. They love serving your customers and it shows.

If you want to stop them feeling good about what they do, you could try:

a) implying they will give better service if they get a bonus and/or

b) surround them with other staff who believe it’s only worth providing excellent customer service if you’re going to get paid more if you do.

2. If you are sure you have hired the right people but you’re still not getting good customer service, look at your systems

There are a number of ways businesses prevent staff from giving excellent customer service:

a) Constant restructuring and job losses causing stress and impacting on individual motivation;

b) Treating customer service as an inferior function instead of critical to business success;

c) Lack of authority at the frontline to make on-the-spot customer service decisions;

d) Policies and procedures that are counter-customer satisfaction; and

e) Inadequate training and development.

3. Believing that if a strategy works for Apple it should work for Qantas (or any other organisation)

There are just so many obvious reasons why this thinking is flawed, there’s really no need for me to list them here.

So how do you provide your customers with an excellent experience, every time?

1. Create a culture that always put the customer first

2. Hire staff with natural talents for customer service

3. Support them with systems and processes that help them give their best

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Please comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why job fit matters for business

Career guru Kate Southam, wrote on her Cube Farmer blog last week  “Whether it is a pair of shoes or a job role, wrong fit hurts”.

The wrong fit hurts employees and the companies they work for, their colleagues and their customers.  The discomfort they are feeling radiates in all directions and can have substantial negative impacts on your business.  Discomfort degenerates into real pain when you have to deal with a resignation or dismissal.

Why choose to go through the pain when there’s a much easier way?

Kate says:  …with shoes, you are more likely to know your size.  With jobs, people don’t often sit down and work out their ‘size’ before they go shopping for a new role.

We say:   Far too often, managers don’t sit down and work out what they’re really looking for before they go shopping for people to fill roles.

We see the results of this ‘mutual mystification’ around us daily with disinterested and unmotivated staff. 

The most common manifestation is in poor customer service.  Other symptoms are bullying, absenteeism and even outright sabotage.

If you’re serious about avoiding pain, this article is a good starting point.

If you need more convincing that the upfront work will be worth the effort, see this article about customer service (SMH, 28 July 2011).

And if you really don’t think you have a problem because your staff aren’t complaining, it might be time to revisit this blog post.

We would love to help you ease the discomfort.  Better still, we can show you how to avoid it.  Contact us for more information.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 1: Communication

Last week’s article on the ‘Top 5’ critical skills in short supply in Banking and Finance generated a lot of interest.

As a result of your feedback, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at each of the 5 areas of skill shortage in turn – beginning with communication – and give you some practical tips for survival.

For a quick summary of what you can do right now,  see our earlier post ‘The five step skills shortage strategy’.

Without excellent communication skills in all your staff, you will find they can’t:

  • build good relationships with clients
  • provide customer service that meets your clients’ expectations and needs
  • explain things well to clients
  • understand what clients need
  • sell your services and/or products
  • work together productively

From just that short list, imagine what poor communication could be costing your business!  But how can you know?

Signs you might have a problem:

  • customer complaints or (worse) losing clients who just leave without telling you why
  • low levels of business referrals (see previous articles on this topic)
  • lack of cooperation and teamwork, maybe some bullying
  • careless and/or expensive errors
  • losing good staff to competitors

What can you do about it?

1.  Be a positive role model

Communicate regularly and openly with your clients and staff.  Make sure this includes listening to what they have to say to you.

2.  Diagnose communication skills gaps

There are many tools and approaches on the market to help you do this.  We would be happy to help you find the right one for you.

3.  Fill the gaps

This may require drastic action that involves one or all of the following:

  • putting poor communicators where they can do the least amount of damage
  • improving the skills of your existing staff through training and coaching
  • hiring staff with the communication skills you want

If there are communication problems in your team, I guarantee without your intervention things can only get worse.  What do you plan to do about it?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top 5 critical skills in shortfall

The Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study uncovered a serious skills  shortage in the Banking and Finance Sector in the Asia Pacific region.

The five skills most in demand are also those considered most critical for mid to senior level managers across all industries.

Of all organisations surveyed,  88% said the shortage of staff with the right skills had a negative impact on their ability to serve clients.

As the FOFA reforms come into play for those readers giving financial advice, we will begin to see the real impact of this skill shortfall in terms of client attraction and retention.

If you’re an employer, you will find it increasingly difficult to identify and hire people with these critical skills.

The top 5 critical skills in shortage are:

1.  Communication including the critical abilities to

  • build long-term, successful, professional relationships with clients, in addition to selling a product or service and
  • communicate complex financial concepts to a non-finance audience in a simple and tactful way.

2.  Problem solving and decision making required for

  • complying with high levels of regulation and
  • dealing with environmental uncertainties.

3.  Strategic thinking to

  • assess multiple external factors and
  • develop and evaluate options.

4.  People Management with the ability to

  • lead, motivate and inspire and
  • ensure teams have the right balance of skills.

5.  Technical skills

  • relevant, up to date and transferrable knowledge and
  • an ability to deal with more sophisticated products and markets.

What has been your experience?  Have you suffered a skills shortage crisis?  Have you found effective ways of dealing with the skills shortage?  What are your plans for the future?  Please share your thoughts below.

 

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business? (continued)

Following on from our article last week – ‘How referable is your business?’ – see below for a further two tips on how you can build up your referral business.

Step 3 – Acknowledge your clients’ fear and make them look good

Your client may often wonder whether the referral process will take up too much of their time and whether their reputation will be hurt if you don’t follow up properly. Think about the client’s needs first, not yours. The referral process needs to reflect well on them and make them look good.

To overcome these fears, explain your referral process and the outcomes of any introductions. This could include following up referred clients promptly and letting the referee know how it progresses, building their confidence in the process. A successful outcome with a referred client strengthens the existing client relationship and should lead to more referrals.

Step 4 – Get the client to articulate your value

At the end of every client meeting ask the client to articulate the value they’ve received. If they say things like ‘I never thought of that before’ or ‘thanks, that’s a great idea’, this is a perfect trigger to have a conversation about who else may benefit from your expertise.

Importantly, your client needs to tell you about the value they’re receiving so they ‘sell’ themselves into the idea of referring you. You can’t badger them into agreeing with you about the value you think they’ve received!

The Bottom Line

There are multiple, ongoing opportunities to talk with your clients about referrals. Examples include when you solve or prevent a problem, when your client buys from you and when you follow up. The key is to look for ways to provide value to your clients and to have a systematic client contact and referral process that your business is comfortable with and that your clients trust.

If this is underpinned by an awareness of what your clients think about your service, then you will have ‘earned the right’ to have the referral conversation and you will be closing the gap between the number of clients who currently refer business to you, and the number that could be.

You may want to visit www.customerreturn.com.au to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business?

Lead generation is now more important than ever and client referrals are the most profitable way to build your business. Do you have a systematic referral process that makes it easy for your clients to refer you to others?

Given the volatility in the market and the caution among clients, it is now more important than ever to strengthen your existing client relationships and make it easier for your clients to recognise your value and refer you to others.

80 percent of clients would be willing to refer their adviser.
Yet only 20 percent of clients are actively asked for referrals.

Our research indicates there is an enormous opportunity that advisers are missing out on. Clients are open to the idea of giving referrals – but advisers are not having enough of these ‘referral conversations’.

How much revenue are you missing out on by not getting a referral from 80 percent of your client base on an ongoing basis? It’s time to close the gap between your current ‘referral revenue’ and your goal ‘referral revenue’ – and here’s how to do it…

Step 1 – Don’t stick your head in the sand…find out what your clients really think

Some advisers are worried about asking for referrals because they don’t actually know what the client really thinks of their service – so the first thing to do is find out.

If you’re not regularly hearing either positive or negative feedback, then that’s a sure sign that your clients don’t care enough to tell you and aren’t fully engaged with your business. That’s exactly when you should worry.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the first step in building a more referable business is to try and uncover client feedback and any complaints through an independent feedback process – most people will be too polite to tell you directly.

Handled proactively, addressing client feedback gives you an indication of who is most open to the referral discussion and is the perfect opportunity to make your business more referable. Our clients have increased their levels of repeat, retained and referral business through this step alone.

Step 2 – Stop hoping – plant ‘referability seeds’

It’s not a matter of asking the question directly and hoping for the best. You need to foreshadow a future conversation around referrals so that both you and your client will be comfortable with the conversation. Do your clients know that you welcome referrals and that’s the preferred method by which you grow your business?

Do you make it obvious through your website and marketing collateral that you welcome referrals? Or do your clients think that you’re too busy already? A conversation about referrals doesn’t make you look desperate. But if you don’t make it clear that you welcome referrals, don’t expect to get them.

See next week’s blog post for more tips. You may also want to visit www.customerreturn.com.au to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Four simple questions to bring you more referrals

A couple of weeks back, I was eating lunch with a business colleague I’ve known for years when she asked “What is it exactly that you can do for my clients?”

We talk all the time about why ‘referral clients’ are the best clients.  We know why we want them and having clients referred to you is a whole lot easier than cold calling, don’t you think?

Like you, I know we have to be worthy of referrals and prepared to ask for them, but there’s also another step that is often overlooked. The clue is in the question above – a question we might be too embarrassed to ask because we believe we should already know the answer. You know it’s true!

Is it possible your clients and centres of influence could be thinking the same question about you, but are too embarrassed to ask?

Here are four simple questions to help you clarify what your referrers need to know about what you do before they can give you quality referrals. The answers are mine, for Balance at Work.  I hope you can use them as a model your own “Referrer Education Program”.

1.  Who do we help?

Established, professional and successful organisations and individuals who are ready to take their performance to the next level. Our clients:

  1. Care about people;
  2. Made poor choices in the past;
  3. Want to change;
  4. Are open to new ideas and
  5. Committed to taking action.

2.  What do we do for them?

We make managing and leading easier with simple tools and programs that deliver benchmarked performance excellence for:

  • Hiring and promoting staff;
  • Developing and coaching individuals and teams;
  • Measuring and rewarding performance;
  • Managing and developing careers;
  • Planning succession.

3.  How do we do it?

We make people management best practices easily accessible and affordable for any organisation with staff.

  • Predictive, flexible and benchmarked online employee assessments. We pick winners and help our clients keep them.
  • Automated online recruitment processes.  Any size organisation can select staff economically and efficiently with our system.
  • Real coaching for real people and real teams. We listen. We don’t try to push clients into one standard model.
  • Advice based on years of experience, observation, study and continuous learning. We remove the guesswork and uncertainty.
  • Referrals to specialists who meet our clients’ unique requirements. When we don’t have the expertise they need, we send them to someone who does.

4.  Why should they choose to work with us?

As one client told us recently: “You do something others don’t do and you do it extremely well”.  We offer:

  1. Excellence, expertise and experience that make a difference; and
  2. We won’t waste their time, energy or money.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  When you have your answers, let us know. We may be able to refer you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The results are in! Thank you for your feedback

A few weeks ago, we asked for reader feedback on our weekly e-newsletter.  Here is a summary of what our readers had to say:

1. How often do you read the updates?

60% read the newsletter frequently or always and 32% read it sometimes.

  • As a small (one man) business I welcome any opportunity to interact with new ideas and curent thinking in my area of operation.
  • Time available determines if I read it immediately and then interest in topic. I know whatever you write will be good stuff  Susan.
  • It is fun to read and you never know what you are going to get from them – generally I can take a little bit of something from each newsletter.
  • I try to read most of them, however, get very busy. I always have a quick glance. I save most copies so I can retrieve when needed.
  • Unfortunately, work load means that I sometimes do not read the newsletters in detail., I do keep them as I see them very useful not only for me but also staff training.
  • Enjoy it

2. How relevant do you find the information in the newsletter?

18% found the content very relevant and 68% thought it was somewhat relevant.

  • Obviously there will never be 100% correlation between my current projects and the information in the newsletter but it always provides some stimulus for my thinking.
  • They are mostly relevant and can be adapted to my circumstances.

3. What is your overall satisfaction with the newsletter?

Very satisfied – 39%, somewhat satisfied – 43% and neutral 18%.

  • Very happy to receive these newsletters.
  • Interesting and relevant information that is in just the right length to read.

4. What can we do to improve?

  • Nothing, and love the way you’ve used this survey.
  • That’s a good question!
  • Keep it to monthly frequency and focus on time and money saving advice.
  • Give me more time in the day.
  • More input from other people.
  • I find most of them very relevant.
  • Send it by snail mail.
  • Would be good to pick on some national themes- dealing with disasters or families week or awards and recognitions, etc.

5. What would you like to see in future newsletters?

  • Some experiences from other small business sources as per the invite in Q.5 above.
  • Real life Stories – and especially about the way your services have benefitted a client.
  • Business tips including marketing, sales and admin as well as time and money saving advice.
  • Successful marketing ideas.
  • Much of the same for now.
  • Overcoming toxic people.
  • What do you do when you’ve appointed the wrong person?
  • More real life stories from people in business. (I know that is a little hypocritical as I don’t have time to provide any content.)

In addition to the above responses, a total of 15 generous people said they would definitely or maybe like to provide content for future newsletters.  Thank you, if this was you! We will be in touch with each of you individually to see what we can arrange.

We appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to our survey.  It is reassuring to know we are doing some things right and we can now act on your input to make the weekly updates even more relevant and useful to you.  If you missed the survey, don’t let that stop you from giving us feedback anytime!

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BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Is ignorance really bliss?

“When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” – Thomas Gray, 1742.

We often hear this quote, but would living by it be a useful strategy?

In business and at work, as in other areas of life, we may experience:

1. Blissful ignorance – not knowing you don’t know.  Often comes before a crisis!

2. Ignorance by choice – you know that you don’t know, but you like it that way!  Examples:  Someone who chooses not to listen to or watch news reports, a manager who doesn’t ask for staff feedback, businesses  who don’t survey their clients.

3. Wilful ignorance – you actually know the facts (unlike 1 and 2 above) but you choose to act as if you don’t know.  Examples:  Drivers who ignore road rules, businesses that survey staff and/or clients then don’t act on the feedback.

Ignorance can be risky, threatening the viability of business and your own peace of mind. Ignorance can cost you opportunities, money and relationships.

What are you ignoring right now?

Here are some examples of how clients have used Balance at Work’s  services to identify their bline spots:

  • Pre-employment assessments and interviewing of candidates
  • Staff feedback interviews and online surveys
  • Team analysis and coaching
  • Professional development
  • Strategic planning days
  • Executive coaching
  • Career counselling
  • Exit interviews

Can we help you?

PS.  Last week, we asked for your feedback on our weekly articles.  This is your chance to tell us what you think, let us know what we could improve and make suggestions for future topics.  A big ‘thank you’ to all those readers who have already given us two minutes to complete our online survey.  We are very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts!

Take the survey now – it will close on Friday 4 February 2011.

We look forward to your feedback!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

December? Already? Really? Really!

It’s common at this time of year for us to wonder where the year has gone…

Perhaps you’re also wondering what you’ve actually achieved this year, especially if you didn’t start 2010 with some clear goals in mind.

As we reflect on the past year and prepare for the next, consider starting a ‘done’ list as well as your ‘to do’ list.  You’ve been working hard all year and it’s a good time for you to pause and enjoy some sense of achievement before you dive into another year.

To start you thinking about your own ‘done’  list, I’ve put together a quick sample of things my clients have achieved in the last year.  I hope it will also be a reminder to them to feel proud of their accomplishments.  (You know who you are!)

Have you done any of the following 2010?

1. Raised money for a favourite charity;

2. Successfully implemented new processes;

3. Discovered new ways to approach work and life;

4. Dealt with challenges that were holding them back;

5. Grew in understanding of themselves and their team;

6. Developed strategic and realistic plans for the future of their business;

7. Mastered regulatory compliance and prepared for future changes in their industry;

8. Recruited and retained staff who are integral to effectively running and growing their business.

What are you most proud of doing in 2010?

Why don’t you take a minute now to write down you ‘Top 3’ achievement for the year?  I’d love to know, so please share your success below.

Feeling good about 2010 now?

Great!  Next week’s article will start you thinking about how you can be in an even better position this time next year, when you’re looking back over 2011.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Can you deliver on your Client Value Proposition?

When you make a promise to a client, are you confident your staff can – and will – keep it?

Many businesses, especially in financial services, struggle to identify and define their client value proposition (CVP).  The AFA 2010 White Paper provides valuable insights from consumer research. 

One area covered in the research was ‘loyalty drivers’.   The responses to the question “Which of the following are important for choosing and staying with a financial adviser?” were:

  • Your adviser takes time to listen/explain things to you – 82.5%
  • Your adviser is available when you call and/or returns calls promptly – 75.7%
  • Your adviser resolves account issues/questions quickly – 66.9%
  • Your adviser proactively manages your account and/or suggests changes – 65.8%
  • Your adviser is affiliated with a reputable organisation – 43.7%
  • Your adviser is calls you on a regular/ongoing basis – 35.7%

(263 respondents, multiple answers allowed)

The first four are clearly the most important to the financial advice clients surveyed.  All four depend on you having the right people in the right roles.  These services are all time-consuming and unless you can rely on your staff, you are bound to under-deliver and disappoint.

Having staff who can deliver on your promises is a combination of your recruitment, selection, induction, training, performance management and coaching practices.  Any weak points in these practices will carry over into how you’re perceived by your prospects and clients.

Some questions for you:

  1. Are you confident you can deliver these loyalty drivers on a consistent and regular basis? 
  2. How much will you achieve if you don’t have skilled and productive staff to back you up? 
  3. How would you cope with client disappointment?

As you reflect on the answers and how they impact your CVP, we are here to help.  Extensive experience in people management, many year’s coaching financial advisers and cutting-edge tools mean we can identify issues quickly and set you on the path to your CVP goals.  Contact us here.

Postscript:  I recently left my financial planner because they provided only one of the above loyalty drivers.  Can you guess which one?  Hint:  Being affiliated with a reputable organisation is not enough on its own!
"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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