Category Archives: Business Processes

The Sweet Sonorous Sound of My Name

MyNameIsWe were on Delta Flight 1833, connecting through Salt Lake City on our way to Cincinnati. It was the usual, my hips wedged into the 12-inch wide coach seat, the lady in front of me comfortably reclined into my lap, my lower back and legs already beginning to cramp, only sixty minutes into the 3-1/2 hour flight.

“Would you like a beverage, Mr. Roof?”

Say what!? Had that soft-spoken flight attendant just called me by name? I was almost speechless, a little tongue-tied, but managed to blurt, “Fresca please, no ice.” While she was turned away pouring my drink, I smiled and searched through the gray cells that were still searchable, trying to recall the last time a flight attendant had called me by name. Ever? I think so, once, when my flights were so botched that the airline bumped me into a first class seat to try to make amends. But I have generally grazed in the cattle car over the years, silently enduring a mental fog, where even I am unable to remember my name.

My wife had mentioned that she had read somewhere that Delta was on a customer service kick of some sort when I noted that the gate agent had thanked me by name as we boarded both planes on this particular trip, but then he was looking at my boarding pass. The flight attendant had to be looking at a seating chart between filling orders. Suddenly she reappeared with my drink, looked me in the eye while handing the cup to me and said, “Thank you. We appreciate you being a Delta frequent flyer.”

Delta is a huge company, operating more than 5400 flights per day, in business since 1928, eighty thousand employees worldwide, $40 billion in total revenues. Their planes, like those of most competitors, are uncomfortable. Outside of their aircraft, their primary customer contact occurs in airports, venues that rank right up there with dental offices in terms of customer destination preferences.

So, if you’re giant Delta, how do you grow your business? It seems they have opted to make their customer interactions more friendly, a little more intimate. Probably won’t cost much, and it just might work.

What type of business will not benefit by being more friendly, more personal, more intentional in dealing with customers? Hard to think of one, isn’t it?

Maybe you’ve been in business a long time, or maybe you just started your business. Or maybe you don’t really have your own business, but you are a key cog in the organization that employs you. Have you or your business done anything different in the last year to endear yourself to your customers? Calling your customer by name may be a small deal to you, a regular part of your business operations. But it’s a big deal for a major airline. What would be a big deal for you in your industry, a big deal that wouldn’t cost a lot of money?

As always, your comments are welcome below.

Surprise Attack

How do effective CEOs handle sudden, acute business problems?

One Form of Acute Pain

It seemed to come outta nowhere. And when it arrived, POW! It brought with it almost debilitating pain. A reasonable person would quickly conclude that a specialist was needed. And the challenge was that each specialist had a different opinion on how to address the pain.

I’m describing a recent back injury that I suffered, but I could just as easily be describing one of your acute business problems.  What do they have in common?

  • The problem is virtually unforeseen, appearing suddenly.
  • It hits you like a ton of bricks.
  • Your initial response is to be frozen in place.
  • Because it is unexpected and not previously experienced, you’re pretty sure you need the help of an expert, a specialist.
  • There are many and varied experts to consult,
  • each with their own approach to eliminating the pain.

What to do?
Whom to trust?

Consider the back injury first. If you have a medical doctor, a general practitioner, whom you trust implicitly, he/she would be a good one to consult. A small investment upfront with a trusted advisor who will guide you to the path that returns you to good health seems like a reasonable decision.

Now consider your acute business problem. Who is your “general practitioner”? Whom do you trust implicitly? Start with that person.

I chose to short circuit the process and went directly to a “specialist”. In so doing, I lengthened my recovery. Although I don’t heal as quickly as I did as a twenty something, I will heal – in spite of the false start. But can you say the same for your business? If the surprise attack is vicious enough, you may not have time for a do-over. Get the trusted advice from your generalist as a first step.

I did not conceive this message with the thought of a shameless plug as the wrap-up. But I really would be doing you a disservice not to offer more specific guidance on finding that trusted advisor. Two obvious choices are: a fellow CEO, and a qualified business generalist.

I Love You, but…

CEOs cannot lose focus on customer service

Love is a many splendored thing

I love you.  Strange title for a business blog, isn’t it?  But it’s true, assuming that you’re a business owner.  Here’s what motivated me to make that declaration.

A couple days ago I went to hell and back.  You’ve been there.  I called the help line at a major corporation because of a small glitch in the operation of my new mobile phone.  This particular visit to hell took almost two hours of my not unlimited time.  I will spare you the details because you’ve been there.  I’d rather talk about love anyway.

I love business owners and that’s why I’ve devoted the past thirteen years to working with them.  Privately owned businesses tend to serve customers well and to get things accomplished quickly.  Many entrepreneurs started their own business precisely because they could not find the quality of service that they craved.

A customer service process that works is a thing of beauty.  A dysfunctional process will suck any beauty out of both customer and company.

So my love for you is conditional.  You might get big faster than you can control.  Or you might get complacent.  Or you might turn catatonic under the stress of sustaining your own business.

Next time you visit the hell that I have described here, I want you to pledge anew that you will not let your company slide into customer service dysfunction.  Promise?

Great CEOs Don’t Overlook the Nuggets

CEO Training by the SBTDC

CEO Trainer

I participate in leading a program for business owners that is offered by the Delaware Small Business Technology and Development Center (SBTDC).  The participants meet once a week for three hours over a six week period.  During that time they become engaged in a thoughtful analysis of their business and of their plan for that business.  The SBTDC calls this their Business Development Network.

This program covers the fundamentals of running and ultimately exiting a successful business.  While I was listening to Carla Holland (shown in photo) launch another six-week series recently, I made a list of the basic concepts she discussed in that first session.  They are listed below. Continue reading

Robot or Athlete?

Many CEO soft skills require practice, just like dancing

Which one is the professional?

You lead a business and, in that role, you employ many natural skills.  However, the job probably requires some skills that don’t come so naturally to you, but which you can hone through practice.  But what does this have to do with the photo displayed here? Continue reading

Bringing It All Together

Recommended reading for any CEO

Handbook

What’s the most difficult job in the world?  Raise that question the next time you gather socially with friends.  Bet you get a lot of discussion.

Recommended reading for any CEO

How-To Book

The job of CEO should be at least a finalist in the discussion.  Any CEO job, large or small, presents the challenge of bringing many things together.  I’ve been reminded of this recently in my readings of The CEO Code by David Rohlander and The Alignment Factor by Allen E. Fishman.  Rohlander attempts to encompass the responsibilities of the CEO by organizing them into three broad categories: communication, execution, and operations.  Fishman’s categories are commitment, communication, culture, and collaboration.

If you are the owner and CEO of a small to midsize business, you have an appreciation of the breadth of skills required to build and sustain a successful enterprise.  More likely than not, you understand the magnetic pull of the daily urgent demands that would keep you from maintaining the long view – from developing your key employees – from identifying future opportunities and threats.  Each author takes a slightly different approach to defining the job and inviting action on the part of the reader.  Rohlander has provided what might be considered an abbreviated handbook on the role of CEO.  Fishman has focused on the strategies and actions that provide alignment of people throughout the organization.  Both works deserve your attention.

First (& Second) Impressions

An Airline CEO has physical and human assets employed to attract and keep customers

Captive Customers

As the leader of your business, you’re concerned about first impressions.  You want to put your best foot forward in early encounters with any new or returning customer.  So you’re concerned about those early touches – your website; how your staff answers the phone; how your automated answering system represents your company; and how your sales people present themselves in that first customer meeting.

Not all CEOs put proper emphasis on this best practice.  Not long ago Continue reading

Unique Job, Lonely Role

CEO accountabilities are unique within the enterprise

A CEO

As CEO, or business owner, or company president, you occupy a unique and a lonely position. Not surprisingly, your job description is a one-of-a-kind, whether you have actually written it or not. You are accountable for certain high level responsibilities, because only you can perform them. It is these responsibilities that should be your guide to priorities, to how you spend your company time.

Here are the universal accountabilities for someone running a private business, regardless of the size of that business. Continue reading

Can you hear them now?

The CEO is ultimately responsible for the creation of efficient processes for the business.

Airborne

I find myself on an airplane a few times each year, and I’m always critically observing the many processes involved in air travel.  Everything from my online purchase of the ticket to the claiming of my luggage.  And it always occurs to me that my clients are examining my processes in a similar, critical manner.

If you gave each of your customers/clients a grade card to fill out, how would they rate your company at each touch point in their relationship with you?  Why not at least create the grade card, listing all those processes that involve interaction with your customer?  Then, if you have the courage, start handing them out and asking for feedback.

I’d rather have a root canal…

The CEO often needs an outside expert to reduce the pain and increase the effectiveness

AnnaMarie Mazoch DDS, PA

Attitude is everything.  If I go to the dentist expecting to be hurt, there’s a good chance I can make that happen.  If you begin your business planning process expecting it to be drudgery – or worse (and you really would rather have a root canal), it’s probably going to be drudgery – or worse.  My dentist does not hurt me.  She has the expertise and equipment to deliver results performing the most difficult procedures while keeping the patient relatively comfortable.

You’re expecting me to point out a parallel with strategic planning, and I won’t disappoint.  Continue reading