Archives For Customer Service Stories

customersupportDifferentiate Your Commodity Products w/ Amazing Customer Service

Just about everything you sell is a commodity – It’s your Intellectual Capital and Customer Service that will set you apart.

Google Has Great Support!

In my last post I shared a few words on CRM and why I made the move to Infusionsoft. There’s a lot here and I’ve been through a number of training classes, and have a personal coach working through the final steps of conversion.

Part of my conversion involved moving to gmail – and Google Apps…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to contact customer support while connecting my HP Printer to Scan to Email with Google. My experience was exceptional…some things to consider:

1. Simple menus – when I call Time Warner Cable the menu tree goes on forever and the hold times are enormous. In fact, many times I have to leave a message and they call me back. If I’m on the phone when they call, it’s my tough luck. Not with Google; two menu items and a pin number provided to me through my admin console and I’m speaking to someone live.

2. They use Join.Me to access my computer – with permission of course.  This gets them right to the problem. During this migration I’ve called Google numerous times and each time they’ve solved the problem quickly by looking at my screen and walking me through the process.

3. Taking responsibility – even when it might not be their issue. My issue yesterday could easily be an HP issue, not Google.  But the Google support person never even mentioned pushing me to HP. He did ask if I had HP support – generally that costs a fortune. As soon as he heard that, he pushed on to try several things.  He must have spent 30 minutes with me – never hinting at giving up. How many times have you been online with a support person who insists on giving you meaningless projects to go do and get back to them on? He never did this.

4. In the end, I had a work around, but we did not solve the problem. He agreed to look further into this – and asked me to keep him updated on anything I find. Even after hanging up without a complete solution, I was ready to give him 10 out of 10 points on my customer service rating. He was that good.

In today’s commodity product reseller world, customer service might be the only long lasting differentiator…

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. Anyone ever tried calling Microsoft for help?

If you don’t have my Special Report on Turning Prospects into Customers – Get it Right Here! (CLICK).



icecreamHow Much Would You Spend to Get a Customer?

Customer acquisition.  It’s the hard part of the job.  Do you spend time making calls? Are marketing events such as a lunch & learn working? What about networking, emailing, webinars, or partnering with someone? There are lots of ways to get names – and even leads, but it costs money to find new clients.  How much money will you spend to get a new client?

Consider You Growth Options

Growing a company or a region can be confusing.  Whether you own the business and are trying to build and expand, or you’re a sales person reaching out to new prospects in a region you cover, there are options.  Some are good, some – not so good.

In fact, using the wrong strategy, you might find yourself building and growing sales, without actually growing your business.  Perhaps you’re creating more jobs – but is that what you’re after?  When I talk with reseller business owners or sales managers and they start giving me revenue numbers, I know we’re not really talking about the business. Revenue generation at the reseller level is just an ego booster.  It doesn’t matter.  I would rather be running a 1 million dollar business with 70% gross margin than a 100 million dollar business that is headed for bankruptcy or the commodity grave yard in five years.

You can also grow profits by cutting out cost – but be careful! That’s what Breyers did with my favorite ice cream.  The container got smaller, the ice cream is somehow whipped up more, and it’s a totally different experience.  What used to be labeled as “All Natural” is now simply called, “Quality”.  The ingredients have clearly changed, and it’s no longer really Breyers in that midget container of theirs.  I’ve moved on.  Sbarro did the same thing by switching to cheaper ingredients.  Seems like I heard they were filing for bankruptcy reorganization. Sbarro bet on the fact that people would buy their pizza out of convenience – simply because it’s the only pizza choice at a mall or airport.  But when the pizza quality goes downhill, people opt for something else.  And being a world-traveler, I can tell you the food in airports has only gotten better in the past several years.  You can’t cut cost and assume your customers are trapped and will therefore buy from you.  Being the pizza lover that I am, even I stopped buying pizza from Sbarro a long time ago!  (And I am famous for saying – “Bad pizza is better than no pizza”.)  You can’t cut cost and the expense of quality, and build a long term business strategy with the same target market.

A third strategy is to oversell the existing customer base.  When client acquisition isn’t going well, sales managers start pushing to sell more into the existing accounts. This is fine at first, but at some point your loyal customers realize there are only a few of them, and they get tired of buying stuff that’s being pushed on them.  Suddenly they feel like the neighbor of an over-zealous network marketing “entrepreneur.”  Customer experience get’s traded for meeting quota.  In fact, CIOs have told me, “My rep said me he needed my signature to make his quota or hit his accelerator”, as though that was somehow a concern of the CIO.

Marketing Mindsets – Cost Center or Profit Center?

Marketing is part of the business growth strategy.  Or at least it’s suppose to be.  There are meeting planners and people doing some graphics design, but this is not marketing.  It supports marketing.  Marketing means “Getting the message out to people who have a need.”  It’s client attraction.  Companies that have no marketing (even if it’s done by the sales person,) can’t really grow.  This market is too crowded to design your growth plan around referrals.  Marketing means creating messaging, targeting the right people, testing that messaging, measuring conversion rates, and finding better and better ways to reach more qualified people.

For most companies, with our up and down economy, marketing dollars are being heavily scrutinized.  I’m all for that, but in many cases the people making the marketing decisions are only thinking about profits – not effective marketing and ROI.  It reminds me of a discussion I had not too long ago with a former Ford Motor Company engineer.  Back in 1988, I purchased a brand new Sable.  It was the absolute worst car I have ever had.  You might have noticed that there aren’t many on the road.  Every wonder why?  As I went though a litany of problems, he started sharing with me what happened after the engineers came up with the design.  The finance people got a hold of it and started ripping out parts to increase margins.  The engineers tried to fight these design changes, but lost. I’ve owned several Nissans and a Toyota since then.

A growing company can’t grow without investing in marketing.  If you don’t have marketing people and you are in sales, a significant amount of your time should be spent on marketing. If you spend all of your time calling down a list, your conversion rates will be poor in most cases.  I’ve seen desperate sales reps head out on foot and knock on doors, just to avoid vmail.  This is another strategy that is destined to fail.  I’m sure there’s someone out there with a war story that says otherwise, but as a global strategy, forget it.

The Highest Bidder Wins

The highest bidder wins. That’s the person or company that can afford to spend the most on getting a new client.  That’s right – the one who can afford to SPEND the most.  This has to be an investment, not an expense. It might cost several hundred dollars to get one customer, but if that turns into hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit over some period of time, it’s worth doing. This is no different than scattering seed and harvesting.  You need a constant seeding program going on, with a constant harvesting program right behind it.

But before you begin, there are a couple of things you need to know. What is the average customer worth to your company, and over what period of time?  You also need to know what a qualified prospect looks like and where the tipping point is in the relationship.

I was talking with a small integrator just the other day.  Somehow we started talking about assessments. The owner of the company immediately jumped in, stating that over 90% of their assessments (complementary), lead to business.  As we continued, the problem became clear.  Getting that opportunity to conduct an assessment was the hurdle.  So the marketeers job becomes one of getting to the right person to work with on that assessment.  If they can just get this guy to that point, he’s in.  Now, how much can he afford to spend on getting to that point?  If his average deal lands him $50K in remediation and a $4500/month recurring revenue contract, he should be willing to spend a fairly high dollar amount on a qualified prospect.  The marketing department should now go to work, figuring out how to parse a cold list with mailings or other marketing media, to get to a more qualified list of interested prospects. And all at the right level to make this happen.

The Company that fails to do this will be tempted to discount, spam people, or do whatever it takes to get names.  But simply acquiring cheap customers is a strategy destined to fail.  It’s more important to get less prospects who are highly qualified, with long term potential.  People you’ll find yourself really partnering with to create a win/win situations.  By increasing the amount of money you can afford to work with on this process, your chances of attracting the right kind of customer go way up.

Retaining and Building

Retaining and building your customer base is a dual path that must continue.  If you focus only on getting new clients, your existing clients will feel abandoned.  If you cut the cost of your product like Breyers and Sbarro did, you’ll lose your loyal customer base.  If you focus only on your existing customers, they will see that you are not growing, and feel like they are the only ones out there supporting your business. Companies are either growing our shrinking. You can sit in one place for too long.  If your customers sense that you are not growing, they’ll move on. If your customers see all your focus on the new customers, they’ll move on.  Balance and investment is needed.

My final point comes back to price and cost.  If you don’t charge enough, you won’t be able to pay for new customer acquisition.  At that point you will be back to cold calling, and this strategy ultimately fails.  If you charge too little to take care of your existing customers, you end of up with the new Breyers ice cream.  You start competing on price, winning, and then taking care of disgruntled customers who don’t see the value you sold them. Quality ice cream?  How did quality chemicals replace “All Natural”?

© 2014, David Stelzl

magnetAttracting Prospects vs. Pushing Them

Two phrases that caught my attention over the past 10 years:

  • Magnetic Marketing
  • Marketing Gravity

Both speak about marketing – but if you’re in sales, don’t think this is something for your marketing group – it’s not (at least not exclusively).  Finding new prospects is marketing – whether you’re in sales or marketing.  Once a suspect is interested, you can begin the sales cycle.

Cold Calling = Hard Forced Labor

Sometimes I hear a sales person say, “I like cold calling.” Usually it’s in an interview for a sales position and I don’t believe them.  How can someone like calling people who don’t answer, leaving vmails – never to be returned. And doing it tirelessly day after day with no results.

Both terms above come from authors who talk about the importance of attracting new customers rather than cold calling, begging, and pressuring people to do something.  The idea of finding those you really can help, and finding a way to get a unique message in front of them (not an easy task), is appealing.  If they can make the connection, suddenly there’s an attraction, or a gravity-like force, that pulls them your way.

I can think of several things I have invested in this year already that fall into that category…But I also know that people have tried to push me to buy things or give to causes that I am just not interested in.  The latter is uncomfortable and irritating.

Unique Value, Targeting Specific People

Demonstrating unique value to a specific people group – a group of people that need what you have, takes some work. It doesn’t start with creating an email or making a phone call.  You can’t even start by learning your company’s elevator pitch – it’s probably meaningless.  You must start by looking at the people you are targeting – at whatever level you target.  It might be IT people, data center managers, CISOs, or application developers…regardless, a study of their needs is the place to start.

Need Help Finding Clients –

Tuesday’s post is a great place to start – from there I would encourage you to join our Insider’s Circle to get more on this.


© 2014, David Stelzl

Another Lesson On Customer Service

We live in an age of customer experience…Mickey and Mooch is an upper end steakhouse in Charlotte, NC.  Their meat is top shelf – in fact, you can request Angus or Prime, depending on how much you want to spend, and the portions are good.  The atmosphere is very nice, and it would appear to be a great place to take your wife or special someone for Dinner.  But here’s why I am never going back…

Total Lack of Attention to the Customer

When I arrived with my wife last night – the maitre d’ was just down right unfriendly.  This is the person who creates the first impression.  Even though I had a reservation and arrived early – before the crowds showed up, they sat me at this little table in the corner.  It turned out that this was not actually our “assigned table,” but asking to be moved was like the old Burger King commercial where they guy tries to order onion rings at McDonald’s – everyone goes into slow motion wondering what to do.

Totally Confused About How to Cook a Steak

Confusing the Customer is a Great Way to Begin

Once seated, it was time to review the menu and order.  We were there to have steak, so the decision was made and we started our order. Our server started out by informing us that our steak would be undercooked, so we should just explain how we want it cooked.  That’s odd…good way to confuse the customer.

How Many Steaks Does It Take To Get It Right?

Twenty minutes or so later our steaks arrived.  We both ordered the top end filet…Our server was confused about who got what steak, but after a short experiment we figured it out.  My wife’s steak was more like a brick than a steak.  It looked like they had left it on the grill about 10 minutes too long.  So we sent it back…with the detailed instructions  – Lightly pink in the middle.  Now I cook steaks all the time.  It’s not that difficult.

My wife’s new steak arrived just as I was finishing up my entire meal.  This time her steak was somewhere in the medium rare category. Bright red, with that sort of gelatine look.  Well, that just wasn’t going to work, so we sent it back again, with the side item so it would be hot when the steak was finally done.

Another 20 minutes went by.  Finally the waiter appeared, explaining that the cook, who is also the owner, overcooked the steak again, and was cooking another steak.  When it arrived, it was full of fat – in fact, it was the wrong kind of steak.  We wanted the prime filet – this was not. Back to the kitchen – we’re about 2 1/2 hours into this meal now, and my wife is really looking forward to eating dinner. My dinner is long gone…

The new steak arrives – it’s cooked just right, however, I can hear my wife crunching on her under-cooked broccoli all the way on my side of the table.  We didn’t bother sending it back.

The Moment of Truth – The Check

When my check arrived, I expected them to offer to credit us for her steak.  They said nothing…so I mentioned to the waiter, “Any quality restaurant would have offered something – free dessert, no meal charge, gift card,…”  He said, “Would you like me to say something to the owner?” Of course I would – or I wouldn’t have brought it up.

He returned with our check – without an update from the owner/manager.  So I asked, “What happened?”  He simply said, “Mickey doesn’t really care.”

If you live in Charlotte, do yourself a favor – skip Mickey and Mooch and head over to Sullivan’s, Capital Grill, Ruth Chris…even The Long Horn does a better job all around.

While this has nothing to do with technology – it has a lot to do with repeat clients.  A simple lesson in customer service.  And, if Mickey and Mooch can’t figure out the customer service thing – they might benefit from a cook that knows how to cook a steak.

© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. I know, this isn’t a Pizza Post…

This is my third post on Successful Business Planning.  In the first post I encouraged you to start planning now for 2014. In the second I talked about making your plan usable.  Today I want to encourage you to build a brand promise.

This year I’ve spent about 80 nights in Marriott Hotels (plus a few others).  In fact, I’m in one right now!  This one happens to be a Fairfield – as I am in a remote area.  As I was working on a few things this afternoon, a small card left by Christy, my Guest Room Attendant, caught my eye…

It’s the Marriott Brand Promise.

It reads:

We Promise to  Always…

  • Make you feel welcome
  • Give you a room that’s clean, fresh and reflects the highest quality standards
  • Respond promptly to any need that you might have
  • Give you the service that will make you want to return

And, Sure enough, that has been my experience this year.  It’s Marriott’s brand promise.  And when I have had an issue, Marriott has been responsive…

As someone who travels weekly, I can tell you that lowest price, free cookies, and remote control curtains, all come way down the list for me – but when I need something, like my room cleaned at a certain time, a last minute room, or something taken care of right away, I really want my hotel of choice to act quickly.

I also want friendly people working behind the desk, answering questions, making recommendations on food and transportation, and going out of their way to make sure I get what I need, and make it to bed on time.

At Ingles last week, I noticed a sign that said – 200% Guarantee.  Actually it was one of my kids that brought it to my attention.  Part of our homeschool curriculum is watching out for good marketing.  It went on to say – if the produce isn’t fresh, not only will be refund your money…we’ll replace the item.  This too is a brand promise – built to appeal to the people who shop for the family.

What is your brand promise?

And does it actually mean something to your target buyer?  The people I refer to as Your People Group.

Make it a part of your business plan.  Put some thought into it…what would actually matter to the people group your message is targeting?  This just might be the big differentiator you are looking for.

© 2013, David Stelzl

Mar-Cisco-SingaporeI’m back from my week in Singapore.  Singapore is one of those cities that is just great to visit – the food is great, the city is clean and easy to navigate (as long as you have a driver), and the hotels are clean and comfortable…here is just one highlight from my trip…

Kern, the taxi driver who picked me up last Tuesday, was exceptional…and offers a great example of the power in, what we have come to know as, The Perfect Greeting.

The Perfect Greeting

Getting into his cab that morning I was reminded of some reading I had done just before getting ready for work – a reminder to offer a perfect greeting. In our homeschool curriculum, one of the things we have been working on is, what we call, the perfect greeting – a greeting that expresses enthusiasm.  So rather than mumbling, “Morning….” like most do after staying up to watch late night TV, we are working on expressing a spirit of excitement and anticipation as we interact with others.

Engaging in Conversation

The perfect greeting let’s people know you are happy to see them and genuinely interested in their lives.  It invites conversation and friendship.  And it often creates an opportunity to meet a need.  Right at the start we hit it off with an update of the Singapore happenings.  I was on my way to class in the Changi Business park, just down the road from Changi Airport.  Though I had been there before, I learned through the ensuing conversation that I didn’t have my Singapore pronunciation right on the word Changi, along with a few other words that were going to be useful as I began my day.  Kern filled me in.

From there we moved through various topics from business to religion, family, politics, and a host of subjects that kept us going for the next 40 minutes as Kern navigated us through the morning rush hour. It turned out that simply by offering this perfect greeting I was had moved from surface chit chat to engaging at a much deeper level.  Through our conversation I was then able to offer some insights into some areas that were going to be helpful to Kern – something I had not anticipated.  This is the very definition of Trusted Adviser.

When we arrived he simply said, “No charge, I was honored to serve you this morning.”  Wow – no charge after 40 minutes of driving? Unheard of.  Well, it get’s better.

That afternoon Kern was right on time to fetch me from work.  As we headed back through the rush hour traffic, our conversation picked up where we had left off.  30 minutes later we arrived at the hotel and Kern again said, “There is no charge – I was honored to serve you and would like to serve you as long as you are in Singapore.”    And sure enough he did.  He drove me back and forth through my couple of days of training at no charge. Why?

Servant Leadership

Sales is about serving.  It’s the first step in customer service.  One of the most often neglected sales skills is simply the greeting – in fact, it’s not really a skill, but rather a demonstration of character (or lack of character).  How often are you asked the question, “What do you do?”  How often does it lead to conversation, friendship, and even a desire on that other person’s part to help you or engage with you on a new level?  The answer is, “Not often.”  This is just one of the many things I was teaching in my sales training class in Singapore.  I was pleasantly surprised to have a real time illustration to share with the class on how a person can offer a simple greeting, that then leads to conversation, friendship, and a chance to serve that person.  From there, there is no telling what will come of of it.  Try greeting people today in a way that makes them feel special and offers you an opportunity to serve them in some simple way, and see what happens.

©   2013, David Stelzl

P.S. I will be teaching some of the concepts in my Making Money w/ Security Virtual Workshop – coming at the end of this month!

IMG_1583Most of the products we sell today are commodities…but your service level can make or break your customer relationships, and especially services rendered by partners on your behalf.

For the past 4 days I have been going back and forth between representatives at United to locate my suitcase.  What a disaster this has been.  Every time I speak with a new person to get an update, they think my bag is in a different city.  Finally I get a call from the people who deliver United bags – – they have my bag and will call in one hour to arrange delivery.

Well, an hour later, no word.  Later that evening I called them, but they did not know where my bag was.  The next morning I contacted United and they didn’t know either.  I asked the representative at United to check on this with the bag delivery company, but the bag delivery company claimed that they had no record of me.  “How can that be?” I asked.  The United person was not able to get an answer to this question, so I contacted the bag delivery people personally.  I spoke with Chris on the phone who had no idea – in fact, he sort of insisted that they did not call me. But their number was on my caller ID, so they must have.  After some back and  forth on this, trying to get Chris to look further into this or at least agree that they must have called me – he hung up on me.  At that point I called Chris back to get his name, which amazingly he did give me. He then said, “If I do see your bag I am not going to deliver it to you!”  This is amazing to me – if you ever have a partner tell one of your customers something like this – make sure they terminate that employee immediately.

Finally, later that morning I did get a call from someone at United who took ownership of the problem, went out and found my bag, and is holding it for me.  At this point I would rather take the three hour trip than risk them putting my bag in the hands of  In the end, the United rep understood, agreed to hold my bag there, and offered me a free flight voucher – she did the right  thing.  Know who your customers are interfacing with and who represents your brand on your behalf.  Make sure they uphold the brand you’ve established and understand how difficult it is for you to win over a new client.  You can’t afford to lose clients that actually spend money with you.  Note:  I’ve flown nearly around the world twice this month on United…I’m definitely a paying customer.

©  2013, David Stelzl