As inclement weather hits, Delta fails its customers due to organizational breakdowns

As inclement weather hit the New York and Eastern Seaboard earlier this month, the FAA issued a slowdown of all ground and air traffic in and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, resulting in hundreds of delayed and canceled flights set to depart that night. What followed was a textbook example showcasing the breakdown of operational and technical silos within an organization such as Delta. We all know nothing can be done about Mother Nature and her impact on air travel; however, how organizations such as Delta react will either magnify or alleviate situations like this. Unfortunately in the example we are sharing today, Delta’s breakdown magnified the issue… 

When the FAA ordered the slowdown of LaGuardia’s air traffic, Delta—at first—appeared to be the poster child for how an organization should be responding in times where situational slowdowns were out of their control. It started with Delta notifying their passengers of the slowdowns via an announcement within the terminal, followed by text messages, emails, and Delta mobile application notifications. They were quick to identify the source of the slowdown being the FAA and the weather’s unforeseen impact on the airport while promising to keep passengers updated on progress as it was made. At first, updates were coming fast and furious, with new statuses being made almost every 10 – 15 minutes… This impressed me as it seemed like Delta was working with real-time data to make their best possible indication of delays and new departure times. However, as time began to pass, it became apparent Delta was doing nothing more than pulling guesses out of thin air.

In reality, what we were witnessing was a systematic breakdown of the various silos within Delta. At first, it was communication with its passengers, as frequent departure updates became less frequent, conflicting, and past tense. After a while, Delta stopped screenshot_20190610-203903_fly-deltapushing updates via email and text altogether, only sticking with gate and mobile application updates… At this point, even the gate and mobile application had completely different departure times, and as time progressed, even those times were long gone with future updates ending up with the same fate…. It wasn’t uncommon to be looking at the mobile app with an estimated departure time that is 10 minutes earlier than the current time (Picture). This at first was clear indication that Delta did not have a cohesive communication strategy for times like this… But it did not stop there.

While waiting at the gate wondering when our flight would actually depart from LaGuardia, something interesting happened: a flight attendant ended up sitting next to me… The first thing I noticed is that Delta provides their staff a different version of their mobile application; this application gives them visibility into incoming flight statuses for aircrafts meant to service specific flights. In this case, her application clearly showed that our flight was inbound from Boston to LaGuardia with an ETA of 8:05pm while the gate notifications had our estimated departure time at 7:57pm… This was a first clear indicator that their own internal systems were not able to communicate between each other, as they clearly had our estimated departure time set before our incoming aircraft was even due to arrive. What even further compounded the issue was once our incoming aircraft finally made it to the gate, we were then notified that our pilots were actually on a completely different aircraft… These two incoming flights both had direct downstream impacts to our delayed flight, yet it seemed as if the team responsible for posting departure estimates had no insight whatsoever to this information. This begs the question: where were they getting this information from in the first place?

Delta’s failures didn’t stop there. Once the aircraft and crew were finally in alignment and passengers were able to board the plane, the waiting continued. At first it was 5 minutes, but then quickly became 10, 15, and then 20 minutes without movement from the gate or updates from the crew. Eventually, the pilots came over the intercom announcing that we were actually waiting on the aircraft to finish fueling and paperwork. This, again, was another breakdown of Delta’s systems as the plane had been sitting at the gate for more than 30 minutes before the crew arrived, and no one had the foresight to ensure proper preparation such as fueling the aircraft while waiting on the crew. This delay turned into another 50-minute delay before we were able to depart from the gate.

The lack of system communication within Delta not only made it frustrating to receive an accurate estimate of when our delayed fight was actually set to depart, but it had call center ramifications as well. That day, not only were flights delayed, but there were many cancelations … As passengers began to receive cancelation updates, they were quick to call Delta’s customer service to make alternate arrangements. For some, this turned into absolute disaster as people were being booked on new flights, and those flights were canceled minutes later in some cases, or passengers were finding that flights were full. In one case, there was a gentleman trying to make his way to Tennessee who was booked on three canceled flights…

What we were witnessing was a fundamental breakdown in Delta’s siloed systems which made it virtually impossible for the various components of Delta’s customer-facing business units to properly communicate internally and to customers, leading to an end result of frustrated customers and bruised brand reputation. When Mother Nature hits, almost nothing can control how the FAA will react and its impact to the airlines; however, the way the airlines react during this time can and will have a direct impact to overall customer experiences and brand reputation…. Let’s be realistic—we talked a lot about Delta, but they’re not alone, as many organizations struggle with the same siloed approach to how they do business, and as a direct result, they are slow to react when their customers are in times of need. Small businesses have an advantage as they are quick to make adjustments on the fly; however, even small businesses fail to recognize that they need to put proper systems and policies in place before situations like unplanned weather hit! As businesses, it is up to you to be proactive in times of need because customers will remember if you alleviated the situation or just made things worse.

The Importance of Having an Online Digital Presence for Local Small Businesses

Online and Digital PresenceI was reminded the other day of exactly why it is important to have an online digital presence in this day and age… Even though online and digital mediums have been around for more than 20 years, it seems that many local small businesses are still slow to pick up on the trend. We do understand why, as it was not too long ago that all a local small business needed for marketing was a good Yellow Page advertisement, a good direct local mail flyer, and maybe a well-placed radio ad. These worked extremely well for decades… However, from a traditional marketing perspective, times have changed. For example, Yellow Pages have gone from the must have item for every home, to getting thrown in the recycling bin before even making it into the house. Why has this happened? Well, for one, Google has virtually changed the way people look for various goods and services. Looking for an electrician, carpenter, pizza, or even a restaurant? You no longer need to flip through various ads in the Yellow Pages—you can just search directly in Google. Not only will Google pull the most relevant results, but they also pull other various important details regarding these businesses including address, phone number, website, Google, Yelp and Facebook Reviews, Facebook profiles, and other endless information. These elements alone have factored into the demise of the Yellow Pages. Again, this is not a new concept, as this shift has been happening over the past 20 years… In fact, HubSpot’s founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, revolutionized how people look at this shift almost 10 years ago when they published their book on Inbound Marketing and founded HubSpot. They haven’t stopped preaching the word around Inbound Marketing since…

This begs the question, why haven’t local small businesses caught up to their times of creating and maintaining an online digital presence? The reasons vary from anything from ownership not accustomed to change, to lack of understanding and education around how a local small business can create and maintain an online digital presence. Regardless of the reason, if a local business wants to continue to be in business for the foreseeable future, they need to embrace going online and digital. Let me share a personal experience to why this matters so much.

Residential construction has historically been one of the industries reliant on Yellow Pages, advertisement flyers, or word of mouth to help run their businesses. Looking back maybe ten years ago, the Yellow Pages alone were enough to keep phones ringing off the hooks… but those times have come and gone. Now it is a feast or famine industry, with some businesses still maintaining a strong revenue stream, while others that have resisted change are failing. When inviting a construction company into your home, people want to ensure that they are inviting someone that they can trust to do quality work in a timely manner. As a result, they tend to do research on these companies before calling… which is what happened with me, and it reminded me why a strong online digital presence is so important. My wife and I are personally looking into having some major work done on our home. Like any household, we receive various local advertisement flyers and ValPaks in the mail. This past week, I decided to take a look and see if there were any businesses we should be considering as part to the process. Interestingly enough, in both the local flyer and ValPak, I found a construction company’s very well-made flyer, advertising the exact service we were looking into having done. However, there was an instant red flag for us: the price. The price on the flyer was too good to be true, but I’ve come to learn to never judge a book by its cover. So we did some digging… Naturally, we started with a Google search and then looked at other resources such as Facebook and Yelp. What we found was beyond a website—they had zero online digital presence. No Google or Yelp reviews, nothing on Angie’s List, not even a Facebook profile. This was a bit concerning, so we took our search one step further creating a post on both Nextdoor.com and Facebook asking if anyone in our community has ever worked with this company. We received no feedback on the business at all. When performing our search, we had been hoping to come across reviews from others who have had a great experience with this contractor, or maybe even a Facebook profile showcasing some of their latest work. We were looking for anything to give us the confidence in their business and that we could welcome them into our home—but nothing. As result, I moved on to the next candidate on the list.

Therein lies the problem for small businesses today. If you are not working on building an online digital presence, you are guaranteed to lose revenue to competition… Interestingly enough, while searching for information on this particular construction company, I stumbled upon several other businesses with fantastic online presence, and they were the ones that received a phone call.

Websites are not enough anymore, especially for local small businesses. Building an online digital presence isn’t entirely that difficult, and in most cases, has a zero-dollar investment to get started; it just takes effort and time. We’ve actually been writing about various tactics to improving one’s online digital presence… Here are a few recent articles to help you get started:

We also recognize that creating a strategy to develop or improve your online digital presence is easier said than done… 3SixtySMB is happy to help. Through our 3SixtyAssessments, we will not only evaluate your current online digital presence state, but we will also provide actionable recommendations to developing your own strategy. Feel free to contact us directly via 3sixtysmb@3sixtysmb.com if you need help. As always, we welcome comments or questions below in the comments section of this article. Again, if you have been resistant to adopting an online digital strategy, and you don’t act fast, you could be risking the future of your business.

 

The Industry and Technology are Killing the Industry, not Millennials

Millennials are killingThere is a fundamental shift in consumer-driven businesses that has been emerging over the past few years, and it’s shaking up industries and businesses that once stood as giants for decades. Almost daily, an industry giant is either declaring bankruptcy, layoffs, closing locations, or reporting yet another quarter of subpar numbers. The writing is on the wall…. Yet, most industry leaders are refusing to accept reality. Instead, they choose to blame millennials for their demise… Along with these bankruptcies, layoffs, and store closings, we also see newly published articles regarding how “millennials” are completely decimating industries, businesses, and traditions that have stood the test of time. Here’s the thing: are millennials really to blame? We think not… We are believers that the industry and businesses themselves are the cause of their ow demise—not millennials, or any age group, for that matter.

Let’s elaborate on what we mean by that… The reality is that a majority of businesses are failing to recognize the changing time and focusing on “business as usual”. Looking back on twenty years ago during downtimes, “business as usual” typically meant finding areas of cutting cost to increase margins or creating a few more marketing promotions with the hopes of increasing sales just enough to ride out the lulls in the economy. Those strategies typically worked for most businesses because, looking back at those times, there were only so many places to shop, eat, or consume entertainment. Each industry essentially had a handful of businesses that monopolized their respective industries, which lead to their economic ebbs and flows with the economy. At those times, there were only so many places consumers could spend their money… Great for businesses in those days, right? Here lies the problem—most executive leaders within long-established consumer-oriented businesses are continuing to run their businesses as if it was the 1980s or 90s. However, the market has drastically changed since then. First, in the age of technology and consumer preferences, the 80s & 90s were essentially a 100 years ago. A very millennial statement, but here’s the reality: the market is truly changing at the speed of light, and even looking five years back has shown drastic changes in both technology and consumers preferences. Technology has enabled consumers to essentially have the knowledge of the internet at their fingertips, and forward-thinking businesses have capitalized on this fact enabling an “On-Demand Economy”. Technology has also enabled almost anyone to start up their own online business with the same technological capabilities of a multimillion-dollar business. Never mind the fact that a small startup with a little knowledge of how Search Engine Marketing works can easily outrank a multimillion-dollar organization in a matter of weeks by using the right Google industry keywords. Technology and increased competition are the real reasons these consumer-facing industries are struggling, not millennials… Businesses just can’t cut cost and rely on a few promotions to ride out the lulls anymore, as competition is all too eager to steal that business away. 

While corporations are looking at their calculators, small businesses & startups are focusing on

  • Creating a digital marketing strategy to essentially make the big brands completely irrelevant online.
  • Providing consumers with exactly what they need in the easiest way possible.
  • Creating flexible pricing and packages that match what consumers really want, not finding ways to charge more for the same (or lesser) service
  • Providing value for free when others want to charge for it.
  • Increasing quality, not cutting it.
  • Working on loyalty reward programs that actually provide real value and rewards

When you begin to peel back the layers of the onion, millennials almost have nothing to do with the demise of these industries and businesses at all… Failure lies solely on their shoulders. Let’s take for example Sears… Sears was once an industry giant that had stood for more than 100 years, and for a majority of the time in business, they were the gold standard in retail. In their early days, when obtaining certain items for the general population was almost impossible, they created a first-of-its-kind catalogue of thousands of items that could be delivered to your front door. Then in the 1960s when consumer need for faster access to consumable goods became more prevalent, it led to the blossoming business of malls and Sears was quick to capitalize. Looking back to the 1980s, there probably wasn’t a mall in the country without a Sears taking up some major real-estate. As Sears grew, they made investments in Craftsman tools, DieHard batteries, Kenmore appliances, and others. All of this led to Sears being a formidable industry giant, and they enjoyed that success for decades… However, in the early 90s, Sears decided to focus more on cost-cutting metrics instead of innovation. We called attention to this in another article. As an example, in January 1993, Sears announced the closing of the catalogue, eliminating 50,000 jobs as they didn’t see a market in delivering items directly to consumers’ front doors, and keeping that business running was “too expensive”. Interestingly enough, in July of 1994, Amazon was born, which ended up being a company that could deliver items directly to consumers’ front doors. Yes, really, had Sears thought about where technology was going like Amazon did, they literally could have been the Amazon of today. However, Sears’s cost-cutting didn’t stop there, and for thirty years now Sears has been focusing on cost-saving metrics across the board… Anyone that has been at a Sears in the past few years has come across stores in disrepair, sub-par inventory levels, long lines, and employees that generally don’t seem to care. It’s no surprise that Sears is now closing stores almost daily and in bankruptcy litigation.

However, on the flip slide, you have Target, Best Buy, Walmart and others all seeing great success in today’s tough economy. The reason why is simple: they have all been focusing on innovation, bringing choices and convenience to the consumer. Best Buy, from the beginning, has strived to have a strong ecommerce presence, becoming one of the first big-box retail organizations to have a true website with online purchasing availability. They were also one of the primary innovators of ecommerce purchasing with in-store pickups. Target has focused on innovative payment methods, allowing consumers to skip the line and pay for items in the aisle instead. Target also recently launched a new program to use local stores as virtual ecommerce warehouses decreasing overhead while speeding up the entire delivery process to consumers. Walmart recently announced strong revenues directly related to curbside pickup… These are just a few areas of innovation that has allowed other big-box retailers to stay on top. In contrast, Sears has attempted nothing even remotely close to these innovative methods to save their business.

However, big companies are also not the only businesses thriving. In fact, only 53 companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, including 17 newcomers to the list in 2018. Companies such as Uber, Yelp, Spotify, DoorDash, Zapos, Salesforce.com, Amazon, Facebook, Google were all startups less than twenty years ago. They are not alone; almost daily, a new startup comes from almost nowhere to be a new industry-leading giant… The reality of the whole situation is that millennials are not killing industries… The big-business thinking of yesteryear is.  We’re in a climate where most of the consumer industries that are in the midst of major shake-ups, such as Retail, Cable, General Medical Care, Transportation, Food, and Entertainment, are all struggling… Each are struggling with their own issues of conducting business as if it was still the 1980s or 90s while pointing fingers at millennials for their changing buying habits and lack of brand loyalty. Here is the reality—they are doing it to themselves for all the reasons listed earlier in this article, and it is up to them to recognize the writing on the wall. However, we are in favor of the small businesses and startups! 

CRM The Equivalent Of A Paperweight In Small Businesses

How to Improve CRM Usage

A few months back, we wrote on the importance of a CRM in a small business, but still, we frequently come across executive leadership that is frustrated with their staff’s inability to properly use the tool (or use it at all in some cases), making CRM the software equivalent of a paperweight in many organizations. We understand the frustration, as with most software purchases, CRM comes with significant time and financial investments along with the best intentions in mind for helping a business become more efficient. Yet, regardless of how hard management pushes, usage is essentially zero for many organizations. But, why? In this article, we’ll review some of the reasons why one of the most important tools in any business goes unused and ways to increase overall adoption.

Let’s first start with a few reasons your team might not be using the system:

Lack of Management Use – That’s right: they learned it from watching you. At times, we do see various teams making an honest effort to use the CRM tools in the way they are meant to be used. However, over time, the team has begun to notice the management team’s lack of use. The question of, “Why bother?” then comes into play. As an example, a core use of CRM is around sales pipeline management, but what is the point of keeping a CRM updated when sales leadership continues to run around asking reps for pipeline updates via email, scratch sheets, or Excel spreadsheets instead of running reports with the exact same information from the CRM? Over time, they start to realize there is no value to keeping their CRMs updated because management certainly isn’t using it. Why take the time to update a system when you’re only going to be asked to provide the exact same information via Excel or some other method?

Other Departments’ Lack of Use – We’ve previously talked about the benefits of interdepartmental use of a CRM. When a CRM is not at the core of a team’s daily job function, it becomes less important, and as a result, the usage drops. We recommend that all departments integrate capabilities for their job functions inside the CRM… This means Sales, Marketing, Support, and Finance all need to have critical job functions built into the CRM. Without this integrated functionality, your team will be relying on direct interdepartmental communication for simple client information… The end result is having, for example, customer support or finance continuously pinging the sales department for simple client information… information that should already be in a CRM. Over time, teams start to realize there is almost no point to having that information in the CRM because no one is actually using it, and again, what is the point of all that extra time and effort keeping information updated?

Lack of Proper Functionality – Great CRMs that are properly set up can allow sales and any other department to complete their daily tasks effectively and efficiently. However, out-of-the-box CRMs are inherently generic, and they take some time and effort to customize to make them useful for your business. However, increasingly, we find that when organizations deploy their CRM, they are deployed with zero customization. This results in a generic setup of the tool that doesn’t match the functions of the various teams or business which makes the tool difficult to use… On the flipside, we’ve also seen when management has over-engineered their CRM instance, creating an over-complicated beast of a software solution. This typically results in what management may think of as a “work of art” but is really an extremely complex, inefficient, and painful system to use.

Lack of Usage Visibility ¬ – This kind of goes in line with some of the above, but it needs to be called out… When you have people putting time and effort into properly managing their CRM worlds, yet it goes completely unnoticed, then why bother?

Lack of Accountability – You have two reps: one has their CRM in tip-top shape and constantly up-to-date, and another one that barely uses it and management never seems to care. What do you think is going to happen over time?

Mentioned here are just a few but critical examples of why we see a lack of CRM usage in small businesses. Again, most are truly aligned around the lack of visibility and usage from the management level down to the various departments within a business, leading to the “why bother?” mentality… However, all is not lost as there are tactics that can easily be deployed in any business to increase overall usage. Here are a few:

Complete Management Usage – It starts from the top down. Management needs to start using CRM immediately and continue to use it without exception. You’ll quickly find that once management begins pulling reports and pipeline updates straight out of their CRMs during meetings, within the first few meetings, everyone’s CRMs will be up-to-date as no one wants to be the one with missing or out-of-date information when reports are being reviewed in front of management or their peers. Furthermore, it is important to continuously use it… CRM usage needs to become a habit, and there is a bit of a routine adjustment to using it regularly. All too often, we see executive leadership get on a “CRM kick” for a month or so, only to have them go back to their Excel spreadsheets shortly after. Again, going back to the points we made above, nothing will demotivate a team more than putting in effort for nothing.

Corporate-wide Usage – CRM is not just for sales anymore as it can be integrated across every department within a small business. Make your CRM a central point of departmental information and the only way team members can complete their daily job functions. Once you have complete business-wide integration, there will be zero reason not to use it at that point.

Make it Seamless ¬ Again, a tool that is painful to use will not be used in any business… Take the time to properly customize your setup. Most CRMs are fairly easy to customize, but if you are uncomfortable with customizing yourself, there are plenty of consultants on the market that can do it for you. It is also important to ensure you are taking in feedback from your end-users and constantly working to refine the system. As mentioned previously, all too often, management believes they “know” what is best for their teams, but in reality, they are so far-removed from the process, they couldn’t be more wrong. A painful-to-use tool will not be used—period.

Increase Visibility ¬ Develop and use the reporting system built into the CRM… Most CRMs have fairly comprehensive reporting capabilities out of the box and, with slight customization, can be a very powerful tool for the business and something to ensure that your team is keeping their CRMs up-to-date. Some businesses go as far to have automated reports sent out at preset times (hourly, daily, or monthly). Regardless of the frequency, it is important to remember “what gets measured, gets done”. Furthermore, we highly suggest using your reporting in meetings as well. Have a sales pipeline meeting? Pull up the pipeline in real-time during the meeting. Again, no sales rep wants to be in a pipeline meeting where their pipeline is either out-of-date or missing information… This can be done for essentially every department.

Tie in Compensation – Fairly simple… Sales, do you want to get your commission? No deal gets paid commission unless it is properly tracked within the CRM… This can be done for other departments as well. Things such as lead counts, collections, customer service calls stats and other metrics can all be tracked and tied together with compensation. Quite honestly, this is one of the easiest ways to getting a team to use a CRM as no one wants to miss out on their commission or bonus. However, let’s not forget that you want to ensure you’ve made the proper steps to making the CRM a useful tool in the first place. Let’s remember the old saying “junk in, junk out”, as you do not want your employees wasting time inputting information into the CRM just for the sake of compensation and nothing else.

CRMs are incredibly powerful tools for any small business. When properly implemented and used across all departments, they can drastically increase the efficiency of any team or organization. Efficiency can lead to increased cost savings and revenue while keeping your organization running like a well-oil machine.

The Importance of A First and Last Impression in Today’s Economy

apple-store-watch-renderWhether you sell million-dollar software implementations or you’re a local restaurant making your debut, first and last impressions matter! Let’s face it: in today’s market, competition is fierce, brand loyalty is down, and consumer attention spans are short, making it harder to win and retain business—even if you execute flawlessly… This is a primary reason why giants of yesterday are crumbling around us daily, as they have all but forgotten the fundamentals of sales and customer excellence. There used to be a time where a brand could and would hold its own, even if the sales and marketing teams “didn’t give it their all”. As an example, there was an old popular saying that “No one ever gets fired for buying IBM”. Pretty bold statement there, right? Well, there was a time when IBM was pretty much the only game in town if you wanted top notch commercial grade IT equipment. They had put together a world-class team, delivering world-class service and systems, and no one even came close to the delivery of IBM. This was how they developed the reputation of “No one ever gets fired for buying IBM,” and it held up for decades. Until slowly, but surely, they began to make changes; prices gradually increased, product quality dropped, teams became more complex, and they became a more expensive, lower quality, harder to work with organization. Had they still been the only game in town, their numbers would have held up, but they weren’t. Other world-class organizations entered into the market, and the tech world became the Wild West for startups, creating more competitive pressure for IBM…. However, IBM ignored the changing marketing dynamics and became the company that was too expensive and complicated to deal with, and they started to lose business in droves. Recent estimates put IBM down 21 straight quarters in a row, and have even gone as far as to recall all remote employees to physical local hubs to realign themselves. IBM is just one example of how the economic environment is putting a squeeze on just about every industry for retaining and winning new business. This gets us back to our point earlier: first and last impressions matter. The reason being when a customer has a bad experience with your organization in today’s market, your competition is all too eager to swoop in and take that business for their own. So, it becomes extremely important to never give a prospect or customer a reason to look for another solution, and always give them the best customer experience you possibly can.

Whether you are a B2C or a B2B business, if you want to stay in business for the foreseeable future, you need to ensure you are delivering a world class customer experience, and at the surface, it all starts with the impression your business leaves with them. Impressions mean everything, and the latest research shows that customers make a decision to purchase within seconds of walking into a business… This essentially says, regardless of how great your product or service is, they’ve already made up their mind before you even had a chance! This isn’t just a business thing, as it falls within human nature. In this article, we’ll cover some basic strategies for creating a first and lasting impression that will make customers want to buy and get them to keep coming back.

Digital and online collateral ­– Anything from your website, social media profiles, and other digital collateral needs to have a smooth look and feel, along with a design that fits in with the times, as 81 percent of all purchase decisions start with an online search…. Meaning, if your website looks like it was designed in 1999 in someone’s basement, you can essentially guarantee that potential customers are just skipping over your business and moving on to the next. Going back to an earlier statement: regardless of how good your product or service is, you never even had a chance.

Store fronts and dining rooms – Small businesses have a bit of a disadvantage here as the big businesses have millions of dollars to invest into research around what drives customer interest and design, but that’s not an excuse. When you really boil down all that expensive research and design know how, it comes down to having a clean front of house, and the same goes for dining rooms… Your store front is literally the face of the business, and you must make sure you do whatever you can to make it clean and welcoming. Anything beyond clean and welcoming is just causing paying customers to walk right past your business.

First point of contact – Beyond the digital look of your business or the look of the store front, what is the first possible human interaction with your business? Whether it is a hostess, receptionist, or a business development rep, ensure that they are always properly trained on edict and the business. Chick-Fli-A built a billion-dollar business, growing leaps and bounds over their competition, and one the key factors they contribute it to is their front of house and their ability to say please and thank you! Really, a billion-dollar business is contributing its success to simple human interaction. This is confirmed by looking at reviews on sites such as Yelp and Facebook, where you’ll find that most good or bad reviews mention their first interaction with the team.

Timeliness matters ­– In such a competitive environment, I still cannot comprehend why small businesses take forever to respond to voicemails, emails, or even at all. Quite honestly, this is a huge personal pet peeve, but also for the general consumer market as a whole… Taking it into context, if a business takes a long time to respond to an inquiry of a prospect, how do they treat their customers? There is an old-time adage that says if the shoes hurt in the store, they are still going to hurt when you take them home.

Furthermore, when most consumers are looking to make a purchase, they typically have a list of vendors they have cobbled together. This usually means that when they are reaching out to you, they are calling down a list. The vendor that actually picks up the phone and makes the first contact, has an exponentially higher chance of winning that business. Sometimes, increasing your odds of winning business simply comes down to picking up the phone or answering that inquiry email as fast as humanly possible.

Service excellence ­­– Just because someone decided to do business with your company or walk into your restaurant, it doesn’t mean you’ve won their business for the long term. The success of any business is reliant on not just winning the business once, but the amount of times you can keep them coming back. So, when you win someone’s business, service the heck out of them, and do everything you can to make them a happy customer.

Also, let’s not forget that people love to talk about their experiences. Serve up a bad experience, and you can all but guarantee they will tell their friends and co-workers

Priority #1 – This goes in line with service delivery, but it is important enough to call out on its own. We are all busy these days, but no one wants to hear about how busy you are or your problems! It is a turn-off, and depending on your business, prospects may begin to worry how much of a priority they will be when it comes to servicing them.  Instead, treat each and every customer as if they were your one and only client. It does take a bit of a fine art, but if done properly, it will ensure that customers come back time and time again!

Second chances – Ok, so first impressions matter, but not everyone can bat 1,000; mistakes can, and will, happen. Yes, there are going to be times when a mistake is so bad that you cannot recover, and the business is lost for good. However, that is not true for all situations. How you react when mistakes happen can, and will, have an impact on your business. Some might actually give you a second chance. When a mistake happens, ensure you do what you can to rectify the issue and go above and beyond to ensure they leave happy.

Review Feedback – This is a big one as your business reviews can easily make or break your business, and the same can be said for how you respond. These reviews are online and do truly give a lasting impression about your business. Positive reviews should be acknowledged, however negative reviews need to be treated with the highest amount of professionalism as possible… As an example, and from a personal experience, a few weeks back, I took my family to a restaurant that had opened up a few weeks prior but was owned by a local couple that has a series of other restaurants in the area (so not new to the game). We ended up having a very bad experience that we chalked up to “they’re still working the kinks out of the system”. With that said, I pulled up the internet and noticed that there’s a slew of reviews making very similar comments to the experience we had. Furthermore, I noticed the owners commenting on the feedback apologizing, but also combating reviews with the typical “that’s not how we typically do things”. Again, we had noticed that multiple people were having the exact same issue, so what does that have to say for the business? Additionally, in almost all the comments they made, they asked for contact information for a “gift card” to be issued in hopes of winning business back. Great, right? Well, again, we learned that these comments were really made in vain and they in fact were not reaching back out to these unhappy customers… In this situation, it would have been better for them to not respond at all, as they are doing more harm to their business than good. We see this happen all too often as small businesses are typically owner-operated and they take things personally, but how you react in these situations has an impact on your business. Again, 81% of people make decisions by starting with online searches (in 2014).

Always be thankful – This should go without saying, but there is—believe it or not—a large amount of arrogance in businesses today. Some businesses walk around as if “you,” the customer, should feel privileged to do business with them… That’s right, the “customer” should feel privileged to do business with a company because they are the best at what they do. Sound familiar? Almost everyone has dealt with a business like this. Sure, business is good for them right now, and they might even have the luxury of turning away business today, but that does not hold true for the long term. Almost every business with this type of strategy eventually starts to struggle or fail over time. Why? Because eventually all these jaded prospects and customers will find another organization for their needs that treats them properly. Eventually, they are left with a struggling business, trying to find out why they are not closing business like the used too.

Again, when it comes to first impressions, they mean everything in today’s business. Whether you’re a multi-million dollar software firm, mom-and-pop general store, or a restaurant opening its doors for the first time, always put your best foot forward… Competition is fierce in today’s market, and your competition is all too eager to scoop up your missed opportunities. So, do whatever you can to ensure customers have a happy, welcoming, and warm experience with your business… We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: when it comes to having a truly successful business, it is the little things that matter!