What is the New Normal for Your Customers?

Homemade face mask

That’s the ten-million-dollar question, isn’t it? What is the new normal? How can you know? Our answer? You can’t.

We frequently have clients who ask us to ask their customers to predict future behaviour. Purchase intent or behavioural intent are no more predictable than whether a pandemic will suddenly shut down the entire world and kill millions of people. It never has been. That’s why financial offerings have all those disclaimers about forward-looking statements. It’s the same reason that there are statements like “past behaviour is not an indicator of future performance”. It’s the same for your customers. The best you can hope for, is to play the odds. And the best way to do that, is to ask them to think, as much as possible, about now, or as close to now, as you can. The precious present (circumstances) is all they really have a good handle on.

They’re sort of good at recalling what they do under normal circumstances, although they may filter their behaviour through a lens of “what I should do”. We saw this in action back in the early days of mobile research. We had a group of moms completing food diaries. Now when they did this on paper, they would note that they gave their kids an unhealthy snack three days in a row, and might erase and replace with a more acceptable answer. But when they did the diary in real time on mobile, they didn’t have the same opportunity to edit themselves. Eureka! An insight was born.

They’re even less good at predicting what they will do, because they will try to apply logic and reason – especially if they are trained in using rubrics and logic to make decisions (think doctors, engineers, or actuaries). So you can’t take them at face value.

You can, however, take stock in the directionality of their answers – if they are more likely to do something versus another thing, or if they think your new option is more appealing than your current one. So do listen to what they are saying. And if you get them to complain about something they don’t like, listen VERY carefully. Discomfort is something they are often best at expressing. Then stop. Do not ask them to solve their problem, or tell you how. After all, if they knew how, they would have solved it already, or would have asked you to solve it. And if (worst case scenario), they did tell you how to solve it and you simply didn’t want to respond? Now you’ve poked the bear, and you’ll have to work extra hard to regain their trust.

So the short answer to what is the new normal for your customers is, whatever they are experiencing and doing right now. Because tomorrow? That never comes.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them make better decisions and build stronger relationships with customers. You can also find us on LinkedIn, on Facebook, or on Twitter. And you can sign up below for regular news you can use.

How to Deal with an Angry Customer

We’ve all had one. And in some situations, if not many, we aren’t the source of their anger. It’s frustrating. We can feel even more powerless when it seems obvious what needs to be done to assuage their angry feelings, but we don’t seem to have the authority to do it.

How to deal with an angry customer in that situation? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. First, use your empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what might make you feel better.
  2. Ask yourself, is their concern legitimate?
  3. Next, think about the people who do have the authority to do something, and get creative. What might you do or say that will get them to open their minds?
  4. Apologize to the angry customer. Even if you feel like it isn’t your fault. Acknowledge that they have a right to their anger.
  5. Take responsibility. Let them know you will do everything you can to assist.
  6. Set boundaries. State clearly that you are going to be respectful during your conversation, and you are sure they will do likewise (even if you’re not so sure).
  7. Commit to listening. No matter how angry the customer seems in their delivery, hear their words.
  8. Answer customer anger with questions. Find out more. Why is that? And then what happened? What was the impact on you? How can you help?
  9. Do or say something that is within your power, that will move the situation forward, even if it is just a little.
  10. Keep working to change the policy that prevents you from solving the problem.

Lastly, remind yourself of this: not every problem can be solved today. Solutions will reveal themselves in their own good time. And as long as you have done everything in your power to make it better, be satisfied that you made the effort.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them engage their customers (even angry customers), and to see everything they need to know to make better decisions and grow their careers or their businesses. You can also find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. And weekly, we share some more insights in our News you Can Use. Get it Below.

The Longer You Hide From Issues, the Bigger They Get

Boy covering face with hands

Have you ever seen a little kid hide their face, thinking that if they do that, no one will see them? Not facing up to issues is a big like that. Not only do they keep on coming, but the longer you hide from issues, the bigger they get. And eventually, just like with the little kid, they’re eventually so close that you have no choice but to deal with them…but on their terms, not yours.

So what can you do? It depends on the issue. Is it a potential issue, or a risk? Something that could go wrong? Then the best course of action is to investigate. You need to determine whether the issue or outcome you’re worried about is real. That takes research, or seeking feedback, or plain old listening. Once you’ve established that what you’re worried about could happen, it’s time to do a risk assessment. That entails two parts:

  1. Evaluating the degree of risk, or probability
  2. Deciding how much tolerance you have for taking the risk, knowing the degree of probability that it will happen

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to make a more informed plan of action, rather than just waiting and hoping.

On the other hand, there are issues that you’ve already created for yourself. The odds, or probability, of an issue directly caused by your actions (a customer service error, or a major faux pas with your audience or stakeholders) being harmful to your business, are 100%. At that point, you need to fix it. The classic apology strategy goes like this:

  1. Express regret. Say you’re sorry. Say it publicly.
  2. Explain what you did wrong so the person/people wronged know you understand.
  3. Acknowledge your responsibility to fix it.
  4. State very clearly that you will commit to not doing it again.
  5. Make an offer of reparation – don’t just fix it, but take the penalty.
  6. Ask for their forgiveness.

And then, most importantly of all, don’t demand that their forgiveness is given on your timeline. And don’t hide, hoping it will all blow over. It won’t. No matter how much you hide, the injury will never go away, but by taking an active part, you can help it to heal. That means getting back to business, doing your work, and continuing to keep the commitments you’ve made as part of your apology – no matter how much it stings your ego to do so.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything in their business environment, so they can make better decisions and forge stronger relationships with their customers, clients, and constituents. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Or you can receive weekly news by signing up with the orange button, below.

The Best Way to Make Customers Listen

How do you make customers listen to you, when you have something you want to tell them? The very best way to make customers listen, is to think about who you serve. Everyone serves someone, and if you’re in business, any business, you serve your customer. Universities serve their students. Corporations serve their customers (even before shareholders, or the shares won’t be worth much). Once you know who you serve, there are four more things to do, to get customers to listen:

  1. Listen to them first. Hear their aspirations, their challenges, and their concerns.
  2. Tell them that you’ve heard them, so they know you are listening.
  3. Back up what you’ve told them with action.
  4. Share the results.

Once they know that you’re willing to put them first, they’ll listen. You won’t need to ask twice.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m a Partner here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their businesses and careers. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – and we’ll also send our weekly post along with some other useful tidbits, direct to your inbox – just click the handy button, below.

What to do when the Trolls Show Up…

Troll in forest

You’ve started to get some traction with your social media posts or your blog, and then…the trolls show up. What can you do?

The natural urge is to feel defensive. To want to fight back. But is that in your best interest? Most of the time, it’s not. Here are some steps you can take when confronted with negative information:

  1. Remind yourself and your team that happy customers often say nothing – you may have many “likes” or “shares”, but much of the time, of comments
  2. Exercise compassion – pay attention to the remarks and see if there is a grain of truth that represents an opportunity for improvement.
  3. Consider the source – are they a “troll for hire” or bot, simply programmed by an algorithm to respond to certain phrases or topics?
  4. Don’t argue – looking defensive won’t get you anywhere and will add validity to their remarks
  5. Apologize and explain what you’ve done – if they’ve called you out on a legitimate complaint, say you’re sorry and tell them how you’re working to solve it
  6. Take the conversation offline – and show that you’re offering them another way to voice their concerns
  7. Push them out of the way – enlist your allies (customers, clients, or stakeholders) to help you build up the positive comments

Bear in mind that often the people who are bothered the most by trolls are team members who work their hardest to be good, kind, compassionate, and helpful. They’ll want to defend themselves. The best thing you can do for them is to have a clear policy and a place where they, too, can voice their concerns. Do that, and encourage them to support your efforts to manage what is sometimes a very unruly and discomfiting beast.

I’m Megann Willson, one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to see everything they need to know to make better decisions as they find, understand, and engage their customers. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or subscribe for weekly updates using the handy button, below.

Get Close to Customers…From a Distance

hands reaching out of monitors to make a transaction

Even as the great re-entry begins, we’re all realizing that the way we do business will have to change. Probably forever. So how do you create those close ties to customers that have been proven to result in greater lifetime customer value, more referrals, and less push, more pull marketing efforts? How can you get that close to customers, from a distance?

First, you need to really reach out and understand what’s happening with your customers now. All bets are off. Any assumptions you had in the pre-pandemic days are gone. You might actually be at an advantage if you’re starting a new business – you won’t have to dismantle any old habits. But let’s assume you’ve had good customer relationships thus far. I hope you’ve stayed in contact during the quarantine, distancing, and slowdowns that have occurred. Whether you’ve decided to stop, start, continue, or change your marketing tactics and relationship approach, you need to validate. That’s not so easy if you can’t see customers in person, or as often, as you used to. (Partner Steve Willson has some excellent tips in this video, though. We hope you’ll like, share, and subscribe to the whole series).

After you’ve got the lay of the land, there are four things you need to think about:

  1. Is there someone I can refer to those customers, to show them I’m putting them first?
  2. How can I give those customers what they want, or solve a problem for them, before I talk about me?
  3. How can I reward the ones who have already purchased during this crazy time we’ve been going through, even if their own businesses or incomes were suffering?
  4. Who is in their network who could become a customer, if I can encourage them to give me a referral?

Just this morning, I was discussing with a client of mine, what changes they want to make in their business, and that the time is now. When everything is shifting, there’s no better time to make the changes you’ve known need to be made. Keep thinking about your customer first while you do it. (If you want to dig deeper into customer service, we highly recommend reading Shep Hyken’s Cult of the Customer). If we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t have businesses.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better business decisions. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. And if you’d like to receive timely ideas and tips to help you find, understand, and engage customers, sign up for news you can use with the orange button.

The Best Time is Now

Hourglass

I didn’t get the blog written this week. I have a new client. In these pandemic times, that is fantastic news. And this client, well, like many businesses, they’re fighting for their lives. So I owed it to them to make sure they got some time from me. I also had commitments to a strategy planning session with my CCSBE Board. I also had work with our collaborators at Platinum Pivot. All this to say, if you miss your target and need to stage a recovery, the best time is now.

That wisdom has been around for a while. There’s an old Chinese proverb, often quoted, that says the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. Readers usually see a post from us on Thursday or Friday. Funny thing, though. We’re regular people, and once in a while, commitments just get in the way. We break promises even to ourselves. I bet that’s happened to you, as well. My friend, coach Debbie Adams, would tell you that when you’ve fallen off the wagon (your plan) you’ve got to chase that wagon!

We’ve all been going through unprecedented times. This week, conversations with clients, contacts, and colleagues have been taking on a different tone. They’re feeling a shift, like the frenzy of video calls is subsiding somewhat, and they’re getting work done. They’re looking at their businesses and making changes. They’re holding strategy sessions and planning for the future with a frisson of hope. These are good things. So if you’ve got something you’ve let slide, and it’s important to you, the best time is now. I just did it, reaching out to you.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions. If this was helpful to you, I hope you’ll share on social. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Or you can subscribe to our news, straight to your inbox, using the orange button, below.

Do you feel like slamming on the brakes?

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With ever-increasing bad news, do you just want to pile the binders to everything, step back, and hide?

While that may feel good temporarily, if you’re running a business, hitting the brakes and then heading for the hills is never the best policy. Instead, take a step back and then plunge into activities like these:

  1. Use your empathy when dealing with clients and colleagues – you have no idea, especially now, what they may be dealing with.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate – it’s important to keep people posted on what you’re doing, and just to let them know that you’re there, and that you care.
  3. Then innovate – before simply giving up on what you’re working on together, figure out whether there are new ways to collaborate and get work done, in a low-contact environment.
  4. Educate yourself and validate what you know – make sure you don’t disseminate information that’s inaccurate, misleading, or induces unnecessary worry for your clients and colleagues.
  5. Explore – new sources of support and revenue, work on changes you haven’t had time for, and summon up your resilience to face whatever comes. Attitude is altitude!

I’m Megann Willson, and with my Partner, Steve Willson, we’re PANOPTIKA. We’re determined to keep our business alive during this pandemic, and will be doing our best to provide practical, usable advice to help you make better decisions for your business, through all our channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to our News You Can Use via the orange button, below. 

If You Really Love Your Customers, Do This

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Image from Ron van den Berg via Pixabay
Every day, we hear companies saying they love their customers. And how do they show it? They push them tons and tons of irrelevant content. They flood their inboxes. They try to sell them things they don’t want or need. And here’s what many of them don’t do:

Try to find out what will really make them happy. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be in a long-lasting relationship (like we have), you’ll know that you’re always looking for ways to delight the other person. To show them that you want to help them get what they want and need to feel like they are their best. Saying sorry when you’re wrong. Asking their closest friends if there’s something they’ve been dreaming of that they haven’t told you. Not taking, taking, taking. 

So today, on Valentine’s Day, and every day, if you really love your customer:

  1. If you’ve messed up in any way, apologize. Sincerely.
  2. Find out what they’ve really been dreaming about without asking them to spell it out for you (watch, observe, pay attention, or ask others who know them as well or better as you do) and then help them get it.
  3. Do an unasked kindness for them that doesn’t have an immediate payoff for you (A referral? An endorsement? A sincere note of thanks that isn’t a sales pitch?

To you: thanks for reading. We appreciate it. And thank you to all of you who refer others, endorse us on social media, and engage in conversations about how to find, understand, and engage customers. I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. (The other is Steve Willson – Happy Valentine’s Day!) You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or through our weekly email news.  

 

Our client asked us for less!

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A week or so ago, we had the most refreshing experience. It made us feel amazing. Serene, even. 

One of our clients asked us for less. Now, we always try to go the extra mile with our clients, and if they are new to us, and we’re working on a project, we try to show them all the possible lines of inquiry we might explore, to learn more about their customers or prospects. We prefer a very open journey, but if someone doesn’t know us, they might have trouble seeing how that will work out. So imagine our relief when the client called and said, “I like where we’re going, but don’t you think we will get a richer result if we ask very broad questions and then probe as the respondent takes it in their direction, not ours? 

Yes, yes we do. Thanks for asking us that. Constraints can be useful. But questions that will take the discussion in the direction you want, rather than where the respondent wants to go, are likely to end up with you feeling like you didn’t learn anything new, and simply confirm what you already belief. The lesson? Open yourself up to simplicity, if you want a richer, more meaningful result. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. If you’d like us to help you see everything that’s really important to your prospects or customers, let’s talk. You can find all our contact information here on the website. And if you’d like regular insights that will spark ideas you might not have been thinking about already, you can also find us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or on Facebook