Review your playbook because the rules of business have changed.
Many companies are going to have a very bad 2008. Some won’t survive the year. Many businesses will “cut back” as sales and margins fall. The “grow by cutting” businesses will never regain their former glory.
The hardships will hit the big and the small. No sector is safe. It doesn’t matter if you sell a product or a service, your business is going to feel the squeeze unless you start playing by the new rules.
I’d have to write a book to cover the new thinking necessary to thrive in 2008, but I’ll hit some highlights that will help your business, big or small. If you seriously implement the new rules, your business thrive.
1. Your Customer Service must be excellent. It’s not good enough to be average or “working on it”. Businesses that provide less than super customer service are already experiencing sales declines. It’s going to get a lot worse for them. Most managers do not understand how to provide good customer service. They just don’t get it. If any part of your customer service improvement plan contains even the slightest hint of cost savings for the business, the plan will fail. That’s not to say providing great service won’t reduce operating costs, it will. But if you plan to improve service and reduce costs, you will miss the mark and cut the wrong costs. I see it all the time. Start by making a sincere statement about your company’s customer service policy. Make certain that every employee of your company is responsible for customer service and authorized to provide it. Damn right, even the janitor should be authorized to tell a customer that whatever the problem may be, he will help get the customer into the right hands.
2. Stop hiding from your customers. If a customer can’t easily find a phone number on your website, you are making a huge mistake. This is part of that stupid cost saving mentality. Come on, you can’t be that stupid. When you have a problem with a company do you like getting the run around? Then why do you set that crap up at your business? Make your contact information easy to find and make the problem solvers easy to reach. There is no other way.
3. The old marketing is dead, long live the new marketing. Your business needs to use the new marketing tools provided by the internet. A million dollar ad campaign cannot overcome the damage unsatisfied customers can do to your sales by posting negative experiences on a Blog. You’ve got to get involved online or your days are numbered. Replace your marketing manager if he doesn’t undertand online marketing.
4. Customers have lots of choices, nobody needs you. I don’t care what you sell, there is an easy to find and cheaper alternative. Google. Anyone can use Google to find an alternative to your business. Anyone can use Google to read about other people’s experiences with your business. To think customers need you because you are special, is wrong. If you really ARE special, they’ll find you, assuming you are not hiding. You must continually work on being special. Buyers have many choices and more are coming.
5a. Old style management is useless. Cutting to grow, thinking from the top down, selling features and maintaining silly structural protocols (the “President” speaks and the VPs all nod agreement and nobody questions “authority”) are dead practices. Abandon them. Thin upper management.
5b. The current fad of business jargon is worse than old style management. If you see problems at your business and someone wants to form a task force, think outside the box, look at the supply chain, evaluate a process, explore strategic opportunities or any other “nonsense speak” rather than offering a common sense, understandable approach, fire them. I’m not kidding. Those words conceal incompetence. Fire the idiots who talk like they just came from a Harvard Business School class. Yes, fire them. It’s time to get back to thinking inside the box.
6. Develop your business as a team, but don’t put too much emphasis on teamwork. Teams have a common goal and everyone on the team knows what that goal is. Every member of the team does his individual best to contribute to the team’s goal. This is a two step concept. First develop individuals, then solidify the team. Doing that in reverse stunts individual development.
Have more meetings and keep them short. Meetings should be vibrant with lots of participation. Few meetings are necessary to disperse information.
7. Email is the best new tool for business to come along in 50 years. Stop wasting it. It’s time to learn to manage email and internet use. Too much time is wasted with meaningless emails. Email is causing too many interruptions. Millions of hours are wasted on the internet. Use these tools correctly and your business can provide better service and save costs.
Every year, the market place is getting more brutal. But you know what is actually rather amusing about that? It’s getting easier every day if you’re good.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog