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September roundup: What does it take to get technology to market?

By Daylin Mantyka2013-September-Calendar-to-Print

Last month’s contents were newsworthy and informative. Leading the pack was David French’s post on confidentiality agreements followed by Francis Moran’s timely piece on angel investing in Ontario. As always, we had some great contributions from our guest bloggers on customer service, forecasting culture in startups, PR agency etiquette and the value of testimonials, among others.

In case you missed any of it, here is a handy recap of our posts, as ranked by the enthusiasm of our readers:

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Testimonials are great, but your marketing machine needs more

By Leo Valiquettetestimonials1

I love Tom Kumagai.

As a spokesperson for Toyota, that is.

He is the modest building inspector from Chatham, Ont. who has appeared in television commercials for Toyota with his 1998 Rav-4. His mileage on the vehicle is well past the 600,000-kilometre mark. Previously, he owned a 1980 Toyota Corolla that he took to more than 400,000 kilometres.

Kumagai attributes the reliable performance to the fact that he keeps to the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule and only trusts his local Toyota dealership to do the work.

There is nothing boastful about these advertisements. There is no need to be. The facts speak for themselves. And while not all Toyota owners have the same experience, and the automaker itself deals with quality issues and recalls like any other, the understated tone of these advertisements gives them weight and authority.

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How may my technology help you?

This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from November 2007. We welcome your feedback.

Fotolia_27389812_XS-300x200By Francis Moran

Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, is airing a special series on its national radio news programs called, “How may I help you?” I caught the first in-depth piece yesterday evening and I so badly wanted to call in and share my endless stack of customer service horror stories. Many fellow listeners obviously felt the same way; as of late this morning, fully 279 (!) individual stories of lament had been posted to CBC’s web site.

The issue put me in mind of an article, authored by Graham Technology’s Frank Kirwan, that we secured in Customer Management magazine earlier this year.

As I was listening to the radio piece last evening and reading some of the horror stories posted online this morning, the key point that kept coming back to me from Kirwan’s article was “Dissatisfaction is a greater driver of (customer) defection than satisfaction is of retention.” And judging from the number of CBC listeners who wrote that they would never again do business with that bank, telephone company, travel agency or whatever, clearly it takes just a single outrageous example of lousy customer service to trigger that defection.

It really doesn’t have to be that way.
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Purposeful customer service

Hope-CartoonBy Shep Hyken

I recently posed the following question to a group of business owners at the International Franchise Association convention: “How do you ensure a great customer service experience for your customers?”

There were some commonalities among the answers. Even with the diverse collection of businesses, from quick-serve restaurants to online businesses, most of them agreed that good customer service starts with people. Everyone recognized that a good hiring strategy is the heart of good customer service.

I asked one of the owners about his hiring strategy. His strategy was purposeful. Even for entry-level positions, applicants are screened and must go through three rounds of interviews. He prides himself on finding a good personality to fit in with his culture.

Then I asked my next question: “What do you do after they are hired?”

His response was what I expected to hear. He put the new hires through training. I asked him to elaborate on what they learned in the training sessions. All new employees must go through an orientation on how the technology works, logistics and the organization’s business process. He also assigns a mentor to help the new employee through the first week.

I asked the others in our meeting what was missing. Most believed that customer service training was missing.

His response was quick. He defended his omission of any customer service training because he chooses his employees for the right personality.

He said, “I made sure that I hired good people. I hope they know what to do.”

When it comes to customer service, hope is not a strategy. Customer service must be purposeful. You can hire the nicest people in the world, but you still must give them direction, teach the best practices, and continue to reinforce your customer service strategy so that employees are continuously reminded and motivated on what and how to deliver your brand of customer service. You must take what they already know and teach, very specifically, how to make it work for your business. And it starts with some initial training.

For example, Disney puts every employee (also known as cast members) through a training program know as Traditions.  It doesn’t matter if the cast member is taking tickets, selling souvenirs, helping people on rides, sweeping up trash or being brought into the corporate offices. All new hires learn what the traditions behind Disney are all about and how to “Manage the Magic,” which is a very purposeful way of creating a connection with the guest.

Don’t leave customer service to chance. Regardless of how good the employees’ people skills are, you can’t simply hope they will understand how to apply what they know to your business. Train them and train often. Reinforce the positive and learn from any problems. Consistently amazing customer service doesn’t happen by accident. It happens on purpose!

Shep Hyken is a speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer and the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestsellers, The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, which was also recognized as a New York Times bestseller.

Image: Chamber of Commerce

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The eternal struggle to balance process with results

car-mired-in-mudBy Leo Valiquette

Back in the day when I was a full-time journalist, I would often rouse the ire of hired PR guns by daring to contact their clients directly.

I mean, the sheer gall I displayed by responding with such enthusiasm to whatever pitch or media release they had sent my way.

As a busy hack trying to pump out a dozen news briefs a day, it only made sense for me to take what seemed to be the most direct route to get a source on the phone as quickly as possible. If I had to go through a middle man, then fine; if not, why bother?

And here I am today, one of those PR guns, often sharing the bottom of a client’s media release with one of the client’s own communications people. Who should the media call? Either one of us is fair game. In the end, it’s the result that matters. I am much more concerned with the thud value of a pile of media coverage than nitpicking over who the media called to arrange the interview.

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