February 2009
In this issue
Message from Shyra
Monthly Expert
Featured Product
Inspirational Article
Upcoming Events
Message from Shyra

Can you believe it's already February? I must admit, last year was an AWESOME year for me and the family. I'm so excited to see what all is to come this year! My husband and I sat down at the beginning of last year and wrote down our goals and we actually accomplished just about every single one of the ones we wrote down! I'm going to say something and some of you might get a little bothered. Keep in mind, I am speaking from experience. One of the things you have to remember is IT'S UP TO YOU TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN! You can't blame anyone but yourself if you are in the same position you were in at this same time last year. You still have a chance to get started to make things happen!!! What goals have you set for yourself this year? What type of discipline does it require to achieve it? Who needs to be in your circle to assist you? If you've got folks in your way, it's time to put them aside for a minute.

You can't allow them to slow you down or even stop you from achieving your greatness! Some feelings might have to get hurt, but if it's meant for these individuals to be around during your journey, you'll definitely know it. One other thing to remember is to stop trying to " keep up with the Joneses"!!! If you can't afford to pay cash for it, then leave it there! Stop running the credit card bill up and start paying it down. If you don't have any good credit...that's more of a reason to stop trying to" keep up with the Joneses". Start working on fixing your credit. Slow down on the entertaining costs and start reading more.

Stop watching all of the negative things on television and feed yourself with knowledge to help you get ahead. Start researching online or at the library for ways to assist you in bettering YOU and your FINANCES. Those of you looking for a business opportunity or something on the side to bring in additional income, there are some very simple things out there you can do! I'd love to have the opportunity to share some of these simple ideas with you. Some of these ideas are so simple, you won't believe you didn't think of them sooner. As I share with my clients, you have to get yourself straight first before you can focus on success! Sometimes it even starts with a renewing of the mind!

Monthly Expert

How to Keep Customers Rushing Back for More
By Kelly McDonald

I travel a lot. Consequently, I spend a lot of time in airports, waiting to go through security, waiting to board my flight and waiting for baggage. As a result of all this waiting in crowded airports, I find myself overhearing the conversations of others from time to time. And last week, while waiting for my flight, I couldn?t help but overhear a conversation between two women behind me. They were talking about customer service, or rather, the lack of it, in their everyday lives and encounters. One woman?s comment was ?I am getting so used to bad service that I am almost shocked these days when I get GOOD service?, and the other woman agreed and added, ?Yes, customer service is dead.?

?Customer service is dead?, I thought? What a sorry statement to overhear. I pondered the comment and thought to myself, ?Customer service isn?t dead. It?s just on life support for many industries.?

Why is that?  My theory is that technology has been a key factor in reducing customer service.  Although technology makes our work world easier, faster and more efficient in many ways, it also can make our world more insular and less humanized.  Each of us can do more and more on our own, without having to rely on other humans for help.  Take something as simple as checking your bank balance, for example.  There was a time when you had to rely upon someone else to provide that information for you.  You had to go to the bank, or at least call, and an employee there would provide you the information that you needed.  These everyday encounters provided ongoing customer touchpoints and created an environment of ongoing

Now you don’t need that service any more. You can get the information you need, by yourself, at any time.  Furthermore, technology not only allows us to do more ourselves, we can also do it in isolation.  We don’t have to interact with anyone, and I believe that over the last decade or so, this has taken a toll on all of us.  Without the constant company of our fellow humans, we can begin to lose the art of basic politeness, respect and manners.

On top of that, technology has also eliminated the need for many jobs and roles previously performed by people.  This means that, in many cases, there are fewer employees retained to do work and those employees are often working with fewer resources.  This results in what I call being “stressed & pressed”:  we’re stressed out because we have too much to do and pressed for time to get everything done.

We can’t change the way technology has shaped our work and our lives.  But we can re-focus on key customer service principles to make sure our customer experiences are healthy and productive.  And now, more than ever, with our fragile economy and slim profits, happy customers mean big business for companies in every sector.  Happy, satisfied customers can be the greatest “insurance” you can have against the economy right now.  Satisfied customers help your business in 5 key ways:

  1. Stable business:   In volatile economic climates, having a stable customer base means everything.  Customer retention is the key to leveling the ups and downs of business.  Reducing customer “churn” is one of the key factors in increasing profit.
  1. Growing business:  Customer referrals are the least expensive, most profitable way to expand business.  And while technology can play a role in “referrals” by assisting in searches and recommendations, it is people – our friends, families and coworkers – who have our best interests at heart.

  2. Profitable business:  Satisfied customers create higher profits and margins because they see inherent value in the company and are not solely basing a transaction on price.  People will willingly and happily pay more for goods and services where excellent customer service is provided.
  1. Healthy business:  High rates of customer satisfaction can provide a buffer against harsh economic climates and help your company become less vulnerable to market conditions.  Additionally, if you hang your hat on price, someone can always beat your price.  The same is true of convenience.  There will always be market competitors who exceed you in some area, but great customer service helps you be less vulnerable to those competitors.

  2. Happy business:  Great customer satisfaction and relations means better employee relations.  And this translates directly to employee pride, morale and retention.  It helps you be the employer of choice, not of necessity.

Here are 7 strategies to improve customer care:

  1. Listen to what the customer is really asking for, not just what they are saying.  Ritz Carlton trains their employees in this way.  They tell the story of a guest who walked out of his room at 9pm, wrapped in his bathrobe with the ice bucket in his hand.  He saw a maintenance worker in the hallway and asked him where the ice machine was.  The worker took the ice bucket from the guest and filled the bucket with ice.  The guest asked for information (“where is the ice machine”), but what he really wanted was ice. So many of us would respond with the information requested (“It’s down the hall on the right”).  But the worker was trained to listen to what the guest really wanted, not just the words he spoke. 

  2. Provide hospitality, not just service.  Service is what you provide – hospitality is what you feel.  The greatest luxury we all have these days is time.  Consequently, we will choose to spend our time wisely and only with those who provide a hospitable experience.  Starbucks is a great example of this;  they don’t just sell a great cup of coffee, they sell an entire experience.  From the ambiance of the café, to the music to the unbleached, wooden stir sticks and raw sugar, they provide a hospitable experience.

  3. Go above and beyond.  I call it “surprise & delight”.  When people have an unexpected, but delightful, customer service experience, it is worth gold.  An example of this is a stay I had a couple of years ago at a Courtyard by Marriott.  This hotel chain is for budget-conscious business travelers.  I walked out of the hotel one morning at 8:00am, en route to a meeting that was supposed to start at 8:30.  To my horror, I saw that my rental car had a flat!  Panicked, I raced into the lobby and asked if there was someone who could help me change a flat.  A young man immediately came to help and had the flat changed in about 10 minutes.  Grateful beyond my ability to express, I pulled out a $20 bill and offered it to him with my effusive thanks.  Not only did the young man refuse my tip, he stated, “We cater to business people.  Anything we can do to help you be productive and get your business done on the road is what we’re here for.”  My jaw dropped.  This young man had not only saved my skin that morning, he articulated and personified the mission of Courtyard by Marriott.  It was totally above and beyond his job description to change my tire.  But he did it and didn’t expect to be compensated for it.

  4. Practice full disclosure.  I believe that the truth can never really hurt you.  Be upfront, because people can handle the truth.  What they can’t handle is the runaround.  And they can’t handle it when they think information has been suppressed or misrepresented.  A great example of this was when Cingular Wireless found that their greatest area of customer dissatisfaction was in the are of coverage.  In other words, customers were disappointed, and therefore, dissatisfied, when they discovered that their cell phone coverage was weak or nonexistent in certain areas.  Rather than try to gloss over these areas of cell phone deficiency, Cingular took the opposite approach.  They created color-coded maps that clearly illustrated exactly where you could not only get coverage, but what the strength of the signal was.  In this way, customers were fully informed about exactly the service they were signing up for.  Full disclosure in this case translated t no disappointing discoveries.

  5. Try new paradigms for your customer.  It may feel weird and unconventional to you, but if it’s what the customer wants, then it’s the right thing.  For example, MedXpress health clinics are now popping up in supermarkets across the country.  While it may seem odd to consider having your bronchitis treated when you buy your broccoli, MedXpress is a convenient and affordable place to have minor medical problems treated.  And what could be more convenient and accessible than a grocery store?  A Texas-based credit union began accepting jewelry and furniture layaway and utility bills as proof of payment track record for Hispanic customers applying for loans who lacked credit history.  These innovative concepts and ways of thinking are certainly out of the norm.  But if they are right thing for the customer, your business can benefit significantly.

  6. Empower your people.  Teach people, in meaningful ways, what you expect of them and give them the tools to do their job.  For example, a hotel front desk clerk once told me that he was empowered to credit a guest’s room bill up to $50 – no questions asked.  So if a guest was upset or annoyed about something - bad room service, phone charges, missed wake up call, etc – the front desk clerk could handle the problem swiftly and efficiently by crediting the guest’s bill $50.  No need to involve the manager or get a supervisor’s approval.  The hotel impressed upon each clerk that they had faith and trust in their judgment and to do what right for the guest.  Not only did this empower the employee, it fostered a sense of employee pride and responsibility.

  7. Write a great “last chapter”.  Every company and business has mishaps and problems.  It’s how you end the story that matters most.   Tabla Restaurant, an upscale restaurant in New York, had a customer come in one night for her reservation, frantic because she had left her cell phone and wallet in a taxi on the way to the restaurant.  The maître d’ calmed her and seated her and assured her she could pay later.  The maître d’ then continuously called her cell number for the next 30 minutes until the cab driver, now far away, answered.  Unbeknownst to the woman, the restaurant then sent a staffer to meet the cab across town and retrieve the cell phone and wallet.  By the time the woman finished her meal, the staffer returned with the phone and wallet and gave them to the woman.  Cost to the restaurant for performing this act of heroism?  A $31 cab ride to get the phone and wallet.  That’s a great last chapter.

These strategies are designed to help you think about and develop customer care tactics that will help define the customer experience forever.   In today’s volatile economy, unique and consistent customer care can help your business withstand the market fluctuations and build solid, lasting, profitable relationships with customers for life.

Kelly McDonald is president of McDonald Marketing, a full-service marketing & advertising firm based in Dallas, TX.  Kelly can be reached at 214-880-1717 or kelly@mcdonaldmarketing.com

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Inpirational Article

Don't Become Desperate
By Elder Johnnie Sanders

We are living in some tough times today and peoples' perspective of what God is doing changes with them almost with every breath that they take. The anguish of not having enough or fear of losing everything is beginning to cripple the faith of the people. The perspective of where you sit or where you stand is beginning to hinder your faith and belief in what God has promised you! The mentality of people who would normally be strong in adversity has started to become defeated because of how they are looking at the situations in their life as devastation or dismay.
Most of the time, how I handled a situation, whether I handled it good or bad, was because of how I looked at what was before me. If I thought that the matter at hand was going to kill me, I became deeply afraid. If I thought it was something that I didn't think I was going to come out of, I gave myself an anxiety attack. If I looked at the situation with a positive attitude and trusted God, I generally would gain wisdom and something positive from what He was bringing me through. The struggle was not to condemn me or make me less of a person; it was always about increasing my faith and changing my self-perceptions. Don't ask God to remove the issue; ask God to open your eyes because there is a ram in the bush somewhere to deliver you through your situation. We have to trust God in painful places.

This season that we are in is only temporary and you will not die from this and God will bring you out of this uncomfortable state of affairs. Transition is painful, and His methods are unorthodox at times in order to push you into the next dimension. Someone may have left you or you may have lost your house, your job, your car, your 401K, your business or someone you love may be strung out on drugs now. Your heart has been broken and you remember when God said that you are the head and not the tail, and you would be prosperous, but you circumstances are not reflecting the promise. Don't become desperate! The growth process that we are all called to is happening now.

I want to warn you to look to the heavens, which cometh your help. Don't look for get rich quick schemes to bail you out or these moneymaking programs that someone invites you in with the concept that you can become rich beyond your wildest dreams within a month or two. I'm constantly hearing scam artist using the history of the "Great Depression of the 1930's" saying that "more millionaires were developed during this time." Well what they failed to continue to say is the number of millionaires in this country have escalated since then due to people becoming entrepreneurs who started their own business and worked their business over years of hard work and studying their craft. Yes the times have changed dramatically and the World Wide Web has helped many to become wealthy, but please don't get desperate and fall for every idea that is thrown at you. The principle of "Seed Time and Harvest" still applies. I understand your doubt and your fear. I feel the hurt and the pain of God's people. He will not speak to us in frantic and chaotic hysteria. We need to get to a calm place so we can hear Him and see what He has in store for us. The struggles with us have always been for vision. We need to continue to pray, "Lord let me see what you have for me." "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him: but I will maintain mine own ways before Him!" Job 13:15 I plead with you that you Don't give up! Don't give into temptation! My God has not forsaken you!

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