If I say the word ‘Business’ to you, what exactly do you think of?
What do you see? What do you feel?
If you’re anything like me, it’s a building, or a product or an office that you think of and see...and you don’t ‘feel’ much at all.
If I change my language and say, ‘I want to do business with you’...What do you think now? What are the emotions and the images that spring to mind? Even though we’ve never met, you’ve an impression of me that you’ve picked up from previous blogs, or the bright website maybe, or FB posts... and you will be thinking and feeling something about me...hopefully some of it positive!
A business is a thing. It’s something we do. It can’t ‘do’ anything...least of all work with another business, or a customer. It is us that do the doing, and what we do is all about people and relationships. That’s what our customer experience is really made up of...a series of relationships.
An old boss of mine once famously said to me, ‘It’s not about relationships Marianne, it’s about results’, and I have spent the intervening years happily proving her wrong. Business is ALL about relationships...whether you are a business owner, an employee, a customer, a supplier, or someone who has yet to become any one of those things.
The business jargon that talks about B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) removes people from the equation, and allows those in the business to think, feel and act very differently. They become more detached, more objective, more results and profit-focused...and yes, occasionally that detachment might serve them when they need to step back and look at their business with a cold objective eye...but it should only be occasionally and for very brief periods, because that removal of warmth could kill their business.
We all work People to People (or P2P if you need to shorten it) ...and we all want to deal with people we like.
First we get to know them - through their marketing, through referrals, through their employees, or through face to face interactions. We get to know what they do, the quality of their products and services, the sort of people they employ, the values they have. And we start to build a picture of them based on that very first impression from that very first encounter.
Then we decide whether we like them or not. Maybe we share their values, we like how they build relationships, their products and services meet our needs really well...or perhaps we just connected really well with one of their employees.
Based on the simple fact that we like them, we will then do business with them. I'm sure you all have examples of where this was the case.
At this point they haven’t quite gained our trust. We don’t know them well enough yet, have not had enough experience with them to make that move from liking to trusting...but they can build that trust over time by consistently getting things right for us. I don’t know if you have come across the idea of a Trustbank before, but it’s a metaphor that works well for me. The idea is that the customer has a Trustbank, and every time a business performs well, and lives up to their brand promise, a deposit is placed in the Trustbank, and their account grows and grows over time.
If they make a mistake or perform badly, you make a withdrawal from their account...but if the account is healthy, the relationship will survive. If however they make mistakes early on in the relationship, or a major error at any point, the goodwill in their Trustbank account will become overdrawn and the relationship will be in serious danger of total collapse.
There are classic examples of trust being destroyed completely through one ‘act’ or one major problem from which there was no coming back. Two from relatively recent history are Gerald Ratner’s pronouncement that the jewellery he sold in his shops was ‘Crap’, and the other, was in 1982 when Pan Am Flight 759 crashed, killing over 150 people. Both Ratner's and Pan Am were very successful companies at the time, but neither were able to recover the trust of their customers, and both failed soon after these incidents.
Trust is huge in any relationship, and the benefits of being trusted can also make the difference between getting by as a business and really being successful. One of the most powerful benefits is being referred by customers who know your work, like you and trust you enough to recommend you to their friends and colleagues. It’s one of the best ways of building business and can save a a small fortune in marketing costs.
The other way, which is also word of mouth, is by creating Customer Advocates...you know...the people who sing the praises of a business and tell others about them...who love the brand and the way they do business, and want the world and his wife to know how good they are. Netflix was one example that was advocated in this blog and I’m pretty sure you all have businesses that you are a huge fan of...I think everybody does.
Whichever way you look at it, and whatever terms you use to describe it...a customer’s relationship with a business, and the sum of all of their experiences with the people who work in that business...will determine how successful that business will be.
It really is all about People.
At the start of every new year an awful lot of people sit down and write their New Year's Resolutions...actually no, that's not quite true, most people don't even write them down. But it is a 'thing' that a lot of us like to do...dream about a different, more rewarding, more fun, less tiring year where we make more money and have a 'better' life.
We get really creative about what we're going to do to make things different. For many, top of the list after a winter of eating as if we're going into hibernation...is losing weight. For others, it's spending more time with the family; quitting smoking; maybe getting promoted at work...or finding a new job; or perhaps just keeping a diary - I have lost count of the number of diaries I began on Jan 1st, and gave up mid-February.
And all too often that's as far as our New Year's Resolutions get...a month into the year, and only then if we told somebody else about them! We have such great intentions, feel really motivated, and within 6 weeks we're either telling ourselves that we're too tired, too busy, too comfortable, or beating ourselves up for being weak, lazy, and unable to see anything through!
So how can we make this year the year we deliver? How can we ensure that 2013 is the year we do what we say what we're going to do...that we can look back on December 31st with both satisfaction and pride?
Different things work for different people, I know...but last year was one of the best and most productive years of my short life, so I thought I'd share with you what worked for me, in the hope that it could also work for you.
1) Have a burning desire
Only choose choose something that you feel really strongly about, and have a convincing argument as to why you must do this. This argument is not to convince others, but to convince your negative self when the going gets tough, and the whining and bitching starts about there being no point.
2) Set the goal
Decide exactly what you want to achieve. Be precise and don't fudge the issue. Do you want it or not..?! How great is that desire?
3) Set interim targets
A big goal that will take several months, if not a whole year to achieve, needs smaller very achievable targets that can be reached...and celebrated! The celebration bit is hugely important :)
4) Write a plan
Plan out what you are going to do day to day or week to week in order to achieve your goal. Make the plan as detailed as possible...and realistic. Stretch yourself...but don't overcommit as that could lead to failure. Build the milestone targets and celebrations into your plan, and put it somewhere that you will see it every day.
4) Visualise yourself succeeding
This may sound a bit airy fairy to anyone not used to doing it...but if it works for all of the top athletes and performers, it works for me. Picture yourself having achieved your goal...what will you look like...how will you feel...what will others be saying to you? Spend some time on this, because when the going gets tough, this visualisation will pull you through and get you back on track.
5) One small step
As soon as you have written your plan, and made the commitment to yourself that you will complete it...take the first step. Don't delay, don't tell yourself you'll start tomorrow. No matter how small, take that first step immediately. You will be amazed at the psychological impact of simply starting NOW.
6) Enjoy the challenge!
If this is something that you really want to achieve, it should not be a chore to you. You've decided that you're going to do it, you've committed to your plan...you might as well enjoy the challenge you have set yourself. Life's too short to make anyone's life a misery, especially your own! ;)
As with anything in life, in work, or in business...the combination of passion + planning + process, will guarantee your success. And for the days when your 'other self' is getting the upper hand and you need a bit of inspiration...I suggest you treat yourself to the following 2 minutes of inspiration (from Overthinkingit.com)...it always works for me!
Have a year to remember!
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)