Simple systems drive customer loyalty

August 25, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like?
Customers are on the receiving end of your systems. If those systems are designed well and your team follows those systems with discipline and resolve, you have the best chance of achieving consistent and predictable results. If you’re lacking systems, or they’re poorly designed and not adhered to, your customers are on the receiving end of compromise. Your company phone won’t be answered correctly. Customers will be on hold too long. Problems will take longer to resolve. Retention will suffer.
Simple or complex, customer loyalty systems just make work move smoother. I stopped at a diner for breakfast with a client. It was one of those popular and very busy local spots with lots of character. The waitress would come by and pour some decaf for my client and some hi-test for me. She had a lot of tables to take care of and I began to wonder how she could remember who had decaf or regular. I decided to ask. “It’s simple,” she said, “the decaf cups have two red rings around the top and the cups for regular have one black ring.” Duh. What a simple and efficient system.
Here is a hit list of do-it-now strategies you can use to implement systems to drive the customer loyalty business outcome:
* Go critical. Begin identifying the critical areas in your business that have the greatest impact, positive and negative, on customer loyalty. Prioritize this list and assign teams to design, test and implement the new systems.
* Set time standards for all points of contact with customers including: answering calls within three rings; greeting and acknowledging customers within thirty seconds; never leave a customer on hold for more than two minutes, etc.
* Connect the dots. Tie your critical numbers for customer loyalty, specifically your first-time retention rate, as one of the qualifiers for a bonus payout. This sends a clear message to employees that if the company can’t maintain satisfactory retention rates, it can’t afford to pay bonuses. We have a coaching client who bases 50 percent of the bonus payout on his company’s ability to maintain a first-time retention rate of 50 percent or better. He’s been working this for over a year and his first-time retention has never dropped below 54 percent.
* Collect key data. Are you collecting data on customer preferences, order history, birth date, what their favorite sport is, or any other data that can help your company personalize and customize each customer’s buying experience? What are your systems for collecting this data and getting it into a central database for service providers, sales and customer service representatives to access? If you allow client data to reside in the memory cells of your service providers, don’t complain when clients follow them when they leave. To build a company relationship with clients, you’ve got to work at it.
* Dealing with customer problems. What’s your system to ensure that problems, even the smallest concerns, are documented and reported so follow-up actions can be initiated? What’s the paper or document trail? Who follows up with the customer? When?
* Identifying and filling customer needs. Is there a system for your sales or customer service staff to follow to design the best solutions? The last thing you want in your business is an “order taker.” Taking an order is ordinary. Customizing a prescribed service and product regimen to truly satisfy a customer’s needs is extraordinary.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

customer-loyalty2A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like?... Read More

A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like? Customers are on the receiving end of your systems. If those systems are designed well and your team follows those systems with discipline and resolve, you…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Salon/Spa Behavior First – Numbers Second

August 18, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers you use to guide and analyze your business performance are 100% behavior driven.
FACT: Behaviors make the numbers that you measure, celebrate and obsess over happen. Given this, why is it that so many leaders bypass the essential role behaviors play in achieving the numbers they want? Leaders spew out orders that sound like, “You need to get your numbers up,” and leaves the conversation believing those numbers are going to change. The problem is that the behaviors that produce the lackluster results are still intact. For the numbers to change, the behaviors need to change first.
From a company financial perspective, I’ve seen too many leaders build incredible cash-flow plans only to become frustrated that their perfectly formatted profit and loss statements and balance sheets are not showing improvement. The gap between the cash-flow plan and achieving the desired profits and value is purely behavior driven. With a system in place that creates and shapes financial disciplines, new and better behaviors will evolve. Financial performance will improve by changing behaviors to control spending and ultimately the management and use of financial resources.
Here are some red-hot strategies to make sure you get the behaviors right:
* Systems shape behaviors: A system is a series of processes that produces predictable results. Want an individual to produce better numbers? Provide them with the right system and skill development training to make those numbers move in the right direction.
* Understand the story numbers tell: Numbers simply tell a story. It’s your job to understand the story behind the numbers. What made this number a win? Why is this number causing a problem? If all you do is obsess over the numbers, you’ll never uncover the story that contains the lessons behind those numbers.
* Take responsibility and ownership: As a leader, all the numbers your business produces happened on your watch. They’re your numbers. If they’re numbers to celebrate, your leadership inspired the energy and the right environment for those numbers to occur. If those numbers are unacceptable, your leadership played a roll in that too. Blame does nothing to change the numbers you don’t like. Taking action and making the right decisions is all about behavior. Behavior first, numbers second.
* Your behavior needs to change first: Leaders are notorious for double-standard thinking. This means that the behaviors they expect in others aren’t necessarily the behaviors that they personally set the standard and example for. If the mandate is to sell more, do more, spend less, and you’re doing the opposite, you are the one who is compromising. You are the one who is preventing the numbers that you strive for to occur. No-compromise leadership is about accountability, execution and integrity.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers you use to guide and analyze your business performance are 100% behavior driven.... Read More

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Employees quit leaders not companies

August 11, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice in your head keeps saying, “How could they do this to me after all I did for them?” These situations can get so out of hand that I was recently asked to be an expert witness in a lawsuit where an owner is suing his attorney for failing to properly calculate the extent of the damages. Yes, you’re hurt, frustrated and angry – but this isn’t about what the dearly departed did to you and your business, it’s about you taking ownership for the part you played in this saga.
Employees quit leaders not companies. Personally, every job I ever quit had more to do with quitting the leader than work itself. In fact, I once quite a job I truly loved and would have stayed at for years had the leader not compromised my trust in him. Likewise, I know and accept that people quit me because of my action, inaction or behavior. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but taking ownership in an employee relationship gone bad is part of being a no-compromise leader. The question is, will you learn from your mistakes?
Here are some red-hot strategies to make sure employees don’t quit you:
* Communication, dialog and understanding: Every employee wants and needs to know where they stand with you and the company. There is no such thing as communicating too much. If you have any employee who hasn’t had a thorough performance evaluation in the past three months, you’re part of the problem.
* Never avoid performance and behavior issues: The most serious relationship damage occurs when issues surface and conversations, because they may be tough to do, are avoided. Like any infection, performance and behavior issues only get worse – and often spread to other employees.
* Leave nothing unsaid: It’s difficult enough to engage in a fierce conversation, so why end it without getting everything out? Leaving things unsaid is simply giving permission for problems to continue. Read the book, Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson. You’ll learn how to control tough conversations that become emotionally charged.
* Agreement on expectations and next steps: Never end a conversation without clarity on what the expectations and next steps are – even if that means parting ways. Set timelines and check-in points to coach, reinforce and ensure progress is being made. If you think that one crucial conversation is going to cure everything, you’re clearly part of the problem.
* Tunnel vision is short sighted: Leaders are notorious for charging forward or heading off on rabbit trails. They stop paying attention to what’s really going on. They become disconnected with their employees until something snaps. No-compromise leaders never disconnect from the people they lead and the customers they service.
* Culture is everything: A contaminated business culture fuels turnover. It makes it tough to come to work. It creates resentment. The no-compromise leader is the keeper and protector of the business culture. Is there contamination in your culture?
* Everyone seeks appreciation: “Great job.” These two little words can brighten someone’s day and inspire great performance. Make the time to show and demonstrate your sincere appreciation for a job well done.
* Sometimes, it’s just over: Employees come and go. Just like you, their needs and desires change and evolve. Sometimes they move on. Other times they quit and stay. As absurd as “quit and stay” sounds, if it’s over, acknowledge it and help them move on – even if it means walking them to the door. It’s all part of protecting your culture and keeping the drama outside of your company.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice in your head keeps saying, “How could they do this to me after all I did for them?” These situations can get so out of hand that I was recently asked to be an expert witness in a lawsuit where an owner is suing his attorney for failing to properly calculate the extent of the damages. Yes, you’re hurt, frustrated and angry – but this isn’t about what the dearly departed did to you and your business, it’s about you taking ownership for the part you played in this saga.... Read More

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

The economy is NOT an excuse

August 4, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

July was a month of non-stop travel for presentations and seminars. From the PBA Combat Compensation Learning Lounge in Las Vegas, a keynote presentation at the Harms User Group Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a day of training at the Tanworld Conference in Omaha, Neb., to a three-day Strategies’ SBS/4.0 course, I could see concern escalating among salon and spa owners over the economy. Just last Thursday, I got a call from a major distributor to set up a two-day training course to help their sales consultants effectively respond to owners that are “freaking out” over the economy. His exact words were, “My sales consultants are getting beat up – they need solutions to help owners.”
Yes, we’re getting hammered daily with bad economic news. Just this morning, the first headline I read said, “Jobless rate highest in four years.” Bad economic news and rising costs is enough to squelch any morsels of positive thinking. Being bombarded with bad business news can wear you down and get you second guessing just how well your business is doing. Before you know it, you’re concerns and fears can infect your leadership to the point where sluggish sales, every cancelled appointment or drop in pre-books is blamed on the economy.
Using the state of economy is NOT an excuse for flat sales. In every class and speech I’ve given in the past few months, I ask owners to allow the no-compromise leader inside them to emerge. Hunkering down and cutting back is like burying your head in the sand. It’s like dialing down the energy and intensity of how you play the business game.
Of course you need to be cautious, but buying into the “it’s the economy” that’s creating white space on the books is avoiding the real issue at hand. It’s your leadership thinking that needs to change and adapt to the new reality of higher costs and consumer uncertainty. Simply put, how you lead your business last year isn’t going to work today. Yesterday’s systems and spotty accountability won’t keep you competitive and profitable tomorrow.
Here’s some inspiration for you. Micki Stirsman, owner of Salon 01 in Carmel, Ind., runs a disciplined and systematized salon. In June, Salon 01’s pre-book ratio averaged 72% in her multi-million dollar location – up from their running average of 68%. Salon 01 is busy because they hold themselves accountable to their systems. The economy is not an issue at Salon 01.
Mark Luikart, owner of Mark’s Place in New Philadelphia, Ohio, is located in a low-income area that has been economically depressed for years. Last year, Mark’s Place broke $2 million in sales and is on pace for another record-breaking year in 2008. Retail sales are averaging 25%. Luikart says, “We just work harder to create value for our customers. We don’t close our eyes to opportunities to grow – or to be our very best.”
If you’re feeling the effects of the economy, you can do something about it – but only if you shift into no-compromise mode and lead your company with confidence and some out-of-the-box thinking. This is no time to hunker down. It’s time to adapt and grow. No compromise.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

July was a month of non-stop travel for presentations and seminars. From the PBA Combat Compensation Learning Lounge in Las Vegas, a keynote presentation at the Harms User Group Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a day of training at the Tanworld Conference in Omaha, Neb., to a three-day Strategies’ SBS/4.0 course, I could see concern escalating among salon and spa owners over the economy. Just last Thursday, I got a call from a major distributor to set up a two-day training course to help their sales consultants effectively respond to owners that are “freaking out” over the economy. His exact words were, “My sales consultants are getting beat up – they need solutions to help owners.”... Read More

July was a month of non-stop travel for presentations and seminars. From the PBA Combat Compensation Learning Lounge in Las Vegas, a keynote presentation at the Harms User Group Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a day of training at the Tanworld Conference in Omaha, Neb., to a three-day Strategies’ SBS/4.0 course, I could see concern escalating among salon and spa owners over the economy. Just last Thursday, I got a…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

How to get more done in less time

July 7, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Surprise! There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. But you already knew that. Like virtually everyone in business today, you begin each day jammed-packed with stuff that needs to get done – then find yourself bombarded with new stuff all labeled “urgent.” Checking and responding to the emails that accumulated overnight takes an immediate bite out of your day. Then come the phone calls, meetings, interruptions, questions and cries for help. Of course, we can’t forget time spent consoling that one employee who meanders from one life crisis to the next. Isn’t it amazing how something like breaking up with a boyfriend can bring an entire department’s productivity to a grinding halt? At the end of the day, your to-do list not only looks the same – it got bigger. If I captured a day in your life, read on.
I always like to use the phrase, “manage what’s on your plate” as a means of avoiding the stress that comes living in a perpetual state of feeling “overwhelmed.” For most leaders, that’s easier said than done. Overcoming bad work habits, poor time management and the inability to quickly filter out priorities, gotta-do’s and hot opportunities from the busy work, nice-to-do’s and rabbit trails, requires more than good intentions.
Here are some red-hot strategies to take control of your time and get more done:
* Step off the hamster wheel: Give yourself some time to gain perspective on what needs to change in your daily approach to work. You can’t do this while you’re immersed in your self-inflected chaos. This may require a few hours or a few days of self-discovery. It all depends on how chaotic your days are. Simply put, if you’re not getting stuff done now, stepping back for a bit to reorganize is a better use of time to become more productive.
* Filtering and processing your plates: It’s so easy to have projects and problems creep onto your plate. So why not think in terms of two plates? There’s your main course plate that contains high-value, high-priority projects and tasks. This plate contains the gotta-do’s. Nothing gets added to this plate if it doesn’t fit the high-value, high-priority criteria. The second plate is dessert with low-value, low priority projects and tasks. Like dessert, you may not always have room or you just may pass on it entirely. Finishing what’s on the main plate is non-negotiable. Dessert can wait.
* Organize and prioritize tomorrow’s work: The brain does amazing work while you sleep – as long as you give it stuff to work on. If you organize and prioritize your plates at the end of the day, your brain essentially begins working on tomorrow’s tasks. The next day, this subliminal head start gets you into a productivity mode quickly. The key is working your plan. Yes, interruptions will occur. It’s your job to filter them into high or low priorities to avoid heading off on rabbit trails.
* Assess your progress: At the end of the day, your reward for getting organized and focused is being able to assess what you’ve accomplished. View assessing progress as your commitment to personal accountability. Simply put, your goal is to achieve measureable progress at the end of every day.
Sure, there will be days you’ll find yourself back on the hamster wheel. It happens to the best leaders. No-compromise leaders regain focus and quickly shift back into productivity mode.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends They’ll appreciate it.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Surprise! There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. But you already knew that. Like virtually everyone in business today, you begin each day jammed-packed with stuff that needs to get done – then find yourself bombarded with new stuff all labeled “urgent.” Checking and responding to the emails that accumulated overnight takes an immediate bite out of your day. Then come the phone calls, meetings, interruptions, questions and cries for help. Of course, we can’t forget time spent consoling that one employee who meanders from one life crisis to the next. Isn’t it amazing how something like breaking up with a boyfriend can bring an entire department’s productivity to a grinding halt? At the end of the day, your to-do list not only looks the same – it got bigger. If I captured a day in your life, read on.... Read More

Surprise! There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to get done. But you already knew that. Like virtually everyone in business today, you begin each day jammed-packed with stuff that needs to get done – then find yourself bombarded with new stuff all labeled “urgent.” Checking and responding to the emails that accumulated overnight takes an immediate bite out of your day. Then come…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

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