Recently, I had two very different experiences with customer service that proved to be a master class in how to deal with customers.  Both situations concerned lost packages, and I spoke with the shipper rather than the company selling the product.  The difference was stark and provides insights on how a company views customer service.

Company A is a large well-known online store that uses its own delivery personnel as well as other carriers.  Company B is a quasi-governmental entity that delivers to every address the U.S.

Interacting with the companies

With Company A, I was able to chat, submit an inquiry online, or ask for a callback.  The response was prompt.  After explaining the situation (lost package), the company immediately sent me a replacement and extended my membership with them by two months for free for the inconvenience.  They took responsibility for contacting the seller and handling any transactions between them.

Company B only gave me the option of filling out an online inquiry and asked for information that I, as the recipient, did not have.  I received a call the next day and was told nothing could be done until the shipment had been delayed for 30 days.  The person I spoke with said she could help me if the package was lost in the city she was in but since it hadn’t been received from their initial shipping facility, she couldn’t help me.  She suggested that I should just have the originating company send me a replacement.

The results

The first company was quick to address the problem and make it easy on me, the customer.  The second suggested that someone else pay for their mistake by replacing the product, had rules that prevented them from helping me, and ultimately yielded the same result as if I never contacted them.  They checked the box and closed the issue without accomplishing anything.

Which company do you think improved my opinion of them and which one didn’t?  Easy call. I will go out of my way not to use Company B.

What does this mean for you?

As you think about your business and its interactions with clients, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do our processes and policies improve or damage our reputation?
  • Do we make it easy for customer to work with us?
  • Is our goal to check the box or resolve the problem for our customer?
  • Is a customer problem an annoyance or an opportunity to build a relationship?
  • If you were a customer of your own company, would your view of your customer service change?

You can improve or damage your reputation with every interaction with your existing customers.  Which are you doing?  Let OPG help you make improvements.  Connect with us at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/ or click here to CONTACT US.

Location, location, location.   That has been the mantra of real estate for years.  Many employers, especially smaller businesses, also counted on location as a selling point.  Unless you were willing to move, people typically looked for jobs locally.  Location may not be a competitive advantage any longer.

The advent of remote work, work from home, telecommuting, or whatever the term in vogue today uses technology to allow people to decouple from the physical office of their employer depending on the nature of their work and their roles.  It was growing in acceptance before the global pandemic hit, and then it became a de facto norm out of necessity.

This has enormous implications for business.  The immediate challenges that most businesses are facing today are how to manage an increasingly remote workforce and how to keep them engaged and connected with each other.  These challenges have long been the ones businesses most focused on addressing.

The challenge that small business owners are going to face next is a shifting talent pool.  Leaders are now more aware and more open to hiring people who can work from anywhere.

Conversely, the local talent that small businesses used to depend on for filling key roles can work anywhere as well.  That means job searches are now regional, national, or even global even for people who can’t or won’t relocate.

For all businesses, the talent pool expanded, and so did the competition for the same candidates.

To compete in this environment, small businesses must make themselves more attractive to potential employees.  With location being less important, company culture, flexible work arrangements, and how you treat your employees take on more significance to candidates in addition to compensation and the nature of the work.

Small businesses must become adept at managing a distributed workforce and build their brand as an employer of choice to compete in today’s labor market.  Those who do will have a competitive advantage.

You can reach us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt or CONTACT US

Do you feel stuck?

On one hand, you’ve been “all in” on building your business for a long time. You need time to do those things that only you can do, or you need to devote time to family or passions outside the business. You can’t continue to do it all.

On the other hand, you don’t have the right people to offload certain tasks and you don’t want to add people in the current environment.

If you don’t change your approach, you will continue to get the same results. And you will feel stuck in the same place next year.  Things don’t just get better on their own.  You have to make a change.  Einstein is reported to have said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Fractional executives may be the solution. Experienced C-level part-time leaders who can take on responsibilities you don’t want and don’t need. Someone who can come alongside you to share the load and bring fresh experience and insights to your business.

Fractional leadership can bring your team needed bandwidth without adding full-time costs.  You save money on benefits, taxes, and PTO and you only pay for the expertise you need when you need it.  You can move your business forward without breaking the bank.

It’s time to get unstuck.  CONTACT US  for help or connect with us on https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/

“To everything there is a season…”

The writer of Ecclesiastes first recorded this timeless truth which was later popularized in music by The Byrds in the Pete Seeger song Turn! Turn! Turn!

The words remind us that the world is in constant change and that seasons come and go only to be repeated again.  Each one of us – and every business – will face changes as we go through life.  Nothing is constant or static, and nothing we can do will change that reality.

That means we and our businesses must adapt.  We must recognize when seasons are changing, when conditions indicate that we need to re-evaluate, adapt, and change.

a time to plant and a time to uproot… a time to tear down and a time to build… a time to keep and a time to throw away.

The words tell us there is “a time to plant and a time to uproot… a time to tear down and a time to build… a time to keep and a time to throw away.”

What can we do with these words of wisdom?

Individually, we will endure change.  We must embrace it and recognize that it is a simple fact of life.  We have the power to choose how we respond to change and use it to foster our personal growth.

For businesses, it means there is a time to plan and plant seeds for future growth.  This may mean expanding your business with new locations, adding new products or services, or growing your team.  By extension, there will be a season in which you will reap the rewards of these actions and efforts.

Conversely, there will come a time when these things no longer provide the results you want.  A product will eventually be replaced by something newer, better, or cheaper.  Old ways of doing things will give way to newer ones.  The market will change and certain things will no longer be viable or needed.  When these things happen – and they will – a leader must recognize that a new season is approaching and make tough, even painful, decisions.

You may be facing a new season right now.  If so, do you recognize it, and are you willing to make the changes you need?

OPG can help you with the changes your business faces.  CONTACT US  or connect with us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.

2020 didn’t turn out like you planned.  If this year were a road trip, you would have encountered detours, closed roads, and perhaps a few unexpected scenic overlooks along the way.  You may or may not have ended up at your destination.

Does that mean that planning isn’t worthwhile?  Of course not.

A plan does not guarantee you get the result you want.  Planning helps you think through what you want to achieve, what you should do to reach those goals, and what obstacles you may run into as you execute your plan.  Planning helps you prepare.

Dwight Eisenhower said ““In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  While most of us aren’t planning maneuvers and commanding a military like Eisenhower was, we fight our own battles – new competitors, changes in the economy or technology, and staffing issues just to name a few.  Planning helps us focus our efforts and align our teams so we can be prepared for whatever comes our way.

You have to act on your plan

But you can’t stop there.  Once you determine your plan, you have to act.  It has been said that “you can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”  You can envision the future, but at some point you have to take action to make your plans come to fruition. You have to plan and then act on it.

Taking action and executing your plan isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It is too tempting to get distracted by what FranklinCovey calls the “whirlwind” – those daily and urgent tasks of running a business.  It can consume your time and your focus leaving no time and energy for growing the business and working toward your goals.  Executing your plan requires a conscious effort and accountability at all levels of the organization.

To make the most out of the coming year, begin planning now.  And once you finalize your plan, act on them.

OPG helps businesses create and execute their plans.  Contact us or connect with us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt if you need assistance.

On a Saturday morning walk, I witnessed something so common we ignore the lessons it teaches – a tennis match.

On the face of it, it was nothing extraordinary.  Three matches, three courts, and twelve players. No umpire, no coach, no scoreboard, and no announcer.  Just a regular competition between two teams.

What caught my attention was the fact that twelve players all assembled independently at an appointed time and location to begin playing.  No one directed them on the sidelines.  They called shots that were out of bounds or winners.  They all knew the score.

They had clarity.

The tennis league has rules, and the coaches had given the players instruction on how to be their best.  The game itself has rules agreed to by all.  Because of these things, the teams knew what they were supposed to do and simply set about doing it.  The objective – beating the other team while having a good time – was clear to all.  Everyone agreed on how the game, sets, and matches were scored.  Players knew what to expect from their teammates.

Wouldn’t it be great if our businesses operated with the same clarity?  Businesses can learn from the world of sports.  Think how well your team could function if your company had the same clarity of goals, rules of engagement, and KPIs as a sports team.

If your team isn’t operating at its best, perhaps you could take a page from the sports world.  Make sure everyone knows their roles and your expectations.  Establish clear goals and measurements.  Hold people accountable.  Coach employees so they can perform better and break bad habits.

Opal Partners helps small businesses with challenges like these. If your business can learn from sports,   Contact us or connect at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt to discuss how you can help your team excel.

Each one of us is wonderfully and uniquely made.  We were made for something purposeful.  Are you doing what you were made to do?

This question applies equally to your personal life and your work life.

No one else has the same mix of gifts, skills, education, experiences, and personality as you.  There are certain things you love and derive great joy from, whether it is solving a problem, crunching numbers, closing a deal, supporting others, teaching, or creating something beautiful and one-of-a kind.  When you use your talents and experiences while doing the things that bring you pleasure, you are in a special place.

For me, I have a passion for small businesses. They create local jobs, bring opportunity to the communities they serve, and have a sense of purpose and pride in what they’ve built.  I was fortunate to have learned much from my time at companies both large and small and get to apply those things to companies and people to help them succeed.

My education as an engineer allows me to naturally think about logical next steps, structure, and scalable processes.  I like solving problems once so they don’t continue to be issues.  I enjoy helping businesses work through these challenges.

Sometimes we fall into jobs and learn we have skills or abilities that allow us to excel.  Other times we learn that we don’t like a particular type of task, responsibility, or industry.  What we learn by trying new roles and new industries can help guide us to roles that were seemingly made just for us.

If you are not doing what you created to do, you may feel overwhelmed, tired, or frustrated.  It may be time to make a change.  If you have the ability, you may need to delegate or offload some aspects of your job to someone else; it will make you more productive and possibly help someone else find their niche at the same time.

When you do what you were uniquely made to do, you will find more success and satisfaction.

Feel free to CONTACT US or connect with us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.

Years ago I was helping someone cut down two trees from a clump of trees in their backyard.  The first one fell exactly where we wanted. As we started on the second one, it started leaning in the wrong direction, pointed right at their house.

We stopped so we could hopefully change the outcome.  We assessed our options.  We put ropes in the tree as high as we could to help control the fall.  We were willing to try anything to prevent damage.

And then a gust of wind came in and pushed the tree down in just the right direction so nothing and nobody was harmed.

What we realized after we started was that the tree had all its branches on one side, making it naturally heavy on one side.  As we began cutting, the tree twisted toward the weight of its branches instead of in the direction of the cuts we made.

We were lucky to have a good outcome.  If we had slowed down, we might have seen the potential problem before it became a threat.  We should have noticed it after the first tree came down and we could see the second tree more clearly.  We were executing the plan we made earlier without including new data.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln.  The 16th President of the United States knew accomplishing a task doesn’t just mean hard work – it requires preparation.

Cutting down a tree requires a plan.  Coaches have game plans.  Builders have blueprints. Business is no different.  You need a plan.

Step back and reflect on your business.  Evaluate how the markets and environment have changed.  Modify and adapt your goals, strategies, and tactics to adjust to new business realities.  Capitalize on a new opportunity or minimize a risk that wasn’t even on your radar twelve months ago.

You need to update your plans.  And if you don’t have a plan, you need to create one to help guide you through whatever comes your way in the future.

Opal Partners can help guide you through the process of re-evaluating and updating your strategy and plans.  You can contact us here or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.

Do you trust your employees?  A better question is whether they trust you.  High-performing teams require trust at all levels of the organization.

A lack of trust limits innovation and collaboration.  It keeps good ideas, good processes, and good people from becoming better. Without trust, people are unwilling to take risks.

Sadly, trust is often lacking, especially as you go down the organization.  A survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries found that 1/3 of employees didn’t trust their employer. Almost 2/3 of executives trust their organizations compared to less than half of staff-level people surveyed.  Workers said they trust their peers more than their executives.

When we talk about trust in the workplace, we normally think about employees or managers being reliable, doing what they said they would do, and being competent in their job.  Hannah Price, in her blog for Jostle.me, calls this “practical” trust.  An organization can’t run without it.

There is another level of trust.  Price calls is “emotional” trust. This is when people believe you are on the same team, support each other, and have some level of vulnerability.  You have each other’s backs.  Emotional trust is where performance kicks into another gear.  Performance requires belief that the leaders trust and support their teams.

With emotional trust, people are willing to take risks.  They feel safe to propose or try something new or different.  They are comfortable challenging how things are done. They know – they trust – that questioning or evening trying and failing, if done for the right reasons, won’t end their careers.  People are willing to step up and take on new responsibilities.

If your team isn’t performing at its potential or innovation is missing, a lack of trust may be the root cause.  Building trust starts with the leaders.  It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen unless you intentionally create it.  High-performing teams require trust.

CONTACT US  or connect at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/  if your team isn’t performing at its best.

An employee of one of my clients wanted to talk to me about a project he was assigned.  He had made no progress on it for over 90 days.  Something was holding him back. He opened the conversation by saying “I don’t think I can do this.”

I began asking questions.

Within a few minutes, we identified the project didn’t have a natural home with any one person or department.  It required customer communication, technical know-how, and an understanding of the company’s products and services. However, the team member assigned the project had all the skills and knowledge needed.

Something else was going on.  Actually, several things were keeping him stuck in the starting blocks.

He was busy with his daily tasks and the urgent requests that dropped in his lap.  FranklinCovey refers to this as the “whirlwind of the day-to-day.”  The Urgent was prioritized over the Important.

He had let the project languish for so long, he was tired of reporting to the leadership team that he had made no progress.  He let doubt about his ability to do the project creep into his own mind as well as the management team’s.

The longer he put the project off, the more daunting it became.

After some discussion, we came to a realization:  either he truly couldn’t do the project, or he didn’t know how to start.  I told him we wouldn’t know which case was true until he actually tried to do it.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

I helped him break down the project into a series of small tasks and milestones.  We identified natural checkpoints to verify he was on the right track.  Suddenly, the project didn’t seem so scary.  It wasn’t looming over him.

He had a plan.  He had someone to hold him accountable. He became excited about actually tackling the project.  He began working on it.

What’s holding you back from beginning a project or making a change you need to make?

If you’d like to talk to a fractional COO about starting new projects and accountability, contact us at CONTACT US.  You can also reach us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.