The goal of customer service

The goal of customer service should always be excellence. The value of great customer service can never be underestimated. The customer isn’t always right as the saying goes. But the companies job is to make them feel like they are. My thought process is always respond as quickly as possible to new leads. Email is fine but phone provides a personal touch that sometimes can’t be felt through emails. Of course there will be numerous variable here but the person is looking for something and from someone. Our job is to bring them quickly to a resolve that your company will best suit their needs for the best price and service anywhere on the planet. In some cases clients will pay a higher price for great customer service.

Here are some basics:

1. The employee must know their stuff
2. Always answer with a smile
3. Get on the clients level and use some of the same words if possible to reiterate what they are saying
4. Respond as quickly as possible.
5. Give as much information as necessary but not the whole carrot. Get buy in gradually. Show the value.
6. Mobile devices make a huge impact if you can respond and answer questions from anywhere but within reason

As I have worked with various companies over the years I have been impressed with owners who live the passion of customer service. It is a trickle down effect on customer relations and potential further sales.

The goal of customer service should always be excellence, efficiency, timeliness and satisfaction on the clients part.

Steven Hume

Hume Management & Consulting



Keep Your Cool

As SMALL-BUSINESS owners we’ve learned that some customers can try our patience.  They may be late or not show up, fail to pay their bill on time, want more and more for less, get rude, be snappy or demanding.

Large companies may be able to write off folks without concern, but usually a small business needs and wants to keep customers happy even when they don’t put their best foot forward.  We can’t let them take advantage of us of course, but we can’t afford to blow our stacks ream them out, tell them off, demean them or otherwise lose their tempers.  We have to keep our cool, no matter how we feel.

Since that is clearly not always easy in the heat of the moment, here are some tricks of the trade.

Know your Triggers.  Knowing your hot buttons can help you be prepared to respond .  Among the most common triggers; behaviors that is (a) unexpected and out of the blue; (b) clearly the customer’s fault, not yours; and/or unfair.

Wait to respond.  When your hackles rise, postpone your response,  If the behavior is something you need to talk about with the customer, to be sure it doesn’t happen again contact the person after you have cooled down.

Be clear on your desired outcome.  Use and “I message.”  For example, instead of saying, “You are always late for your appointments,” you might say, “When you are late for your appointments, I get behind for the rest of the day and it upsets my other clients.”

Be specific.  What behavior do you want the customer to change in the future?  Instead of “Please do better,” or “Don’t do that again, please,” ask for specific actions, such as “Would you be able to be on time from now on?”

Listen carefully.   If the customer is having problems that cause the undesirable behavior, don’t write off explanations simply as excuses.  It may be possible to change your arrangements in ways that will prevent such behavior.  You may want to accept that the person is having a bad day or has had a bad life.  His or her behavior might have been irksome, but not intolerable,  we’re all human, after all.

Say sorry.  Should you slip and lose your cool, apologize.  Doctors who apologize are sued less frequently than doctors who don’t apologize.  Keeping your cool and using their guidelines work.  You will feel better when you handle things better, and if your customers like you even when they’re not at their best, they will stick with you.


Used with permission from Costco Connection and Paul and Sarah Edwards.


Examples from a  medical office where customer service wasn’t the norm:

We worked in a medical office where the doctor was very very short tempered.  The staff had had numerous turnover and only the thick skinned survived.  2 days into our project a client walked in the door about 15 minutes late.  Mind you the staff called the clients all early in the morning (6:30-8:00 am) to remind the patients not to be late.  This was an everyday occurrence. Client walks in and the doctor happens to hear the staff quietly tell her she was late.  For the next 4 minutes the doctor unloaded on this patient, and soon to be X-patient.  The lobby was full of people and when the doctor had her say she walked into the next exam room and carried on.  At this point I was stunned.  The doctor put together some four letter phrases that not even I had heard of.  Meanwhile the client stormed out, slammed the door and the lobby was terrified.  I quickly headed out the door and caught the elevator down to the garage and caught the patient.  She was fuming and teary eyed.  I explained that we were working with this office as consultants and apologized for the doctors behavior.  I listened for about 10 minutes while this client unloaded.  In the end she opened up her purse and showed me $8000 dollars, cash.  She had saved up this money and would have gladly handled it over to the office that day for her procedure.  But it was too late.  Once again I apologized to her and she was on her way.

After work hours I met with the doctor and told her my experience with this particular patient.  The doctor was pretty upset that she unloaded on this lady and called her personally after hours to apoligize.  Too little too late at that point.

The doctor should have let the staff handle this matter, rescheduled the client or made other arrangements.  It cost the doctor that day $8000.  But in the end it probably cost this office much much more due to poor word of mouth referrals.


Steven Hume

Hume Management & Consulting



Being a Business Owner

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting with numerous business owners. Some clients started early on with an idea and others started later in life after working in the corporate world.

The most successful clients have been those who have taken everything in and are willing to listen to advice and make the necessary changes. On the other side of the coin are business owners who want to do everything their way and listen, but aren’t open to make any necessary changes. One business owner I met mentioned “the phones are ringing and we are making $$$ hand over fist”. We had long discussions and I told him that within 3 years his business would go bankrupt if he didn’t change his methodologies for running this company. Almost to the day 3 years later he filed for BK.

Shifts in thinking are always necessary to serve the customer. The consumer now with the Internet has numerous choices and customer service really needs to be a top priority. Latest trends and threats always need to be studied with regularity.

A company’s biggest assets are its employees. Paying the employee their worth is extremely valuable. Hiring employees who see the big picture is a must. One owner chose to pay his employees on the low scale but during Christmas would have a Christmas party and buy each employee little inexpensive gifts as a way to make it up. Most employees whom I interviewed felt he was a cheapskate and wanted to have hirer wages instead of cheap gifts. Employee’s also want to feel valued. It is a natural human tendency to feel wanted and appreciated for a job well done. Employees want to be held accountable. Employees want to feel appreciated but also to strive higher in job performance.

Data is something the business owner should have constant access to with the right to ask:

What does the data show?
How can we improve on existing processes?
Where are our strengths and weaknesses?

Weekly reports should be a must with all managers. Getting a feel on how they are responding to customer needs and so on.

The best companies fire on all cylinders as much as possible and are willing to be flexible as times change.

Steven Hume

Hume Management & Consulting



Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business by Ram Charan

This is by far one of the best books I have read in regards to my consulting practice.  Ram Charan is a masterful writer with a vault of information that is useable immediately.

His goal is “to improve the practice of business by people tools they can put to use immediately”

The book is built around the idea of producing constant revenue growth.  The medium he uses during the course of this book is centered around the game of baseball.  Many companies swing for the fences constantly, but never consider a single or double to be worthwhile. But those singles and doubles actually from the foundations on which to build a company through the basic’s.

A few great quotes…

“Every contact of every person with a customer is an opportunity for revenue growth”

“Marketing is about finding out what the customer wants, and designing products, services and programs that give it to them”

“But the reality is most ideas are generated when people exchange information”

“Does the management team come into contact with the user of your product”?

“How good are the upstream marketing skills-that is, the ability to segment markets and identify consumer attributes in your business”?

I highly recommend this book for your library.

Steven Hume

Hume Management & Consulting

Is your technology current?

A recent study showed that businesses increase revenues 15% points faster by keeping up with the latest technologies for their companies.  Whether that be tech savvy or cloud savvy these businesses surveyed found that improving efficiencies, connecting with new customers and markets enabled them to compete with larger scale companies.  Customer realize the businesses that use newer technology often times provide better service, run more secure operations which translates into higher customer satisfaction.

Outdated technologies have an impact on employees as well.  They deal with the slower technologies first hand.  It can be a very frustrating situation with the employees are hand-cuffed because the owner doesn’t or won’t keep up with the best tools for them to use.  The cloud-based technology allows small businesses to work from anywhere.  Maybe the best employees for your operation are out of state.  The cloud can really help.  Colleagues can collaborate seamlessly even when working from different locations.

Security threats is not lost on customers.  Think of the recent flare-up within the Target situation.  Lots of unhappy people had their personal data compromised.  Technology changes very rapidly.  If your operating system is more than 5 years old take a hard look at upgrading.  Many business owners can’t be in the office 24-7.  They like to check in from a portable device or from home.  Technology makes this avenue a snap.  While working in Florida we had a client who installed tracking devices in all 13 of his employees trucks.  He found some very unusual happening when employees reported verbally they were at a clients location  when the GPS showed them somewhere different.  Lost productivity was tighten up immediately and employees knew they could no longer “snow” the boss.

A professional looking and functioning web site goes a long way when potential clients are looking for a business. 77% of customers surveyed expect that your web site be up-to-date, quick, functional & easy to understand.  Templates are going the way of the past as clean coded web sites that are responsive are quickly taking over.  If your web site is outdated it is like dealing with a run-down brick and mortar storefront.

Ask your employees what their thoughts are regarding the current technology.  Ask them how upgrading could make their lives better when at work and I am sure your eyes will be opened.  Employees generally have a pulse on the business sometimes more than the owner.  Upgrading technologies in the end can save lots of time, money and headaches.

The story of the washer

A client recently related this story of a simple washer and how it turned out to be a $1.9 million dollar sale for his company….

The phone rang and it was Edith from the local church. She asked if I could come over to her house one day and take a look at a leaky faucet. Edith was about 80 years old, widow and really didn’t have anyone to help with small home repairs. I told her sure and made it over the next Sunday after church. It was a simple $.50 cent washer that needed to be replaced..

Few weeks later I got a call from Fred who said he was referred from Edith and he needed some help with a gutter on his house. No problem I said and made an appointment the next week to take a look at it and repaired everything for him at $75. At first I thought maybe I should send out one of my employees but Fred asked if I would specifically come out and take a look at his project.

Very next day I get a call from Bill who was referred from Fred who was referred from Edith. He said he heard that I did good work. At this point I already have 45 employees and a multi-million dollar construction company but as far as these people know I am just a handy man from a local church.

Bill and I got together and once again it was a simple fix to a broken stair on his back porch….

4 months later I get a call. Guy asks if I construct buildings and I said yes and how could I help? Well it turns out that he heard about me from Bill who heard from Fred who heard from Edith that I do good work.

Taking care of simple referrals I have learned makes a big difference. They are to be prized possessions that need as quick attention as possible. I could have let my estimator or other employee handle this task, but I really felt that since Edith was my primary source of these referrals I owed it to her to do these jobs myself.

The gentleman who called and asked if I built buildings turned out to be a $1.9 million dollar project that we recently just finished in Redmond, WA.

The simple way my client took care of his word of mouth referral, a $.50 cent washer job, turned out to be a $1.9 million dollar warehouse. Wow!

Word of mouth referrals should be treated with utmost care and expediency. Your employees should always be alert to handle these types of clients with extreme care and efficiency. The owner went out of his way to handle these very mundane tasks, but in the end he reaped the rewards for his company.

Steve Hume

Hume Management & Consulting

Good vs. Bad Managers

Good managers can make or break a business. Bad managers, according to the Harvard Business Review can cost businesses billions of dollars each year. Businesses always want to have the best people in the proper spots. But sometimes they force the issue and pay for it. Back in my 20’s I worked for a computer educational company. The top sales people were always pushed into managerial positions and sometimes with disastrous results. One such sales person was number 1 for the previous 6 months and management decided he was deserving of his own school, across the country. They moved him and his family across to Philadelphia. One 2 year old and his wife was 6 months pregnant. After 6 months in Philadelphia he was fired for not hitting his numbers as director of the school. I thought to myself why was this guy even a manager? He hit his numbers but he did lots of lying to get his students enrolled. Everyone knew he was crooked but still management wanted to promote from within. I felt bad for him. Young guy, all hyped up, gets a managerial position only to be left high and dry, clear across the country.

5 talents all managers should possess:

1. The motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
2. They have assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
3. They can create a clear culture of clear accountability.
4. They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
5. They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

Businesses shouldn’t promote workers into managerial roles because they deserve it. Experience and skills are very important, but worker’s talents are what will predict if they will perform at their best.

Hiring the right managers will help gain the company a higher competitive advantage, increased productivity with employees, less turnover, less absenteeism and fewer safety issues to name a few.

When consulting with a business I always try to let everyone speak their minds and I just absorb the information and process it. Then we break down the communication barriers and determine where the true problem is stemming from. Then piece by piece putting that business back on the right track with all employees understanding their job descriptions, who they are accountable to, nipping gossip in the bud, and creating a new culture and vision where everyone sees the same target.

I learned a lesson a long time ago from a clients father. He told me that when ever any of his employees had something to say about another employee he would always stop them, go get the other employee and then let them hear the good or bad news personally. He said it cut down on negativity and “he said-she said” immediately.

Lessons learned.