I Like To WOW But We Also Have Un-Wow’s (Yes, I Admit It)
My business model has always been “Powered By My Clients Success.” As cliché as it sounds, my coach told me 5 years ago that if I wanted to be in business and be the best, success would never be defined by how much money I made, but rather how much success my clients have. Success can be defined in many different ways. For some it’s being able to retire, being able to double their business, having more free time, having more family time, more hedging, or the ability to buy their first property.
To be honest, the speaker industry is often measured by price per head. For example, if there are 100 people in the room, each person has a monetary value called “Butts in the Seats.” I have never in my whole speaking career measured our event success by that, even though that is the way I was first taught. I find that it is quite repulsive and offensive. Instead, I quickly learned that even if just one client was to succeed in a room of 100, that was massive for my brand and for future opportunities. Of course, the idea is not to get just 1 person to show. Ideally you would like to get 100, but it would be naive to think that everyone in the room will be successful. In fact, I have repeatedly said at my events that in the end, many won’t make it. Not because of the event or because what I am teaching is not good, it is simply because many people will not do what it takes to succeed. They will decide to quit when it gets tough, they lack focus, procrastinate, are weak at time management, are consumed by fear of failure, are afraid of taking a risk, and/or are concerned about what other people think.
How Do We Deliver Value?
One of the things I am most proud of is how every coaching student of mine is assigned a Relationship Manager. The Relationship Manager keeps the lines of communication open and acts as a bridge between the coach and the student to solve any problems the student may have. Many of our students say that it is this bond that makes the difference. It brings accountability and a family type atmosphere to their coaching experience. Think of it more as a personal concierge.
Another thing I am very proud of is that we record our coaching calls with our students. After the coaching call, the coach asks the student the following questions:
1) How do you rate the coaching call on a scale of 1-10?
2) Did you get value from this coaching call?
3) Is there anything the coach can do better on the next call?
I cannot tell you how many times companies have failed because of bad customer experiences. An unhappy person will tell everyone they know about their experience and will threaten to go to the media.
I obsess over delivering value. My students are family to me because I was once in their shoes, so I know what they are going through. Personally, I don’t care about money, but of course, as a business you need to. I have offices, staff, partners, and many more people who depend on me. If the business does not work, they are all out of a job. Many times if a student does have a problem, I will easily pick up the phone myself and solve the problem. Students even message me personally via Facebook with their issues and I am quick to resolve it. This brings me to my next topic.
What Happens When Clients Are Not Happy? (We have a few, I’m not going to lie)
One of the things I struggle with the most is that as hard as I try to provide value to the highest standard, my company does make mistakes. The un-wow people experience can have a detrimental effect on your company. The hard part is trying to please everyone, and not everyone will always be happy no matter what you do. I do not know of 1 business that does not have unhappy clients. Businesses that come first to mind vary from Apple, Samsung, Ebay, and Amazon. I mean, if 51% of the people like you, you can become President of the United States. Very few companies have satisfaction rates of over 80%.
One of the most recent un-wow’s my company was subject to is that we had an event where a small group of students were traveling 3 hours with me to a remote destination in South Africa. Because my office in America was not familiar with Sandton, and because of the traffic situation there, they gave the wrong directions and changed the meeting point at the last minute. As a result, everyone got there eventually, but not before a few huffs and puffs. Now, do you think I am personally responsible for making sure my people give the right directions? Of course not, but they could have at the least contacted one of our South African students living in Joburg to make sure that it was the right place to meet at 8am on a weekday. I am the face of the company and it’s my brand, which means that people don’t get mad at my company, they get mad at me, so for that I accept full responsibility. Sometimes people wouldn’t get a CD in the post for whatever reason and they would grill me. I am not in charge of shipping, but the CD has my name on it, so it’s my fault. I remember calling my office and reaming them because an hour earlier I had had the same grilling, telling them that every action of the company affects my brand. This is something we cannot avoid as business owners and is a reality we must all unfortunately face.
So the question is… How do you solve this? The answer is simple. “Inspect what you expect.” My office did something wrong, and I apologized for the mistake. Since then, in the office we implemented better policies and procedures to make sure this couldn’t ever happen again. We are not perfect, but we live by this motto, “How we change is how we improve.” I am thrilled that my office responded to the challenge and made the changes quickly. Thank you to my coaches who used their experiences and similar problems to guide me in the right direction to solve these problems. It goes to show that coaching really does work.
Having 100% of my coaching students happy is tough. A 100% satisfaction rate is tough in any business. But I have to say that at Mega Partnering 8 and at Mega Partnering Africa 2, we did a survey of our coaching students who were in attendance. I believe that over 300 of them were in attendance. Out of the 300, we asked them to rate each of our coaches individually and the coaching program as a whole. The results were astonishing. We had over a 95% satisfaction rate and most of them said they would recommend the program to their family and friends. Well done team! Now I am not going to lie, I was even surprised by that number. Although many are happy, I am not naïve, I know some people are not happy with coaching. I mean, as the saying goes “If you don’t have unhappy clients, you must not be doing enough business.” Personally, I don’t like when people are unhappy whether it’s our fault or theirs.
How We Handle Problems?
In our coaching company, it is one individual’s sole responsibility to deal with quality control. That is all he does. This is a person who does not have loyalty to either the company or the student. His job is to be objective. We created this position because our Relationship Managers were emotionally too close to the students, and they could not look at the problems from an objective view point. Additionally, we now also have another person in the office whose job is to call all our coaching students and get an honest opinion about the program, their Relationship Manager, and their coach. Sometimes the students love their coach and Relationship Manager so much that they will not be honest if they are unhappy. This brings us back to our quality control position. His job is to get all the facts, talk to the client, the coach, the Relationship Manager, and our legal team to make an honest assertion and make recommendations on improvement. Here are some of the challenges we get sometimes, which is probably similar in your business.
1) I did not get value
This is a hard one because how do you measure value? The first thing we do is go back to the recorded coaching calls, listen to them, and see how they answered the question “Did you get value?” If they answered that they got value from the calls, then we have a little dilemma. Sometimes the problem is not that they didn’t get value, it’s that they didn’t do the work, were not doing the program as instructed, or they were simply procrastinating and not focused. Other times it’s just because there isn’t a good personality match and a change in coach is in order. My policy is simple, “If there is a problem, my company will solve it.” My staff and coaches continuously get training on how to handle these cases and make it a win/win for everyone.
2) Someone died or I have medical issues
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have heard clients make these statements. Even in my days as a full time real estate investor, when it was time to pay people had the same excuses. In my experience, there have been a few legitimate examples, but many of the claims are false. The first thing we do is ask for a death certificate or a medical history to substantiate the claim. Believe it or not, 95% of the people simply had an issue they were afraid to address. Once we get the to rout of the problem and fix it the student will continue the program, and are happy again. They were looking for an excuse as a way out, but we didn’t let them because part of the attraction and success of our company is that we hold our students accountable. Many students like that about our program because they are looking to be held accountable.
3) Buyer’s remorse.
The hard part about delivering value is that no matter how hard you try, when people have buyer’s remorse it often trumps any value you are trying to give. Sometimes clients are irrational, and sometimes business owners are irrational. Now if people are within a legal cancellation period, of course we will refund, but when it falls outside of the cancellation period it becomes a delicate situation. The important thing for us to remember is to fulfill what we promised. If it hasn’t been fulfilled, you need to do whatever it takes to make the clients happy and deliver what you sold or promised them. Often when it is buyer’s remorse, people will threaten to go the media, go viral, and go on blogs to write nasty things because they will do anything to get a refund. So when a client does this, it not only breaks my heart but I get emotional about it. This is when we turn it over to our legal department. They look at the situation, the contract, and the validity of our arguments and theirs. If it is warranted then we will refund the client, and if not, we will abide to the contract they signed. The problem is that when a coaching client signs up we have to make a financial commitment to the coach, the Relationship Manager, our staff, and credit / banking services, so if we refund the client because of buyer’s remorse months later, it costs the company a lot money. Now, these cases are very isolated and not the norm, but it’s important for you to understand that this happens in business. This could take a bad turn if the media gets a hold of this because it may be spinned to show you as the bad guy, and that you don’t give refunds because you are all about the money. Remember, perception is reality. I have seen people give refunds because they were threatened, then those people told other people, and as a result more came forwarded because it was a way to get on the “money back” gravy train. Companies don’t often survive this onslaught. Even though you may have been right, it’s not always the right person who wins in the court of public opinion.
4) When clients are right.
I sometimes say at my events that Rule #1 of business is “The client is always right. Rule #2, refer back to Rule #1.” There are instances where the client is 100% correct and you messed up. My companies and I am not perfect. We make mistakes, and one of the things that people know about me is that if we are wrong I will do anything in my power to make it right. Yes, I admit, I am not perfect. I have a few recent examples that come to mind.
Example #1: I was at an event and a client of mine was talking badly about the coaching at the other table. Now, this is an event where it was 2 days with me personally. I was floored that she would be talking about me at the next table rather than just telling me directly. She answered me when I confronted her, sobbing, telling me she really liked me and was intimidated. The truth is that she had every right to be mad. She had reached out twice to her Relationship Manager and one of our strategists, and both times nothing was done about the situation. I was enraged and called my office. Over the next few days we made it right and solved her problem. She personally emailed me and thanked me for solving her problem. Mission accomplished, another happy client.
Example #2: A client recently bought my program and never received a call after purchasing the course to receive details about the class. She was totally un-wowed and wanted a refund. The truth of the matter is that we never knew she bought the program because the speaker never gave us the form. This client just assumed it was our fault. Had we refunded her, we would have lost $500, which is a small amount in the scheme of things, but an unhappy client can cost tens of thousands of dollars. So as busy as my schedule is, I called her personally and apologized. I explained to her the situation and offered to personally ensure that her experience is turned into a “WOW.” She was blown away that I would call her personally and decided to stick with it. I happy to report that not only has this client been one of my great success stories, but we shared 5 wonderful days on Necker Island with Richard Branson, and I can honestly call her a friend. All this happened because I reached out personally.
The irony in all of this is that sometimes unhappy clients will tell everyone they know they are unhappy, except for you. If I am unaware of the situation and I don’t know there’s a problem, I cannot work on coming up with a solution. So if you are an unhappy client, please communicate with the company. If you are a business owner, be proactive and find out if there are land mines out there and make it right. Communication in anything you do is instrumental to growth and success.
So what’s the point of this article? Well, we all make mistakes, but as long we learn from them and always put the client first, you will be in business for a very long time. Nobody is perfect, including me. But there is a reason why I have been in business for a very long time. Nobody cares more about their clients than I do. I am proud to keep my head high when I walk into an event.
Here is a recap of some of the points of this article
1) Under-Promise / Over-Deliver.
2) Put the clients first and treat them like family. We call this “Family First.”
3) Add Value Always – WOW your clients.
4) Un-Wow’s can kill a business.
5) Apologize if you are wrong, and don’t ignore the client.
6) Obsess over the client experience.
7) Pick up the phone personally sometimes to solve a problem, no matter how big or important you are.
8) Your success is not measured by how much money you make, but how successful your clients are.
9) Survey your clients and get testimonials, always.
10)If not justified, refunds cost companies a lot of money. If justified, refund with proper documentation. Make sure your contracts are clear as well as your expectations.
11)Understand that 100% of your clients will not always be happy, but the small percentage that isn’t can make it seem like your business is a fake, a fraud, or just bad. The media will always spin it that way.
12) If you have been wronged, here is my personal email firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always here to listen and solve problems to find solutions.
13) Be proactive, and find out if your clients are happy. Communication is key.
Remember…. In the end, if you take care of your clients, your clients will take care of your profits.