Don’t take your customers for granted! In this webinar, on the PME 360 Powering Business Growth Show, Bill Packard, a small business consultant in Maine, explores the topic of improving your customer experience and how having a core value statement will dramatically improve your business. Learn to “Think Like a Customer” and find ways to grow and improve your small business from the customer viewpoint.
“Keeping existing customers is cheaper than getting new ones. People that give you money are 3-7 times more likely to do it again so offer what customers WANT and NOT what you think your customers NEED.”
– Bill Packard aka “Mr. Customer”, Small Business Consultant/Coach/Author
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Think Like a Customer
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Ron: PME360: Powering Business Growth Show.
Each week, we talk about the issues and offer some advice on how to power growth for your business. I’m your host Ron Rodi, Jr.
With me as always, my main man, the man with the plan, the marketing genius, Mr. Ryan Paul Adams – our CEO.
Ryan, good morning!
Ryan: Good morning, Ron!
Ron: How are you today?
Ryan: I’m doing great!
Ron: Excellent, excellent!
Today, we have a very special guest. That guest is Bill Packard, dedicated to help small business build and solidify their customer bases by coaching them to make superior customer service their #1 priority.
If you feel that your business is running you and I know many people do. And you need more time, less stress, and more profits – Bill can help. Many times, a different set of eyes looking into your business can see things that you cannot.
Often times, it’s very easy to overlook certain principles that can make a huge difference in your business and in the success of your local small business.
Speaker, author, business coach and all-around good guy, Mr. Bill Packard.
Bill, good morning! How are you?
Bill: Good morning! I’m doing well. I’m doing well. Thank you.
Ron: Thank you for joining us today. We are very excited to have you on.
Bill: My pleasure to be here.
Ron: Bill, we’ll talk a little bit about Thinking Like a Customer today.
And I know you have some great insights. So we’re going to go ahead and just turn it over to you Bill. And we will listen intently. So let’s go ahead and get the conversation started.
How to think like a customer?
Bill: Okay. Let’s get going here. I’m going to cover 3 basic areas for thinking like a customer: the importance of thinking like a customer, the relationship with the customer.
A lot of business owners think of the customers as their support, the people who pay the bills, etc. But developing the relationship between a customer is a real, real key point to developing a successful small business.
And then, we’ll talk about the importance of engaging and empowering the employees.
Again, you need to have a solid team around you, working for you. Everybody on your team, in your organization thinking of themselves like a customer.
And then, I’m going to finish up with some comments on difficult customers because I get that a lot from different people. “How do you handle this? How do you handle that?”
So those are the 3 areas that I’m going to focus on this morning. But what I like to do is take a couple of minutes to let people know me so that they understand where I’m coming from.
Ron: Yeah. Please do.
Bill: I live in a small town in Maine. Union Maine – just off the coast. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live on. I’m blessed to be here. I love to travel but there’s no better place to live than right here.
I started four different businesses from scratch. I’ve pretty much been an entrepreneur for most of my life.
Packard Landscapes was obviously a landscape business. Pavement Professionals was a parking lot maintenance business. It’s striping, seal coating and sweeping. And that business covered Maine, pretty much all of Maine.
Packard Transportation was trailer trucks to deliver paper goods to Mid-Atlantic Seaboard area, Philadelphia and Baltimore. And Down to Earth is a business I recently sold.
I sold off all four of these businesses in different times. But I just sold off Down to Earth that was a specialty site work business. Here in Maine, we have a lot of water, and if that water is going places where it shouldn’t, it causes some problems. And that was part of my specialty, to correct those drainage problems.
And in the middle of this, I spend 9 and a half years in corporate America in a company called MBNA, a credit card company. I had some unique responsibilities there. I did well and I learned a lot about Corporate America.
A lot of the things that Corporate America does are very, very beneficial to small businesses if they’re adapted to that. So that’s kind of my background.
And I want to share a picture with you that kind of shows really what I am.
I am not a guy in a suit that comes in and has a big briefcase and all kinds of wonderful ideas. I’m just, basically a hard working guy who has paid attention, educated myself and done pretty well.
Ron: All right.
Bill: This is a picture from my honeymoon about 33 years ago. And you may have noticed the first thing is, there’s a child in the picture. Probably most people don’t take their 6-year old step daughter in their honeymoon.
But we’re going to Central Florida here. And I don’t think know how you’re going to tell a 6-year old girl that you’re going to Disney World and she’s staying home. So we took her and we had a wonderful time.
If you also notice in the background, you’ll see the wedding limo, which was, well, a trailer truck. And we were at her folk’s house in Central Florida and we dropped the daughter off there. And we moved to Miami, we came back and started the honeymoon.
The neatest part of the whole thing was when we came out of Disney World, we didn’t have to wonder where we parked because we were the only trailer truck there.
You can see that I do things a little differently but one thing you’ll see is that I make do with what I have. And I try to get the most out of it. And that’s what I share with my clients.
The honeymoon you know, it can’t last forever so we decided that we wanted to live the American dream so we looked around and bought our first house. And there that baby is.
And I tell you what, that was the beginning of, if the DIY show was on TV right now on that network – I would have the longest-running home improvement show.
We bought this house. We agreed to buy this house and we found out that it was depreciated beyond inhabitable. We had no idea.
We ended building another foundation, moving the house into the new foundation. Turned out to be a very comfortable, wonderful house for us. But you never know when you start where you are going to end up. You just have got to keep plugging away.
So that’s going to give you an idea on what we’re – you’re not probably going to get a lot of boring business talks and terms this morning. So think like a customer.
Keeping existing customers is cheaper than getting new ones. Most businesses if you ask them what they’re focusing on. We’ve got to get more customers. I’ve got to get more customers.
Now, especially a lot of effort in social media. And social media is wonderful. And if you don’t have a presence in social media and you’re in business then you need to get one. But it’s not the answer to everything.
So if you focus on your existing customers, that’s money and time well spent as supposed to always trying to get new customers.
Be very careful of the mindset that I got this customer of mine so I don’t need to worry about them anymore. I’ve got to go and get another one.
There are lots of studies. People study everything and there are different viewpoints. But it’s been declared or studied that people who give you money once are 3 to 7 times more likely to do it again.
So depending on who you talk to, some people say 3 times, some say 7. There’s probably other numbers out there. But the reality is if someone does business with you once, they’ll pretty likely to do business with you again – as long as they’re happy.
When you get thinking like a customer, then you realize and understand the importance of offering customers what they want instead of what you think customers need.
Another trap that small business owners fall into very easily is I know what’s best. This is my field of interest and they find themselves talking to a customer saying, “You need this and you need that.”
And if you think about it, we don’t often buy things that we need even though we may have the money and may be able to do that. But sometimes, we don’t do that because we don’t want them.
We may need that thing. But we don’t really want it.
Ron: These are 3 great talking points that really you can go probably 30 minutes on each point, right?
Just looking at these, there are really a number of things that pop in here.
Great overview. Turning your customers into raving fans, right? Making sure that they’re really behind you. That they’re really 100% your raving fan.
Lots of time, we’re chasing around for new deals and at the end of the day, we may have something.
Trying to grow your existing account base. How can you dig deeper and lighter within your existing accounts because there very well may be problems there that you can solve.
Bill: You’re right. If you’re in touch with your customers, you’re going to know what’s going on.
You’re going to know if there are problems with your existing customer base. And that’s the way you want to start. Because if you don’t know what’s going on there, how are you going to know that you’re looking for the right customers?
Growing from within – from referrals, any kind of promotion that grows your existing customer base from within is much better and much stronger than just basically casting a wide net and wondering who you’re going to catch.
So I want to move on to why customers leave.
I think it’s important for business to understand why customers leave them and do business with somebody else. Because I think it’s really misunderstood. And really when I talk to businesses today, initially do they get the concept.
The perception is very different. I’ll breeze through these. Because there’s a couple that I really want to focus on. This is from the SBA, by the way.
These numbers are probably 4 to 5 years old now. But I don’t believe they’ve changed very much over time.
So 1% of the customers are going to die.
5% seek alternative solutions, which means that they pretty much don’t need what you sell anymore for whatever reason: that they’re lives have changed or they don’t have a need for what you’re selling.
This is interesting, 9% go to competition. Most businesses think that this number is going to be much higher. They think there’s a higher percentage of people going to competition because the competition has a better offer or deal.
14% leave because they are dissatisfied with the product or service. So there’s a place to look right there – and take a serious look at.
Do you have quality products and are you providing a level of service that customers are going to be loyal to? Or could you improve in that area?
And here’s the big one. 68% feel they were not treated appropriately.
So to put this in perspective. Let’s just say that every year, you have a successful business and people move on and you have lots and lots of customers.
Let’s just say that every year, a hundred customers go some place else. 68% of them go because you didn’t treat them appropriately.
And 14 of them leave because they were not happy with the product or service that you’ve provided them.
So if you go back to thinking like a customer, 82% of the customers that you have that would potentially leave are not going anywhere if they are happy with the products or services and you treat them appropriately.
So those 2 areas are areas where you can make a huge, huge difference in without spending a lot of money.
Ron: Can you give a couple of examples that you see consistently.
What do you define as not being treated appropriately? I’m sure that’s all across the board. But what can you see consistently throughout your career, your experiences about that last point, 68%?
Bill: I can give an example of what happened recently. This happened to a friend of mine, not a client. He’s in the construction business and he has made a purchase, doing business with a company for quite a few years and they did a lot of big-ticket purchases from them.
And he never thought that he’d go anywhere else. And he’s getting a new piece of equipment and he wanted to ask some questions on the size of the body or some general questions.
So he called them in the middle of the day and he said, “I’m going to do this and I have some questions.”
And the guy said, “I’m eating my lunch right now. You are kind of interrupting my lunch. Can you call me back later?”
So the fellow hung up. And he told me, “For the first time in my life, I’m not going to do business with them anymore. I’m going with somebody different. He turned me off.”
Ron: I think it really needs to echo and permeate throughout the entire company right?
So let’s say do you have customer service? Do you other people who interface with your client?
And if they don’t come forward with the same culture, same mentality, you could lose someone like that. That’s a very candid story that you told there.
Bill: You’re absolutely right. The interesting thing is though, what the business will probably think is they’ll go up to the 9%. They’ll see this fellow with a piece of equipment from the competitor on his truck and they’re going to say, “Ah those guys from wherever the guy they got this item from, ah they’re killing us.”
“The competition is killing us”
But in reality and I don’t say this to hurt anybody’s feelings because I think we all fall in the same category – we are killing ourselves.
But people are going to go somewhere. So they go to the competition. Many times not because they want to but because they’ve got to have whatever it is that we are offering.
That’s kind of the odd thing. People think it’s the competition. And as a result, they think they’ve got to beat their price. They’ve got to do this. They’ve got to do that.
But really, look out for yourself and everything else will take care of itself.
You know, when you mentioned about having everybody on board. As I segue into this next slide, I want to go over this very quick.
This is another seminar that I do in-house for business. I just want to point out the importance of this in relation to engaging and empowering employees.
This can be called business focus. This can be called culture, can be called core values. Now, I use different terms because people may see them everywhere.
Those are the core values of your business and the things you won’t compromise on. The things that make you unique and make you special.
If you’re in the lawn mowing business, well actually you’re not in lawn mowing business, you’re in the customer service business. When someone asks what makes you special you’ve got to be able to go up and explain to them why customers come to you instead of hundreds of lawn mowing services around.
This is another basic beginning step that most small businesses just kind of skip over. They get busy. They get involved in other things.
And if they don’t identify those core values, you start having difficulties in all of these areas.
You will attract customers which I will talk about in a little bit. You’ll attract customers that you really don’t want.
You’ll spend marketing money that really is not that effective as it could be.
You will attract and hire employees that you don’t want. And the way that your company is presented probably won’t appear the way it really should be.
You won’t be able to put your best foot forward. So identifying what is, it’s very much like a mission statement. But I think it’s even more basic.
Then, it’ll be able to let you draw in the right customers, draw in the right employees, make good use of your marketing. Everybody will be sharing the same core values.
And here’s one that I think is good for businesses up here.
At such as such, we pride ourselves in delivering dependable, clean, safe, consistent work with polite and respectful employees. Now doesn’t that sound like the type of business you’d want in your property?
It does to me. They understand what they’re doing. They take pride in their work they’ve got to be clean, safe and consistent.
The employees, they expect them to be polite and respectful. I mean, they put it out before they even arrive.
If you take something like this and take it to the employees, wouldn’t it be likely that these employees would understand the expectations of the company. They expect that they’re going to deliver dependable, clean, safe and consistent work.
So they know that they’ve got to be safe and that they need to be clean. They need to be consistent everywhere.
The expectation is for them to be polite and be respectful. So most human beings will live up to what the expectations are. So they’ll try very hard to do this because it’s clear. It’s spelled right out.
Now, this is mine – it’s very simple:
I offer practical, very affordable, down to earth guidance and assistance for entrepreneurs to give them a peace of mind and freedom from their business and increase profits.
Again, it’s pretty straight forward.
Ron: Just to talk about the core values. I just want to give an example and I know that Ryan can echo this.
If you don’t have those core values and you’re working with people, it can go both ways.
But when you’re working with customers that don’t have the same values that you have, you know that they’re probably not a good fit but you take them on because you need the extra revenue. Or, “Hey, we’ve got to take them guys on.”
So you sacrifice your basic principles. It makes everyone else, really, it permeates throughout.
People are stressed. You get the feeling that you’re just taking on the customer because you know.
They don’t align. And if they don’t align, it’s very important. I think you bring up an excellent point. If your customers will not be aligned, if they are not aligned with your core values – really, you’re wasting your time, energy and resources.
It kind of goes back to what we talked about in the beginning, eliminating stress and more focused.
I just wanted to interject there. It’s really a telling slide, I couldn’t agree more, frankly.
Bill: You’re exactly right. It creates, especially with the customer, a very unhealthy atmosphere.
I’m sure there’s a lot of people that can identify with the fact that you only see the door open or you open the front door, here comes that customer and everybody says, “Oh, there they are.”
That’s so unhealthy. It happens all the time.
Ron: it gets to a point where you don’t even want to open an email from that particular individual.
So can we anything about it?
Well, here’s a solution. This is actually in 2 parts. I call it difficult customers but the first part of it, I’m going to refer to it as a customer with a complaint.
Let’s call it as an unhappy customer at first. They may be a good fit for you. But they’re upset.
One thing I learned in Corporate America because we had to take calls from customers one day a month. No matter what we did in the company. Because when you get to be an officer, you’ve got to be on a certain level. They don’t want you to lose sight on who paid your paycheck.
So we have an education on how to handle calls and of difficult customers.
The main thing is to maintain control. If that customer comes in and they come in through the door or they’re on the phone saying, “You’re going to do this, you’re going to do that. And I’m unhappy…I’m so on and so forth.”
You need to take control of that. That point, the customer is in control. And the customer’s telling you what you are going to do in your business. And it’s really not the way it’s supposed to work.
So you need to be respectful of the fact that they’re upset and that they have an issue.
But the first thing to do is maintain control. Get control of the situation and here’s where engaging and empowering your employees become very important.
If that employee is empowered to say, “We’ll fix this. We are going to do what we can to make it right.”
Then you are changing the conversation. You’re calming the person down. They feel as though they’re going to get some positive results.
Maintain control is the first thing.
Don’t take it personal. Now there is an exception to this. If the customer is upset with you, I guess you’ll probably take it personal.
If you did something that upset the customer then they’re upset with you. However, I would still give the same advice. Don’t take it personal. They don’t know you. They don’t come to your house for dinner.
It’s not necessarily something that you did or maybe, they just didn’t understand or whatever. So don’t take it personal because if you do, you will send it back to them personal. They will get personal. It will be, basically, just a fight.
So step back. Take yourself out of it and focus on a solution.
Ron: Remove the ego, right?
You could be right or you could be rich. Something like that. It’s kind of the deal. So if you want to be right all the time, well…
Often times, you say, “You’re right and I’m wrong.” And that ends it. You know, they don’t have anything else to talk about. It’s all they’re looking for.
Bill: But above and beyond that, look for learning opportunities.
Something went wrong. Nobody probably did anything intentionally. It’s just that, something went wrong.
Often times, in small businesses, what I find is that, you really didn’t do anything wrong. But it may be a problem with customer expectation. You may have not made it clear what was going to happen and what you did. So a lot of times, I think there is an educational opportunity to learn the next time in that situation.
Say you sell dog food and someone comes in and gets a new dog food. In the poster, it says, “Mix it with old dog food so the dog doesn’t get upset.”
But you forgot to tell them that there’s nothing wrong with the new dog food, there’s nothing wrong with anything else. The dog is sick and they’re mad at you. It’s just a situation where you forgot to explain the proper use of the product you’re selling. So always look for learning opportunities.
Ron: I think this can be applied even in the proposal process, even in how you deliver your presentation or your scope of work.
Think about it – maybe, I didn’t explain in the right way. Or maybe I didn’t tell you what this process looks like.
Bill: Yes, exactly.
In that Down to Earth business I used to own, I did recycling of gravel roads and I would go in and I had a machine that grated the gravel up, chew and burn the material from the sides and grated it all back out again. And it worked really well.
The key thing was, the first time it rained. That gravel would get greasy on top just a little bit.
Just a little bit because of the organic material. I didn’t tell people that and I’d get all these phone calls.
But I learned from that and I told everybody, “This is what it’s going to happen. Don’t be alarmed. We’ll do it once. You’ll be fine forever.” And it was. But before I told them, they were hot on the phone.
Ron: And like you’ve mentioned in the beginning, having that extra set of eyes would have prevented that potentially from happening.
Having someone else say, “If you address this issue…”
And it’s a lesson learned.
Bill: Someone to say, “Is there anything out there that’s going to surprise people?”
Anything that a different set of eyes to look at stuff is huge.
Ron: Ryan, you have something?
Ryan: Stuff I’ve ran into as well, sometimes, you just have a difficult person in your hands.
There’s nothing that you did wrong. It’s just that type of person. And we all know that type of person or we’ve encountered them before. And there’s no amount of pre-planning or anything else that you could have done on your end to make this person happy.
It just happens. And I just feel that there’s no amount of money out there that somebody can pay me that’s worth being abused.
So stand up for yourself. If you’re running into situations where you have that type of persons, type of client then don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
And it doesn’t have to be confrontational.
Bullies typically tend to back off when somebody stands up to them. Sometimes, that’s what you may be dealing with. This difficult person is a bully.
If that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with just saying, “Look, thank you! This is not going to work. It’s not working for you. It’s not healthy for me. Let’s move on and part ways.” As long as your contract allows you to do it.
Ron: And I think Ryan, on the other side, if you are conceding then you are creating an environment for that to happen again.
Ryan: Creating a monster is what you are doing.
Bill: That’s a good point. And this is a tough thing for all of us to accept responsibility.
And I think you really have to work at it. The reality is, if you have customers like that, that’s your responsibility because you allow them in your business, you allow them in your life.
I encourage my people to deal with that in the following way – you need to fire a customer.
And now, sometimes people get really excited and they think that they’re just going to go fire everybody.
You’ve got to calm down a bit. That’s not what I’m getting at right here.
If you just go back briefly to that core values slide if you can remember that.
Just think about that, if you got a customer whose core values are not in an alignment with your core values, you are not able to make that customer happy.
I don’t care what you do. I don’t care how much hard you work at it. I don’t care how much money you invest or how much time you invest. They are looking for something different – different from what you are offering.
You’ve got to accept that. It doesn’t mean that they are bad persons. They very well could be bad persons but it doesn’t mean they are necessarily.
It doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. But if you can recognize that customer early on enough that’s where they haven’t known what your core values are or what’s important to you as important. And you can identify that customer then you can graciously say, “I think there’s somebody even better to serve you. This isn’t working.”
People are amazed at what a relief it is when they let that customer go.
And 99 times out of 100, that customer is going to beg you to keep them. As much as you think they’re miserable and they hate coming to do business with you. They’ll say “Oh please. Oh please, help me.”
Ron: It’s especially true if you stick to your core principles throughout the entire engagement. If you consistently have the attitude that you’ve mentioned here.
And your core values, if you’re consistent with it, then it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
So it’s very empowering. You’re absolutely right, very interesting. I know I’m taking notes for certain here. This has been very helpful.
Bill: Excellent! I appreciate that.
Another area that is important. I think, everybody should learn about energy. Good energy and bad energy – we all got so much energy. That’s all we have.
How we apply it and what we do with it are very important. When you do fire that customer, just think about it.
I’ve created that mental picture of here he comes through the door again – he or she. Here they come. Everybody in your whole business goes on alert.
Everybody has this defensive posturing. It’s almost like we’re gauging up for war here. All of that energy goes away when that person isn’t there.
And that gives room for positive energy for you to really have a good engagement with someone who is aligned with you. Because let’s face it when that person leaves (that difficult customer), if you and your employees think you’ve flipped that switch and you’re not in war mode anymore when that person comes through the door, you’re dreaming.
Because they come through the door and they don’t know what happened but they know something bad just happened before they got there. I could tell you. I’m sure you’ve always felt that.
So channeling that energy and making the most of it is super, super important.
Ron: Absolutely! Love that.
I was going to say, what do we do next? How can people reach you? What’s your advice moving forward?
Bill: Just implement one thing. Entrepreneurs are famous for chasing shiny objects.
We get one idea. One idea leads to another idea, which leads to another idea, which builds on another idea and we didn’t get the first one even started.
A lot of entrepreneurs, they’ve started but they haven’t completed them.
Pick one thing. Maybe you just want to write down what you feel are the core values of your business. Maybe, you want to meet with your employees and share with them the importance of the customer.
Whatever it is, just do one thing.
When you get that done, cross that off and do something else. Don’t try to take on too much. You’re not going to change your business in a 1-hour webinar.
I appreciate everybody taking the time to be on here. But even if you took really great notes and you go back and you try to implement some stuff, it takes more than that to make a change.
But at least, you’ll be in the right mindset.
Anybody is welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns to inquire about one-on-one seminars.
I do seminars in-house. I also do a couple of coaching programs. You can call me at 207-691-2659. Pretty much anytime in the day except when I’m on a call or a webinar. I’m not going to take your call during those instances.
And if you visit www.bpackard.com, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I’m all about.
There’s quite a lot of information on that website. There’s a blog in there that’s updated regularly. I send out a newsletter every week. I’d be glad to send it to anyone who just go to the sign up box and put in your name and email address. And I’d love to add you to the family.
So thank you very much guys for the opportunity to share what I’m doing.
I hope you find it worthwhile.
Ron: Bill, thank you! I truly feel that this is the perfect format for the Powering Business Growth show.
You had excellent points. I truly enjoyed it. Thank you very much for your time.
Ryan: Thank you, Bill! I appreciate it.
Bill: Thank you. Thank you, guys.