Know the difference: Input, consultation, or collaboration?

Know the difference: Input, consultation, or collaboration?

When inviting participation in a project or decision-making, it is important that those leading the process differentiate among input, consultation, and collaboration in order to avoid the hurt feelings, broken trust, and organizational frustration that emerge when expectations don’t match realities.

DWYSYWD and other simple customer relations commitments

Most business owners will repeat the mantra that customer service is critical to their success.

Lately, though, I've had some personal experiences that make me realize that many businesses still don't get "it." An encounter with my HVAC contractor and an exchange with my insurance agent both left me dissatisfied.

On the flip side, I received great customer service while working out some details of a project with the staff at CreateSpace.

All of these got me thinking about how businesses might best relate to their customers.

Whatever your field, whether in the trades or retail or customer service or professional services, here are five commitments to keep in mind in order to keep your customers and clients happy and coming back.

  1. Do what you say you'll do. Often referred to as the DWYSYWD principle, it means exactly what it suggests. If you tell a customer that you will deliver a particular good at a specified time, deliver it. If you promise a client a phone call, make it. If you say you'll send an email, send it. 
  2. Communicate. If for some reason you cannot deliver what you said you would when you said you would, then let the customer/client know that's the case, and tell them why. Make sure it's a "good why" and a legitimate explanation. 
  3. Answer questions. If you have billing formula that doesn't show up on your invoice and your customer/client asks how you arrived at the charges, be prepared to tell them. Always be ready with a solid rationale and offer it without defensiveness. 
  4. Be respectful and pleasant. It's not always easy to maintain your composure with customers/clients if they are asking questions, being critical, or are upset about something, but it's your responsibility to take the high road. Respect and pleasantness will more often than not diffuse a tense situation, leave an opening for a productive resolution, and/or allow the customer/client to leave the encounter with understanding even if they're not in agreement. 
  5. Know the difference between your value and your pride. Good businesses should expect a good price. But carrying your fees around as an entitlement doesn't make anyone feel good about what you're charging. It's one thing to show value in the product and service; it's quite another to lead with an attitude that says "we'll take what we want from you because we're so good."

Consistently practicing these five commitments with customers and clients will strengthen your reputation and keep them coming back. 

Five Mental Barriers to Cross When Engaging a Consulting Coach

Consulting coaches are an essential resource for leaders and managers at all levels of an organization, including executive staff, rising middle managers, boards, and frankly anyone interested in improving their leadership capacity.

But too often leaders and organizations misread their own needs and flat-out miss opportunities to get valuable help at a crucial moment. Here are five reasons why we might not get the type of help we need when we need it.

1 - Seeing help as a sign of weakness. You’ve been given responsibility in your organization because you are smart, skilled, and respected. These things are all true. What is not true is that you are expected to have all the answers. Seeking counsel from others within and from outside your organization is another quality of strength to your leadership. Utilizing a consulting coach is not a sign that you aren’t good enough. Rather, it is proof that you are wise enough to know your limits and to trust that you CAN do the job with someone helping you continue to grow.

2 - Waiting too long to ask. A natural tendency for many of us is to push ourselves to the limits of our capacity, and then a little bit over. Unfortunately, pressing into that new or difficult territory alone can be devastating for you and/or your organization. Once the situation moves from challenging to problematic, the energy and resources needed to correct the situation are exponentially higher than the energy that would have originally been expended to meet the challenge. A consulting coach provides extra energy and resources to address the challenge before it becomes a problem, and gives you the support you need before you burn out.

3 - Expecting the consulting coach to fix “it”. In the end, it is your organization, and it is you as a leader who will need to implement the changes highlighted in the consulting process. The consulting coach doesn’t actually change anything, but rather gives you perspective, tools, and accountability to pursue the change you envision for yourself and your organization.

4 - Being in too much of a hurry. There are many situations in business and in life that require immediate and quick responses. But the reality is that most leadership development and organizational change takes time. A one-session consulting session is really just a red herring unless it's part of a broader strategy of development. A few coaching sessions might get you through a specific decision, but long-term change requires long-term commitment to a process of accompaniment. Typically six months is a minimum. Most leaders learn that they benefit from having a consulting coach, counselor, mentor, and/or guide consistently available to them. Organizations learn that consulting is a process, not an event.

5 - Underestimating the human element. Many of us like to think that the facts drive change in organizations: budget realities, sales quotas, program details. Certainly data-driven decisions are crucial to any organization’s success. But when dealing with the data it is important to keep in mind that the data does not come alive in a vacuum. It is interpreted by people. When data is applied it affects people. When data is reported, bias is inherent. What lies behind the data is a human element impacting outcomes. Failure to pay attention to the human element along with the data often results in outcomes that even the data didn’t predict. A consulting coach will help you pay attention to both the human element and the data.

A consulting coach is a valuable resource for individuals and organizations. Sooner rather than later is invaluable for tapping the best of your decision-making, planning, implementation, and accountability.