NOVEMBER 2015 ;e Costco Connection 15
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS the make-or-break factor in almost every business relationship. A store is a store is a store. A
website is a website. A product is a product. The differentiator, in practically every
situation, is the customer’s perception that
he or she is important and that the supplier of the product or service truly cares.
Most of us are willing to accept an
occasional glitch in the system. We know
stuff happens. But when it happens day
after day—and is repeated by more than
one representative of the organization—
Houston, we have a problem.
It’s easy to point fingers and burn a
hapless victim, guilty or not, at the stake.
But that rarely solves the underlying problem, which is a corporate culture that
encourages stick-to-the-rulebook customer service.
This is what happened in my recent
encounter with a certain U.S. service provider. Lots of scurrying around and lip
service by support agents. After a total of
10 hours spent online with five agents,
zero results. Every single agent with whom
I spoke parroted the exact same series of
responses. They stuck religiously to the
rulebook. The result, predictably enough,
was a brick wall past which not one agent
To the customer, your customer service agents are the company. And the customer’s expectation is that, as the company,
your agent is going to fix the problem—
just as you promise in your advertising, in
your marketing materials, in everything.
You can ask your agents to do exactly
what the manual says to do. Or you can
ask them to put themselves in the place of
the customer and ask, “What would make
me happy in this situation?”
That’s true customer service.—Costco
member Kirk Hazlett is an associate profes-
sor of communication and public relations
at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts
LEAKS OR THEFT can destroy a company. Costco member James Pooley, a
lawyer and former deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property
wipo.int), shares these
tips on how to mitigate the risk.
• Know your rights. The law protects only real secrets, not employees’
skills or general knowledge. Any secret
information, like strategies or product
ideas, that gives your company an
advantage over the competition will
• Re-recruit your best knowledge
workers. The best way to keep your
secrets is to retain your employees.
• Use nondisclosure agreements,
but be cautious with noncompetes.
Anyone who might have access to your
trade secrets, especially employees,
How to keep
should sign a confidentiality agreement. Noncompete contracts are not
always legal, can be expensive to enforce and sometimes backfire.
• Address digital risks posed by
employee-owned devices, the cloud,
file sharing, etc. While technical controls can help secure your data, the
best way to mitigate digital risk is old-fashioned people management: continuous training and messaging, as
well as enforcement that is visible.
• Discuss secrets when employees
enter and exit your company. Tell new
hires not to bring sensitive information
from previous employers, and review
the policies that protect your own
secrets. Use exit interviews to reinforce
the message with departing employ-
ees, too. C
But, you promised!
IN THE LAST decade, virtually every aspect
of starting and running a company has been
significantly transformed: operations, marketing, financial management, human resources
How much and how fast should you let
go of the ways of the past and try the new?
The key is to think of change strategically: Be
willing to evaluate and deploy changes that
improve your productivity and bottom line.
Most small businesses do not need to be
early adapters. It’s not just the cost of technology, but the disruption to your business: training your staff; changing business processes.
But small businesses can’t afford to be
laggards, either. Using 10-year-old software and
RHONDA ABRAMS: STRATEGIES
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20-year-old equipment may feel cheaper, but
it’s almost certainly costing you money. And
running your business as if you’re still in the
20th century makes you vulnerable to faster,
more forward-thinking competitors.
Today, a profusion of tools and services
can help you run your business more productively. Which must you understand to run a
21st-century small business?
The cloud. By moving key business
processes to Internet-based applications, you
can run your business anywhere, any time.
You gain more capabilities, acquire the ability
to turn services on and off as your business
needs, eliminate disruptive upgrades and
significantly decrease the need for IT help.
Mobile. More than a third of Americans
access the Internet solely on mobile devices.
Whatever business you’re in, think mobile first.
Communication. Customers and
prospects expect to communicate with you in
many ways: through social media, texts, email,
your website and more. This can be overwhelming, so you need a strategy to manage
this flood of communication.
Innovate yourself before someone disrupts
you. If you just sit there, you’ll get run over. C