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Review: This I Know – Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence by Terry O’Reilly

this i knowThis review first ran in the March 27th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

This I Know: Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence

By Terry O’Reilly

Alfred A. Knopf Canada

$34

It’s not my fault but it is my problem.

This Disney World mantra is worth adopting if you’re serious about delivering superior service.

When customers come to you with a complaint, don’t duck or dodge. Don’t transfer their call, forward their email or tell them to talk to someone else. Don’t pass the buck, say your hands are tied and tell them nothing can do done.

Instead, clean up the mess even if you didn’t make it.  Own the problem and stay with your customer until she gets a solution or resolution.

“Obsessive customer service is one of the best ways to trump the competition,” says Terry O’Reilly, author of This I Know, co-founder of Pirate Radio and Television and a CBC radio host of Under the Influence. “Your competitor’s lack of obsessive customer service is your opportunity. Delivering consistent, superlative, standout customer service is one of the best ways to cause your competitors to find you really, completely irritating.”

Yes, customer service costs money. But you’ll make far more money than you spend, says O’Reilly. “Memorable, outstanding, go-the-extra-mile, I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that-for-me customer service is as rare as a winning lottery ticket. But if played daily, it is a winning lottery ticket for the company. The return on investment is ten-fold.”

That’s because great customer service fuels word of mouth which O’Reilly calls the most powerful advertising of all. Happy customers rave, dissatisfied customers rant and social media amplifies both.

One way to earn those rave reviews is to go the extra inch. “Smart businesses search for ways to deliver the smallest touches to make an experience memorable. The smaller the detail, the more intrigued and impressed I am,” says O’Reilly.

Along with being a game of inches, marketing starts by answering a fundamental question.

What business are we really in?

“Don’t answer that question too quickly. Most people get it wrong. Yet it’s the most important marketing question you can ask yourself. Until you answer it correctly, your marketing will always lack focus,” says O’Reilly. “If you truly know what business you’re in, you will be selling the right thing and solving the right problems.”

What you’re selling and what we’re buying can be two very different things. You sell products and services while we buy solutions. “Customers don’t want your product,” says O’Reilly. “They want the benefit of the product. People buy benefits. Not products. Not features. And they buy these solutions from companies they can relate to.”

Molson isn’t in the beer business, says O’Reilly. They’re in the party business with beer as the social lubricant.

Michelin doesn’t sell tires. They sell safety.

Starbucks is in the coffee theatre business. Nike is in the motivation business. Apple sells personal empowerment while Coke sells happiness.

“You have to quietly observe what customers are really buying from you. They will tell you, but you have to listen carefully. The best marketers are the best listeners.”

Having won hundreds of international advertising awards, O’Reilly is well worth listening to. His book should be required reading for entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders of non-profit who don’t have monster marketing budgets and ad agencies on retainer.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review: The Difference – When Good Enough Isn’t Enough by Subir Chowdhury

the differenceThis review first ran in the March 13th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough

By Subir Chowdhury

Crown Business

$30

You tell us three things about yourself every time you dump dirty dishes in the lunchroom sink.

Expecting someone else to clean up your mess tells us you’re lazy and entitled. It also shows us that you just don’t care.

And that’s a big problem because caring is the difference between good and great organizations.

So says author and management consultant Subir Chowdhury who works with Fortune 500 companies.

Chowdhury was stumped by why organizations of similar sizes from the same industries achieved markedly different results after working with his consulting team. “It didn’t make sense to me,” says Chowdhury.  “One company achieved a return of five times their investment – adequate to me but hardly spectacular – while the other saw a return of 100 times their investment.”

Chowdhury found that an organization-wide caring mindset explained the difference. “When a caring mindset prevails, truth is valued, people strive to understand one another, concessions are resisted in favour of seeking the best possible result or outcome, and people recognize that quality is everyone’s business.

“We have to do better than good enough. We have to strive for excellence. And that process and way of thinking all begins with developing a caring mindset.”

It’s a mindset defined by four must-have principles.  To be caring, you need to be straightforward, thoughtful, accountable and demonstrate a steady resolve.

“Practice them until your caring mindset has no off-switch,” says Chowdhury about the four principles. “Own them. Make them yours. When you do, you will inspire everyone around you to do the same. The principles are contagious. You can be the difference.”

Being honest, direct, open, candid, transparent and fair with others makes us straightforward. It also guards against lying and deceit and prevents organizational problems from being ignored, downplayed or dismissed.

Being attentive, considerate, unselfish and helpful makes us thoughtful.

“When  we place ourselves in another person’s shoes, or see things from another’s point of view, and then act for their benefit – when we are being empathetic – we are practicing what it means to be thoughtful.”

Taking responsibility makes us accountable. We don’t say something should be done by someone at some point. Instead, we step up and take ownership for getting it done even if we didn’t make the mess or cause the problem.

And we show our resolve by having the passion, determination and perseverance to stay the course when solving tough problems or improving situations. We keep going long after others have packed it in.

What’s our best strategy for developing a caring mindset? Be in the company of people who already have one, says Chowdhury.

Adopt a caring mindset and we’ll follow you as a leader and work with you as a peer. “Anyone can make a difference and inspire others if they adopt a caring mindset. Having a caring mindset has nothing to do with where you were born or how much money you make. You do don’t need to be anything other than who you are.”

So the next time you bring a coffee mug or plate to the lunchroom, don’t dump and run. Wash and dry instead. It’s a small step on a longer journey from good to great.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.