Maintain a Personal Touch

Maintain a Personal Touch

In order to individualize your customer services, you will want to maintain a personal touch.

We have written an article, published in the December 2016 issue of TRENDS magazine, which outlines a number of ways you can individualize your service. In our last several posts, we offered a peek into several: “listening to the music, as well as the lyrics,” understanding personality types, recognizing cultural diversity, and appreciating age differences.

In this post, we turn your attention to the importance of the personal touch. In the name of efficiency, it is tempting to communicate by email or introduce a phone tree: hit 1 for xxxx, 2 for xxxx, and so on. Don’t do it. Automation is fine for record keeping and follow-up with clients, but don’t do it if it means replacing people who have the judgment to establish a relationship that is individual and personal.

Some managers advise their staff to spend two minutes talking about matters other than the business at hand: vacation, family, parking, school, whatever might be relevant. That’s a way to get to know each client as an individual. And that might be a way to “listen to the music.”

Brainstorm with your colleagues to see how you can implement this notion in your business. If you can’t wait for our subsequent posts outlining additional tips, you can read the entire article.

That’s all for now.

Carolyn and John

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Consider Your Customers’ Ages

Consider Your Customers’ Ages In Order to Individualize Your Customer Service. 

“Customer service” is the name of the game, and individualizing that service will take you to the next level. We have written an article, published in the December 2016 issue of TRENDS magazine, which outlines a number of ways you can individualize your service. In our last several posts, we offered a peek into several: “listening to the music, as well as the lyrics,” understanding personality types, and recognizing cultural diversity.

In this post, we suggest you consider the ages of your clients and adjust your service accordingly. A positive client experience will vary depending on the demographic age group of your client. For example, in general, Millennials want transactions to take place quickly and easily – probably online, with an app. When they are dealing with a veterinarian, they are  likely to prefer a Wellness Plan to help them manage regular payments. Parents with young children will appreciate a place for their children to be entertained while parents are conducting business or waiting.

Seniors, on the other hand, want to travel and may look for services that will be flexible enough to meet their schedule.  When it comes to veterinary services, they will look to your practice to provide lodging or refer them to a pet sitter. Some will be pleased to have home delivery of products or even house calls for pet care. Whatever the business, it’s important to be sensitive to those seniors who are hard of hearing or who have mobility issues.

Take some time to consider this concept and see how you can implement it in your business. If you can’t wait for our subsequent posts outlining additional tips, you can read the entire article.

That’s all for now.

Carolyn and John

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Cultural Differences – How You Can Individualize Your Customer Service

Recognize Cultural Differences to Individualize Your Customer Service 

How do you individualize your customer service? We have outlined a number of ways in our article in the December 2016 issue of TRENDS magazine entitled, “Individualize Customer Service.”   In our last two posts, we offered a peek into two of our cafeteria of tips: “listening – to the music as well as the lyrics,” and understanding personality types.

In this post, we introduce the importance to understanding and recognizing cultural differences as a means of focusing on each individual.

If you live in a community with diverse clients, bi-lingual staff will enable you to address clients according to their needs. Debbie Anderson has operated veterinary practices with her husband in six countries, while he served as a military veterinarian. Now in Chula Vista, CA, with Otay Pet Vets, she serves clients who are Hispanic, Filipino, White and Black. Her staff is bi-lingual, including a groomer who is deaf and greets clients with American Sign Language (ASL). Greeted in their language, her clients perceive the service in a positive way.

Take some time to explore this concept and see how it works for you. And, if you can’t wait for our subsequent posts outlining additional tips, you can read the entire article.  That’s all for now.

Carolyn and John

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Understand Personality Types

Understand Personality Types to Individualize Your Customer Service 

In our last post, we talked about “listening to the music, as well as the lyric” in order to focus individually on your customers.

Individualizing customer service can also mean focusing on the customer’s individual personality type . We have outlined a number of ways to focus individually in our article in the December 2016 issue of TRENDS magazine entitled, “Individualized Customer Service.”

In this post, we introduce the concept of personality types as a means of focusing on each individual.

You probably know, that there are a variety of personality types – extrovert, introvert, planners, those who are spontaneous, etc. But how would you know your client’s personality type? One way to become aware of personality differences is by using a personality analytical tool, such as Myers Briggs or DISC, with your staff.

Debbie Boone, who consults with practices, administers the DISC test. She helps staff understand how different personality types might appreciate different types of conversation. For example, the “D” persons are eager to skip the small talk and get to the results; they want the bottom line of prognosis and treatment. The “I” persons appreciate the staff recognizing their questions and concerns and are likely to want more time. The “S” persons also do not want to be rushed, but they are looking for empathy and support from the staff. “C” persons focus on accuracy and expertise and may want details regarding treatment. Individual persons will perceive excellent service differently and appreciate being addressed according to their preferences.

Take some time to explore this concept and see how it works for you. And, if you can’t wait for our subsequent posts outlining additional tips, you can read the entire article, ” Individualized Customer Service.

That’s all for now.

Carolyn and John

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Your Customers Perceive. Listen

cs-frontdeskHow Do Your Customers Perceive You? Listen

You’ve heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” In other words, how people perceive something is what is real to them. Facts and information to the contrary, what your client believes to be true is your client’s perception of the truth. It is what is real to the client.

The challenge for every business, including the veterinary practice, is to provide a client experience that each individual client perceives to be a positive one. While you may have a vision statement that directs your practice to provide “excellent customer service,” the challenge is to know how that can be implemented in each individual encounter.

In the December, 2016 issue of TRENDS magazine you will find our article, “Individualize Customer Service.” In it we summarize tips for your consideration. We’ll provide a peak in this post – and those that follow.

First, Listen To Your Customers

The only way to know what excellent customer services means to a given client is to listen. Sheldon Bowles, writing in Raving Fans (by Sheldon Bowles and Ken Blanchard), advises us to “listen to the music as well as the lyrics.” By that he means that what people really want doesn’t always show up directly in what they say.

How many times have you had a restaurant manager come to your table and say, “How was your meal?” You probably said, “Fine,” even though you might be able to suggest improvements. What did you NOT say in your silence? Bowles means that we should be sensitive to such a comment, or even more, to silences. They are messages, which need to be understood.

We’ll leave you with that thought. If you can’t wait for our subsequent posts with more tips, you can read the entire article now at www.ICSinc.info/Services>Writing>Articles.

That’s all for now.

Carolyn and John

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Six Tips for Branding Your Business

th-6In my last blog, I shared with you some thoughts that had appeared in my Veterinary Practice News website column. Whether you’re a veterinarian or have another line of business, I thought the need to define your brand was worth repeating

As promised, I’m bringing you, in this blog, some suggestions on how to define your brand. Here are six tips:

First, look to your vision and mission statements. What do your objectives tell you about the uniqueness of your business? Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM, of 2 Manage Vets Consulting, told me about the rebranding process of Cobb Animal Clinic in Greensboro, NC where they had two distinct services with two separate objectives. The medical veterinary hospital they rebranded as “your pets next best friend,” and their boarding kennels they branded as “Camp Cobb, vacation without guilt.”

Second, look to your stakeholders. It will be useful to involve a subset of your loyal customers and contractors.   Ask them what they think is unique about your business. What do they say when referring to you or describing your establishment? “Are you “old dependable” or “always honest,” or “Johnny on the spot?” Not only can they add perspective to your thinking, but also, by consulting them, you increase the likelihood of their buy-in to your new identity.

Third, look at your competition for contrasts. Do they have a more qualified staff or provide more services? Are they known to be cheaper, faster, or more available? How would YOU like to be known?

Fourth, get insights from other industries. I remember a towing service that said, “Call and we’ll be there.” Maybe your business has a similar service that can be branded with a slogan. Here’s one for the veterinary business: “Pet care, we’ll be there, no matter where.”

Fifth, know yourself and what makes you unique. Kate Turner, owner of Happy Tails Bed and Biscuits, loves dogs and knows what the pets and their owners want. As a consequence, she began boarding and walking dogs, with no employees. Once she realized how unusual her services were, communicating became easy. Her brand is on Facebook and gets spread by word of mouth.

Frequently, when searching to define one’s “brand,” businesses are tempted to beg, borrow, or steal someone else’s’ brand that has already proved successful. Don’t do it. As Malcolm Gladwell says, in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, it’s a losing proposition to play by the rules of the established brand.   You’re better off creating your own.

Sixth, maybe the most difficult strategy – imagine a need and create it. That was the genius of Steve Jobs. He imagined needs to communicate in ways we had never noticed, and he created devices to help us to meet those needs.

Live It

In the end, once you have determined your brand, find ways to constantly communicate your brand – your name and your tag line or slogan, images and colors. They need to be repeated everywhere. Redesign your website, your invoices, the signs and videos in your lobby, your social media pages, and make sure all of your staff members can articulate the brand.

Defining and communicating brand not only speaks to your customers but it also can enable your employees to get on board. You want your brand to be more than words and images. Make sure your employees demonstrate the values represented in your brand. You want everyone to live your brand.

That’s it for now.

Carolyn

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Define Your Brand

Define Your Brand

451637827_culig_istock_thinkstock-ba28e662I wrote a variation of this blog for the Veterinary Practice News website several months ago. I think the information is worth repeating – not only for veterinarians but for any business wanting to leave its mark.

Do you remember the days of the “Old West” when there were range wars over who owned the cattle? Do you remember when desperados were “strung up” for stealing cows and horses?

If so, you can probably remember how “branding” became the management solution to fights over owners’ rights. Cattle owners created a unique emblem or logo representing their ranch and burned that sign into the hides of their cattle. This way, everyone knew who owned the cattle. The cattle were identified with particular ranches. Each had its own brand.

Today, owners put their brands on their products, not only to claim ownership but also for brand distinction and for sales and marketing purposes. Millions of advertising dollars are spent on consultants helping businesses create brand recognition. Sometimes its relates to the name of the product or line of products; sometimes they are looking for an image and colors to represent the products and advertising to announce the brand. Think of the “apple” to represent Macintosh computers, iPhones, and their various accessories.

Branding becomes especially important when products look very much alike. When the new line of cars, for example, is introduced in the new year, I can’t always distinguish one brand from the other. Manufacturers help me by adding an emblem, such as the picture of a Jaguar or Olympic rings. The images along with their words help to send a message such as “the symbol of quality” or the “key to excellence.” Sometimes I am influenced by the accompanying slogan, such as “Things go better with ____,” or this beverage brings “the pause that refreshes.”

It’s not just cars. With all the mergers and buyouts, I can’t always tell one cable company from the other. The same goes for products, such as coffee, medications, or soft drinks that look exactly alike but have different attributes. As I become familiar with the product and its claim, I will pay more for the brand associated with an image that is of value to me.

Branding Becomes Important.

Branding creates identity and a new vocabulary. I frequently say, I’ll have a “coke” or a “Pepsi” instead of a soft drink. Or, I need a “Kleenex” more than a tissue. Your clients don’t just go to “the vet.” They go to ”YOUR NAME.” YOUR NAME becomes familiar.

Branding distinguishes one product from another through symbols and labels, and we look for the business that makes their brand more prestigious or treasured. YOUR NAME becomes associated with particular qualities that you define in your mission and values statements.

Branding can create brand loyalty. Shoppers of all kinds enjoy familiarity. When your clients identify YOUR NAME with the quality they seek, they will return.

If I’ve convinced you that branding is important to enhancing your image (and drawing business), then I suggest you watch for my next blog where I’ll list six suggestions to help you define your brand.

That’s all for today.

Carolyn

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JUMP ON THE DANCE WAGON – A Unique Dance Platform

JumpOnDanceWagon 2016-05-01 at 10.24.26 AMJUMP ON THE DANCE WAGON – A Unique Dance Platform

Those of you who follow this blog post know that I usually write about communication – listening, confronting, negotiating, solving problems – the kind of skills that improve employee relationships and/or interaction with customers and clients.

Although I’ve often addressed non-verbal forms of communication, I never have broadened that to include the arts. But I have come to appreciate how many messages and feelings are communicated by use of the arts – including fine arts, theater and dance. And I want to highlight that here.

Last week-end I had the pleasure of enjoying a program in which compelling feelings and thoughts were communicated through dance. It was in New York City. The program was JUMP ON THE DANCE WAGON, which is a unique platform that showcases the choreography of four diverse choreographers and their dancers – each communicating messages and feelings.

It’s not unusual to see dance performances in New York City, but this platform is unique. It’s unique because a limited number (four) of emerging choreographers were invited to showcase their work through JUMP ON THE DANCE WAGON, a two-hour program made available through ticket sales to the public. Each of the choreographers contributes a percentage of the production cost and, after the performance, each receives back that same percentage of the revenue from ticket sales.

The founder and director of the program has created this platform as a way to advance the art form and find a vehicle to connect the work of choreographers with audiences.   This platform is also created as a means to compensate choreographers (and, in turn, hopefully, their dancers). In a profession known for expecting new artists to volunteer their works or pay to participate in a “mixed bill” (which usually allows only 5-10 minutes on the stage), this format is unique.

The four choreographers in this year’s program communicated love, hope, power, anger, and hope through such diverse works as the Victory Dance Project by Amy Jordan, Nicholas Grubbs’ dance with William “Smokey” Robinson’s music, and Mala Desai expressing the Hindu mythology related to pain and death.

Costumes, lighting, music, and facial expressions accompany the dynamic movements that communicate.

This new platform is a welcome innovation.

If you love the arts and want to support emerging artists, support JUMP ON THE DANCE WAGON at http://www.jumponthedancewagon.com.

If you like to have Ellen assist with your production, contact www.Linkedin/in/ellenstokesshadle.

~ That’s it for today

Carolyn

P.S. As always, I’d love to hear your comments

JumpOnDanceWagon 2016-05-01 at 10.24.26 AMP.S. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the founder and director, Ellen Shadle, is my daughter (and I’m the proud mom).

Tips on Contending with Millennials

images-1-90x42Tips for Contending with Millennials

Millennials is the topic of our article in the January issue of Trends Magazine published by the American Animal Hospital Association.

We have been sharing our thoughts on this topic with our blog readers in 8 easy-to-read chunks. In former blogs we described ten characteristics of Millennials that may help you in understanding these young people.

Also, in former blogs, we have discussed six dimensions that impact on how Millennials might play out as employees in your business and three dimensions of Millennials that you may see played out in your customers.

The review of Millennial characteristics and stories from those in the field have evoked ideas of how you can more effectively interact with Millennials.

Here are a few final thoughts to consider:

*When hiring, take time. (In a phone interview, if you want to know if you’re talking to a Millennial, ask the candidate who he or she would invite to dinner.)

*Turn negatives into positives. If you have Millennials that need feedback and the constant “pat on the back,” recognize that praise and validation are motivators for effort and achievement.

*If your Millennials indicate a desire to work in teams, look for opportunities to connect teammates for learning and development.

*Remember that Millennials value work/life balance. Flexibility and paid parental leave are important factors.

*Encourage health and fitness for employees and customers by pointing the way to natural and nutritious foods and supplements and exercise opportunities.

*Take advantage of Millennials’ knowledge of technology. Let them help you update your systems, and encourage them to engage with customers through social media.

*Support Millennials who want to involve your business in community activities or charities.

*Since Millennials base their productivity on completion of tasks, as opposed to time on the clock, experiment with work schedules that fit the new workplace.

*Adopt a payment plans to help your customers budget for their costs.

*Beyond all else, learn to understand their thinking. Since you can’t paint the entire generation with one brush, you’ll have to listen to each person.

This concludes our 8 blogs on the Milliennials and how they might impact your business as employees or customers. We hope you will leave us your comments and experiences.

~ Carolyn and John

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Milliennials As Your Customers

millennial-buyers-words-home-sale-house-real-estate-sign-to-illustrate-advertise-generation-y-young-people-buying-54754193-90x90Millennials is the topic of our article in the January issue of Trends Magazine published by the American Animal Hospital Association.

We are sharing our thoughts on this topic with our blog readers in 8 easy-to-read chunks. In former blogs we described ten characteristics of Millennials that may help you in understanding these young people.

Also, in former blogs, we have discussed six dimensions that impact on how Millennials might play out as teammates in your practice.

In this blog we discuss three dimensions of Millennials that you may see played out in your clients.

You may ask, what kind of clients are these Millennials?

Data released by the research firm GfK during Global Pet Expo 2015 indicates that Millennials have embraced the “Pet Parent” trend and own pets at a rate higher than that of the Boomer generation. The research also suggests that among Millennials a significant number intend to own a pet in the future.

1. Millennial clients embrace technology.

Because Millennials embrace technology, practices have moved to reminding clients of appointments via text, sending a text when their prescription is ready, or sending updates and photos post-surgery. Clients also appreciate videos in the exam room to inform and education them on recommended procedures. These uses of technology benefit all clients, but it’s the Millennials who expect it.

Brad Brazell, director of global product management for Henry Schein Animal Health, has noted that communicating with Millennials effectively often involves an uncomfortable shift from the use of postcard reminders and booking appointments over the phone. Many practices are adopting tools, such as the Rapport client communications suite of tools in order to easily provide personalized communication via multiple channels depending on the preferences of the clients. Such tools address Millennials’ needs for efficient, speed, flexibility and convenience.

Even the reception area has gone high-tech. Remember the simple coffee pot that welcomed those who were waiting? Now it’s the “designer coffee machine” with 20 choices of tea, coffee or hot chocolate – all available at the push of a button.

Client engagement is made inviting and fun when the practice has a social media present, with health tips, animal photos, and special offers. Millennial staff will easily run it. Millennials are eager to log on to their veterinarians’ Facebook page to see cute animal photos and learn vital pet information in the process.

2. Some Millennial Clients are Short on Cash

In spite of their financial situation, Williams finds that it’s often the Millennials who are most apt to put their credit card down and say “yes” to a recommended procedure, while the Boomers typically want to go home and check their budget first. Why? Williams believes it is because the Millennials have so much information at their finger tips. They are quick to “google” the advice and understand the what and the why.

To address the real constraint on cash, practices are increasingly offering treatment options and third party financing to attract and serve Millennials. One vet tells of a young woman whom she describes as a “good pet owner” but who was strapped for cash while in graduate school. This vet made sure that she knew to ask about Care Credit as an option.

Bancroft Pet Hospitals (now owned by Mars) may have started it, but a growing number of veterinary practices are now also offering Wellness Plans in order to help Millennials – and others – manage their pet care costs. Hauser, with Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM, created The Veterinarian Guide to Healthy Pet Plans to help practices move in this direction. She points out that value-driven Millennials are known for finding a way to pay for what they think is important. They want good care for their pets and are prime candidates for a Wellness Plan. Putting their pet care into their monthly budget is like paying for their internet and cell phone each month.

3. Many Millennials Are Committed to Healthy Living.

Some clients are turning to the Internet to find products such as the natural flea and tick control products marketed by Wondercide, which produces products for those wanting to protect their pets without pesticides. Veterinary practices can inform clients through their social media platforms.

Tricia Montgomery created the K-9 Fitness Club in Chicago after she lost 130 lbs exercising with her dog. The Club inspires veterinary practices to encourage exercise to prevent heart disease and diabetes – which plague both clients and patients.

That’s it for today.

~ Carolyn and John

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