Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reputation Management

Are you managing your reputation, or is your reputation managing you?

Where do you look to find out what others are saying about you?

If there are negative assessments, what can you do to fix them?

Reputation management has become one of the most valuable and confounding tools businesses face. At one time, a company’s reputation was based on word-of-mouth amongst small parties and, on larger scales, in magazine and newspaper write-ups. Now that nearly every consumer with a computer is a critic with potential to wreak wide-spread havoc, eliminating negative opinions of one’s company is vital to success.

Negative feedback can be difficult and nearly impossible to remove. Once a customer has a bad experience with a company, that one bad experience can can cause a lot more than just headaches to the business; it can cost real dollars and cents in lost business and lost opportunities from those who use word of mouth to determine where their hard earned paychecks are spent. It can take years for a company with a bad reputation to recover, and many do not recover at all.

The best way for a company to manage its reputation is not to try to repudiate the negativity, but to address it head on by improving those poor practices. Better still, a company can discover where their problems lie in the first place and alter the problems before they become a part of the company’s identity. This can involve spotting a poorly functioning product, understanding when services are not up to par, and possibly most importantly, knowing when one’s customer service staff is performing below acceptable standards.

Finding customer service issues can take little time and effort if given the right approach. Molloy Business Development helps companies find their weaknesses by listening to actual calls and by mystery shopping. This gives the company the best idea of what problems exist and how they can be best addressed, on an individual basis and as a whole. When a company is proactive, they can stop a negative reputation before it gets started.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Avoiding the Trap of the Rearview Mirror

Looking back to the past while driving a business into tomorrow is like cruising down the highway using only a rearview mirror.

Most business executives can easily generate a myriad of financial and operational reports to be debated and deliberated in a series of endless management meetings. As the economy tanks, business leaders use these reports to trim overhead, shutter stores, and lay off staff in an effort to stay in business. Additionally, they study the bottom line and plan changes designed to grow profits and increase revenue down the road. Unfortunately for most of these professionals, this data, though useful, does not supply some key information critical to the future success of the company.

Management professionals may not understand commerce is generated when people exchange commitments with one another over the course of business conversations. Since commerce is generated during these business conversations, any and all financial reports are representative of the effectiveness of the communication skills of the individuals within the company. The problem facing most organizations is, they rely on the financial reports without accurately assessing the conversational competence of the members of their staff. For example, if a company engages in 1,000 sales conversations each month with an overall closing percentage of 20 percent, the company has successfully completed 200 sales. The financials are generated by the literal sales numbers, but this doesn't assess the reasons why the remaining 800 calls didn't produce any sales. Furthermore, the financials do not assess the competence of the salespersons that were successful. The data, as such, is incomplete.

Additionally, although many companies record customer service and sales conversations, they lack the distinctions needed to make grounded assessments about the conversations that generate the numbers. This lack of data about the language that creates the very essence of the company inhibits even the most well-meaning of business managers from planning the future in the most effective way. By planning only through the study of past data without assessing communications competence in the future, business leaders are in effect driving their company forward while looking into the rear view mirror—a dangerous way to drive both a vehicle and a business.

Management needs to be able to look into their company person by person, as well as branch by branch, to accurately assess the competence of their staff. The simplest assessment should be based on coordinating action successfully. For instance, sales and customer service staff need to be able to coordinate action with customers and prospects, while managers and operational staff need to be able to coordinate action internally.

Assessing competence in the domain of communication necessitates we have core distinctions upon which we base our assessments, and can fix problem areas we encounter. For instance, measuring a person's ability and understanding about how to "build trust and credibility" and how to design conversations which "produce the desired action" is a starting point.

This naturally leads to questions about designing with language. In addition to moving our bodies, all we have to generate revenues in our business is "language." So a good question to ask is, "What is the language that produces trust?" Another one would be, "How do you design conversations that produce productive action between two or more people?"

Additionally, core distinctions such as "What constitutes a great customer service call?" and "What constitutes a great effort with a new prospect during a sales call?" are central to being able to project the likelihood of future success. If leaders, managers, coaches, and trainers can't articulate the standards and demonstrate how they need to be applied in the future, odds are good the future won’t be what you want.

Typically, business leaders articulate a clear vision about what the future of the company looks like. They lay out new products, policies, and procedures for handling financial transactions. Where the rubber meets the road, however, is in the sales, customer service, and operational conversations. In these areas, the ability to assess competence generally does not exist.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Information Overload

Several months ago, I received a telephone call from my insurance provider. They wanted me to enroll in the healthy pregnancy plan, a program that offered health tips and advice to pregnant women. It was explained to me that I would be mailed a package of information about my pregnancy, that I would get a phone call at the end of each week to find how my pregnancy was progressing, and that I would have access to a web site and a 24-hour hotline that was manned by nurses who were there chiefly to assist me with my medical questions. I signed myself up and happily hoped I would not need the tools, but was glad to have them at my disposal.

Insurance companies are never the picture of excellent customer service, and the nursing hotline left a great deal to be desired. The first and only time I called the hotline, I had been having a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen. I checked the web site and read all the information I could find before dialing the number. The nurse who answered the phone was friendly enough, but that was where her telephone skills ceased. Once I told her my problem, she was silent for several minutes except to answer in the affirmative when I queried if she were still on the line. When she did begin speaking, she spoke in a monotone, repeating verbatim the words on the web page that was still in front of me. When I asked a more specific question, she answered, "This is all it says." I questioned what "it" was, and her answer was indeed the same web site to which I already had access. A few moments later, I politely thanked her, hung up, and continued searching the web before calling my own physician.

The problem with the setup is not just the fact that the information given was vague language packaged as highly personalized advice, it was also the lack of training on part of the nurse on call. Indeed I had access to the same information she did, but she also had the knowledge and the training to explain to me what I could not have known without her expertise. Whereas I'm sure she was a fine medical provider, she simply lacked the skill to communicate with me effectively, In fact, she left me more frustrated that I was before I called. Do I blame the nurse? Absolutely not. I instead blame those in charge of the program for not seeing the necessity in communication skills. They looked at their employees as nothing more than human computer terminals, relaying information while avoiding any real human interaction. Entire industries function in this way, not realizing that they would profit greatly from a true commitment to interact with others.

Molloy Business Development Group offers training that enhances communication with customers, prospects, and colleagues, not to mention family and friends. Call Molloy Business Development Group at (877) 212-6001 to learn about the "Language of Commitment" and how it can aid you in creating lasting relationships through the use of language. You can also visit the Molloy web site at

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Controversially Yours

It seems that every few months a controversial issue finds its way to the mainstay of news headlines, office chatter, and the minds of anyone and everyone who is 'in the know.' Whether it is gun control, health care reform, or recent changes to the lawbooks in Arizona, everyone has an opinion and nearly everyone wants their opinions heard.

While it can be interesting, entertaining, and even educational to discuss these matters, it is wise to not approach controversial topics at the office. Everyone knows this, but not everyone can implement their knowledge, particularly when an issue is vitally important or personal to them. Still, heated issues should be left alone at all costs, but how does one respond to discussion of hot button issues in an office setting? Observe the following exchange between a CSR and his superior.

Johnny: Good morning, Mr. So-and-so!
Mr. So-and-so: Good morning, Johnny! Did you see the headlines today? What do you think about the whole immigration issue?

How should Johnny respond? However Johnny feels about immigration is secondary to performing an excellent job and representing his company well. One cannot do so if personal issues and politics interfere with daily life. There are a number of ways Johnny could choose to handle the conversation without embroiling himself in a debate that could lead to harsh words and a tense atmosphere. Read on:

Johnny: I rarely look at news stories these days, Mr. So-and-so. I'm too busy concentrating on my career.

Change of Subject
Johnny: I didn't see anything about immigration, but I did see an interesting piece on Lindsay Lohan. Did you know she's a blonde now?

Johnny: I'd rather not discuss political issues in the office, boss. It might make some people feel uncomfortable.

The method you choose should be based on the situation and the individual at hand. For instance, some may feel put off by the 'frank' response, believing that they are being insulted in some way. On the other hand, some may not be swayed by the change of subject and would appreciate a more forthcoming attitude. It is up to you to decide which style to employ, whether you're communicating with your boss, your colleague, or a prospective customer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Frustration: A Cautionary Tale

I am frustrated. I am short on time, short on sleep, and short on patience. As a working mom to a four year old and a two month old, who gets not a moment to rest, I find my nerves wearing thin at the slightest provocation. The last few weeks have been trying at best. I am getting three hours of sleep on a good night and yet the work never ends. I am frustrated, and my frustration comes out not just through my written words, not just through my body language, but also through the tone of voice and choice of verbiage I use when talking with my business partners, my family, and my friends.

I noticed the frustration in my voice a few days ago. I traveled with my family to Chicago, driving with the kids in the backseat, screaming and crying, and my husband and I had a heart to heart about what we could do to help us both overcome the frustration. I said that I wanted to start running again, but I simply don't have the time. He said that he would like to read more and had hoped that when he chose to be a college professor he would have summers to study and grow, but now that he is writing book number four, he hasn't the time either. We were at a crossroads and felt that we were doomed to feel this frustration forever.

After much though, it occurred to us that it is not the cause of the frustration that needs to be altered, but our reactions to it. I had taken snapping at my family and letting my temper spill over into my work life, which was not helping anyone; least of all me. Why then, would I continue on the same path? Why keep behaving in the same manner if nothing positive was coming from it? That's when I decided to take a deep breath and not internalize the frustration, but to communicate it.

This is where language is vital. Whether I am speaking to my eight-week old daughter or to a prospective business partner, the words I choose have meaning and depth. By using the first words that come to my mind, I may be performing a grave disservice to myself and to everyone else. Instead of rolling my eyes at my daughter and saying, "I don't know what's wrong! Stop screaming!" I instead say, "This is frustrating for me, because I don't know what's wrong, but I am here for you and we will work through this together." Believe it or not, this works for me. I literally feel the frustration slipping away when I use calm, meaningful words to communicate. And when I really assess how I feel, and share the root of my frustration, the words are carried by the air and the problem seems to have less weight. Believe it or not, this can translate into any type of communication. A client or business colleague who is frustrating because they are asking too much, they don't understand you, or if you are simply having a bad day and are projecting on them, can be given a great gift simply by hearing what you are truly thinking and feeling - so long as your words are chosen carefully and precisely. Frustration does not have to be a way of life.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Conversations That Run Your Business

The importance of discovering which recurrant conversations drive your business.

The fact that we are creatures of language should be no surprise, but how many of you can identify the specific and recurring conversations that run your business and determine the success of your company?

Most business executives I know show up on the job, open up for business, and the chatter begins. The phone rings off the hook and sales people and CSRs handle many thousands of calls with prospects, customers, vendors, business associates, and the home office in a blur of activity we sum up as the ‘Chaos of Commerce.'

Click image for full-sized view.

No business or department is immune from the craziness. In fact, the crazier things get, the better we seem to do. The problem and challenge, from my studied observation, is that there are usually only a few recurrent conversations that really drive the business and our sales and operations staff get lost in the shear volume of chaos, data, e-mail, and seemingly endless verbal chatter. In other words, the chaos clouds the picture and gets in the way of effective customer service and operations.

Case in point; we perform ‘Call Audits’ for clients whereby we ‘x-ray’ remote branches or an internal division, by recording all their inbound phone calls for a week or two. Then we report back on the types of calls they are handling on a daily and weekly basis. It’s a revealing and extremely useful process for clients committed to improving the coordination internally and/or with customers.

For instance, in a recent Call Audit for a client on the west coast who was having problems with the performance of a remote branch, we discovered that:

1. Over a two week period between February 21 and March 6, they received 452 inbound calls into the branch.
2. All the calls were made up of 89 different types of conversations.
3. Exactly 30% of all the calls were deemed to be sales opportunities
4. 19.9% were other types of requests from prospects and customers, such as directions etc.
5. 46.9% were other types of calls altogether that had nothing to do with sales. These include;
a. No answer – missed calls – 16.15% (this was a huge realization to the client)
b. Personal
c. Corporate office
d. General information – address, directions etc.
e. Telemarketers
f. Other employees
g. Delivery calls
h. Etc.
6. 2.7% were other types of sales opportunities, for products and services not currently offered by the client.

The big news is this:

1. Since only 30% of the total volume of calls were sales opportunities, 70% of the call volume tends to overshadow or cloud the picture and the efforts of the thinly staffed branch.
2. One huge problem was the fact that 16.15% of the calls were not answered.
3. 44.58% of all the sales opportunities were for a specific type of product.
a. 13.9% were for another major produce and 11.02% for another.

In closing, this Call Audit allowed us to focus immediate training around the types of conversations that are really responsible for the bulk of the sales. We were able to design a training program around:

A. Improving employee competence at servicing customers and prospects within the Chaos of Commerce
B. Focus training and coaching on the four to six sales and customer service conversations that literally drive the business.

This type of measurement allows for rapid growth in sales and customer service competence and shows clients which core products and services to focus the advertising spend on.

We would be happy to perform a cost effective call audit for your company or department within your company.

Call: 877-212-6001 to make arrangements.

Dan Molloy
President / CEO

SAMPLE REPORT; Follow this link to see a sample Call Audit report from the automotive tire and repair industry. Audits can  be done for any company or department within the company.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarah Palin, Sandra Bullock, and Lady Gaga to Sue Toyota

Decoding, Deciphering, and Devising Hooks to Get Your Business Noticed

My morning routine is fairly simple. I get up, take a shower, make a cup of tea, and hit the news sites before I start my work day in earnest. Like most people, I skim the headlines and only read the stories that I find most interesting. Some stories speak to me personally, such as those about children's product recalls or Midwest weather reports. Others draw me in because of my profession: if a company of any size or type has seen a great profit or loss due to a new business practice, I want to know. But many of the stories simply hook me in because of clever titles, that may or may not have anything to do with the story itself.

Donor Sues Tea Party Organizer of Palin's Fee -

As a politically minded American citizen, I saw the headline and thought, hey - now that's interesting. Why would a Tea Party donor sue over Sarah Palin? How could a donor sue over money that's been given? What is the Tea Party up to now? Of course, the story has very little to do with the former Alaskan governor and is mostly about the give and take regarding political contributions. The headline is not dishonest, but it is misleading. Most importantly? It works. The news site has found a way to take a portion of an incident (Long story short: The convention organizer agreed to join the donor's committee if the donor paid half of Palin's speaking fee. Once the organizer received funds he backed out of the committee, therefore the donor decided to sue.) and twist it into headline making news.

Meat Linked to Climate Change? -

No, is the answer to this question. In this case, CNN has chosen to provide a headline on its main page that does not even match the story it links to. The article's title "Scientist: Don't Blame Cows for Climate Change" actually gives us the exact opposite sentiment as the chosen front page headline. Why make the change? It's simple, really. CNN's marketing experts are well aware that people become exercised when told that their everyday practices can cause destruction to the planet as a whole. By placing the actual headline on the home page, CNN would give those same individuals the satisfaction of knowing they can consume their hamburgers with a healthy conscience - without clicking the link.

The lesson you can learn from these examples is up to you. Do you want to focus on a small but important piece of your business, hoping to draw customers in? Do you wish to tempt fate by misleading customers in order to make them more interested in your business. Either choice is risky, as you may find yourself with a possible client base that now feels they may not be able to rely on your company, though if accomplished in an intelligent way, you may also be able to spread word of your company's name in a unique and memorable fashion.

There is yet one example of hooks that worked that we have not covered:

Microsoft Office Faces Challenges from Free Google Tools - Wall Street Journal

The story is about Microsoft Office facing challenges from free tools offered by the search engine giant, Google. Just as the headline states, the article covers the new worries that Microsoft has to combat in order to continue selling its ever growing suite of programs. This type of hook works as the content is interesting to most people and we can trust that we will not be surprised by a misleading headline. Conversely, the headline may not be as catchy as some others, therefore not bringing in quite as many viewers.

Which route will you take when promoting your business? The choice you make is up to you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Relating to the Female Customer

I am a woman. I am an intelligent, independent, strong woman. I am also a pregnant woman. Perhaps most importantly, I am a customer. A question you should be asking yourself is, how do you relate to me? With a new baby on the way, I have spent a great deal of the last few months speaking with a variety of salespeople. From bathroom remodels to maid services, I have been overwhelmed by the differences from one salesperson to another. Aware as I am that different techniques work best with different customers, I also find myself desperately wanting to help these individuals improve their sales techniques so that they don't turn off customers the way many have done with me.

Listen To Me
The first thing a salesperson should be taught is to listen to their customers. Use the time I am speaking to listen to the words I am saying, not to decide what your next line should be. Sound simple enough? It's surprisingly rare to find a salesperson who is willing to take five minutes to listen to a customers needs and desires. For example, my husband and are searching for a new automobile. Though most people like leather interiors, I am adamantly anti-leather and have stated as much to each car dealer we have encountered, yet on many occasions we have been shown a vehicle with leather seats. I may not wear hemp jewelry or tie-dyed shirts, but I have been vegetarian for over 15 years and the idea of sitting on a dead animal is not appealing to me in any way, shape, or form. When I tell a salesperson that I am not interested in leather, I expect to be kept away from leather.

Personalize, But Don't Over Personalize
Relating to the customer is one thing, but getting overly involved in their lives is something else entirely. I am very clearly pregnant, which always invites a number of polite questions. It does not, however, invite belly rubs (please don't) and it most certainly does not invite the salesperson to tell his or her own stories about miscarriage and other frightening aspects of pregnancy. One furniture salesperson asked who our doctor was, then spent the following 10 minutes telling us that we were wrong to have chosen our particular hospital. We walked out and made that particular purchase online.

Drop the Commitment Issues
I have been waiting for two weeks for painters to show up. I should have known when they arrived 15 minutes late to give the estimate that the job would not be started on time, but I made my choice based solely on price; a mistake I will not make again. If you, as a salesperson or service provider, have made a commitment to your client, do everything in your power to follow through or at least have a very valid excuse for not showing. Emergencies arise, any reasonable person should understand that, but if said emergency has arisen, relate that to your clients and make a new commitment that you'll be able to keep.

The Little Lady Technique
One item that I must absolutely mention is something I like to call "The Little Lady Technique." This is most often used by car dealers, but can be employed by any gentleman who is performing a service that is not typically considered "female friendly." The assumption is that the "little lady" doesn't know much about cars/plumbing/HVAC systems, therefore the salesperson in question can speak as though he is explaining quantum physics to a six year old. I may not look like it, but I was raised by a very handy father who insisted that I know how to perform duties from laying carpet to installing electrical outlets. Perhaps it works with some women, but when a salesperson assumes that I know nothing about whatever item is being peddled, be it goods or services, I extract my business immediately.

The fact is, a one size fits all approach CAN work with customers, but not in the same way most salespersons have been taught. By making assumptions about customers based on appearances or other superficial factors, salespersons could be throwing away business. Conversely, by obeying some simple sales rules, a lifetime sales relationship can be forged.

Deidra Lookingbill is Director of Marketing for Molloy Business Development Group as well as a working mother and conscientious consumer. You can reach Deidra Lookingbill at

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't be stupid in 2010

"Companies spend 95% of their marketing budget on making the phone ring and only about 5% on what to do when it does" - source unknown

Here's the reality folks and my statement is based on 10 years research and the analysis of more than 40,000 recorded sales calls in a wide variety of industries.

Incompetence is the standard in American business.

"Most sales people are not competent with respect to the two most important skills required to be characterized as a good sales person and to achieve lasting success. First, they do not know how to build trust and credibility on a consistent basis and secondly, they do not know how to make commitments and ask for commitments".

This incompetence shows up on a daily basis in our analysis of recorded sales calls in the following ways;

  • Sales people think that just because a prospect asks for a price on the phone they are obliged to give one.
  • As with prices, sales people spend countless hours talking about technical issues without attempting to create a relationship with the prospect. Again, customers ask for information and sales people feel obliged to simply hand it over.
  • Sales people consistently fail to make sincere commitments and personal promises, yet these two moves are exactly what prospects and customers are looking for. It is clear to me that sales people are simply blind with respect to the dance of commitment. They've never been trained. Not in their family, not in the community and not in business.
  • Sales people regularly push prospects and customers away because they have a lack of energy and a 'why bother' attitude. They don't understand that every prospect and customer senses exactly what is going on with them and reacts accordingly. Nothing is hidden.

    I could write for hours about what is missing in the domain of sales, customer service and leadership, however I want to get the point that is the title of this blog post.

    Don't be stupid in 2010

    You need to think of your business they way that a professional sports team approaches the season. The only difference is that you have a game every day.

    Here's what I mean.

    Would the World Champion NY Yankees show up on the field without practicing? Of course not, but sales people throughout the country show up every day without a clue. They open their mouth and whatever happens to come out is ok with them and most of the time with their company.

    If you are going to put a sales person up to bat with a new prospect, you need to make certain that they can hit the ball... close the deal... make and ask for commitments.

    If you allow them to show up in an unprepared manner, if you don't make sure they are competent... then guess who is being stupid. And it doesn't have to be that way.

    What comes first?

    Business people ask me all the time, "what comes first... the chicken or the egg? And what they're referring to is, "What do I do first, expand advertising initiatives or train my people?"

    As far as I'm concerned, we can get most sales teams to the next level in about eight (8) weeks, so the answer has got to be A.) set standards in the sales department, train your people, develop competence first B.) then spend your hard earned money on advertising.
    You'll enjoy putting your staff up to bat when they are confident and competent.

    Be smart in 2010

    Call me I'll show you how easy it is to get your entire sales staff up to speed... quickly.