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4 Simple Ways to Valuing Your Customer’s Input.

SERVE:  Value Input (fourth of five part series)


I do “value” a good cup of coffee…

Most people have things they value in life. Some folks tend to value stuff – flat screen TVs, cars, heirlooms. Some tend to value traditions and family. Some value the small things life brings – good conversations, good books, a good cup of coffee.

You know what you value by what:

  • you take care of
  • you keep clean
  • you keep in good repair
  • you put time into
  • you invest in
  • you think about
  • you look forward to
  • makes you feel good
  • makes you smile

When we talk about customer service, whether internal or external customers, we all know that we are supposed to listen to our customers. We know that it makes our customers feel good to be heard. Unfortunately, we think that all we have to do to “value input” is to listen to the customer. Do more surveys. Put more questions on the surveys. Be patient when they complain.

But is that really what “value input” means? Is it really only important that we act like we care what the customer says? As with respect and trust – this is a verb that points back to us, not at the customer. To truly “value input” means I am doing something WITH the input, not just gathering the input.  It’s like the old Seinfeld episode where Jerry complains about a restaurant that “took” the reservation but failed to “hold” the reservation. Taking the data is only half the story. Acting on it is the other.

The customer rarely sees you do anything with the input. It means that I treasure the input; treat it as something important to my thought process, to how I act, to my decisions. Valuing input does not mean I do everything the input says, nor does it mean that the person providing the input is always told what I do with it.

Why do I want to “value input”? Because, through time I get better at meeting the needs of my customer.

How, then, do I “value input”. What does that look like?

  1. Change my attitude. I need to go from “asking for input cause everyone says I should”, to “seeking input cause I really want to know”. It is an internal difference that the customer may not be able to discern. Sometimes, we are really great actors. Everyone sees evidence that I value the customer because I take surveys, listen, ask questions. But if my behavior never changes then my decisions are still self-based. I truly “value input” when my behavior changes as a result.
  1. Process the input. Until I put value on the input, I am not willing to process what the input is saying. Without me valuing the input, I won’t be able to filter the input such that the cream rises to the top and the junk sinks to the bottom. Not all input is good, but if I don’t value it, I won’t sort it, and I won’t apply it.
  1. Judge not. When I stop judging the person providing input and start assessing the input, I am placing value on the input. Sometimes great people give poor input, sometimes difficult people give good input. Focus on the input, not the person giving it. What does the input tell you that could improve your deliverable.
  1. Identify the input sources. There are many different forms to get input from. Sometimes verbal (watch for the body language), sometimes written (start reading between the lines), sometimes actions (don’t assume they didn’t need your service, maybe they went around/over/under you) – input can be fluid. Are you actively looking for input even though it isn’t formally called input? If you value something, you grab hold of it whenever you run across it.

If you really want to get better, start putting value on the input you receive. In the end, your customer will be better served.

Now, I could say something corny like, “I value your input, please comment below.”  Instead I’d like to offer you a chance to help make this blog better by answering the question, “What does valuing customer input mean to you?”

kind regards,

You’ve been “served”

SERVE: Show Respect (first of a five part series)

I believe that a key component of a successful leader is serving. Regardless who you are serving (an external or an internal customer) the definition and the actions are the same. Don Flow, CEO of Flow Companies, summed up five ingredients that do a nice job of saying what “serving” means.

Show respect
Earn trust
Reach for perfection
Value input
Energize others

Over the upcoming weeks, I want to share my thoughts on “how” you can put these into practical application in your day-to-day job.

This week we’ll start with: Show Respect

Part of serving others is recognizing that each person has worth. Webster talks about respect as a feeling that something has value, has importance, is good. We all want to feel respected – feel that we have worth, have value, are good. But we are talking about serving others, not feeling good ourselves. It isn’t about how YOU feel, it is about how you make OTHERS feel. People are unique and each has their triggers for feeling respected. What makes you feel respected does not make everyone else feel respected. You may very well believe that your customer has value, are important, are good. That is not the point. It is all about “showing” it in a way that they feel it.

So how do we show respect to others? If everyone is different, can you ever succeed in meeting everyone’s requirement to feel respected? Of course not, but there are a few simple things that will help you make most people feel respected.

1. Know your customer.
Do you know the person well enough to understand what makes them feel valued? Is it words? Is it actions? Is it listening? When in doubt, try all three. Just doing one and hoping for the best is like handing someone a book in the dark. You gave them the book, but they can not see to read the book. You think you showed respect, but they can’t feel it.

2. Follow-up.
Regardless of the person, not following-up, not keeping your promises, are indicators that you don’t care about them. That is universal and is a sure bet — something that you can do for everyone. Even if you do not have the answer your customer is waiting for yet, a quick email to let them know they are not forgotten goes a long way.

3. Words matter.
You may have heard that you act like you dress. Put someone in a suit and they walk and sit different than when wearing jeans and sneakers. I contend the same goes for our words. If you talk about people in the positive, you will act positively toward them. How you talk about people when they aren’t around is a mirror that reflects your level of respect when they are around.

4. Be fair.
If you weigh the options, are fair in your judgement, and communicate the rationale to those involved – you are showing respect. They might not agree with your decision, but will know that you valued them by including them in the assessment/decision.

5. Agree to disagree.
Showing respect does not mean you always give in or always win. It means you discuss and respect differences in opinion. In business, there can be multiple “right” opinions. What greater level of respect is there than acknowledging a difference in opinion?

6. Manners.
Seems simple enough. Manners exist in all cultures to “level the behaviors” such that everyone feels valued. We know what to expect, and what to do. Things like “please and thank you” are simple words that show respect. When in doubt, dust off your manners and use civility to communicate respect.

Let me know how you are “showing respect” for your internal and external customers. I’d love to hear how you are putting the words into action.

kind regards,