Category Archives: B2A

The Delicious Side of Customer Satisfaction

This is a story about M&M’s and customer satisfaction (eventually).

On a dare, someone asked me to name three prominent books on Customer Satisfaction off the top of my head.

Here is my list:

  1. Positively Outrageous Service: How to Delight and Astound Your Customers and Win Them for Life
  2. Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison
  3. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Them Love You, Keep You Coming Back, and Tell Everyone They Know

Yes, I know.  I didn’t list “The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World”. I think you would agree mentioning that book is just too predictable. And who wants to be predictable? After all, everyone knows that the most important question for your company’s future is, “Would you recommend us to a friend?” By simply asking your customers this powerful question you identify detractors who tarnish your reputation, and promoters who strengthen your company with positive word of mouth. This is especially valuable in the day and age of social media and millennials who can both single-handedly fuel or dry up your business.

But knowing who your promoters and detractors are is only half the battle. The other half requires a closed-loop feedback process where you contact your customers to determine their loyalty ratings, determine the next best actions to raise satisfaction and then develop appropriate responses. The result would be energized employees and delighted customers every time.

For me, it is less about the “question” than the focus on your employees being excited to serve the customer. Is it likely? I don’t know. Is it possible? You bet. Let’s find out more.

In “The Service Profit Chain,” authors Heskett, Sasser and Schlesinger spent five years researching the question – why do some firms do what they do well – year in and year out. They discovered links between company profit and growth and key relationships. One of those relationships is employee satisfaction/customer satisfaction. And they discovered that the relationship is mutually reinforcing: satisfied customers contribute to employee satisfaction, and vice-versa. But we are ahead of ourselves.

After reviewing hundreds of companies, the authors concluded that companies must manage the customer-employee “satisfaction mirror” and the customer value equation to achieve a “customer’s eye view’ of goods and services. In its simplest terms, satisfaction is mirrored in the faces of customers and the people who serve them, whether the encounter takes place face-to-face or not. This magical interaction occurs with a great deal of preparation and thought. To achieve this “satisfaction mirror” a company must produce the “employee job description, management policies, supporting technologies and rewards and recognition of the customer.”

For an organization to have satisfied employees, the authors recommend The Cycle of Capability:

  • Careful Employee Selection (and self-selection)
  • High-Quality Training
  • Well-Designed Support Systems (Information & Facilities)
  • Greater Latitude to Meet Customer Needs
  • Clear Limit on , and Expectations of, Employees
  • Appropriate Rewards and Frequent Recognition
  • Satisfied Employees
  • Employee Referrals of Potential Candidates

Outrageous stories about good service leading to customer satisfaction and fanatic loyalty abound.  A favorite of mine is Nordstrom’s, # 88 in Fortunes’ Best Companies to Work For in 2013.  Yes, I am a customer who, with a Tory Burch skirt in hand, needed the rest of the ensemble.  And with a simple question of “what department would you suggest I go to to find a top” I was accompanied for the next 30 minutes by an employee who walked me through every department, picked several tops and waited to weigh in on my choices as I tried them on. Wow! And Nordstrom is doing well financially.

Mars was #95 in favorite places to work this year. Let’s talk M&M’s. 192 million M&M’s in 25 colors are made every 8 hours.  2% are rejected for quality. Mars revenues have doubled in recent years – the customers are clearly happy. And the 1,230 Martians (yes that is what they are called) “adore coming to work”. That’s because the company believes in the “Five Principles of Mars” – quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom. Fortune reported that some unnamed employees are known to eat 1 ½ pounds of free M&M’s a day.

Now that is a cool “satisfaction mirror”!

By, Debra Koenig, President of B2A Consulting | 30 years of experience as a  business executive with leadership and consulting skills in Fortune 500 and private equity portfolio companies.

The Power of Revenue Generation for Managers

When it comes to doing business, every place is different, even from location to location. And yet, there are aspects that are the same in all businesses.

These basic commonalities come to life in the idea of the Power of 3:

  • Revenue Generation
  • Business Processes
  • People

In our everyday vernacular, “revenue” is the top-line for location sales. The more formal definition is income that a company receives from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. And for managers everywhere, this is the frequently checked indicator of their success or failure.

Revenue is a key indicator of business performance; it allows the manager and owner to keep a pulse on where they are headed, what is working and what to watch out for. Adding the cost of revenue completes the picture.

To maximize revenue, successful companies create objectives to drive the right behaviors in their business.  In the Power of 3 these are:

•              Customer Acquisition – attracting new customers

•              Customer Satisfaction – keeping the loyal customers coming back

•              Customer Profitability – making more money on each customer or transaction

According to Guarraia, Carey, Corbett and Neuhaus in “Lean Six Sigma for the Services Industry”, research shows companies that apply an upfront diagnostic to identify critical opportunities yield the biggest gains.

Revenue grows when you analyze the business and identify the biggest opportunities to increase profits, set performance goals as measured against internal and external benchmarks and prioritize areas of improvement and opportunities to yield the greatest economic benefit.

I am reminded of a client who owned a high-volume restaurant within a casino hotel.

To increase revenue, we first, diagnosed the operation and  all agreed we needed a strategy with tactics to increase the customer per person average check (PPA). That was more important than attracting new customers. Why?  Their average spend per customer was well below their competitive set.

By re-engineering their menu and adjusting prices on new menu items to match their competitors they could increase their PPA 10.08%. In addition, they eliminated a “loss leader” breakfast special resulting in lost customers. This was by design – the special was a lot of work for the staff with limited return.

After executing a comprehensive plan against  the Customer Profitability component of P3, the restaurant  exceeded their revenue goal while sustaining a modest customer count decrease. Success!

Examples of other tactics that could be employed include:

1. Customer Acquisition – Differentiation by distinguishing core offerings from the competition and the use of technology and social media to raise awareness

2. Customer Satisfaction – Innovation by enhancing the customer experience through raising loyalty and creating repeat visits

3. Customer Profitability – Adaptation by using deals and pricing while maintaining a value perception, allowing for greater per transaction or sales margins

By executing the Power of 3, companies and their management teams can compete for new customers, improve the customer experience and enhance the customer value perception. These companies benefit greatly by being on the right road to achieving greater revenue.

By, Debra Koenig, President of B2A Consulting | 30 years of experience as a  business executive with leadership and consulting skills in Fortune 500 and private equity portfolio companies.

“There is a better way to do it – find it.” – Thomas Edison

Is the digital or the mobile age focused on doing it a better way?  Technology has improved things in so many ways, but in so many ways it has made our lives more difficult. Regardless, technology is changing so rapidly and is doing such amazing things that we all need to get on the wagon or get left behind.

Michael Porter, the leading authority in strategic planning, states the companies that become best-in-class at fulfilling a particular market niche are the companies that achieve the highest ROI.  In Joan Magretta’s book, “Understanding Michael Porter”, she points out how companies like IKEA, Nucor, Walmart and even McDonald’s found a niche, leveraged that niche and became the unrivaled leader serving that niche.

As companies enter into the technology race, one of their biggest challenges is staying true to why their customers buy from them.  Technology can be very cool, however there is a cost to all the features. If all of the cool additional features you are adding to your products or services aren’t the reason your customer buys from you, then you are just wasting money.  Ultimately you could be losing market share because you are no longer competitive in the areas most important to your customers. Technology can also be overwhelming to us average users.  Sure, we may think we want to experience all of the cool stuff that is available but if it is more difficult or clutters up the original value of using it, then we put it aside altogether. The beauty of many of the Apple products from the iPod to the iPad is the initial ease-of-use and clear simplicity to consume exactly what the user wants.

I speak to this because at my company, Red Book Solutions, we are on the cusp of a major, innovative shift in how our flagship product can be consumed. We are well down the road in developing our mobile/digital application of The Manager’s Red Book.  We purposely delayed this next step because technology just wasn’t in a position to deliver a viable product that could offer the services we believe were core to why people bought from us—until now.  We believe our core value proposition is delivering a tool that helps managers get organized and fully prepared for their day so they can achieve higher levels of profitability in their business or location. The key to why corporations, franchisors, franchisees, location managers and owners buy is that the tools are all about them focusing on their way of doing business. Our 100,000 clients want full customization that is kept current and fresh and is delivered at a price that does not dent their wallets.

Moreover, our product couldn’t be tied down to a clunky machine, it had to be on the move with our managers like it is today. We needed to wait until technology truly became mobile without interruption. We believe a mobile/digital application must not only deliver these core areas but should be robust enough to evolve to continuously make it better.  The Manager’s Red Book has always been a plug-and-play solution. Our mobile/digital solution will be plug-and-play as well. We believe this is critical because most multi-unit location operators do not have the bandwidth to add another extensive training session to their managers’ already overloaded plates.  They need help and results now. We are excited that technology is going to allow us to build the right tool that is even greater at making good managers better.

So technology is pushing us this direction.  What direction is it pushing you?  Porter might suggest that you determine why your customers buy from you and make sure the new ideas you implement are consistent with making this experience best-in-class in your clients’ eyes, not just yours. Don’t spend your time chasing the shiny new gadget or toy that your customers don’t really want.  As Cam Lanier, the CEO of Instawares Holding Company once said to me, “Don’t make dog food the dogs won’t eat!”

By Greg Thiesen, President and CEO, Red Book Solutions and B2A – Over 30 years of experience in various areas – President and CEO of  Red Book Solutions and B2A, Turnaround Specialist with Doering and Eastwood, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer for a major division of Conagra, Inc. and Senior Manager and a Certified Public Accountant with Ernst and Young.

Learn more about the upcoming digital solution and all the changes happening at Red Book in the New Year in this new press release.

It’ll Be Remembered Longer On Paper

Paper lasts the test of time. We have printed documents dating back over two millennial that can still be read and enjoyed today. No system upgrades or hard drive crashes can prevent us from going to a museum and seeing the original Dead Sea Scrolls or Vitruvian Man.   But the timelessness of paper is not reserved for the world’s great masterpieces.  It can be just as important – and practical – for management tools, instruction manuals and employee communications.

Lessons they won’t forget

Let’s face it, you can provide the best training in the world, but if your team doesn’t understand and retain the core concepts or policies, you’ve wasted your time and your investment.

Online programs are one effective training method and can be rolled out to a large workforce simultaneously.  In-person sessions, aided by PowerPoint or other electronic presentation tools are also good ways of getting a message across.  But once your people walk out the door, how sure can you be that they’ve really absorbed your key messages or that they’ll remember them when they need them?

As handy as it can be to have a website with your programs and policies, it’s not always easy to stop what you’re doing, boot up the computer and start searching for an online reference.  This is especially true for managers and employees in retail contexts or for sales forces that are regularly on the road and may not always have easy web access.

Providing after-training materials in a print format is one way to ensure that your team always has important information on hand.  Personally, I often find it easier to flip open a manual, run my finger down the table of contents and find the info I need or quickly refer to a “cheat sheet”.  Many experts will also tell you that it’s not only easier to navigate a printed document but that we actually learn better from print than we do from something on-screen.

Some of these experts argue that it’s because print carries a certain “authority” compared to online information, which makes our brain take it more seriously.  Others attribute it to the ease of navigation of a paper report compared to scrolling (as per my point above).  And yet others say there is a cognitive link between understanding and the physical nature of the printed word.  Whatever the case, the effectiveness of print is something to keep in mind when considering the best method to deliver your important messaging.

Keeping track of your day

When you’re a busy manager, you have a lot to remember.  Every day, we juggle meetings with our staff, bosses, consultants or new customers, not to mention retain a slew of family and private commitments.  The arrival of the electronic scheduler has been a boon in many ways, but it’s also given other people access to our calendars.  How many of us get up in the morning believing we have a relatively free day, only to get to the office and find out we’ve been booked with wall to wall meetings?

A lot of people, myself included, end up printing out their schedule and carrying it around with them to ensure they can keep track of where they need to be, when and with whom.  We often don’t have the opportunity to get back to our desk for hours to check our calendar.  And as much as I love the convenience of my handheld, it’s a lot more subtle sneaking a glance at my printed schedule in a folder than scrolling down its mini-screen to figure out where I have to be next.  Plus, I can just recycle my printed sheet at the end of the day!

A few things worth remembering

So despite my appreciation for the wonders of digital communication, paper continues to play a very important and practical part in my daily role as a manager – whether I’m at a training session, at the office or on the road.  Interestingly, I’ve learned that there may be some science behind my faith in the power of print.

Here are some examples of the thought-provoking conclusions surrounding the power of print to facilitate understanding and information recall.

  • Paper is a better tool for fully assimilating information because you read “more deeply” in print.  This has been attributed to factors such as the ease and speed of visually/spatially locating content on a printed page compared to a screen and the distractions of reading online.
  • Paper matters.  The feeling of literally being in touch with the text is lost when your actions – clicking with the mouse, pointing on touch screens, or scrolling with keys or on touch pads – takes place at a distance from the digital text, which is somehow, somewhere inside the computer, the e-book or the mobile phone.  Less focus speaks to a lack of full understanding and compromises long-term retention of information.
  • Paper is friendly. In a survey of MBA students, 75-80% said that they would not recommend an e-reader for in-class learning because it was too rigid for use in the fast-paced classroom environment.  They noted that you can’t move between pages, documents, charts and graphs easily enough compared to the paper alternatives.  They also pointed out that it’s harder to go back and refer to e-materials later in case you forget a detail.
  • Paper is permanent and portable.  In a very literal and physical sense, paper lasts.  While technology evolves at a dizzying rate, you can keep a printed manual or fact sheet as long as you want and carry it with you just about anywhere.  Plus, it can be easily recycled once it’s served its purpose, which isn’t the case with a lot of electronics.

Based on this work of researchers from around the world – not to mention my own personal experience – I like to draw a parallel between the relative permanence of paper and the longevity of the memories we keep.  While the screen is by nature more temporary, paper can leave a truly lasting impression on your team.

By guest blogger Kathy Wholley | Director of Advertising & Communications at Domtar. In this role, she is responsible for the marketing communications and advertising functions of Domtar’s pulp & paper business.  Additionally, she manages environmental communications on behalf of the business, which includes the Domtar EarthChoice® brand.  Kathy is also responsible for Domtar’s paper advocacy campaign known as “Paper Because”, which was launched in 2010 and was meant to demonstrate paper’s value to businesses and people that use paper every day. Kathy has 21 years of experience in the paper industry in a variety of sales and marketing positions with Willamette Industries, Weyerhaeuser and Domtar. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Clemson University.

Kathy is an experienced manager who also heads Domtar’s Paper Because initiative which highlights the key role paper plays in our lives and the reasons why it’s an environmentally sound choice.

What makes a manager NAUGHTY or NICE?

As we look ahead to planning for successes in the New Year, and reflect on our shortcomings from this year, it’s important to consider what makes us naughty or nice as managers. Is it the time and attention we pay to employee retention and training? Is it the way we setup our operations to be organized and compliant within our select industries? Or maybe, it’s simply how we strive to evolve as managers and as human beings.

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” –John Maxwell

With that in mind, let’s refocus during this final stretch of the year on our potential and what we can do to feed it and help it grow. Among my many personal goals as the year wraps up is to give re-energized concentration to the important items on my list and let the rest go. This one goal has continued to challenge me throughout this past year, as projects come and go that test my resolve to focus on the primary goals of my position and not get sidetracked for too long. My resolution for this last leg of the year is to give my absolute attention to the long-term goals that I believe will bring me the most success in the New Year. If you stop to think about where you are in your goals for the year, what should you focus on before the clock tolls 2013?

Now you may be wondering, “Where will I start?” PRACTICE THE ONE-A-DAY PRINCIPLE. You can’t please everybody all the time but you can do something extraordinary for one person each day (and maybe that person is yourself!).“Find a customer, colleague, relative or friend each day and do something remarkable. Using the one-a-day principle will make your business and life remarkable.”—Mark Sanborn, leadership development speaker and author of the best-selling book The Encore Effect.

Next, start prepping for the New Year – GET ORGANIZED! If disorder has been plaguing your progress this year, now is the time for fall cleaning. Instead of spring cleaning when you’re wiping away cob webs and dusting dark corners, fall cleaning should focus on aligning processes and tasks you attack regularly with a system that can help you stay on top of them. For the managers who utilize the Manager’s Red Book or its companion products, that system may already be in place, but there is always room for improvement.

Finally, STOP USING THE “BAD THING” LABEL. Whenever something happens that is not in line with our desires it’s okay to be disappointed. What we need to stop doing is labeling it a “bad thing” because usually, failures breed your next big success. This is how we learn and grow. “When Greyston Bakery filled its first order for brownies for Ben & Jerry’s, the thin brownie sheets stuck together in 50-pound lumps and could not be separated. You could certainly label this a “bad thing.” But Ben pondered what to do and ultimately Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream was born— one of Ben & Jerry’s most popular products. So don’t stick “bad thing” on whatever happens to you that you don’t like initially. Who knows, that may be the very thing that you need to break out into a brilliant new future.” —Srikumar Rao, professor teaching personal mastery and the best-selling author of Are You Ready to Succeed?

The bottom lines is, prepare to excel next year by taking stock of this year and then charge forward. I keep asking myself: What battles did I fight and not win this year? Are any of those battles worth continuing? Why didn’t I win them and what can I do to win them next year? When you find the answers to these questions, you are ready to face a new year – tougher, smarter and stronger than ever before. See you on the other side!

SPECIAL NOTE: To help managers meet their goals for a brighter New Year, we’ve launched a promotion that offers opportunities to win great prizes just for trying a new Red Book product or adding a new location. Learn more at – the contest deadline is December 31st and there are multiple ways to participate to get extra entries into the prize drawing.

By, Danielle Lafontaine, Marketing Communications Manager, Red Book Solutions | 5 Years – Digital & Traditional Marketing Copywriter with Ad Agency and Corporate Marketing Experience | Social Media Guru & Community Builder with B2B and B2C Chops

New Hiring Pitfalls to Watch Out For

With the approaching holiday season, organizations may be looking to add staff.  Unless you’re new to your job, you’ve probably done some interviewing and hiring and may be comfortable with your processes and ability to bring in new staff.

As with all processes, it never hurts to review them to be sure they are current, effective and comply with any changed regulatory conditions. Recent trends may cause you to reconsider some of the ways you conduct your interviewing and hiring activities.

Resume fraud: If candidates for high profile positions like the CEO of Yahoo or the head football coach at Notre Dame University do it, you can bet lots of others embellish their resumes (or outright lie!).  Statistics vary but you can assume that some percentage of candidates have created resumes or provided applications with:

  • Information that is misleading
    • Claims of false degrees
    • Altered employment dates
    • Inaccurate job descriptions
    • Inflated salary claims
    • Falsified references

Take the time to verify employment and educational credentials if they are required qualifications for the position.  Ask interview questions to uncover places where a candidate might have stretched the truth.

Interview questions: Although you may be an expert in what’s legal to ask and what might open you up to claims of employment discrimination, be sure you’ve trained anyone else who interviews for you about what can and can’t be discussed in an interview. It may be tempting to break the ice with questions about family or other interests, but if the conversation reveals protected information (even if volunteered by the candidate), it can come back to bite you.  Keep all questions job-related to be safe.

Social media information: After it got a lot of bad press a couple years ago, I doubt anyone is requiring candidates to reveal their Facebook passwords so the prospective employer can check them out, but it isn’t uncommon these days for hiring managers to check out candidates on Google, Facebook or LinkedIn.  Savvy candidates know enough to scrub their profiles for any information that may harm their chances for future employment, but they might not remember to remove information about groups they may belong to – religious, health, political or social information that may be protected under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines and may not be appropriate for prospective employers to consider in making hiring decisions.

I don’t generally check out Facebook, but I do look at LinkedIn for some positions and usually Google the companies a candidate has worked for.  I discovered that one candidate’s most recent employer was part of Colorado’s legal medical marijuana industry.  I didn’t make an employment decision based on that information, but it was helpful to have so I could ask questions about the job’s responsibilities in the challenging field he worked in.

Background checks: If resumes can be falsified and you have to be careful about social media sites, using a service to check someone’s background is a good idea, right? Except that one firm recently agreed to pay a $2.6 million fine for failing to ensure the accuracy of the information it was providing.  Accusations against background screening firms include confusing people with similar names, listing one offense multiple times and failing to get updates that may show previously reported information was inaccurate or has been changed.  In addition, if you require credit checks, you will want to show why that information is related to the position you are hiring for (restaurant servers who handle customer credit cards may need to be screened, but the restaurant dishwasher or marketing intern may not).  And a new Fair Credit Reporting Act notice will be effective in 2013, so be sure you are using the right forms.

E-Verify: I’ve used this system for years and find it quick, simple and reliable.  Incorporate this into your other on-boarding activities if you haven’t already.  It’s no more cumbersome than getting a completed W-4 or emergency contact information and it can save you from being the subject of an audit later on. You don’t need to be an expert on immigration issues to use the system, and if you have any government contracts (check with your state as those rules vary), you may be obligated to use it.  In Colorado, the Division of Labor also requires an Affirmation of Legal Status form (recently updated for October 2012) in addition to the I-9 confirmation.

The amount of effort you put into formulating the job description, posting it, screening and interviewing, plus the months of training to successfully on-board a new employee are just some of the challenges in recruiting and hiring the right candidates. You can make it a whole lot easier on yourself by paying attention to your process.  You can have confidence that you’re following the law and making good decisions.

By, Nancy Lane, Human Resource Manager at Red Book Solutions and B2A, LLC – 30 years of experience in education, medical imaging, oil & gas and business services.

Breaking Process with Real Life Training

First, we hire. Then we train on processes designed before the person was even with the company. Finally, we let our employees go free, continuing to implement the processes on their own.

Processes are great. They allow us to define job roles, always know the next step and tie up loose ends. However, those processes can take on a life of their own and employees find loop holes – or rather short cuts, that can be detrimental to the organization’s real goals.

After the training process is over, when should you check in with that person to make sure they are using, and remember, all of the tools you gave them to do their job?

Real life may have changed since the position was defined. It’s important to check in with your employees to determine what they think should change based on what they do every day. Are the scripts they were trained with relevant? What road blocks are they encountering that weren’t discussed in training?

Your job as a manager is to assist in making your employees better. Challenging your employees to improve their job is a great way to retain a great employee. Continuing training throughout employment will not only make your employees better, but it increases productivity and decreases turnover rates. Whether it’s retraining an employee on a program, implementing a new task, or updating processes to better assist the employee and customer; training employees keeps them engaged.

How is this done? Once you’ve decided to do some additional training with your team:

  • Schedule a meeting with each person on your team
  • Discuss what challenges they have
  • Identify  which processes they would like to see updated
  • Determine their interests in learning something new
  • Put in place a follow-up meeting to share what was discovered and what actions have or will be taken

Part of my job as a Training Manager is to make sure that our training restaurants are up to par. I discussed how to do that with my supervisor. My first suggestion was to visit each, about 65, in every part of the country myself – If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself…right? No, that was unrealistic and expensive. So we determined the best course was to enlist our field staff. The way my predecessors and I were handling the training stores was not efficient, and in some cases not effective for the learner going through training. My boss and I talked about the important days in training and where we needed to set expectations for the learner and mentor relationship. We decided the regional field person would be in the training store the first and last days of training. This has been helpful all around and our regional field team has been completely open to it.

Your job will be to decide what you think needs to improve.  You can ask your team to give you a draft of a new process or ideas to make their jobs more efficient and effective. Review it. Make changes. Train it.

There are so many things that change the way we do our jobs every day. As managers, we have to realize that change is important to the overall productivity of the team. Taking the time to check in with them on how they do their job and not what they’re doing, will give you a great team of people committed to coming to work with a positive attitude.

By guest blogger Christina Sorrillo, Training Manager in the restaurant industry, professional business organizer, event planner, blogger…and life lover! Christina is currently a Training Manager at Quiznos. Previously she was a Customer Relations Manager at Land Rover AutoNation and Customer Relations Manager at Northridge Toyota. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado.