LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

July 2022
Volume 18, Issue 7

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Below find this month’s newsletter, hot off the press!

  • Special Message: Are Your Business Policies Enchanting or Repelling Your Customers?

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Note from the Author

A Prescription for Boosting Your Value

Happy customers jumping for joy
Today’s issue is about the quality of your products and services, and a recognition that as you increase quality, you also increase the value your customers perceive in your offerings. Perceived value ranks highly among the factors that people use to make buying decisions.

Therefore, the more you can enhance the perceived and actual value of your offerings, the more proudly and confidently you can market them to your audiences. Your brand promise can proclaim the extra distance you traveled to ensure complete customer satisfaction with your products and services.

More than simply offering a refund policy for dissatisfied buyers, youre staking out the other end of the spectrum — which is the value of building quality into what you offer, from the ground up. Doing this effectively should galvanize your customers’ loyalty and enable you to quickly bypass your competition.

With these ideas in mind, I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and please leave your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Are Your Business Policies Enchanting or Repelling
Your Customers?

Not sure? Well, imagine a customer who’s been with your company for a long time without any complaints. Today, however, he finally has a reason to contact your customer service department because of what appears to be a billing error. He assumes the problem will be promptly corrected and he’ll go on his merry way.

Instead, your customer service rep recites a long, convoluted procedure he’ll need to go through to rectify the issue, to the customer’s astonishment. What? Why?

The representative explains it by saying, “I’m sorry, but that’s our policy and we have to follow it.” Abruptly, the situation becomes rather awkward. Why must the customer jump through those hoops — especially for a problem he didn’t cause?

That procedure might be driven by an arcane control issue in your company — or perhaps by a legitimate business requirement. But your customer doesn’t know what’s behind it. In this all-too-common scenario, he tries to offer suggestions, but is rebuffed by the equally flustered employee who seems unreceptive to his ideas.

Extremely frustrated customerThe customer thinks, “Why aren’t they open to my suggestions? Don’t they believe my opinions have value? My complaint is valid, my ideas are good, but if they don’t want to listen to them, I’ll take my business elsewhere!”

At his wit’s end, the customer asks to speak to a supervisor. But the representative balks at the request and even argues against it.

Finally, when the customer threatens to end his relationship with the organization right then and there, the representative reluctantly summons her manager. What just happened in this situation?

Let’s face it — gaps and holes in policies and procedures can surface every day. In those situations, what your policies enable your staff to do can make the difference between keeping and losing a customer.

Those things include:

  1. Sympathizing with customer concerns and apologizing for inconveniences.
  2. Explaining why the policy exists if it reflects a type of customer protection.
  3. Offering instant alternatives to solve the issue and diffuse any frustration.
  4. Actively recording customer concerns for ongoing system improvements.
  5. Making complaint escalation quick and painless.

Read on for more compelling discoveries regarding customer satisfaction...

Feature Article

Quality in Perception vs. Quality in Fact
by Adele Sommers

Glass of water

What’s the value of perception? Isn’t it interesting how our perceptions rule our beliefs and actions? So much of the brain research today seems to support the idea that our perceptions define our reality.

For that reason, this article focuses on the role of perception in the minds of consumers. Is the glass half empty or half full? The definition resides in your customers’ eyes!

People Perceive Quality in Many Ways

Regardless of how good you believe your offerings or project solutions are, your clients and customers will be responding to quality in perception even more than quality in fact.

  • Quality in fact refers to the features that we believe we’re paying for, such as how much something weighs, how fast it runs, or various other characteristics.
  • Quality in perception refers to things like courtesies, special considerations, a caring and personalized attitude, and a host of other subtleties that can lead us to believe we’re receiving something above and beyond what we’re paying for. Thus, effective quality in perception can help compensate for any gaps in quality in fact that could otherwise irritate or inconvenience consumers.

Often, Perceived Value Is Not about Cost

Some years ago, I volunteered as a mediator in Small Claims Court. Over several months, I was truly fascinated by the number of complaints that involved alleged wrongdoing or incompetence. People were suing businesses such as termite services and auto body painters, and even former best friends and healthcare providers over a variety of grievances! The suits often sought fairly small amounts of compensation, which meant that the costs involved were not the primary concern.

Mediation sessionWhat repeatedly emerged in the mediation sessions was that each plaintiff felt that the vendor, service provider, healthcare provider, or ex-friend had not listened to his or her concerns.

Those plaintiffs frequently believed that their complaints about perceived shortcomings in services, products, or communications had simply been dismissed.

Had the defendants in these cases initially offered something as basic as a sincere apology — and had they made a concerted effort to communicate, while also taking timely remedial action — I believe that the resulting quality in perception could have prevented many of these lawsuits, even if the quality in fact still left something to be desired.

Compelling Proof of the Power of Apologies

As the New York Times reported years ago, sincere, heart-felt apologies coming from doctors, surgeons, and hospitals who made serious medical mistakes have the effect of greatly reducing the likelihood that patients will sue for malpractice. Further, patients who settle out of court are often willing to accept lower settlement payments than when doctors become defensive and deny what happened.

Deny and defend is the advice that malpractice lawyers and insurers have typically given to doctors in the U.S., according to the Times. Studies that show that as few as 30 percent of medical errors are ever disclosed to patients. Yet because malpractice claims have helped cause medical expenses to skyrocket, drastic changes in handling these high-stress situations are sorely needed.

Skeptical personAccording to the article, the University of Illinois Medical Center initiated a program of openly acknowledging and apologizing for its medical mistakes.

Two years later, the number of malpractice filings against the center dropped in half. And in 37 cases where the hospital acknowledged a preventable error and apologized, only one patient had filed suit.

In one patient’s situation described in the article, the doctor was completely candid, completely honest, and so frank that ... all the anger was gone. This apology also helped settle the case for a significantly lower amount.

Creating a Perception of Seamlessness

To help ensure the continuity of our customers’ perceptions, we need to create consistently pleasant experiences in every interaction each person has, from visiting a Web site or bricks-and-mortar location, to asking for more information, to buying products, to receiving shipments, to interacting with the actual products or services, to asking for help, and so on.

Satisfied customerConsider this very important point: People perceive a series of interactions with your organization and offerings as one cohesive experience — as if everyone and everything is on the same page and represents the same seamless piece of woven fabric.

Customers really don’t care whether behind the scenes, your business is spread out all over the world, or whether individual departments consist of contractors or employees, aliens or earthlings. Whenever customers contact technical support representatives, for example, they expect them to know all about the features advertised on the Web site that are supposed to be in the product.

So, if there is any type of communication disconnect, you might be able to explain it to yourself, but there’s no logical explanation for it in your customer’s mind.

Prescriptions for Boosting Quality in Perception

These important findings show the power of apologies and candid communications in influencing the perceptions of clients, customers, or patients. To make sure you’re not overlooking potential ways to create quality in perception, consider:

1) Special courtesies that can set your offerings apart from your competitors’
2) Your ability to listen to and handle complaints quickly and diplomatically
3) Your willingness to be honest with clients about problems and shortcomings
4) Clear, prompt, and courteous communications that convey consistent details

Remember that quality in perception is not a substitute for quality in fact. But it can go a long way toward minimizing customer and client dissatisfaction, as well as powerfully reinforcing stellar quality when you ultimately deliver it.

Copyright 2022 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

The “Guide to Boosting Productivity and Effectiveness

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My Productivity Success Kit offers a compendium of “how-to” techniques for increasing your organizational effectiveness.

This comprehensive special report includes 36 pages of tips, best practices, checklists, and worksheets that will help your business gain a potent competitive advantage!

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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