Situation: A company’s clients are demanding increasingly faster response times, particularly in areas that historically have not been considered mission critical. Clients also want faster answers to technical questions. Is this a common occurrence, and would you adjust pricing in response? How do you handle demands for faster delivery?
Advice from the CEOs:
If clients are demanding faster delivery, it’s entirely reasonable to tier your rates for different levels of service and delivery. Create cost / ROI breakdowns for different options, and let your clients make a business decision about the level of responsiveness that they need.
When brining on new clients, do a worst case down time analysis for the prospect as part of your evaluation process, then provide price options and let the prospect evaluate what is important to them. This is similar to different price / deductible levels with health or car insurance.
You will need to educate your current client base on what you are doing for them, and when they are reaching the upper levels of service provision under their current contract.
When you provide remote service, communicate what you have done.
Email individualized update reports to client contacts.
When you meet clients face to face, have a printout of service provided and toot your own horn about your service and delivery.
Be aware of the needs of clients who have distributed locations across time zones. A two-hour response time on the West Coast at 8:00 in the morning, translates to a half day for an East Coast location because they can’t call you until 11:00am Eastern time.
Situation: A company wants to upgrade its presence in social media to improve client interactions. Before engaging in this exercise, they are curious as to how others are successfully using social media as part of their overall marketing and client service strategies. From your experience, how do social media change client interactions?
Advice from the CEOs:
The Web and the emergence of social media have enabled a much broader range of communication and collaboration options with clients, vendors, and others in any marketplace. In contrast to classic “push marketing” the Web and social media enable interactive marketing tailored to the individual needs, likes and dislikes of individual customers.
One of the most important changes is the opportunity for customers to post feedback and opinions about a company’s products and services. In the new reality, if you don’t have a place where customers can post feedback – both positive and negative – they’ll find somewhere else to post it.
Web 2.0 is generally defined as interactive, dynamic web sites that get updated frequently. From a consumer standpoint we think of eBay and Amazon.com. However, this also includes web-enabled collaborations between company members or company and client, for example collaborative project management.
Using cameras and built-in microphones that now usually come built-in with new monitors and laptops you can communicate less expensively and with higher quality than with traditional telecommunications. Web-enabled team meetings are virtually the same as being in the same room.
Through your web site you can provide digital video content at different levels of sophistication to potential and, with password protection, verified customers.
An underutilized resource which is truly win-win is available through local colleges and universities that can provide state-of-the-art expertise in web enabled communications through student projects in internships.
Special thanks to Dean Lane of the Office of the CIO (http://www.oocio.com) for his insight and input to this discussion.
Situation: The spouse of a CEO works in the business but has conflicts with other employees. This creates personal tension for the CEO. The CEO wants to explore a different role for the spouse, and also wants to create more balance at home. The CEO believes that working with the spouse to create a simple family charter with common values, vision and mission will help the two of them to find common needs and goals both at work and at home. How do you create a family charter?
Advice from the CEOs:
As you build a family charter, consider both your individual and your common views. Once you have established common ground with your spouse, you can bring children into the process to reinforce values and share creation of the vision.
In preparation for this discussion, both you and your spouse should start by thinking about what you each want. Once you have done this, compare notes and look for commonalities where you agree on what is important. These commonalities will form the core of your shared values, vision and mission.
Have lunch with your spouse once a month, just the two of you. Why? Because you are telling your spouse that they take precedence over your second spouse – your job, and you are taking time and attention from work to spend time one-on-one with your spouse. Do this monthly, but not always on the same day – make it more spontaneous and special.
Reinforce your family charter with regular family or one-on-one meetings with your spouse and children.
When having a conversation, focus on listening and don’t try to “fix” things.
Situation: A company wants to create a succession plan for key roles. Historically they haven’t had succession plans, but they are actively looking at candidates, skill sets, and so forth. The CEO wants to be able to make a recommendation to the Board. What are best practices in succession planning?
Advice from the CEOs:
Start with job and role descriptions. Select internal candidates for the positions and offer trial opportunities to assess their capabilities.
Test potential successors with projects to see if they can rise to the level of the higher responsibility. It may take more than one try to assess this.
Along the way you may discover hidden talents possessed by some of your employees.
Start with your incumbents. One of their responsibilities should be to identify possible inside candidates as successors for their positions, and to create a profile of qualifications for outside candidates. This should also be part of their job descriptions.
Succession candidates must desire the responsibility of the higher position. Don’t assume that everyone will want this. Some will be very good in their current role. Trying to force them to advance in responsibility can be counterproductive.
Do not assume that an outsider with a good resume and industry connections can fill the role of an insider who knows the company and its products and services.