Have you ever made a mistake? How about one that directly impacted one of your customers, clients or guests? We've all made mistakes, but it's how you deal with them that's the real important issue.
You'd think the more money you spend the better service (and the faster mistake resolution) you would receive. Well, turns out nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me tell you my experience with two airlines I had last month. Both are US carriers. Both made mistakes. However, that's really where the similarities end.
If you know anything about providing good service to your customers, then you know that mistakes are one of the best opportunities to make a positive impression on your customers. Actually it's not the mistakes, but how you handle them that makes or breaks the relationship with your client.
[Side note: Ever since I've heard Horst Schulze, the former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton, speak about service (read more on that in "What I learned about service from a wise hotelier"), I've become very interested in watching how the brands I use provide customer service and am working hard to build a customer service focused company myself.]
Mistake #1: I booked a business class ticket to Asia on United Airlines (@United). Price of the ticket $2,445.76. Multiply that by three for the rest of the team that is flying with me and we're spending close to $7,500.- on that flight. When we arrive in Saigon 5 out of 6 checked bags don't make it. Even though they are tagged 'Premiere Service' and are supposed to be off the aircraft before any other bags. 2 days later 4 out of the 5 missing bags make it to the hotel, but the 5th bag -one of my bags- takes a full week to get to my hotel. But it's not the mistake that makes me upset with United Airlines.
Mistake #2: I booked a flight for my wife and daughter to evacuate before a hurricane hits Florida on Spirit Airlines (@SpiritAirlines). Price of both ticket $318.11. Their connecting flight in Houston is overbooked, so they decide to give up their seats for a free travel voucher and a flight later that day. Houston had just been hit by a hurricane a few days earlier, and Spirit's systems are down, so all of this is being done by hand. When my wife checks a few days later, there are no travel vouchers to her name and the call center tells her that their records indicate she was on the Spirit flight, even though Spirit paid for a change to fly them on United.
OK, like I said mistakes happen - we all make them - it's in how you solve them that makes the difference. In the interest of full disclosure, I personally have made the exact mistake that United had made, when I worked for an airline in college. I routed a bag onto the wrong flight and my boss at the time sat me down once they figured out what had happened and explained to me the inconvenience I had caused one of their customers. I never made that mistake again.
"A key principle in fixing a problem is to resolve the customer's sense of injustice–of having been wronged or let down." write Leonardo Inghiller and Michah Solomon in their book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The secret of building a five-star customer service organization. "You can find a way yo restore the smile to almost any customer's face, wether it's a free upgrade or a more creative offering."
Let's look at how these two companies address their mistakes. On the face of these two examples, you would think that United would be much more interested to solve a mistake they made to a $7500 customer than Spirit would want to solve a mistake they made to a $300 customer. Well I was surprised too. Here's what happened:
"Please remove your shoes, belts, coats. Take out your laptops and place them in a bin." If you fly at all you are very familiar with this refrain at the TSA security checkpoints.
If you've done any flying for work recently, you know that the name of the game is speed. If I can pay for pre-boarding or a better class of service, so that I can have my bags stored quickly and efficiently, I'll do that gladly. However removing my laptop, 3-1-1 bags, belts, shoes and anything else does not help you get through security quickly.
I just got back from flying around the world. Literally. (You can check out photos from my #aroundtheworld trip on my Instagram). And let me tell you security in some of the 8 airports I flew through is not the same as in the US.
In Kathmandu, some guy who's not even wearing a uniform waves you through even though you set off the metal detector. He looks upset when you think about removing any metal objects you might have forgotten in your pockets.
However, in Doha, it's a whole different ballgame. The security after immigration is similar to the States, but there is a second screening at the gate, which is way more intrusive. I'm flying back home from filming in Vietnam and Nepal when I got to experience this screening. In other words, I'm traveling with two camera bags full of gear. Much of it electronic.
"Please remove all electronics from your bags for a hand screening" I am told at the checkpoint.
They want all cameras (that's the DSLR cameras, GoPros, drones, …), laptop, hard drives, audio recorders, color meters, external viewfinders, lithium batteries, remotes, wireless transmitter, and receivers, … anything that's bigger than a cell phone and has electronic components.
All of those get sealed into a plastic bag after being inspected by hand and I am handed 6 or 7 bags of equipment that was now not protected in any way so that I can walk to the scanner and have these items rescanned.
I finally am able to talk them into helping me carry the gear to a table so that I can put it all back in its place in my ThinkTank bags.
"Hey," you think, "that doesn't sound like fun, but I only fly domestically in the US, so that's not gonna happen to me."
Not so fast. In late July the TSA announced that it was running a pilot program in 10 airports, where all electronic gear bigger than a cell phone would have to be removed from carry-on baggage.
And trust me, you do not want to have to unpack and repack your fragile and expensive gear at a busy airport security checkpoint. (It took me almost half an hour in Qatar to get through the gate security checkpoint.)
Fortunately, TSA gives us a solution. Here's what their press release says: "The stronger security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA Pre✓® who are using TSA Pre✓® lanes."
TSA Pre✓ is a program you apply for online. TSA does a background check on you, you come in for a 10-minute in-person appointment pay $85 for 5 years (that's less than $20 per year) and you never have to take your shoes off at the airport again. You can apply for TSA Pre✓ here.
But there is an even better option:
For an extra $3 per year ($15 bucks for 5 years), you can apply for Global Entry. It does everything you get with TSA pre✓, plus when you enter the US, you go through a very short biometric customs and immigration line that takes about 5 minutes to enter the country. Apply for Global Entry here.
Believe me, it's worth every single one of those three dollars.
In September I get to fly around the world. I’ve never done that before. Needless to say, I’m very excited! Yes, this is for work, I’m filming an annual meeting of a large company in Vietnam, but being able to travel like this is one of the reasons that I love my job! Now I’ve been traveling for work for that past 25 years across 5 continents (I haven’t been to Australia or Antarctica yet). However, this trip almost didn’t happen, because of a one-way airline ticket, that was just way too expensive!
This trip is posing some unique problems. I’m filming for two different clients, one is a paid job – the annual meeting. The other is a pro-bono personal project, so coordinating travel dates, flights and budgets is a logistical challenge. Oh, just in case you’re wondering pro-bono means I work for free, but the client is still paying all my expenses.
From now until I return home in late September I’m going to be sharing what I’m learning on my blog, and you’ll be able to follow my trip on the blog and on my Instagram account, but let me share one trick with you now, that I learned yesterday:
Here’s a flight that’s similar to mine. Each leg of the round trip ticket will cost around $3,700. If I take the same flight outbound flight as a one-way airline ticket, the price for that one flight goes up to $5,900 -! That’s an almost 60% fare increase than the exact same flight on the same day when purchased as part of a round trip airfare.
Makes no sense to me, but that’s how it is. In my case client ‘A’ is paying me for round trip business class airfare to Vietnam, where we are filming for a Fortune 500 company. Client ‘B’ is paying my airfare from Vietnam to Nepal, where I’m filming the project with a humanitarian organization – this project will be similar to the first documentary I filmed.
I could just extend my round trip to Vietnam to include the second job’s dates, but I thought that it may be possible to fly out of Nepal. That way I could continue my trek westward, circumnavigating the globe: #bucketlist.
My problem was that I didn’t want to spend almost the whole round trip cost of $7,400 on a $5,900 one-way airline ticket. Doing so would leave me only $1,500 to pay for my trip home. Here’s how you beat the expensive one-way fare. Look at the picture again. The airline wants you to book a return flight. But nobody says that it needs to be in the same class of service. Yup, I booked an economy ticket home for $448. That means my inbound trip now costs $4,120, leaving me $3,280 dollars for my trip back heading west.
Well, now we’re talking. I can find a flight via a lot of different countries back into the US for that kind of money. And I get to fly all the way around the world. All I have to do now is pick the airlines associated with my favorite frequent flyer program.
Oh, speaking of frequent flyer programs, the second leg of my flight that originates on United is with one of my programs frequent flyer programs. All you have to do is call up that airline. Ask them to credit the leg that you’re flying on their airplane to your frequent flyer program. They’ll be happy to do it. If you don’t the miles end up in my United Airlines mileage account and I usually don’t fly them.
Oh and in case you’re wondering, I’m not flying for 4 consecutive days to get around the globe. That’s how much time I’ll be flying in airplanes over the span of the 3-week project.
It’s fly – film – fly – film – fly.
Airlines I’ll fly: 6
Distance to be flown: 22,620 miles.
8 flights, 9 airports, 6 countries.
Total time flying: Over 4 days (50+ hours)
Number of film shoots: 2
One #AroundTheWorld adventure!
Having a job (and a family) that lets you do this: #Priceless
As a small business owner, I am always reevaluating the priority and focus of my business. Last year I looked at all of the processes that go into creating a visual content production and automated many of them. In January of this year, I had the opportunity to watch “Design Disruptors,” and began thinking about at the UX or User Experience I create for my clients. This film challenged me to provide world-class service to my clients.
A few weeks ago, I was hired as a director of photography and first cameraman to cover the leadership conference of a medical company. The keynote speaker, Horst Schulze, talked all about providing world-class service. (You can read “What I learned from a wise hotelier.”) Even though his keynote speech was tailored to a medical company, his words focused the ideas and concepts, that are swirling around my mind for the last few months. That evening I ordered a book called “The new Gold Standard,” which describes the philosophy behind the world-class service at the Ritz-Carlton.
Listening to Mr. Schulze passionately speak about the four priorities every excellent company focuses on, clarified much of where I had to begin, but I wanted to experience this service for myself.
My family and I had found a super-affordable airfare to Aruba.When I saw that the island had a Ritz, I knew what I needed to do. A few hours after we’ve checked into our beach cabana, two of the gentlemen at the Ritz approach us:
“Mr. Depuhl, we’d like to give you and your family a gift, courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton,” Jason says. He’s been the gentleman, who’s been providing us with excellent service at the Ritz. It’s been a few hours since we’ve settled into our Beach Cabana, here in Aruba and the ladies and gentlemen are more fabulous than I expected (and I came here with very high expectations).
The green and white stripped branded tote bag, Roel is holding in his hands isn’t something we expected. However, before letting you take a peek inside the bag with me, let me tell you how we got onto the beach.
After listening to Mr. Schulze and reading the book, I’ve tried to figure out how to adapt the concepts that the Ritz-Carlton has engrained into their culture, into my business.
I started emailing the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba 2 days before we left for Aruba. Actually, it ended up getting sent to the wrong email address. Turns out the email I had found belongs the former hotel manager. He hasn’t worked in Aruba since 2013. Nevertheless, I get an answer from Justine, the Executive Administrative Assistant, who’s already reserved a Beach Cabana for me. Normally a guest has to make the reservation the day of the visit. She’s also copied Milli, the front desk manager into this email since Justine won’t be on the property the day that we’re coming.
Saturday morning, we drive up to the Ritz-Carlton. I get to chat with Milli about some of the things I’ve learned about the brand, and she’s kind enough to give me one of the credo cards, that every employee at the Ritz-Carlton carries on their person. These cards begin with the credo, contain the 12 service values – one of which is reinforced daily in the morning lineup, the three steps of service and the motto of the Ritz-Carlton:
We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
OK. Back to the Beach Cabana in Aruba, with Jason standing by our day bed, green striped tote in hand. I’ve come to the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, to experience their world-renowned service. Mind you we’re not staying here. We’re renting a Beach Cabana for the day. But you wouldn’t know it if you are observing the way the staff is treating us. Jason hands my wife and I the canvas bag. It contains (…)
93% of small business focus on the wrong priority. It’s a pretty big mistake to make if you want to take your business up to the next level, but the vast majority of small businesses are making it today. So was I.
I’ve been making this mistake for the past 25 years. At first, I felt pretty bad about that, but then I wanted to see if other small businesses are making the same mistake. So I created a poll on OwnIt and asked other entrepreneurs to rate their business priorities. The pie chart on the right shows the answer over 200 small businesses. Surprisingly less than 10% got this right.
I’ve been thinking about the UX (User Experience) I create for my clients all year. And I really got challenged by Horst Schulze, when I was fortunate enough to film the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton at a keynote speech a few weeks ago.
(You can read a bit more about that talk on my last blog post: What I learned about service from a wise hotelier).
Mr. Schulze talked about the 4 priorities that every successful company needs to have in the right order to excel. Here they are in no particular order:
When I looked at my company’s priorities, I was surprised to learn that I’ve focused on the wrong priority for over 20+ years. Don’t get me wrong all four are vital to a company, but one is more essential than the other three.
You can take the poll “What’s the number One priority of your business” here and see how you stack up against other small businesses. Then let me know – are you in the 94% that get it wrong or in the 7% that are doing it right?
I for one intend to shift my company to focus on the one most important priority and that change will take place over the course of the next few months.
UPDATE: I edited the post three weeks after publishing the initial numbers, to reflect the new responses. The change is less than one percentage point with twice as many surveys answered as in the original post.
For the past 25 years, I’ve done it wrong. Thankfully I heard an expert talk about service and I’m going to course correct my small business focus starting today.
12 years ago, I started using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) to efficiently combine all client data in one place. Their contact info, calendar, tasks, documents and the process lives in the cloud and is easily accessible.
One of the aspects that I love about my job as a cinematographer and photographer is that I’m often in interesting places that are not accessible to everyone. I had the same honor last week, although I did not know that this video shoot would have such a profound impact on my business.
It started out simple enough, I got hired as a Director of Photography to oversee the filming of a leadership conference for a local medical company. It’s always fun to work with a group of skilled operators, and the company itself was fascinating, but it was the keynote that hit me between the eyes.
The speaker was former Ritz-Carlton President Horst Schulze, who is known for creating hotels with impeccable service and customer loyalty. If you haven’t heard about Mr. Schulze and you run a service company (like I do), you need to check out what he’s accomplished at Ritz-Carlton and now is doing at the Capella Hotel Group.
Schulze says “Great companies do four things: They keep their current customers, they find new ones, hopefully through the recommendation of existing customers, they make as much money as they can, and they are efficient.”
OK, granted it’s not rocket science, but this CEO is vehemently fixated on service. And that’s where I had my epiphany. I haphazardly focus on these 4 core principles as well:
Did you catch the mistake I’m making? It’s subtle – read the two lists again and see if you can spot it. Don’t feel bad if you can’t – I’ve done it wrong for a quarter century.
Let me walk through the four things every great company does
I’m good at that. Number one on page one in the organic search on Google for years. Many of my new customers find me online. Others find me through the local creative community, events and workshops I put on, etc. (Here’s how I get clients).
Last year was my best year that my business ever had. This year is on that track as well. I keep my overhead low and run a tight ship when it comes to the business framework I need to produce visual content.
Check. From the integration of my website and my CRM to automation of my business processes, efficiency and productivity are the names of the game. Not wasting resources in the creation of the video and photography productions I work on, goes right back into #2.
For crying out loud, I’m the guy that takes a picture of a Post-It note and have it create a bunch of digital assets as if by magic.
The majority of my client love the final product I create for them. The secret is simple: under promise and over deliver. Charge a fair price. Come in on budget and on time. And give something unexpected. Check out this video testimonial from Armpocket – a local company who found me online:
It’s so simple (actually that’s another quote from Horst Schulze) I have all the parts right.
But I’ve gotten it backward and that’s where listening to Horst Schulze by accident, made all the difference in my world. Here’s the way he sees these priorities:
He puts current costumers first (and probably second, third, fourth and fifth). Schulze is fanatic when it comes to serving his current customers. He says that service begins with the correct greeting, then it’s complying to your customer’s wishes and does not end until you say farewell. Where do I have my current clients? Dead last. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t ignore my current clients, and I have many that do repeat business with me, but I can learn a lot from the gentleman who builds the most luxurious hotel brand in the world. I’m just often taking them for granted (If you’re one of my current clients, let me say this: “I’m sorry for not putting you first and I promise you that I will do better. Starting now.)
Then I’m focused on making money – granted an incredibly important part of any business, since without running a profitable company, you’re gonna be out of business. What Schulze’s second focus? New clients. More accurately making your current customers so fiercely loyal, that his current customers will recommend his hotels to new customers.
Money is Mr. Schulze’s third point, which makes sense since your clients are the people who are paying you for, your service. Naturally, they should come before the money portion. However, he takes it a (big) step further. The former CEO of Ritz-Carlton said:
“Make as much money as you can. People see it as a contradiction between being a caring organization with integrity and making money. That’s ludicrous. Why should that be a contradiction? I wouldn’t be able to be that company that cares and has integrity if I wouldn’t make any profit. The two go together.“
So often I see creative professionals and small business owners, who have no idea of what they need to charge to run a profitable shop, because they don’t know the cost of doing business.
Last but not least comes efficiency. That’s the framework you need to run a prosperous business. Efficiency is the ability to create a product or provide a service, without wasting your resources. Being the freelance that talks a lot about how he uses efficiency, I am currently revamping my business system.
I have followed the workflow that my CRM has in place: people find me online (searchers), they find my website, like my work and contact me (leads). We start talking about the potential collaborations (opportunities), I get hired to do the job and deliver my videos and/or photos to my clients (deliverables). If you read my blog post on Post-It notes, you know that pink notes are leads, yellow notes are opportunities, green notes are jobs and blue notes are my deliverables.
Here’s where that system is going to shift to:
My primary focus will swing to serving my current clients, becoming the main focus of my business and pushing the current focus of generating new customers into second place. I love leads, really I get a kick out of the notifications I get on my phone, that let me know someone new has just filled out my contact form, but I need to realign my strategy with making my current clients the heroes of my company. Fortunately, Mr. Schulze spoke about the way to make your current clients fiercely loyal. He says it’s really easy, and if you do this one little thing, you own your industry.
All you have to do is to care a little more than the other guys.
As a freelancer, we trade time for money. Plain and simple: I have the talent to produce the visual content, my clients need for their business, and they have the money to pay me for my time and skill. Figuring out what to charge for a project then largely depends on your cost of doing business and how much your time is worth. ZEIº can help.
Time is the great equalizer – everybody gets 24 hours in a day. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old. You get 1,440 minutes in a day – that’s it. So how do you know how much your time is worth? I think you’d first have to figure out where your spending your time, but keeping track of your day seems like a waste of time, because – well it takes too long to log your hours. Freelancers resort to estimating how long they’ve been working on or you guess at whatever task of your small business you’re working on – so most of us don’t bother.
We’ll just go ahead and guess. I’ve dived into productivity and efficiency lately. You can define efficiency as the ability to successfully use resources without wasting them and the most critical and limited resource we have is time.
Wouldn’t it be great to get an accurate account of how you spend your time, without wasting time to record the time you spend? I mean that would be great not just for yourself to see where your time ends up going, but especially for entrepreneurs who bill by the hour.
Enter ZEIº – a little device that keeps your time in check. It’s an eight-sided cube that links to your phone or computer via Bluetooth. ZEIº by Timeular keeps track of your time effortlessly, once you’ve set it up. Then all you have to do is rotate the ZEIº to the activity, or client, or project you want to track – you get to define as many ZEI activities as you want in the software, and the time tracker can handle 8 activities, which are easily interchangeable.
ZEIº even integrates with Toggl and Jirra at this time, and there are more in the works. Imagine what you could do with a Zapier or IFTTT integration …
ZEIº is a blank slate (literally, it comes in white) and you can write on its surface or use the enclosed stickers to define which each tracked activity. ZEIº looks like two four-sided pyramids stacked on top of each other.
I got my ZEIº today, but I’m currently tracking the following activities:
In my case, the first three activities correlate with my workflow and will have the same color coded sides as the Post-It note system I’m already using. The other ones pertain to all the hats we wear to run out small businesses that make it possible for me create as a visual content creator and for you to sell your freelance skill.
ZEIº tracks all activities and reported in real-time and sync to all your devices. I’m hoping the guys at Timeular integrate tags so that one could keep track of all activities related to a specific job number, but you’ll always be able to extract that out of the reports to get a summary of all the time ZEIº tracks on client X or project Y.
You can play with the app or software, it’s a free download from Timeular.
To stop tracking time, just stand the ZEIº in its cradle. To record, flip it onto the relevant side. Add a note, so you know what this particular activity was about and voilá! You’ve just tracked time.
You’ve just tracked time.
How would you use an automatic time tracking device like ZEIº?
Do you see a need in your small business for Timulars time tracking tool.
Which 8 activities would you pick on your ZEIº?