Category Archives for "Branding"

Why price does not drive quality service (or how United Airlines still hasn’t solved their mistake)

An unsolved mistake United Airlines made tarnishes their brand

How two brands solved their mistake (or not)

(and why a third brand actually solved a mistake that wasn't theirs)

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: United Airlines loose my bag for 7 days

United Airlines mistake turns into a major hassle for their customer

United Airlines mistake turns into a major hassle.

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: Spirit doesn't issue promised travel vouchers

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. 

It's not the mistake that gets you

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.

  

  

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"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:

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a few months ago

What the Ritz-Carlton can teach a small business about world-class service

World-class service

How to provide world-class service to your clients

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. 

First, you have to experience world-class service

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.

My first email to the Ritz-Carlton ended up in world-class serviceAfter 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. 

Ritz-Carlton credo card

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.

It’s not enough to read and hear about world-class service

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 (…)

a few months ago

Are you making the same mistake 93% of all small businesses make?

The mistake 93% of small businesses make

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.

What’s the focus of your small business?

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).

4 priorities of an excellent company

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:

  • Be efficient.
  • Keep current clients.
  • Make money.
  • Find new customers.

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.

Find out if you’re wrong too – take the poll!

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.

94% of small business make this mistake.

Take the poll to see how your business compares!


[OwnIt is an online small business community run by Quicken. To take my survey, you will have to sign up for this free small business social platform. I have found great advice here, and many owners are beneficial to share their experiences.]

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.

6 months ago

What I learned about service from a wise hotelier

Horst Schulze speaks about Service

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:

  1. Find new clients
  2. Make money
  3. Be efficient
  4. Keep current clients

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

1. Find new clients

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).

2. Make money

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.

3. Be efficient

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.

4. Keep current clients

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:


Here’s what I’m doing wrong with regards to service:

It’s so simple (actually that’s another quote from Horst Schulze) I have all the parts right.

  • New customers – I’m a marketing and branding machine. I spend most of my non-shooting time on this.
  • Money – can’t complain here.
  • Efficiency – people actually ask me to teach them about efficiency.
  • Current customers – they walk away really happy.

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:

Current customers

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.)

New customers

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.

Making money

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.

Being efficient

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.

The way I was serving my business

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:

The way I will offer service to my customers starting today

Service - Horst Schulze tells us what makes a great companyMy 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.

6 months ago

ZEIº from Timeular tracks your time, automatically!

ZEIº time tracking device

Time is money

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 in short supply

Nothing to do with ZEIº, but this LIV watch was a Kickstarter project as well.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. 

Automate with ZEIº – the secret to productive time tracking

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 …

Customize your time

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:

  • Leads  – anything that has to do with getting new clients: phone calls, emails, mailers, …
  • Opportunities – anything related to creating visual content for my clients …
  • Deliverables – everything about creating the final pieces and follow-up after jobs …
  • Write – blog post (like this one), social media, …
  • Learn – reading, listening, learning, …
  • Create – workshops, talks, webinars, …
  • Admin – everything related to business processes: billing, web hosting, app purchases, …
  • Personal – well it’s personal

My ZEIº tracking my time writing this very blog post. Screen shot of the Timeular app screen from my iPhone.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?

Freelance as a Career Choice

The Business of Freelancing
By: Marcia Gomez / Miami International University of Art and Design

Younger generations of workers are now choosing to steer clear from the traditional employer/employee work environment, to a less traditional, freelance career or what some call “micro-entrepreneur”. This trend seems to be a lot more common for the millennial generation. According to research commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans now freelance in some capacity. Of that, 38 percent are millennials, compared to 32 percent of non-millennials (i.e., people over 35).

This choice was the subject of a recent workshop, The Business of Freelancing that took place at Miami International University of Art & Design in collaboration with CollabMiami featuring six panelists from different industries discussing their experiences in making freelance a career choice. The panelists included:

•    David Verjano, Social Media Consultant, Verjano Communications, www.verjanocommunications.com
•    Amanda Abella –  Millenial Financial Expert and Blogger, Make Money Your Honey, www.makemoneyyourhoney.com
•    Julio Galindez – DJ and Musician, AtellaGali, www.atellagali.com
•    Pascal Depuhl – Photographer and Cinematographer, Photography by Depuhl, www.depuhl.com
•    Friks 84 – Callingrapher and Illustrator, www.friks84.com
•    George Cuevas – Graphic Designer, Creative Director and CollabMiami Founder, www.georgecuevas.com

Collab Miami Panelists: George Cuevas, Friks84, Amanda Abella, David Verjano, Pascal Depuhl, Julio Galindez speak about the business of freelancing

[photo by: Collab Miami]

The 3-hour workshop discussed the many aspects of having a freelance business including the business structure, working tools needed, getting work and making connections, business procedures, estimates, approvals and scope definition, skills and internal process, accounting and post project activities. The panelists shared their experiences with each topic providing students and guests with numerous tips and takeaways. While narrowing them down to just 10, is difficult, below we provide a short list of some of the key points made during the workshop.

 

Top 10 Freelancing Tips

(…)

Read  the top freelancing tips we shared on Marcia’s post: “Freelance as a Career Choice


This article was published on the Miami International University of Art and Design website and is written by Marcia Gomez.

9 months ago

Workflow: making your work flow smoothly

How to make your work flow through your Workflow

Workflow, what is it?

Workflow is about as individual as your small business. It’s a series of processes that begin the first time a potential client contacts you to the point where you delivered your goods or services and are on to the next job. Actually it starts a bit earlier, if you want to including marketing and branding.  Or maybe you’re running a couple of jobs concurrent, in which case it’s even more important to understand your workflow. A plan on how all your business processes work together makes your work flow smoothly.

work·flow ˈwərkflō/ noun 

the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.

Work-flow solutions: 2 schools of thought

There are more than one way to skin a cat and the same is true for your workflow. There’s really not only one right way that workflow works. They are as personal to you as many other decisions you make in your small business.

In my mind there are two schools of thought when it comes to working with a workflow solution:

1) Make the solution fit your workflow
2) Make your workflow fit your solution

Shotflow – making your work fit someone else’s workflow

Solutions like Shoot Flow fall under the first. They are solutions specific to one type of photography. In the case of Shoot Flow, it’s for wedding photographers. Zach and Jody Grey took their experience at shooting weddings and built a workflow solution around it. They basically let you duplicate the way they work a wedding.

The upside – especially for the inexperienced wedding shooter – is that you get a step by step roadmap to how to work a bride and grooms day. Zach and Judy do a fantastic job, not just on shooting weddings, but also in how they work with their client before and after that day.

In my mind the downside is that you are going to workflow weddings just like they do. I’ve never used shootflow (I don’t shoot weddings) and I know you can customize some of the way it works, but it’s not like what I use.

[Please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not dissing shootflow or other solutions like it. In fact I believe it’s vital that we all have a well-integrated solution of our own.]

Creating a custom workflow solution to fit your workflow

My customized solution follows my business processes. This doesn’t make it necessarily more expensive, but it does make my workflow solution match my workflow. I use a Customer Relationship Management system as the backbone of my workflow solution. It’s called SalesForce and is one of the largest CRMs in the world. SalesForce aggregates all information I have about a clients, accounts, jobs, ect into one place and since it’s this huge service it integrates with pretty much everything. For instance I use Evernote to … 

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