Who's Your Data? (How to Properly Use Business Metrics. With analytics growing, it's so easy to let the numbers get you thrown off of working on what counts...but what is it again that counts? OH YEAH...Investing in your people!

Who’s Your Data? (How to Properly Use Business Metrics)

So a few weekends ago I was hanging out with my dad, and he said to me…

“I have so much to do today, I don’t even know where to start.”

So you know what he did? He ignored it all and went to a garden show with my son and I instead!

So did he finish his to-do list that day?

Probably not. But you know what he DID do? Spent time with his son and grandson. That’s way more valuable and important than cutting the grass! PLUS we both bought some SWEET plants too 🙂

Now how does this apply to business?

Stick with me here…running a business involves a lot of NUMBERS; metrics, KPIs, and the like…and man can it be overwhelming.

You can get paralysis by analysis and start to feel like my dad on that Saturday when we ended up at the Garden Show.

Data EVERYWHERE…

Now the question you have to ask is this; with all that data at your fingertips, do you USE it to accomplish something REAL and VALUABLE, or do you get distracted by it, wasting time dwelling on a stupid number?

Or worse yet, do you find empty distractions to avoid the flood of metrics? (Enter Snapchat and Facebook)

In this post I’m going to clarify just WHAT to do with all these numbers, why they exist, and just exactly how you can use them to WIN. And it doesn’t matter what numbers your business keeps track of and holds you accountable for. It all applies here!

So the logical place to start then would be…

So What’s with all the Numbers Anyway?

We all WANT to win. We mean the best with the actions that we take, but so many of those actions actually lack serious focus because they are about a damn number, and not about WHAT IS REAL.

The overall POINT to business is to win. No one goes into business to break even, and certainly no one goes in to lose (money).

Save your money laundering comments plz!

So with making money as the goal, things quickly move to tracking numbers to measure success. Metrics. Stats.

These numbers mean a lot because they can show you of an area of weakness, or strength, or opportunity. Analytics are important because they tell you the story that your eyes can’t see.

BUT…Data, organized into what generally becomes a spreadsheet or PowerPoint, really only does one thing…

What Exactly is Your Job Anyway, Data?

To INFORM. That’s it.

Analytics tell the story that your eyes can’t see.

Data will tell you more of the story, and shed light in areas that you previously didn’t know existed, but the impact stops there. Numbers don’t do anything…

As in: Don’t DO anything.

They are merely the results.

Measure any number you want.
Make beautifully designed spreadsheets.
Use some new system or app.
Compose yet another PowerPoint…

And nothing happens except people know more numbers. And you can probably vouch for us all in saying that the last thing we need to do is memorize more numbers!

Besides…

There’s REALLY Only 2 Goals in Business Anyway (read more about that HERE)

Goal #1 Sell to more customers (Conversion)
Goal #2 Sell more product to the existing customers (Dollars per Transaction)

Those two things can be said many different ways, but the principles stay the same: Increase number of customers that make a purchase, and/or increase the amount of items/money that the customer purchases/spends.

OK, so what can you ACTUALLY do to cause more of each of these two things?

Hint: Numbers ain’t it.

The True Secret to Winning

So there is ONE thing, that if you get more in tune with, will cause winning. Lots of winning. That is, if you really devote attention to it.

This thing isn’t actually a thing.

It can’t be looked up, can’t be researched, and it’s NOT any sort of data. And, its different with YOU than it is with me….

What is it??? What’s the thing that transcends all the supposed precious data?

It’s easy…THEM.

YOUR TEAM.

This group is far more powerful than you’ll ever know, and the impact that your words has on others cannot be understated.

And the words that you choose with your team will be different than the words I choose with my team.

But…

When those words are YOURS, and you are having fun, and loving the things that you do, WATCH what happens! Oooo it’s like magic. All these numbers…all this “DATA”… it starts to turn THE COLOR OF MONEY 🙂

Ok so let’s get to it…

So how do you tap into this TRUE secret to winning? For starters…

Data should RARELY be the topic of conversation.

Any kind of data. Leave it out of the next conversation that you have with a teammate and instead talk about the things that matter (we’ll get to the specifics of that in a sec).

What to do with the Mountain of Data

The numbers, metrics and stats truly are EXTREMELY important…

I know, I know… I have been bashing them this whole time right? But it’s only so I can make THIS POINT:

We just use numbers as a tool that they weren’t intended to be.

Numbers don’t lead people.
Numbers don’t inspire people.
Numbers don’t motivate people.

Leaders do all those things…Its the Leader’s job to find self-motivated people.

“If you want motivated people, you have to find them, not motivate them.”

Leadership is sparking change in results by changing attitude, adding inspiration, holding accountable…in short, it’s changing how a situation occurs to them.

You can’t do that by “reporting the news” and just telling them numbers. The more numbers you report, the more they will; fall asleep…roll their eyes…nod their head to get you to stop talking.

In short…

The more numbers you report, the more they stop following you.

Ok so leave the metrics and KPIs out of the conversation, got that…so what should I do with them all then?

Simple. Use data for what it was intended to do in the first place, to inform you.

Study the data to the point where you know the key metrics off the top of your head. Again, these numbers ARE very important!

You need to know them because they tell you the things that you can’t see. The things that go on in your absence. The things that you do but don’t realize that you do. The things that you need to start doing, or the actions that you need to adjust.

They matter because they measure the things that you do. But that’s just the thing, they MEASURE. They don’t DO. They don’t inspire. They don’t lead.

So Let’s Get to What it is That You Actually Do

RECAP: So the true secret to wining is your team, and the numbers ARE actually important, but you shouldn’t talk about them because they are designed inform.

Got it.

OK so what do you talk about?

Can’t talk about numbers, so instead, talk about what YOU want to talk about?

OH WAIT! NO…

Maybe you should talk about what THEY want to talk about.

Yep…

In order for you to improve their performance, you first need to know how they perceive their performance.

This is going to sound CRAZY, but it’s true…

The more you listen to your team, the more they tell you.

So, as you allow them to talk, they will TELL you the area that they need your guidance in. The area that your expertise is needed, the thing that they got lazy with, or the behavior that they weren’t taught.

They don’t come straight out and TELL YOU, but they tell you clear enough to catch every time, as long as you allow them to.

Story Time

So let me tell you a story to illustrate this point.

I was in a phone conversation with a member of my team, and he had just talked for about 2 minutes straight. Drawing off the things that he had said, I had five or six areas that I could use to teach.

I actually started my side of the conversation with a long pause, and something to the tune of, “Ok dude, hang on here, I’ve got a ton of things I can teach you, but I need to find my place to play…”

Then another long pause while I thought.  He started talking to fill up the silence, and about five seconds into that, it hit me like a ton of bricks!

I interrupted him and I said…

“Hang on, man. Hang on…I actually have a question for you. I have a question that I actually have never asked you for as long as you’ve worked for me. And it’s a question that actually starts with an apology…”

He says, “Apology? For what?”

I replied, “An apology because it was probably the first question that I should’ve asked you when I shook your hand after you got realigned to work on our team. But I never asked it.”

Confused, he just says, “…OK?”

Then I asked the question, and it may come as a shock to you…

I asked, “Did anyone ever train you for the job that you have?”

Mind you, I had just FINALLY figured out that he hadn’t been trained properly after about 2.5 months of working together. But I wasn’t exactly sure the full extent.

He was hesitant to answer the question. Naturally.

So what did I do? Tell him that he can trust me? Or worse, rattle off a ton of numbers that “prove” why I asked the question?

NO!

I apologized.

I apologized for the fact that it took nearly three months for me to ASK him, and for me to REALIZE it. I owned the fact that he was untrained and thrown to the wolves over a year before he started to even report to me!

Was it ALL my fault? WHO CARES! He’s a member of my team and he was NOT TRAINED.

Then what happens next is where the magic is. This is what it’s all about!

He paused, and then he did the most important thing that a person in a business relationship can do. He opened up to me.

He said simply, “No.”

From there you know what happened? We began to build a connection. We had a REAL conversation as business partners that started like this…

Alright, I’m Going In!

Real quick, we traced back his lineage in the company, and I found the area that I had gotten confused about with his training (or lack-there-of), and I apologized again.

I had some things on my mind from his rant earlier (the one where there was 5-6 things I wanted to teach him), but first I asked him if he had anything left on his mind.

He said “No not really…” in a way that was vulnerable, and unsure of where this was going.

I replied, standing up from my office chair, “Alright dude, then I’m going in!”

From that point I did the talking, and I was passionate. Heated. Not AT him, but in general. I was fucking pissed!

At what we’d done to him.
At the fact that I missed it for almost 3 months.
For not having asked him about his training on day onw.
And…at some of the things that he had said earlier (his excuses).

When I say I went in, I mean I WENT IN.

It was amazing. It was inspiring. It was LEADERSHIP.

The reason I describe my side of the conversation like that is not because of ego. I don’t think I’m great, trust me. I say that because of the result of the conversation.

What is that result?

That we now have the chance to…

Build Something Beautiful (Major Event Creation)

The relationship between two human beings is such an interesting thing to be apart of. Some people you CLICK with as soon as you meet them. With most others (for me anyway), it’s awkward conversation about the weather at first.

The thing that I want to talk about is how a major event can happen, and then people are different around each other. It’s often expressed as “It actually brought us closer together.

As a leader, creating these major events is how the relationship (partnership) grows. It’s how to improve things!

All those NUMBERS we were talking about earlier, they inform you as to where there is a possibility to create this major event.

I had now created that major event with this person, and he went from “employee” to “partner”.

I went from “boss” to “leader”.

We started the journey to building something together…

Something beautiful. A badass business relationship that will lead to a ton of winning.

Mind you that even though this feels HUGE, it’s really not. This is THE START. This is where the work begins.

Also needs to be pointed out that we didn’t talk about a single number this whole conversation, except at the very beginning of the conversation. I asked him about a number that he didn’t know. I DID know them though, and when I asked him about them, I was able to use the #1 Leadership Tool: Slower is Faster with People, to see that he wasn’t trained!

The Moral (People Fix it All)

This will be short…

The numbers don’t move the numbers, so don’t WORRY about the numbers.

Actions move the numbers, so pay attention to the actions.

BUT…

People take the actions, so spend the most time here…with your team.

Invest in the people, the numbers will start to take care of themselves. As things improve, you can lead the team from good numbers to great numbers.

Wrap It Up (and put a bow on it)

This post covered a wide range of topics and concepts. Let me stack them up and put a bow right on top!

  1. There’s probably too much data – We have it because we want to win!
  2. We then get distracted by the data – We think it’s the point
  3. We then try to work on the data…unsuccessfully (because it’s not the point)
  4. Data is really just there to inform…it tells you things your eyes can’t see
  5. Know the data! – It IS actually important
  6. Don’t talk about the data – Reporting the news bores people
  7. Build a connection with your team
  8. Listen more than you talk – 2 ears, 1 mouth
  9. When you do talk, don’t talk about data – It’s in there twice I know
  10. Find an area to make an impact by creating a “major event”
  11. Go slow, because SLOWER IS FASTER WITH PEOPLE
  12. People fix it all – Add value to them, and they change numbers and metrics

Keep working on being you. Not a better you, not a different you…the perfect you that you already are. Have fun, work hard, and TEACH!

-NG

How To Win Customers During Wait Time

Wait Time Can Make Customers Upset, or it Can Be Used to Make an Impact

Imagine you are visiting somewhere for the first time and you walk in the lobby to someone 20 feet in front of you chewing gum and waiting for you to get directly in front of them before they will even speak to you. They take your name and tell you they will call for you (yelling for you is the most likely outcome). While you wait for the 20-30 minutes you were told would be the wait time, no one speaks to you. No one asks if you have been there before, thanks you for giving them a shot at earning your loyalty and no one gives you a chance to ask any questions a first-time patron might have. While you wait for what seems like days you see people who came in after you go in, so you begin to think you have been forgotten, or that they called your name and you didn’t hear it. You go back to the person taking names and ask them how long it will be, they look at you with disgust and tell you, “I told you 20-30 minutes and it’s only been 15.” Now imagine how you would feel sitting down at a table or how angry you would feel when you finally get into your appointment. Think about how likely you would be to go back to this place, not likely right.

Companies spend millions of dollars figuring out how to attract customers to their business, only to mess it up when they walk in the door. You may have the best product in your category, possibly winning a customer for life as soon as they experience your food or get their hands on your item. There is one problem that you may have and it will cause people to have a negative opinion of your offering, even if it is amazing! Wait times. Waiting in your lobby to get in and spend their money will send a message to your guests, one which you may never have an opportunity to rebound from.

Ignoring the Wait Time Sends Three Messages to Your Customers

  1. We don’t know what we are doing
  2. The quality of staff here is poor
  3. We don’t really care about YOU, just your money

Think about a restaurant, doctor’s office, clothing store, barber, meat counter, cell phone retailers and so on. They all have the same problem; while you wait for even a short time, it feels like you have waited FOREVER! I cannot tell you how many time, as I am sure is the same for you, that people have come up to me and asked, “how much longer?” and “how many people are in front of me?”

After hearing these questions a few hundred times I wondered if there was a way to share this information.
We tried installing TVs in the lobby with a list of people’s names on it; they didn’t read it.
We tried to pager system with vibrating “it’s your turn alarms”.
We even tried handing out notecards with estimated wait times and a few promotional items to browse while they waited.
None of these worked. We still had upset customers asking questions and sitting down with a negative attitude when it finally was their turn.

Send the Right Message to Your Customers

Communicate to them that they WANT to wait. That this wait is worth it! Over 20 years of managing stores with a lobby where customers have to wait to be assisted, I have come to one conclusion. It will instantly improve public perception and keep people from leaving, to never return. The solution isn’t rocket science. It isn’t a fancy system with pagers that vibrate when it’s their turn, nor is it a video game or trivia system for people to pass the time. The solution is simple…

TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS!

Talking to your customers sounds easy and plain, but it works. When I first started doing this I would walk around to each guest and introduce myself as the floor manager and would SHOW THEM where their name was on the list and give them an estimate about how long the wait would be. I would describe (not point) the person who was ahead of them in line so they knew who would be up before them. This seemed to work well, we were seeing marked improvement in customer service scores and less upset customers.

I Still Felt Like We Could do More

I tried something new. I assigned the responsibility for customer wait time frustration to the person taking the names. Their responsibility was to keep these people happy while they waited. You should be hiring quality people, not just a body to fill a spot, right? Would you trust just anyone being the first impression a potential new customer sees when they walk in? If you know that this position is important and have someone who is amazing up front, then they will have the ability to check people in AND keep them happy. I assigned my greeters more responsibility than writing a name on a list. Not only would they keep the list of people, they would also continuously check in with them. I told them I expected them to be remembered by those in line. Now they would tell each person where they were in line each time a person was pulled from line. If you were in line and 7 people were ahead of you, they would check in with you as you moved to numbers 6,5,4,3,2 and then telling you that you were next!

This may seem like overkill,  but customers LOVE it!

The ONE thing to NEVER do

The greeters were also FORBIDDEN from “cattle calling” or yelling their name across the room like it was a livestock auction. The greeter should know who each person is and be able to approach them, thank them for waiting and tell them their table or salesperson or doctor will be seeing them now.

The waiting game is one you can lose as soon as your guests enter your business. You must have someone up front who CARES about how the greeting happens. Make sure they understand that when the customer finally gets past the wait and into the establishment, they should be on a first name basis with your greeter/host. Whomever you have up front CANNOT stand behind the podium growing roots in the dirt. They must walk around engaging your customers and asking them if they need anything while they wait.

As you grow your business, do you want people leaving being blown away by how tremendous your service was, running out to the door calling their friends or family to tell them they finally visited you and it was out of this world? Or, when they leave, you happen to be in the front of your business and you say “see ya next time!” and as they push the door open they say “not likely.”

-ML

The ONE Customer Service Rule that Wins Customers for Life

Win Customers For Life

Any time I hire a new employee onto my team, I ask them to follow one rule. This ask is a simple one. It is easy, and it will empower your team in their day to day interactions with guests of any business.

Find a Way to Say Yes

That’s it, nothing more, like I said, simple. Now I know this sets off alarm bells in your head and you are watching your hard-earned profits fly out the window faster than you can imagine. What if I told you that this mantra could MAKE YOU MORE MONEY? What if it could capture customer’s loyalty and bring them back to spend more money with you? This isn’t a sales pitch, this is reality.

When you empower your employees to be creative and train them not to be the police officers of your checkbook, you will see amazing things happen.

Let me begin with my experience with “find a way to say yes”. When I was promoted to District Manager at my company, I moved to an area where I knew no one, including any of my employees. The first week I was in market I wore street clothes and visited all of my stores to see what the view from our customer base was. As I watched and listened, I came to a very quick reality, my staff was only following the rules and didn’t care if it cost them a life-long customer. It was terrifying. I literally watched customers leave to never return. I talked with customers who felt free to chat as I never explained who I was. A few of them told me they were giving us one more chance to make it right before they went running into the arms of the competitor across the street. I want you to think about that for a minute……. how close is your nearest competitor……how long would it take you to drive there? Better yet, how MANY of your competitors are close to you? Or have online ordering that you compete with?

I know this seems too easy. That’s because it is easy.

After I spent my week observing, and it was extremely difficult not to jump in and fix things immediately, I went to my managers and asked them to follow me into a new way of doing things. I asked that they ensure no one leaves our stores with their issue unresolved. We may not have been able to have a definite solution right now, but we would ensure they knew a solution was coming and they had the contact info of management at the location. We told them we would respond within 24 hours and that we would stop at nothing to find the answer. We would own the problem, even if someone else caused it. We would NOT pass it on to someone else.

Now, as we started to work this system we encountered a lot of what I call, layups. These are issues where our employees should not need to ask for help from management, yet they would continually bring the issue to us. Issues like waiving a $5 late fee for a 7-year tenured customer, giving a discount to someone who was military but hadn’t added their employee discount to their account. The list goes on, but they were all equally easy to solve.

More and more I came to a simple realization, my front-line employees couldn’t do things for themselves, they needed someone to give them the green light. While I sat there trying to understand why, it hit me, let them be the hero! I immediately went to my managers and told them simply this, empower your people to “find a way to say yes”.

The Customer is NOT Always Right

This does NOT mean we give the customer exactly what they are asking for. Simply find a way to avoid the word “no” and, the best excuse ever, “they won’t let me do that”. I HATE that phrase! Who is “they”? THEY IS YOU! You have got to get your employees to fight for their customers, to go to bat for them, to stand up for them. I told my front line not to come to a manager if the solution was for $25 or less. They still had to come back and tell us they did the discount or waived the fee, but it would be AFTER the guest left (this is the part where you freak out and hold tight to your wallet).

Building a Team of Hero’s Takes Guts

The next thing I told my management team was, “you are not allowed to get mad if they do it wrong”. We wanted them to feel empowered. If they got yelled at they would stop trying to be the hero. It was ok to ask for their justification, ask for customer tenure details, how much money did it make us from a revenue prospective and so on. Once we had the backstory, we could have an open dialogue about what WE would have done and thanked them for working hard to protect the customer base. If they did something wrong we would discuss the right solution. If they made the same mistake next time, then you can let a little frustration show. Remember though, even if they made a small mistake, does the customer revenue outweigh the discount or waived fee?

“You can exchange it, but you need to go to the location you bought it from”

I recently went to a large retailer and bought my wife a sewing machine so she could make our Halloween costumes. She used it for a few days and then it broke, brand new machine, broken. I told my wife “no worries love, I will exchange it, no problem” and off to the retailer I went. My mistake, apparently, was going to a different location of the same retailer. This was in the same town, no more than 5 miles apart. It was a 10-minute drive from A to B. I walked to customer service and talked to a woman and explained my situation. “I bought this a few days ago, it broke, and I would like to exchange it for the same model”. What I heard next floored me. She told me, “You can exchange it, but you need to go to the location you bought it from”. I couldn’t understand (I still don’t), why did I need to go back to the original location when they were a national retailer with thousands of locations. What If I was traveling, would I be told the same thing? After 15 minutes of back and forth and me finally about to lose my mind, a manager came to us and asked what he could do to help. I explained that I just wanted to exchange this sewing machine as it was defective. The manager, Matt, looked at me and said, “no problem, go back and grab the other one and come here and we will get you swapped out soon enough”. The funniest part of this, the woman looked at HER MANAGER and said “you aren’t supposed to do that.”

Policy is the Berlin Wall of Customer Service

I was happy, yet disappointed. Why did it take all of that to get to this conclusion. If it was that easy why didn’t the Women say yes? I was to the point of going back to the original location and returning it altogether. I had already looked it up on Amazon to see if they had the same model or, gasp, a more expensive model since this one broke so easily. When I asked Matt why she was so stubborn, he said a few words I will never forget, nor understand, “It’s policy”.

Policy will not pay your bills and it will not grow your customer base. Policy is the Berlin wall of customer service. Do you want your customers on your side of the wall or on the other side, with your competitors? When someone comes to you with a problem, in this age of competition, you have the opportunity to help them leave happy or help them test out your competition. Which do you want to accomplish?

I am not asking you to give blank checks to your employees nor am I advocating for buying customer happiness. I am imploring you to empower your people to look for a way to make your customer feel valued and allow them to find a solution. They do not have to agree to give a free month of services because a customer is upset, but could they offer to waive a half month, or could they offer a free one-time visit with the purchase of another visit? What if they agreed to give a 10% discount for the next 6 months? Most people see that as 10% lost for 6 months. I see that as a customer for the next 6 months who is with us and not across the street. Is 90% of 6 months revenue better than 0% from that customer forever?

Everyone has their own red line, the amount they would allow their front line to be empowered with. Figure out your red line and talk thru it with your team. This is not to buy customers, it is to show your team that what they do makes a difference, they are part of the solution.

Beg them to avoid “no”, instead ask that they “find a way to say yes”. You will win customers for life when you do.