Fall is finally here in Texas: we are out of the 90's!

My September travels took me to Arizona, Chicago, Minneapolis, Ft. Worth and New York, where I had the chance to work with two new clients and launch a series of programs that will carry forward into 2011.

October is filled with great opportunities and will have me hitting the road again with trips to New York, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Florida.

Start with a Beginning in Mind

It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind, that determines which way you will go. -Rohn

During the past couple months I have been working with three clients who have embarked on a strategic analysis of their clients' experience. They are committed to taking their customer service, products and programs to a new level. They suffer no shortage of ideas, and our early meetings were huge dumping grounds of ideas for the next direction they wanted to go. They jumped into the latest and newest ways they would do things, and on their journey, they forgot where they were, they lost track of a beginning point…and were headed any way the wind was blowing.

It's not unusual to want to get better, but the pathway always begins somewhere. That location, the beginning, is the number one determining factor for being able to get where you want to go. At Creative Ventures we call this beginning place current reality.

Here is a common goal: "exceed client expectations." Sounds good, huh? But if you focus strategically on a starting point, should it be on exceeding client expectations, or instead would you be better served with a focus on how you are meeting client expectations NOW? You might be surprised.

Creating a client experience map (described in my January 2010 newsletter), an actual drawing that shows the myriad connections and steps that really exist in how people experience your company, can reveal a lot of interesting facts. Here are a few we have discovered in helping clients create their experience map.

A recent Gallup survey of service providers and their customers illustrated these points:

89% of customer service organizations had a goal of "exceeding" customer expectations, BUT 84% of customers felt their EXISTING expectations were not consistently met.

Doesn't it then make sense that the best starting point is the EXISTING client experience and a firm understanding of your ability to sustain strong service?

After a month of client experience mapping, our clients discovered the best first goal is to make the experience easy (lacking hard effort) and simple (remove complexity). Our strategic focus was on our current reality, the existing client model, not a future-based idea. Here are some examples of our redefined strategic focus:

In short, though the temptation of any new idea is to blast into the future, you will be best served by understanding your BEGINNING. Effective leaders know the value of defining "current reality" and focus their initial energies on this key starting point. Look hard for areas that you can simplify to create effortless client experiences. Start with where you are, and you will then discover where you need to go.


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Wendy's Late for Breakfast: Wendy's is getting ready to hit the world of fast food breakfast providers, and hit it BIG. As much as $150,000 per store can be brought to the registers with a strong breakfast menu. The Wendy's menu will feature oatmeal bars, egg sandwiches, breakfast paninis and burritos. They are spending $8 million on advertising, and it's probably money well spent. 25% of all traffic to fast food restaurants happens at breakfast. So, when you are in a hurry, stop at Wendy's to check out their new breakfast menu.

Tech Stocks Boom: Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Priceline are soaring as the equity market starts what some might consider precarious growth. The market will gravitate toward tech companies that can do these three things:

  1. Make quick, reasonably-priced sources of fun entertainment. You may not be able to afford a new house or that Porsche you were looking at, but you can and do spend smaller amounts on things that make you happy.
  2. Create methods that move data in a speedy fashion. Video, wireless communications, anything that can be delivered electronically needs more and more speed.
  3. Reduce costs for corporations. Efficiency is everything, and tech companies that can make companies work better will be golden.

Say Goodbye: As times continue to change, those that fail to respond, anticipate and adapt will go the way of the dinosaur. Blockbuster Video, America's erstwhile destination for Friday night video rentals, has filed for bankruptcy and will probably be going the way of the VCR tape. Netflix, Red Box, streaming video via your computer, and pay-for-view via cable and satellite systems have become the real players as home entertainment continues to evolve. Even world leaders like The New York Times are feeling the pressure of continuing change as markets gravitate to instant news. Despite staff cuts, The Times is expected to report a loss in the 3rd quarter as advertising revenue continues to shrink, subscribers decline and revenue from the newspaper's online business simply can't make up the difference. Times change and paying attention is now a CORE skill set.

 

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You can contact Steve at steve@creativeventures.com or give him a call at 972-490-7717.
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