Friday, May 28, 2010

Looking with Fresh Eyes

In another week, my oldest son will graduate from high school. There’s a lot of excitement and we have been busy getting ready for all of the activities including the prerequisite graduation open house. Recently I was looking at the door that leads to the deck and realized that it had never been painted. In fact, it looked pretty bad. I mentioned it to my wife who said: “it’s looked like that for years, I’ve just gotten used to it.”

My Japanese colleagues have a saying that sometimes you need to look at things through “fresh eyes.” That can mean using a different perspective, like “Is my house ready for a party?” It can also mean having someone else look at your house, organization, or presentation for you and telling you what they see. Chances are they will see things - like an unpainted door - that you miss because when you see them every day they become the norm.

Here is the challenge that I want to throw out to you. Take the holiday weekend off. Enjoy yourself and have some fun. When you come back on Tuesday, try to come in with a new perspective and ask: What does your lobby look like? Is it visitor ready? What does it say about your company? How about your employees? Are they productive? Are they happy to be there? Now think about your policies and processes, are they effective? Do they match the vision that you have for your company?

This is a perfect time to take a fresh look and to make changes.

In the meantime, be certain to do something fun this weekend. I’ll be busy painting a door.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can Facebook Damage Your Company?

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you know that there have been several high profile examples of large companies whose reputations have taken a significant hit. They have seen their reputations and customer goodwill plunge.

What about small to medium sized companies? Aren’t they immune from the attention of the national press because they are below the radar? What if I told you that a small firm in Kalamazoo, Michigan; T & J Towing, now has an international reputation as a disreputable company because of Facebook?

College student Justin Kurtz reports that he had a permit and his car was properly parked at his apartment complex when T & J Towing took it. He insists that they scraped off his permit when they impounded his car. After T & J refused to refund his impound fees, Kurtz set up the Facebook page: Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing

As of this morning, Kurtz’s Facebook page had over 10,000 members. Forget about who’s right or wrong in this story, the lawsuits (also viewable on Facebook) should resolve that question. You need to know how to keep this from happening to your business. Here are some thoughts:

1. Resolve customer complaints as soon as possible - one angry customer will tell more people about your business than 10 happy ones.

2. Always assume your actions will be made public – and act accordingly. In this day of video taping cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, assume that what you do will be available to the world. (this was an especially big deal for Joe Biden)

3. Don’t lie or keep secrets – nothing stays secret for very long, right Tiger?

4. Build your reputation over the long term – loyal customers will stick with you. Angry ones will join the mob on Facebook.

Companies that have spent years working to develop a good reputation can recover their customer confidence. T & J may have a bigger struggle. Rated an “F” company by the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints, they have a long road to hoe if they ever hope to rebuild their reputation and regain the trust of their customers.