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A leader leads. They do this partly by legislating standards without being rude, crude or unattractive. The leader formulates a series of realistic expectations that they hold themselves up to as well as other members of the team. This includes the hours when people work, what they do when they work, skills they must possess and when they take vacation. They take the fear, uncertainty and doubt out of the workplace. They let workers know what is expected of them, what their job is, where they fit in, how they are doing and how they are being paid as well as how to get ahead. But that’s not all. Legislating and enforcing standards goes beyond workers. It includes customers as well.
No business in the world can do what the customer wants anymore than you can always do what your teenager wants you to do. All businesses, as well as parents, must deal with what they need; not what they want.
Customers need for you to satisfy their needs with as little waste as possible. Because of that, we innovate. However innovation isn’t always what the customer wants at the time it happens. But since it deals with what they need, successful innovation looks brilliant in hindsight.
For instance, at one time, many wanted someone to pump their gas but they needed gasoline available at convenient hours and at a competitive price (except in states with legislated inefficiencies such as New Jersey). Therefore today there are many more places for you to fill up 24/7 than ever before and the price is lower.
Yes, I know the price on gasoline has gone up, but it hasn’t gone up as much as it would have had we not eliminated costs through the self-service innovation. Now, just how was self-service implemented? Customers were offered a choice between a higher degree of service at limited times from the neighborhood station and lower prices/greater convenience typically at the new convenience stores. Over time, consumers chose the lower price/greater convenience.
When was the last time a doctor paid you a house call? That was more convenient for sick folks but was not what patients needed. Patients needed doctors to centralize to conserve the time of doctor so more patients could be served. Had they not done that, seeing a doctor today would be far less convenient for getting an appointment would take much longer. How did they accomplish the change? Doctors legislated that patients should visit them if they wanted to be seen right away; house calls were available but took longer. Overall consumers chose the quicker office visits and house calls eventually went away through customer choice.
Wants and needs. Customers always choose fulfilling their needs over their wants in the long run.
What does this have to do with legislation? If you want gas, then pump it yourself. If you need to see the doctor, come to the office.
What does this have to do with printing or any business? Most still cheerfully stick to the fiction that they give such great customer service, the customer will never leave. We dismiss Internet prints of the world (but not as much as we once did) much like the neighborhood gas station owner dismissed the threat from convenience stores. And we too will go by the wayside unless we deal with what customers need, not what they want.
Customer needs a price and we want to give them a perfect price so we estimate it by putting it in a stack and getting back to them later. It has been measured in my experience that the closing rate drops dramatically when we wait overnight to return a price to the customer. One company measured that their quotes are converted three-fourths of the time when the price is returned today; but drops to twenty-five percent of the time when the price is returned the next day. After that, the fall off is even steeper. So, the customer wants a low price but really needs to have the price right now.
Customer wants to give a printer garbage files and have the printer fix them. Many printers consistently do this. What the customer needs however is for someone to train them how to prepare the file for printing so that the job can be produced faster. Most printers won’t do this fearing they cannot tell customer what to do. But, if we don’t, then we eventually will lose the job to a printer who can do it faster. How can they do it faster? Well, they tell the customer to prepare the file properly and they’ll do it faster. We, then, can only say we can do that too. But by then, it’s too late.
Many printers have the capability of using web portals which is where the customer’s stuff resides on your website. Portals are the gateway to unique customer services such as web to print applications (business cards come quickly to mind). Yet many printers I know have asked their customer if they would use such a service and the customer says no. Then along comes an Internet printer who takes all the business card business away. How? They provide the customer with a web to print application that the local printer could not interest them in.
How did that happen? The local printer did not look for the customer’s pain. A single buyer may not be interested, but the bigger picture was the customer needed to remove costs from their supply chain. They did it by terminating the buyer and automating the purchasing. In short, my friend didn’t reach high enough and legislate customer behavior. Now he is stuck with saying, “I can do that, too.”
Those are two obvious situations. More advanced solutions require more precise thinking and aren’t necessarily pertinent to all of us. However, we are in charge of legislating the types of paper, sizes of finished product, types of type and quantities available for sale and other details of our service delivery system.
In short, service isn’t servitude. Service is the ability for us to determine how best we can deal with customer needs; develop a system to meet those needs; and then legislate that the customer use the system. And sometimes that is not always what the customer wants.
Should customers insist on being outside our system, we should train them. If they refuse to be trained, we need to recognize the long term cost to us in providing what a minority wants and deal with what the majority needs. Yes, that means firing customers if necessary.
A leader leads. They do this partly by legislating standards without being rude, crude or unattractive. The leader formulates a series of realistic expectations that they hold themselves up to as well as other members of the team. This includes the hours when people work, what they do when they work, skills they must possess and when they take vacation. They take the fear, uncertainty and doubt out of the workplace. They let workers know what is expected of them, what their job is, where they fit in, how they are doing and how they are being paid as well as how to get ahead. The leader also legislates the customer’s behavior in using the system.
If the leader does not lead, then no one drives the business and whatever happens, happens. So, lead by setting the pace and participating in the work of the work. Lead not as Mr. Happy but not Mr. Grouch either. Be fair and legislate expectations of workers, customers and vendors.
Other articles in this 4 part series
Part I, Leading Means Legislating Click Here
Part II, Leader Legislates What Workers Do Click Here
Part III, Leader Legislates an Adult Working Environment Click Here
Part IV, Leader Even Legislates Customer Behavior Click Here
Or search on “legislate” in our website’s search engine.