How To Build a Friction Free Business
Written by Dave Lorenzo on August 30, 2016 / Management
I’ve uncovered something that could change everything for you. It is, like most of my consulting work, applied commonsense. It is insight derived from the obvious. It is, if you accept it, your competitive advantage.
In planning and booking several different events during the past few weeks, I have found most of the people at the venues to be unbelievably difficult. Regardless of location, venue type (restaurant, hotel, catering hall or even a theater managed by a local private school), it was a battle to book the venue and receive confirmation. Forget about making changes after the venue was booked…
This is not limited to meeting space, the hospitality industry, or even service businesses. My cable provider for my home and the adjacent office is Comcast. The actual service, electronic impulses that provide television images and Internet service, is inconsistent. Technicians have been to my home 13 times in 16 months for intermittent outages.
In spite of this obvious chronic service issue, not one person has assumed ownership for the situation and communicated with me consistently about what is being done to resolve it.
This means every time there is an outage in my home, I call the main customer service number and give the entire situation report, from the beginning, to the representative on the phone. This also means we attempt the same diagnostic protocol each time before dispatching a technician to my home. Then, when the technician arrives, we go through the same discovery process each time.
The good news: When I find a people who are easy to work with, I stick with them regardless of price or location.
In New York I work with a restaurant in Rockefeller Center that is amazingly accommodating. The business manager handles fluctuations in volume with grace and calls me in advance to confirm (so I don’t need to remember). In Miami I work with a hotel near the airport. It’s a little older than the other hotels and the entrance is a little tricky to find, but when we are on-site, the staff is attentive, remembers my name (and more importantly my wife’s name) and the bill never has any surprises.
There is a lesson here for all of us.
In most cases, this is not flat-out rude service; it is simply throwing up a little roadblock in the relationship. Each time you create this “friction” in your relationship with the client you make it easier for him to look somewhere else.
Providing a “friction free” experience is a competitive advantage for any business or professional service provider.
This is especially true when it comes to referrals.
Am I going to refer the business law attorney who went to a second-tier law school but is a super-nice guy and treats my clients well – or am I going to refer the guy who went to Harvard and acts like everyone should kiss his ring?
I refer the first guy all day long.
Do I shop in the store where the discounts are plentiful but the staff acts like they are on work-release and they’re going to shank me in the yard; or do I shop in the place where I pay more but when I ask for an item, the clerk walks me to the shelf and explains the differences among the three brands?
I pass on the shanking every time.
Take a few moments now and think about the experience you provide to your clients. Is it friction free?
Here are some ways you can make the experience of working with you more inviting and free of encumbrances:
Definition of Friction-Free Business: It is easy for you to deliver and receive value.
Rule 1 – Focus on Your Strengths: Your goal is to spend 80% of your time (or more) doing what you do best. This will make you happy. We gravitate toward things we enjoy.
Rule 2 – Outsource/Delegate/Automate Your Weaknesses: Create systems to help compensate for things you do not have a talent for completing.
Example: If you’re great at writing and you write a weekly column for an association or blog, but you struggle with sending that article out (as a weekly newsletter) – you can engage a service to take your column and input it into Constant Contact.
Rule 3 – Simplify payment to you: You cannot function as a business owner if you are worried about getting paid. There are three ways to simplify payment:
- Get Paid Up Front: This is possible in any business. They pay then you work.
- Automate Advance Installments: Schedule automatic recurring monthly payments but don’t start until you have 60 days payments in advance. This is the only type of payment plan that is acceptable.
- Become a Pawn Shop: Secure collateral with 100% more value than your service/product. You own the collateral. They get it back when they pay.
Since choice three is complicated and annoying, stick to the first two.
Never barter. You both will feel like you got screwed.
Only do things for free if the choice is YOURS (donating your services to a good cause not because someone is out of cash).
Rule 4 – Communicate too much information, too often and to too many: Clients get angry when they are the last to know something. Set up a regular communication schedule and stick to it. Make sure you communicate bad news quickly.
Sometimes you will have multiple stakeholders in an account. Make sure you keep everyone in the loop.
Force people to tell you to stop sharing information with them.
Example: CEO engages you do a project with the leader of the Human Resources team. You agree to report your findings to him at the end of the project. While working on the project you send him status updates twice each month to let him know how you are progressing. You meet with the HR Leader every week and with her team daily.
Rule 5 – Suspend the Need to Be Right About Small/Stupid Things: Do not become personally invested in correcting others.
- Your client misquotes Shakespeare all the time. Don’t correct him.
- Your client sends you email with a typo. Forget about it.
- Your client mixes up words or uses words that don’t exist like “irregardless” instead of regardless or “neucular” vs. nuclear.
Rule 6 – Say “NO” Without Excuses: You do not need to give anyone a reason for turning down business. Just say no.
If you let people guilt you into doing things, you will only wind up unhappy. The worst possible outcome is building a “success” you cannot stand.
Rule 7 – Focus on Positive Self-Talk: we are all under recognized. Give yourself credit. Positive feedback is about character and not situational.
- Not “I gave a great speech.” Say, “I am a great speaker.”
- Not “I did a great job with that article” Say “I am a great writer.”
- Not “I made a great dinner” Say “I am a good cook”
Rule 8 – Look for Respect Not Acceptance: Having a propensity to please is unhealthy. It leads you to do things you do not want to do or should not do. If you are truly creating value, your relationship with your client should be that of a peer.
Status is always internal and situational.
Example: The surgeon and the golf pro. In the operating room, the surgeon has higher status. On the golf course the golf pro has higher status. At dinner, they are peers having a conversation.
You are what you think you are.
You have the opportunity to shape your business any way you’d like. Why not make it easy for your clients and easy for you?
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If you communicate more frequently with your clients you will sell more. I know that is shocking. Read this now.
Ronald hates me for this but his food is crap. Your clients will think your business is crap also if you only focus on making fast money. Watch this brief video to see what I mean.