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Blog Break

Q4 has become extremely busy and even trying to produce a weekly blog post has become a huge challenge. Rather than do anything halfheartedly I anticipate taking a break from posting new anything until after the first of the year.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in my posts! Until I return I would like to leave you with this Steve Jobs quote that resonates heavily with me, and I suspect many of you.

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
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What Technology Doesn’t Do

I have said this many times over the years, but I say again, I love technology. Though I long-ago abandoned being on the bleeding edge of the tech frontier, I do my best to stay current with the latest developments and offerings. My interest includes hardware and software, plus social networks.

As much as I embrace all things technology, I am reminded on a regular basis how important face to face contact is. I can not recall a time where I had an in-person meeting with someone that did not produce unexpected, albeit positive opportunities.

We can correspond via email, tweet each other, send sms messages back and forth, update our Facebook status to keep each other informed, or post news on Linkedin, but at the end of the day if we are going to forge something meaningful, it will most likely be done eye to eye.

What has been your experience with business successes using technology versus in-person?

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Do You Like Being Taken For Granted?

How many times have you felt like a business owner really doesn’t care if you ever come back to their business or not?

Powerfeedback recently conducted a general population survey in which we asked respondents whether or not they continue to patronize a business even if they are not treated with respect or if they feel that their patronage is valued. Surprisingly, 53% said that they do. When we questioned this further participants cited both convenience and familiarity as the primary reasons for this decision.

Candidly I must admit that I was surprised by this result. In my case if I am a regular at an establishment and I see that my business is not appreciated I move on. Of course I do make certain to say something before I take this step.

Business owners typically focus heavily on attracting new patrons but do far less to maintain the current base of business. This strategy is filled with numerous potholes especially when you consider that word-of-mouth advertising is still the most effective means of acquiring customers.

If you own a business what steps do you take to make certain that your existing customer base is still feeling loyal and connected to your business?


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What Would Columbus Do?

As we approach the celebration of Columbus Day I often ask where are today’s explorers and navigators.

In my world of market research and business consulting I work with companies who are seeking out new and useful information (a.k.a. “explorers”) and while also looking for direction on what to do (a.k.a. “navigators”) with the collected intelligence. The challenge for them more times than not is actually executing what the gathered information reveals.

Compounding their challenge is that all too many market research firms rely heavily on technicians to lead market research initiatives. While many of these people are competent, they lack the business sense and insight needed to understand what role the accumulated knowledge has in moving the business forward.

Christopher Columbus assembled detailed information before each voyage and also gave consideration to what he would do once he landed at his desired destination.

Are you following Columbus’s example? Are you working with a market research firm that not only answers your questions but challenges you with new ideas and concepts? If not, it is time to call Powerfeedback to discuss how we utilize market research to decisively benefit you and your business!

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What Do Women Know About Leadership?

Do women have more leadership skills than men?

This week I had the privilege of working with three different women. Though all were in different fields they all had at least these things in common.

  1. entrepreneurs
  2. moms
  3. In a committed relationship

Even before I learned more about them it was very clear that they were all very smart, well-organized and highly competent professionals. They also took great pride in successfully managing their personal (kids, household, pets, significant other, etc.) lives while pursuing their entrepreneurial goals. One in particular was also pursuing her MBA as well!

All too often we limit our vision in seeking out wisdom about leadership. We look to CEO’s, politicians, media personalities or celebrities. Most of these categories are male dominated.

Show me a mom who can successfully juggle home, work & life in general and I will show you a woman that is qualified to teach leadership lessons to anyone, anywhere, any time!

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How Do You Overcome Obstacles?

Do you train your staff on how to properly overcome barriers and how to best deal with objections?

Yesterday I received a phone call from a market research company on behalf of my bank wanting to do a customer satisfaction survey. After asking how long it would take, I then asked what the incentive was to participate. The “interviewer”, and I am being generous with the use of that term, was stunned and asked me what I meant. I asked if there was a financial (i.e. gift card, discount on services, etc.) incentive for me to participate. She said that there was not. When I then asked why I should participate given that there was theoretically nothing in this for me, once again the interviewer was stunned and now speechless.

Whether your people engage people by telephone or in person they must be given the skills and strategy to overcome situations like this, and yes, most times they can be overcome.

By the way, a letter is on its way to my bank asking them why they are not using Powerfeedback for their qualitative and quantitative market research needs!

What training do you give your employees to better handle situations like this? If you are an employee, do you receive the training you feel that you need to overcome objections and obstacles?

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The Other Jobs Problem

With over 14 million people unemployed you would assume that all of the available jobs are accounted for, right?

Unfortunately you would be wrong.

I have met a number of small business owners who are unable to fill available jobs. This is especially problematic for eateries. Why is this the case you ask? Typically these establishments pay an hourly wage of $8-10. If they were to work a 40 hour week, using $9 an hour as a base, that would be $360 per week. Juxtapose that to unemployment insurance compensation (UIC) which might pay $300-400 per week, many people opt for the UIC benefit check.

No, this is not a rant against people who choose the UIC check versus employment, the problem is deeper than that. By accepting this type of job candidates are likely to limit their availability for any interviews that may come up as well as restrict their time to network and attend job fairs.

Make no mistake, I am not taking a position on this situation one way or another, I am simply stating the situation at hand.

Some may suggest that employers might consider paying a higher hourly wage. After interviewing hundreds of these small business owners I can say unequivcoally that they do not have the profit margins to support paying more in wages if they wish to remain in business.

What is the solution to this conundrum? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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What Products Do You Sell?

Is it possible that your employees are clueless on the products and services that you offer?

If you say no way, I respectfully submit that you might be wrong. I base this on several personal experiences, the most recent came just today.

I attempted to use my Verizon telephone calling card from a pay phone, and yes, they still do exist! It turns out the access phone number listed on my card is no longer in service.

I called Verizon and after holding for a customer care representative for 39 minutes and 34 seconds the rep told me that she never heard of a telephone calling card. I explained to her that I had this card for many years and that this was linked to my landline (yes, these too still exist!) phone. She then transferred me to another department and I had a similar experience with them. This occurred one more time with the same result. 64 minutes and 19 seconds later I was transferred to my “local business office” who per their recording was closed and offered no information as to when they might reopen.

Powerfeedback is often engaged by clients to mystery shop their company to determine product knowledge, response times and customer service delivery.

What steps is your company taking to make certain your personnel are fully informed of the products and services that you offer?

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Why Hospitals Should Watch Wait Times

Would you go to a hospital ER/ED with a shorter or longer wait time?

Obviously the answer the answer to this question depends heavily on the nature of your need to seek “emergency” care. However if all things are equal, the answer is not so clear.

I suspected that I fractured my foot. This morning I decided that I needed to see a doctor and most likely would have to have an X-ray of the foot. Since my primary care physician is closed on Sunday I realized that I would need to go to a hospital.

Since this was not an “emergency” per se I was able to call 4 hospitals within 20 minutes or so of my house. They all seemed stunned when I asked about the wait-time in their emergency department. Armed with this information I bypassed the two closest facilities and opted for one 15 minutes away.

I realize that things could have easily changed in-between the time of my phone call and arrival based on real emergencies, but as a consumer who pays way too much money for health care coverage, I have choices.

Unfortunately all too many hospitals don’t understand the importance of maximizing efficiency, and delivering exceptional customer service in the emergency department. This area is a huge focus for Powerfeedback and represents a very positive revenue source for hospitals if done properly.

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How clients get screwed by CATI

You gladly participate each and every time one of those nice interviewers calls your home to participate in a survey, right?

Lately I have been getting swamped with many such calls. Generally speaking many of the interviewers who call are nice, well, as long as you don’t ask them to deviate from their script!

Since I am in the market research business and well understand how difficult it is to get people to participate I try to do my part. Call it a mix of being a nice guy and good karma for when my Powerfeedback team makes similar calls ☺

I will always ask how long the survey will take. If it will be more than 2-3 minutes, I ask them for the website where I can complete the survey later, at my convenience. 99% of the time there is no other option to participate in their research.

I well understand and appreciate that there is big differences between computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) and a web survey but I also know very well that a great deal of intelligence is left out as valuable participants are often excluded from the research.

If your market research vendor is not fully explaining to you all of the options as well as the pitfalls of CATI, you are probably with the wrong company! There are many ways to make certain that you get truly valuable information and not just the required number of completes.

To discuss your options, please email me personally.

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Do You Value Your Labor?

What makes your employees feel valued and appreciated?

As I was pondering the roots of Labor Day and the plight of today’s union and non union workers I was taken back to a story I heard earlier this week.

Powerfeedback was interviewing healthcare workers and support staff and one particular interview really stood out for me. The woman was in charge of billing for a private physician practice and she was responsible for billing and accounts receivable of several million dollars a year. In her 5 years with the practice none of the physicians nor the office manager ever asked her about her job satisfaction, either directly or by utilizing employee attitude research. As she told me-

"Yeah, its ironic. I hear the manager partner of the practice on the phone with his (car) dealer asking how business is, how his job is going, what’s new at the dealership, and how his family is and yet he never asks me those questions. All he ever wants from me is reports."

All too many employers have a misconception that in a negative economy they do not need to measure employee attitude and satisfaction. This perception is totally wrong and frankly is dangerous to the future of their business. If you do not know what your employees are thinking, how will you determine which ones need more support and training, understand which of your top performers may be lured away from a competitor, and if the mission you outlined for the company still resonates with them?

Please take the time to listen to your workers. Their insights can make, or break your business…literally!

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Are you as smart as McDonald’s?

If one of the most successful companies and most accomplished CEO’s relies on customer feedback, shouldn’t you?

"Employees and analysts say he’s guided by a zeal for satisfying customers, even if it comes at the expense of his own ideas and preferences. A few years ago the company did extensive testing on new coffee-cup lids and rolled out a version that consumers liked — and that Skinner, who happens to drink a lot of coffee, really didn’t."

No matter how much success McDonald’s achieves they never stop seeking customer feedback and making adjustments based on the intelligence that they garner. This article explains in detail how to succeed no matter what is happening in our economy.

Clients of Powerfeedback understand these principles and realize that the key to their own success is to continually garner feedback from customers, employees and other relevant people who directly and indirectly impact their business.

So what have you done lately to scientifically garner feedback from those people who can make or break your business?

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Do You Measure Your Employees?

Loyalty and productivity are not mutually exclusive to happy and productive employees.

"At the core of these failures is how leaders and entrepreneurs, and employees in turn, typically ask for accountability and are then rewarded. Money is the carrot (or some proxy for money, like vacation time, or a trip, or a bonus, that sort of thing). That works in an industrial operation where there are fairly time specific goals to be achieved. But the reality is, money isn’t as important as the relationship."

This quote comes from a great article that chronicles a real life employer experience. All too often employers use the leverage of a negative and uncertain economy as the basis of ignoring employee attitude. Top performers will always find opportunity no matter what the jobs report indicates.

At Powerfeedback we work with clients to not only understand what their employees are thinking, but what is driving them. Even seemingly less productive workers must be engaged through both qualitative and quantitive market research. Poor employee attitude can spread through your business like cancer and it can literally start with just one discontented team member.

Ambivalent employee feelings are neutral to economic conditions. Should you ignore them you risk the future of your business. Like most businesses you probably regularly invest in maintenance and upgrades for your computers, copy machines, phone system and buildings. Ought not you invest in the real engine that really determines the future of your business, your people?

Feel free to email me personally to learn how Powerfeedback can help your business improve its profitability, worker productivity and competitive advantage.

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Why Westar Energy is smart, really smart!

“How do we promote the project? How do we attract and engage customers? How will customers accept it?”

Any time a company starts out asking questions like this you can be pretty certain that they are on the road to success!

This article is well worth the read no matter what industry that you are in. At Powerfeedback we focus on the business need first and then talk about methodology and technology. Firms like Westar Energy who follow this path understand that customer, community, employee and other stakeholder buy-in and participation is a vital component of long-term viability and profitability.

If your company is not asking the “how”, “why”, “when”, “where”, etc. questions regularly you are not only missing golden opportunities and leaving money on the table, but you are also limiting your company’s potential.

Those who view market research as an expense item on the ledger sheet versus a profit center have obviously not yet worked with Powerfeedback :-)

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