Celebrating our 7th Business Birthday

Seven years ago, I invited 34 people to join me for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Manchester to announce the launch of My TrueNORTH.

Three hours later, after great food, great conversation and an outline of what I was offering, 29 agreed to become clients, and My TrueNORTH was open for business!

Seven years later, I’ve just returned from hosting a VIP Luncheon to celebrate My TrueNORTH’s 7th Business Birthday.

So, I thought I’d share some reflections and acknowledgements over the past seven years:

Seven years ago, my mission was to help Business Owners discover their true potential and achieve their dreams.

And whilst we still aim to assist Business leaders to achieve this.  It has evolved to become:

Our mission is to eradicate unemployment in the UK by supporting 1,000,000 Conscientious professional service-based business leaders to scale up their businesses significantly and sustainably and generate more new roles than those actively seeking employment.

I feel blessed to have and continue to do just that for so many business leaders.

Seven Years – Seven Lessons

  1. The Impact of Mindset
    Mindset plays a critical role in achieving success, and I have learnt only too well that helping clients develop a growth mindset is essential in unlocking both their and their business’s full potential. By assisting clients in shifting their minds from fixed to growth, I can help them overcome limiting beliefs and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
  2. The Power of Active Listening
    One of my most significant learnings at My TrueNORTH is the power of active listening. Listening is a critical component of effective communication. I remain a student, continually learning that truly active listening to clients is essential in providing them with the necessary support. By listening actively, we gain a deeper understanding of our client’s needs, which helps tailor our services to their circumstances.
  3. The Importance of Clarity
    Just like active listening, clarity is crucial when it comes to setting goals and achieving them. I have learnt that helping clients clarify their real goals and objectives is critical in helping them succeed. By defining clear and specific goals, clients are better equipped to create actionable plans and stay motivated throughout the journey.
  4. The Value of Accountability
    Accountability is essential in achieving success, and I have remained committed to holding clients accountable to ensure they stay on track. Setting clear expectations and holding clients accountable for their actions helps them stay motivated and focused on achieving their goals.
  5. The Benefits of Positive Reinforcement
    Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator, and over the last seven years, I’ve learnt that celebrating clients’ successes and milestones is essential in keeping them motivated. By recognising and celebrating clients’ achievements, builds confidence and maintains momentum on their journey towards success.
  6. The Power of Self-Awareness
    Self-awareness is crucial in personal and professional growth. I remain a student of learning here but remain committed to helping clients develop their own self-awareness. By understanding strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, clients are better equipped to make informed decisions and take meaningful action.
  7. The Importance of Continuous Learning
    Finally (And much to the delight of many of my schoolteachers!) I finally acknowledge that continuous learning is essential in staying relevant and providing the best possible service. Not seeing courses, masterclasses/workshops, seminars, or my own coaching as a cost but as an investment. Staying current with the latest research and trends in coaching and business development, I am better equipped to help clients tackle the many hurdles and challenges they face to stay ahead of the curve and achieve their goals.

Seven Years – Seven Highlights

  1. Impacting Lives
    I feel blessed to have the opportunity to impact the lives of the people we work with positively. I am committed to providing bespoke training and personalised mentoring that help our clients overcome their challenges, improve their performance (both personal and professional), and transform their outcomes. Whether it’s leadership or business development, I strive to empower clients to make bigger, better, bolder decisions that create business for good outcomes aligned with their vision, values and goals. Seeing the transformation clients achieve is the most rewarding part of my work.
  2. Positive Feedback
    There is no failure, only feedback. And whilst I remain open to all feedback, I remain most grateful for the regular positive feedback I receive from clients, suppliers, partners, and the community. I continually strive to provide the highest level of service and am pleased to know that our clients recognise the value of our services. Hearing positive feedback motivates me to continue to improve and provide the best possible service to all.
  3. Learning Opportunities
    Likewise, every day at My TrueNORTH is a learning opportunity. I am committed to continual learning and development, as I encourage clients to do the same. I also learn from our clients, partners, and community and use these learnings to improve the services. I fully subscribe to the belief that learning is a lifelong journey and remain committed to continually implementing incremental improvements.
  4. Client Success Stories
    I feel honoured to have played a part in my clients’ success stories. Whether it’s a successful launch, hitting a milestone, or successfully exiting to either retire or ‘do it all again’. There is nothing greater than celebrating every success with a client. I am incredibly proud to have helped clients overcome challenges, reveal hidden opportunities, and accelerate the speed and level of their success.  Your success is testament to the effectiveness of our coaching and mentoring services.
  5. Charitable Commitment
    At My TrueNORTH, I have always believed in giving back. Be that through knowledge sharing, time, or finance. We are proud to be members of the B1G1 Global Giving Community and have aligned all our business with giving to others, creating Win \ Win \ Win outcomes.
    I remain involved and committed to initiatives supporting worldwide education, mental health, and other global social causes. I firmly believe that true success is not measured by what you have – but by what you give. And that by supporting our community, we can positively impact the world. Through our big and bold mission, I remain committed to continuing our B1G1 giving, pro-bono mental health support work, which continues to make a lasting difference in the lives of others. (use reference BM14841 if you chose to join, and 50 days of education shall be donated on your behalf)
  6. Growth
    Over the past seven years, My TrueNORTH has continued to grow in revenue, services and impact. Through the early adoption of digital delivery, we have impacted more businesses more succinctly and enabled more Business Leaders to access our #ADDAZERO Methodology. Leading to more enquiries, conversions, clients, and revenue. More staff, more premises, and sometimes even more businesses!
    We have also continually reviewed and adapted the delivery of services to align with our client’s current needs, including management/leadership training, executive mentoring, and both online and in-person Mastermind. Our reach has also expanded as digital delivery has served clients from all over the world. This growth has allowed us to impact even more lives and help more business leaders discover how to #ADDAZERO.
  7. Awards and Recognition
    But beyond all, I remain incredibly grateful and most humbled to witness no less than 10 of our clients reaching National Entrepreneur of the Year Award Finalists (4 winners within their category). And countless others winning regional and industry-specific awards for growth, turnaround, employer of the year etc. In return, for My TrueNORTH to have received such prestigious awards and recognitions for my work in coaching/mentoring.

    • 2 x Global ‘Big Impact to Business’ Awards
    • UK ‘Clear Business Thinking’ Power 100
    • Global Ethical Coaching Company of the Year
    • and Fellow of the Association for Professional Coaching.

My TrueNORTH has been recognised for our holistic scaleup methodology, the impact this has on our client’s businesses, and our contribution to the community. I remain forever grateful for the recognition we have received.  And will continually strive to do more, be more, and achieve more in everything I do.

Conclusion

Like every small business, the first seven years of My TrueNORTH have been filled with highs and lows, surprises and regularity, challenge and reward – Brexit, A European War, and the Cost-of-Living crisis are but a few examples.

But through it all, I have embraced it as invaluable lessons that have helped me grow and serve clients better. I have celebrated working with clients from all walks of life, all types and sizes of businesses, and all sorts of hurdles and challenges.  It has spurred me to continually create/improve innovative programs and services, culminating in our holistic scaleup methodology – #ADDAZERO.

Perhaps most importantly, I remain a student. I am learning the power of active listening, clarity, accountability, positive reinforcement, self-awareness, a growth mindset, and continuous learning. These lessons have become the pillars of my business, guiding me as I endeavour to provide clients with the best possible support and guidance.

Looking to the future, I am incredibly excited to continue growing, serving, and evolving as a company. I commit to listening to clients’ needs, refining our services, and staying updated with the latest research and trends. The mission is now set in stone, and everything I do is fully aligned with this outcome, to which I have never been more determined or focussed.

One comment I received yesterday said,

Thank you, Jay. Your zest for life and all it has to offer is infectious”.

I remain forever grateful for the trust and faith placed within me by clients and partners and look forward to many more years of making a positive and lasting impact in the world. So again, thank you for being a part of our journey. I can’t wait to share with you the ongoing successes still to unfold in the next Seven years as the UK’s leading Ethical Coaching Company – My TrueNORTH, home of the #ADDAZERO Business Challenge.

I love my job

As we go about our daily lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our routines.

We wake up, go to work, come home, and go to bed, often without taking the time to reflect on the impact we’ve had on the world around us. However, I believe that it’s important to finish each day feeling like you’ve made a real difference, no matter how small that difference may be.

When we feel like we’ve made a difference, we feel more fulfilled and purposeful in our lives. We feel like we’re contributing to something greater than ourselves and that our actions have meaning and significance. This sense of purpose can have a profound impact on our mental health and well-being, helping us to feel more positive, motivated, and engaged in our daily lives.

So, how can we ensure that we finish each day feeling like we’ve made a real difference?

Here are a few tips:

Set clear goals

Whether it’s at work, in your personal life, or in your community, it’s important to set clear goals for yourself. This will give you something to strive for and a sense of direction in your daily life.

Take action

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s important to take action towards achieving them. This might involve taking small steps each day or tackling bigger projects that will make a significant impact.

Reflect on your accomplishments

At the end of each day, take some time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Even if it’s just a small step towards your goals, take a moment to acknowledge the progress you’ve made.

Express gratitude

Take time to express gratitude for the people and opportunities that have helped you make a difference. This will help you to appreciate the impact you’ve had on others and feel more connected to your community.

I certainly consider myself exceptionally fortunate in my role as a Business ScaleUp Mentor, and founder of the #ADDAZERO Business Challenge.  Every day, I get the opportunity to work with Business Owners, supporting them to overcome challenges, hurdles and difficulties that prevent them from the significant and sustainable growth of both them and their businesses.

One such recent example of which is Sean:

Sean is a driven and ambitious individual who started his own business during the global lockdown in response to COVID 19. When we first met networking, despite having read every book out there, attended many courses, and applied much of the multiple sources of advice that were available to him. Sean was struggling to grow his business and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the challenges he was facing. However, Sean remained optimistic and open to both being challenged and trying new things, through his determination to help others whilst achieving success.

Initially, Sean bought a copy of #ADDAZERO – Establishing BaseCamp. From which he began to see our approach is significantly different to much of the other guidance and advice he had been given.  Practical, step-by-step support and the resources he needed to overcome his challenges and reach his goals. Within days of reading, he had already won a new client as a direct result of applying the teachings within, and had been able to identify why the previous methods he had been taught hadn’t worked.

From here, he booked a single coaching session, and together, we developed a comprehensive plan for scaling his business, including strategies for marketing, sales, operations and finance. I was able to offer insights based on my own experiences as a business owner and Mentor, and Sean was able to apply these insights to his own business.

Over the course of a few weeks, Sean went ahead and purchased #ADDAZERO – Scale to Summit. Which I’ve observed as Sean’s business continues to grow and evolve. He implemented new marketing strategies, and new pricing plans, and expanded his reach to new markets. He also gained a newfound sense of confidence and clarity, knowing that he had the skills and resources he needed to succeed.

One of the things I love most about my job as a business scaleup mentor is the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs like Sean. These individuals are passionate, driven, and committed to achieving their goals. They are willing to take risks and put in the hard work required to succeed, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of their journey. As a mentor, I am able to provide these entrepreneurs with the support and guidance they need to navigate the challenges of scaling a business. I am able to offer insights, expertise, and resources that can help them avoid common pitfalls and achieve success more quickly.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying than watching an entrepreneur like Sean achieve their goals and take their business to new heights. It’s a privilege to be a part of their journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to support them in any way I can.

Ready to learn more?

5 star service

My TrueNORTH, 5 star customer experienceDo you offer 5-star service?

We’ve all heard the expression “Cash is king” But you’ll find, that ‘cash’ in the hands of a customer, and so surely the real expression is (or at least should be) The Customer is King (or Queen).

With that in mind, I wonder:

Do you provide 5-Star Service?

Does your team?

To every Customer / Client / Enquiry, everytime?

I know we don’t go out there with the intention of offering a poor service, but for a multiple of reasons, we do.

  • It might be, you had a bad nights sleep, and woke tired, frustrated, late?
  • It could be, you got cut up on the way to work, and the red-mist hasn’t yet fully settled?
  • It could be, you ate something that didn’t agree with you, and feeling rather ‘icky’?

And, through no fault of your own, the experience the end user receives is less than they expected!

What is poor customer service?

Poor customer service happens anytime your business fails to meet a customer’s expectations. It could be the quality of service your customer received, how long it takes for you to answer their phone call or just their overall experience with your brand.

It doesn’t have to be huge, (in fact it rarely is), but it’s just enough for the customer to feel less about you and the brand than they did before their latest experience.

What is the cost of poor customer service?

  1. Poor customer service will reduce the number of customers interacting with a business.
  2. Fewer customers will cause a loss in profit for any business.
  3. Loss of business may also force a company to attempt to save money (often through reduced staff training, lower salaries, and fewer incentives) Creating an ever-decreasing spiral which eventually leads to closure!

Consumer surveys consistently show that complaints are on the rise with customers becoming increasingly fickle in the face of a bad experience.

The Ombudsman Services report last year estimated that UK businesses lose about £37 billion every year due to bad customer service. When customers have a bad experience, around a third will respond by spending less on that brand and are more likely to switch to a rival. They are also more likely to complain to their friends, tweet, or leave bad online reviews. The report revealed that the most complained about the industry are retail, followed by telecommunications, with energy, transport, and banking coming in equal third.

Poor customer service not only affects the consumer but is also demoralising for the staff on the other end. Systems that leave the customer on hold or require them to repeat information many times over mean that instead of helping serve customers, call centre staff spend most of their time apologising to irate callers and directing complaints. This isn’t helpful and is extremely costly, especially taking into account that many of these customers will not be coming back.

There is plenty of evidence to show that customers value a product more if it’s accompanied by a positive customer experience. This is a trend that will continue and industry analysts say that spending on customer engagement projects is forecast to increase significantly as its influence and value become increasingly obvious.

Is poor customer service common?

It’s a lot more common than you might think! And, with competition being so fierce it has never been more important to recognise it, challenge it, and resolve it.

A customer is often far more educated, well informed, and knowledgeable about what they want, than the person selling it to them! Gone are the days when a salesperson is required to share all the features and benefits of the product/service. The customer has often done all the research online before even making the enquiry.  Therefore the role of sales is no longer to sell! But data collection.  In order to understand context, intention, and purpose, in order to offer the right solution, in the right timeframe, for the right quality and investment!

How do you stack up?

Do you survey your customers? Do you invite them to offer feedback on their experience with you and the company? Do you actively pursue comments/suggestions, and actively show that you are responding to the ongoing and changing needs of the consumer?

A recent study (2018) of more than 27,000 consumers, found that 72% voted their most recent experience with the brand 7/10.

7 isn’t so bad is it?

7 is terrible!

1-4 you’ve blown it, they are never likely to return. (Evidence shows, that if a customer has a bad experience with a brand, it can take up to 11 years before they are willing to return and ‘try again)

5-6 it’s not good, but it’s something you can work with. Taking fast remedial action, could well win customers over and give you a ‘2nd chance’ because you have demonstrated you are listening to the needs of the consumer.

9-10 GREAT.  You’ve got some advocates, some loyal fans. These are the few, that will not only walk past the compeititon to return to you, but gladly tell their friends, family and connections why they do so.

8 You are on the edge! – Yes 8 and you are already not safe.  This customer is happy (for now) but not happy enough to be loyal!

7 DANGER. This is the most dangerous number you could be awarded! Better than a 6 and so you think you’re doing a good job! Not quite an 8, 9, 10 room for improvement, but nothing to worry about!

The complacentcy created when you receive a 7 is enormous, and it’s slowly killing your business! (See Sabotage is rife in UK Business)

What is good customer service?

You may have a fantastic product, but if your customer service is unhelpful, unreliable, or just plain hard to get in touch with, folks will hear about it, and you’ll lose customers over it.

That’s one big reason why investing in customer service is key to long-term business success.

But what does it mean to provide great customer service, and how can you ensure that every customer has a great experience with your company when they reach out for help?

Good customer service means consistently not just meeting but exceeding customers’ expectations.

Great customer service is quick, easy, personalized, and empathetic. Companies that deliver excellent customer service take the time needed to understand the needs of their unique customer base, and provide the help, support, products/services their customers/consumers need/want.

Here are 10 ways to deliver excellent customer service

Know your product/service

Expansive knowledge of your product(s)/Service(s) is an essential customer service skill. Ideally, you should believe in your product(s)/Service(s), be able to discuss features and use cases in an insightful way, and show your customers how the product/service can benefit them — not to mention troubleshoot anything that’s not working right!

Your job is to help your customers get the most out of their investment and feel like they have true value for their money. Make it your goal to learn everything there is to know about your product(s)/Service(s) so you can amaze your customers with timely recommendations for using new features and services.

2. Maintain a positive attitude

Attitude is everything, and a positive attitude goes a long way in providing excellent customer service.

“The right attitude changes negative customer experiences into positive customer experiences”.

Since many customer interactions are no longer face-to-face, your attitude should be reflected in your language and tone of voice as much as (if not more than) the words you use.

It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of written communication, and email or live chat can come across as cold. The brain uses multiple signals to interpret someone else’s emotional tone, including body language and facial expression, many of which are absent online.

If I can’t be face to face, I still find LIVE video THE best method of communication. Followed by the telephone, and the use of voice notes. Don’t be afraid to use emojis to convey warmth and good humour, and personalisation.

3. Creatively problem-solve

Over 80% of customers have churned because they experienced bad customer service. That’s why you must thrive on solving problems for your customers and make it a central part of your support role — and there will always be problems to solve.

Have you heard of the legendary customer service at Zappos?

For example, they once sent a best man free shoes the night before the wedding after his order was sent to the wrong location due to a mistake by the delivery company. Zappos solved a problem and exemplified excellent customer service — they won a customer for life and gave the man a story that he couldn’t wait to share.

Don’t be afraid to wow your customers as you seek to problem-solve for them. You could just fix the issue and be on your way, but by creatively meeting their needs in ways that go above and beyond, you’ll create customers that are committed to you and your product.

4. Respond quickly

66% of people believe that valuing their time is the most important thing in any online customer experience. Resolving customer queries as quickly as possible is a cornerstone of good customer service. Speed should be of the essence — especially for smaller issues that don’t take much time to solve.

That being said — great customer service beats speed every time.

Customers understand that more complex queries take time to resolve. There’s a difference between the time it takes you to respond and the speed at which you resolve their problems. Customers don’t want to languish in a ticket queue, but they’ll spend as much time as it takes to resolve their issue. You should, too.
Get back to your customers as quickly as possible, but don’t be in a rush to get them off the phone or close the ticket without resolving the issue completely.

5. Personalize your service

40% of customers say they want better human service. That means they want to feel like more than just a ticket number. They get angry when they’re not being treated like an individual person, receiving boilerplate responses, or being batted like a tennis ball to different people.

Customers want to interact with a person — not a company. It’s part of the reason why many businesses send gifts to their customers on their birthdays.

  • Do you know not only your customers’ names, but also their birthdays?
  • How about their interests or hobbies?
  • Can you make them laugh?

It’s obviously not possible to do this for everyone, but going off script and giving the personal touch when you can is an important way to show your customers you know them and you care.

6. Help customers help themselves

That said, customers don’t always want to talk to someone to get their problem solved — often, they want to quickly resolve their issues themselves. Among consumers, 81% attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out for help from another. Further research shows that 71% want the ability to solve most customer service issues on their own.

Self-service is a scalable, cost-effective way to make customers happy — that’s the thinking that led us to invest more and more time and energy into our FAQs, which puts help content front and centre so consumers can find answers right where they are without having to either email, or book a call. Then if they’re unable to answer their own question, help from a real person is just a couple of clicks away.

7. Focus support on the customer

Your customers are the most integral part of your business, and they come before products or profit. Treat them like they are the centre of your world — because they are.

According to Kristin Smaby in “Being Human is Good Business,” It’s time to consider an entirely different approach: Building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It’s worth it.

8. Actively listen

Paying attention to customer feedback includes looking back over the data, as well as listening in real-time. Show your customers you hear them when they take the time to speak to you. Listening increases the chances that you’ll hear your customers’ real problems and can effectively solve them, resulting in happier customers.

  • Listen to what they have to say without pushing your own agenda.
  • Don’t assume that you know what your customer is going to say.

Demonstrate active listening skills; when you’re on the phone or live chat, use phrases like:

“It sounds like … ”

and

“Do you mean … ?”

or

“Let me make sure I’ve got this right.”

Make sure you repeat the problem back to them in your own words to show you’ve heard them.

Active listening also means you are mindful of your customer’s unique personality and current emotional state so you can tailor your response to fit the situation. Customer service is not one-size-fits-all.

9. Keep your word

If you promise something, making sure you deliver on it is common-sense customer service. Don’t let your customers down. Keeping your word is about respect and trust.

For example, if you promise an SLA uptime of 99%, make sure you keep to that standard. If you promise to develop a certain feature in your software in a particular time frame, make sure you deliver on that. If you offer a loyalty bonus stick to it

If you ever break your word, like saying you’ll get back to a customer within 24 hours and you don’t, offer something to make up for it. If your customer’s delivery goes awry, offer to replace it and refund their money for their trouble. You might lose some money in the short term, but you’ll gain a loyal customer.

Interestingly, customers do not feel extra grateful when you deliver more than you promised. They do, however, feel angry if you break a promise. It’s still better to under-promise and over-deliver so you can make sure you never break this important social contract.

10. Be proactively helpful

Going the extra mile is one of the most important things you can do to deliver great customer service. This is when you have ticked all the boxes, yet you still want to do more.

Sometimes being helpful means anticipating your customers’ needs before they even have to articulate them. In fact, sometimes customers may ask for one thing without realizing that they really need another. It’s your job to anticipate their needs and provide for them.

When customers feel like you value them — like they’re truly special to you — they’ll keep coming back. This may be linked with the phenomenon of reciprocity in social psychology:

If you do something nice for your customers, they will want to do something in return

like, buy your products!

Sending them a small gift “just because,” or giving them a rare promotional code, will speak to your customers’ egos and demonstrate your genuine appreciation of their business.

What are the differences between customer service and customer experience?

Customer service is just one part of the entire customer journey, while customer experience encompasses all the interactions between your brand and a customer.

Is customer service part of the customer experience? Or is customer experience what happens when someone receives customer service? Are they the same thing?

The terms “customer service” and “customer experience” are often confused or used interchangeably. They’re not the same thing, but they are related.

The difference between customer service and customer experience is that while customer service is one piece of the puzzle — focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers — customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

Let’s take a look at customer service vs. customer experience in more detail.

Customer service is probably a more familiar term — it’s also the more narrowly scoped of the two.
Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed.

Customer service requires your customer-facing team to possess a particular set of skills, including patience, product knowledge, and tenacity, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs. It’s the human element in the customer journey and the voice your customer will recognize as representative of your organization.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer Experience, or CX, refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business.

CX involves all the ways your business interacts with a customer, including and outside of traditional direct, customer-facing service. CX captures how the customer uses your product or service, their interactions with self-service support options, the feeling of walking into your retail store, customer service interactions with the team, and more.

Customer experience includes three main components:

  1. Customer Service: This includes Customer Support, Customer Success, and self-service support — the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
  2. Technology: This is the product itself — how it works and the interactivity points.
  3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint — the marketing, the design, and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

While those three areas are quite distinct, there are no hard lines between them. All of the pieces combine and work together to make up the customer experience.

Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience

The key difference between customer service and customer experience is that customer experience involves the whole customer journey, including customer service.

Customer service is limited to the interactions a customer has when seeking advice or assistance on a product or service. Understanding the customer experience, on the other hand, can involve analyzing data from non-customer-facing teams who contribute to a customer’s overall experience with a product or service.

Customer service and customer experience are both important pieces to an organization’s success, yet it’s not possible (or necessary) to draw hard lines between them. The line between how customers use a product and how they interact with the people supporting it are more blurred than ever. Customers consider the whole picture when thinking about your offerings, and you should, too.

A great example

In May 2021, I made the decision we needed a new printer. Our previous printer was several years old, and whilst it worked, it was ‘tired’ and not always offering the best print quality.  Beyond this, printers have moved on significantly in what they can do, and our print requirements determined it would be more cost-effective to upgrade and continue ‘in-house’ than ‘out-source’ various print requirements outside the scope of our current machine.

I had planned to scour the internet, for all the latest models/reviews recommendations etc.  But found Printerland had already done all that for me. Completely independent from any particular brand, they have both an impressive selection and offer a comparison service.

Using this, I was able to determine my requirements, and make recommendations as to which printers met/superseded those requirements, and for what level of investment. By using this free-to-use tool, I was able to make my selection, make payment, and receive the new printer the very next day.

Within the packaging were instructions for use, and the all-important warranty instruction.

Following the warranty guidelines, I visited Xerox website, to input the required data to register the product, only to find the purchase date was already entered, was grossly incorrect (01/01/1901) and unable to be changed! Uncertain how to overcome this, I dialled the number on the screen for their “Helpful customer service department” only to find the number had been discontinued!

Uncertain how to proceed, I called Printerland customer service to enquire how best to proceed.  And was immediately offered an alternative number to speak with Xerox.  Finally able to speak to the manufacturer, and they advised if there was a ‘glitch’ with the website, I should continue to complete the form, but also email in proof of purchase, that they would then amend the purchase date.

Some months passed, before the printer offered an ink low warning, and time to purchase new toners. – Naturally, I returned to Printerland, as not only had their service been exceptional, but were most cost effective also.

On receiving the toners, across the receipt, was a promotional offer:

“By purchasing original toners within this qualifying period, you are able to extend the products warranty. Click here to extend your warranty”

Fabulous. Not only did I have new toners, but also able to double the length of the manufacturers warranty – Or so I thought!

Visiting the website to enter the details, the website declared “Unable to extend the warranty, as original warranty already expired – (01/01/1902)” 

Oh no. Despite having spoken to Xerox at the time of purchase, and being assured they would update the system, this had not been done, and showing my warranty expired 5 years before the company was even formed! Thankfully, the advice given by Printerland was to take screenshots of the website with the ‘glitch’ and I was able to share this with them, for them to acknowledge the problem and agree to extend the warranty.

3 months later, and the printer develops a power failure fault! (These things can happen, I get that)

But thankfully, we have that extended warranty, right?

Mmmmm, on contacting Xerox (using the phone number given to me by Printerland, as the one on their own website is still wrong) I’m greeted with: Your warranty has expired, there is nothing more we can do!

Despite sending emails, screenshots, and recorded conversations to the contrary, the ‘customer services representative‘ has a script. And my problem falls outside of the remit of their script. So round and round we go, not making any progress!

Until…

An email from Matthew at Printerland…

We notice you currently own a Xerox ***** and haven’t purchased toners recently.  We currently have a *% discount on toners, and wondered if your ready for a top up?”

What a great email. Not too pushy or salesy. But saying we know you own the machine, and that it has consumables.  We’ve got an offer on those right now, is this something you may wish to benefit from?

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at life) this email landed as I was still on the phone playing merry-go-round with the Xerox ‘Custoemr Services Rep’ and getting nowhere fast. And so, my reply to ‘Matthew’ wasn’t as professional or polite as it perhaps should have been:

Thanks, Matthew.  However, as the printer has been inoperative for the last 3 weeks, and I’m struggling to get Xerox to honour the warranty they offered. I’m not ready to spend any more money on toner I can’t use”

What happened next was a miracle

Moments later, my office phone rang:

Mr Allen, it’s Matthew from Printerland. I understand your having a problem with your printer?

OMG – My email hadn’t just landed, but Matthew (busy trying to sell me some ink) was now on the phone enquiring what the problem was and as to how he could help.

I quickly recited the above, and he advised he would contact Xerox on my behalf and see how best to resolve this.

Within the hour, he called back, advising a Xerox engineer would attend to assess the machine the next working day. And that if there were any further hold ups, to call him back.

Said engineer arrived, and spent over 2 hours uploading software updates, and testing parts, before determining it requires both a new power unit and motherboard. However, “As this is a courtesy visit, outside of warranty, these parts are billable, and not that cheap!” He shared that to purchase the parts, have a xerox engineer come back, strip the machine down to fit them, then rebuild and test is likely to cost several hundred pounds, and therefore ‘might be the more cost-effective to buy a new machine‘. Shocked 😮, as the printer is only 15 months old, and hasn’t yet finished its 1 set of toners.

However, Matthew called back to see if the engineer had been.

Yes, but it’s going to be more expensive to repair than replace. I replied.

Leave it with me“. And off he went again.

An hour later, having escalated this to the highest levels within both Printerland and Xerox he assures me the problem will be resolved without charge within the next 24 hours!

My point for sharing this in quite so much detail is:

It wasn’t a Printerland problem! I may have bought the unit from them (15 months ago) but the warranty is issued (and should be serviced) by the manufacturer. And yet the moment, Matthew heard I was having a problem, he has gone above and beyond in order to assist me in resolving this.

He’s lived up to the Printerland promise of Exceptional Customer Service

Now that is an exceptional customer experience. 

You can find a wide range of printers and consumables on the Printerland website: www.printerland.co.uk where I can guarantee you’ll get some exceptional customer service.

The 7 year itch

If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you’ve probably heard one person or another throw around the concept of the “seven-year itch.”

(A coin of phrase originating from the 1955 American romantic comedy film of the same name directed by Billy Wilder).

How to survive the 7 year itch

This phrase usually refers to a point in a relationship where one or both partners start to become bored or dissatisfied in the relationship. And whilst there is little to no evidence to support this directly, there is an emerging amount of evidence as to why we should pay more attention to it.

The human body constantly develops and changes throughout the human life cycle. The significant stages of the human lifecycle are:

  1. Pregnancy
  2. Infancy
  3. The toddler years
  4. Childhood
  5. Puberty
  6. Older adolescence
  7. Adulthood
  8. Middle age
  9. The senior years

In the Bible, Psalm 90:10 (King James Version)

The days of our years are threescore years and ten.

And, if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In this sense, it was always assumed the average lifespan of humans is around 70 years, and should we survive longer than this, it be a decline in both our ability to function and our desire to do so.

Therefore if we use this as our model, and divide the 9 stages of life across the expected lifespan equally it supports my theory that we actually grow up in years of SEVEN!

7+7+7

For the first 7 years, we have been entirely reliant on others. (Be that parent, Guardian etc)

Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” ― Aristotle

Between 7 and 14, we are learning to become independent. From 14 to 21 we are demanding our independence. From 21 to 28, understanding where our independence fits inside society and the world at large.

From 28-35 many people settle and become co-dependent, and some between 35-42 choose to have their own dependence (and so it goes on).

So what?

Well, knowing this, we can now ‘plot’ what else may be happening in their lives, and where there priorities may lay?

To best give an example of this, I’d like to sell you a washing machine!

You are 25, and you walk into my store advising looking for a washing machine:

“I’ve got just the thing for you. This washing machine comes in 17 different colours, is available on no deposit, with nothing to pay for three months and 0% interest-free finance payable over 4 years. What’s more, we have them all in stock and could have it delivered and fitted for you tomorrow. Would you like to buy a washing machine?”

You are 35, and you walk into my store advising looking for a washing machine:

“I’ve got just the thing for you. This washing machine has won several national and international awards for its eco-credentials, saving both water and electricity. What’s more, with its intelligent programming, App-enabled functionality and 9Kg drum. You can put the whole week’s wash in one load and it will work out what and how to wash effectively. We will also gladly take your old machine away during the installation and recycle it in an ethical manner. Would you like to buy a washing machine?”

You are 45, and you walk into my store advising looking for a washing machine:

“I’ve got just the thing for you. This washing machine is the industry leader and comes with a 10-year guarantee. Not only does it wash, but also has a rapid dry function, a ‘forget-me-not’ draw on the front for those last-minute editions and is the quietest machine on the market. Would you like to buy a washing machine?”

So what?

It’s the same washing machine!

Determining what else you’re likely to have in your life will determine which of these features and benefits are more likely to be of importance to you. And tailored my approach to what to share to demonstrate its suitability!

The Cycle of Life x 4

Just as we’ve looked at the 9 periods within a human life cycle, there is also other life cycles to consider:

  1. You
  2. Your team
  3. Your products/services
  4. The Industry/Profession you operate within
  • You: What period of the life cycle are you? And what are your highest priorities right now?
  • Team: Do you have a young, middle-aged or ageing workforce? Who are the emerging leaders ready to take this business to the next level?
  • Product/Service: How relevant are you? Are you an innovator, or are you becoming a laggard?
  • Industry/Profession: Where in the Industry heading, and are you leading the way or struggling to keep up?

Ready to have a discussion?

We’ve made it our mission to support 1,000,000 Business Owners to Significantly and Sustainable Scale-Up for both themselves and their businesses.

Have you got what it takes to #ADDAZERO?

Take one for the team

I’m reminded of a quote I heard in 2013 whilst attending an Entrepreneurs Conference at the NEC in Birmingham:

When you sell out for £50M, as the business owner it’s all your fault…….”

There was a long pause whilst he allowed the 700+ audience to soak in exactly what he had just said

However, until you make that happen, if you end up closing up and working in Tesco’s (other supermarket chains are also available!) that’s your fault as well

The sway of the audience was palpable, as the eager and excitement just of hearing the words “Selling for £50M” was then SMASHED by the thought of closing the doors on their dream and stacking shelves!

The speaker was pointing out that as a Business Owner its ALL your fault. The Good, the Bad AND the down right UGLY! And today, I wanted to share with you the importance of just that.

I’m sure you have heard expressions such as “The customer is always right” and “Cash is king” many times over. But what does it actually mean, and how can we use this to get ahead in our business?

As some of you may (if you’re a regular follower of my blogs) my fiancé and I flew to Mauritius in September 2019 to get married on the beach and spend time on Honeymoon.  Amanda was BORN into a 5* hotel chain (Both her parents had senior positions within the best hotel on the Island of Bermuda) and so she has grown up with not just ‘silver’ service but the highest level of detail to EVERYTHING as a norm.

Since meeting her (ironically at a conference) we immediately recognised we both shared the same preference for the forward-thinking approach which takes customer service, turns it upside down and promotes it to a customer experience.

It was through Amanda I learn the actual hotel definition between a 4-star hotel and a 5 star hotel!  Whilst both must have a whole long list of services available to the customer 24/7. Including both within the hotel room and across the hotel complex. The ACTUAL distinction between the two is a 4 Star have “highly trained and attentive staff” whilst a 5 Star have “Highly trained PROACTIVE attentive staff” and in that ONE word, it recognises the difference between 4 star and 5 star – the difference between reactive and proactive; the difference between customer SERVICE and customer EXPERIENCE.

Although we had high hopes to have visited China, Morocco and Cuba this year, owing to the COVID pandemic and a Global ‘lockdown’ ALL our travel plans have been curtailed, adhering strictly to the government guidance on non-essential travel.  And, as our first anniversary began to near, it was evident this situation was not going to ease, and so a PLAN B needed to be hatched, that our FIRST anniversary did not pass by un-noticed!

I scoured the internet for something that was both open and suitable, and thankfully found a 4 Star Spa Hotel overlooking Lake Windermere with whom was both open and available.  I called ahead to confirm which facilities were and were not available (owing to COVID) and spent time speaking with the SPA team to book treatments for us both throughout our stay.

Closer to the day, I called back to confirm nothing had changed (owing to any localised changes in COVID guidance) and pre-booked dinner reservations (asking for the best table in the restaurant) arranged for a large bouquet of flowers, Chocolates and Sparkle to be delivered to the hotel and placed in the room. EVERYTHING I could to ensure my wife received the anniversary she deserves!

I shall not go into ALL the details, other than to say had it not been for a great spa treatment and a lovely evening meal (even if no attempt had been made to acknowledge I had asked for a ‘top table’ as it was our anniversary) we would have left long before we eventually determined to check out early and come home!

From a receptionist that huffed and puffed as we arrived, told us our booking was not in the system and asked “Are you sure it’s this hotel your due to stay at?” through to returning to reception to ask if the bouquet had arrived the following morning, to have this large well packaged box, clumsily dropped over the reception desk in an attempt to pass it to me, and bar staff that were too busy attending to the marauding crowds of ‘young adults’ non-residents who had no interest in showing any sign of respect for noise, or language or residents, but where clearly there to get drunk!

However, complaining to the General Manager was the last straw, as when I made a comparison to the experience we were having to a scene from Faulty Towers, rather than acknowledge my frustration and disappointment…..laughed in my face!

However, this blog so far, is only setting a scene, and could EASILY be happening (to some extent or another) in your business RIGHT NOW.  If you have not already done so, I STRONGLY recommend you read my previous blog: SABOTAGE is rife in YOUR business

You see, on advising him that was the last straw, and immediately ‘checked out’ to return home. I crafted a very well-considered, professional and detailed letter of complaint, to which was sent to the GROUP CEO. After all, you can only ever complain UP, and if your complaint includes that of the appalling attitude to a dis-satisfied customer shown by a General Manager, perhaps the Group CEO ought to know? (In my business, I’d CERTAINLY want to know, if a client is unhappy with ANY level of service).

And although I received a speedy reply, it did not contain the information I’d expected!

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. However, the hotel is not owned or managed by us.  However, I have passed your letter to the relevant Managing Director and asked them to respond to you.

This immediately raised my curiosity.  Had I inadvertently sent a letter of complaint to the wrong person, the wrong company/group?  I quickly followed my prior research to determine WHERE I had booked the hotel and how I had gained the contact details of the CEO to send the complaint…

I visited the same website to which I’d booked the break. Clicked on the link OUR Hotels, and there it was the hotel to which I was making the complaint.

Elsewhere in the website is a CONTACT US page, and within the footer of which details of the head office, from which I had found the details of the Group CEO to whom I’d addressed the letter!

With this, and having confirmed I had been correct, replied as such to the Group CEO.  However the reply continued:

“Whilst we don’t own or manage this hotel, you were right to send your letter to me. I’ve forwarded to the right person who should now contact you regarding your feedback. – Therefore, we were both right!”

And HERE lies the problem…..

NOBODY likes a finger pointing at them.  Even more when its something that they (personally) have had no input or direct control over.  I’m sure if a member of your staff has upset a customer, who subsequently blames YOU – you also feel the need to be defensive, objectional, deny it was YOU that caused the problem?

But I remind you of those prior sayings:

The customer is always right

Cash is King

And another one

Take one for the team

In this single sentence reply, he has automatically demonstrated the fundamental problem within the entire Group of companies with which he is the CEO. Mitigation of responsibility in the face of the customer. Automatically taking the defensive “It’s not my fault” stance, and as such determining ANYTHING that now follows will be AT BEST a customer SERVICE. Reactive, as a result of something the customer has had to instigate.

Whilst management at times can be tough, Leadership takes a different level of commitment, service, forethought and consideration. Whilst management can be taught, I truly believe Leadership has to begin from within.

I’m still awaiting that response from whoever he has allocated to respond, but I can almost guarantee the response I’m going to receive will echo my current perception of the brand, and as such FAIL to acknowledge my last thought for the day:

ANY brand is only ever as good as your last experience of it. And so, in making a complaint, is an exceptional opportunity for you to demonstrate HOW much you value the customer AND their feedback

What you do now, determines EVERYTHING you will be known for from this point forward!

Sorry, but I refuse to apologies

Whilst so many are keen to share their ‘perfect lives’ on social media, with glamorous photo’s depicting success in its many forms. The simple fact is, life ISN’T all rose petals and sunshine. The reality can often be VERY different to that which is being portrayed.

I take great pleasures in watching as my clients win awards, take on new staff, new offices, new clients. Take luxury holidays, buy their ‘dream home’ and enjoy all that life has to offer.

But life is not always as grand. Yesterday, I had the displeasure of offering a ‘reality check’ to a client on where we are right now. They have been working for almost 2 years now on this project. Applied a large chunk of time, and money and resource to it, with high expectations of this taking them ‘to the next level’.

I was most grateful to be invited to ‘BETA TEST’ the project prior to launch, and on Friday was given ‘behind the scenes’ access, with invitation to offer feedback and comment.

But I don’t simply glance over it and say WOW. That would be both incongruent, unethical and of no real value. I take the time to consider WHO they are targeting with this project. Immerse myself in THAT persona, and by doing so determine if THIS meets THEIR requirements.

My feedback is detailed, measured and well considered. They are not looking for a ‘pat on the back’ and a “Well done” (Anybody can do that for them. No, my role is to break it. Smash it up and destroy it. My role is to be the antagonist, the disruptor, the down-right, damn awkward, belligerent one with whom is never satisfied, who finds fault in everything, and challenges your every action and consideration! (And, after years of ‘practice’  I can play this extremely well).

You see, for the majority of business owners, they miss a vital part in the importance of standing apart.  Standing alone from any other business in their sector, in fear of missing out!

I will NEVER forget the words spoken by Warren Buffett, when he declared:

“If you want to reach the very TOP of your profession. You FIRST have to segment yourself in every way, from everybody else at the BOTTOM of the industry. Only once you are different can you begin to ascend”

 And yet the majority of business owners are so fearful of ‘going it alone’ that in some way, shape or form. They break, they compromise, they go back to ‘SAFE’ and by doing so also compromise on the chance to be seen AS something different!

We all know the quote:

“If you always do, what you’ve always done. You’ll always have (at best) what you have already”

And yet, there are still far too few business owners truly willing to BREAK THE MOULD and set themselves out as SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

My clients don’t come to me to be there best friend (Although we are friendly to our clients). They don’t come to me to be congratulated or praised or rewarded (Even though we remain both genuine and generous in our recognition of our client’s achievements).

My clients don’t come to me for a shoulder to cry on, a hug or tissues (Even though I have been known to provide all of these things).

What they come for is honest, authentic, customer centric feedback, guidance and accountability as THEY build THEIR successful businesses.

So, on Friday, a client invited me to ‘take a peek’ behind the scenes at the ‘finished project’ prior to their intent to launch this week. They have spent 2 years working on this, and have a significant marketing campaigned planned over the next 2-3 months to really drive this project forward to both their current and future target clients.

But rather than crack open the champagne and deliver a compelling vote of confidence to the team. I’ve put a huge great oily spanner in the works, which has halted proceedings!

Can’t see the wood for the tree’s

You see, like MANY other business owners, who are so busying working IN the business, they fail to allocate sufficient time to STOP, take a birds eye appraisal of the business, who it is serving and the impact is it having. They get so wrapped up internally they simply (and so easily) stray one degree ‘off course’. And whilst this may appear nothing (at the offset) left unattended and this will NEVER enable you to achieve what you SET OUT to achieve!

My role in this regard is to therefore measure your current efforts and actions against the overall business plan, to determine how is THIS contributing to THAT? The easier it is to see the correlation, the more likely it is to achieve it! The more elaborate we have to be to make the correlation for more we have blown off course.

I’ve spent my time, going through line by line of the project to determine what is the intent, and in line with the business plan, the ideal target client avatar, the customer journey where this project has become misaligned with these objectives. We’ve looked at what now is required to bring this project BACK into alignment, and project planned a revised timescale as to the impact this has on the other elements of the business.

I’m deeply sorry, not to have been able to break open a bottle of champagne today and celebrate. But I’m not sorry in the slightest as to the reasons as to WHY this is the case. Knowing full well, if you want to be exceptional, you have to deliver exceptional. If you want to be seen as DIFFERENT to everyone else, you have to BE different to everybody else. If your goals are to achieve more, we first have to BE more!

Kaizen philosophy teaches is the importance of incremental improvements. Not completely changing something, simply perfecting everything we do.

We ALL have systems, processes and people within our business. Things may appear to be ‘running smoothly’ and so, you are busy looking for ways to GROW and SCALE?

What have you FAILED to re-check recently?

What are you overlooking that once you have delved back inside, will find ISN’T exactly as you had thought?

What INCREMENTAL improvements can you make on the fine tuning within every aspect of your business, so go from GOOD to GREAT, and from GREAT to EXCEPTIONAL?

The little things ARE the big things.

And missing these in favour of NEW is costing you greatly!

You might also like:

A little knowledge is dangerous

17 reasons YOU are holding YOU up

Sorry Nan, but your WRONG!