Category: Outside-In®


Customer Service: Nth Degree Mindset

December 17th, 2014

There is so much talk about customer service yet so little of it sticks. Every business, every leader, every single one of us, has good intentions. None of us go to work saying, “Today I am going to plan to disappoint a customer when I interact with them. Let’s hang up on them. Avoid them. Get their order wrong. Misinterpret them. Let’s just be average and kind of ‘blah.’ That is where most of us end up really. In the Valley of Blah, we don’t quite fail or flob, however, we are far from memorable. Being memorable requires you to understand those critical “Moments of Truth.”

ServiceNMoments of Truth are those customer points of intersection. A great culture helps. At the Outside-In® Companies, we have a value “Service to the Nth Degree” and our goal is to go above and beyond expectations. We provide service without boundaries, limits, or governor. Just push service as far as you can. A good culture helps an employee trust that they can serve without barriers. The company system supports and rewards those customer service behaviors! Have you ever had an experience where a cashier or customer service representative indicates that they need manager approval and the manager never comes or arrives in what seems like an unacceptable time frame? All of this for a simple product return or change in your purchase! That’s a poor business system at it’s best.

We think empowering employees to think to the Nth Degree is just part of the answer to providing an Outside-In® experience. This enables us to create Nth Degree moments that are spontaneous and authentic.

However, the real magic in creating Moments of Truth is to think about those key moments of interaction with your customer. How can you save them time? Speed up the process? Enhance the experience? How can you make that moment memorable and ensure every customer experiences that Moment of Truth? Our goal is to make Outside-In® and Nth Degree a repeatable thing. Full of great in the moment Moments of Truth and planned Moments of Truth.

The sky’s the limit to Nth Degree service thinking. The key is to take each part of your business and brainstorm how to be more Nth Degree. One of the ways we practice our Nth Degree value as a team is to partake in charity work for our community. We have a charity of the month program where each month we fundraise and donate our time and services to a charity in need.

Try and pilot it. Measure it. Operationalize. Then repeat!

Here’s to Nth Degree moments!

3rd Annual Holiday Infographic

December 9th, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Outside-In® Companies!

We looked back on our year through mint, gold & rose colored glasses. Take a look at our year in numbers through our 3rd Annual Holiday Infographic!

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Outside-In® Companies!

November 26th, 2014

Each year, the Outside-In® team likes to express our gratitude in a fun and unique way. This year we asked our team members what they are most thankful for and had them write it all down on a piece of paper to create an appreciation wall. View our video below to see what we are most thankful for!

Wishing all of our customers a safe & happy holiday!

What I Do, Why I Do It, and How I Do It

October 29th, 2014

The Outside-In® Companies exist to optimize customer talent challenges. I believe this is best accomplished by making sure our culture acts as our internal compass. Everyone is in charge of their own career and our values exist to enable employees to maximize their performance in their work. This natural culture promotes quality customer work in the purest sense—if you’re empowered, have challenging work, good training, and a servant leader mentality, you will create a special work environment.

ID-100278237I listen. I listen to customers, prospects, employees, and applicants. Even partners and suppliers. Then I aggregate information to see patterns and trends. This is our R&D. This is how we will build new service lines and brands for the Outside-In® Companies. We all want to survey customers and have focus groups. Formality in market testing ideas is fine, but knowing what your market place needs is a risk I see us continuing to take.

We will continue to listen. We must continue to be workforce and workplace experts. Our customers need the consultation as being in business and its many changes really impact how work gets done today. The workforce knows it needs different skills and assistance today—we must be its agent to help navigate.

The economy seems to be in constant change and flux and we are in industry that celebrates and suffers along with it. We need to continue to look to reduce that volatilty with our plans. I imagine this will take on a combination of geographic expansions, customer penetration across our brands, and the inevitable expansion into new and different service lines.

I create the routine. My job is to create the pulse for the business and to drive its rhythm. How do we communicate to whom? How do we plan and share information? I keep this pulsing like clockwork.

I encourage the heart. We want to create an environment where hard work and living our values creates extrinsic/intrinsic rewards for employees. Anyone can solve a problem, tackle a project of their choosing, or speak to whomever they want in the business. The why may not be obvious here. Innovation, confidence, proactivity, and engagement all come from within when the right environment is nurtured.

I am a teacher and a coach first. I love to help others know more and believe that knowledge should not be used as a bargaining chip in business. The more my team knows, the more confidence and self esteem they have and I trust the correlation between the two. We must be a market leader with training—there is only a cost when you don’t train.

I help my team interact with prospects and customers differently. We are consultative in a world where this is typlically just considered words that mean nothing. I continue to show that when you’re able to translate your expertise to your customers’ challenges and opportunities, the rest comes easily. The very act of learning their business builds lasting relationships and a trust that fully takes you from being in sales to a trusted partner.

CBI Way: What About Customer Engagement?

October 8th, 2014

Guest blog spot by Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

Last month, CBI Way brought attention to the problems a lack of candidate engagement can create, especially with millions of job openings. Well, you guessed it, reported by this month’s BLS Job Opening and Labor Turnover report, there were even more (predicted) job openings on the last day of August. Up to 4.8 million, the number of open jobs has an effect on a candidate’s potential options, and reiterates the importance of steady candidate, and customer engagement.

ID-100264594Client engagement can sometimes be overlooked, but in a partnership, active communication can set you apart from other providers in satisfying critical metrics with the customer. Established guidelines in the Service Level Agreement for feedback, timelines, and continuous improvement can be negatively impacted without making sure the customer is fully engaged. A daily or weekly meeting between the two partners is a great way to keep the customer informed, and reiterate the need for quick and thorough feedback.

It’s not difficult for a candidate to become uninterested in an opportunity, or simply think he or she is out of the running, especially passive candidates. That candidate engagement is directly altered by the feedback and turnaround by the customer. As a candidate, would you feel confident after waiting twenty days for feedback following your initial conversation? All parties involved are hurt by poor engagement; with money, quality talent, and ultimately, success, among the casualties.

Diagnosing problem areas or identifying needs for change can also be supported by great communication and commitment. In the next CBI Way blog we’ll identify some of what could go wrong, how to prevent, and if needed, how to resolve problems in an RPO partnership.

The CBI Way blog series explores the tools and practices used in Talent Acquisition. CBI Way is CBI Group’s recruiting approach and methodology – it’s how we do what we do! Check in with CBI Way for insights around workforce education and training, the latest trends in recruiting technology, and how to best utilize these tools towards improving your own recruiting practices.

 

The Entrepreneurial Life: That Impossible Priority

October 1st, 2014

ID-100100023Working with small business leaders for a living has both its perks and its perils. What are the toughest business learns for every small business owner or bootstrapped leader? We want to do everything. Fund it all. React to every new idea. Solve every single problem. Serve each and every client. Hire every good talent that comes in the door. Finish every project. Go to every networking meeting. You get the idea. We want to do it all. This is contagious. It builds and snowballs into a doing frenzy.

I was taught to focus on revenue generating activities from 8-5 and to run the company before 8 or after 5. I did that during the early years. Careful to mix the two. This did not prevent me from working until midnight or on Sunday mornings. In fact, in the I would have “meetings” with the foreman of the commercial cleaning crew that went through each night after 9 pm! That foreman would do odds jobs; hang white boards, move desks, and join me at my conference table when I wanted and needed to talk. Fascinating times with incredible experiences. I think you can really only bootstrap once—it takes much energy and stamina.

Over the years, books and consultants have changed my perspective on the do it all and fund everything mentality that came to me naturally.

I now preach limited priorities. Focus, execution, and getting things done is my new philosophy. The hardest things of all is deciding what 3-5 items should be yours to tackle! Every leader I have ever coached says the same thing: I have many more things to do than that! We all do. The point is to choose what part of your business to tackle and understanding how if you fix or adjust that part will impact other parts of the business. It’s like business centrifugal force. Fix one thing, it makes something else move along too. But too much and it will make other parts of the business need future fixing!

How do you chose the part of your business to tackle? Stay tuned for a future blog!

Are You a Sales Person or Are You a Consultant?

September 3rd, 2014

Salespeople and consultants have a lot in common. While both strive to improve their client’s business performance, each take a different approach to providing their client with the best experience possible. Here are how salespeople and consultants differ when it comes to how they approach the overall client process:

A salesperson asks for the order. A consultant is helpful along the way, making little problems disapear and providing insights and information that guide the buying process.

A salesperson chases the customer. A consultant thinks ahead and has the time scheduled because of the value they can create with the insights and information they provide.

A salesperson can’t get customers to call them back and often quits on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th effort. A consultant understands human nature and the modern workplace and they know it is their role to be visible and to connect appropriately with their customer.

A salesperson asks, “Do you need anything else or do you have all the information you need?” A consultant knows what the customer needs and wants and they offer it up.

ID-100163128A salesperson asks what the next step is. A consultant shares all of the steps with the customer in advance.

A salesperson cannot understand why a customer did not buy. A consultant advises the customer that their solution is not the right one. Yet gets them to the right solution anyway.

A salesperson is a stereotype. They are selfish and take orders. A consultant is also a stereotype. They are selfish, guiding, disruptive, and knowledgeable.

A salesperson is not on sales quota. A consultant earns their clients but wins in the long run.

Are you a salesperson or a consultant? Which would you rather be?

Outside-In® Turns 13!

August 6th, 2014

Thirteen years ago today I started the Outside-In® story in my friend Jim Paoli’s coat closet. I had a laptop, a cell phone (not a smart one), and a folding desk and chair for ambience.  I had my business plan done, my labor of love of 80+ pages. I was so proud—we were going to change the world. This document represented all that was wrong with the HR services world and illustrated how I was going to do it differently. Call it my Jerry Maquire moment. Who’s with me? Well, there were just a few who believed in me and today I would like to thank them all.

Getting a business started is a fascinating experience. I have been fond of saying that it feels generally like full-blown asthma. You simply can’t breathe for months because of the crush of to do’s and the weight of needing to pay the bills and find those all important first customers. Eventually you find a way to get through it.

20140806_115354_resizedWe survived even through the adversity—and we have had plenty. It is going to sound like a joke of some sort with no punch line. Did you hear the one about the small business that survived a fire, a roof collapse, IT theft, and 9/11? Oh yeah that one. This was the day I opened to the world and my first full-time employee, Judi Dorazio joined the fold. We sat and worked as the world changed around us. I simply did not know what else to do. So we sat around for months waiting for the world to heal and for us to be able to start all of those delayed projects.

It was not easy. I am a smooth talking persuader according to Myers-Briggs profile anyway. So getting out and talking to the marketplace was easy for me. Hard work, mind you. But I could do it—and I did. Imagine working every single day for a year including Christmas. OK, I did not work all day, but I worked every day that first year. Think about the book Never Eat Alone- I took that to heart and had a lunch date every single day for almost two years. As you can imagine, this is got expensive. People want to feel your energy, get caught up in your dream, and see how big you’re thinking. Then they pat you on the head and wait to see if you make it before they work with you. Who can blame them?  When your nephew comes to you to sell you insurance when it’s his first week on the job you don’t buy. NO ones does. We all must pay our dues, gain experiences, and become good at what we do.

So here are the thank you’s to the class of 2001!

First and foremost my wife, Kim. If you looked at her Myers-Briggs profile, you would see that generally speaking she is conservative and avoids risks. Yet, she willingly and knowingly has supported my dream, our dream, for the past thirteen years—the good, the bad, and all of the ugly! Kim has been a Bookkeeper, Office Manager, Interior Designer, Foreman, and the one that vacuums and empties trash cans! Kim thank you for your sacrifices and vested interest in what we are building.

Laura Kasper. She worked for me once before the Outside-In® Companies. She worked for Placers 1.0 with my Dad and she worked for free until my business got going. Laura did everything that was not customer facing in the early days of the business. Laura did the business plan, wrote the proposals, bought office supplies, and she even designed most of the early processes & systems for every part of the business. I am proud to say that today she is a friend, a customer, a very successful HR leader, and mom extraordinaire!

Judi Dorazio. Judi and I also worked together at Placers 1.0. She did all of the recruiting and delivery. And customer and account management. And sales. You name it, she did it on the staffing side of the business for many, many years. Without that foundation we would not be where we all today!

Colleen Stratton. The first outsider. No Placers 1.0 here! Smart—whip smart. Colleen anchored our consulting practice. However, she really brought us forward with ideas and relationships.  Colleen is always at her best with complex people problems. Colleen is a friend, a customer, an advisor, and of course, an alumnus!

In all fairness, there are many others Jamie, Linda, Dave, Lisa, Joe, John, Garrick, Kelly, Glenn, Kathy. I feel like Frank Sinatra attempting to accept the award on stage but the ending music starts playing. My time for thank you’s is up!

Most companies don’t make it through year one. Then it is the five year hurdle. We had a cake and ice cream. For year 10, we threw a 25% party because only 1 in 4 makes it ten years. How will be celebrate being 13? With hard work, a simple birthday song, and a whole lot of sincere thank you’s!

Servant Leadership: Vacation & Days Off

July 2nd, 2014

At Outside-In® Companies, we work hard to share content and to communicate regularly with our employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. When this week’s marketing went out, mostly automatic responses came back. “I am sorry I am out of the office until July 7th, the 14th, or whatever it might have been. Please contact (fill in the blank) if you have any urgent matters.” I stopped and thought about all those that left working—those employees who got the extra call, email, or workload because you or someone else was out on Holiday.

ID-100135888Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs (and earns) their time off. Generally speaking, the average employee never seems to take all the time off that they have earned. However, with technology only a touch screen away, work always seems to get in the way.

I have a culturally-led goal for Outside-In® Companies—for leaders to encourage the newest or least senior person get that choice week or Friday off before the Holiday weekend. Leaders should be in the office working and getting things done. And yes, you should close the office down. (I am not bragging but four of my leaders were working and wrapping things up long after 5pm on July 3rd so that others could get started on their long weekend).

The average leader works so hard to climb the corporate ladder, to have the title, company car, three-week vacation, or big bonus that we have forgotten what servant leadership is all about.  To be a servant leader, you need to anticipate and meet the needs of your employees. You must be honest, direct, and fair. Leaders must share the truth. Especially when it prevents an employee from being good or great in what they do.

However, being a servant leader also means showing sacrifice and equality. If you expect your values to be real and for all to be equal, you must show it in your actions and policies. Next week take a look around the office. Are all the leaders on vacation and the employees working hard? Or is their servant leadership in place? Either way, all can live this trait. Take on the burden and offer to close the office for someone. That is what servant leadership can be; especially when your staff is getting the job done!

World Cup: Who Wears the Yellow Arm Band?

June 25th, 2014

Almost half of the entire planet is watching the World Cup. Perhaps not where you live, but here in the Mid-Atlantic it’s all we have. Hockey and basketball are over. Our baseball team stinks. And football has not started just yet. The sentiment of local sports radio personalities is that the World Cup is boring. Soccer does not score enough. This is cross country running with a ball! In fact, the radio folks seem restricted in their ability to talk about it, even if they are one of the few DJ’s that will embrace the sport and the Cup.

ID-10056952Well, not in my house. And frankly the public sentiment is changing. Today kids play the game and parents socialize on saturday mornings on the sidelines and at tournaments. Soccer is becoming a lifestyle here in the states. Now I will get off my soap box!

As a leadership coach, entrepreneurial leader of a company, and a high school soccer coach, I tend to see the world of soccer through a different lens that comes from an adoration for the sport and the study of what makes a leader in any life situation. What has fascinated me most is what it takes to be Captain. In soccer, this is signified by the yellow arm band. My curiosity lies within the question of if the traits of a leader are the same on the pitch as they are in the board room. What do you think? My sense is that you can insert the President, the VP or a Manager in any of these situations if they represent good leadership behavior.

What it takes to wear a yellow arm band:

  • You have to have players that will follow you. Every leader must have followers. Leaders can’t send a message or create a vision if no one believes in it. No one can be Captain without buy-in from the players!
  • A Captain is vocal in both big and small ways. A captain knows all aspects of the game. And they put their teammates in the right place while on the field. They communicate constantly. They direct and put players in the right position. The team listens and respects the chatter. This mental direction is so critical in the game. The smallest mental lapses in spacing, positioning, and decision making on and off the ball create most of the goal scoring opportunities for your opponent.
  • A Captain can put the game on their back as they say. No matter what is required. Shut down the other team’s best player. Make the critical play or pass. Even the score—go ahead and make a goal.
  • The captain must lead the team 24/7 on and off the field. Winning and being competitive is not contained in a 90 minute game. The season begins the day the last one ends. Being a leader is learning more about the game, playing it, getting in better physical condition in the off season, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Captains do everything with intention. Every meeting, every Friday night game or spaghetti team dinner is with a purpose. Closeness in a team off the field relates to trust and understanding of your teammates on the pitch.
  • The captain respects the entire team and knows that all have value. However, the captain also understands and respects individual roles and contribution levels.
  • A captain knows the team values and communicates with them. All action, word recognition, and discipline stems from living the values or helping teammates do it better.

Interesting to note, leadership behavior is just as hard to notice in a soccer game as it is in the game of business. You really have to look for it because it is effortless for good Captains and good leaders.

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