A quick look at the state of hardware technologies in China and beyond

hardware, electronic board Recent developments in the hardware world show just how far China’s star has risen and how dominant the country has become in the world of technology hardware manufacturing, development, and innovation. And the physical impact of these products is only just beginning to shape the direction the tech industry will take in years to come. Read More

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1 down, 1008 to go… (How commited are you?)

I have two important lessons for you today.

From someone you certainly have heard of, but probably know very little about…

Lesson #1) It’s never too late to start….

When “Colonel” Harland Sanders’ gas station and store (where he developed and sold his now famous chicken recipe) went out of business in 1954 (I-75 had diverted the traffic that formerly passed his location which had allowed it to exist for decades) he had little to show for working all of his life.

Being forced out of business at age 65, all he had to show for a life of hard work was an old Caddie roadster, a small, monthly, social security check and his recipe for chicken.

Thrive or Survive

Knowing he would only basically survive on his social security income, he had a choice to make (the same choice all of us have to make, especially these day).

At the age of 65, he had to choose whether he would be happy simply surviving, or if his desire was to thrive.

What did he choose? To thrive, of course.

So, he took the only two significant assets he had to his name (his commitment to hard work and his chicken recipe), got behind the wheel of his van and set out to improve his lot in life.

His simple plan was to sell his chicken recipe to restaurant owners, who would in turn give him a small percentage of the sale (which amounted to 5 cents) for every piece of chicken they sold based on his recipe.

One down, one thousand eight to go…

The first restaurant owner he called on turned him down.

So did the second.

So did the third.

… so did the 100th.

… so did the 500th

… so did the 1000th

When would you have given up?

In fact, the first 1008 sales calls Colonel Sanders made ended in rejection.

Even after his first 1008 IN PERSON sales calls ended with a “No”, he continued to call on restaurant owners as he traveled across the USA (sleeping in his car at night to save money.)

(Based on what you know about yourself and your commitment to your goals, if you had been in Colonel Sanders’ shoes, when would you have given up?)

After 1008 sales calls, his first “Yes”

Prospect number 1009 gave him his first “Yes.”

After 1008 in person sales calls, his first “Yes” finally came.

What did he have to show for two years of making daily sales calls and over 1000 in person presentations? He had signed up a grand total of five restaurants – that’s a whopping .49% close rate.

He would have had to be twice as successful as he was to hit a 1% success rate (in order to do that, 10 of the more than 1000 restaurants he called on in person would have had to say “Yes”).

Faced with a .49% success rate, after two years of work, sleeping in his car, the fact that he had to travel to more than 1009 restaurants in person to make only five sales, what did that say to Colonel Sanders?

I’m on my way!

To Colonel Sanders all of that toil and those results meant only one thing… “I’m on my way!”

(What would it have said to you?)

To him, it confirmed what he knew all along. He knew he had a great chicken recipe and that someday the idea would catch on.

Catch on it did

Did his idea catch on? As you are well aware, catch on it did.

By 1963 the Colonel had 600 restaurants across the country. All of them selling his secret recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken (and giving him a few pennies per piece).

In 1964 (at the age of 74) he received $2 million dollars when he sold his empire (the USA portion of it) to a group of business people headed up by future Kentucky governor John Brown.

74 years old, $2 million in cash in your pocket, what would you do?

Even though the sale made him a multi-millionaire at the age of 74, the same commitment to hard work and belief in his idea dictated to him that he should continue to work representing and promoting KFC (until he died in 1980 at the age of 90.)

If you woke up tomorrow and found yourself 74 years old with $2 million in your pocket, what would you do?

Would you retire? Or, would you be “on fire” (like Colonel Sanders)?

So, the Colonel Sanders’ story teaches us another extremely important lesson:

Lesson #2) It’s never too late to decide to never give up.

Where are you on your Colonel Sanders’ timeline?

When you wake up in the middle of the night or find yourself day-dreaming, letting your mind wander, ask yourself where you are on your “Colonel Sanders'” timeline.

If you aren’t where you want to be or where you know you could be, think of the two simple Colonel Sanders lessons that took him from broke (at the age of 64) to multi-millionaire (at the age of 74):

Lesson #1) It’s never too late to start….

Lesson #2) It’s never too late to decide to never give up.

Thrive or Survive? It’s up to you…

JG – “TheRefillMan”

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What a great way to prepare for tomorrow…

I am as prone (and my wife, Annette, would say I am even more prone) as most to watch mindless TV in the evening (Bait Car?  Storage Wars?  Shipping Wars?).

A friend of mine, Joe Polish, sent me a link recommending this TED talk by Peter Diamandis (if you aren’t familiar with “TED”, check it out after watching the video and if you aren’t familiar with Dr. Diamandis, check this out.)

Though I was ready for bed, I decided to watch it before “hitting the hay” (I’ve always been one to go to bed early and get up quite early, as well.)

If you have been less than optimistic of late (and many, if not most, would say that is being “realistic” these days…), watch this video (it’s only 16 minutes long), listen to the compelling points Peter makes and then re-assess your feeling about “YOUR” future (the only future that counts and the only one over which you have control).

Having watched it (and with it now nearly 10pm), all I can think is, “What a great way to prepare for tomorrow (both literally and figuratively).”

Thrive (don’t just survive)!

John Galt – “TheRefillMan”

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Here’s a quick “keeper”!

Good morning!

Rather than making this into one of my typical (lengthy) posts, here’s what I “ate” for “breakfast” this morning:

Have a great weekend,

John Galt – “TheRefillMan”

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Are you “In” or are you “On” (part 3)?

Is it the weekend (or Monday), already?

With the week drawing to a close, I have been a perfect example of what not to do to move your business (or yourself) farther along on your mission (whatever that might be).

Though my plan was to write over the weekend (or Monday at the latest), I have been immersed in the working “in” mode, instead of working “on” by business and my important goals (but, I have also spent time working “on” other things I wanted to be working on, but they weren’t the primary things…)

So, sorry for the delay.  Back at it.

What does working “on” your business actually mean?

Before moving to the next step (where we analyze the product of the two numbers provided in the polls), I’ll move to a tangent for a few minutes to clarify a question I received from quite a few of you.

Many of you wanted clarification of what I meant by working “on” your business or your goal and how to go about doing that.

The distinction between working “in” and working “on”…

Let’s say your goal was to eat in a more healthy fashion.  If you eat three times a day the exact same sort of food you have been eating forever, that is working “in” your diet.  You are simply eating what you always eat.

If before you even hit the refrigerator, the pantry or the restaurant you take 30 seconds to  say, “I am going to eat salad, a small piece of fish, drink water and that’s all.” (and then proceed to do so), you are working “on” your more healthy diet.

If your goal was to bring in more customers, working “in” your business would be showing up at the same time, doing the exact same things you always do, answering the phone, email, putting out fires, then realizing it is time to go home without having done a single thing to bring in more customers.

If, instead, you said, “I will spend 30 minutes today on the phone prospecting for new customers from the list I have had, forever.” (and then do it), you have just worked “on” your business.

Where does it start?  With the two elements of “working on” something

Where does the “working on” process start?  With just two basic elements.

Step 1: The first step in working “on” your business (mission, goal, personal problem, etc.) involves sitting down and actually thinking about what needs to be worked on.

I have to think about what should I be working on?

Don’t agonize over this step, just take even five minutes to think about what your brain seems to tell you needs work (use business, life, health, relationship, whatever, as your starting point.)

You’ll find what needs to be worked on usually falls into several main categories:

You can ask yourself a basic starter question like, what do I want to achieve?

For your business, a starter answer to that starter question could be, “Increase revenue”, which could then be further broken down into more specific ideas like, doubling your sales, gaining new customers, resurrecting previous customers, expanding your territory or product/service line, etc.

From a health perspective, it might be losing weight, getting into better shape, improving your diet, reducing your stress, etc.

For relationships, it might be making stronger connections with friends, family members, spending more “quality time” with those people, spending less time with “toxic people, etc.

Other basic questions: What do I want more of?  What do I want less of?

Some people find it easiest to start by asking two types of questions:

What do I want to attract more of?

The answer can be anything: Money, time, great customers, time off, good employees, close friends, inner peace, dependable vitality, etc.?

What do I hope to have less of?

Though this is focusing on the negatives, your answers might include fewer bills, fewer responsibilities, less frequent fights, stress, pain, weight, etc.

Or, set out to identify basic problems or opportunities

You can also set out to identify what your problems are, the issues your business faces, new opportunities you want to explore, trains that are barreling toward you (and how to avoid the wreck), etc.

Determining what those issues are is the first step in the working “on” process (since until you identify what it is that needs addressing, you can’t easily or effectively work on it).

The second and more important part of working “on” something?

Once you have determined what the issues are you want to address, the second (and more important) part of working “on” it is to actually work on it (duh?)!

Avoid “Analysis to Paralysis”

Don’t turn this into massive, overwhelming, complicated, grandiose plan (this is a problem I really, REALLY suffer from, the “analysis to paralysis”, “the plan must be perfect” habit of thinking…)

Start really small and simple

For example, if your mission is to improve customer retention, an easy starting point might be to call customers who recently left or who you haven’t heard from in a long time and open with something as simple as, “We really appreciated your business.  We see you haven’t been back and I wanted to apologize for letting you down.  What could we have done better, differently, etc., that would have made you stay with us or come back?”

Even doing something like that for an hour (taking notes during the call and then quickly analyzing what you have heard) will give you massive direction to help you refine your approach (and might reveal something entirely different than what you might have assumed would help with customer retention had you spent days or weeks coming up with the perfect plan).

For weight loss it might be determining what foods you no longer want to eat, purging them all from the kitchen, becoming a vegetarian, joining a gym, getting a treadmill, simply walking outside, finding a “workout buddy”, “accountability partner”, whatever.

Once again, you may find that getting up 30 minutes earlier and walking around your neighborhood or on the treadmill, whatever, might be far more enjoyable than a giant plan of hiring a personal trainer, joining a gym, soliciting a workout buddy, etc.

But, again, it’s all about the first step.  Take it and pat yourself on your back.

The easier you make it, the more likely you will do it

The easier you make these first items to work on, the more likely it is you will do them until they become a habit (the same with doing the “thinking” part of the equation, don’t do it just “one and done”, do it on a regular basis since your needs, problems, missions, goals will change over time.)

So, that key second step of working “on” something is determine what easy first steps you can do to address your mission and then “just do it”.

Even if you only decide to “just do it” (whatever that might be) 5 minutes a day, 30 minutes every other day, 3 times a week (only you can determine what makes sense for you and your “issue”), if that is way more time than you have been spending on this issue up until now, pat yourself on the back because you are on your way.

Here are the results of the second poll:

Bringing this to a close, here are the results of the second poll:

Next time, the importance of the product of those numbers

In the next installment we’ll look at what the numbers reveal (and I’ll share with you a favorite audio I recently happened upon that, while basic, it tells you a lot about what people who have this process nailed do).

John Galt – “TheRefillMan”

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Are you “In” or are you “On”? (part 2)

Thank you for your replies, questions and comments!

I received a ton of replies, questions and comments regarding yesterday’s post.  Thank you for those (and thank you, as well, to those of you who said they are looking forward to this venue being brought back to life.  It’s feels good to be back.)

Quick favor – Please respond in the blog (not via email)

Unfortunately, almost every single reply was sent via email to my personal email address (instead of as blog replies.

So) everyone can have the benefit of your input (and my replies), if you have a reply, comment, question, complaint, etc., please just hit the reply link at the end of the post and then everyone can see your thoughts and contribute by responding to those, as well.

Here are the poll results (so far):

I don’t know if this should come as a surprise to anyone, but here are the poll results for yesterday’s question:

What conclusions can you draw from those results?

Take a look at those results and see what conclusions you might come to or theories you might have regarding what happens when someone chooses to address their major problem, mission or goal that frequently (or infrequently, as the case may be).

If you were a poll researcher, what sort of statement could  you make about each group?

Would you say something like, “I would be willing to bet that someone who works “on” their business every day is more likely to have a business moving in a positive direction.”?

Or, “I suspect someone who never devotes any time to work on their major mission, problem or goal will find their issues only get worse.”

Here’s the second question (in the form of a poll, as well)…

The second question my friend asked relating to the concept of working “in” or working “on” something was (and this is related to the first question), “If/when you do spend time working “on” your business (your mission, your goal, etc.), how much time do you devote to that “working ‘on’ it” session each time?”

Let’s role play for a minute…

Take a look at your poll answer from above and role play for a minute.

Let’s pretend your best friend told you they had a really, really big problem (mission, issue, goal, dream, etc.), one that if they addressed it properly would have a dramatic positive impact on their situation (or if left unaddressed, as in the case of a “problem”, could lead to a really bad outcome or a worsening of an already bleak situation).

If they said the amount of time they were devoting to something they believe to be of major importance in their life was the amount of time you indicated you spend working on your business (goal, mission, etc.), what would your response be to them?

Would you laugh, shake your head, ask probing questions?

I won’t turn this into yet another poll, but upon hearing how much time they spent on this serious issue, would you laugh in their face, shake your head in dismay, ask them caring, “true-friend” questions to help them determine whether they really believe they had devoted the time necessary to achieve their goal?

It’s always so easy to see what friends are doing wrong, but…

Why is it that all of us humans seem to have the gift of instantly seeing what our friends are doing wrong (like never stopping to think about the problems they are facing, never trying to figure out the solution to those problems we can so clearly identify, never taking the time to undertake the simple solutions we would suggest for them, etc.)

And, we are usually stunned that they can’t see their “forest for the trees” as easily and clearly as we can see it for them.

But, most of us apparently lack that same ability to see the “forest for the trees” when it comes to the issues we are facing.

(In fact, I find it easier to pretend the problem I am facing or mission I want to work on and conquer is one my friends, co-workers or acquaintances are facing and then ask myself what I would tell them to do if they asked for my “sage” (“snarky”) advice.)

So, let’s turn the question around…

So, with that little bit of role playing fresh in your mind, take a look at your answer, again, turn the question around and ask yourself whether the results you are achieving in your business (on your goal, mission) are completely in line with the amount of time you have said you spend thinking about and/or working “on” your “mission”.

Alone, the answer to each question is helpful

My buddy, Ryan (who brought this topic up at the mastermind), indicated that the answer to each of these two simple questions should reveal to you a great deal about your commitment to solving whatever issue you are facing and how devoted you are to the successful resolution of that mission.

Combined, the product of your two answers reveals your future

Ryan said a more telling  indicator of your chances for success with regard to your mission is revealed by multiplying your answer to the first question (“How often do you spend time working on…”) by the answer you gave to the second question (“When you do work on your “mission”, how much time do you spend…?”) and looking at that number.

(Though I’ll cover this in more detail in future posts, clearly the bigger the number, the more time, effort, resources, thought you are putting into addressing that “something”.)

So, a rhetorical question:

Since we have yet to collect the results from today’s poll question, I’ll draw today’s post to a close with a rhetorical question:

“Do you believe the people who proactively spend the greatest amount of time spread out over the greatest number of days working “on” their business/mission (instead of merely working “in” it) are more likely to be thriving or simply surviving?”

Have a great weekend!

I’ll post more over the weekend (or on Monday),

John G. – “TheRefillMan”

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Are you “In” or are you “On”?

A quick reminder about the purpose of this blog (and an apology)

A couple of years ago, it struck me that so many people I came in contact with were walking around like “zombies” with their heads down,”deer in the headlights” look in their eyes, just paralyzed over what was going on in the world, the economy, in their lives.

The epiphany I had was that there was one powerful, common element I saw in the relatively few people I knew or saw who didn’t have that outlook.

Their common element was that they all had a mission, a purpose, a plan.

Their mission had nothing to do with surviving, their mission was to thrive.

Since many of these people were my friends, a few were my mentors (and some were just people I knew of), I wanted to share what I had learned, the concepts and philosophies I had been exposed to by them (the ones I use to thrive instead of simply survive) so all of you (my TRK customer/friends) could set out to do the same.

I apologize for the false start and this time, I assure you “Thrive or Survive” is here to stay (with frequent fresh content and many, many contributions from guest visitors.)

I belong to a number of “Mastermind” groups

I belong to a number of “mastermind” groups (I first came across this phrase while reading the Napoleon Hill “Think and Grow Rich” classic, when I was in college back in the early 70’s).

In the masterminds I attend, a bunch of us (15 – 35 people, almost all of them way younger than I am) get together several times per year to share our thoughts, ideas, problems, etc.

(The concept of the “mastermind” has been around for a long, long time (some use Jesus and his disciples as a well documented first example of a mastermind).  For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, here is Mr. Hill explaining it:)

An interesting question revolving around the words “In” or “On”

One of the things I heard recently at one of the masterminds was to ask yourself this question, “Am I working ‘in’ my business or ‘on’ my business?”

(That value of asking that question doesn’t solely apply to business.  It can be used for anything you feel is important to you just substitute whatever you want to improve on in place of the word “business”.)

Statistically less successful, if…

According to the person who posed that question, statistics show those people who constantly work “in” their business are so busy with their normal day-to-day operational duties they are far less successful than those business owners who spend time working “on” their business.

What does “less successful” mean?

We all have different definitions of success, so whether less “successful” means they make less money, have less vacation time, spend less time with their family, work longer hours, etc., you can choose which of those represent being less successful for you.

(And, again, if applying this question to other important elements of your life, the more time you spend working “on” improving that important element, the more likely you will be more successful at it than if you were just simply involved “in” that element.)

How many of us find ourselves asking this question?

The individual presenting that “in” vs. “on” question also posed a corollary question.  How many of us ask, “Where did the day go (or the week, the month, the year, even a decade or multiple decades)?”

Doing extra homework on the concept of “working in” vs. “working on”, I found the people who spend more time working on their business (their “mission”, their goal, whatever that might be) are more likely to:

  1. Not ask that question
  2. Know exactly where the day “went”, if they do ask that question

Easier to work “in” than work “on”

Discussing this concept in the group, all of us agreed it’s so much easier to work “in” something (and so much more compelling) than it is to work “on” something.

(I get up, I “must” read my email.  I “must” check the sales numbers.  I “must” see if the changes we are working on for the web site are completed.  Next thing I know, I’m asking, “Where did the day go?”)

Working “on” something is EASY!

But, the good news (for me, at least) was hearing this individual explain that working “on” your business (or on your health, your family relationships, your diet, etc.) need not be overwhelming and is actually “easy” (assuming you commit to it).

Even spending 5 – 10 minutes as infrequently as once a week, can make working “in” your business much more productive.

Drawing this to a close (for today) with a question (a poll, more accurately)

Since I am committed to  keeping my renewed “Thrive or Survive” mission fresh (and update it more frequently), I won’t go much farther into this topic right now, so here’s my final question (actually, it’s a really simple poll):

Tomorrow (yes, I will actually post something tomorrow, as well!), I will have another critical question for you (and will post the results of this poll).

Tell your future with the answers to those two questions!

When combined, your answers to those two really easy questions will tell you with tremendous accuracy how successful you are likely to be at your stated goal.

(By the way. if you want to get a quick alert when new content is posted here, click on the “Subscribe” button on the right)

JG – “TheRefillMan”

P.S. I didn’t forget my promise for the “50%GreaterSavings” code (that’s the code, copy and paste “50%GreaterSavings” into your shopping cart at checkout and you get a 15% discount off of your purchase (as usual, that discount won’t apply to name-brand, big-money, OEM cartridges, but it sure applies to everything we produce and sell!)


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The Difference Between Winner and Loser? One Second!

This might seem like a simple one (and as many of my best tips/tricks/secrets will be, ones you have heard before), but it will NEVER let you down.

I’m “on a Tear” of Late

Ask any of the members of our team, and they will tell you that my Monday morning meetings for the last few weeks have not been “more fun than a barrel of monkeys.”

In fact, a few of my last meetings have been outright “slap you in the face and tell you the straight scoop” sorts of meetings that leave people walking out looking like deer in the proverbial headlights.

(Don’t misunderstand, we have a great team here (heck, most of you have dealt with them so you know how great our team is), but occasionally you need to really let them know what you expect.)

“You Don’t Have to be Bad, to get Better!”

BUT, good as they normally are, as a new buddy of mine, Matt Mathias, recently contributed, “You don’t have to be bad to get better.”

(Matt’s a customer of ours and he owns “Fox’s Pizza Den” in Boulder, Colorado…  If you are in that area, stop in and tell him “The Refill Man” sent you.  Also, Google “fox’s pizza den boulder” and you will see Matt clearly understands the value of “Google Places”.  Also read the testimonials about his restaurant and you will see exactly why I like Matt.)

He emailed me his, “You don’t have to be bad, to get better.” phrase when he sent in several suggestions on how to make the instructions for one of our kits better.  It really hit home.  I felt great that he liked our instructions.  But, I also came away feeling good understanding his point, exactly.  “Your instructions are already good, but here are a few things that could make them better.”

Have you ever watched an Olympic Relay Race?

In fact, recently I had a meeting where I laid it on the line and said I viewed all of us as members of an olympic relay race  team.  In those races, every member of the team must turn in gold medal performances or none of the team members would have a chance at the medal (we have corporate goals that I won’t share at this point, but they are aggressive and they are the  equivalent of “the gold”).

First winner to last loser difference?  Less than one second…

I pointed out that there have been countless races where the difference between first place and last place was less than a second (and not just in short distance races, but in races of tremendous length.)

So many try, few make it

And, for the olympics, how many people set out to make the team that never even qualified by similarly slim margins? Thousands and thousands and thousands.

If you are and employer, or a parent, or even a sister or a brother and have someone (or many people) who you know have more in them, the conundrum is, what can I do to draw out what is in them and help them become what I know they can become?

You can lead the horse to water…

What kills me though, is that after all of these years (25 years of employing other people in addition to working on myself and “helping” my wife become all she can become – she LOVES when I help!) is that the number of times I can recall where my input made a difference you can count on one hand.

That’s not to say I might not have had an impact on people who only made use of that “wisdom” years later, but of the hundreds of people we have employed over the years, I can count on one hand the number of people who stepped up while still in our employ and never looked back.

Okay, I will admit that I am a “hillbilly” at heart, spending my formative years in DeKalb, IL, home of NIU and the FFA and their purple jackets ruled (if you aren’t a familiar, check this out: FFA)

So, with that being said, I do occasionally like watching “high-brow” shows like “Most Daring” on truTV (like I said, it’s “high-brow”)

While I was gearing up for one of my Monday morning meetings, I happened to see a video that was stunning.  Stunning would be an understatement.

But, right there in front of my very eyes was someone who personified the point I was trying to make (and, in case any of the team is reading this and still doesn’t get it, the point is, these days, we are all in the “the economy blows and the world is wacky” olympics and the difference between thriving and surviving is measured in seconds)

This video sums it up for me

Take a look at this video and fast forward to around 1:35 and you will see someone I would hire without even needing an interview because their actions tell me everything I would ever need to know about they stand for…

When interviewed (after finding she had stress fractures in her tibia and fibia that completely broke – three complete fractures and she still crawled over the finish line!) she non chalantly said there was never a thought in her mind that she wouldn’t finish.

Why?  Because my team is counting on me

Why?  Because her team was depending on her and if she didn’t finish, everyone else’s hard work would have been in vain.

Of course, I am not expecting every one of our employees to break their legs for our company, but asking them to answer the phone with enthusiasm, to say, “Please” and “Thank you”, to proof read everything they turn out before it goes public, to step up when interacting with people, to triple-check every box that we pack up… is my equivalent.

What kills me is that with 1.2 million people unemployed in Florida alone, you would hope people would “get it” and go that extra mile (without having to “whip them”…) in the same way that no one was anywhere even near Claire Markwardt (in the video) to prodd her along in her time of need, let alone even helped her (notice no one even slowed down to help a girl with broken bones in her leg?)

It might not be as dramatic, but…

So, the point I am making is that while that “one second” difference, that “breaking your leg for our company” isn’t anywhere near as dramatic as what goes on in the Olympics or what went on in Claire’s race, putting in that seemingly unimportant extra effort while putting our products in a box, answering the phone with enthusiasm, making certain a shipment goes out today (when the customer didn’t expect it to go out until tomorrow), etc., those are the things that at the end of the “race” (our “race” with our competitors, our “race” with our customers, our “race” with ourselves…) will mean the difference between winning and losing.

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Legendary Customer Service – Part 2

I have had several people email me asking for more details on how they can provide “legendary” customer service.

(As a side note, we are making it easier for people to leave their comments/replies directly on the blog instead of emailing me directly.  That way, everyone will benefit from their comments and not only my subsequent replies, but those of others, as well.)

Won’t Providing “Legendary Customer Service” Cost a Lot, Take a Lot of Time and Take me Away from More Important Things?

The tone of many other emails suggested most people are under the impression that providing outstanding customer service would cost a lot, take a lot of time and take them away from more important tasks.

What Task is More Important than Retaining Existing Customers?

I’ll address the last comment, first.  I’ll start by asking the question, “What tasks are more important than providing your existing customers with exemplary, “over-the-top” customer service?”

Study-after-study has shown that it costs far more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer.  So keeping existing customers happy is one of the most important and least expensive ways to improve your bottom line.

We Made the Mistake of ONLY Looking for New Customers

For years we completely ignored that fact and fell all over ourselves (and all over Google’s Pay-Per-Click advertising program) to attract new customers, while basically ignoring our existing customers.

Of course, if a customer called in to place an order, report a problem, need technical support, need to return one of our ReChargX toner refill kits for a machine they no longer had, etc.,  we were never rude to them or pushed them away, but we were so busy trying to acquire new customers, we never did anything on a regular basis to let our existing customers know how important they were to us and that we wanted them to use us on an on-going basis as their primary source for their toner refill kits and toner cartridges.

Not Re-Engaging Your Existing Customers is Stupid (I know… )

I can tell you with 100% certainty that not proactively re-engaging your existing customers is profoundly stupid (and from my standpoint, not doing so at TonerRefillKits.com was purely idiotic.)

Here’s How Inexpensive and Easy It  Is to Provide “Over-the-Top” Service

Now, to counter the other two primary concerns (that providing exemplary customer service will cost a lot or take a lot of time), stepping up your customer service “game” can start with the following simple, inexpensive practices:

  1. Never use voicemail or autoattendant (countless studies have shown in the eyes of your prospects or your customers, even an inexpensive, live, answering service is better than voicemail)
  2. Answer your phone on the first ring (every ring after two is perceived as uncaring, uninterested and every ring after four or five immediately makes most people wonder if you are open or still in business)
  3. Answers the phone slowly, clearly and politely (people hate it when their first impression is “What did you say?”, “Did I reach the right company?”
  4. Answer the phone in an Upbeat Way (Ours?  “It’s a great day at TonerRefillKits.com, this is Traci, how may I help you?” – If you think it sounds “corny”, you can’t believe how many people comment on how much they like the way we answer our phones.  Plus, allowing someone to answer the phone sounding as if it is a chore, sends a HUGE bad message)
  5. Always say, “Please” and “Thank you” (Mom was right!)
  6. Address the customer by name (and calling someone by their full name, “Mr. Thomas” is more professional than assuming you can call them by their first name, even if they provided it, as well.)
  7. If you are busy, call them back (duh!). If you can’t take their call right now, be honest and tell them so.  People would rather have your full attention rather than sense they are only marginally being attended to.  Ask them for their number and when is the best time for you to call them back.
  8. “I’ll call you back…” – Do It! When you tell someone you are going to call them back at a certain time, do it.  Even if you are still in a meeting, still unavailable, take 30 seconds to call them back to tell them you are still not able to give them your complete attention and set another callback time.
  9. Assure them you their problem will be solved to their satisfaction. If they are reporting a problem, an issue, have a question, complaint, etc., at the very beginning of the call, assure them that you will do whatever it takes to make them happy (We ask our customer service people to say, “Before we even get started, I assure you we will take care of this so you are completely happy with the outcome.  You get to be the judge of that, not us.  Now, how may I help you?”)  This little gem usually calms down even the most cranky caller.
  10. “Please explain the issue and go slowly so I can take notes.” Ask them to explain exactly what the issue is and take notes while listening (don’t immediately offer input or advice before they stop, let them speak their peace and get whatever the issue is off of their chest.)
  11. Repeat the issue back to them. Repeat back to them exactly what you understood the issue to be and ask them if your understanding is correct.  You will be amazed how many times you think you understood the problem, only to find out you didn’t (and save yourself and them, time and aggravation.)
  12. Fix It NOW! Fix the problem, address the issue, issue the refund or replacement as fast as you possibly can so they are happy and you can move forward with other important tasks.  Getting the issue resolved as fast as possible feels so much better than having it hang over your head (which then just colors your whole day in a negative way.)

Do Any of These Recommendations Annoy You?

If some of these suggestions annoy you, look at the one(s) that do.  Next, ask yourself how you feel when you are on the receiving end of whatever that item is countering.

Are You Delighted When You Hear Voicemail?

For example, when you call a company and get voicemail with one of those wonderful, sincere speeches that seem to go on forever… “Thank you for calling Jones and company.   Your call is extremely important to us (in fact, we are so sincere about how important your call is to us we can’t even justify having a real, live, human being answer the phone, so we just bought this machine to do it for us…)”

“Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 3 for Farsi, 4 for German…”

“Press 1 for sales, press 2 for service, press 3 for billing… press 19 to see if there is even the remotest chance in Hell that you will ever reach a human being…”

And then, the inevitable, “We’re sorry, no one is available to take your call right now in the customer annoyance department, please leave a message which we promise will basically never result in a return call.”

If you hate auto-attendants and voicemail,  ask yourself this question…

How does that make you feel when it happens to you?  Then, ask yourself this really tricky question.  If you hate voicemail and auto-attendant “trees”, why do you think your customer is any more delighted with yours?

“They’re closed (out of business, taking a break, screening their calls…”

What sort of impression does it leave when the phone rings and rings and rings and thre is no answer?

“What company is this (who is this, what did you say…)”

What sort of initial impression does it give you when you have to call a business or provider and the phone is answered nearly unintelligibly, hastily, rudely or in a manner that clearly sends the message that you are interrupting them?

Do you LOVE having to call for service, for support, to submit a complaint?

When you have a product that needs to be returned or a service you have a complaint about, how do you feel before you even make the call to report the issue?

If you are like most of us, you dread making that call.  Why?  Because you know (or assume you know) what you are in for.

If you are like me, you can count on one hand the number of times that a company or person has surprised you with absolutely “over-the-top” customer service.

Everyone else’s bad customer service is a HUGE opportunity

That dreadful state of customer service is a huge opportunity for you and your company or your business.  Face it, with the “bar” set so low by most other companies, it is really easy to rise above and make your customer service stand out.

Simply start now, doing the little things and work from there

To bring this to a close, I encourage you to start where you are with the one or two items on the list that you feel you can implement most easily and/or the ones you are most “guilty of”.

You don’t have to become “Nordstrom’s” over night (a company that is usually cited as being the “best of the best” when it comes to customer service.  But, you can start where you are, up your game on a few of the items and keep moving from there.

More next time,

John Galt – “TheRefillMan”


Posted in Business Building Tips | 2 Comments

Legendary Customer Service

You Aren’t the Only Game in Town…

I am keenly aware that like most companies around the world these days, we aren’t the only choice our customers have for our products and services.

There are very few markets where the customer has absolutely no alternative and MUST buy from you (or do without).

Even the Best Products, Best Instructions and Best Guarantee Aren’t Enough

While I take great pride in the fact that among toner refill kit suppliers, we provide the best products, the best instructions and have the best guarantee in the world (no-time-limit, no fine-print), that still isn’t good enough.

“Own” Your Customer through Exemplary Customer Service

According to Ken Blanchard (another person I consider one of my “secret weapons”) if you want to “own your customer” in an increasingly competitive world, you can come as close to being guaranteed of being able to do that by providing exemplary customer service.

He goes on to point out that research has shown that you can increase your profits up to 255% by retaining only an additional 5% of your customers…  (does this have you thinking, already, about where you might be neglecting to place appropriate emphasis?)

Aim to Create “Raving Fans” (not just “satisfied” customers)

In fact, he has found that the companies that strive to create “raving fans” (as opposed to mere “satisfied customers”)  are the ones that even in down economies still find their business thriving.

(If you don’t understand why you shouldn’t be aiming just for “satisfied” customers, think about this…  After a romantic interlude, would you like your partner to rate your performance to their pals as a raving fan, “It was unbelievable, fantastic, the best…!” or say something like, “Yeah, it was satisfactory…”)

Raving Fans become FREE Advocates!

What happens when someone becomes a raving fan is that they no longer simply buy your product, they are more likely to become advocates and product endorsers (for free).

The reason they do that is not because they are trying to find new business for you, it is because you have given them something that is practically non-existent these days… “over-the-top”, “we’ll-do-whatever-it-takes”, customer service.

Poor, Bad, Terrible or Non-Existent Customer Service is the Norm These Days

In fact, think about this…  Poor or even terrible customer service is so commonplace these days, the “horror” stories don’t even surprise or amaze anyone any more.  Nowadays, bad customer service is the norm and terrible customer service is really common, as well.  In fact, completely non-existent customer service is also par for the course.

How Can a Business Owner Plan to Provide Bad Customer Service?

What is hard to explain is how can business owners and their employees justify treating customers like dirt?  Aren’t they experiencing the economic downturn?  Are they that confident of repeat customer visits?  Are they not worried about losing customers (or are their employees not worried about losing their job to the 15+% who are either unemployed or under-employed and would be willing to provide much better customer service if given the job)?

It Actually Cost Less to Provide “Over-the-Top” Customer Service

We decided to provide over-the-top customer service many, many years ago not only because it was the right thing to do, but because we realized it cost us far less money to make someone happy in the first place than it cost to fix a mistake and try to convert someone who you had let down or disappointed back into a satisfied customer.

Few People Say Nice Things Anymore (unless…)

We all know that human nature is far more likely to voluntary relate the horror stories concerning bad service, bad products, bad business practices.  What’s the likelihood that someone will tell a story about merely “satisfactory” customer service?  Slim to none.

Think about this, would you go out of your way to tell a friend, neighbor, relative, co-worker about your “satisfactory” experience at a restaurant, car dealership, the quality of work turned out by a handyman, landscape service, car detailer?  Of course not.

I’m certainly not going to volunteer the details of any business or service person to anyone if the best I can say about them is that my rating was “satisfactory”.

How Bad is your Customer Service?

We call all of our customers after they buy from us and ask them to tell us how we did.  We even go so far as to purposely call customers who have had some sort of problem with their order and ask them how well we took care of the issues and how they would rate our services.

Is that fun to do?  Of course not.  Do we need to do it?  Absolutely.

Get Some Guts (or some even more “pithy” term) and Call your Pissed-Off Customers

If you really want to know how bad you are doing (or how well you are doing), pick up the phone and call customers who had already had a problem of some sort and ask them to vent.  You will get an earfull, but for free (other than your time and the miniscule cost of a phone call), you will get the best information on how you are really doing.

What Does it Take to Provide Legendary Customer Service?

How hard is it to move your customer service from terrible to poor, or from poor to average, or from average to great, from great to legendary?

Realistically, it doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to move your customer service forward by leaps-and-bounds.  And, it starts with things like answering your phone (live – people are stunned), sounding more upbeat on the phone, saying “please” and “thank you”, returning calls when promised, sucking it up and admitting you are wrong (even when you know you aren’t and the customer is…), sending out a replacement, doing the work over again, etc.

Providing “Over-the-Top” Customer Service Makes You Money

Only you can make the decision whether providing “over-the-top” customer service is worth it (and only you can assess how much it will cost), but the companies that have been providing legendary service have found it actually makes them money in the long haul to do so.

If your Products or Services Suck, Work on that, too!

Now, let’s make certain we are on the same page…  If you are providing crappy products or services and the complaints all have a similar tone (“Your products stink, they break really easily, your pool cleaning service is terrible, the paint is already peeling on my house”, etc.) , then your bad customer service is just the “icing on the cake” that is going to make certain people never come back.

If your products or services stink, either address them or prepare for not having to worry about customer service problems in the future (because you won’t have any!).

Great Products and Services, Coupled with Great Customer Service Makes Money

In fact, when asked, most business owners say they can’t afford to provide legendary customer service because they assume it costs extra money.

But, this short-sighted attitude comes about as a result of not doing their homework.

1-800-FLOWERS “Get’s it!”

Here is a perfect example.  At the last possible minute, a member of the mastermind group I belong to bought his wife flowers for Valentine’s Day using 1-800-FLOWERS.

(I am not getting any affiliate or referral fees if you do go there so this is simply to relay the way a company that really “gets it” runs their business)

He ordered two dozen roses in a red vase with a silver bow.

When the flowers arrived, there was only a single dozen and they were in a silver-ish vase with a red bow.  His wife was thrilled.

Of course, being a typical guy, he made certain he pointed out to her that he had really stepped up and explained what she was supposed to receive.

“I Just Wanted an Apology and a Partial Refund”

He called 1-800-FLOWERS and explained what the problem was.

Without asking for a refund (he would have been happy with an apology and a refund for the difference between what he received and what he had paid to receive), they refunded him for the entire order (everything was refunded, flowers, vase, delivery, etc.)

“You Don’t Need to do That!”

He was shocked that he received a sincere apology and a complete refund.  He told them, “You don’t have to do that!”

They replied, “Yes we do, we messed up your order and didn’t come anywhere near meeting your Valentine’s Day expectations.”

He thanked them and was ready to get off the phone when they asked him if his address was the same as the address to which he had asked for the flowers to be sent.

He replied it was and they apologized, again, assured him the entire charge had been removed from his credit card and said they hoped he would consider using them, again, in the future.

“Of Course I Will Do Business with 1-800-FLOWERS Again!”

He assured them with customer service like this, he definitely would.

Two days later, he receive a $100 gift certificate from them and another apology card.  So not only did they completely wipe out the charge for the entire order, they actually send him a $100 gift certificate to “buy” his loyalty (and being the extremely wise business people that they are, they received far more in return.) 

How Can They Afford do be THAT “Over-the-Top” with their Customer Service?

How in the world can they afford to do that when they make a mistake?

I don’t have the “official” answer, so I can only offer my opinion, but I bet it boils down to only two simple things.

1.  They most likely don’t make mistakes very often.

2.  How many thousands of people over the years have they turned into raving fans after making a mistake and stepping up in this fashion?

Word-of-Mouth from a Raving Fan is PRICELESS

This story had all of us in the room stunned at their over-the-top customer service.

I guarantee many, if not most of us have told dozens of people (who have then told hundreds of people, and then thousands, by the time the story gets out there) about this sort of legendary/exemplary customer service.

What Did it REALLY Cost Them?

The initial order that was fouled up was under $100.  They ate the cost of the order (and lost the profit, which let’s say was $50).

They ate the cost of the gift certificate (not the full $100 since all they are going to really be out of pocket is the cost of the flowers/service, so let’s say that is another $50).

So, for $100 (hell, let’s say they are out the full $200…) they have had their “over-the-top” customer service story repeated thousands of times.

Do They Remember the Mistake or the Unbelievable Customer Service?

Does my buddy or his wife even say a negative word about the initial order (maybe something like, “The flowers and vase were beautiful, it just wasn’t exactly what he ordered…”) or do they rave about the “You can’t believe what the folks at 1-800-FLOWERS did after my wife’s Valentine’s day flowers I ordered didn’t show up exactly like I thought they would…”

They get it…  No much how much they paid for conventional advertising, it wouldn’t have near the impact as the much less expensive, real-world, testimonial they have received (and will continue to receive)  from my buddy.

Okay, You Can’t Please Everyone…

Before I sign off for today, I will tell you that we know for a fact that no matter how “over-the-top” we try to go, there is the occasional person who just can’t be pleased.  But, those people were going to be mad at your crappy service or products, anyway, so you did your best.

Turning Disappointed Customers into Raving Fans

And, for any other people who are the haters/complainers, you have gone the extra-mile and if you did it right, they are now raving fans.

More tomorrow,


Posted in Business Building Tips | 1 Comment