This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series SNAP - Draft

“Businesspeople have recognized forever that the moment when a customer interacts with a company employee is crucial to the organization’s success. Traditionally, the moral that managers took from this fact was: keep your frontline employees on a tight reign; teach them to come running when they encounter anything out of the ordinary. Today … winning companies take a different tack. They understand that the frontline people themselves must be given the authority to make real-time decisions, along with the training that will help them make the right ones.”
…from What Really Works, by William Joyce, Nitin Nohria and Bruce Roberson

SNAP connects you to your customer. It gives your customer information they want to know. Consistent use will have a positive impact on your customer relationships.

SNAP will improve customer retention. Customer satisfaction. Help you set and guide customer expectations. SNAP will help you to be more efficient. More effective. Will reduce your stress. And, will improve your credibility.

“SNAP is a practical guide and is very useful for improving customer service and client relations. It is a must read guide for client oriented, successful managers,” says Tomas Miller, Chief, Access to Finance at the Multilateral Investment Fund.

SNAP is an excellent tool that anyone can use. Right on the frontline. Right now.

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What is SNAP?

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series SNAP - Draft

Tom Roberts, Director of the Travel & Tourism Department, Pace Institute, says: “If you believe in the old sales axiom as I do, that ‘the best prospects you have for new sales are customers or clients you already have,’ then SNAP is an excellent training tool for sales as well as customer service.”

There are two main reasons to read this book. First, you may want to improve how you deliver exceptional customer service. Second, you may want to reduce stress associated with customer relationship management.

How would you rate your overall service level today? Fair? Good? Great? Excellent?

Rate your service level. Select one.
Excellent — Great — Good — Fair — Poor

How would your customers rate your service? Select one.
Excellent — Great — Good — Fair — Poor

Consider this: What actually matters is how your customers rate your service — not how you rate it. And, your customers don’t rate your “overall” service level — it doesn’t matter what we want to believe, they rate each separate, individual experience. They talk about each separate experience. Unfortunately, they talk more about the negatives ones.

Check out this link. A musician sings about his flight experience.

This is a YouTube video posted by a former United Airlines passenger who experienced less than satisfactory service. Yes, it happens. He tells his story by writing and posting a song about his experience. The lesson for us here is: this video has received over 11,000,000 views — yes, you read that correctly, over eleven million views. I have yet to find an absolutely positive message a customer posted about an absolutely fantastic customer experience that has received anywhere near this amount of viewership.

So, even if you think your service standard is good enough, or if you think it is great — all it takes is one poor experience and a story told by one dissatisfied customer. No matter your current level of service, focusing on improving your service will give you a competitive advantage. Improve your service level all the time.

Maybe you are interested in SNAP because you have read or heard about companies, large and small, that are continually improving their customer experience.

For leaders and professionals at all levels in today’s competitive work place, this is especially true. It doesn’t matter if you sell shoes, provide human resource services, work in the financial market, write software, sell rifles, coordinate volunteers for a church, sell pharmaceuticals, or repair mufflers.

If you are in business, working for yourself or a boss, you have customers. These customers are external, perhaps people that pay your company money for products or services. Or, they are internal, people in other departments of your company who rely on what you do so that the company can sell products or services.

Books, such as, “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins, “Winning” by Jack Welch, “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey Liker or “Smart Trust” by Stephen M. R. Covey, all tell us about the value of exceptional customer service. You have probably read one of these books, or others like them. These are all exceptional books, and I highly recommend them. If you are like me, it is easy to get motivated for a short time after reading these books. Then what?

Many of us buy and read the next book to keep the “momentum” going. We want to improve. The stories in these books are motivational. We say, “Wow,” reading through real world examples of executives at mega-corporations leading service turnarounds, which result in the saving of failing companies or dominance in a market sector. I have to admit, I read many of these books and they motivate me — at least for a while.

Great. However, you may be like me and hundreds of thousands of others; we are not all senior executives leading multi-billion dollar enterprises. I am a human resources professional supporting leaders and employees. You might be a director or manager at a hospital. Or an IT professional. Or a pharmaceutical representative. Or an owner of an auto repair shop. Or an activities coordinator for a church. Or you own your own gun shop. Or you are a financial planner.

So, what do we do? We are all busy. I don’t have the luxury of delegating to teams of others. I have to deliver, busy day after busy day.

We want to provide the best customer service possible. I want to do this in the simplest way possible. Our jobs are already too busy. Some would say, way too busy to add more to the list of things we do.

What then is your bottom line? So, then, what is SNAP?

“If you’re accustomed to thinking of the bottom line only as it relates to financial matters, then you may be missing some things crucial to you and your organization. Instead, think of the bottom line as the end, the take away, the desired result.”
…from Thinking for a Change, John C. Maxwell

SNAP neither assumes nor cares what your bottom line is. It can and will support a variety of needs and outcomes you may have.

If you own your own business, you might be motivated by increasing your profits.

If you earn a bonus or commission based on job performance, you might be motivated by adding to your paycheck.

If your job is just a j-o-b, then you might be motivated by making your job easier.

You may be motivated by increasing customer satisfaction in order to get any number of other outcomes beneficial to you.

If any of this resonates with you, continue reading to learn more about SNAP.

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The Gap

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series SNAP - Draft

Brian Tracy, business man and motivational speaker, is quoted as saying: “Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.”

What is the Gap?

“Exactly what are we confronting? We are stepping up to a: broken promise — a gap; a difference between what you expected and what actually happened.” So write authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler in Crucial Confrontations.

Worded for our purposes, we can say the gap is the difference between what your customer expected and what they actually experienced. The Gap occurs when you and your customer have a different understanding of your business relationship or the nature of a particular transaction. We care about the Gap because we want to use SNAP to set expectations at the onset of the customer experience. When looking at the Gap we will pay lots of attention to expectations, and to what we can do to set and influence expectations.

For our purposes in this user guide, “anyone you do business with or for” is your customer.

Tom Roberts worked for over 18 years in the travel industry. Dynamic. Fast paced. Where the dreams and expectations of customers are high. Alignment and managing the Gap was vital to his success. Tom says: “Communication is the key to properly implement SNAP. As I found out from personal experience, this is especially true when confronted by an irate client. I see a real need for an approach like SNAP.”

Here are common Gaps, which you may be aware of or experienced:

Ordering a burger and waiting too long.

Calling that 800 customer service number and being placed on hold.

Coming home from a long day at work and finding your cable signal is out.

Making a call to a company and getting a multilayered phone tree.

Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room.

Leaving your car at the shop for routine work and finding it is not ready when you return to pick it up.

Sending a resume in for a new job and not knowing when you might get a response.

Volunteering to help at your local church and not getting a call back.

Coming to work only to find the user interface on your favorite program looks different.

When working with a financing agent, getting high expectation regarding getting funding for your project and then not getting clear answers as to status or next steps.

Applying for a license to operate a business and not receiving the permit within the expected time frame (and not explanation regarding the delay).

Add in some Gaps from your personal perspective:
– 1
– 2
– 3

All these experiences and many others similar to them have something in common. There is a Gap in what the customer experiences or thinks is going on compared to what the service provider thinks.

The Gap occurs when any two people engage in an exchange. The way we routinely communicate results in a Gap. The Gap happens when I make a request and you give me an answer; but, the answer does not fully tell me what I think I need to know.

What do customers want to know? Customers want to know about the status, the next steps, the approximate timeline for things to happen, and what the planned outcome is going to be. In short, customers want to know SNAP.

Let us look at one of the examples in a little more detail.

Ordering a burger and waiting too long. You go into your favorite fast food restaurant for lunch (let’s call it Favorites) and order a burger. You normally expect to wait about two minutes. Your wait is now five minutes. You look at your watch; it is now noon. How much longer? You start doing some “self-talk” telling yourself things that are not complimentary about the restaurant or service you are getting. Really, you are not sure why you are here today. You start counting the number of employees working behind the counter; wow, sure are a lot of people working back there. You just know something is going on and it is not good. You hope this does not affect your lunch. Why now? Why today? Why you? After all, you are in a hurry.

From a different perspective, this story might look different. Let’s say you work at Favorites; it is a good job and helps you pay the bills. The normal lunch crowd is arriving. You have been telling the customers that the wait is the usual two minutes, and you look at the timer on the register, noting the wait is a little longer. The manager circles through the back area quickly stopping by each employee. “We have a big order coming in,” he says. “A tour bus with a big country star is pulling through. We’ve been asked not to tell the name; they don’t want to be mobbed. Should be on the news tonight. Let’s get this order processed now.” How exciting. Checking your watch, you note it is almost noon, about five minutes before the hour. Excited, you start processing the larger order for the tour bus.

What is going on here? The Favorites employee does not think he is giving poor service. In fact, he is working harder than usual due to the large order that just came in. He thinks he is delivering great service and is stepping up to handle this challenge.

The customer is still waiting. He perceives he is getting poor service; all he knows is that he is still waiting. It may only be five or six minutes now, however, if the normal wait is two minutes, then a six minute wait is 3x longer than normal. Comparatively, speaking, that is a long wait. Any minute now, the customer is going to step up to the counter and complain and ask about the order. The moment this happens, we have an upset customer. In fact, we have an upset customer whether he asks what is going on or if he just keeps on waiting.

What are our options? Consider this: The employee who is taking orders and managing the front counter quietly goes over to the waiting customer and says: “Excuse me sir, I know you just placed your order, however, right after we put your order through we also got slammed with a very large order from a tour bus — some really famous country star, they won’t tell us who it is, but, I think it will be on the news tonight. Anyway, your sandwich is being made right now and will take a few minutes longer. Usual wait time for us about two to three minutes, we should be able to get your meal out in a little over five minutes. I hope that is not too much of an inconvenience. Will that be ok?”

The customer just got SNAPed; he heard the status of his order, he heard about next steps, he heard the approximate timeline and he heard the planned outcome. The customer says: “Sure, that will be fine. Who is on the bus?”

“I am sorry sir, I really don’t know, the only thing they told us was that it might be on the news; and we got a really big order. Hey, this is exciting, I gotta get back to processing it — your meal will be up in a few more minutes. Really appreciate your patience. If anything changes, I will let you know immediately.”

Yup. SNAPed.

Better yet, he heard the promise of a follow up SNAP if things were to change. Mastery.

The employee at the counter shared a quick overview of STATUS, told the customer what the NEXT STEPS were, mentioned an APPROXIMATE TIMELINE and committed to a specific PLANNED OUTCOME. And, to seal the SNAP deal, the employee provided assurances that a SNAP follow up would take place.

What actually happens with the customer is the same, whether SNAP occurs or not. This customer is going to wait a little over six minutes for his meal. If, after two minutes, the customer is not briefed, Favorites will end up with an unhappy customer — and it matters not one bit how much harder or faster the employees are working. The customer only cares about his order.

Once SNAPed, the customer has a great understanding about what to expect, he no longer speculates, imaging all kinds of horrible or disastrous things about his order, the restaurant’s incompetence, or __________ (fill in the blank). The trouble with letting the uninformed customer fill in the blank is that the story about lunch will be the customer’s negative story, and will be told to many people. The story will not help Favorites’ reputation.

Once SNAPed, the customer knows what is going on and, in fact, in our case, has a new, exciting replacement story. Tonight, watching the news, he will say: “I was there!”

You now have a clear understanding of the Gap. Look for Gaps; you will see and experience them almost everywhere.

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Restoring Full Service

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series SNAP - Draft

The cover of the book proclaims a way to “restore full service”. What does this really mean?

Part of the SNAP inspiration comes from good, old fashioned U.S. of A. gas stations. Remember, we used to call them “service stations”.

Here is a fun link about those old style full service gas stations. (Image and link from http://goretro.blogspot.com.)

During the 1950s and 1960s, when you pulled into a service station to fuel your car you got full service. And, though the attendant did not know it, he was fully engaged with SNAP. Took me a while to get wrapped around this, but consider what happens when you pull into the full service station — 1950s style.

As you pull in, you drive over a hose that triggers a bell in the station. The attendant comes running out as you come to a stop near the gas pump. The attendant is at the driver side door; you don’t even get out of the car — all you do is roll down your window. The attendant asks you how many gallons of gas you want or if you want a “fill up”. While the attendant fills your tank he checks your oil, your wiper fluid, cleans your windows and lets you know the air pressure in your tires. He may do more, as well.

The SNAP is not related to what the attendant does for you; it is related to how he does it; the attendant communicates with you by “how” he delivers service. You remain in your car while the attendant attends to your car. You see what he is doing all the time. He talks to you and lets you know what he finds and asks you if you need anything else. It doesn’t matter how quick it takes for this service to be delivered to you. What does matter is that you are informed every step of the way.

In the example of the service station, the actions of the attendant are his SNAP. You, the customer, know the status of what he is doing, you know what the next steps are, you know what the approximate timeline is, and you know what the planned outcomes are. The attendant checks in with you as he performs his tasks. You are fully informed. In large part, the method of service delivery allows you to see what the attendant is doing, and this is a major part of how you get SNAPed. You see what is going on. You know what is going on.

The concept of full service for SNAP is less about the “whats” that are being done. It is so much more related to the “hows” (the messaging) of the full service being performed.

Why is this important? Because, in today’s economy, the “what” of what we do is very different and because of technology so are the “hows”. We work remotely. We use email, the internet, systems, texts, tweets, and other less personal forms of interacting. Our modern methods of less personal communication put a burden on the communication aspects of SNAP. Assume less, communicate more.

If you focus on what has been covered so far about SNAP, you will realize that SNAP does not care. SNAP just wants to be used, to be snapped into place. The more impersonal your relationship, the more you will want to insert SNAP messages into your workflows.

The service station attendant engaged in SNAP just by doing what he did; moving around the car, doing his tasks, asking you questions, letting you know what he found. All real time. Today, we have to do more. We have to go out of our way to insert SNAP. Better yet, insert SNAP as “real time” as possible. This will result in your customer experiencing full service. This is what you want.

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How SNAP Works

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series SNAP - Draft

Paul Graham, author and programmer is quoted as saying: “For [a product] to surprise me, it must be satisfying expectations I didn’t know I had.”

Use SNAP to set and steer these expectations. This is what you want from SNAP. To set expectations and to meet and exceed those expectations. It is good to surprise your customer by exceeding expectations. It is not good to surprise your customer by failing their expectations.

The four parts of SNAP all work together and are best used when snapped into your key workflows.

We all have workflows. Some formal, some less formal. Any pattern of work that you use on a regular basis is a workflow. At times we document these and call them Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs. You might call them policies or a processes. Whatever called, the patterns of what you do are your workflows.

Does SNAP care about your workflow? No, not really. Will SNAP require you to change your workflow? Again, no, not really.

The “not really” part of the above answers is that SNAP is not a workflow analysis process and is not used to improve workflows. However, purposeful use of SNAP may result in you seeing your workflows differently. Basically, SNAP will easily snap into any part of your current, existing workflows.

We will not be spending time on building or deconstructing workflows in this book; there are many other resources for that. We will reference how SNAP fits into existing workflows since that is one way to get the real power when using SNAP. However, this coffee cup chat will focus on how to put a SNAP together and how to leverage SNAP.

Let’s look at a high level, generic customer workflow. Trigger > Processing > Completion.

Adding a little more detail, yet still staying high level, your workflows may share some of these steps:
Request / Order / Trigger
Acknowledgement / Acceptance
Processing / Tasks
Check In / Status Update

SNAP will fit easily into any step of your current workflow. We will go into the details of setting up a good SNAP a little later, so for now let’s continue to look at this from a high level.

Pick one of your most routinely used or triggered workflows. To get started, I suggest you snap a SNAP into your workflow right at the start of the engagement.

Request / Order / Trigger

Here’s an example from work I do. As a human resource leader, I spend a lot of time hiring people for my company. This is one of my most routine workflows. This process is triggered by a request from a manager. The start of this process for me is: Request Submitted > Request Approved > Job Posted …

This is very routine. It all happens by email or other electronic process. It happens several times a day. And, just as routinely, I used to get calls or emails from managers asking: “Did my request get received?” “Did the request get approved?” “Did the job get posted?”

The workflow does not necessarily need to be edited or changed for me to improve customer service. All I have to do is add in one or more SNAPs.

This is what we did to the job request process. Request Submitted > SNAP > Request Approved > SNAP > Job Posted > SNAP > SNAP …

SNAP is a positive, informative message that you purposefully insert into key places in your key workflows. The repeating of these messages both informs your customers and frames their perception of the relationship they have with you.

When you don’t give your customers the information provided by a SNAP, your customers will fill in the blank spots on their own. They will guess at the information they don’t get from you. Don’t leave your customers guessing; use SNAP to guide and steer perception and to deliver much improved customer service.

Perception does not change overnight, however, considering the example shared above about posting jobs, after a few months the overall perception was that requests to fill jobs and the posting of jobs took place in half the time it had taken previously. The only real change was the addition of SNAPs. Managers were much happier. The HR team was able to spend less time responding to questions about the status of things, and to move the communications of the relationship to more productive topics.

The way SNAP works is pretty simple. Look for an opportunity to get your message to your customer. The importance of workflows is that they provide a routine delivery vehicle for us. All of our key or core customer transactions are driven by workflows. A customer comes into your shop: you have a workflow to greet and determine what service or product is desired. A customer walks into your office: you have a workflow to welcome your customer and connect them to services or answers to questions. Insert one or more SNAPs.

“People tend to look at their business from the inside out—that is, they get so focused on making and selling their products that they lose awareness of the needs…of their customers.”
…from Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Blossidy and Ram Charan

Using SNAP messages forces you to look at what you are doing from the view point of the customer.

Make SNAP work for you. Add it into key locations of your key workflows. Workflows are awesome delivery vehicles for SNAP.

Invest some time and thought, then pull the trigger: plug and play. Won’t cost you a dime.

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