Ask INVISION: February 2016

I hate to disappoint my clients when I can’t meet their expectations. How should I handle such cases?

There are three elements at play in every service delivery situation, says Bernadette Jiwa: Expectations, logistics and emotion. In business, we do reasonably well at framing expectations and communicating logistics. Where we fall down is dealing with the third and perhaps most important element: our customer’s emotions. Fear is a powerful thing and no amount of explanation, reason and logic can counteract its effect, which is why we need to train for empathy. This is hard, since the person dealing with the crisis might experience it three times every week. But the customer experiences it only once, and that’s why her reaction and her worldview seem unreasonable. So in any customer service situation, ask yourself these three questions: “How would I be feeling if this were me?” “How would I be reacting right now?” “What would I be saying and doing?” You might find that you’re closer to your customers than you think.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 edition of INVISION.

I know Facebook ads don’t cost much, but I’m not showing results even from my limited investment. Any ideas on how I might get a better return?

Daniel Rostenne of EyeCare Pro recently addressed this topic in an email to clients, noting how, in addition to “a call to action/book an appointment button in an apparent attempt to offer some value to rightfully disgruntled business owners,” Facebook is now offering a verification badge. What’s the value? Other online platforms including Google My Business and Yelp were already using verification to help users find authentic accounts. “More importantly, verified pages will also show up higher in Facebook search results and see more exposure on Facebook,” Rostenne says. The option is being rolled out across Facebook and it’s a simple task involving a quick phone call or document upload. Facebook reviews your information against public records and, if your business is for real, you’ll get your verification badge within a few days. “While this new feature alone may not seem very significant in impacting your bottom line, it is another sign that Facebook is making efforts to show that it cares about small businesses and is striving to become a relevant part of their online presence,” Rostenne adds.

An employer has asked me to comment on a former staff member’s performance. He wasn’t great. Should I be honest?

Sadly, this is an area where it’s often best to keep your mouth shut. Unless he signed a release protecting you from legal action, a simple “It’s our policy not to comment” may save you from a lawsuit.

I don’t really get the point of events — they’re expensive to hold and seem goofy. I’m an eyecare professional, not a party organizer. Am I wrong?

Yes. Like it or not, the trend in events reflects two changes in retail that aren’t going to go away. The first has to do with consumers wanting an “experience” over just purchasing a good. That kind of emotional connection can come from a lavish party for luxury consumers or the chance to talk serious high-end frames over a catered dinner. Such events also have the added benefit of generating excellent word-of-mouth marketing. The other factor is an awareness, sharpened by economic woes, that you have to take care of your core customers. Appreciation parties do this nicely. Oh, and let’s not forget one final consideration: Events can make you a lot of money.

A smaller competitor is slamming us in a new ad campaign. Should we respond?

Never respond to a challenge from a rival who is smaller than you, says marketing consultant Roy H. Williams. “Drawing attention to a smaller competitor makes them larger in the eyes of the public,” he explains. “Conversely, if someone bigger than you is foolish enough to shine their spotlight on you, dance in it.” The one exception to this rule is if the rival is spreading lies about your business. In that case, you need to respond swiftly and set the record straight.

I fell behind on a personal loan and the bank sold it to a finance company that I understand paid 50 cents on the dollar for it. I can now offer immediate repayment — but I want a 25 percent discount. How should I proceed?

Your offer sounds reasonable but be careful about disclosing how much cash you have, because the finance company still has a right to collect the full amount of the loan. And they are experts at squeezing every cent out of a settlement, so don’t expect a friendly “let’s split the difference” discussion.

Is there any point doing performance reviews when it’s very unlikely we will be giving pay raises this year? I don’t particularly like doing them and I imagine the staff will view it as a waste of time.

Ideally, a review should be a discussion about an employee’s performance, not about his compensation. And while you have no carrot to wave, it’s still important to let your staff know how well they are doing at their jobs, what plans you have for their development, what areas they could improve (and if possible, targets for them to shoot for), plus a reminder that the payoff will come when times improve. The review gives your staff a chance to provide feedback to you, too. No matter what, try to take some action based on what is discussed in the review. Otherwise, it really does become a bit of a pointless exercise.