Catalyst Strategic Consultants

How does your business need to grow?

You know how it goes

You know how it goes… you set up

  • a service to be done [say, a renovation…]
  • an arrangement to be made [deliver that stove on Friday]
  • a deal [can we get this done for $4500?]

That’s the easy part! The vendor wants to make the sale. “Get them in the door, then we’ll deal with it.”
Then it starts.

  • “We got weather delayed on the previous project. We can’t start yours now until
  • [next week/ next month/ next spring].
  • “Our service truck is only in your area on Tuesdays”
  • “We need to adjust this price. We didn’t account for the freight/ short order time/ …..”

First act of the play.
Oh boy.
Now you’re in for it.
Now, not all drama is bad! I was privileged to watch the 80 year old Ian McKellan as King Lear from the national theater in London. Now that’s drama I can appreciate!
But commercial drama?
Once the promise has been made and accepted, you’re past the sale dynamics and into the hands of the harried fulfillment folks. They deal with the gap between the promise and the execution. The chief weapon in their arsenal? – “Sorry…”
The universal music of drama.
This a Canadian letter. We are world champions at apology. It’s all our Prime Minister seems to do these days, while our competitiveness drains away.
But as one of my mentors said, “apology serves the apologist” – not the customer. If an apology meant it would never happen again, that would be consolation.
But it usually masks a defective process, usually one that the apologist has no power or intention to fix. They’re just trying to get you gone.
The back end is not talking to the front end – just cleaning up the messes. And the beleaguered back end are the emissaries of a precious asset – your brand.
Nobody cares about what you say. We’re all ensured to promises during the sale. We have few options but to trust your ability and your product or service. Except nowadays that trust isn’t so blind. Folks can check – via ratings services and social media. What do they hear there? It isn’t about the promises. It’s about the gaps between the promise and the delivery.
And the delivery is what customers care about:

  • Was it done?
  • Did it work?
  • Was I bumped/ spiffed?

In other words they want what they want – without drama.

And the gaps are not just in the contracted service or expectation from an investment. The trust gaps are often about how the SPIRIT of the deal [what was promised as perceived by the customer] differed from delivery That’s different from the CONTRACT. Our presentation teaching Trust: when your client looks at the contract they’re already experiencing a breach of trust [they feel wronged in the SPIRIT of the deal – that’s the real contract as far as they’re concerned]- so having resort to the written word is a symptom of “breach of trust of contract”. If you have to hide behind the contract your client already feels aggrieved. What’s happening is not what they thought. And your reputation has taken a hit.

Sales is a one way process now, particularly over the Net. The whole effort is on intake. Once they’ve got your credit card and the sale is booked, it’s over to our fulfillment mechanism. Which usually works fine. Until it doesn’t. Or the product doesn’t.
Now you face a blank and implacable wall. Just try to get back in with a problem.
Trying to get your new device to work is left to your own ingenuity. So much is assumed. Manuals are a thing of the past. I guess we’re all meant to end up on YouTube – where glitches are addressed by frustrated consumers who worked it out and had to good grace to record their fix.
Customer comments are sometimes solicited.
I know there are cranks out there. But when someone takes the trouble to write up a comment that reads like this:
I would never recommend this product to anyone. It came two weeks late and never worked out of the box. I’ve burned up countless hours trying to get through to the company and they just fob me off or try to upsell me. Every time you talk to “customer service”, it’s a new person and you have to explain it all over again.

Can you believe a company would allow such a comment to stand without immediately:

  • Fixing the process
  • Updating with a response, starting with – yes, – an apology?

Don’t think this is just about B to C companies. It haunts everywhere commercial and investment promises are made.
Here’s a thought or two:

  • Try finding a consumer engaging with your company. Follow their journey – as an observer, not a fixer or explainer. See through their eyes what they encounter. Fix the flaws.
  • Look at your processes with an eye to what happens if things go awry. How can the delivery and experience go wrong: because inevitably it can. What avenues do you afford your treasured customer recourse or is your company a one way box canyon?
  • Keep track of how often your people say “sorry”. Don’t punish them, track them. Then identify the root cause of the apology. And keep going upstream in the process until you fix it.
  • Provide an easy to use, resourced customer service capability. And listen to them, acting on what they say. Don’t brush it off. Learn about what’s not working.

Hey, just a couple of ideas.
Unless you really think your clients treasure/ value/ like/ enjoy/ savor the drama they get dealing with you.


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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