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Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Magic Touch – Customer Service

magic hat and wand with clipping pathThis process known as Magic Touch relates to the customers experience and viewpoint regarding our on-site service. Specifically, it is the illusion of our ability to magically fix technology problems without panic or stress. This results in an end user perception of professionalism and experience.

However in reality, a great majority of the problems we will be asked to resolve will be relating to software, hardware or problems we have never seen before. Our professional illusion is maintained by out ability to properly handle these instances. Below, is a methodology which is common in the industry, and the terminology taken from Adrian Grigorof, B.Sc, MSCE.

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NON-COMPETITION AGREEMENTS (NCA)

Non-competition agreements have been standard for many trades throughout the capitalistic history. However, at some point California, being an at will employment state ceased to recognize these documents as binding. The logic is that an employer should no be able to restrict a person from taking a traded they know and using their skills at another company. Equally this applies to employees starting their own firms. How many of us have been apprenticed by another, perhaps even working as an employee at their firm.

While the business logic for a NCA is apparent,  California does not enforce these agreements.

So what is an employer of contract services to do to prevent employees from stealing clients from their former employer? There are a couple of things:

First thing is to make your clients a raving fan of your company, it’s model and brand. Your company brand should be disassociated from individuals likes – yes, they should love your people and have a great working relationship with them; however they should love what the company brings to them even more. Beyond simply avoiding problems with former employees, or even simply because of great customer service; this can make it much easier to exit your company (sell, merge, etc) when the time comes.

Next, market your customers with the value of a larger company (or simply larger than an independent contractor) – such as greater stability, higher availability, diverse skill sets, etc.

Third, remind your staff of the high costs of doing business, the value you provide to them: job and income stability, benefits, holiday and vacations (even if unpaid, they have a job to come back to – try taking a 2 week vacation from your contract clients without problems), administrative and business services — they can simply focus on their trade instead of the business end of things.

Finally, you can bind your clients in their contracts to not recruit, hire or retain your employees, former employees or contractors during the duration of their contract with you, and perhaps 1 year thereafter. This can simply be placed in line with your regular contract terms, but you also want to include two important elements: (1) a stated minimum monetary amount (we placed it at 50% of the annual salary of their regular technician) and (2) a provision for you to receive reasonable attorney fees. Most clients will understand this in the onset of an agreement. You can also gently remind your employees about it – in a non-threatening way.

Now failing all of these, you can likely litigate with your former employees because they’ll likely violate terms of their non-disclosure agreements. But proving this and determining a monetary damages could be difficult.

Realize that this does not prevent this from happening, but rather it is a big deterrent. You also still need to collect from them, which will take much longer than you would expect. With major clients this could be devastating to a company. What would happen if your employee was able to woo your largest client away? How would this affect your business if you could not collect any monetary damages from anyone for 24 months?

We recommend being proactive by making sure that your clients are happy and fiercely loyal. Second to that is having your contacts reviewed by a business trial lawyer.

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This is not intended to be specific legal advise, but general information and a guide to help you work with your professional team including lawyers to provide the correct amount of protection for your company. This is part of a 4 week series which came out of a luncheon discussion with several close business associates of mine.

The principle of the matter…

Aug 24, 2008 1 comment

The biggest place you can go wrong in the legal world is to take action based on “the principle”. That reason alone is not sufficient, and will not really move you towards a successful resolution. A business partner of ours recently was “wronged” by an investment firm; there was a series of failures by several employees of the firm resulting in “potential” loss of tens-of-thousands of dollars. He wanted to take action, and he wasn’t particularly interested in a monetary resolution. He wanted to get them, effectively, “in trouble” — because of the “principle” of them matter.

The reality of the issue, if you’ve ever been on the other end of this situation, is what the person wants isn’t defined, nor is there any clear path to resolution. And until you can bring this person to a quantifiable expectation or demand, further action is almost useless. Certainly you want to provide excellent customer service and deescalate the situation. But after that, when it comes down to actually fixing the problem – you need to know what they expect to be done. Otherwise, to take action will only result in your chasing your own tail.

What most customers want is for whatever happened to never happen again. They want to be the whistle-blower and get the problem to end, to sacrificially prevent other people from being harmed. However, experience has shown two things: (1) You cannot prevent it from happening again; you can hold meetings, implement safeguards, but you cannot prevent it; (2) the actions of #1 will not make them feel better, they’ll still be unhappy — so the problem customer really hasn’t been satisfied. Which has taught me that they really aren’t just the sacrificial lamb they think they are. We all would love to be the hero, thought of sacrificing ourselves for other — but more often then not, it’s simply good sounding rhetoric.

So how to we resolve this situation. First we help walk them through discovering what would satisfy them – to react without knowing this will waist time. Help them narrow down to specific actionable items: you can provide a discount, refund money, perform services for free, have employee reviews or even employee disciplinary action. You also need to know what you cannot do: make sure this doesn’t happen again.

 

I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. ~ Oscar Wilde

Customer Service

Jul 20, 2008 1 comment

In business, it is absolutely critical to ensure that from a legal perspective, that liability is always minimized. When possible, that the liability is left squarely (to whatever extent possible) on the customer. However, while this can be accomplished very easily through corporate policy, contracts and semantics; it is imperative to not let that disrup the customer service experience. This can be more complicated that it sounds. While for our executive team which appears to have an innate sense of customer service, however illustrating and explaining this fine balannce between transferring ownership while providing excellent service. Why this appears to be difficult is that once they have a mental idea that they are not liable, they somehow leave serivce at that point as well.