The best way to get a deal done or grow a business is the same – trust people.

Trust often seems hard to come by in the business world.  It requires you to put part of your success and future into others outside of your control.  Trust is notoriously fickle in the slow to build, easy to break ways.

But trust is the foundation of things getting done.  If you don’t trust (at least in some ways) then you will constantly be treading over the same ground repeatedly.  Nothing fast will happen and no one will volunteer to help out because they know their efforts will be in vane from the beginning.

This is not to say that you should trust indiscriminately but that you should know when, where and who to trust.  Some people you trust to run the financials, some to deal with the client directly and others to keep everything else running.  Trust outside of these areas may not exist yet.

If you don’t trust people to do their jobs you will quickly find your belief to be self-fulfilling.  Those who don’t trust are usually rewarded by being lonely and stuck doing everything themselves.  Hard to grow that way.

Be wrong! Why it is the best thing you can do for yourself and your clients.

I say it a lot and I will keep saying it.  CRE is a hard field because it touches so many areas of both business and the economy.  It is absolutely impossible to be right all the time on all topics.  Being right all the time is often interpreted as being dishonest about when you make mistakes or are wrong.

Trust is built through human interactions and two people learning each other to a degree where they can predict future behaviors and like what they predict.  Trust is the cornerstone of this industry.  All of our relationships, clients and solutions are predicated on a high degree of trust.

By being wrong, and owning being wrong, you are able to emphasize where you are an expert, where you need help and how you will behave when things start going wrong with a future solution.  Being wrong occasionally will actually strengthen your relationships and give people greater confidence in everything else you do.

….of course with that said, being wrong too often or on the wrong topics isn’t a good thing.  Don’t screw up if you can help it but it is inevitable.

I write this while sitting in sand….

Vacations are an important part of the working process.  If you never get away from your job then you never realize that things will continue on without you. 

The secret to happiness is knowing and embracing how the world will move forward without you.  The best you can hope for is to do the best you can, hire people smarter than you and help everyone you work with to be more successful.  Anything more than that is just selfish.

A key for #CRE project success. Don’t involve yourself in the client’s decisions.

That title is probably going to rub a few people wrong.  “Why shouldn’t we help the client get to the right decision?”  And as with anything in life, there’s some nuance to the issue.

Let’s start at the top though, our job is to help a client make the right real estate decisions.  Hard stop.  Doesn’t that go against my thesis?  Absolutely not.  Our job is to give them all the information they need, package it in an understandable way, and give the client a framework for making their decision.  But at the end of the day we cannot actually make the final decision for them.

Yet too often we try to make the decision for our client.  We push a decision that we think it best and fight anything different.  We push a decision because we think things are delaying too long.  We push a recommendation that is “right” but doesn’t match the client’s culture and business.

Ultimately all decisions involving the client’s money is theirs to make.  If we take that decision away from them we are putting them in a position of greater risk to themselves and their business.  We need to ensure that the client moves in a timely fashion and we must look out for their best interests.  But ultimately we are there to support them.

If we become over-involved in the actual decision then we put them and ourselves in an awkward position.  As advisers we must effectively advise.  Less than that and we are not giving the client the information they need for a good decision.  More than that and we put them in a position of accepting a decision they don’t really support or can be successful with.

99% reliability in something used daily is not very good.

Directv has recently been running a ton of commercials featuring Rob Lowe.  One of them in particular bugs me – it’s the one that talks about their 99% reliability.  Not 99.99% reliability – just 99%.  Just to verify, I went to their website which says the same thing (screengrab below):

directtvreliability

 

99% reliability.  Said another way, 99 days out of 100 it works.  Said yet another way expect to have a non-working signal between 3 and 4 days every single year.  Said yet another way, expect to have a non-working signal half a week every year.

Suddenly it doesn’t sound all that great.

They get away with it because people are generally bad at crunching these kinds of numbers.  99% reliability sounds great but imagine if 1 out of every 100 text message you sent just didn’t get through to who you were sending it to, it would cause havoc.

These things are important.  You are being told you are being sold a fairly unreliable service (in my opinion) but they are positioning it as if it is a strength because they don’t think you are going to actually do the math.

If they wanted to sell me on customer service, great – I’m buying.  If they wanted to sell me on a better user experience in general, excellent – I’m all for it.  But don’t try to pretend something bad is something good.

 

Do you trust a hacker to safeguard your personal data?

Interesting post making the rounds on LinkedIn by a Chris Chan about why he quit Facebook.  It’s a fine read.  Nothing to really get too excited about except one call out in the post caught my eye:

Do you trust a hacker to safeguard your personal data?

Apparently, to Chris, this is a giant red flag.  Hackers must be evil creatures that are out to destroy everything that is good about software and technology.  But if that’s the case why was it only this week that Christ left?  The entire ethos of Facebook has been the Hacker culture.  (But Hacker simply means building things that work, fast.)

[As a quick aside, I am not a regular Facebook user.  I mainly use it to follow along with what my friends are doing and commenting on.]

This is where I pause and wonder about rationalizations and fear-mongering.  If I had to choose between a hacker and a typical corporate IT person to safeguard my data, I will choose the hacker every time.

Hackers (at least respected ones that have a track record) know what they are doing and why.  They may not get it right the first time but they work to get where things need to be.  Generally they aren’t going to be coding in shadows, they are going to be doing it visibly.  Why do you think everyone complains about Facebook processes?  Because they know about them!  Everything is very up front or at least discoverable.

You standard corporate IT person is just doing a job.  If they are given a directive (even from someone who doesn’t know the difference between HTTP and HTTPS) they are going to follow it.  They don’t ask too many questions, they don’t seek be on the cutting edge, the take the safe paths.  This person does not really care if your data is safe or not as long as they have followed processes and procedures and applied with all current corporate standards.

[Hackers are occasionally found in Corporate IT departments.  You will know one is there because the manager of IT will complain about them regularly but go to them first when something needs to get fixed.  Find this person and befriend them immediately.]

Which would you trust more with your data?

What my day with Time Warner Cable can teach you about customer service.

It all started with a simple statement:  I don’t watch all of the channels I currently have and would like to reduce my cable bill.

To Time Warner Cable I believe this is an impossible feat.

In total I spoke to 7 live customer service agents and 2 agents via chat over a 3 hour period.  I kept my cool with all human contacts (although I’ll admit to yelling at the “voice recognition” system a few times – I swear to you it only seemed to recognize shouts of anger).  I achieved the desired outcome I was looking for although the methodology they used to get it was absolutely bizarre.

  • The first two told me they couldn’t help and “tried” to transfer me to other departments.  The third person came back with a “great deal” that was $10 dollars more a month than I was paying now.  Needless to say I did not take that “great deal.”
  • Go back to do more independent research so that I can ask for exactly what I’m looking for thinking maybe I was the problem.  Create a very specific list of what I want using their terminology and language.
  • The chat line quotes me a package that was exactly what I wanted and then determined that they weren’t allowed to actually give it to me.
  • They raised me to a supervisor (in chat) who also couldn’t give me the package they quoted and gave me their “local customer service number” which turned out to just be a different number to the main call tree.
  • Back on the call tree I go through two more agents who are not allowed to downgrade accounts.  Promise to get transferred but just get sent back to the call tree again.
  • Finally figure out the voice commands to get to the “downgrade” group.  Get a very helpful agent on the line who regretfully tells me he’s not allowed to downgrade anyone.  At this point I can’t help but ask why the downgrade option sends me to him.  He transfers me to Customer Retention which he promises “can give me exactly what I want.”
  • Customer Retention.  The most helpful person I talk to all day.  I relay (again) the fact that I’m looking to lower my cost because I don’t need all the channels I have.  But the key is “lowered cost”.  At this point I’ve got the answers to her script down.  Finally she comes back with a package for the same everything (less a premium channel) but she’s upgrading my internet and it will save me what I was looking for.  She then tells me that she too is not allowed to actually downgrade customer services!

9 people across the entire customer service spectrum.  Not one of them could (or accurately knew someone who could) downgrade services to save me money.  In fact, most of the reps told me that if I did downgrade my services I would end up paying about 100% more because I’d lose the “package” discount.  AMAZING!

Every rep I spoke to said this was a common request and they understood what I was looking for.  Not one was allowed to do it.

Hint to anyone designing customer service departments:  enable your people.  Your employees have a desire to make you money (it gets them more money!) but they also have a desire to please customers.  If you don’t allow your customer facing people to make customers happy then don’t be surprised when you have irate/angry/bewildered/confused/unhappy/unsatisfied customers.  You can’t make them happy if you don’t give your people a chance.

I came in a content customer and I left my encounter wishing that there was another viable option for what I needed.  At one point I honestly was considering moving my television to DirecTV, my internet to T-Mobile (or AT&T even!) and ditching my landline completely just to get away from the insanity that was Time Warner Cable customer service.