As a business consultant, it's my job to help you keep your cool.

Lost My Shit

Three times. Over the course of growing from a one person startup to 600+ employees, and then eventually through a sale to a Fortune 500 company, I lost my shit three times. And I do mean: Lost. My. Shit.

Once was the night before the “go-live” day with our first major client. A final software release with some “cosmetic only” final touches apparently brought down our entire system. Brought it down in a way that was going to make it impossible to open up for business the next day at 8am. On our first day. For our only major client. Lost my shit.

The second time was an uncharacteristic yelling match with my best friend and business partner over…I have no idea. And by yelling match, I mean the kind where you are trying to yell louder but your voice physically doesn’t have any more volume to give. It’s probably worth mentioning that on the other side of the very thin office wall was our training room…with around 30 employees for their first day of orientation. Lost my shit.

But neither of these two events are the subject of this post. Mainly because I can’t offer any valuable lesson learned beyond, “Don’t do that.” So…don’t do that.

However, the third shit-losing episode actually has a business takeaway, thankfully.

It was a normal day with no major stress, very low-key. It was probably sunny and there might have been a bluejay perched on a tree branch outside my window. Ok, definitely not, but I mean that there was no cumulative stress that had me hanging on by a thread over the edge of shit-losing chaos. No, it was one singular event that took me from entirely chill to a raging lunatic in about 5 minutes.

I needed to talk to Jaime, one of my ops managers who worked in another part of the building, so I picked up my desk phone and direct-dialed her extension. But rather than hearing a ringing tone, I heard an option menu. Weird. And the options didn’t seem to make sense for that department, so I pressed zero which should have rang all of the phones within that department – surely someone would pick up. But they didn’t – because their phones didn’t ring. Instead, I got connected to a totally different department when, seeing it was me calling on an internal call, the voice on the other end answered, “Hi Mr. Ebeyer! What can I help you with?”
I asked to be transferred to the department I was trying to reach, and again, I heard the option menu. I thought, OK fine, if I just pick an option it will go to some subset of people in that department who could flag down Jaime.

Except that’s not what happened. I picked an option, but I was sent directly to someone’s voicemail.

At this point, I would describe myself as a racecar in the red. The button presses on my phone had been getting harder and the grip on my handset was getting tighter. I hung up on the voicemail, rather roughly, and then redialed.

But this time I didn’t dial an phone extension. I knew that something internal must be messed up – my next call would be to the IT department to straighten it out. This time, I just dialed our main line company telephone number so that I could bypass the internal intercom functionality, and just use the system like our clients would.

You can probably guess where this is going. I dialed the same number that our clients and contractors use to reach us. And after navigating through about four way-too-slow, complicated phone menus, the system told me it was ringing some extension. Or extensions (plural). Or, hell, maybe Pizza Hut for all I knew. I didn’t actually hear the ringing that I was told was happening. Instead, I heard music on hold. At eardrum-shattering volume that distorted the music so badly that it made what might have been Barry Manilow sound like death metal. Barry Manilow would have been bad enough. Someone finally answered. Through gritted teeth I asked to speak to Jaime. Thankfully, I was told that she was just a few feet away finishing up a call, and was asked to hold briefly.

That’s when it happened. The click, followed by a few seconds of silence (not bang-your-head death metal) that told me….I’d been hung up on.

The rest is a bit of a blur. What I now know is that a handset can be an effective weapon. The victim? My full color touch-screen phone, that I’m sure was not inexpensive. I don’t really know how long it lasted, but when it was over, there were only fragments left of both the base and handset, I was panting, and I actually had a fairly bad cut on my hand from the shattered plastic.

Yes, the situation in itself was very frustrating, but what infuriated me was the realization that the customer experience that we were delivering to our clients was exactly what I had just been through. I was mad at myself because I was in charge. How could I let this happen?

In my business, it oftentimes took years to win a client and the cost of acquiring them was astronomical. But the customer experience that we were delivering to callers didn’t reflect it. It was as though we wanted to drive our clients to our competitors. In fact, it was like we were hiring a limo to take them there.

Complex phone menus, lengthy dialing directories, or simply outdated versions of them can easily turn an existing customer, or almost-customer, into your competitor’s customer.

Some business leaders never make it out of “working in the business” mode. They’re highly involved with every sale, all transactions, each job. And those who actually get around to “working on the business” often think in terms of developing major strategies for growth, big marketing campaigns, new product launches, restructuring initiatives, etc. Both approaches result in an inside looking out perspective of the business.

But, seeing the business from the outside in – the perspective of your customers – is critical to ensure that your customers stay your customers (instead of becoming someone else’s) and that those hot leads convert.

Active Insights recommends creating and maintaining a detailed process with which to audit your customers’ experience. Frequently. Just make it part of someone’s job. If you’re not protecting what you’ve built, why are you working so hard to keep building?

One of the first things that I typically do with a new client is to “secret shop” them. The majority of the time, by far, the customer experience being delivered is not what the leadership wants or thought it was. An outside perspective of your customers’ journey can reveal huge opportunities to increase your bottom line. We can help with that, give us a call.