6 Steps to Problem Solving

Posted by dscaringi on April 15, 2015

My youngest child came home from school the other day and handed me a paper explaining his second grade Open Circle session that day. The topic: Problem Solving. I am impressed that our kids are being taught such practical skills. This topic relates to everyone! These second graders were presented with 6 simple but smart steps to empower them to resolve their daily problems. After reading through the program synopsis I found myself thinking about how everyone could use this approach. In fact, we can substitute any words for “problem solving” into the method… Try using the context of conflict resolution, business planning or business development instead.  Here’s my take on the topic:

  • Calm Down.  Before we can begin to solve any problem, it is important to calm ourselves down.  Taking a moment to absorb a situation allows us to think more rationally. Emotional responses are never productive.  Often driven by fear and excitement, we can easily be distracted by the need to try to “fix” a problem before we understand it.
  • Identify the Problem.  Know exactly what the problem is.  Are there underlying issues driving the conflict?  Are there outside forces effecting behaviors?
  • Choose a Positive Goal.  Envision the most positive outcome and then determine how you may get there (or close to it!).  Sometimes it is hard to think positively when faced with a difficult task.  Take the time to turn things around to the most positive place possible.
  • Brainstorm Potential Solutions.  There is often more than one method we can take to achieve the same or a similar outcome.
  • Evaluate the Method to Reach Resolution. Once you have some options identified, consider each of the solutions, how they may affect those involved, as well as what the potential outcome may be.
  • Make a Plan.  Once you have weighed all of your options, select the best one and identify the steps needed to move forward.
  • Resolve the Conflict.  Execute upon the identified steps to resolve your conflict as efficiently and amicably as possible.
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Payment-Friendly Invoice Methods: An Extension of Your Service

Posted by dscaringi on March 12, 2015

Customer service standards touch every business. People always notice bad service and the negative association that comes along with it.  On the flip side, people also always remember the feeling of a great service experience.  When it comes down to it, people like to feel that they have made good purchasing decisions choices and their service experience is directly related to that validation.

This is exactly why super customer service needs to be a priority in any marketing plan. Good service is a sure-fire way to have happy customers, support word of mouth buzz, generate referrals and…. have invoices paid in full and promptly. Money isn’t an easy topic for people to discuss, but it is part of the overall success formula.  A few thoughts on how to make invoices a part of your customer-friendly plan:

  • Ask clients what they need to make payment easy.  Have a billing conversation with your clients early on in the relationship.  Make sure you understand what is important to them for reviewing and processing invoices.
  • Be concise and consistent.  Now that you know what clients want to see on the invoices, provide it in a concise manner. Don’t be over-inclusive, but also don’t make them chase down clarifying information. If they need to do more work on their end, you are ultimately creating a bad service experience and holding up payment processes.
  • Take time to invoice properly. Make sure your invoices reflect detail regarding the services you performed. Don’t just throw a number on a bill and send it along.
  • Make it personable. Include a brief cover letter or email with your invoices so that you may acknowledge the importance of your relationship.
  • Please and thank you.  You earned the work from your clients, so make sure they know you appreciate the trust they have put in you. In your cover letter, politely ask them to please process the invoice for payment. Perhaps more importantly, make sure you include a brief thank you that let’s them know you value their relationship.

A quick review of your invoicing process offers you an easy way to make sure you meet service expectations from start to finish. Think about how you like your business interactions as a consumer and use that information to your advantage. Good service experience always translate into happier clients who are more prompt with their payments.

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Surviving the Winter of Business Development: Nurture Relationships Until They Bloom

Posted by dscaringi on March 5, 2015

The past 6 weeks of winter have certainly been a difficult test for New Englanders. Basic things we were once able to do every day have now become quite difficult– two lane roads are now one lane, public transportation doesn’t run a typical schedule, ice damns are causing indoor floods and towering snow banks are causing blind spots that could unnerve an Indy driver.  All of this can certainly get you down.

But we can’t let it! According to the calendar, spring is only 16 days away and I see the signs despite the white landscape. The morning birds are singing, the trees are starting to get a reddish glow and the days are getting longer. We have no better choice but to power through and let nature take its course.

Sometime business development can feel like a long, hard winter that will never end. Even the best planned efforts can get side-railed by other distractions and difficulties. New business sometimes feels like it is buried under layers of competitors and reaching it seems impossible.  What to do?

STOP.  Yes.  Stop the downward spiral! Don’t get discouraged. Listen for the signs that people send when they trust and like you. Faithfully work at developing your relationships every day. Business will bloom if you persistently build meaningful relationships over time and ask for the work. Specifically, understand and prioritize your target audience, be yourself, offer help and build visibility. You will see the rewards if you consistently get out and make the effort to uncover new work.  Don’t give in to the excuses that cover your pathway–  shovel them aside and keep moving forward. Afterall, spring keeps coming back no matter what old man winter throws at us!  I promise you that.

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