R U Ready to Grow Your Business?
By Martin R. Baird
      If you or your children text message on cell phones, then you may be familiar with a variety of chat acronyms. They range from LOL (laugh out loud) to BFF (best friends forever). Most are slang and make it fast and easy for people to communicate.

So R U ready?

      Are you ready to find out that the letter R could be the single most important letter for your business today and going forward? Put another way, R words could be the biggest factor of your success. The Rs that you need to be ready for are Risk and Recommend. They’re important because they relate to Reputation.


      Research has shown for years that people hold their reputation in the highest regard. Asked for their opinion about something and most people will carefully respond because their reputation could be on the line. Hold that thought while I next take a look at the other two Rs.

Risk and Recommend

      The Harvard Business Review published a wonderful article about how customer “satisfaction” has zero correlation to the future growth of any business. I’m sure that’s a real shocker for some of you. It certainly was for me. But I have come to realize it’s true that you’re wasting time, energy and hard-earned money if you do customer satisfaction surveys. Why? Because the research found that satisfaction is fickle. People will say they’re satisfied about something and moments later tell a friend how terribly unhappy they actually are. They don’t risk anything by being fickle. A customer risks nothing by saying on a survey that he is satisfied when, in fact, he is not.

      But fickle goes out the window when risk and reputation come into the picture. Here’s a real-world example. I went to a restaurant in Bend, Oregon, with some friends. The server was friendly and came over to take my drink order. I inquired about the beer menu, and she proudly said they have every brew imaginable. I was impressed, so I asked for either a Presidente or Moose Drool. She came back and said that they have eight beers and that neither of the two I named were on the list. In reality, all they had were six domestics and two imports. When I left the restaurant, I wasn’t asked if I was happy with my dining experience. But if I had been, would I have told the server or manager that I was dissatisfied? Of course not. The meal and the service were OK. I probably would have said I was satisfied. Why not?

      But if I had been asked if I would risk my reputation and recommend the restaurant to a friend, well that is an entirely different matter! BTW, the answer is no. Once you include my reputation in the measurement, you have moved me from fickle to having a vested interest. Vested because I don’t want to risk my reputation by recommending that restaurant.

      So what does this have to do with your business and your customers? If you want to grow your business, you need to measure your customers’ willingness to risk their reputation and recommend you and the services you provide. Forget about a generic “are you satisfied” question. You need real third-party research so people are comfortable sharing true thoughts and feelings.


      The next critical R is Referrals. We have all been at conferences where facilitators share statistics that show people will refer if they are simply asked. The speakers always say that all you have to do is ask

      That’s all well and good, but the research published by Harvard points us in an entirely new direction. It opens up a whole new way of looking at referrals. Yes, it’s okay to ask more often for referrals. But this research says the most important thing you can do is ask your customers if they are willing to risk their reputation and give you a referral. If you glean this information by way of a simple survey, you have data that tells you the extent to which you have customers who are willing to risk and refer. Let’s call it a score. The higher the score the better. Why? Because the research shows that customers who are willing to risk and refer are likely to stay with you as customers and generate new business for you without you even asking them to do it! These people aren’t fickle and they are way beyond satisfied. They actually act as advocates for you.

      The score shows where you stand at that point in time with your customers. Next, you need some narrative from your customers. Do they rank you as a 3 or an 8? What did you do to earn your score? Customers willing to discuss such matters will gladly tell you what you are doing well and where you could improve. Armed with that input, it’s time to roll out improvements to the way you run your business. That should drive your score up.


      This brings me to the final R and that is Results. By driving the score up, you can generate future growth for your business. Who wouldn’t want results like that?

      By now you surely see why these Rs are critically important. So what are you going to do? Think about this – if five frogs are sitting on a lily pad and one decides to jump off, how many will remain? If you answer with any number but five, please read the question again. Making a decision to do something and doing it are not the same thing.

      It takes actions to survey, inquire, make improvement and generate results. Knowing your score is not enough. You must put energy behind it to improve so clients will risk their reputation for you.
You need to decide: R U UP 4 IT?
Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a consulting company that helps businesses measure and manage the quality of customer service and improvements to their internal operations to enhance business performance and increase revenues. He is a highly regarded speaker in the areas of marketing and client retention and development. Robinson & Associates may be reached at 208-991-2037 or at lbaird@raresults.com.