I hate moles (but here's how to be one)

"As the amount of inputs go up, as the number of people and ideas that clamor for attention continue to increase, we do what people always do: we rely on the familiar, the trusted and the personal."
-Seth Godin

We're pretty close to being set up in our new home in the Kansas City area. It's been a whirlwind transition, and I wanted to thank everyone who has sent me notes in the past couple weeks. I've done my best to reply to everyone, but in case I missed you--THANK YOU for your kind words!

The house is great, except for those cuddly little moles eating my yard which I'm fixing to kill.

In that malevolent spirit, I headed to Wal-Mart yesterday on the way home from the gym, and I was actually looking for those ultrasonic thinga-whatzits which emit a noise that (humanely) repels those little terrorists so they will move on and live to burrow another day. Well, they didn't have them, so I ended up reaching for the poison, and a chemical repellant. And here's where this should interest you...

I ambled up to the register and the bored, tired cashier asked me the standard question: Did you find everything you were looking for today?

I started to say, "yes", but in an ill-advised moment of honesty, I said: "Well, no. I was looking for the ultrasonic mole repellants--but you seem to be out of stock."

And what did the nice cashier say? Nothing. It was like I had said nothing at all. She just continued to scan my death-pellets and continued to look bored.

Oh, but she did deliver the requisite: Have a nice day! as I strolled out chuckling to myself.

Chances are good--people you have working for you are doing the exact same thing. I've long-admired Wal-Mart as a business, and they have clearly worked hard at creating a welcoming environment (the famous greeters, etc.).

But even the "best" employees or contractors get in a rut if you don't take the necessary steps. And that being the case, it's very likely that you've got thousands of dollars in potential un-referred orticked-off (now "former") clients "walking out" your doors--or simply not walking-in.

All because you don't check.

So, I've put together a quick guide for you to do just that, after the bump. Might even be something worth doing today...
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Client Story of the Week
"When I started using your weekly emails, I have to say I was a bit skeptical about it--but now (like mentioned to your associate Troy) I have no intention of ever stopping! If my clients miss my emails, anytime (I think they accidentally delete) they call me to let me know that they did not get them. (One of them even went to tell me that they have been added to his 'read in peace' material in no other place than his throne room! He says he does his best reading there.) So keep them coming and I wish you the very best. It is nothing less than a marvel as to what you come up with. And best of all it makes me stand out from my competition."
Amit Chandel CPA
Norwalk, CA
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Playing "Mole" In Your Firm

I'm not referring to the above-mentioned yard terrorists. I'm a bit of a spy-fiction connoisuer, and "in the trade" a mole is someone who informs on their organization to an outside party. Well, your firm needs a mole--whether it's you, or an outside party--because you MUST be checking up on what's really happening in your office, and (especially) over the phone.

Now, this is obviously MOST critical when the phone/people traffic is at its peak (tax season for many--you know your internal flow best, obviously). But you may or may not have time to do this at that point (depending on how smoothly you've set-up your biz to run without you), so why not now?

What you'll want to do is to "mystery shop" your firm. Chances are good that your employees will recognize your voice, so there are plenty of people who can do this for you, ranging from friends to professional service firms who do only this.

You'll want this mystery-shopper to take notes on EVERYTHING which occurs in the conversation(s) and submit a report to you. Even better--record the conversations. (I actually did this as a courtesy for some of our clients during tax season, and recorded the results for them. I'm a bit of a gadget-geek, so let me know if you want the details on how I recorded the calls, and I'll let you know--too techy to get into here.)

Find out if your employees are taking down the contact information for every caller (that's a critical step). Are your employees deviating from your scripts? (you do have a script, right?) Do they follow-up properly if they can't answer a question? How do they handle it when they can't answer a technical question? (Hint--wrong answer: Uh, that's [owner]'s department. I don't know.)

Sneaky bonus trick: Do it on your competitors. Evaluate what they're doing on the phone, and get fantastic intel, as well as discover some nice ideas that perhaps you're not implementing yourself (if they're good--probably, they'll be a cautionary tale).

You can do the same thing to your employees in-person, at the office (obviously, you'll definitely need a third-party for that). Again, take notes: was the person greeted according to script? Were the operations procedures properly handled? Were you 'sold' properly?

The possibilities are endless, so don't try to do too much (i.e. keep your "spying" simple and go for the highlights you need to check up on, specifically, sales processes).

But DO do it. You never know what you can find out when you're a mole.

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