The Carrot or the Net?

by Jim Stein


You know the psychology behind the old “Carrot or Stick” metaphor. It’s the Gain or the Pain. Things go right, you get the Carrot. Things go wrong, you get the Stick.  

Everybody wants the Carrot. Your team’s Carrot is your value proposition—your Promises.  

Nobody wants the Stick. Yet, it’s what potential customers think they’ll get if your team doesn’t deliver on its Promises. Uncertainty is now the main dish on life’s menu. Things get stuck in the supply chain, there are labor shortages and people are out sick. So, your potential customers are rightly concerned that they’ll get the Stick, even as you promise a wonderful Carrot.  

Your challenge is to prove to potential customers that if things don’t go exactly right, they don’t get the Stick. Instead, you have a great Net that catches them until you deliver on the promised Carrot. 

But do you? If they don’t get the Carrot, at least give them a great Net to land in. How good is your Net? Do you handle problems (real or imagined) with class, caring and speed? Now’s a good time to audit your recovery process, your Net, so when you don’t deliver the Carrot, at least you catch them in your Net.

By the way, no one wants the Net, either. Yeah, it’s better than crash landing on pavement, but too often, the Net process is so laborious that it makes the cynic scream for a quicker death. Think of your own painful experiences as a customer where you have a “customer service” chat/call/web form/pulling your hair out situation. Endless phone trees to nowhere, long bot chat sessions that get escalated to clueless agents with limited authority, unanswered emails, voicemails, texts…some Net!  

So, here’s my advice. Kill the Stick. Set up your company’s Net to do the opposite. Build out a great Net—a problem response system—so you can help your customers bounce back from any disappointment. Answer these questions and then give your Net an upgrade. 

How’s Our Net? 

1. What is our internal standard for customer response time per medium (phone, email, fax)?

2. How’s our intake form or database record for capturing and sharing with team members the issues with this customer’s account?

3. Who owns Customer Contact when things go wrong? (connect emotionally)

4. Who owns Operational Recovery? (fix the problems)

How are you using your Diamond Certified status (if you qualify) to boost customers’ confidence that your team will make things right?