Dennis Snow Blog


Living One's Values

Bobby Herrera is the CEO of Populus Group - a wonderful organization. What makes Populus Group wonderful isn't so much what they do, but HOW they do it. Bobby and his team of "climbers" (employees) have built a company culture based on values that they actually live. I had the opportunity to work with a group of Populus Group climbers, and I have rarely seen a more motivated and engaged team in any organization. I could share the Bobby Herrera and Populus Group story with you, but business guru Patrick Lencioni recently did a profile of them, and does a much better job than I can. You can [...]


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Why Your Customer Service Should Influence Customer Engagement

I hope you enjoy this guest post from Monika Götzmann of Miller Heiman Group. Why Your Customer Service Should Influence Customer Engagement - by Monika Götzmann Engaged customers are extremely valuable, and can be described as those who have a personal connection to a brand. Research from Rosetta found that engaged customers spend 60 percent more per transaction, while they are also three times more likely to recommend a product to a friend, according to the Harvard Business Review. [...]


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Guest Post - Leading Innovative Service, by Chip Bell

Customer service and business expert Chip Bell has long been an influence on my work. His many books and articles reflect a true understanding of what makes businesses and their customers tick. And I'm fortunate that we have become friends. I'm thrilled that he has a new book coming out February 14 - Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service that Sparkles. I've had a chance to read a sample, and can't wait until the full book arrives (I've pre- [...]


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Getting Customers to Love You - The Power of Presence

Tips for providing excellent customer service through the power of presence. [...]


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How To Make Sure Your Organization Is Always "Best In Show"

In this video I expand the idea of being "show ready" to being "grand opening ready" every day. [...]


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The Fundamentals of Excellent Customer Service

In this video I focus on the core expectations our customers have of us, and how that knowledge can help us deliver excellent experiences.   [...]


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The Uber Experience

In this video I discuss my recent experiences with the Uber ride-sharing service, and how they're changing an industry by creating an outstanding customer experience.   [...]


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Making the Experience Easier For the Customer

In this video I address the question: Are you making things easier for yourself or easier for your customers?   [...]


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"In the Moment" for Customer Service

The only way that we can consistently delight our customers is if we are truly present for them – truly "in the moment." If we’re not in the moment, we miss the visual, verbal, or even written clues customers are constantly giving us, and we end up processing customers through our systems. And no matter how well our systems a [...]


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When an Employee Just Isn't Cutting It

One of the most challenging situations that faces any leader is having to deal with a wrong fit employee. Leaders should, of course, give the employee a chance to improve through coaching, additional training, etc. But when those remedies don't work, we have to let the wrong fit employee go. I find that too many leaders avoid the situation far too long, causing frustration for [...]


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In this video I showcase the world-famous Pike's Place Fish Market as an example of taking a routine task (selling fish) and turning it into an experience that delights customers. [...]


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Indifferent Service - The Silent Killer of Customer Loyalty

In this video I share the elements that differentiate caring customer service from indifferent customer service. If you received this blog post via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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Taking Pride In the Job

My wife and I are in the middle of a major home interior renovation. Seeing my home completely torn up has caused me several times to get on my knees and ask my wife, “How did I let you talk me into this?” She quietly assures me that it will be worth it when it’s done. She seems so sure of herself that it calms me (at least for a few minutes). [...]


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Creating Moments of Wow

Many companies I consult with are in search of that magical, all caps, bold WOW they can create for their customers that will result in insane customer loyalty. And I’m all for the big WOWs. I love to be on the receiving end of big WOWs. But there’s a problem – they’re hard to create. Big WOWs can be expensive and time consuming, and hard to deliver consistently. The real magic lies in the “little moments of wow” that simply make customers feel good and feel valued. Most of these little wows [...]


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Customer Service Grace Under Pressure

In this video I discuss the art of delivering a positive customer experience, even when things are hectic and you have to move quickly. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video.   [...]


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How Fast Are You?

A comment I often hear during customer service workshops is: “Customers have gotten so demanding. They expect too much!” I respectfully disagree. I believe that customer service in general has gotten so bad that most customers expect nothing, and even a nice smile or sincere hello is a delightful surprise. The one area in which I do [...]


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do-standards-of-performance-stifle-creativity

In one of my customer service workshops not long ago, I shared some of the practices I learned while working at Walt Disney World. A clearly agitated participant stood up during the question and answer segment. “I’m a university professor,” he announced, “and I’d NEVER encourage any of my students to work at Disney World. They turn employees into robots and stifle all creativity.” He then stood there in anticipation of my response. Although he hadn’t really asked a question and seemed more interested in provoking, I had to admit it wasn’t the first time I had heard the c [...]


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Make the Most of a Customer Conflict

I’m not what you’d call a confrontational person. I don’t enjoy being involved in conflict, and I get uncomfortable when I see or hear others in conflict. I’m not sure why, it’s just the way I am. But I also know that some of life’s best learnings can come as a result of conflict or disagreement. If the conflict ultimately raises our awareness and helps us (and others) to grow, while we might not like it at the time, some good has come out of the conflict. Customers and Conflict No organization is going to make every customer happy every time. Making [...]


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Will the Timing Ever Be Right?

Most of us have had an idea for a project that we’re passionate about, only to be met with resistance in the form of, “The timing isn’t right.” The timing excuse might have to do with the economic situation, the labor market, competition, global warming, etc. The list of possible excuses goes on and on. We’re usually told to be patient, the time will soon be right and then the project can go forward at full speed. The right time, of course, never arrives and the project, which might have made a positive difference in the organization, begins to fade and eventually disappears completely. H [...]


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Upcoming Customer Service Webinar

On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, I’m going to be the featured guest on www.FreeWebinarWednesdays.com and thought you’d like to sit-in live. The webinar will run from 1PM-2PM Eastern Time, and I’ll be presenting: Lessons From the Mouse: Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization This free webinar series is every Wednesday at 1PM Eastern Time and all of their past webinars are archived and available on their websit [...]


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I’m always looking for the subtleties that differentiate good customer service from great customer service. And the difference usually is subtle. This example highlights that difference. My son and his girlfriend were doing some grocery shopping, and one of the items on their list was a water filter for a sink. After a few minutes of searching, they approached a store employee for help. Let’s freeze the action at this “moment of truth.” Their interaction with the employee could’ve gone in one of four directions: Option 1 [...]


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Four Steps for Creating a Culture of Customer Service Excellence

In this video I describe four steps that I believe any organization can use for creating a culture of customer service excellence. Don't let the simplicity of these steps fool you; they work! If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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Be Good FOR Your Customer

Have you ever come across a statement or a question that absolutely spun your head around, making you look at things in a brand new way? It happened to me yesterday. I was reading a blog post by outstanding customer service speaker and writer, Shep Hyken, in which he wrote: “Don’t just be good TO the customer. Be good FOR the customer.” My mind was reeling as I thought of the importance of that statement. Being good TO the customer is certainly important, and im [...]


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The Power of a Handwritten Note

Do little courtesies, like a handwritten note to a customer, really have an impact on customer loyalty? If the product is bad and the processes consistently poor, then the answer is likely to be no. In the long-term, small courtesies won't make up for a dysfunctional business model. But when the product is good and the processes are customer-friendly, little touches like this can lock in an emotional connection between the customer and the organization. My wife's nephew, Ryan, recently sent me the following note: I had to share this story with you. A couple weeks ago I ordered a speaker for my home theater [...]


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Customer Service Mandate?

How many times have you been told by a cable company, delivery service, or appliance repair company that they will be at your home sometime between 1PM and 4PM? And how many times have you waited, only to have the service person arrive later than promised or not arrive at all? Staying home for a half-day, and perhaps having to repeat th [...]


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I came across the following blog post today. It offers good reminders to leaders who want to improve the level of customer service in their organizations. 1. Commit to High Standards and Communicate Them to Employees 2. Maintain Proper Employee Attitude 3. Keep Your Level of Customer Service Consistent 4. Use Teamwork to Implement Your Customer Service Policy Check out the article at: <a title="How to Provide Excellent Customer Service" href="http://reviewmonitor.easyeblog.com/how-to-provide-excellent-customer-service-4-tips-for-employers-to-improve-customer-service/" target="_blank" [...]


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Is Customer Loyalty Dead?

"Customer loyalty is dead. Customers care only about price." I'm reading and hearing that statement a lot lately, and address it in my latest video blog. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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7 Ways to Make Your Customers Feel VALUED

Aren’t you tired of receiving sales and marketing letters that start with, “Dear Valued Customer…”? Most (all) of these letters go on to demonstrate that rather than being valued, you’re really a faceless, nameless entity in a long, long line of faceless and nameless entities. In order for me to feel valued as your customer, I have to fe [...]


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It's the Steak AND the Sizzle

What’s more important to a business’s success; the product (the steak)? or the delivery (the sizzle)? The problem with focusing strictly on the product is that you soon find yourself in a commodity environment, and remaining competitive eventually becomes all about price. That's a hard battle to fight and a harder battle to win. Focusing stric [...]


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5 Tips For Employee Engagement

This video post shares some of the secrets of employee engagement. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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My guest blogger today is Ron Kaufman, founder of Up Your Service! College. In this post he writes about a subject near and dear to my heart: it's usually the little courtesies and gestures that have the biggest impact on the customer experience. I can relate to the hotel experience he shares. Like Ron, I don't really need a huge and ornate hotel room. But I do appreciate a room that is well thought out through the lens of the guest. (And I've always wondered how some hotels do the mirror thing h [...]


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The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

For me, college was a long, long time ago. And contrary to what we often tell our children as they head off to the world of higher education, it wasn’t the most enjoyable time of my life. Other than my freshman year, that is, at the University of Vermont. That’s the year I almost flunked out because I spent more time skiing than I did in class or studying. That year was a ball. But it was clear my college career would be short indeed if something didn’t change. After moving to Orlando to work at Walt Disney World, I became a “non-traditional student” at the University of Central Florida. [...]


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Employee Recognition - The Guest Service Fanatic

In order to "inculturate" desired customer service behaviors, leaders must acknowledge and recognize employees who demonstrate those behaviors. This video describes a recognition tool used by Walt Disney World - The "Guest Service Fanatic" card. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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Customer Service Failure Equals Leadership Failure

This video post discusses the relationship between poor customer service and leadership performance. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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Thought for a Friday Afternoon

Is there someone in your organization (colleague, boss, employee) who did something good this past week that you may have neglected to thank? A sincere thanks is a great way to start the weekend! [...]


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Unleashing Excellence - What Outstanding Leaders Do

Are effective leaders born or developed? That question has been debated in thousands of books, articles, speeches, and forums. While there are some characteristics effective leaders may have acquired early in life (I don’t believe they were born with them); I believe that leadership skills can be d [...]


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Are You Making Customers Feel "Tolerated" or "Welcome"?

Click on the play button below to listen to my latest podcast, "Are You Making Customer Feel Tolerated or Welcome?" Tolerated Versus Welcome   Play [...]


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The JetBlue Flight Attendant Incident

Who hasn't, at least once, dreamed of quitting a job in a dramatic, memorable way? Something about a flashy exit seems so satisfying. And along comes the viral story of the now-famous JetBlue flight attendant setting a new bar for saying goodbye to his job. I've seen many stories and blog posts from flight attendants and other workers hailing the guy as a hero. But I have to admit that when I read the story, I had a knot in my stomach. I knew that some reading the story w [...]


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One of my all-time favorite movies is, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The film kept me on the edge of my seat. While the fight and chase scenes were exciting, I found the scenes of the archaeological digs to be especially engaging. When Jones found and explored the desert chamber I felt like I was right there with him. As he made discovery after discov [...]


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Creating Magical Customer Experiences

This video post discusses the importance of "expanding the product to include the entire customer experience." If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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What Goes Around Comes Around in Employee Relations

My guest blogger today is Don Tanner of Tanner Friedman, a strategic communications firm. Be sure to visit their site, and especially click on the OUR TURN tab to check out some terrific ideas in each of the three categories, Blog, Perspectives, and News. Don's article below is a perfect compliment to my recent post,  [...]


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Right Fit Talent at its Best

Why does JetBlue Airways like to hire flight attendants who are former New York City police officers and fire fighters? A recent Wall Street Journal article,  [...]


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The Frontline Equals the Bottom Line

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post is an update of a print article I wrote awhile back. But several experiences recently have made me want to post it in my blog. The Frontline Equals the Bottom Line Most of us have heard the expression, "The frontline equals the bottom line," as it pertains to a company’s employees.  It means that as far as the customer is concerned, a company's frontline employees ARE the company.  After all, rarely do customers come in contact with the executives of an organization.  Those frontline employees are truly the face of t [...]


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Customer Service Wows - It's About Consistency

Constantly being on the hunt for creating new and better customer service wows is an admirable quality for any organization. But it's not about the quantity of customer service wows; success is more about consistency. This video describes what I mean. If you receive my blog by email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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Duct Tape and Customer Trust

After a customer service presentation I recently conducted, an attendee wrote to me about a situation that reminded her of my comments regarding attention to detail – “Everything Speaks,” – and how details can either build or erode customer trust. Here’s some of what she shared: "I thought you would be interested in seeing the attached picture that I took on my flight home. As I was getting on the plane, my colleague ha [...]


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Who Should Get Promoted?

Due to the recession, employee promotions have been few and far between for most organizations. But as things begin to turn, promotions will likely start making a comeback. And now is the time to be thinking about your company/division/department promotion strategy. Nothing communicates more quickly what an organization truly values than the decision on who gets promoted. While all promotion decisions are important, the first promot [...]


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Time Management Technique and Resource

If time management is a challenge for you (as it often is for me), this video post shares an effective technique. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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I Don't Understand Wall Street

I guess I'll never be known as the "Wizard of Wall Street," because for the life of me, I can't figure out how Wall Street works. I try, but I just can't get it. Latest example: Amazon.com's stock price tumbled 13% yesterday because second quarter profit missed analysts' projections. If the news stopped there, I'd understand. But the news didn't stop there. Amazon.com's earnings are UP 45% and revenue is UP 41% from a year ago. Keep in mind that the Dow is up "only" [...]


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Storytelling and Leadership - Part 2

In one of last week's blog posts, I discussed the important role storytelling plays in effective leadership ("Leadership and Storytelling"). I emphasized that stories provide the links that connect an organization’s employees to its history, its purpose, and its values. And that purposeful, well-told stories can stir the emotions of team members and make leaders more real. At the end of the post I promised I'd recommend some resources that can hel [...]


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Ten Characteristics of Bad Customer Service

My guest blogger today is Meredith Estep, Vice President of Client Services with Unitiv. Unitiv is a provider of IT solutions based in Alpharetta, Georgia. You can find Meredith's regular blog posts at Intelligent Help Desk Blog. I've followed Meredith's writing for some time, and I'm always impressed with how she gets to the [...]


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Tips For Being a Good Customer

Instead of focusing on what companies can do to provide better customer service, this video post focuses on what WE can do to be better customers. If you receive my posts via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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What If Customer Experience Has No ROI?

One of the most challenging questions I get is, "How much will improving the customer experience add to our company's bottom line?" The problem is that many factors come into play regarding the level of success of a service improvement initiative, not the least of which is the level of organizational commitment to the effort. I just read an interesting blog post on the subject by Bruce Temkin titled, What if Custo [...]


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What If Customer Experience Has No ROI?

One of the most challenging questions I get is, "How much will improving the customer experience add to our company's bottom line?" The problem is that many factors come into play regarding the level of success of a service improvement initiative, not the least of which is the level of organizational commitment to the effort. I just read an interesting blog post on the subject by Bruce Temkin titled, What if Custo [...]


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Book Recommendation

There are a few business books I find myself going back to over and over. I've just added a new one to my library that I know will be one of those books -  [...]


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Storytelling and Leadership

When some friends and colleagues encouraged me to write my second book, Lessons From the Mouse, I was scared out of mind. What if it turned out that everything I knew had been written in my first book, Unleashing Excellence? What if it turned out that I had nothing left to share? I was so intimidated by the prospect of writing a second book that I put it off for four [...]


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The Magic of Purpose

In my younger years, I used to to a bit of magic. I thought I'd have a little fun with this video post. Keep in mind the post does make a point about customer service, but you have to watch it to the end. [...]


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Customer Service Excellence - It's the Small Things

The last three cars I've purchased have all been from the same dealership, Orlando Infiniti. I might be [...]


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Too Much Conflicting Information

Click on the play button below for my latest audio podcast, "Too Much Conflicting Information."  Play [...]


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American Express Global Customer Service Barometer

American Express today released the results of a study they conducted with Echo Research titled, “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.” Click on the link to access the report. The study explores attitudes and preferences toward customer service, including data from the U.S. as well as eleven other countries. Some of the findings surprised me: “In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, custome [...]


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American Express Global Customer Service Barometer

American Express today released the results of a study they conducted with Echo Research titled, “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.” Click on the link to access the report. The study explores attitudes and preferences toward customer service, including data from the U.S. as well as eleven other countries. Some of the findings surprised me: “In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, custome [...]


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Customer Care Versus Prospect Care

A comedian on the Comedy Channel was talking about the differences between dating and marriage: "When you're dating… You picture yourself growing old together.""When you're married… You wonder who will die first." "When you're dating… He knows what a 'hamper' is.""When you're married… The floor will suffice as a dirty clothes storage area." "When you're dating… He loves to discuss things.""When you're married… He develops a blank stare." (It was a female comedian) While watching and laughing, maybe a [...]


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What is Your Organization’s Environment Communicating?

In my customer service speeches and workshops I stress the principle of “Everything Speaks” - every detail of a company’s physical environment is communicating a message (positively or negatively) about the company’s brand. I’ll often show photographs of Everything Speaks examples, such as stockroom doors left open in full view of customers, dirty or dusty shelves, messy desks, etc. I usually get some pretty sheepish looks from audience members as they recognize that some of these examples are prevalent in their own organizations. The CEO of one hospital client took this approach to heart [...]


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Aspects of Value

Check out this excellent post written by Bob Burg (author of The Go-Giver): “Ernesto Would Be Proud, Part 2.” (Read Part 1 also, but Part 2 is the one I want to highlight here). The recommendations Bob presents are appropriate for any organization that wants to deliver excellent service to its customers. Bob highlights four &ldquo [...]


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Speaking of Service Excellence - Your "True Product"

What is Your "True Product?" [...]


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Go Undercover for the Customer!

This post is written by guest blogger Mari Pat Varga of Varga & Associates. I enjoy Mari Pat's blog, as she offers insightful comments on customer service and organizational behavior. This post, “Go Undercover for the Customer,” references the CBS show, Undercover Boss. Although the season is over, you can still view all of the first season episodes at  [...]


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Customer Service as a Growth Engine

Just wanted to send a quick recommendation for two articles in today’s Wall Street Journal (June 7, 2010). The first, “Customer Service as a Growth Engine,” reinforces the message that as the economy rebounds (albeit slower than any of us had hoped), companies are investing in improving customer service – “Just over a quarter of the 1,405 companies surveyed by Accenture late last [...]


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BP and the Future of Customer Loyalty

The full effect of the Gulf oil disaster likely won’t be known for a long time. Already, industries such as fishing and tourism are taking the hit, and it appears to be only the beginning. Scientists and engineers are worried that Gulf currents might carry the oil around Florida and along the east coast. Pretty scary stuff. The finger pointing is well under way, and it sounds like there’s plenty of blame to go around, but I think it’s clear that the BP brand has a long road to recovery. [...]


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One Employee Serving One Customer at a Time

A couple of years ago I wrote about some of the struggles Home Depot was experiencing, along with some recommendations for reclaiming the positive brand image they once commanded in the minds of customers - Sacrificing Customer Service – Lessons from Home Depot. [...]


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Letting Go of Your Baggage

As a frequent flyer, I have been on a quest to pack as economically as possible. I can’t remember the last time I had to check a bag, and those items I pack in my carry-on bag are carefully chosen to take up as little space as possible. I get giddy whenever I come across a gadget that’s smaller than the one I currently carry. I don’t care how much it costs, if it’s smaller it’s better, and I buy it. I often joke that my goal is to travel with only what I have in my pockets – 5 day trip. [...]


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Think Like a Black Belt™ - Jim Bouchard Interview

We all have those days when it seems that everything and everyone is against us. A meeting we’re facilitating takes an ugly turn, customers are making unreasonable demands, the boss decides to move up the deadline for our project from next week to tomorrow, etc. And we feel beaten down. Those are the days we need to “Think Like a Black Belt!™” In fact, thinking in the manner Jim Bouchard shares in a recent interview is an approach most of us can apply to just about anything we do. [...]


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Customer Service and the Telephone

For many businesses (my own included), a good portion of our customer interactions involve the telephone. Whether we’re actually having a conversation, leaving a message, trying to get past a “gatekeeper,” or recording our own voicemail message, the customer only has the quality of our phone skills for making judgments about the quality of our organization’s customer service. As customers, most of us have suffere [...]


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Company Vehicles - Everything Speaks!

For many organizations, their company vehicles (delivery trucks, service vans, etc.) are seen by more people than any other type of advertising they do. As those vehicles drive through neighborhoods, cruise the highways, or wait at stoplights, they are mobile billboards for the organization. The question for the company to ask themselves is, "Do our vehicles reflect our brand in the way we want it reflected?" [...]


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Neil Ducoff Interview - No Compromise Leadership

I recently had the opportunity to interview Neil Ducoff, author of the best-selling book, No Compromise Leadership: A Higher Standard of [...]


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I've recently put together a white paper titled, "The Top Five Customer Service Mistakes Companies Make, and How Your Organization Can Avoid Them." The mistakes addressed in the white paper come f [...]


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Commoditization and Customer Service

The number of ways consumers can make a purchase today is amazing. The option I find most interesting are the Best Buy vending machines found in many airports since their introduction in 2008. Being comfortable spending a couple of dollars for a drink from a vending machine is one thing, but the fact that consumers are now willing to spend several hundred dollars purchasing electronic equipment from a vending machine is a true paradigm shift. [...]


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Defining a Culture of Service Excellence

When asked to describe their corporate culture, business leaders sometimes struggle to answer. Responses often run the gamut from vague generalities such as "we have a culture of putting the customer first" to recitations of the company's mission statement. I believe that you can see a company's culture simply by watching what employees are doing and how they do it. In short, a company's culture is defined by what people do within the organization. The critical point of course, is to have a culture by design rather than by default. Many organizations simply allow their culture to evolve with no p [...]


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Toyota Recall – Part 2

I hit the "Publish" button too soon on yesterday's post, Toyota Recall - The Brand Challenge. Today's news reports that Toyota executives admit they knew about the gas-pedal problem for over a year before taking action. In fact, evidence about unexpected acceleration has been mounting for six years. The firestorm has just begun. Toyota completely blew Step 1 of how to handle company screw ups: 1.     Ad [...]


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Toyota Recall – Part 2

I hit the "Publish" button too soon on yesterday's post, Toyota Recall - The Brand Challenge. Today's news reports that Toyota executives admit they knew about the gas-pedal problem for over a year before taking action. In fact, evidence about unexpected acceleration has been mounting for six years. The firestorm has just begun. Toyota completely blew Step 1 of how to handle company screw ups: 1.   &nbs [...]


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Toyota Recall - The Brand Challenge

The Toyota recall has been dominating the business news lately. Every day it seems a new piece of information regarding the "sticky gas-pedal" issue comes out - some of it indicating that Toyota is handling the situation quickly and effectively, and other information indicating that Toyota has known about the problem for a long time and took action only after being forced to. I'm sure that new information will continue to come out, and it remains to be seen how all of this will affect Toyota's reputation and future. While no one knows at this point how the Toyota story will play out, I do know this: an organization's [...]


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Toyota Recall - The Brand Challenge

The Toyota recall has been dominating the business news lately. Every day it seems a new piece of information regarding the "sticky gas-pedal" issue comes out - some of it indicating that Toyota is handling the situation quickly and effectively, and other information indicating that Toyota has known about the problem for a long time and took action only after being forced to. I'm sure that new information will continue to come out, and it remains to be seen how all of this will affect Toyota's reputation and future. While no one knows at this point how the Toyota story will play out, I do know this: an organization's [...]


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Fellow consultant and blogger Mari Pat Varga recently asked me to be a guest blogger on her site. Specifically, she wanted me to discuss the customer experience improvement tool that I call "Service Mapping," which helps organizations design their processes with the "lens of the customer" in mind. In the blog post (the link is below) Mari Pat also included a clip from one of my presentations in which I describe how to get the most from the Service Mapping tool. I hope you find the tool to be valuable in your service improvement efforts! [...]


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Customer Service and The Amazing Service Guy

I recently interviewed Kevin Stirtz, The Amazing Service Guy, on the subject of improving customer service. Kevin's experience as a speaker and consultant has led him to engagements with organizations like Urban Outfitters, Supercuts, Pep Boys, and Embassy Suites. Kevin also hosts one of the best customer service sites on the Web, www.AmazingServiceGuy.com. Click below to listen to our interview, which focuses on what organizations can do to continually raise the level of service they prov [...]


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Customer Service Tip – Diffuse First, Educate Second

I recently had the opportunity to work with Family Video, the largest privately owned movie and game "rentailer" in the United States, and third largest overall, with 612 stores. In an industry struggling to deal with significant changes, such as new rental options offered by Netflix and Redbox, Family Video is the only DVD/game rental operation showing positive growth. Expanding continually, they again achieved record profits last year. Why is Family Video doing so well as others in the industry struggle? First, they are constantly looking for ways to offer increased value to their customers. Free children's movies a [...]


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Whatcha’ Readin’?

Every morning, the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz reviews the list of clients who will be visiting the office that day, noting the industries the visiting clients are in. Then, instead of having generic magazines in the waiting room, they put out magazines that are of interest to members of those industries. They have to stay on top of their client list so that they have appropriate magazines, but imagine how much better their approach is than the norm. Most waiting rooms have the standard, general-interest magazines that, more often than not, are months (or years) out of date. [...]


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The Curse of Arrogance - An Update

My post about my recent experiences with Southwest Airlines, The Curse of Arrogance, seems to have struck a nerve with some folks, especially Southwest Airlines flight attendants. Another site picked up the thread and included several comments from flight attendants who placed the blame on obnoxious or abusive passengers. I agree; no employee of any organization should put up with abuse. But the situations I observed involved no abusive passengers. As I wrote in the original post, I've recently started [...]


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Book Recommendation - The War of Art

I'm ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books,  [...]


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The Curse of Arrogance

  Southwest Airlines has been my favorite airline for a long time - I've written about them often in this blog and talk about them often in my speeches. I'm a Southwest fan not only because of positive experiences, but also because their success and almost cult-like following has been a great case study as a speaker and consultant. But I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last s [...]


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What Can Paul McCartney Teach About Customer Service?

A key customer service principle is to "deliver on the promise of the brand." Every organization owns a particular brand image in the minds of customers, and anything out of alignment with the brand creates a disconnect and a disappointment for the customer. Imagine, for example checking into a Ritz Carlton hotel only be treated rudely or with an attitude of indifference. The contrast between the brand image and the actual experience would be jarring and memorable. But when the experience and an organization's brand image are in alignment, the result is confidence, tru [...]


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What Can Paul McCartney Teach About Customer Service?

A key customer service principle is to "deliver on the promise of the brand." Every organization owns a particular brand image in the minds of customers, and anything out of alignment with the brand creates a disconnect and a disappointment for the customer. Imagine, for example checking into a Ritz Carlton hotel only be treated rudely or with an attitude of indifference. The contrast between the brand image and the actual experience would be jarring and memorable. But when the experience and an organization's brand image are in alignment, the result is confidence, tru [...]


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What Can Your Business Learn From the Holiday Shopping Season?

The busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, is now behind us. If you were one of the multitudes who braved the crowds, my sympathy is with you. My wife and I long ago decided that since shopping and crowds are two of our least favorite things in life, we would NEVER shop the day after Thanksgiving. But, we will be doing some holiday shopping during the next couple of weeks. And we know that we'll have to face the crowds. According to the [...]


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Book Recommendation - The War of Art

I'm ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books,  [...]


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I want to let you know that the second edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service, co-authored with Teri Yanovitch, has just been published. You can find it in bookstores or at  [...]


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I want to let you know that the second edition of my book, Unleashin ook's elements we're most proud of is the ability for you to access downloads of the tools described throughout Unleashing Excellence. You can instantly customize the tools to your own operation. Unleashing Excellence is a ste [...]


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Solving a Customer Frustration

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When You Receive Poor Customer Service

As we get closer to the holiday season, the news is full of reports that retailers plan to hire fewer temporary workers than usual because of lower sales expectations. While this might make short-term sense to a business's bottom line, it's a recipe for frustration for you and me as shoppers. Busy shopping seasons are often riddled with dismal customer service experiences, and this one will likely be no different, and perhaps worse. So, what should we do if we receive poor service? A clear opt [...]


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Customer Service Thought for the Day

Are your company's processes designed for the convenience of the customer or for the convenience of the company? How would customers respond to that question? Think about a process you can tweak (or overhaul) that will result in customers asking, "Why can't other companies do it like yours?" [...]


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Four Strategies for Dealing With Employee Burnout

An article appeared in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal titled, "Firms Keep Brakes on Hiring: Unsure About Strength of Upturn, Employers Produce More With Fewer Workers." The article notes that while hiring always lags behind economic recoveries, this time the lag is likely to be worse. Doubts about the strength of the recovery and concerns about the potential costs of health care reform are two of the reasons the WSJ says companies may be slower to replenish [...]


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Simply Excellent Customer Service

My wife and I had dinner a couple of nights ago at a local Uno Chicago Grill. I hadn't been in an Uno's for a while and was very impressed with the look of the facility. Lots of energy, but not loud (I don't like loud restaurants - it makes conversation too hard). They had it just right. But my focus, as usual, was on the service; and the service that evening was wonderful. But here's the point: no one did anything breathtaking, they just did the little things [...]


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The Need For Top Management Commitment

From 10+ years of working with organizations on customer service improvement initiatives, I can say without hesitation that the number one ingredient for success is top management commitment. While an improvement initiative can begin anywhere in the organization, top management support quickly becomes required for the initiative to gain any real traction. Without such support, the organization's naysayers and skeptics will eventually squeeze the life out of the effort. The situation is effectively explained in an excellent book, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate [...]


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What’s Wrong With This Picture? Everything Speaks!

During a recent drive, my wife Debbie pointed out this sign on the side of the road. "Based on the quality of the sign," she asked, "how 'class A' do you think the office space is?" Good Question. When it comes to execution, I believe that "everything speaks." Every detail is communicating a message to the customer. In this case, the desired message and its execution are seriously out of alignment. I always have my digital camera ready, and just had to stop an [...]


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Walk The Walk - Book Review

I came across a great book review in today's Wall Street Journal - Walk The Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders, by David Price. I'll buy the book, but the ideas in the review alone are definitely worth reading. [...]


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Customer Service Brilliance

For some time I've wanted to add audio interviews to my blog and have finally made it happen. I hope to regularly interview some of the people I admire and share those interviews with you. The choice for my first interview was a no-brainer. Simon T. Bailey is someone I've admired since working with him at Walt Disney World many years ago. Simon is now a world-class speaker and consultant, focusing on the subject of "brilliance." He has a best selling book,  [...]


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A Tribute

This blog post will start out in an unusual way - a description of a funeral. It may seem at first to be a departure from my focus on customer service, but please stay with me; there's a point to what I'm writing about. Last weekend I attended the funeral of a former Disney colleague, John "Scooter" Huller. He lived a very full 84 years and, based on the stories shared during the funeral, was a well-loved human being. I met Scooter in the mid 1980s when I was a supervisor in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Scooter was the manager of Special Events, responsible for providing support for all of the logis [...]


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Preparing for the Economic Turnaround

During a recent radio interview, the show host asked me to comment on a pleasant subject - the economic recovery. With all of the recent doom and gloom, there are signs that things are beginning to turn around. Who knows how long the recovery will take, but the economy will most certainly recover. During the discussion the host asked me, "What is your main suggestion for organizations in preparation for the economic recovery?" Without hesitation, I said that if organizations focus on one thing in preparation for the recovery, it should be this: "Begin planning your economic recovery hiring st [...]


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Three Tips for Starting a Service Improvement Initiative

Starting a customer service improvement initiative is challenging for most organizations. I've seen countless leaders so frustrated over where to begin that they don't begin at all. The question of how to get things started freezes some initiatives in their tracks, and what could've been a successful improvement initiative never gets out of the gate. Here are three ideas for getting started: Decide what metrics you want to affect with the initiative - A bank might focus on "share of wallet" metrics, or customer retention. A hospital can focus on patient satisfaction scores or [...]


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The Price of Poor Service

A few weeks back, I posted an article titled, Customer Service and Twitter, in which I focused on how our customers can instantly let people know about their experience with us. A recent example of the power of social media is the popular YouTube video, "United Breaks Guitars." If you don't know the back story, here's the condensed version: Musician Dave Carroll was on a United flight and he, along with other passengers, watched as baggage [...]


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Respond Verus React

I just finished a series of customer service programs for the employees of TWC Services, a commercial equipment service company. A branch manager made a comment during one of the sessions that made me stop and think about how businesses and employees deal with challenging situations - customer service issues or otherwise. The manager, Jim Oakley, said to the group, "When dealing with any situation, it's important to understand the difference between responding and reacting. When we respond," Jim continued, "there is some thought behind our actions. When we react, we're just making it u [...]


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Getting Back to Basics

When I first meet with a client organization's executives to discuss a planned customer service initiative, it's not uncommon for the group to be overwhelmed with the scope of work to be done. I often see the "deer in the headlights" looks on their faces as the leaders wonder what they've gotten themselves into. The problem is that most people (including me) tend to overcomplicate things by thinking that all of the elements of the initiative need to be done right now. They don't. Like Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we need to put first things first. A [...]


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Some of you know that a second, updated edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: the Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service, coauthored with Teri Yanovitch, is scheduled for release this fall. Part of the publishing process includes getting reader endorsements, which appear on the book jacket. I've sent the manuscript to several "celebrity" business authors; those who have written business books that have appeared on the best-seller lists. While celebrity endorsements don't guarantee sales, they certainly don't hurt. My mindset in sending the manuscript to well known authors was, "The wo [...]


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Voice-mail Tips

Friend and colleague Susan Hoekstra recently posted a great article on her blog. The post addresses a customer service issue that causes a lot of customer frustration: voice-mail. I know I can certainly improve my voice-mail message, and I plan on incorporating Susan's suggestions into my own business. Read Susan's post, then listen to your own voice-mail. It's likely that you'll find at least one suggestion that will make your message more customer-friendly. [...]


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Service Improvement Assessment

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Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

The Web site for the CUNA Operations Sales & Service Council (serving the credit union industry) recently ran one of my articles, "Storytelling as a Leadership Tool." The article is not credit union specific, and applies to leaders in any industry. Check out the article at the following link: http://www.cunaopsscouncil.org/news/2901.html [...]


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Customer Service and Twitter

The popular notion stating that if a customer receives poor service, he/she will tell nine other people, has been grossly out of date since the advent of the Internet. In reality, customers can electronically tell millions of people about their experiences. And now, with Twitter, people can tell others about their experiences as they happen. Think about the power of that ability. In the past there was at least a cool down period between the negative service situation and the opportunity to share the news - and we might've just let it go without taking the time to write it up. Now, we can now share t [...]


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Engaged Employees

The link between employee engagement and customer engagement has been well established. So, check this out with that link in mind. A Harris Interactive poll of 23,000 U.S. residents employed full-time in key industries and key functional areas found the following: Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why. Only one in five was enthusiastic about their organization's goals. Only one in five said they have a clear "line of sight" between their tasks and their organization's goals. Only 15% felt that their organization f [...]


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The DNA of Service Excellence

I find some organizations overcomplicate the subject of customer service, while others oversimplify the subject. Those that overcomplicate it try to take on everything at once, attempting to change their culture in an unrealistically short time and end up frozen - everyone too confused to take action. Those organizations that oversimplify the subject of customer service see it as a matter of getting employees to smile and to say "please" and "thank you." While those things are important, they aren't enough. Four elements make up the DNA of service excellence. When these four items are present, you dramatically [...]


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Design With the Customer In Mind

Apple rightly gets a lot of credit for product design. They’ve somehow mastered the art of creating intuitive applications that others have yet to duplicate, or at least have yet to duplicate as effectively as the Apple original. I hope to pick up my iPhone tomorrow!   But, I must say that Amazon’s Kindle is right up there with the best designed products I’ve seen. If you’re not familiar with the Kindle, check it out here. I just got one for my birthday (my 50th!?!) and absolutely love it. I’m always reading and with the am [...]


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Mobile Communications and Customer Service

I do love gadgets. I just got an Amazon Kindle and thoroughly enjoy the ability to carry several books in such a thin device. My Palm Treo is always at the ready for reading or sending emails, checking the news, and updating my calendar. I'm pretty sure that I'm just a few days away from trading in the Treo for an iPhone, which seems like the ultimate gadget. But I think it's important to recognize that while these gadgets certainly increase our connectivity with others, they also have the potential to make our communications appear impersonal. What I'm really talking about here is the email function on whatever smart [...]


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The Power of Presence

Several of my previous blog posts have focused on the differences between employees who do their jobs with a "task mentality" versus employees who do their jobs with an "experience mentality." I stress this topic so heavily because it is at the heart of what separates great service providers from the rest of the pack. Those employees who focus on creating great experiences make customers feel welcome and valued. Those who focus on merely completing tasks make customers feel processed. The word that bridges the gap between a task mentality and an experience mentality is presence. In order to create a posi [...]


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Customer Service and Right Fit Talent

Every job requires a special blend of skills and talents if the job is to be done masterfully.  At the Starbucks near my home, one of the "baristas" epitomizes the concept of right fit talent.  While all of the baristas do a fine job, James stands out through his uncanny knowledge of customer names and their favorite beverages.  While Starbucks emphasizes this in their training, James takes it way beyond what can be trained.  He prepares beverages for customers even before they walk in the door, having seen them walking in from the parking lot.  He knows the names of cu [...]


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Seeking Service With a Smile

Sally Disher of Cummins Northeast is one of my favorite people - she sends me thought-provoking customer service stories. She's the one who sent along the article about the Dana Farber Cancer Institute I referenced in this blog's February 24th post, which has become one of my favorite stories: The Power of Purpose. The latest item she passed along is an article that relates to a message I know I focus on a lot; it's the little things (like a smile) that make a d [...]


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A Great Leader

I recently came across a verse in the Tao Te Ching, a book of ancient Chinese Philosophy written over 2600 years ago, that caused me to take a few moments (over a great cigar) to reflect on the qualities of great leaders. The verse states: The best leader is one whose existence is barely known.Next best is one who is loved and praised.Next is one who is feared.Worst of all is a leader who is despised. If you fail to trust people, they won't turn out to be trustworthy. Therefore, guide others by quietly relying on Tao. Then, when the work is done, the peop [...]


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Customer Service Assignment

As we come into the weekend, try giving your team this informal assignment. As they go about their weekend activities, ask them to to consciously notice the level of service they receive as they interact with companies and their employees. Ask them to look at the physical environment, observe employees as they serve them as well as other customers, and pay attention to the processes they experience during the interaction. What was good? What was not so good? What what was dismal? Ask them to mentally note as many details as possible. At your next team meeting, request that members of your team shar [...]


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Is Training the Answer?

When employee performance issues come up, particularly in regard to customer service behaviors, organizations are quick to send their people off for training in order to fix the problem. Of course, I'm in the business of customer service training, so I'm all for employee education when it's appropriate. Oftentimes, however, sending employees to a training class is a relatively easy alternative to holding those difficult conversations (coaching and counseling) or making difficult decisions (firing perpetually poor performers). In my consulting work I find that many organizations do a wonderful job of training employees [...]


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Leadership Behaviors – Everything Speaks

As a leader in the organization, remember that "everything speaks." Your behavior in front of employees "speaks" about what you truly value, and when words and behaviors don't align, behaviors will win out every time. Your employees judge your values by what you do. Here's an example of what I mean. I was conducting a customer service training program for a company in which every one of the company's employees was attending. The CEO kicked off the session with a fine speech about the importance of customer service to the future success of the organization, and he then introduced me. During the pr [...]


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The Power of Purpose

A sense of purpose has an amazing impact on job performance. When we see a purpose behind the tasks we do, everything takes on an importance that might not be so obvious otherwise. A client recently sent me a story that powerfully reinforces the impact a sense of purpose has on performance. The story is about a group of ironworkers and how they bring smiles to faces that might not have a lot to smile about. These ironworkers are involved in building a new cancer center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It's a construction job. Each day the children who come to the current cancer center write their names on [...]


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Moon Shots for Management

One of the magazines I enjoy reading is the Harvard Business Review. While some HBR articles are a bit too academic for my tastes, and many of the writers seem to have an unusual fondness for the word "indeed," the magazine definitely makes me think about business in new ways. The February, 2009 HBR had an article titled, "Moon Shots for Management," written by management guru Gary Hamel. The article focused on what Hamel calls Management 2.0 - the next phase of management practice. He and a group of scholars and business leaders tracked the evolution of management and concluded that what got us to where we are won't [...]


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Respecting Our Customers

I had an 8:15am appointment with a specialist referred by my primary care physician (nothing serious). I arrived a few minutes early, filled out the paperwork and had a seat in the waiting room. At precisely 8:15, a nurse entered the room and called my name. “Wow!” I thought, “Right on time. Impressive!” Unfortunately, the nurse also called the names of two other patients and escorted us to our respective examining rooms. I know that physician’s offices schedule appointments so that the doctor has approximately fifteen-minutes with each patient. So, I knew that [...]


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Customer Service – “Be Our Guest”

One of the most popular songs from the Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, was the song, “Be Our Guest.” Belle, the heroine of the film, is enthralled by the magical preparations of a spectacular dinner as the animated candelabra, Lumiere, sings “Be Our Guest.” It’s a fitting song for a Disney film since the company has a long history of referring to its customers as “guests.”   Walt Disney’s philosophy at Disneyland was that they didn’t have customers, they had welcome guests. It was a mindset he worked to instill in the [...]


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Favorite Words

When returning a client's call or email, I love to hear the words, "Wow! Thanks for getting back to me so quickly." Those words tell me I've exceeded their expectations, and that's a great way to begin a dialogue with a customer/client. To be sure, I don't hear those words every time because there are times I don't respond quickly enough to deserve a wow (although I do focus on quick response times). And some people just aren't "wow people." But I know when I do receive a wow for getting back to a client quickly, the trust factor is being established. In today's market place, [...]


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What Can You Do?

Many of you have team meetings at the beginning of each week. At next Monday's meeting, post this question on a flipchart page: "What is one improvement I can make in serving my customers (clients, patients, fellow employees, etc.), that if I do it consistently and I do it very well, will have a positive impact on their experience?" Give everyone a few moments to write down their answers, letting them know that you're not going to ask them to share their answers with anyone. (They might not want to share something they know they should be doing but are not - or at least not doing consist [...]


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Customer Service Report

One of the blogs I regularly read is written by Kevin Stirtz, The Amazing Service Guy. He recently added a post that contains a link to a survey his company conducted titled, "The State of Customer Service." Take a look at the post and then download the survey results at the following link; http://amazingserviceguy.com/resources/2009-St [...]


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Respect for the Individual

I was sitting next to a warm fireplace in the lobby of a Virginia hotel this morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. Several other hotel guests were doing the same. Two men entered the lobby and sat down near the rest of us, sitting across the table from each other. It quickly became apparent that the purpose of their meeting was a job interview, as one of the men started lobbing pointed questions at the other. It wasn't that I was purposely listening in; the conversation was so loud that no one in the room could help hearing what was going on. The interviewer's entire demeanor w [...]


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The FISH! Philosophy

I was recently going through my library of business books and came across the book  [...]


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Wow Service Example

The customer service example below comes from Springfield Clinic, a wonderful organization I've mentioned in my blog before. There are two things I appreciate in this example: 1. It demonstrates that opportunities to truly wow customers are all around us. It might not be possible to take advantage of every opportunity every time, but when we can - we should. You can bet that the customers in this story will remember the kind gesture forever, and imagine how many friends and family they've shared the story with. 2. It demonstrates a commitment to sharing great service stori [...]


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Customer Service Resolution

As 2009 gets under way, I encourage you to take a fresh look at your operation through an "Everything Speaks" lens. If you've attended one of my programs or read any of my books/articles, you know I emphasize the fact that every detail of the customer experience communicates a message to the customer - Everything Speaks. That stray piece of trash on the ground. [...]


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Customer Service and My Holiday Experiences

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and that you are optimistic about the new year, in spite of what the news continues to report. I had the opportunity to do some shopping over the holidays and had a handful of great experiences, a handful of lousy experiences, and tons of mediocre/neutral experiences. I'm sure you can relate. What separated the great experiences from the others wasn't anything spectacular or heroic. It was more a matter of employees who truly knew what they were doing, were genuinely friendly while doing it, and who seemed happy to help. That's it - those things made the differenc [...]


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Good Customer Service Pays Off in Tough Times

The newspapers are full of stories lately about the woes of retailers during this holiday season. No one is buying, stores are empty, prices are slashed (70% in some stores!). And yet, some retailers are doing quite well. Check out a story in a recent Orlando Sentinel article titled, "Sales Aren't That Bad." The article highlights retailers who are enjoying a successful holiday season. There are a couple of quotes in the art [...]


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Customer Service Mistake #5

This is the fifth in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" Mistake #5 - Tolerating poor service performance from employees at any level within the organization. Companies allow poor performers to stay on the job for many reasons. First of all, if you fire them, you have to go through the hassle of hiring someone else. It's easier to just ignore the problem. Second, some managers just don't know about the poor performance. They're not [...]


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Customer Service Mistake #4

This is the fourth in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" Customer Service Mistake #4 - Not making customer service a significant part of new-hire orientation as well as a part of ongoing training. George Miliotis was the General Manager of the California Grill restaurant from the time it opened in 1995 until he left in 2002.  The California Grill is an upscale restaurant located at Walt Disney World.  George was (and still is) a big believer in [...]


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Customer Service Mistake #3

This is the third in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" Customer Service Mistake #3 - Hiring the Wrong People If an ideal employee is a company's most valuable asset, then the wrong employee is its albatross, its anchor. So, why do companies often hire the wrong person? I think it is because they never really determine what they're looking for, or wait until they need someone before they start looking, and therefore hire quickly from a [...]


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Customer Service Mistake #1

This is the first in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" Customer Service Mistake #1 - Not clearly defining what the customer experience is supposed to be. Many organizations mistakenly believe that the products they sell define the customer experience. At a restaurant, it's the meal; at a car dealership, it's the car; at a law firm, it's the legal advice. Of course, this belief is partially correct - the prod [...]


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Customer Service Mistake #2

This is the second in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" Customer Service Mistake #2 - Designing processes for the company's convenience, not the customer's. How many times do you find yourself shaking your head in frustration as you deal with a company's non customer-friendly processes? My guess is you can name at least five frustrating experiences you've had in the last week. Too many organizations design their processes for their own conveni [...]


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The Top 5 Customer Service Mistakes Companies Make

A client recently asked, "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?" I thought about it and listed five organizational mistakes that I feel are at the foundation of most service issues: Not clearly defining what the customer experience is supposed to be. Designing processes for the company's convenience, not the customer's. Hiring the wrong people. Not making customer service a significant part of new-hire training as well as ongoing training. Tolerating poor service performance from e [...]


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A Request

I hate to use this blog to ask for a favor (but I'm going to anyway). An important element of selling books on Amazon.com is the Customer Review section. Many potential book buyers, me included, often take a look at the reader reviews to see what others are saying about a book before deciding to buy. [...]


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When proposing a customer service improvement plan for your organization, one of the questions you're likely to get is, "What will it add to our bottom line?" So many factors influence the actual impact of a service initiative that it's hard to give a specific number. I can point to past successes, but even then it's hard to make a prediction. What's happening in the economy? How well does the organization follow through on the initiative? What's the competitive environment like? What other operational and financial issues is the company up against? So, while it's hard to say "if we do this, we'll add $X to our bottom [...]


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Customer Service and Accountability

My publisher, Dennis McClellan (DC Press) sent me a blog post yesterday that stopped me in my tracks. It's written by Quint Studer, who is one of the premiere consultants in the healthcare industry, and brilliantly addresses the issue of accountability. I could elaborate on the article here, but there's nothing to add. Please check out (and pass along) his article,  [...]


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From Completing a Task to Creating an Experience

Not long ago I received a comment from a program participant stating, "I'm tired of hearing Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, and Ritz Carlton examples in every customer service speech. Why do all speakers seem to highlight the same companies?" The answer, of course, is that these companies consistently do the things that make them good examples! It's hard to argue with success and these as well as a few other companies have pretty good track records. Why not learn from what they've done to reach the point where they're regularly held up as examples of excellence? This is all a build up to another Southwest Airli [...]


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Customer Service and Employee Recognition

Here's a quote to pass around to your leadership team: "When bosses are in the habit of giving praise, employees get in the habit of being praiseworthy."Barbara Farfan When an organization sets lofty customer service objectives, employees are often asked to do things in different ways - sometimes in ways that may be out of their comfort zones. And that's good. Breakthroughs usually only occur when we are willing to move out our comfort zones. I believe the single most powerful thing a leader can do when he or she observes an employee stepping up to achieve the organizatio [...]


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A Great Book

I'd like to make a book recommendation; The Encore Effect - How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do, by Mark Sanborn. The book has application in all areas of life, but my interest is in its immediate applicability to those organizations desiring to create memorable, loyalty-generating customer experiences. The book's inside jacket reads (in part): [...]


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Customer Service and the Importance of Role Models

One of my all-time favorite leadership quotes comes from Tom Peters: "The problem isn't that your people don't know what you're doing; the problem is that your people do know what you're doing." Employees know what their leaders value simply by observing their actions. When a leader says something is important and yet his or her behaviors contradict their words, behaviors will trump the words. If, for example, a leader says treating people with respect is a company value while regularly and publicly chewing out employees, chewing out employees will quickly [...]


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Cutting Costs – Get Your Team Involved!

If you've been reading this blog recently, you know I'm concerned about organizations sacrificing customer service as they cut costs during this economic downturn. My advice is to look at this as a time to solidify customer relationships as your competitors operate in panic mode. Being a realist, however, I do know that managing costs is critical during tough economic times. So, I'd like to propose something I haven't tried in this blog before; the sharing of best practices from readers. Here is what I propose - Have a meeting (or series of meetings) with your direct reports with the follow [...]


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Customer Service and the Words, “I Can’t”

Due to a mechanical problem on a United Airlines flight departing from Orlando last Sunday, I was informed, along with the rest of the passengers, that we would be delayed five hours (!?!). Because I would miss my connecting flight I went to United's Red Carpet Room to make other arrangements. I'll spare you the details, but the agent was unhelpful and quite arro [...]


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Customer Service Help Line Tip

How many times have you been frustrated by automated phone trees that tell you to "press 1 for this, press 2 for that," etc? I know it drives me crazy, especially when none of the options fit the problem I'm calling about. And I really get ticked off after going through multiple layers of options only to be left on indefinite hold as a looped recording says how important my [...]


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Sacrificing Customer Service - Lessons from Home of Depot

What a wild few weeks we've had. It seems like the economic bad news just keeps coming. Bank failures, talk of a global recession, the economic bailout (or rescue depending on who you listen to). The whole mess makes you hesitate to pick up the newspaper or turn on CNN. With all of the doom and gloom, it's only natural for employees to worry about their jobs and for business owners to worry about staying in business. But I have another fear that may seem trivial in comparison, but is very legitimate when considering the long-term prospects of any organization. My fear is that companies will panic and cut elements of t [...]


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"Dessert is On Us"

Exhausted from a long day of traveling, I looked forward to a quiet dinner in the lobby restaurant of the hotel where I was staying. I was in Montana for a speaking engagement, and planned to have a quick meal, then return to my room and put the finishing touches on my presentation. Arriving at the restaurant's hostess station, I saw several employees standing around joking with each other (loudly), ignoring the diners, and ignoring me. I stood there for a few minutes and just watched, wondering where the restaurant manager was and why he or she allowed this kind of behavior. As I watched, it slowly dawned on me that [...]


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A Meeting of the Minds

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with seven authors represented by the publisher of my book, Lessons From the Mouse (DC Press). We focused on topics ranging from book marketing to presentation skills and had lively, information-packed discussions. I left the meeting feeling jazzed, with several ideas for my business and I can't wait for our next gathering. [...]


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Customer Service and the Call Center

A few months ago I posted an article, "What Do Customers Think About Your Customer Service?" In the article I stressed the value of company call/contact centers in gaining intelligence about customer opinions, opportunities, and process issues. For many organizations, their call center is the great untapped resource. I've been invited to speak at the  [...]


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Backstage Just Came Onstage

A few weeks ago I posted an article titled, "Never Let Backstage Come Onstage," (which is actually the first chapter in my new book, Lessons From the Mouse). The backstage/onstage philosophy means that certain operational realities, those that a customer should never experience, must remain backstage. When they somehow creep onstage, the organization's brand is compromised. Backstage coming onstage can be a physical issue, such as leaving a stock [...]


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Appreciating Great Customer Service

Recently I spoke at a conference of the Travel Industry Association. I arrived a couple of days into the meeting and noticed a buzz going around about something that happened earlier. I caught snippets of the situation, but got the full story after my speech. During one of the meals on the first day of the conference, an attendee asked a [...]


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With such news headlines as "Odds of Recession Seen Rising" (Wall Street Journal Online) and "Consumer Crunch: The Day the Spending Stopped" (U.S. News & World Report), it's no wonder that so many executives are wearing long faces. Companies are filing for bankruptcy, or closing their doors completely, at an alarming rate. And many economists predict the trend will continue. Yet despite the doom and gloom, some companies are weathering the storm very well. Indeed, some aren't just surviving, they're thriving. What are the thriving organizations doing that allow them to continue building business [...]


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Being a Good Customer

As a customer service speaker and author, I spend most of my time talking or writing about what organizations can do to be better service providers. In this post I thought I'd divert from my usual theme and spend a moment talking about a different, but certainly related subject. Being a better customer. More times than I can count, I've stood in line at a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, or store observing an employee trying to take the order of a customer who is chatting on his or her cell phone. Everything gets slowed down as the customer tries to order and talk on the phone at the same time. The employee often do [...]


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My New Book, "Lessons From the Mouse," is Now Available

  I'm pleased to let you know that my new book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life, is now available. If you would like complete information about the book as well as ordering details, please visit  [...]


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Expand the "Product" to Include the Entire Experience

As more products and services become commoditized, one of the remaining ways to differentiate your organization from the competition is to focus on the overall customer experience. Your product offering might be excellent, but so is the product offering of your competitor down the street. I encourage organizations to expand their idea of the product to include the entire customer experience. When you consider everything a customer goes through in order to purchase and use your product, it's apparent that a lot of factors impact the experience - and that impact can be either positive or negative. Consider the " [...]


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Customer Service and JetBlue

Many of you know that JetBlue, the discount airline, recently began charging $7 for pillows and blankets on flights over two hours. While they have received some negative press due to the move, I feel that JetBlue actually implemented the program pretty effectively by connecting the change to increased value. Pretty radical for an airline. [...]


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Customer Service - The Disney Difference

Yesterday I received an email from an employee of one my clients. The email shares a story of a recent visit to Disney World, comparing the experience to other theme parks. I thought it was a good example of how people make the difference. I'll share the actual email a bit further in this post, but I want to make a couple of comments first. In the case of a theme park, certainly the rides and shows must be great. But that's not enough. There are lots of places with great rides. But if you combine a quality product with great service delivery, you have something special. As you read the story, think about [...]


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Resource for Customer Service Quotes

When I have some time in the office, I enjoy surfing the Web for customer service information and resources. Today I came across a resource offered by Kevin Stirtz, "The Amazing Service Guy." In a recent blog post, he offers a download, "213 [...]


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Eye Contact - The Window to the Soul of Customer Service

There I stood at the counter, wondering why the customer service clerk didn't see me. I had the items I wanted to purchase on the counter, I had my wallet out; what I didn't have was the clerk's attention. He was busy filling out a form that I think had something to do with the cash register. I probably could've walked right out the door and he never would've seen me. I can certainly understand the need for employees to fill out paperwork, change the register's cash drawer, or finish processing the previous transaction. All I ask is to be acknowledged with a simple, "I'm so sorry, I'll be right with you," and that it [...]


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When Good Projects Go Bad

Assisting an organization with a customer service initiative (or any other organizational development project) can be very rewarding; especially when the leadership team is truly committed to long-term success. When everyone is involved and engaged, amazing results can be achieved. Getting everyone involved, however, can also cause mind-numbing frustration. Anyone who has ever participated on a project team or a steering committee knows that a beast is always there waiting to strike. The beast's name is Project Creep. You know Project Creep has arrived when input from others regarding the initiat [...]


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Proactive Customer Service

One of the blogs I regularly read is Customers Are Always, hosted by Maria Palmer. She just posted a great article, "Proactive Behavior: A Sign of Service Excellence," which was written by a guest contributor. I have experienced the situation the writer discusses (picking up [...]


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Same Job - Different Results

What a difference a caring employee makes. You can observe two employees doing the identical job, but one is creating great customer experiences while the other employee just goes through the motions. A recent client arranged for a Town Car service to take me from the airport to the convention hotel and then back to the airport the next day. It was a fairly long ride, about two hours, but it was through beautiful countryside so I didn't mind. The driver who picked me up at the airport was wonderful. She had a chilled bottle of water waiting in the car along with a fresh copy of the local newspaper and the Wall [...]


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Let Them Eat Cake!

I’m constantly amazed at the lengths to which some companies will go in order to alienate their customers. They may have clunky processes, poorly trained employees, or any of a multitude of customer-alienating practices. But the one that really fries me most is when a company distrusts their customers. Sure, there are those customers who take advantage by doing such things as returning clothes after they’ve attended the prom, returning furniture after the party, etc. But those abusive customers are in the minority. Some companies, however, build rigid policies to protect themselves against the ad [...]


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Wall Street Journal Article

This is a follow up to my post this past Monday, "Respecting Those Who Serve Our Customers." In that post, I discussed leadership behaviors that can make employees feel undervalued or "invisible." The very next day the Wall Street Journal printed an article that focuses on a related subject - " [...]


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Respecting Those Who Serve Our Customers

The CEO letter at the beginning of almost every company's annual report will include the statement, "Our employees are our most valuable asset." That is a true statement - our employees are the organization's most valuable asset. But just saying it isn't what makes it true. Through their behaviors, leaders must demonstrate that their employees are truly valued. So, here is a pet peeve. I can't stand it when leaders refer to their employees as "headcount." I don't know for sure, but it's likely that the term came from the cattle industry. Headcount = how many of head of cattle o [...]


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Take Responsibility For Your Own Career

This is the tenth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #10: Take Responsibility for Your Own Career. Walt Disney World is committed to employee development and provides many opportunities for career enrichment or advancement. However, in s [...]


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This is the ninth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #9: Figure Out What Ticks Off Your Customers - and Do Something About it. While Disney World's mission is to create magic for guests, sometimes less-than-magical events occur. Rain, cl [...]


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Never, Ever Say, "That's Not My Job" - Don't Even Think It

This is the seventh in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #7: Never Ever Say "That's Not My Job" - Don't Even Think It From the day a Disney cast member joins the organization, it's clear that saying anything remotely close to, "That's not [...]


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Everyone Has a Customer

 This is the eighth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #8: Everyone Has a Customer When it comes to internal customer service, Disney World's philosophy is, "Cast members are treated the way they are expected to treat the guests." T [...]


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Pay Attention to the Details - Everything Speaks

This is the sixth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #6: Pay Attention to the Details - Everything Speaks Disney "Imagineers" go to great effort to design the details that make the Vacation Kingdom a truly magical environment. The goal i [...]


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Don't Be a Customer Service Robot

This is the fifth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.  Lesson #5: Don't Be a Customer Service Robot  Most of the jobs at Disney World have certain repetitive tasks, such as telling guests to "watch your head and step" [...]


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Have Fun With the Job (No Matter How Miserable You Feel)

 This is the fourth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #4: Have Fun With the Job (No Matter How Miserable You Feel) Guests will often gush to Disney cast members, "You have the best job in the world! It must be so much fun to w [...]


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Little Wows Add Up

 This is the third in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #3: Little Wows Add Up Walt Disney World guests often exclaim, "It seems like Disney employees will do anything to make a guest happy!" And while cast members may sometimes do ex [...]


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This is the second in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse - A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page. Lesson #2: What Time is the Three O'clock Parade?Is Not a Stupid Question Every Disney cast member can tell you about funny questions Disney guests ask. How about "Wha [...]


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Lessons From the Mouse

  Some of you are aware that I’ve been working on a new book, Lessons From the Mouse, based on my 20-years working at Walt Disney World. The book is due to be published this summer and I’m truly excited about it. It covers the ten key lessons I learned as a Disney cast member and helps readers apply those lessons to their own organizations, careers, and lives.   With my next ten blog posts, I’d like to share a synopsis of each lesson that Lessons From the Mouse covers. My hope is that you’ll find these brief descriptions to be beneficia [...]


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What Do Customers Think About Your Company's Service?

For many organizations, the greatest untapped resource for customer feedback is their call center. The call center handles just about every issue customers experience with your product or service. They handle questions, compliments, complaints, errors, requests, purchases, returns - you get the idea. While there are some companies that truly do mine their call centers for information about customer opinions, most simply track statistics about call volume, length of calls, and issue codes. While these statistics are valuable, they're only the tip of the iceberg. The real value comes from actually li [...]


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Coaching For Service Excellence

In my  previous blog post, Why Service Initiatives Often Fail, I emphasized the importance of never tolerating intolerable service in your organization. I also promised to share a 5-step coaching process to help plan and deliver coaching to any employee who is not living up to your organization's service expectations. I want to emphasize the word plan because it is vital to plan each of the steps in advance of the coaching meeting. This post is longer than usual; but I believe the subject is critical for service success and I also know that the 5-Step Coaching Process works. [...]


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Why Customer Service Improvement Initiatives Often Fail

One of the (if not the) top reasons that I see many customer service initiatives fail to reach their full potential is due to a lack of accountability. Too often managers ignore substandard service performance from an employee (or employees) because the manager is either uncomfortable with confrontation, worried the employee might quit, or they believe they'll handle the problem at performance appraisal time - which is absolutely the worst time to surprise an employee with any performance issue. Another reason I see managers avoid confronting substandard service issues is that they feel the whole c [...]


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The Starbucks Project

In a previous post I mentioned the challenges that Starbucks is facing - falling profits, diminished customer service and commoditizing the experience. Others have been blogging about the same issue. In fact there is now something called "The Starbucks Project" which was started by loyal customers and is dedicated to providing Starbucks with feed [...]


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A Great Book for Any Leader!

  I want to put in a plug for a wonderful book I just finished reading. It's titled, "The Best of the Gallup Management Journal 2001-2007," edited by Geoffrey Brewer and Barb Sanford. Gallup has done some cutting edge research focused on managing the human side of business and publishes a monthly ezine that focuses on various elements of employee engagement and customer service. A subscription to the ezine is $95 but this book captures all of the past [...]


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Are You Having Fun Yet?

I saw this photo on a blog and just loved it. Thank you Alexander Kjerulf. It’s a great example of having fun at work and creating a positive customer experience at the same time. Imagine your nervousness sitting in the dentist chair, you look up and that’s what you see. It would be pretty hard to keep from laughing out loud. Thinking about ways to make the customer experience fun can result in creative (and inexpensive) ideas like this. It’s like the teller at a bank [...]


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Eroding The Starbucks Experience

Starbucks announced last Wednesday that profits for the second quarter fell 28%, blaming the drop on the struggling economy. While I agree that the economy is struggling, I’m not convinced it’s the reason for Starbucks’ current woes. The Starbucks story, of course, is the stuff of legends. Three books about the company have been published in the last twenty-four mont [...]


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When the Customer is Wrong

Most of us have grown up with the adage, “The customer is always right.” Well, if you’ve been in the real world for any time at all, you know that the customer is often wrong. They didn’t see the sign, read the directions, arrive on time, buy the right part, give the right specifications, etc, etc. Companies screw up often enough, but so do customers. When I was working at Disney World, our philosophy was; “The guest may not always be right, but they will always be our guest.” A Disney colleague, Jim Cunningham, put it better when he said, “The guest may not always be [...]


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Task Versus Experience: A Customer Service Case Study

I was conducting a client service seminar for a law firm recently and one of their attorneys shared a story that illustrates the difference between completing tasks and creating customer experiences. I shared a post about tasks and experiences last week, and this is a perfect example of the concept. At the time of the story, this attorney was working for UPS in their legal office. They were receiving proposals from several law firms for a sizable project, and one of the leading contenders completed a thorough and well-drafted proposal. Wanting to ensure that it arrived on ti [...]


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Screwing Over Customers is Not a Good Business Strategy

Very few industries have achieved the distinction of being universally despised. The airline industry and a couple of others have come close, but none have succeeded quite like the oil industry. I was watching CNBC this morning and they ran a segment about rising fuel costs. No surprise there since it’s a hot topic right now; but what caught my attention was the news that production is actually being reduced even as we approach increasing demand due to the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and busy summer travel season. The analysts on the program noted that produ [...]


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The Experience of Great Customer Service

At the conclusion of a customer service seminar I recently conducted, a participant asked, “If you could just provide just one suggestion to improve customer service in an organization, what would it be?” I responded with the same answer I would give to any group of CEOs or any group of frontline employees. It’s to move from a task mentality to an experience mentality. Too many organizations and too many employees focus on completing tasks. Although the task may be done correctly, that approach certainly doesn’t create an emotional bond between a cust [...]


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Customer Service Initiatives and Executive Impatience

A reader recently posted a comment on this blog that said her organization implemented a customer service initiative about a year ago and the executive team was getting anxious for results. Her question was; how long does it take before a company will see the results of a service initiative? Usually a company sees some quick wins early in the initiative as employees are trained on the service principles and possibly implement things right away. True change in a large company (hers is a Fortune 400 company) however, takes 3-5 years. Changing a company’s culture is no small feat – [...]


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What to Do When Your Company Screws Up

In my last post I talked about how to provide good customer service when the customer himself/herself is wrong or makes a mistake. In this post I’d like to focus on what to do when your company screws up. The public is never at a loss for examples of high-profile company screw ups. The one that really hit home for me has been the recent Southwest Airlines debacle regarding maintenance issues. I’m a huge Southwest fan and [...]


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Customers Fight Back Against Bad Customer Service

Most of us have heard the popular statistic, “customers who get lousy customer service will tell nine other people.” Well, that statistic is grossly out of date. Because of the internet, when customers get lousy customer service they can now tell thousands, even millions of people about it. Witness how quickly the news about JetBlue leaving customers stranded on a plane for ten hours last year raced through the blogosphere. A [...]


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Customer Service In An Electronic World

As bricks and mortar increasingly give way to virtual organizations, more and more interactions with customers are taking place via the telephone and the Web. Some organizations apparently believe that while good customer service principles might apply to face-to-face interactions, they don’t apply to phone and internet interactions. Wrong. They do apply. Everyone has gotten lost in the phone directory maze of “press 1 for this, press 2 for that,” and when (or if) we finally get to a live person, that person comes across as indifferent or rushed (probably because they’re held [...]


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Customer Service Robots

Robotic customer service drives me crazy. Employees may be saying all the right words but, when those words are delivered robotically, the result is a forced, insincere impression. The message that’s actually communicated is, “my company makes me say these exact words.” I experienced a vivid example of robotic behavior just last week while staying at a nice hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. The facilities were spotless and the employees all very friendly. However, after any interaction with any of the hotel’s employees, face-to-face or on the phone, the employee always asked, “Is there anythi [...]


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Why a Customer Service Program Won’t Work in Our Industry

In nearly every customer service workshop that I conduct I’ll get at least one participant who will explain to me why such customer service practices won’t work in their industry. They’ll explain how their customers are different and have different expectations than other industries. Sometimes the supposed difference doesn’t involve the industry; they’ll say the principles won’t work in their particular area of the country (or the world). Oftentimes these participants don’t want to discuss the situation, they just want to provide an excuse for not implementing service excellence proce [...]


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Wow - These Jobs Are Hard!

Have you seen the television show, Undercover Boss? It's a great show in which CEOs go "undercover" to work jobs on the front lines of their organizations, often with hilarious results. Even if you haven't seen the show, the following video shares some thoughts on the "real work" being done in any organization. If you receive my blog via email, you may need to click here to view the video. [...]


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