Customer service Engagement

A Wasted Opportunity

I was seated next to a new executive in the parent company of an organization where I was a decades-long customer.

We introduced ourselves at this network function, and I shared how wonderful the receptionist is at one of their locations. In fact, it’s the only location I chose to frequent because this frontline professional was most welcoming, courteous, engaging, and a delight to interact with – a true brand ambassador.

Because I believe in recognizing and reinforcing great service, I told the receptionist I’d spoken highly of her to this executive and mentioned how lucky the company was to have her on staff.

Fast forward months later: I saw the receptionist and thanked her (again) for how well she took care of me and other customers. That’s when I was disappointed to learn that neither the executive – nor anyone else from management – reached out to acknowledge the positive feedback given about her.

How much effort would it have taken for the executive to have shared this unsolicited praise with the receptionist? Or even just passed it along to the employee’s supervisor to follow up?

A meaningful opportunity to recognize a valuable employee was wasted.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 75% of employees cited a lack of appreciation as one of the top reasons they leave their job.

The impact of their leaving is more than a matter of employee turnover:

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” Sybil F. Stershic

[Image credit: Thomas Park on Unsplash]

Customer service Engagement Marketing

Why I’m More Hopeful

Throughout my career there were times I felt like a tiny voice in the management void.

As an early advocate of internal marketing – a strategic blend of Marketing and Human Resources that focused on taking care of employees to take care of customers – I found companies bought into the concept but not its practice. A typical response: “It says right here in our annual report that employees are our most valuable asset, so we don’t need your services.”

Despite encountering executives unwilling to invest in internal marketing, my passion for employee-customer care kept me going. Perseverance also led me to business leaders who recognized internal marketing’s value and wanted me to help them do more.

My new favorite equation

Now I’m more hopeful than ever about internal marketing for two reasons:

  1. Thanks to the focus on the employee experience as a key competitive differentiator, there is continuing interest in applying internal marketing (also referred to as employer branding).
  2. I’m especially happy to share I’m no longer a voice in the wilderness as building a brand from the inside out is being embraced by a new generation of marketers that include Ron Johnson, co-founder and managing Director of Blueprint Creative.

Ron has taken my internal marketing approach of blending Marketing and HR further: he advocates a stronger, more formal integration of the two functions in “The Bhranding Equation: Branding + HR = Bhranding” that is reflected in his quote:

“Customers will never love a business that is hated by its employees.” Ron Johnson

My new favorite business book

Ron is also the author of Tighten Your Shoelaces: How the World’s Leading Companies Defend and Grow Their Brands During a Crisis (and How You Can, Too!), a book I recommend.

Along with explaining his Bhranding Equation, Ron shares real-life examples of how companies protected and strengthened their brands when faced with the global pandemic and other business, social, economic, and environmental crises. This book is insightful and easy to read as Ron writes in a way that makes readers feel as if he is speaking directly with them. I see “Tighten Your Shoelaces” becoming a classic that will stand the test of time in both crises and non-crises situations.

As internal marketing has evolved into Bhranding, it’s gratifying to know a new generation is carrying employee-customer care forward.

[Photo credit: image by Silvia from Pixabay]

Customer service Engagement Marketing

A Scary Risk Worth Taking

2023 is a milestone year for me.

I started Quality Service Marketing 35 years ago after working in bank marketing for more than 10 years.

Going out on my own was scary, but job security was relative as the bank I worked for was being acquired by a larger bank and I had survived a previous merger. After extensive contemplation and networking, I made the decision to become a solopreneur in 1988.

Here are excerpts from notes I made when considering that momentous change. In working for myself, I wanted:

  • Less frustration from working in large organizations in an industry I was not happy with. (Reminder to self: Yes, it really was that bad!)
  • More control over my career
  • More opportunity for greater achievement
  • More time and flexibility to be with my family.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Among the challenges I faced was the reality that “everyday you’re self-employed, you wake up unemployed.” This pressure was more than offset by the fact that I worked for someone I respected: me. If you worked for even one bad boss, you understand how empowering it is to work on your own.

I also found myself in an uphill battle to build a business fostering workplace engagement with internal marketing, advocating for employee and customer satisfaction that was considered a “warm & fuzzy” concept back then (i.e., not very marketable). I persevered … and am gratified that the work I do still matters.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Quality Service Marketing!

[Image credit: Diego PH on Unsplash]
Customer service

“We want your business, not your bad mood”

Facts of life for business:

1: No business has an unlimited supply of employees and customers.
2: Recruitment and retention of both employees and customers are necessary for business survival.
3: Cultivating good employees is as important as cultivating good customers.

However, when good employees are subject to rude and demanding customers, it’s time to let those customers go.

That’s exactly what one business owner did. He was compelled to write the following in response to rude and unruly customers who made a scene at his new steakhouse restaurant shortly after it opened. (The following is cited with permission and minor editing for clarity and space.)

We are a new business – learning and adjusting.

We are not perfect; we are and will make mistakes.

This does NOT give you the right to berate us, scream at us, call us names …

As this business’s primary owner, I will protect and defend my employees – to work in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe.

As this business’s primary owner, I will admit when I am wrong or my employees are wrong and we made a mistake.

I do not want people to pay for food or an experience they did not enjoy. You want a refund? All you need to do is ask.

As this business’s primary owner, a fellow human being, and someone who cares and loves his community and wants it to be a great place to work and live, I cannot believe how inhumane people treat others.

I will personally kick you out of this business if you are unable to treat people like people. You will leave and not be allowed back.

We have customers SCREAMING at employees because we ran out of milk.

We have customers BERATING our employees because we don’t give free bread.

If you are so upset we ran out of milk, and we sincerely apologized for the inconvenience but you still find it necessary to be a jerk – you are gone.

If you walk in here expecting free bread when we NEVER offered it, and you can’t stop complaining about it and decide to treat our staff rudely because of it – you are gone.

You don’t walk into a grocery store demanding free food.

You don’t go to a gas station demanding free gas.

Grow up or go elsewhere.

It’s ok with us.

We want your business, not your bad mood.

Regardless of your experience, we welcome your good or bad or scathing review.

HOWEVER, if you choose to act like a child, a jerk, even an $&@@&$@, we are going to remove you. You are not entitled to treat our staff like you most likely treat everyone else.

If anyone would like clarification on our policy for treating employees with basic decency, you can call either restaurant to speak with me personally; you can also talk to me about your experience. If it’s good, great. If it’s bad, then we need to learn how to adjust and fix it going forward.

Thank you,
Richard Austin, President – Bella’s Sicilian and Bella’s Steakhouse.

Note: Austin’s restaurants are based in Geneva NY, and my husband and I have enjoyed dining in Bella’s Sicilian Ristorante when visiting the Finger Lakes region.

As a long-time employee experience advocate, I applaud Austin publicly defending his employees in this situation. It speaks highly of the culture he has created in his business, and it’s why my husband and I will continue to support his restaurants.

[Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash]
Customer service Engagement

Attention, please

Pandemic-induced stress and other reasons have led to decreasing workforce numbers and increasing pressure on remaining employees. Demanding, rude, and uncivil behaviors by some customers – and employers – only exacerbate the situation.

Please be patient, understanding, and considerate. Thank you.

[Image credits: “Dude breathe” photo by Kyndall Ramirez on Unsplash.jpg. Sign posted in office or store window – source unknown.]
Customer service

Customer Service Behind the Mask: We Need More Like Laura

With the exception of surgical doctors and nurses who are used to communicating while wearing masks, many of us are challenged to communicate effectively when half of our faces are covered. Until the pandemic, I took for granted how much our facial expressions greatly enhance verbal communications and personal interactions.

Yet skilled service providers can still excel despite unseen smiles, muffled voices, plexiglass separators, and social distancing. That’s what I learned last year from Laura, who works at Wegmans.

Here’s an excerpt from my note to Wegmans about my experience.

“I’m writing to commend Laura who works in the Allentown PA store pharmacy and processed the paperwork for me to receive my flu shot.

What impressed me most about this young woman was her courteous and professional manner in welcoming customers and making eye contact while asking routine questions that can become tedious. I may not have been able to see her smile behind her mask, but I could tell she was giving me her full attention.

Please know I’m a business professional specializing in employee-customer engagement. I understand the tendency of some employees to perform on auto-pilot when processing repetitive paperwork in high volume situations. That’s why I complimented Laura on her customer-focused behaviors today — her attentiveness made me feel welcome, showed that she cared, and didn’t make me feel like an imposition.”

Kudos to Laura and all frontline employees who continue to deliver a positive experience without the ability to fully face customers.

[Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash]




Customer service Engagement

Important Reminder for All Employers

It’s been several months since COVID-19 disrupted and changed the workplace. Regardless of where your employees now work – whether from home, at your place of business, on the road, or some hybrid approach – the following still applies.

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.
And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”     
– Sybil F. Stershic

[Image by jessica45 from Pixabay]
Customer service Engagement Marketing

How to Better Engage Your Customers and Their Ideas

In the quest for product/service innovation, it’s easy to overlook an obvious source: your own customers. How to effectively involve and engage them – and make them feel valued in the process – can be found in Chip Bell‘s just-released book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets for Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions. Renowned customer service consultant, speaker, and author, Chip knows that customers can provide an “untapped resource for ideas and inspiration that can result in breakthroughs.” In this new book, he shares the secrets of “Curiosity, Grounding, Discovery, Trust, and Passion” that facilitate effective co-creation partnerships.

“Partnerships at their best are not about contracts, controls, and compromises; they are about respectful connections that enliven, ennoble, and enchant.” Chip R. Bell

Chip lays out the foundation of successful partnerships and illustrates them with applied examples from a variety of organizations. Equally important, he shares customer experiences from the customer’s perspective. (My favorites involve frustration with a computer part replacement and inconvenience at a fast food drive-thru window.) Examples also include employees and suppliers as important partners in the co-creation process.

“Breakthroughs come from an instinctive judgment of what customers might want if they knew to think about it.” Andrew Grove

Granted, customers may not always know what they want. It’s a poor excuse, however, to overlook them as partners in co-creation. Inside Your Customer’s Imagination gives you the insight and guidance needed to effectively engage both customers and employees in improving your products and services. Offering customers the opportunity to contribute their ideas and suggestions sends the message “we value you and want to know how we can better serve you.”

Truly, a win-win situation. That’s why I recommend this gem of a book along with Chip’s other best-sellers I proudly include in my business library:

  • Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles
  • Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service
  • The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service
  • Wired and Dangerous (with John Patterson)
  • Take Their Breath Away (with John Patterson).


Customer service Engagement

Beware of “Askholes” & Others Who Won’t Listen

Understandably, people who ask for advice may not always follow it. But how they listen and respond makes a difference in the outcome and its impact on others. This includes frustrating encounters with “askholes” — people who constantly ask for your advice, yet ALWAYS do the complete opposite of what you told them to do” [Urban Dictionary] — and those who ask for advice only to dismiss it.

Ignoring valuable suggestions from reliable sources can negatively affect the workplace. Read on to learn more.

Example #1. When the consultant voice doesn’t matter

A colleague of mine shared the following experience.
     I was called in to consult with an IT organization to facilitate the initial sessions on a massive change and reorganization. People were not being forced to join the new organization — they came by choice and interview. During the first session, an employee who worked in network security stood up and said “I don’t support any of this and will work to stop it.” I was able to address the employee’s disruption temporarily and he sat down.
     When I later met with the IT leader to discuss this serious issue, he made light of it saying, “People say things like that during changes. It’s no big deal.” I told him it IS a big deal as the network security specialist accepted this job in the new organization by choice and said he will do everything to stop the change. Still the leader seemed unmoved. Finally I said, “I am telling you that you better check into what he is doing to the network. This is serious!!” He did and found out that the network security specialist was taking steps to subvert it.
     When you ask a trusted consultant for an opinion, at least check out what they are saying. This wasn’t the first leader to initially dismiss my concerns only to find out the situation was very serious.

Example #2. When the employee voice doesn’t matter 

A service-based organization implemented system changes that frustrated both front-line employees and customers. Fortunately, loyal customers were patient and empathetic as staff struggled to adapt. Several customers also politely shared their concerns with employees to be communicated upward. But staff feedback was routinely ignored to the point that employees resorted to asking customers to complain directly to management as senior leaders were more likely to respond to customer complaints.

As a result, customers were made aware of management not listening to employee feedback which lead customers to rethink their perceptions of how the organization was run. It’s why I remind leaders, “The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel, and if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”

How’s your willingness to listen?

I realize not all suggestions and advice should be heeded. But ignoring outright the input of peoples’ experience and expertise is not only frustrating to those with something to say, it can lead to their disengaging with you.

Asking for advice is only half the battle. How you respond puts your professional credibility and workplace engagement at risk.

[Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay.]

Customer service Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Building Connections and Engagement in “Smart Women Conversations”

Connecting and engaging people in the workplace with LEGO® … just one of many fascinating topics shared in my video discussion with Smart Women Conversations’ host Yvonne DiVita, respected blogger, serial entrepreneur, and my former publisher who remains a dear friend.

Yvonne launched Smart Women Conversations to “inform, educate, create laughter and share stories of reinvention” as part of her passion to “inspire and educate smart, talented women eager for business success today.”

I’m honored and humbled to be among the impressive women interviewed in this special series and invite you to read Yvonne’s introduction or just watch and listen to our conversation below.

To learn more, please visit Nurturing Big Ideas and check out these other Smart Women Conversations.