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]

Engagement Training & Development

A Special Anniversary Worth Sharing

I’m excited to “share” that 10 years ago this summer my book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, was published.

[Note: this was the second – and last – business book I wrote, disappointing my son and husband who pushed for a trilogy. Sorry, guys!]

I was encouraged by my nonprofit colleagues to write Share of Mind, Share of Heart given the favorable response to my first book on workplace engagement. The new book’s content was based on three foundational nonprofit principles I learned through extensive experience both personally (as a frontline volunteer, board member, and board chair) and professionally (as a marketing & organizational advisor, workshop instructor, and facilitator):

  • Mission matters – it provides organizational focus and intention.
  • The people behind the mission also matter – the employees and volunteers who impact the brand.
  • People’s passion for the mission should not be taken for granted – it does not ensure their continued commitment.

In an easy-to-read format, the book shares the insight and practical tools needed to engage employees and volunteers. This short actionable guide also includes thought-provoking questions and worksheets readers can use to apply the concepts in their organizations.

Share of Mind, Share of Heart was introduced on my blog (It’s Here! Help for Engaging Nonprofits’ Most Powerful Assets) in July 2012 and was later recognized as a Winner of the 2013 Small Business Book Awards.

Even post-pandemic, this book’s evergreen content is a valuable guide for nonprofit staff and volunteer leaders who want to strengthen their organization’s engagement from the inside-out.

Consider it an affordable investment and inspiring gift you can share with the nonprofits you care about. Limited print copies are still available through Firefly Bookstore.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

[Photo by Toby Bloomberg of her beloved dog, Max, reading Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits. Such a smart dog!]



Engagement Training & Development

Blog-Inspired Nonprofit More Than a Relative Success

It all began with a popular blog.

Cousins Shane Burcaw and Sarah Burcaw Yunusov had the idea to start a nonprofit while in college.  Their dream was inspired by Shane’s “Laughing at My Nightmare” blog where he posted his “funny, absurd, and at times, gut-wrenching” experience living with a severe form of muscular dystrophy.” His message was “no matter what life throws our way, there is always a reason to laugh.”

Sarah describes their family’s experience:

“Shane and I grew up in a family that was always laughing [and] we learned how incredibly powerful humor was when dealing with adversity … His blog was basically just an extension of the mindset instilled in us by our family. It’s about the hilarious and crazy experiences Shane has had living with muscular dystrophy, but more than that, it teaches readers that a positive attitude can help them effectively cope with stress and adversity.”

Bolstered by the positive response to his blog, Shane and Sarah’s nonprofit, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc. (LAMN), was officially launched ten years ago with a dual mission to “teach children that all people deserve kindness and respect, regardless of their differences, while also providing free equipment to people living with muscular dystrophy.”

I was first drawn to LAMN because I had a cousin with muscular dystrophy. Getting to know Sarah and Shane and seeing their passion and commitment in action, I became a strong advocate, supporter, and mentor.

Besides promoting understanding and acceptance of diversity to students in hundreds of schools, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc., has given more than $500K in adaptive equipment/assistive technology to those in need. It also launched a COVID-19 Resource Relief program to help members of the disability community deal with the extra burdens imposed by the pandemic.

In honor of Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc.’s 10th Anniversary, this post is dedicated to Shane, Sarah, their families, and all LAMN supporters. Congratulations!

To learn more, check out Shane Burcaw’s books:




Customer service Engagement Musings

New Books for Holiday Gift-Giving This Year

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

I’m a fan of giving books as gifts especially when paired with soothing tea, specialty coffee, indulgent chocolate or other sweet treat. Such gifts feed the senses as well as the mind.

So I’m happy to recommend five new nonfiction books that will appeal to a variety of readers. They were written by first-time and long-time authors that I’m privileged to know. I’ve enjoyed reading their books and am happy to have them grace my bookshelves.

For anyone concerned about their health these days:
Your Journey to Aging Well by Sally Handlon, certified Integrative Nutritional Health Coach, is a short, easy-to-read and practical guide to doing what’s needed to create and maintain wellness. Sally addresses the four major components of good health and shares what she’s learned in her own journey to aging well.

For children and adults:
In this fascinating story of about the life of Audrey Evans: Not Your Ordinary Doctor, author Heidi Bright Butler shares how children can overcome challenges to pursue a dream career – even when other people don’t think it’s possible.

For cooks who love ethnic cuisine:
The New Ukrainian Cookbook by Annette Ogrodnik Corona features delicious recipes for more than 200 traditional and modern Ukrainian recipes based on her grandmother’s culinary secrets and the author’s extensive cooking experience. (Note: I bought the original edition for my husband several years ago and  purchased the updated version as a retirement gift for a friend.)

For executives, managers, and business owners:
Chip Bell’s latest best-seller, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination, explains how to effectively engage customers and employees in “creating breakthrough products, services, and solutions” in a win-win situation that makes them feel valued in the process.

For teachers, parents, and everyone who loves to read:
Read ‘Em & Reap is a powerful little book that affirms why reading is good for your health.  Author Tom Collins draws on research to explain how reading benefits both physical and mental health. What more reasons do you need to read books?

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” Mason Cooley

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

“Are Your Customers Getting Ghosted?” Guest Post by Chip Bell

[Note: When I wrote about the harm of ghosting at work, it focused on how the actions of prospective employees and HR can damage the employer brand. In the following post, well-respected authority on customer service, Chip R. Bell, addresses how ghosting can also damage the consumer brand when customers experience “intentional indifference.”

This was originally published on Lead Change and is graciously shared here with permission from both Chip and Lead Change. I’m also excited to share that Chip’s latest book, Inside Your Customers Imagination, will be released this fall.]

Chip R. Bell

I was working with a prominent speaker’s bureau to land a keynote. The agent and I agreed that I was uniquely suited for this assignment, given my history in the industry of her prospect. When the engagement date was getting closer and I had not gotten a contract, I reached out to the bureau agent, a seasoned pro. She delivered the odd verdict on my status as this company’s keynote speaker—not a “yes,” and not a “no.”

“She ghosted me,” she said. “You were a finalist. In fact, the contact with whom I was working indicated you were their top candidate. And then she went postal on me and completely disappeared. She will not call me back or respond to any of my emails. I would suggest you release this hold.”

Intentional Indifference

Ghosting is a relatively new word to mean intentionally ignoring someone on the other end of a communication interchange. It is an advanced form of methodical ignoring. Its origin grew out of the dating world, primarily associated with online dating sites. After an initial date, instead of courageously owning the position that “he’s just not that into you,” there is complete silence. Mental health professionals consider it a form of passive-aggressive behavior that can be viewed as emotional abuse.

Since that experience, I have noticed the emerging tendency of others to avoid taking a stand and opting to ghost. There was a time when one felt some responsibility to close the loop if someone initiated a communication, especially when there was a history with the communication initiator. The agent at the bureau had several conversations with the prospect as they together worked to find the best speaker for their event. So, it was not a stranger coming out of the blue to waste the agent’s time, nor was it a vendor seeking to sell a product she did not want.

Customers abhor indifferent service more than they hate bad service. Customers can explain away (at least in their mind) service that is mediocre or bad, chalking it up as the fault of a flawed process, ill-designed system, poor frontline training, or weak leadership—all excuses for poor service they receive. But indifference spells, “You don’t give a rat’s a_ _.” And ghosting is clearly a form of indifference. When you get ghosted, your reaction sounds like, “I left them a message but they never called me back,” “When is someone going to take our order,” or any response that causes a customer to think, “Why do they make it so hard for me to give them money?”

Landing in a Black Hole

People who ghost rationalize the practice as a tool for time management, productivity, and a means to minimize low priority distractions. But consider the perspective of the folks who are taking care of your bottom line—your customers. As a customer, how many times have you contacted a company for service and quickly realized they were using their phone as an answering machine, not as a tool for communications? How often have you labeled emails you send as “landing in a black hole”? How many times have you been passed around from Pam to Paul to Sue to Sam? These are all ghosting experiences.

Ghosting is a service disease. It is a function of laziness and/or fearfulness. It is a component of hiding and snubbing. And it creates more customer rage than anything you can do. Ghosting is a tool of avoidance—risk-averse behavior delivered by emotionally battered employees who are told to “stick to our rules” instead of “take care of our customers.” As a habit, it weakens and robs the self-esteem of those who need to be emotionally bulletproof in their frontline service performance. Left unchecked, it can engender a callous orientation and an arrogant attitude.

Stop ghosting and its insidious consequences. Free communications, even at the risk of an occasion crank call, spurious email, or time-wasting junk communication in your electronic inbox. Be kind in your communication practices. Silence is not golden when your customers are expecting a response. Be boldly honest instead of spitefully sidestepping a position. It will pay off in higher quality communication and more loyal customers.

[Opening image credit: Clker Free Vector Images 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.


Training & Development

Why Read About Reading?

Because it’s good for your health.

That’s the key message in Read ‘Em & Reap: 6 Science-Backed Ways Reading Puts You on the Road to Achieving More and Living Longer by Tom Collins. [Disclaimer: I was fortunate to review an early draft of the book.]

Collins draws on research from neurology, psychology, cognition, education, and other fields of science to affirm reading’s benefits that positively impact both physical and mental health. Chapter titles include:

    • Reading Reduces Stress
    • Helps You Sleep
    • Improves Your Decision-Making Capacity
    • Makes You a Better Leader

A quick and enjoyable read, this powerful little book offers insight on “deep reading” to find answers and/or explore problems to generate meaning. Its readers will also find an interesting discussion in the print vs. digital debate.

Why I recommend Read ‘Em & Reap

If you’re a hesitant reader, you’ll get the encouragement you need to read more with help on how to develop a proactive reading plan.

If you’re an avid reader, you’ll appreciate the book’s “tips on adding more reading to your life.”

I enjoyed this book because it affirms the benefits of reading on so many levels. I read nonfiction for work to learn more, and I read fiction for pleasure to escape. Now I’m encouraged to go beyond reading just for work and play. Read ‘Em & Reap was the jump-start I needed to expand my reading even more.


Engagement Training & Development

Leading Morale: a Boost to a Better Workplace

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

“Using emotional intelligence and showing deep human respect for employees is key. Without that, your IQ, occupational knowledge, and educational degrees mean little to employees.”  Kate Nasser

As a fellow advocate for an engaging and respectful workplace, I’ve been following Kate on social media for a while. That’s why I was thrilled to read her terrific new book, Leading Morale: The People Skills to Stop Negativity & Ignite Contributions, and interview her here.

About Kate: Known as The People Skills Coach™,  Kate Nasser is a thirty year workplace-tested consultant who continues to advise leaders and teams throughout the world on high morale and service for operational excellence. She is highly sought speaker because she brings morale issues to life and delivers solutions. In her first book, Leading Morale, she offers everyone the intersection of research and practical experience to lead morale instead of taking it for granted and scurrying to fix it later.

QSM: Please tell us why you wrote Leading Morale.

Kate:  I wrote Leading Morale because leaders weren’t doing it. They saw morale either as something that just happens (i.e. you can’t actually lead it) or cheer leading events — brief moments of appreciation — that don’t lead, build, or sustain morale.

QSM: What do you think will surprise readers the most when they read your book? 

Kate: I believe leaders will be surprised at what morale really is and how much they are influencing it. They will read insights that will stop them in their tracks and make them question what they subconsciously do. Lastly, leaders will be happily surprised at how they can easily lead morale.

QSM: In your experience, what is the biggest challenge in building and sustaining a more empowered and engaged workplace culture?

Kate: The biggest challenge is for leaders AND managers to replace their comfort of leading/managing goals to inspiring people to lead and manage their efforts to reach the goals.

QSM: I dream of an ideal world where people treat each another with genuine respect and dignity — a world where we wouldn’t need your book (no offense!). Accepting reality, however, what do you think is needed to get us closer to this ideal (beyond making your book required reading in all schools)?

Kate:  I love this question, Sybil, and I am not offended. To have a world where people treat each other with genuine respect and dignity we must:
a) Think of it as very reachable not as an ideal. As soon as we see something as an ideal, our brains tell us that we won’t get there. Some people then check out and think, well then … forget it.
b) Do it, show it, and discuss its importance daily. This is how you create a culture..
c) Politely demand it. When someone treats you disrespectfully, don’t tolerate it. Speak up civilly and say, “I treat  you with simple respect and I expect the same in return. Nothing more, nothing less.” As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So don’t consent to disrespect and indignity.

QSM: Thank you, Kate!
You can see her in action in video footage at She welcomes your questions and challenges.


Engagement Musings

Not So Different – Helping Children Understand

He’s a writer of a popular blog, a book author, and sports freak.

He’s cofounder of a growing nonprofit that helps others live better.

He’s an in-demand speaker for audiences that range from elementary schools to universities to pharmaceutical companies.

He loves to travel with his girlfriend and his family.

He’s Shane Burcaw, and his new children’s book about what it’s like living with a disability was just released. 

This book is so Shane

Based on the questions he’s typically asked (Why is your head so much bigger than the rest of your body? …  How do you play with your friends? … Do people ever make fun of you?), Shane explains how he lives with spinal muscular atrophy. He describes why and how he relies on his family and friends to help him get dressed, shower, eat, and go to the bathroom — written in his inimitable style — with humor, directness, and a positive attitude.

Shane advocates the “power of positivity” in his writing and his nonprofit, Laughing At My Nightmare, to help others better cope with stress and adversity. Shane wrote his new book to help children understand that people who look different aren’t so different after all.

So many of the social stigmas that people with disabilities face could be squashed if we were able to instill in young people the idea that we are all different; we have different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, and that’s not just okay, it’s beautiful.” 

I highly recommend Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability and have already bought several copies: one for my personal library and the others to share.

It’s a great gift idea for children, schools, and libraries.