Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Sharing Experience to Pay It Forward

“With age comes wisdom” … and wrinkles.

As a long-time solopreneur with a start in the corporate world, I’m fortunate to have more wisdom than wrinkles.

I’m also fortunate to have the opportunity to share what I learned along the way with career coach and podcast host, Deborah Brown-Volkman.

We covered a lot of ground in our 23 minute conversation that included:

  • the backstory of how I came to focus on internal marketing as a niche
  • my framework to effectively engage employees to engage customers
  • how my work evolved to include LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

I also shared one of the most important lessons I learned early on in my business – a lesson that can be helpful to any starting solopreneur.

Listen to our conversation here:

Special thanks to Deborah for the opportunity to share my experience as a way to “pay it forward to the next generation.”

[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]
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 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.


Customer service Engagement Training & Development

What’s Reflected in Your Brand Mirror?

To hold on to your customers amid strong competition, it’s important to provide a positive customer experience. But where do you begin?

You start from the inside out with the employee experience because the way employees feel is the way customers will feel – and if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers. 

Picture the relationship between the two as a mirror. If employees are frustrated by company policy or internal politics, their attitudes can be reflected in their dealings with customers. Who wants to be served by employees who feel hassled or ready to disengage? It takes only one or two such encounters before a customer goes elsewhere. And who knows how many other customers will hear of their experience?

What do you see when looking into your company’s employee-customer brand mirror?

  • a shiny reflection of positive experiences with your internal and external brand?
  • a blurred image that needs polishing to be more employee- and customer-focused? or
  • a cracked image opening up opportunities for your competitors?

Three keys to creating a positive and polished brand reflection:

  • Proactively pay attention and listen to employees to better understand their experience in your workplace; e.g., employee surveys, management by wandering around, engagement discussions, exit interviews, etc. Do your employees have the tools, resources, and information they need to effectively serve customers?
  • Based on what you learn from listening to them, involve employees in improving business operations to better care for customers and each other.
  • If your organization is in transition or stressed with limited resources, positively acknowledge those who rally the energy and enthusiasm to serve customers and co-workers despite the situation.

If you need a reminder :

“There is no way to deliver a great customer experience with miserable employees.”  Steve Cannon

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”  Stephen R. Covey

[Image credit: Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash]


Summer Blog Break 2019

July and August are a time to invest in sunscreen to avoid sunburn. For me, it’s also a time to invest in a break to avoid blogging burnout.

I enjoy this special time to step back from the pressure of posting. But it’s not a total vacation as I’ll be working this summer to help clients with their facilitation and training needs while continuing to stay active on Twitter (@SybilQSM), LinkedIn, and other social media.

In the meantime, I invite you to explore this blog with its abundance of evergreen content on improving employee, volunteer, and customer care with internal marketing tools of engagement.

Have a happy and safe summer!

[Image: photo by Anna Demianenko on Unsplash]