Customer service Engagement

A Client-Inspired Wish

One of the most amazing clients I’ve had the privilege and joy of collaborating with for 25 years recently retired. I wish there were more managers like her because it would mean more engaged and productive workplaces. Let me tell you why.

Peg helped grow a successful university distance education department, having started at a time when distance education was in its infancy. She navigated the changing technology that transitioned from broadcasting live classes via satellite to online delivery of courses. [Because she isn’t comfortable with attention, I only use her first name in this post.]

To inspire others, here’s a sample of what made Peg an impressive manager.

Management approach
All jobs come with some degree of stress from conflicting goals, operational and budget issues, internal politics, etc. Acknowledging this, Peg approached her work as an ongoing challenge: “I simply focus on what needs to be done and how to make it happen. Not just to push ahead, but with concern for how it will affect customers, employees, and everyone involved.”

I saw this play out in everyday situations and in crisis. The latter was a case of “lost in space” when a satellite failed a few days before the start of a semester. Peg rallied her team to find workable options for students and client companies with minimal service disruption.

Customer-focus was another part of Peg’s success. Besides responsive customer service, she believed in client outreach and appreciation as key to building long-term relationships with students and their employers. “Our programs may be by distance, but not our relationships,” Peg was fond of saying.

Internal marketing 
Peg also focused on building relationships with employees and internal partners by:

  • investing in team members by encouraging their professional development
  • engaging employees in staff retreats for strategic planning, transition planning, and marketing planning
  • communicating and collaborating with faculty and staff to maximize program development
  • keeping employees, faculty, and administrators informed and “in the loop”
  • being accessible to and respectful of those she worked with.

Her sense of humor allowed staff to comfortably let off steam in a busy, sometimes stressful environment — another key attribute to creating an effective team and supportive office culture with minimal turnover.

I know my wish for more managers like Peg is not realistic, but I can wish for people to learn from her success.




Summer Blog Break 2018

Summer is upon us — that time of year when most people look forward to a warm weather vacation or stay-cation. While I continue to work throughout the summer, I do enjoy a brief break from blogging as a chance to relax from the pressure of posting and refresh my content ideas.

This temporary break only applies to my blog writing as I’ll still be active on LinkedIn and as @SybilQSM on Twitter sharing noteworthy content on internal marketing tools of engagement that impact the employee experience, volunteer experience, and customer experience.

I’ll be back in late August or early September with new posts. Until then, I hope you enjoy a safe and happy summer!






After Onboarding, How to Prevent the Descent into Disengagement

New employees are easy to engage given the fair amount of attention they receive at the outset. They’re likely to be welcomed with open arms and treated to meetings with executives who explain the company’s mission, vision and goals; reinforce their value to the company; and introduce them to their respective departments to meet their managers and co-workers. Knowing where they fit in the organization and how they can contribute, these new employees are anxious and eager to get started.

This level of attention wanes the longer employees are on the job, and that’s when the potential for becoming disengaged sets in due to organizational complacency; i.e., “You know what you’re supposed to do, so do it. We’ll be in touch eventually.” To illustrate, I often ask participants in my internal marketing workshops how they get reminded of their fit and value in their respective organizations. Many of them acknowledge that their job descriptions are out of date. They also admit that job-related expectations and goals are typically discussed only during the annual performance review – an event about as welcome as a root canal.

More than organizational complacency

Another contributing factor involves marketplace dynamics. Evolving customer needs, competition, financial pressures, etc., also prompt changes in company goals and strategies. Yet revised strategies and adjusted expectations of employees may not be communicated top-down to everyone in the organization. Employees know things are changing within the company – but they don’t know the reasons for it and what they’re supposed to do about it.

To learn what’s going on in the company, some employees will take the initiative to approach their managers. Over time, however, they become frustrated if they have to continually seek out company and job-related information beyond the grapevine. Other employees just hunker down as they quietly disengage.

You can avoid this situation and keep employees engaged with this basic two-pronged approach:

  • proactively share what’s happening in the company and why
  • continually reinforce employees’ alignment and fit within the organization, including how their efforts individually and collectively contribute to the bottom line.

Onboarding new groups of employees may be once-and-done, but communicating the company’s purpose, its future, and how employees can make a positive impact, is ongoing.

“Don’t make your employees guess about whether they’re doing enough or fulfilling [the company’s] expectations… Make people feel like they are in the loop,  and they’ll feel more engaged… ”
– Alan E. Hall


Engagement Marketing

Can You Treat Customers Like Employees and Employees Like Customers?

Curiosity. A hunger to explore what works and what doesn’t. Respectively challenging others’ ideas. These are among the many reasons I enjoy speaking with groups of young adults preparing for leadership roles.

I recall one such gathering that involved an open discussion on marketing. We talked about dealing with difficult customers (it’s OK to terminate a relationship with customers when there’s no longer a good fit) and engaging employees with internal marketing (how to apply marketing inside a company to educate, motivate, and engage employees to deliver the brand promise).

“Excuse me,” asked one of the attendees, “but I think you have it backwards. You talk about ‘firing’ customers as if they are employees, and you also talk about ‘marketing’ to employees as if they are customers? How can this be?”

An excellent question … and one whose answer is based on understanding customers’ and employees’ respective roles and their value to a business and each other.

Customers pay for a firm’s products/services, which means they contribute the revenue that helps pay employee salaries. No customers =  no operating income = no business = no employees.

Employees serve customers by providing the products/services offered by the firm. No employees = no business to compete in the market = no customers.

A company needs to apply both marketing and management strategies to developing positive, loyal relationships with employees and customers so it can:

  1. attract, engage, and retain the right employees who are competent and committed to serving customers, and
  2. attract, engage, and retain the right customers whose needs will be best and profitably served by employees.

The takeaway: Yes, you can market to employees and you can manage customers. Done effectively, you’ll be able to work with the best of both.

Customer service Engagement Marketing

Are You Guilty of Treating Your Customers Like Chopped Liver?

The phrase “What am I, chopped liver?” is uttered when a person is made to feel that he or she is not special. It’s exactly how some customers feel as a result of neglect by companies.

I’m seeing this scenario play out in a membership-based company that’s constantly offering special discount pricing to acquire new customers while ignoring their current ones. Those in the latter group are questioning their customer loyalty given management’s attention on attracting new business while little investment is made to improve member services and facilities. Some customers are paying fees higher than those offered to prospective customers. However, they can get a few extra months of free membership IF they help bring in new customers.

Churn, churn churn
With little confidence in the company to take care of current customers, turnover continues … as does the search for new customers. The company may not realize it, but turnover would be much greater if it weren’t for customer inertia – whether their customers are locked into annual contracts or unable to find suitable alternatives. The reality is unhappy customers who stay don’t bring in additional business.

Heavily promoting to attract new customers at the expense of taking care of existing customers is the perfect recipe for making customers feel like chopped liver. It’s also a strategy that leads to continued high turnover and brand damage. Customer churn isn’t the only issue here – employee turnover is also evident.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four steps companies can take so their customers and employees don’t feel like chopped liver.

  • Take the time to proactively engage with and listen to your current customers and respond appropriately. Consider formal customer satisfaction surveys, customer roundtables, or lost customer analysis. The latter can be as simple as asking why a customer left, although it’s better to learn of customers’ frustrations before they leave.
  • Communicate with customers. If improvements in member services and/or facilities are in the works, let them know about it. If not, let them know why and when they can expect a future fix. The absence of such transparency leads customers to speculate about the company’s health.
  • Also take time to proactively engage with and listen to your employees, and respond appropriately. Seek their input on signs of customer frustration.
  • Communicate with employees and equip them to be customer-focused. Ensure they know what’s happening so they can address customer questions and concerns. Provide with them with training to provide top-notch customer service, and in the event of a problem, equip them to deal with customer complaints and recovery.

NOT for customers only
Engagement and retention efforts shouldn’t be limited to customers — if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.

How does your company make its customers and employees feel?

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

My Top 7 Blog Posts

Reviewing my blog’s top posts over the past few years, I was surprised with the popularity of my “favorite employee engagement quotes” posts. So I’ll continue to share the best quotes on workplace engagement compiled from both current and classic articles on the subject.

Here are Quality Service Marketing’s top seven blog posts:

A special thank you to my many blog readers for your continued encouragement and support!


What Marketing is Missing

Marketing may do a great job of communicating brand value to consumers, yet it doesn’t necessarily do the same for communicating its own value within an organization. Far too often I hear marketing staff commiserate about how they struggle to get respect and buy-in for their programs, including from the areas they support such as Sales and Product Development. It’s a serious concern as all departments – individually and collectively – impact brand delivery, thus impacting Marketing’s effectiveness.

What’s missing is marketing Marketing itself — not for its own glory or credit, but for strengthening its relationship with everyone in the organization. It’s not that we don’t know what to do to market our function; it’s that we’re so busy taking care of everyone else’s marketing needs that we neglect our own.

Marketing is all fun and games … or is it?

It’s hard to be taken seriously when people associate you primarily with “fluff,” but that’s what a lot of people think about Marketing. Just because the Marketing Department occupies a place on the organizational chart doesn’t mean people know who we are or what we do.

To get other departments to better understand and support Marketing’s efforts, we need to intentionally get out of our silos and strategically market Marketing within our companies. It’s not that difficult or complicated. It’s a matter of investing the time to educate employees about marketing’s critical role within the organization — as brand steward and promoter … customer advocate  … collector and interpreter of market insight … etc. There are numerous internal marketing tools of engagement that can be used for marketing outreach and getting buy-in in for marketing initiatives.

Just like consumer or business-to-business marketing, internal marketing is not a once-and-done effort. It’s a long-term strategy that’s needed to build mutual trust, respect, and ongoing relationships between Marketing and the organization. Unless, of course, you want to be known as the “Department of Fluff.”


Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Best Job Ever! Reflecting on 2014

“To give your best is to receive the best … ” Raymond Holliwell

I’m fortunate to do work that I enjoy. This past year I had the opportunity to train managers how to strengthen employee engagement with internal marketing, facilitate planning retreats, and help marketing team members “get on the same page.” What’s most challenging is that each client presents a unique workplace culture and situation. The process of working with them to achieve positive outcomes in the context of their organizations is rewarding and a privilege I do not take lightly.

In addition to my client work, I met many fascinating folks at a variety of conferences. Highlights of this past year’s speaking engagements include:

  • Asomercadeo’s International Marketing Congress – I traveled to Medellin, Colombia, to share internal marketing practices with South American marketing colleagues.
  • BlogPaws – For the second time I participated in this special gathering of people who are passionate about animal welfare; my workshop there was designed to help rescue/shelter volunteers and staff better understand nonprofit marketing.
  • Volunteers in Medicine – I was truly inspired by this dedicated group of healthcare professionals and volunteers driven to improve health care access for the under-served and under-insured  in their local communities; in multiple sessions we discussed how to strengthen volunteer and board engagement.

Here’s to a new year of new opportunities and challenges and why it will be another successful year:

“The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hope you find similar success in 2015!


Engagement Marketing

Summer Blog Break 2014

After an extremely busy six months of speaking engagements and client work, it’s time for my annual blog break. I find summer is the perfect time to clear my head, catch up on a backlog of reading (preferably outside in the sunshine), and stimulate new content marketing ideas.

This is only a temporary break from blogging. I’m working on several client and writing projects this summer and will continue to stay active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media networks. Until I return to blogging in mid-late August, you can find many great current and archived posts on:

Have a happy and safe summer!

Engagement Marketing

Internal Marketing Goes South

I was honored to be one of three speakers from the U.S. invited to participate in the 6th International Marketing Congress: Marketing from the Inside, hosted by Asomercadeo, the Colombian Marketing Association. My Atlanta-based colleagues, Debra Semans and Ron Strauss, and I journeyed to Medellin, Colombia, recently to share our perspectives on internal marketing and internal branding. Stershic presentation at AsomercadeoMore than 400 business professionals gathered at the Congress to focus on the strategic impact of internal marketing in organizations “where there is a synergy between the areas of marketing, communications, human resources, and senior management.” Speakers addressed the elements of employee engagement, corporate culture, corporate social responsibility, marketing’s relationship within the organization, and leadership on brand-building.

For me, the highlight of this conference was learning that the core business concepts that my North American-based marketing colleagues and I advocate are becoming more universal in practice. This revelation was reinforced in the following themes repeated frequently during the conference:

  • People are the central axis of a company.
  • Employees and customers need to feel valued.
  • Organizational culture nourishes the brand.
  • Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, Finance, and all other areas of an organization need to work together as a team.
  • CEOs talk about human capital, but few actively engage them.

Another highlight of the trip was experiencing the ultimate in southern hospitality. Cristina Jaramillo Lopera, Academic Leader of the International Marketing Congress, and Asomercadeo’s leaders and event staff were most welcoming and accommodating. Truthfully, I was apprehensive about traveling to Medellin given the area’s reputation and that fact that I don’t speak Spanish. Cristina graciously hosted us on a wonderful tour of Medellin. The city and country-side are truly beautiful; the city is also aptly recognized as Innovative City of the Year.  I was impressed with its public access to arts & culture. The strong sense of pride that residents and businesses have in Medellin and Colombia is palpable. And I look forward to returning someday.