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.]


Pathetic Tales from the Clueless in Charge

Incredulous but true. Here are several examples of the absurd-in-action from the executive suite.

  • A colleague who works in sales shared that her employer is undergoing massive changes and consolidation. Besides reducing staff and increasing the remaining employees’ workload, management also lowered sales commissions while raising sales goals.
  • At a staff meeting the head of a small organization announced the company was outsourcing its IT work — without having first told or consulted with the person responsible for the in-house IT function.
  • A CEO invested in a senior management team retreat where everyone, including the CEO, committed to agreed-upon behaviors to improve team efficiency and effectiveness. Several months later, the team found that everyone except the CEO was living up to their commitments.
  • The president of an well-respected ad agency called a staff meeting to announce a “merger of equals” with a firm that was much bigger and actually acquiring the smaller agency. It was news to the staff including several of the agency’s senior partners who had not been told their agency was being shopped. It was also news to the retired CEO and founder who kept an office and secretary in the agency but was out of town when the meeting was held. He learned of the deal when it hit the newspapers.
  • A CEO, who complained about wasting time in a company-wide email, made everyone wait for him on an all-hands call before cancelling it 25 minutes later. While he never acknowledged his actions (contrary to his pet-peeve), he continued to complain about employees wasting time.
Call the executives/decision-makers in these situations by whatever words fit: clueless, unrealistic, inept, [fill-in-the-blank with your own description]. Whatever you choose to describe them, they are also major contributors to employee frustration, disengagement, and burnout.
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]


True Confessions: I’m Tired of Employee Engagement

I started working on employee engagement long before the “e” word came into vogue, and I’m tired of it. Here’s why.

Overused as a business buzzword, the term “employee engagement” has become meaningless. It gets talked about in executive suites and management meetings, yet few companies actually do anything about it because too much effort is required to change a culture that needs fixing and artificial attempts in a cultural vacuum only make the situation worse.

As a result, I’m just plain tired of:

  • the endless rhetoric and discussions that go nowhere
  • the naysayers who don’t think engagement matters
  • executives frustrated with engagement because it’s not a quick fix.

Employee engagement 1.0 and beyond
When I started Quality Service Marketing more than 30 years ago, my work involved helping clients gain employee commitment to marketing and organizational goals. Managers wanted to know how to get employees motivated and willing to work with them to take care of customers.

Engagement’s scope has evolved since then to recognize that employee and employer each bear responsibility for it. Employees need to show up to work ready, willing, and able to do their best, and employers need to provide a workplace where employees are respected, trusted, and eager to do their best.

Work and workplace expectations have also changed. Employees want meaningful work with flexibility and fair pay. And while some companies proactively engage them as valuable partners, too many still consider them as labor to be manipulated in response to short-term market pressures.

That’s the main reason I’m frustrated with employee engagement. We haven’t fully transitioned from the industrial age of management control over employees-as-commodities to a better model of management with employees-as-respected-partners sharing in responsibility and ownership of results.

Not ready to give up
Despite my frustrations, I’m encouraged when I meet with employees who tell me how great their employers and workplace cultures are. Ditto when I hear and read about successful organizations where employee-care is as important as customer-care.

Despite the clueless-in-charge, there are still leaders out there who value their employees and genuinely want to do better with and by them. So I’m not giving up – because people matter and they deserve better.

[Image credit: photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash]


How to Respond When Your Best Employees Quit – Guest Post

[Note: Following up How To Avoid Losing Your Best Employees, Meredith Wood shares the warning signs of when employees are getting ready to leave and how to respond when they do.]

U.S. workers are also quitting their jobs more than ever before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In October 2018, over 2% of the total working population (some 3.5 million people!) voluntarily quit or resigned from their positions. 

Change is inevitable, so if your top employee does resign, don’t panic. Also resist the urge to counter-offer because that employee is still 80% likely to leave within six months. Here are other valuable tips from Fundera in this infographic on what to do upon receiving notice that your best employee is leaving.

So Your Best Employee Just Quit... Now What?


3 Creative Ways to Make New Employees Feel Welcome

[Note: I’m pleased to feature this guest post from Rosemary McKee, Account Manager at Rocket Badge, a quality-certified ISO9001 company serving the U.K. With more than 22 years of experience, McKee shares what managers can do to enhance the new employee experience.]

As a hiring manager, your goal is to make new hires feel welcome, valued and part of the team from the moment they say yes, I accept! This is the perfect opportunity to extend a sincere welcome to new employees and promote your company culture.

Taking steps early on to create a structured, thoughtful onboarding process can vastly improve staff retention rates and enhance employee satisfaction, ultimately saving you precious time and money in the long run. Not only a resource-saving measure, implementing a thoughtful onboarding process welcomes new employees, boosts morale and contributes to a positive company culture as a whole.

In this post, we share our top three creative ideas to maximise your onboarding efforts in a way that is easy, fun, and cost-effective.

  1. Create a ‘Welcome’ Package

Adding a pre-start package to your onboarding process is a great way to welcome new employees before they’ve even stepped foot in the office. Take the time to craft a creative, personalised pre-start package jam-packed with goodies that welcome your new hire and reflect your brand identity. The key here is to keep it relevant, on-brand and on-budget. Prioritise functional, wearable items such as tote bags, t-shirts or badges that your new employee will use and enjoy well into the future.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and include wackier items that are a little more out there, too. Alongside the tried-and-tested pens, pins and stationery combo, Salesforce gifts new employees fun items like a nifty nerf gun. This mix of practical, personal development items with kooky gifts reflects their out of the ordinary company culture and emphasises their focus on fun.

Source: Dribble

Another effective strategy is to take the conceptual route and create an impactful package themed around your brand’s identity. Payments company Square have designed a novel pre-start package themed around the company’s core values: ‘The Four Corners of a Square’. The contents of the sleek black box includes a square-shaped pamphlet explaining the set of principles, a Square credit-card swiper, a notepad and a copy of the founder’s favourite business-savvy book, ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right.’ Each item is useful, well-designed and helps tell the brand’s story.

  1. Gamify Your Onboarding Process

Adding a gaming element to your onboarding process is a great way to make new employees feel welcome, build long-lasting interpersonal relationships and break the ice on their daunting first day. This could be as simple as holding a quick-fire quiz in the team’s new starter welcome meeting, organising a scavenger hunt around the office or even setting up a life-size version of the childhood classic ‘Guess Who’ game!

The possibilities really are endless, and can be scaled to suit any size and budget. If you’re struggling for ideas, try reaching out to team members for their input. What could have been done differently to make their first day even better? This is a great way to generate some fresh ideas and involve existing staff in the onboarding process. Why not ramp up the competition even further and get the whole office involved on the day itself, buddying up new employees with more experienced colleagues. This takes the heat off the new hires and contributes to a wider positive working environment.

With lots of information to absorb in those crucial first few days of on-boarding, adding a gaming element can also help with information retention and avoid brain-overload! Project management gurus ProofHub ‘gamified’ their onboarding process with a virtual treasure hunt, making their new-hire’s information-heavy first day of training fun and memorable. The new starter has to scavenge for clues hidden in different areas of ProofHub’s online software, such as tasks, notes, or on individual’s profiles. This is a fun and novel way of familiarising new staff from the get-go with the software they’ll need to know inside-out.

  1. Outfit the Workstation

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression! Kitting out your new employee’s workstation with personalised, branded swag is another great way to start building a positive connection to the company and set the foundation for a stellar first day. This should include all the practical tools they’ll need to hit the ground running, and some extra touches too!

Some effective and cost-friendly items include branded pens, notepads, mugs, laptop stickers and mousepads. A simple gesture such as personalising your new employee’s mug with their name, initials or team mascot goes a long way to creating a welcoming experience and integrating them into the company. It also helps avoid awkward office kitchen mug stand-offs!

Get inspired and think outside the box- make sure their first day is a welcoming and memorable experience that they’ll want to shout about for years to come. One clever and creative idea is to gift new employees a branded desk plant, cactus or succulent. They’re eco-friendly, unique and brighten up the office!

Encourage newbies to get snap-happy and share pictures of their new greenery on your company’s intranet, or using your brand’s hashtag on social media. This is a great opportunity to create engaging content for your social channels and showcase your instagram-worthy office! Take this one step further and incorporate social media into your onboarding process by introducing your new starter with their new company goodies across your social pages. This is a great opportunity to promote your employer brand on social sites like Linkedin and build buzz for your brand.

Incorporating a thoughtful onboarding process is a critical component of smart hiring, and essential for any successful business today, no matter the size or industry. So, what are you waiting for… choose one of the ideas above to get started on the road to maximising your onboarding plan today!


“You’re facilitating with what … ?!”

I’m proud to announce that I’m now a Certified Facilitator in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

That’s right, I can help companies “solve real problems in real time in 3D” using specially selected LEGO® bricks.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a proven methodology based on extensive research from the fields of business, psychology, learning, and organizational development. It uses the power of “hand knowledge” that leverages the hand-brain connection: research shows the hands are connected to 70-80% of our brain cells. Using the neural connections in our hands, we can better “imagine, describe, and make sense of situations, initiate change and improvement, and even create something new.”

Participants engaged in this innovative approach “lean-in” to deal with business challenges in a safe environment. “Thinking through their fingers,” participants are fully engaged and empowered to unleash “insight, inspiration, and imagination.”

When is it helpful to use LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®?

Here is a sample of situations in which it works. Use it when you:

  • Are dealing with a complex challenge/issue that has no clear answers
  • Need to grasp the bigger picture, identify connections, and explore options/solutions
  • Want participants to equally contribute their respective knowledge and opinions on a topic/issue – with 100% engaged participation.

Its application is customized to each organization’s unique situation.

I’m excited to share this new addition to my facilitator tool kit. If your team or organization is ready to discover new insights and uncover fresh perspectives, let’s talk.




Workplace Engagement: an Inspired Strategy

We know that people can show up for work fully engaged only to have their enthusiasm and energy chipped away over time; i.e., once engaged doesn’t mean always engaged.

That’s because numerous factors contribute to one’s engagement levels that include an employee’s personal situation (involving health, family, financial well-being, and support systems) and his/her workplace situation (the nature of the job, resources available, company culture, trust, etc.). This means individuals and the organizations they work for share responsibility for engagement: employees need to show up ready, willing, and able to do their best work in a positive environment in which management fully supports employees’ efforts to do their best.

I’ve worked with many people who are committed to doing their best regardless of personal challenges. Whether or not they’re able to maintain their engagement, however, depends on leadership and management effectiveness.

“The willingness of the employee culture can’t be demanded; it can only be inspired. … employee management is only the illusion of control. On their own, people will decide how tightly they’ll embrace a new strategy. Their decision will be affected by whether they’re inspired to do well, whether they have a role model of good performance, and whether they get reinforcement for their performance.” Stan Slap

An engaged workplace is not only inspired, it’s also intentional.

[Image courtesy of]


Employee Engagement Killer

Have you ever found yourself in one of these situations?

  • Without warning, your position is eliminated due to restructuring
  • Your job security is at the mercy of company or government politics
  • Your job responsibility is minimized as a result of a management change or merger
  • Your competence and performance – reflected in stellar job evaluations – is questioned by a new boss.

Few people I know have been untouched by these situations. Their experience (and mine) leads me to describe the killer of employee engagement as “extraction” –  i.e., “Let’s wring as much as possible out of employees until we no longer need them.”

“Don’t take it personally”

Company decision-makers and/or those delivering the bad news try to rationalize “It’s just business” so employees don’t take their dismissal to heart. But how can people feel otherwise with the pain of losing one’s job, credibility, or work identity? Those left behind wondering “who’s next?” can’t help but feel at risk.

Several people close to me have experienced this pain. Here’s what they – and anyone who is feeling undervalued in the course of “it’s-just-business” – need to keep in mind:

“Your inherent value stands regardless of others’ decisions. You are not a victim of your circumstances.”

Engagement Marketing

HR Pro’s Name Favorites in the “Cartoon Employee Hall of Fame”

[With Employee Appreciation Day approaching, I’m delighted to share this special post from my friends at myHR Partner. These HR professionals are serious about their work, yet also have a great sense of humor. I encourage you to visit their Modern Employer blog where you can find helpful and informative content.]

myHR Partner’s Cartoon Employee Hall of Fame

In recognition of Employee Appreciation Day, which falls on March 1st this year, we would like to share our first Cartoon Employee Hall of Fame. It’s a short list right now, but we’ve included our expert commentary to make it special. We’ve also included suggestions for what to do to celebrate your workforce on their special day in honor of these inductees. Enjoy!

The Simpsons © 20th Century Fox.

Homer Simpson
With famous quotes like “Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers” and “I think Smithers picked me because of my motivational skills. Everyone says they have to work a lot harder when I’m around,” how could we not recognize Homer’s influence on legions of employees who seek to improve their work habits and have been encouraged to realize that at least they are not as bad as that guy.

Our HR commentary: Watching Homer Simpson at work, you have to wonder “Who the heck was that guy’s hiring manager?” Can you imagine what kind of antics would have turned up on his background check? The show’s writers are missing out on comic gold by not covering that in an episode. Talk about a company in need of help with its hiring process!
           Employee Appreciation Day idea inspired by Mr. Simpson: Donut buffet.

SpongeBob Squarepants © Viacom International

SpongeBob Square Pants
SpongeBob loves his job as a short order cook at the Krusty Krab, and he’s good at it, too. We salute his positive attitude and work ethic, although his mannerism and overly outward personality can at times feel like an assault on the senses. What he lacks in workplace etiquette he does make up for in song-and-dance routines, however. Because he doesn’t ever intentionally mean to annoy anyone, it’s funny to us. For Squidward, not so much.

Our HR commentary: Could you have a more energetic or optimistic employee? That type of enthusiasm in the workplace is definitely needed — in moderation, of course. When it begins to become a distraction to his coworkers, that’s when a constructive conversation should occur. Maybe Mr. Krabs could conduct such conversations 2,000 leagues under the sea.
          Employee Appreciation Day idea inspired by the square-pantsed one: Karaoke and line dancing lunch hour.

Mike Wazowski and Sully
In a world where monsters generate their city’s power by opening random doors and scaring children, the Monsters Inc. team of Mike Wazowski and Sully are the undisputed company champs. They always bring in the most screams and are hailed by management as the greatest thing since sliced bread. They are good guys and dedicated workers and deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their achievements, including induction into our Hall of Fame.

Monsters, Inc. © Pixar, The Walt Disney Company

Our HR commentary: Mike and Sully rock, there’s no doubt, but their rock star status might have inadvertently worked against the larger team they belonged to at the company. Even putting creepy, evil Randall aside, when team leaders focus too much on just the brightest shining gems in the company, they miss out on the diamonds in the rough. Missing opportunities to build up the rest of your team can really stifle growth, create internal resentment and discourage other talented employees.
          Employee Appreciation Day idea inspired by Monsters Inc.’s most famous duo: Door prizes, of course.

The Flintstones © Hanna Barbera

Fred Flintstone
The world’s most famous prehistoric “bronto crane operator” (we believe the more politically correct title “geological engineer”) is anything but your typical quarry employee. He works at Slate Rock and Gravel Company, and even though his boss, Mr. Slate, has fired him on many occasions, Fred’s better work traits always seem to win him his job back at the end.

Our HR commentary: Fred Flintstone may be loveable but he is definitely the kind of employee who needs help keeping his emotions in check on the job. If you have a lot of Freds on your team, you probably should have training for managers on how to work with “drama queens” and other distracting personalities, as well as some team training on how to communicate more effectively.
          Employee Appreciation Day idea inspired by our favorite caveman: Company bowling tournament.

The Jetsons © Hanna Barbera

George Jetson
He works at Spacely’s Sprockets turning the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (R.U.D.I.) on and off. It’s reassuring to know that in the future a nine-hour workweek full of button pushing may be the norm. We must also admit that the we like the idea of someday being able to come home from the office to find that housework consists of pressing more buttons, when it’s not being done by a robotic maid, of course.

Our HR commentary: More than 50 years after ‘The Jetsons’ first aired on TV, there are still so many workplace communication issues in those episodes that are relevant. Email, texting, social media and other technological advances haven’t cured the problems. In some cases these modern conveniences have actually made the communication problem worse. One accidental reply-all email or ill-worded voicemail can make you want to just scream “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!” 
     Employee Appreciation Day idea inspired by the Mr. Spacely’s star button pusher: This is a tough one. Maybe a ’60s inspired lunch theme and serve moon pies all around?