The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for March, 2015

To our Customers…

Recently, I wondered whether modern technology was actually making Customer Service worse (see ).  Well, it has been said:

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. 

Dale Carnegie

So, to avoid seeming foolish, permit me to share a few thoughts about how we can improve Customer Service vs. just complaining about it.

If we come in contact of any kind with our customers, we are customer service representatives of our companies.  In Ernie Humphrey’s recent post, “CFOs: True Customer Service is a Competitive Advantage” (see ) he suggests that CFO’s should not only support the delivery of great customer service – they should own it!

Permit me to add to Ernie’s list of how to leverage customer service as a competitive advantage:

  1. Attitude – Everything starts with attitude. Let’s check our problems at the door; Customer Service is about addressing our client’s problems. And yes, when they call they will be calling with a complaint never a compliment.  And yes, they will likely be grumpy so be prepared.  And yes, our Unknown Sage reminds us:

The customer may not always be right, but the customer is not the enemy.

Let me pause and applaud John Hanson, Owner of Infinity Logo Solutions.  John’s provides my wife’s company the most stellar customer service I have ever seen!  Every time she calls – he returns her call, promptly.  Every technical issue she runs into – he either helps resolve, or if he can’t he guides her to the person who can.  Every time she needs him to come on-site for a repair – he responds cheerfully, whether the service issue was her fault; a warranty fault; or no body’s fault.  Every time – even on weekends.  His customer service attitude is stellar!

  1. Anticipation – Just like our children, if they don’t get the answer they’re looking for from Mom; they’re going to ask Dad.

CS_Dept_Cartoon (1)Yes, we sales types do exaggerate on occasion.  So let’s everybody get over it.  We should anticipate that the customer sometimes exaggerates the sales rep’s exaggerations.  It’s our job to return the dialog back to reality – just like Mom.

  1. Technology – Yes, I said it; we should use technology to help us deliver excellent customer service. With email, cell phone, IM and social media, our goal should be “Near-Real-Time-Response”; even if it’s bad news:

Bad news does not improve with age. 

D. Michael Abrashoff

And let’s use voice mail to improve customer communication, OK?

Standard Greeting – “I’m on the phone or away from my desk”… 

OK Captain Obvious, can we be any more vague?  How about adding “for Monday” or whatever the day is so they know we were at least in the vicinity of our voice mail today?  And if we’re actually out of the office how about adding the next date/time we plan to listen to messages?

BTW with my voice mail greeting, I’m never “in a meeting”; customers hate it when we’re “in a meeting”.  I’m only “with another customer” or “out of the office”.  The customer is still unhappy, but at least I didn’t add fuel to their fire by being “in a meeting”.

If we’re good at customer service – they will call us more frequently, so be ready.  When they call us less frequently – they’ve given up hope; they’re abandoning us (which of course is how customers ultimately fire us).

So here’s to our customers who call us for service:

The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer. 


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Does that number bring some special meaning to mind?  Maybe the number of Girl Scout cookies you purchased (or ate) this year?  Was it the ending number of the 99 beers left on the wall from St. Patrick’s Day?  Perhaps it’s the page length of your 2014 income tax return?  (Or, the percentage of take home pay left to us once all of our taxes and deductions are deducted!)

As baseball’s spring training season begins, Wikipedia reminds us that Jackie Robinson and the number 42 are forever linked:

Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, MLB “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.

Maybe someone in your family wore number 42 when they played basketball or football?  According to  the Top 10 Facts about the number 42 include:

#1   The Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guanyin, is sometimes depicted as having 42 arms.

#4   There are 42 dots on a pair of dice.

#7   Forty-two per cent of the London Underground is under ground.

The number 42 definitely brings something special to my mind this year.  You see tomorrow is my 42nd wedding anniversary.

Our favorite, Unknown Sage once said,

Life can be measured by the number of moments that take your breath away.

Based on that metric I have enjoyed a very, full-measured life.  It’s actually been longer and even more full-measured than 42 years.  That’s because we met in the 7th grade; became sweethearts in high school; and wed in 1973; 42 years ago.  She still takes my breath away!

I’ve written about my wife frequently.  It’s fun to share our joy.  Oh, we’ve had our ups and downs like any couple in a long-term relationship.  I think we communicate well, but I’m still learning life’s key lessons – if not from my wife then back to our Unknown Sage:

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

Communication of course, can be a bit tricky.  Somehow I must have benefited from Harlan Miller’s advice:

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving three or four things a day unsaid.

Over the years like so many couples we have changed our residence; changed our lifestyles; changed our interests.  Maybe it was the fact that for several years I was a business road warrior and out of town often?  As one of my colleagues said:

The secret to a long marriage is a husband that travels. 

Lisa Kwiecien

My wife comes from a family of long-lasting marriages.  I knew her parents and her maternal grandparents well.  Her sisters have had long and successful marriages; my brother, too.  My Mom and Dad would have enjoyed a long-lasting marriage if not for the cancer that took my Mom’s life while she was still young.

Many of you are in a long-lasting relationship; many have been married longer than we.  A Mile High Salute!

Are long-lasting relationships difficult to maintain?  Maybe.  Perhaps we would agree in Harold Nicholson’s revelation:

The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.

When we find that special person, we don’t think it’s difficult do we?  Often times the thing that matters most is simple and obvious:

Love is a rock against the wind. 

Etheridge Knight 

Happy 42nd Anniversary Dear.  I love you!


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Making matters worse…

Recently I offered research suggesting technology is actually making us stupid (see ).  Last week, while enjoying a delightful discussion about rapidly responding to customers’ requests it dawned on me:

Is today’s technology actually making Customer Service matters worse, too?

One would expect that technology should be making us smarter and better vs. dumber and worser, true?  Welcome to the Department of Unintended Consequences.

Permit me to offer an example.  A while ago I needed to fly to Austin for a client engagement.  It was one week after I had elbow surgery.  Since my arm was set in a cast at a right angle, I was concerned about my seat assignment on Frontier Airlines.  It was one of those online reservations that indicated my seat would be assigned at the gate.  This of course meant, “You’ll be lucky if we give you a center seat Pal.”  I envisioned my elbow sticking out in the face of the person next to me.  Their automated reservation message made matters worse.

Worried, I called Frontier Airlines’ Customer Service line to see if they might acknowledge my situation and offer an accommodation.  The Automated Call Directory front-end to their Customer Service line said they were experiencing unusually high call volumes and my wait time might be long.  This of course meant, “We really don’t want to talk about your problem Pal.  Send us an email that we can ignore.”  Their ACD made matters worse.

Nonetheless, I’m a Modern Man – I stayed on hold and multi-tasked (as they were probably doing) until someone finally took my call.  The conversation was brief, and went along the usual making matter worse lines we have all been exposed to before:

How to Manage an Irate Client Call:

“I’m sorry you’re so upset.  I really feel your pain.  No, I don’t think we can fix the problem.  No, you can’t get your money back.  Well, I am the supervisor.  Let me transfer you to Mr. Dial Tone…” 

Unknown Sage

Being put-off by their lack of empathy, this Modern Man did what many of us do in today’s smart phone era:  I went to Facebook and screamed like a banshee!

Wouldn’t you know it?  Within a few minutes I received a very nice Facebook response from an anonymous Frontier Airlines person offering to help!  And the very nice, anonymous, Facebook person proceeded to pull invisible strings and gave me a window seat to accommodate my needs.

You might conclude that because of this very quick, Facebook response that my overall experience with Frontier Airlines’ Customer Service was positive.  It wasn’t.

Look – if we have to face Automated Call Directory trees designed to loop us through a corn maze until we give up; if we have to speak with some non-empowered Rep reading from an automated screen script that pops up depending on the category of our issue; if we have to rely on social media and screaming like a banshee every time we seek Customer Service; then at the end of this technology-laden, time-consuming; automated, impersonal experience, we will be worse off.

So though I no longer consider Frontier Airlines a viable travel option and would rather take Amtrak; and yes – I highlighted a travel experience knowing we all have our own horror stories.  The reality is this technology-laden, automated, impersonal approach to Customer Dis-Service all too often permeates all of our businesses; many of our own attitudes; and – IMHO – today’s technology is making matters worse.

Yours truly – the screaming banshee.


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C = E³ + Rᵑ

Yes, yes, you’re right – I wrote a little ditty recently poking fun at the mathematicians in our B2B sales profession (see ).  So, what’s with today’s formula?

Well, I was asked recently by a colleague why I was willing to meet with him monthly and offer coaching as he pursues a career change from high school teacher to financial planner.  It was one of those questions that caused me to pause and ask myself, “Why am I willing to coach him?”

Which relates to related questions such as:

  • “What does the coach get from coaching?”
  • “How does a good coach get better at coaching?”
  • “If you had the choice between playing or coaching, which would you choose?”
  • And, “What’s the difference among coaching, managing, and leading in today’s business world?”

Stimulated by my colleague, I reflected on these questions.  (Truth be told – I think he thinks there’s a catch to my coaching.)

Believe it or not, as it turns out the easiest way for me to wrap my mind around the discussion is with a formula.  (Mea culpa, mathematicians!)

Coaching = (Empathy x Emulation x Echo) + Repetitionᵑ         

(Lots of Repetition)

So here I am coaching my colleague and since our business relationship is in its infancy, he runs my coaching points past his Manager in order to triangulate what I think with what he thinks with what his Manager thinks as he endeavors to build his portfolio of clients.  (Truthfully, I think his Manager thinks there’s a catch to my coaching offer, too.)

Perhaps one reason why he’s open to meeting with me is the first “E” of my formula: Empathy.

When I entered the sales profession back in the day, I was totally uncomfortable with cold-calling; totally clueless about presenting; I didn’t know how to overcome objections.  I wasn’t alone.  I too had to learn how to master all of these skills in order to succeed.  So I can certainly empathize with his career change challenges.

Emulation?  That’s a “gift”.  You see, I have made a career of analyzing how buyers buy.  As Rick Page said in his best-selling book, Hope is Not a Strategy©:

Sell the way the customer buys and allocate your resources accordingly.

Echo?  Thank you Dr. Rick Jensen.  I met Dr. Rick in circa 1998 when he was a practicing sports psychology coach on the PGA tour.  One of his “patients” was none other than Tiger Woods.  Although Tiger was a better golfer than Dr. Rick (dah!) – he still gained great value (and significantly improved his competitive results) by having a psychology coach on his team.

You see, Dr. Rick provided a perfect mirror for Tiger to “see” his mental approach to his game.  And with this “reflection” Tiger could gain confidence that what he was doing was in fact what he wanted to do.

Like Dr. Rick; I try to be the mirror of today’s “Modern Buyer”.

Rah yes, Rᵑ.  Repetition – lots of repetition – never ending, professional repetition (aka “practice”).  And the best way to practice?  With a coach.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way.  Back in the Middle Ages, Attila the Hun was not exactly renowned as a great coach, leading great practice sessions.  His hordes had to learn from trial and error:

Huns learn less from success than they do from failure. 

Wess Roberts

The problem with that approach in the 21st century is we don’t have many hordes of Huns who can afford to learn from error, true?


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