Category Archives: Leadership

Joseph Michelli: What’s the Purpose of Your Business?

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones.

Believing in this mantra for years, as an avid reader of the books by Dr. Joseph Michelli, I have learned so much about delivering the World’s Best Customer Experience through his insight starting with his book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary. Having had a long career in hospitality, I especially learned from Dr. Michelli’s The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton. I was fortunate to have Dr. Michelli write a blog post about his book, Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

Ever since the beginning of last year, all of us have had to endure this pandemic. But rather than learn from our own personal leadership experiences on how to survive, I recommend Dr. Michelli’s most recent book, Stronger through Adversity. In it, he provides invaluable wisdom and lessons from senior business executives on how to lead through and beyond COVID-19, including crisis management, keeping employees and customers safe, maintaining a culture of engagement, rapidly innovating, and more.  So it is a real privilege for me to feature such a timely post from him. You can find out more about Dr. Michelli and his new book at the end of his post. 

 

Before I begin, I want to thank Bill for his thought leadership in customer experience elevation and his longstanding support of others like me.

Whether you are launching a business, seeking to grow a startup, or stewarding an established company, it’s worthwhile to pause occasionally and answer a fundamental question. What is the purpose of my business? This was especially the case in the context of the pandemic. 

If your answer to that question was anything other than “to create a customer,” you may want to read on.

It’s common for entrepreneurs and business leaders to think they are in business to “create profit”; however, I’d argue you are in business to “create a customer” – since there is no profit without them. Ironically, prioritizing profits can actually lead to business decisions that drive customers away.

As a consultant to organizations of all sizes (from startups to global enterprises like Mercedes-Benz or Starbucks), I’ve learned that “customer creation” (attracting and retaining them) is a simple matter of value! 

For my book Stronger Through Adversity, I spoke to more than 140 plus CEO’s and C-suite executives to garner insights on how they create value for their team members and customers in the context of the pandemic. 

Their insights reinforce six key components of creating and exchanging customer value to drive success in good times and bad:

  1. Explore value: Understand the wants and needs of your consumers.
  2. Create value: Craft solutions to address your consumers’ needs.
  3. Market value: Communicate the benefits of your solutions to your consumers. 
  4. Sell value: Help consumers find sufficient value in your offerings so they will provide something of value to you in return (e.g., make a purchase).
  5. Deliver value: Ensure your consumers receive the value you promised.
  6. Prosper through value efficiency: Deliver value economically to sustain and grow your business (or else you have a hobby).

I will concede that my value formula is a lot easier to capture on paper than it is to deliver in day-to-day operation, so let me offer a few questions to help you ensure you are on the right track:

  • What have you done to uncover your target customer’s stated and unstated wants and needs (market research)?  
  • How do you know your products/services will meet a sizable need (focus groups/beta testing)?
  • How can you gain access to the customer segments that will find your solutions attractive (targeted marketing strategies)?
  • What benefits, attributes or experiential elements of your product/service are you emphasizing during your sales process (sales tool development and training)?
  • How are you ensuring that your customers receive the value every time they interact with you – no excuses (service skill tools and customer experience design)?
  • Have you tested pricing options to guarantee you are maximizing profitability to fuel your sustainability (pricing optimization)?

Large businesses benefit from individual departments that focus on all elements of value creation and delivery while smaller businesses benefit from being closer to their customers.  In all cases, the businesses that faired best throughout the pandemic were those that most nimbly pivoted to address the changing wants, needs, and desires of those they serve. 

In keeping with lessons from Stronger Through Adversity, may you continually and adaptively pursue value that results in customers’ creation, profits, and growth!  

You can learn more about Stronger Through Adversity and get your copy here.

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the total customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives. Find out more about him at josephmichelli.com . Follow him on Twitter @josephmichelli

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Three Low Cost Ways to Improve Customer Service

Thank them jpeg

Recently in a LinkedIn  group, one of the members asked the following question: “The global economy is slowing down, but you’ve been asked to do the impossible: Control costs AND improve customer service experience. How can you do it?” While I commented within the group, LinkedIn limited the space allowed for the response so I wanted to elaborate here.

Here are three low cost ways that have worked for me in improving customer service.

Create a Customer Satisfaction Investigation (CSI) team. Isn’t it criminal to take a customer’s money and then not deliver to meet his expectations?  This team, with at least one representative from every department, should meet at least once a week to review customer feedback.  Like a CSI team, the purpose of the team is to review all the details of each negative customer experience to see if they can find out why it happened. If you do not have a survey process, ask your employees to document and forward any complaint to the CSI team. For every customer who complains, 26 others didn’t say anything (Lee Resource, Inc.) and simply walked away. No one can afford that kind of customer churn. Once identified, work fast to eliminate the dissatisfier. You cannot begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. You have got to remove them from negatively affecting future customer experiences.

Continually remind your team of the importance of customer service. One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” Day One and Done customer service training is simply not enough. It’s amazing how much of the first day of new hire orientation is spent on defining the rules and restrictions, usually required by the legal department, that, if not followed, will result in termination. While that information is important, consider the overall message you are giving new employees at the end of their first day. Balance the message by describing the empowerment processes that employees can use to exceed customer expectations and offer specific stories when employees went above and beyond for your customers. After onboarding, continue to reinforce that message with customer service tips and stories via email, screensaver messages, and periodic refresher customer service training. As many of the luxury hotel chains and fine dining restaurants known for delivering consistently exceptional service, conduct a fifteen-minute daily briefing that reinforces your brand’s core values and service standards.

Recognize and celebrate those who deliver great customer service. Too often managers focus on identifying an employee’s service deficiencies. These “areas that need improvement” are usually only conveyed to the employee at the annual performance review. Instead celebrate throughout the year the stories of employees who have created WOW moments for their customers. Create a booklet of customer service stories to be distributed on Day One of your onboarding process. Every new employee is a sponge of company information on the first day. Let them soak in the stellar reputation of your company as built by your customers’ perceptions of your employees’ exceptional service.  To reinforce that Day One feeling, frequently post or distribute via email the positive customer comments. Send a handwritten thank you note to the home of the individual employees who created a memorable moment for one of your customers. You can be assured they will share proudly that note with their family. If you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver outstanding customer service, you have to make it a habit to thank them when they do.

QUI TAKEAWAY: When you systematically remove the potential dissatisfiers, continually remind your employees of the importance of customer service, and habitually recognize and celebrate the stories of exceptional service you will increase dramatically the value of service as perceived by your customer.

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In customer service, your people are NOT your most important asset.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

Customer service is all about building relationships – relationships with superiors, direct reports, vendors and customers. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that success in any job is 20% knowledge and 80% interpersonal skills. Ultimately success in customer service is all about interpersonal skills.

Unfortunately, while there are people who want to work in customer service, many lack the necessary interpersonal skills because they have grown up or interacted with others in a generation far different from our own.

I am convinced that people can only deliver an experience that they themselves have experienced. In order to succeed in customer service, they would have had to personally experience and learn from great examples of others exhibiting stellar interpersonal skills in their day-to-day interactions.

But those opportunities to learn firsthand from face-to-face interactions have all changed in less than a generation. Like many of you, when I earned my first paycheck there was no direct deposit or internet banking. We would have to go weekly to the bank to deposit our paycheck. After a while, the teller got to know who we were, where we worked, what we did there, and regularly asked how work and our company was doing. We learned how to communicate personally as a result of those interactions. But with on-line banking and ATM’s, when was the last time you had to actually go into a bank? We have lost that opportunity for regular personal interactions.

I was a member of after school clubs in school and in that process I collaborated with others in person. Now many young people are more apt to spend as much time with an on-line team of avatars of people they have never met playing Call of Duty or Warcraft. All those hours on-line, but what interpersonal skills are they learning from that experience?

Remember when gas stations used to have the attendant check your oil and tire pressure, clean your windshield and ask us if there was anything else they could do for us ? How bad has customer service gotten when we never see an attendant and actually pump our own gas? Where is the interpersonal skills reinforcement in that experience?

This will date me, but I remember when the baggers at the grocery store would actually take the bags in a shopping cart and help me load them into my car. Not only are the baggers gone, but so are many of the cashiers, replaced by self-serve checkout lines. And even the cashiers who are on duty certainly have no time to strike up a social conversation.

The average Facebook user today has 200 friends. When people posts on their page, they don’t have a loss of self-esteem when only three “like” the post. The other 197 have ignored them  – and they are OK with that! Even those that “like” the post rarely leave a comment to begin an interaction. Social media, then, is rarely social.

I have a cell phone and young people have cell phones. But what are they doing with their cell phones? OMG. LOL. I’m so old I remember someone actually laughing out loud on my phone. Texting is really one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection or a pause. Two text monologues on do not make a real dialog.

So the experiences for many people are not full of the good examples of emotional intelligence, body language or verbal communication that only face-to-face interactions can teach. I believe that translates in a real world that is OK to ignore the customer and our co-workers. We don’t have to greet our co-workers every morning or every customer who walks through the door. Having not experienced good examples of communication, collaboration or relationship-building skills, how will those people we entrust to take care of our customers be successful? And if we allow ourselves to accept that level of performance as adequate, how will our businesses succeed?

The answer is that we, as managers, are responsible for the education of those who do not have those skills. For us to succeed in this very competitive customer service marketplace, we will need the right people.  We will need people who know how to consistently welcome our customers with eye contact and a smile, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. So we will need to ask the proper interview questions with the specific intent on finding out if the candidates have the necessary skills of expressing sincerity, empathy and trust. And we will be the ones who will have to educate the people we select to deliver the experience our customers are expecting from us. Customer service cannot be “Day One and Done” training. Soft skills reinforcement must be continuous. Only then will we build the interpersonal skills of our staff to drive their success and ours.

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Leadership Mantra for New Managers: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

I originally wrote this post for Sold MagazineI’ve made some revisions to the published version.

Key to Leadership 2“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

I have had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our customers had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Connect

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals.  Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.

Inspire

“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.” Sam Walton

Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.

Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.

Empower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.

Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them.  This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.

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Leadership Mantra for New Managers: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Leader and teamwork“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

When I served as a hotel GM, I had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our guests had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Connect.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals.  Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.

Inspire.

“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.”  Sam Walton

Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.

Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.

Empower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them.  This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.

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Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.”  – G.B.Stern


Since this is the week we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take this opportunity to wish those who celebrate this holiday a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I also want to express my thanks to all of you everywhere for following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or right here on WordPress. I certainly have enjoyed and appreciated connecting with hundreds of people throughout the world via these social media platforms, something that wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.  And while I enjoy blogging about my passion for great customer service, I certainly have enjoyed as much the dialog I have had with many of you. So thank you to all.

While the above quote about giving thanks is one of my favorites, here are several more about gratitude that I hope you enjoy as much as I do. And for leaders, while all of these quotes are common sense advice to build employee engagement and customer loyalty, we have to commit to making this common sense advice truly common practice in our day-to-day efforts.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.  – E. S. Martin 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”  – William Arthur Ward

Appreciation is like an insurance policy. It has to be renewed every now and then. – Dave McIntyre

Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

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The M and M of Employee Engagement

colorful candy background closeup detail
Management is no longer merely a task oriented discipline. To be a successful manager, not only do you need to effectively direct your employees, you need to have them understand their role in the bigger picture of the company’s image to your customers. Your customers are not a captive audience. They do not need to do business with you. You have to create a reason why they want to do business with only you. The only tangible difference between you and your competitor is not your product or service you sell, but rather the service that your employees provide your customers during their interaction. The success of your business rests on your staff’s ability to encourage return business as a result of superior customer service.

Ultimately customer satisfaction begins with employee satisfaction. Yet too often management overlooks the day-to-day contributions employees make to the business. One of the top reasons why employees leave a company is not because of the rate of pay. It is because they felt they did not get recognized for their efforts. At the same time, your employees will only deliver the level of service that they have experienced within your business. With that in mind, you must ensure that your employees understand their key role in the success of your business and are recognized for their efforts. In order to accomplish this, incorporate in your management style these two M’s – Motivation and Maintenance.

Motivation

Motivation begins with the hiring process and continues through training. During the interview, you should explain to the prospective employee the critical “key role” in maintaining the highest level of customer courtesy. Thereafter, insure that each new employee goes through an extensive training program that not only includes the tasks of their job, but also the vision and specific proven performance tips to deliver your expectation of customer service.

This orientation sets the tone of your company’s commitment to the customer and reinforces the “key role” concept you discussed in the hiring interview. Continue on-the-job instruction with a designated trainer. The key criterion for the selection of your trainer should be an outgoing, friendly character which captures what you want to project as your company’s personality. Be sure that the trainer is aware of your expectations of the delivery of the customer service performance standards.

Keep your employees informed. The #1 complaint employees have of their company is the lack of communication. They want to feel that they are “in the know”. Conduct regular meetings to inform the staff of the status of the business and its forecasted future. Be honest with them. To create a customer focused culture, distribute and post thank you letters or testimonials received from customers. Consider maintaining a Facebook page specifically for your employees that would periodically remind them of their focus on customer service. That page can serve as an advertisement of the company culture for prospective employees. Your employees will be more concerned about their job performance if they are more aware of their business.

Acknowledge your employees as members of your professional family. Recognize special dates or occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, family births, or illnesses. Birthdays are very important as your employees know that they are working on their birthday and expect their manager to know, as well. Announce these so everyone knows and send the appropriate cards or flowers. Organize pot luck luncheons or picnics, holiday dinners, or even baby showers. Remember that if you show special consideration for your employees, they, in turn, will take better care of your customers and your business.

Create recognition programs. Special appreciation such as Random Acts of Kindness Awards, given to employees who are named by your customers as offering stellar service instill in the recipients a sense of pride that their contributions have been recognized by you. A commendation letter delivered via mail to an employee’s home or a gift card for dinner with their family serve to have the employee’s family understand and appreciate the employee’s commitment to your business.

Utilize inexpensive motivational tools. Hang a mirror in the office with a sign above it that says; “Smile, You Are (Your Company’s Name.) This conveys that each employee’s appearance is a reflection of your business. Stamp paychecks with morale boosters. Put up posters that depict themes of success and teamwork. Successories and Baudville are two companies that offer such products to deliver great motivational messages.

Maintenance.

Maintenance, in this sense, is synonymous with consistency. The continuation of any of the programs you start is essential. Do not begin a special program only to drop it soon after your employees come to appreciate it and look forward to it. If you begin a newsletter bulletin board, posting the names of new employees, employee birthdays and anniversaries, promotions, customer appreciation letters, and in-house activities then you must maintain it monthly with current topics.

Visible management is essential. Practice the “Inspect What You Expect” and “Management by Walking About” credos. Follow up on your training programs. Retrain your employees with any updated techniques, as well as a refresher course on customer service. Conduct employee surveys or better yet, hold regular group discussions with a small number of your staff, to get maximum input and participation from each employee. Be visible and be available to your employees.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Ultimately, your employees drive customer satisfaction. Do not take for granted the immense impact a concerned, vital group of employees can do to enhance the image and success of your business. Whether it is through recognition programs or your visible management, your employees must sense and believe in your conviction that they are your competitive edge – the reason why customers will return to your business.

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When It Comes to Service Training, Once Is Never Enough

A wife sits on the sofa next to her husband who is reading his laptop. She says, “I love you.” No response. She says a little louder, “I love you.” Complete silence. She then questions directly, “You know, I say ‘I love you’ a lot to you, but you never say it back to me. Why is that?”  The husband looks up from his computer and declares “Look, I said I loved you when we got married. If that should change, I’ll let you know.”

Now, really, do you think that is enough to sustain the love? Of course not. If you want to be recognized for your commitment to personal values like trust, honesty, or respect, you must practice, not simply preach. It is no different for your business values when you are leading others. Too often, the value of service excellence is communicated only at new employee orientation and the on-the-job training during the first week with no reinforcement thereafter. That is simply not enough to drive consistent customer care performance. And while I enjoy presenting my customer experience seminars to clients, I always let them know that learning about customer service cannot be seen as an event, but must be seen as a process. If your intent is to drive customer service excellence, you need to say it and your team needs to hear it more than just one time.

One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” You must continually remind your team that when it comes to customer service, being consistently good is better than being occasionally great. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure customer service values and skills are included in the job description and reviewed at each performance evaluation.
  • Check out Successories.com, Baudville.com or SimpleTruths.com for ideas on creating and reinforcing a sustained customer focused message.
  • If your company has an intranet, use the screensaver feature to remind your team of your customer service values.
  • Post thank you letters from customers in a prominent area where your team can read them.
  • If you receive a compliment from a customer on your voice mail, broadcast it to the others on your team.
  • Write a letter of commendation recognizing a specific customer service act that can be placed in the associate’s personnel file. Send the letter to the associate’s home. What is your ratio of written thank you notes or commendations versus written corrective action notices? In order to create a culture of customer care, the ratio should be 3 to 1, and better still 5 to 1.
  • Refview social media sites to recognize any employee who has been mentioned positively by customers. 
  • Recognize an individual’s act of kindness that was appreciated by a customer with a small token of acknowledgement. (movie tickets, free dry cleaning, a  day off with pay)
  • Start every meeting with an opportunity for attendees to thank someone in the group for their actions in support of internal or external customer care.
  • Periodically send out reminder messages via email, paycheck stuffer or company newsletter on the importance of the customer. If you are short of ideas, take a look at my Facebook page that offers customer service tips, quotes and insight from various sources.
  • Always serve as a role model by interacting and responding to each individual on your team with the intent to live the credo first used by Jan Carlzon, president of SAS Airlines, “If you’re not taking care of the customer, you better be taking care of the person who is.”

QUI TAKEAWAY: Commit to periodically reminding your team of the value of customer service excellence. Otherwise their delivery of exceptional service will be inconsistent. It’s up to you to commit to their lifelong learning because once is never enough.

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“If you knew then what you know now” in 140 characters.

If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” — Mark Twain.

In just the recent past, job coaches were recommending that candidates have an elevator speech ready for any opportunity. Then it became a sound bite. Now a candidates’ opportunity may be only within the 140 characters of twitter. So let’s turn the tables. As a leader, you serve as a mentor for the young people who will want to succeed. They use twitter as much as we use email. So in 140 characters, what advice would you give? Sorry, no shortlinks allowed. I’ll compile and publish the very best, crediting you. So what worldly leadership wisdom would you tweet?

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Thank you, Mr. Marriott.

You know you are getting older when, instead of attending birthday parties and weddings, you are attending funerals. I’ve come to realize that some of the greatest stories about individuals and their impact on others only seem to come out in the eulogies. Before I get any older, I wanted to express my admiration and appreciation for the example Mr. Marriott gave me as a leader and how it has formed by management style.

While still in college, I joined Marriott in 1976 as a charter member of Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara. And just 5 years later, I was fortunate to serve as the opening director of services for Marriott’s 100th property, the Maui Marriott Resort, the first in the state of Hawaii. What I remember to this day was how Mr. Marriott would walk the backstage areas and greet everyone with a smile and a handshake. He didn’t wait for someone to approach him. He initiated the interaction. As managers, we all went through orientation where we learned the mantra of J.W. Marriott, Sr., “Take good care of your employees and they’ll take good care of the customers.” And in the gesture of Mr. Marriott, Jr. walking around to introduce himself to all of us, it was obvious the mantra wasn’t simply a slogan, but really something that drove the leadership philosophy of the company. While I left Marriott shortly thereafter I always remembered that example.

Eight years ago, while I was general manager, The Inn at Bay Harbor became the first Renaissance franchise in Michigan. While Mr. Marriott was not able to attend the conversion ceremonies, the regional team, all of the same generation as Mr. Marriott, exhibited the same genuine warmth in greeting all our associates and welcoming them to the extended Marriott family. And every Marriott regional VP has done that with every subsequent visit. That gesture was very apparent to me because I had not seen that kind of management culture since leaving Marriott.

Thirty-five years after my first day at Great America, I was the charter general manager of The Henry – Autograph Collection which for 21 years stood as the Ritz Carlton Dearborn. Mr. Marriott came through on a tour of the property. Since The Henry is a franchise, he did not have to do that during his two-day tour as there are many Marriott managed properties in Detroit. But he did. Serving many years as a Board member of General Motors, he had visited often when it was a Ritz-Carlton. Many of the same associates were there to greet him on his first visit to The Henry. We had the line of associates upon his arrival and he took the time to shake everyone’s hand. But what I remember was that on our tour of the property, he made it a point to acknowledge every associate as he had done in Maui.

Between my days in Maui and my time at The Henry, I have worked for other corporate hotel companies and had the chance to meet very senior staff and had them visit my properties. I can tell you that the genuine appreciation that Mr. Marriott shows on every visit to every associate just doesn’t happen in other hotel companies. And there just doesn’t seem the sense of collaboration, that “we are in this together” feeling that Marriott leaders create. The lesson here: It all starts at the top. A handshake and a smile from the Chairman may seem like a very small thing, but it certainly made an impact on my leadership style. From day one, I understood you simply can’t lead from the corner office.

I am sure many Marriott current staff and alumni have stories on how Mr. Marriott and Marriott International have affected their lives. What’s yours?

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