Shep21's Blog….Leadership, marketing & customer service through the printed words of many

It’s nothing personal February 9, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 2:45 pm

Monday morning and an angry customer is walking into the office, and for your own self-preservation, you never want to trade insults, yell back, engage in sarcasm, or be intimidated. You must first understand an angry customer at the simplest level. They’re not angry at you; it’s only because you are an employee and representative of the company, but since you’re there in front of them, you naturally become the target. That angry woman who reminds you so much of your mother wants her problem solved, and your job is not to get her to that particularly hostile point we’ve all heard, ” Well it’s the principle,” because at this point even if you could work something out, she would still be dissatisfied. So what do you do? Let’s start at the beginning as the angry customer walks in:

– Observe body language. You never want to be blindsided by someone’s temper. Are their arms crossed, shoulders hunched, restless, staring or acting rude? You need to always remember the person isn’t mad at you, so try to be as unpolitical as you can be. Introduce yourself, and be polite. Ask the person her name and address her by name. Try not to make her wait; look up from your paper work immediately and never say “NEXT”.

– Listen to the customer. You must always let the customer tell her story. Do not interrupt her, and listen intently until she is finished speaking. Show her that you have been paying attention by paraphrasing her problem and assuring her you understand and intend to help.

– Phrases to avoid. An angry customer doesn’t do well with such stock phrases as: ” I only work here,” “It’s against our store policy,” or probably the most annoying of them all, ” I’m only following the rules.” Never come back with one of those answers, but again assure the person you will do your best to solve their problem. If the problem can not be solved at the time, make sure you confirm with the customer when you will have an answer, and make sure you follow through with a response at the agreed upon time. Check out the Big List of Things Not to Say for more tips.

– If I cannot help. If for any reason you feel that you can not mitigate the complaint, it is acceptable to refer the customer to your supervisor, but make sure you give the customer their name and their contact information. What you never want to do is just push the complaint on to the next person, and not have the customer’s complaint resolved. Angry customers are always going to be around as are Monday mornings, but why not start the week off by helping your company keep its professional image and customers as well as you competently helping to resolve conflicts.

Original blog post can be found here


Frightened, clueless or uninformed? February 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — shep21 @ 4:25 pm

 A blog post by Seth Godin 

In the face of significant change and opportunity, people are often one of the three. If you’re going to be of assistance, it helps to know which one.

Uninformed people need information and insight in order to figure out what to do next. They are approaching the problem with optimism and calm, but they need to be taught. Uninformed is not a pejorative term, it’s a temporary state.

Clueless people don’t know what to do and they don’t know that they don’t know what to do. They don’t know the right questions to ask. Giving them instructions is insufficient. First, they need to be sold on what the platform even looks like.

And frightened people will resist any help you can give them, and they will blame you for the stress the change is causing. Scared people like to shoot the messenger. Duck.

The worst kind of frightened person is one with power. Someone in a mob of other frightened people, someone with a gun, someone who is the CEO. When confronted with a scared CEO, time to run. Before someone can change, they have to learn, and before they learn, they have to cease being scared.

One reason so many big ideas come from small organizations is that there is far less fear of change at the top. One mistake board members and shareholders make is that they reward the scared but hyper-confident CEO, instead of calling him on the carpet as he rages at change.

When I first encountered surfing, I was scared of it. It looks cool, but an old guy like me can get hurt. A patient instructor allayed my fears until I was willing to get started. When you first start out, the things you think are important are actually irrelevant, and it’s the stuff you don’t know is important that gets you thrown into the ocean. Finally, and only then, was I smart enough to actually learn.

I’m bad at surfing now, but at least I know why.

Comfort the frightened, coach the clueless and teach the uninformed.


3 secrets to social storytelling February 5, 2010

Filed under: Marketing — shep21 @ 5:43 pm

3 secrets to social storytelling

By Jesse Stanchak

Brand narratives are a big part of many traditional advertising campaigns, since stories are such a powerful way to connect with others. In social media campaigns, stories become even more important, a panel of experts noted at a recent Social Media Week event. But the stories that are being told are no longer the narratives your brand is trying to advance, they noted. Instead, social campaigns rely on user stories to create an organic narrative about your organization.

People are natural storytellers, noted Mark Cardwell of the United Nations Development Program. Your fans are already out there in the world, sharing their stories every day, without any prompting from you. Social campaigns simply put that drive to work. Members of the panel shared insights into ways companies are using social platforms to get the most out of users’ desire to share their stories.

  1. Catch them at the moment of excitement. You want your fans to talk about you at the moment they are happiest with your brand, said Microsoft Senior User Experience Evangelist Sean Seibel. So why wait to get a testimonial? Give your fans tools that allow them to record their impressions at “the moment of excitement” — the instant when they are most enchanted with your brand. Then give them a way to share those impressions with friends immediately.
  2. If your fans don’t have a soapbox, build one. Lots of storytelling happens on traditional message boards and social communities. But creating a shared space around a specific group can make it easier to attract users. Cardwell highlighted the case of drug maker Novartis’ campaign to build a community around a drug used to treat a kind of leukemia. By connecting people who were affected by the disease with health professionals in a social setting, the company gave survivors and current patients a venue where they would naturally share their stories.
  3. Be ready to respond. Don’t let your fans feel like they are communicating in a vacuum. Engage them and if their stories are critical of your organization, then respond in a constructive way. PepsiCo Director of Digital and Social Media Bonin Bough shared a story about a print ad for Pepsi Max that ran just once in a European publication — but drew indignant responses around the world because it made light of suicide. The story spread through Twitter, with users sharing stories about how suicide had affected their lives and how the ad had hurt them. Bough and other Pepsi employees responded to each tweet about the campaign. In Bough’s case, that meant sharing his own experiences with users. Bough says he’s glad he was so candid with each person, especially since one of them turned out to be a journalist who wrote a story about Pepsi’s reaction. “You never know who you might be talking to,”  Bough said.

Leadership Lessons from General Tommy Franks February 1, 2010

Filed under: Leadership — shep21 @ 8:00 am

Photograph of General Tommy Franks in His Army Uniform

He flunked out of the University of Texas in 1967. Rather than wait to be drafted to fight in Vietnam, he enlisted in the Army. As he got on the bus to leave for boot camp, his father said, “Son, I have one piece of advice. Be feisty.”

He replied, “But Dad, I am feisty.”

His dad said, “Son, I know your feisty, but I mean it as an acronym. F-e-i-s-t-y.” He then went on to spell it out:

  • “F” is for focus. You need to get focused on what is important and stay focused.
  • “E” is for energy. Bring all the energy you can muster to every situation.
  • “I” is for integrity. This is your most important possession. Don’t ever compromise it.
  • “S” is for solve the problem. Don’t argue. Don’t make excuses. Just solve the problem and get on with it.
  • “T” is for take the blame when no one else will. Accept responsibility and be accountable.
  • “Y” is for “Yes, I do windows.” Don’t ever say, “That’s not my job.” Do whatever the boss asks you to do and do it with enthusiasm.

The full blog can be found here


Five Leadership Skills to Accelerate Performance January 31, 2010

Filed under: Leadership — shep21 @ 8:30 am

“Leadership is like a muscle. The more intelligently you train, the stronger you get.” John Ryan, Center for Creative Leadership’s president and CEO, is a big believer in giving leaders a serious workout. Based on CCL’s research and practical experience and Ryan’s 40 years of leadership in the military, higher education and nonprofits, he advises leaders to step up their leadership training in five areas:

1. Teamwork and collaboration are critical for organizations in two ways. Internally, you won’t get much done without it. Externally, you need partnerships with like-minded firms that advance your strategy, whether it’s developing new products or breaking into emerging markets. But fostering teamwork is not easy. In a recent CCL study, 97 percent of senior executives told us collaboration is a key factor in organizational success. But just 47 percent believed the leaders in their organizations are skilled collaborators.

2. Managing change. View it positively and, of course, with a sense of urgency. There’s no point in fearing change since it’s inevitable and we can’t control it. Second, focus on adapting plans as necessary to external pressures. We all had our strategic plans before the recent recession hit. Some organizations stubbornly stuck with them, believing things would return to normal quickly. Others saw a sea change in the marketplace and adjusted their plans accordingly. Third, it’s important to manage the resistance to change you are bound to see in your colleagues. It’s your role and responsibility to help them understand what’s going on externally and why your organization needs to adapt. Be sure to involve others in the design and implementation of major change initiatives, whether it’s a workforce restructuring or a new product development process.

3. Communication. As an executive with a demanding schedule, it’s easy to be cut off from the rest of the organization. We can all learn a lesson from A.G. Lafley, the retired CEO of Procter & Gamble. He was a great listener, often visiting consumers in their homes or joining them for trips to the store. In addition to being P&G’s CEO, Lafley also established himself as the company’s Chief Listening Officer. He knew that getting good ideas required asking people for input and listening to it very carefully. We should all be Chief Listening Officers in our own organizations.

4. Learning agility. To succeed in a world where our work is always changing, where challenges are unpredictable and competition abounds, we need to be agile learners. We need to apply our new knowledge. Perhaps most of all, we need to believe we can rise to the challenge. There’s a growing body of neuroscience research that says we can learn new behaviors and modify deep-set behaviors at any age. It takes hard work and real focus, but all of us really can learn new and effective behaviors — and help take our organizations to new levels of performance.

5. Judgment is at the core of leadership. Fundamentally, it’s about getting the most important calls right — when it comes to both people and strategy. Without good people judgment, you won’t have a strong team. Without a strong team, your strategy will not be executed effectively. Look first of all for men and women who have demonstrated strong performance, integrity and the desire to assume higher levels of responsibility. Watch out for candidates who treat others insensitively and abrasively and put their self-interests above the company good. Strategy judgment calls require leaders to find new paths. Success depends on asking the right questions, experimenting and constantly adjusting your approach. It hinges even more on your level of humility. Are you too confident in your own judgment? Do you believe too strongly in your old ways of doing business? Do you think that because something has worked many times before, it will work again now? Do you have the humility to understand that even with great collaboration you will not get everything right, and that you can’t know everything yourself?

To read more about strengthening your leadership skills from John Ryan, download the paper “Accelerating Performance: Five Leadership Skills You and Your Organization Can’t Do Without.”


Creating a Customer Service Culture January 29, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 6:30 am

1. Management must make the measurement of service quality and feedback from the customer a basic part of everyone’s work experience. This information must be available and understood by everyone, no matter what their level. The entire organization must become obsessed with what the customer wants. A printing firm has signs all over the shop saying, “Is it good enough? Ask the customer.” This statement serves as a constant reminder to everyone that customers are the ultimate judge of whether the service is what it should be, and that all employees must be constantly surveying customers for what and how they want it. The firm regularly sends out questionnaires about the quality of their service and then posts these results for all to see. When you survey your customers on the quality of service, make sure that everyone, from the top down, knows of the results and receives recognition for the things that are going well. Behavioral research has shown that you get more of the behavior you reward. So don’t make the mistake of mentioning only the area of poor performance; also mention and reward those who are doing well, and involve all employees in brainstorming ways to improve the things that are unsatisfactory.

2. Be very clear about specifying the behavior that employees are expected to deliver, both with external customers and their coworkers.

3. Explain why giving excellent customer service is important — not only for the company, but for the world. What does your company do that makes life easier for everyone? What does your product or service add? Be sure to include this in the reasons for achieving customer service excellence. A good example of this principle at work is in the field of health care. People are often drawn into this profession because they enjoy helping and caring for people. Smart health care organizations show how their desired customer service behaviors enable employees to help and care for the patients and their families. Reward people for their good service behaviors. Cash awards are nice, yes, but there are many other ways to say, “job well done.” Extra time off, for instance, or an article in the company newsletter, a trophy or plaque awarded at a special recognition dinner, tickets to special events tied to an employee’s interests, or a simple written note are all ways to reward the kinds of behaviors you want to see more of.

4. Create ways to communicate excellent examples of customer service both within and outside the company. Institute celebrations, recognition ceremonies, logos, and symbols of the customer service culture and its values. This is where you want the mugs, buttons, and banners. Have a customer service bulletin board to feature service incidents that were special. Seize every opportunity to publicize the times when employees do it right. A newsletter should be developed to boast of customer service successes so that the idea of service is constantly in front of everyone. One company, a major utility, devoted an entire issue of the company magazine to “24 Karat Customer Service.” It featured examples of how individual employees defined customer service, stories of humorous or unusual customer service situations, an article on the importance of internal customer service, and other ideas designed to keep employees aware of the importance of their efforts in achieving quality customer service. A hospital not only touts their customer service “hero stories” in their newsletter, they also have a giant pep rally once a quarter for everyone to share their stories. Individual teams get together often to focus on what has gone right as well as wrong in their patient and other customer relations. Even if you are a very small business with only a few employees, post instances of superior customer service of your own and others that you read about. Talk about customer service and its importance every day.

5. Indoctrinate and train everyone in the culture as soon as they are hired. Disney is famous for this. It puts all newcomers through a “traditions” course that details the company history with customer relations and how it is the backbone of Disney. Your orientation program is a key part of the ultimate success of your customer service efforts. Make sure that it contains more than an explanation of benefits and a tour of the facilities. It can be an important element in planting the customer service culture of the company so it can flourish and grow.

6. Encourage a sense of responsibility for group performance. Help employees see how their performance affects others. Emphasize the importance of “internal customer service.” Help everyone to see that if you don’t serve each other well, you can never hope to serve your ultimate customer. Does accounts payable or shipping see that the timeliness of their service to other employees makes a big difference in how the customer is served? Does the cook realize how important it is to get the order exactly right in the kitchen so the waitstaff can please the restaurant customer? Even something as seemingly insignificant as returning from lunch break on time can affect the quality of the customer service you offer by determining whether you have enough coverage to serve employees promptly. Repeat again and again that customer service is the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just the “customer service department.”

7. Establish policies that are “customer friendly” and that show concern for your customers. Eliminate all routine and rigid policies and guidelines. Knock yourself out to be a company that is easy to do business with. Never let your customer service representatives say, “Those are the rules I have to follow; there’s nothing I can do about it.” There is always a way to satisfy the customer. You must give your employees the power to do so.

8. Remove any employees who do not show the behavior necessary to please customers. Too many companies allow frontline service representatives to remain on the job when they are not suited to a customer service position. If employees don’t want to serve the customer in the best way possible, document their behaviors and use this information to help them change or to move them to areas away from customer interaction. In order for a culture of customer service excellence to grow and thrive, management must have a burning desire for it to be that way and the energy to ensure that this desire spreads throughout the organization and remains there permanently. You must become a totally customer-focused organization. Everyone, from the top down, must believe that they work for the customer.

This material was excerpted from Customer Service — the Key to Your Competitive Edge, a common-sense guide to establishing a customer service program by Peggy Morrow. Morrow is a speaker, author, consultant, and president of Peggy Morrow & Associates, a training and development firm specializing in highly customized speeches, seminars, and workshops


7 Laws of Fundamental Leadership January 28, 2010

Filed under: Leadership — shep21 @ 6:00 am

From:  Howatt, W. A., (2008).  Leadership vs. management.  Kentville, Nova Scotia: Howatt HR Consulting Inc.

  1. Exude an Aura of Competence – This is a combination of being a resource for reports; having an eye for talent; being committed to personal development to maintain competency; and not being  intimidating.
  2. Maintain Unwavering Integrity – This combination includes trust, compassion, honesty, patience, and persistence to work towards a clear vision.
  3. Act as a Living Role Model – This combination includes self-care, personal health, 4Ps (pride, passion, proactive prevention, and planning), energy, and drive to succeed with a key interest in personal life balance.
  4. Reveal Yourself as a Teachable Teacher – This is a combination of a willingness to learn; knowing that there is always more to know, and that one can learn from many different sources; flexibility to change when it makes sense; and ability to admit to mistakes and learn from them.
  5. Stay Internally Motivated – Internally driven, leaders are aware of and take into account in their decision process many variables, such as family of origin, business experiences, personality, locus of control, culture, sex, generation, age, personal needs and wants as well a IQ and emotional intelligence.
  6. Scale the Leadership Success Hierarchy – These leaders are clear on the entire hierarchy as to where their vision comes from.  They not only are aware of the surface, they seek to learn their deep structure, so that they are able to be congruent and balanced in their quest to be an effective leaders of themselves first, so that they can effectively lead others.

     7.  Adhere to the Four Leadership Musts – vision, self-            confidence, knowledge, and life balance