Workplace Wisdom

14 May 2013

“That’s The Way (I Like It)”: When Customers Sing the Wrong Song

Perhaps we’ve trained customers to believe that they’re always right or “king” so thoroughly that some of them feel “special” enough to violate institutional norms with impunity. Some of the behavior I witnessed during a business trip last month made me wonder whether we’ve taken our “customer focus” too far. Example 1: “U Can’t Touch This” “Do not touch, please!” the museum guard called out to the fellow who had his entire hand on one of the exhibits in the […]

07 May 2013

When Appearances Can Really Make a Difference

Is this little hotel room presentation cute, or what? A couple of weeks ago my colleague Katie and I went to an all-day meeting in Virginia Beach, VA where we stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn. The property was well located, and offered by perfect café and restaurant options. We received a pleasant welcome at check-in. And then I walked into my room and found this adorable display on the bed. Now, quite honestly, I can’t tell you that the […]

17 Apr 2013

This Is Why Fundraising Calls Are So Annoying!

It’s normal to be annoyed when you’re solicited at home by an organization you don’t know or don’t care about. But being mishandled by an organization you support is irritating too! A fundraising call I got at home from a paid rep a few weeks ago reminded me, painfully, just how crucial it is that the people who represent your organization don’t detract from your credibility. Here’s the set-up: After a long, scripted monologue about current political and social horrors […]

12 Mar 2013

An Invitation to Interact: The Power of One Person

It’s amazing how much impact a single individual can have on an organization’s service or teamwork through a combination of personality and thoughtful action. When you see it happen in front of you it gives you hope for all service and all teamwork. Have you ever been somewhere and actually felt the place change as soon as a particular person walked in? I was at a Starbucks one morning: The store was only moderately crowded, and although the staff all […]

16 Oct 2012

Should You Fib for a Better Service Impression?

Sometimes service people say things that an astute customer knows are false. They act as if embroidering the truth enhances their self-image or their organization’s, while making the customer feel better and more cared for. These are not material lies in which prices are changed and deliveries are incomplete. These are more like “little white” social lies. But burnishing the truth too much can backfire. Here’s a personal example from a couple of months ago. After a transaction went wrong, […]

21 Aug 2012

Customer in a Bind: The Broadway Box

If you’ve been reading my posts about service, then you know that I bestow both compliments and critiques and that I typically name the recipients of praise and keep the pans anonymous. (You can check out these posts about D’Angelo’s Ristorante and Winthrop University Hospital, and these about lack of communication and ineffective procedures.) When I’m criticizing, I make the point clear, but I don’t see the need to publicize a particular company’s flaws. I’m not interested in their public […]

24 Jul 2012

5 Steps for Helping Irate Customers Keep Their Cool

Even when customers are irate, companies have another chance to make things right. Irate customers are asking for the relationship to be salvaged — if they didn’t still want something from the company they’d just hold their complaints and go away quietly. Too Hot to Handle? Regrettably, some customers don’t believe they’ll get their due unless they strap on the conversational equivalent of gun belts and start waving their six-shooters around. They’re afraid they don’t matter to your company. Think […]

17 Jul 2012

An Example of Successful Service Recovery: A Real Apology

Sister had taken on the responsibility of ordering a big basket of goodies from Zingerman’s, the famous Ann Arbor deli and emporium, as part of the confab and celebration of Parents’ anniversary. Unfortunately, the shipment was somewhat damaged in transit. The big cookies were crumbled and a couple of the brownies were smooshed, but we know how to eat broken baked goods and were not deterred. And the treats that were still intact were diverse enough to satisfy three generations […]

03 Jul 2012

Most Dissatisfied Customers Don’t Complain — Including Me

I had an important presentation to make and needed to be compelling, persuasive — and although the clothes don’t make the consultant, they can add to or detract from both presence and self-image. I found something stylish, professional — exactly the kind of thing I wanted — on the website of a fashion-forward, high-end multichannel retailer whose catalog I had bought from a number of years ago. The jacket cost more than I had planned to spend, but I hoped […]

08 May 2012

Your Customers Don’t Want to Be Trapped by Your Silos

A customer arrives at a service department he visits frequently to take care of some account maintenance. Before he leaves, he asks the department receptionist if she can pass along a document to another department. What’s the receptionist’s answer? “I don’t take that. You’ll have to see So-and-So, who’s not here now.” And what’s the customer supposed to say in response? “Oh, of course you don’t take it. I know that! I’m an idiot! Let me go right now before […]


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