Workplace Wisdom

20 Mar 2012

The Customer Cares: Good Design, Poor Design

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I care a lot about how it feels to work in my office. (See The Pleasures of the Office.) My extensive collection of plants adds to my work satisfaction. I needed some self-watering pots for African violets and located four beauties online — asymmetrical and with a green glaze that complements the color of the African violets’ leaves. The pots were on sale, so the value was very […]

21 Feb 2012

Is It Really So Hard to Nail Down Customer Loyalty?

I’ve gone to the same tiny nail salon for a number of years. My visits depend on my work and travel schedule, but no matter how many weeks apart, I’ve always gone on a Monday morning to be able to see the same person. There’s a comfort in knowing how things will work. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I should change to a more modern place, a larger place, maybe even a more sanitary place, but it’s been easier to stick […]

31 Jan 2012

2 Powerful Steps to Improved Customer Service

The Customer is always right, comes first, and is King! And Service is our middle name, with a smile. These are lovely slogans and declarations of intent — but truthfully, people tend to pay more attention to them when they’re breached than when they’re followed. A Small, But Perfectly Representative Example Just yesterday I called a restaurant, and asked, “Do I need to make a reservation for lunch tomorrow at 1:00 for six people, or can we just show up?” […]

06 Dec 2011

Making Extraordinary Service Look Easy

I’m not a fan of inter-organizational benchmarking: It’s almost impossible to replicate someone else’s successes when you don’t have their operating model, or to replicate their practices or techniques when you don’t have their culture or copy their culture when you don’t have their founding experience or history. And yet whenever you experience excellent service — and the providers make it look easy — it’s worth gleaning whatever lessons you can. So here’s a story with a bit of analysis: […]

29 Nov 2011

Should There Be a Way to Standardizing Exceptions?

I’ve been ordering a new drink at Starbucks lately. I’ve had this drink at one airport, one hotel, one highway rest stop, on two coasts, in three states, and at a number of local stores. It doesn’t appear on any published listing — and the price has never been the same. Starbucks has always varied its pricing depending on the establishment (airports, as opposed to storefronts, for example), geographic region (East Coast vs. West), and level of population density (major […]

16 Aug 2011

Lying on the Menu

It was a special lunch, and the three of us were a little excited. Daughter ordered the salmon, which impressed the waitress. I ordered the burger (Daughter’s second choice, as insurance). Spouse asked for a cup of soup and a fancy chicken sandwich. The waitress was friendly and interested, if not graceful, which fit with the tone of the establishment: traditional, comfortable, but not “fine dining.” She poured iced tea, brought the soup, and all was well. Spouse had just […]

25 Jan 2011

Three Ways That “No Problem” Is a Big Problem

Last week, my family decided to try dinner at a local place that had just evolved from a pizza joint to a restaurant. We’ll have to wait and see how it survives — in the Darwinian sense — because its “evolution” was not yet complete. The food was tasty, but oh, the kinks in the service! The staff was earnest, eager to please, but completely untrained. And I mean completely. The busboy seemed to have high potential, but he needed […]

11 Jan 2011

Hospital Highlights: Credibility and Care

Despite frequent media attention to dangerous and neglectful medical care, that was not our experience when I accompanied Spouse to an outpatient surgical procedure (which was successful, thank you!) at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island. Everyone was competent and attentive, and some staff members were downright wonderful. The Doctor: A Surprising Slant on Credibility As part of Spouse’s intake and prep, a young woman doc came to examine him and discuss his surgery. I don’t know what her formal […]

12 Oct 2010

Is This Any Way to Fly the Unfriendly Skies?

Long, long ago, doubters said that if we were meant to fly God would have given us wings. These days you have to wonder: if we were meant to fly would we have to sit in the equivalent of industrial-farming-sized cages being forced to listen to strange corporate/robotic announcements? Over the last few days I flew back and forth from JFK to San Francisco on American Airlines. During the descents, a voiced and on-screen announcement declared that “in an effort […]

31 Aug 2010

When Service Gets Stale

Went to dinner with a client pal in one of those upscale, plush steakhouse chains where the wait staff wears little butchershop aprons. The tables were far enough apart for a sense of privacy and luxury; the menus were so big they could have substituted as game boards. Given both her demeanor and her well-practiced patter, our wait person was — and perceived herself to be — a seasoned professional. We had a wonderful meal — tasty food, an excellent […]


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