Workplace Wisdom

01 Oct 2013

This Is the Story of a Successful Service Recovery

Last week I met with Terri Bartlett, the intrepid president of Marketing EDGE, for lunch at Forty Four, the restaurant at the Royalton Hotel in Manhattan. We had lots to talk about, and didn’t even notice how long we were waiting for our order to arrive. I was seated on the banquette, facing the room, so I noticed right away when a fellow wearing a striped shirt and a jacket came walking purposefully toward us. I assumed he knew Terri, […]

10 Sep 2013

Jeni’s Tasty Recipe for Customer Engagement

Visit the original Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams shop in Columbus, Ohio, and its sense of quirkiness and celebration will draw you in right away. It’s a strong case study in hooking and involving customers. Here are some of the highlights: Triggers for anticipation/curiosity/excitement – There’s a lot to notice in this party atmosphere: plenty of written words for the verbal, decorations for the visual, and lots of staff to assure you that you’ll be taken care of. Value of naming […]

23 Jul 2013

Excellent Service Means Managing Customers’ Expectations

Google the phrase “managing expectations” and you’ll get 66 million hits. A search for the refinement “customer expectations” brings back 54 million hits. With so much information available, and so much interest, it’s amazing that customer expectations go unmanaged so frequently! And yet they do. An example: Our IT supplier moved us from one email server to another after they selected a new, “better” provider. Of course we went along for the ride. These tech folks are good people and […]

21 May 2013

Watch Out for the Emptiness of Empowerment

Long, long ago, maybe back in the ’80s, “empowerment” was the hot new thing in workplaces. The word itself had a regenerative, creative, motivating sound. It held the possibility that, instead of laboring under bureaucratic Theory X command-and-control management structures (with an emphasis on control), employees could take responsibility for exercising business judgment in their own jobs. On the Frontlines The idea was that employees, particularly frontline service employees, were capable of making good decisions as part of their everyday […]

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 […]


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