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  • feedwordpress 01:48:06 on 2019/05/12 Permalink

    Driving value for your customers 

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    A new drive through self-service car wash called Auto Spa opened up in my neighborhood, so I decided to try it. As I entered and saw it cost seven dollars, I thought that was a bit pricey just to wash the outside of the car, even though unlike other self serves, this one dries the vehicle for you. However, they market themselves as a car spa, so maybe there were some spa like amenities.

    At the full-service car wash I normally frequent, they clean the inside and outside of the vehicle for ten dollars. Even when they’re crowded, they go the extra mile as well, sometimes rinsing off the mats or using compound to erase a scratch. They don’t charge for it either. Instead they smile and say, “our pleasure”.

    As my car and I exited the auto spa washroom, four men yielding drying cloths began wiping down the vehicle. I opened the driver’s door and pointed to the dirty water that had pooled on the ledge where you step into the car and asked one of the men if he would wipe that too.

    He replied, “we don’t do that”.

    I was surprised so I repeated what he said and inquired why not?

    He answered, “we just don’t do that”.

    Not wanting to get into an argument, I pointed out that he was already drying the car and the dirty water at the bottom of the door was caused by the wash.

    He shrugged and walked away.

    So, as he and his three colleagues stood just feet away, I opened the trunk, pulled out some towels and wiped the dirty water caused by the car wash as they watched.

    I was about to leave when a cloud of irritation swept over me. That’s when I got out of the car and found the manager. I told him as one business owner to another, I wanted to give him some friendly advice. After explaining what happened, he said he was sorry, and they would dry it next time. I said there wouldn’t be a next time because I was never coming back. I told him I would return to the car wash down the road because they provided better service and you got more for your money.

    He nodded. I continued and explained that the bigger problem is business thrives by word of mouth. If I tell someone I had a bad experience, they’ll tell someone else who will tell someone else who will post on social media and then people stop coming. However, if you go the extra mile and provide great service, your customers can become your best public relations agents.

    Something seemed to resonate as he asked who of the four employees refused to wipe the dirty water from my car. Not wanting to get anyone in trouble, I said I wasn’t sure. He walked over and reprimanded all of them. I drove away.

    Regardless of industry, going the extra mile is about providing value for others. When you help someone out, do something without being asked or provide an additional service at the same cost, that’s value. Not only do you score a few extra points, but you make others feel good in the process.

    I recall a situation that coincidentally, also involved cars. A car dealer we worked with wanted to provide customer service training for its service representatives after someone failed to go that extra mile. A woman who had been without her car for several days came to pick it up. It was a dreary drizzly day with salt and melting snow assaulting cars on the roads. As she drove out and put her windshield wipers on, there was no windshield wiper fluid. Furious, she drove back to the dealership and asked why. The service manager told her it wasn’t on the work order.

    A few extra minutes providing checking fluid levels could have increased customer value and led to years of additional business. Instead, the woman never came back again.

    So, what exactly is value? To customers, it’s often when a person feels they received good service at a good price, or they received extra services at no extra cost. Companies often claim they provide extra value at no additional cost, but the only person who can determine value is the customer. To me, value is about the experience.

    Let’s say you hire a company to provide certain services. They do a good job and you feel the cost was reasonable. Next year, you hire a different company to deliver the same services. They also do a good job, but the people are friendlier, warmer and they spend more time with you than expected. Additionally, they throw in a few extras and give you helpful hints for the future. Then they check in with you a few days later to make sure all is well. You had a better experience with the second company. That experience equals value. Value often leads to loyalty.

    As I am writing this article, I’m in the process of getting some insurance quotes. I reached out to three companies. The first company emailed me a form and said when I complete it, they’ll provide a quote. The second company which I already do business with told me to call my agent. The agent told me to call someone else. The third company had someone return my phone call almost instantly. She asked questions, seemed to take an interest in my needs and promised to provide a quote as quickly as possible.

    Unless the quote is outrageous, I will choose her. She provided a better experience and gave me a glimpse of what it might be like to work with her company in the future.

    Do an on-line search for customer value and you will find over a million articles on the subject. From creating value steps, implementing strategies to improving customer experience, many of these articles provide solid advice. The best ones offer common sense.

    That means standing in your customer’s shoes. How would you feel if your car was being serviced for days and they didn’t check the windshield wiper fluid? Or you pay good money to have your car dried and they miss part of it? Typically, it’s the little things that ruin experiences for customers. Little things add up and detract from value. When customers feel they aren’t receiving what’s valuable to them, they go elsewhere, and your business dries up.

  • feedwordpress 16:03:47 on 2019/05/01 Permalink

    Quick Tip #88: Think Differently 

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    In our new series, try it this way, to become a more compelling communicator, start by thinking differently. 

  • feedwordpress 13:17:14 on 2019/04/23 Permalink

    How to Prevent Your Listeners from FallingAsleep 

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    It was 8:00 in the evening and I was presenting to healthcare specialists who had flown in from various locations across the country to attend a medical meeting. My task was to teach them how to present complex scientific information to other healthcare experts in an efficient and engaging way. Given many had been flying for hours from different time zones and were now eating and sipping cocktails, even if I was terribly engaging, I wondered how engaged they would be. I decided a good place to start would be at the beginning as that’s typically where many speakers lose their audience by reading the agenda slide.

    After a brief ice breaker to set the stage, I presented two options for opening a talk about a newly approved cancer drug that extended survival rates. First, I read their agenda word for word. Eyes glazed over. Second, I woke them up by asking a thought-provoking question related to their practices, then paused and emphasized key findings that had never been achieved before. Their heads nodded in approval.

    Then I asked the group, what do you think of that?

    As the room collectively nodded their heads in approval, suddenly a leading researcher in the front row stood up and said, “I think it’s boring”.

    I had two choices. I could ask her why, but then I risked she would try to take over the meeting. Or, I could I could disagree which would challenge her credibility and alienate her. It was clear she wanted the floor and wanted to be heard. So, I gave it to her, but did so in a way that made her feel valued.

    I invited her to stand up and show us how she might have presented opening remarks. She was quite pleased to do so and did a nice job. I complimented her in front of everyone and explained that there are multiple ways to deliver opening remarks as opposed to a one-size-fits all approach.

    Most importantly, I used the opportunity to explain that the beginning of a talk is the best opportunity to command attention and that’s why it’s so important to say something meaningful. In scientific presentations, it may be defining the scope of your work or stating key findings that you will elaborate on later. Either way, you must help listeners understand how it affects or benefits them and you must do it efficiently, so they know why they should listen to you.

    The researcher who challenged me did this very effectively. She started by stating a common problem everyone in her audience shared. She quickly highlighted key findings to illustrate how outcomes might be different. Then, instead of reading the agenda, she explained the objectives of the talk. Right away, the audience was engaged and understood why the information was relevant to them.

    In more than two decades of experience coaching speakers, I have found that even the most seasoned experts misread their audiences. Because they are speaking to peers, they assume their listeners know what they know. That’s a huge mistake because if you present information at a level too complex for some to understand, you will quickly lose that part of your audience.

    The disconnect of scientific and many presentations is the lack of conversation. You may be wondering; how can I have a conversation if I’m presenting? I challenge you to change your thought process. Stop thinking of your presentation as giving a talk and start thinking of it as having a message-focused conversation.

    Yet so many technical presenters think of slides as their script. They follow their slides, sometimes word for word, instead of letting the slide follow them. Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had delivered the Gettysburg address in a PowerPoint presentation. Or what if Martin Luther King relied on slides when he gave his powerful ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. If you think that’s not the same as an academic or scientific speech, perhaps you should reconsider.

    Albert Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

    The next time you have to give a talk, ask yourself this question. If your slides crashed, could you still deliver the information? True, you may leave some things out and not be able to show all of the data, but if you can still provide the key facts, then yes you can because you know your subject.

    To accomplish this, try practicing with the slides and then again without the slides. With slides, you begin to internalize the information. Without slides, you will be much more conversational as if you’re speaking to a neighbor.

    Slides are often text heavy and written in sentences that appear in small fonts. That means the slide is designed for you and not for your audience. Fonts should be big, so your audience can see the words. Text should be minimal to prevent listeners from reading. If people are trying to read the slide, then they are not giving you their full attention. Strive for your slides to follow you and reinforce what you’re saying. You should not follow the slide.

    Here are some additional tips to keep your audience engaged.

    What’s the story?

    If the fire alarm went off in the room and listeners could only hear one thing, what would that be? Write it down. That will help you shape the story and key message you want to deliver.

    Want vs. need

    There is a difference between everything you want to tell them and what they really need to know. Focus on their needs to create more efficient, engaging talks that are easy to understand.

    Two sets of slides

    In a perfect world, you should create two sets of slides. Set one includes all the detail and is available to those who want it. Set two is more minimal and what you project when presenting. It’s your job to make sense of information. If people can get what they need by reading your slides, why do they need you?

    A picture is worth a thousand words

    Look for ways to turn sentences into phrases and 12-point font packed tables into visuals such as pie charts and bar graphs. Highlight key findings to help people understand what’s important.

    Practice out-loud

    No matter how many times you’ve delivered your talk or how well versed you are in the subject, winging it is not an option. The more you practice out-loud, the smoother and more confident you’ll be on game day. You can also tape yourself which will help you hear where you need more inflection, pausing and vocal variety.

    Remember, communicating is about connecting. If you fail to connect, you fail to engage. If you don’t engage, no one is really listening.

  • feedwordpress 13:13:26 on 2019/04/23 Permalink
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    Maybe it’s Me- 

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    When customer service is like speaking a foreign language

    Maybe it’s me.

    I called my provider to order a new phone for my son. They asked what color he wanted. I said black. The customer service representative said “we also have orange, blue, green, yellow and red.” I said, I’d like black.

    He said we’re running a special. You can get a free phone if you install another line. I said no thank you, we have enough lines.

    He said, “But this is a really good deal, you’ll get another phone too.” I said, no thank you, I don’t need another phone.

    He said, “Would you like to save some money?” I said, sure, but not at this time. I just want to purchase the phone.

    He said he could save me some bucks if I installed their streaming video service. I said I wasn’t interested. I only wanted a phone, black please.

    He went on to explain the features of the much-improved Direct TV service and even as I repeatedly said no thank you, he kept talking, letting me know he could have installers out at my house as early as tomorrow. I said, I just want the phone.

    He asked, what color? Again, I said black. I only want one phone. Black. No additional lines and no other services.

    Maybe he wasn’t fully listening. Maybe he struggled to comprehend. Maybe he was instructed to upsell. Maybe I wasn’t being as clear as I could be, so I tried not to get irritated at him.

    Then as he was processing my order, he said, can I have a number to call you back? Why, I asked. I’m having a problem and have to reboot the system.

    When he did call me back, we had to start over because his computer lost my information. Fortunately, he remembered the color I wanted was black.

    I read an article that proclaimed good customer service is about being judged by what you do, not what you say. The writer believed if you give something away for free or throw in an extra, you’ll score points with the customer.

    Wouldn’t it be great if it was that simple? It’s not. True, people appreciate extras and freebies. The phone guy waived activation and shipping fees which I greatly appreciated. However, I believe the root of good customer service is good communication skills.


    There are few things more exasperating than telling someone what you want and then have to repeat it because they weren’t listening. Even if you’re trying to ‘sell’, listen first, talk later. Don’t interrupt.


    To show you are really listening, paraphrase or repeat what the customer has said. As an example, the representative could have said, Ms. Friedman, I understand you would like a black phone. Can I interest you in additional cost saving services? I still would have declined, but I would know he heard me.


    If the customer tells you no thank you, respect that. Instead of asking the same question again, ask it differently. My customer service rep might have said, yes, black is a popular color. Are you familiar with our new line of colors?

    This morning, I called my car dealer to speak to the general manager. I told her I knew Jerry wasn’t in which is why I’d like to be connected to his voicemail. She said, “Jerry isn’t in yet.” I said I know, which is why I’d like to leave him a voicemail. She said, “do you want me to connect you to his voicemail?” I said yes. She said, okay, but he’s not in yet.

    Maybe it’s me.

    Or maybe her morning coffee hadn’t kicked in. Whether speaking by phone or face-to-face, failure to effectively communicate can rob you and your company of opportunities.

    Recently I called my bank to dispute a charge. The local branch referred me to the corporate offices. They said no one was available to help me so someone would call me back. Two days later, I received an email from a customer relations manager saying he tried but had not been able to reach me by phone.

    However, there were no voicemails, no texts and no record of him calling on any of our phone lines. I e-mailed him back, no response. I called and reached his supervisor, who apologized and said he’d get back to me. He never did.

    Putting poor customer service aside, this bank is missing huge opportunities to turn negatives to positives. Even if the rep was reprimanded, his supervisor should have followed up with me. While the bank has thousands of employees who may be caring customer centric people, to the customer, both the representative and his supervisor became the face of the company. The failure of these people to show concern can reflect on the entire company.

    It only takes one negative encounter with one person to spread like wildfire. She tells her family, friends and colleagues what happened. They tell people they know. If she posts on social media, no telling how many will see it. Not only do you have a potential PR crisis, but you risk losing prospects, customers and revenue.

    Communication works two ways. It can promote great reputations or spread bad ones.

    So, whether ordering a phone, trying to leave a voicemail or dispute a charge, remember communication is a two-way street. It requires a speaker and a listener. Either one can be misunderstood.

    Sometimes you are at fault. Other times, even if we hate to admit it, maybe it’s me.

  • feedwordpress 13:01:31 on 2019/04/23 Permalink

    Excuse Me for Making Excuses 

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    I have a pet peeve and my guess is you have the same one. We’ve all forgotten our online passwords from time to time. Retrieving them is typically a straightforward process. You hit ‘forgot password’ and then receive an email with a link prompting you to set up a new one.

    However, recently, when I have forgotten a password and followed the link to set up a new one, I have been asked to enter my old password before I can set up a new one. Someone somewhere is missing the point. If I knew my old password, then why would I need to set up a new one? Yet, without being able to recall it and enter it in the form, the site forbids me to create a new password.

    Frustrated to the max, the last time this happened, I called the company. More frustration, as I sat on hold for a long period of time listening to a recording telling me how important my call was to them. When someone finally picked up and I vented to her, she apologized and told me it was a glitch in the system.

    A glitch, I inquired? I reminded her that she worked for a global company whose site was probably frequented by millions on a daily basis. I suggested that their IT people fix the glitch. She said many customers like me have called the problem to their attention, but the IT people said it couldn’t be fixed.

    I recommended that her company employ new IT people.

    That got me thinking. What kinds of excuses do we make in our own businesses and how do these excuses hold us back?

    As a leadership coach, I continually try to push people out of their comfort zones by changing mindsets. As an example, we recently prepared a company for a series of investor presentations. The CEO, a smart innovative man was a dull communicator. He was articulate, but monotone, soft spoken and conveyed no sense of excitement or urgency to invest in his company’s product.

    When I shared my observations, he made a lot of excuses. In his country, “we don’t do it that way”. He said, “Investors want more data” before they open their wallets and my personal favorite “I’m not really trying to get them to invest, just educating them.”

    It seemed to me that a CEO of a start-up who meets with potential investors on a daily basis, you are always trying to sell your company and raise capital. Without capital, it’s difficult to reach milestones and survive. Additionally, I suggested that he re-shape the way he was telling the story. He began by talking about his company’s product. I suggested he start by helping people understand the enormity of the problem. That way, the solution would be so much more powerful.

    He wasn’t so sure. He said he never did it that way before. More excuses.

    I also observed that he used weak words like ‘I think’ which is not as strong as ‘we’re optimistic’ or ‘we’re confident’. He also used filler words such as ‘basically’ a market opportunity’. I said it made him sound unsure. Eliminating these words would help him speak with conviction and sound more confident. He said no one has ever pointed this out before, so it was probably fine.

    Another excuse.

    That’s when the CFO, who hadn’t uttered a word, jumped in. He said he thought I was right. He told the CEO they were missing huge opportunities to excite potential investors by learning how to communicate more effectively.

    Silence. Then the CEO looked at me and asked, “how might I do this differently?”

    That question meant he was open to thinking differently which is the first step to improvement. When you think differently, you back off on the excuses. Through a series of role-playing on videotape, he applied some of the suggestions. When he saw the immediate difference, he was excited. That motivated him to continually adjust the way he communicates.  At meetings, people began to hear him differently which ultimately translated to more interest and funding of his product.

    All of us make excuses from time to time. We procrastinate. We prioritize other things we’d rather do, and we get distracted. In short, we get in our own way. However, when leaders make excuses, they can risk appearing defensive or unfocused. Instead of communicating positively by sharing their vision and excitement, some get stuck in mediocrity. Mistakenly, that’s what happened in this case.

    Several months earlier, the company had a technical issue that spooked some investors away. They fixed it and put it behind them. In fact, the unexpected fix actually substantially improved outcomes. Yet, as the CEO continued to meet with people, he was still focused on making excuses for past problems instead of talking about future opportunities. He sounded annoyed and defensive … inappropriate for potential investors.

    A few ways to eliminate excuses:

    • Be present. If you focus on the past, you can’t be fully present. It’s like saying I’m not going to the gym because the last time I went I didn’t lose any weight.
    • Be honest. If you mislead yourself, you may mislead others. Telling someone that’s not the way people “from your country” communicate may signal you are unwilling to adapt.
    • Be accountable. If you surround yourself with “yes” men and women, they agree with everything you say. Instead, listen to people who challenge your excuses.

    Leadership is not about titles. Leadership is about behavior. As a leader you set the tone. If your tone is one of excuses, employees may follow your lead and do the same thing. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve given them permission to do so. In the case of this CEO, excuses may have also robbed his company of investors.

    The next time you’re about to make an excuse, try thinking differently by asking yourself these questions:

    • Are you afraid of trying something new?
    • Are you afraid someone else will get credit for a different idea?
    • Are you stuck in the past?

    Until you become aware of what’s driving your excuses, you’ll have a tough time working through them. However, once you do, you’ll be one step closer to changing your mindset which may help you get rid of those excuses once and for all.

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