Posts tagged ‘Service’

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever noticed that the happiest people you meet are also the first to say “thank you”, and that the most frustrated, selfish, and cynical rarely acknowledge or express gratitude?  Why is that?  Is it because happy people have more to be thankful for?  I don’t think so.   I believe theirs is an attitude of gratitude that is born out of a unique perspective of wonder and contentment.

According to a recent national survey, more than half of all Americans don’t expect to receive a thank-you card or note after giving a gift.  Unfortunately the age-old custom of sending thank-you notes and cards has nearly been forgotten.  The survey, commissioned by the Society of American Florists found that most people don’t even expect an in-person [verbal] “thank you”, a phone call or even an email “thanks”.  How sad! 

Now, don’t misunderstand…I’m not suggesting that we as doers and givers should be seeking recognition and gratitude from others; that’s not the point.  The point is that we as a people are gradually drifting into a state of thanklessnessIt is a problem, especially in a country where prosperity and plenty have given Americans more material blessings than any people, at any time, in history.  People who don’t show gratitude are less likely to treat others with respect.  They are more likely to be rude and insensitive and show a lack of regard for everyone but themselves.  They are more likely to lie, cheat, and steal…and to complain that they are “entitled” to what others have.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day – the one day of the year when many pause to consider all that they have been given.  Some even call this time of year “the season for giving thanks”.  But gratitudereal thanksgiving – knows no season.  It is not an event that we “do” and then set aside for the rest of the year.  Real gratitude is a character trait of people with real characterGratitude indicates an attitude of humility (the opposite of Pride–the first “deadly sin”) and acknowledges one’s dependence upon others.  I cringe when I hear people say “he’s a self-made-man”, and worse when I hear of people who they themselves think that of themselves.  None of us are self-made.  None of us are successful by our own merits…no matter how challenging our lives may be.  There is always a friend, a parent, an advisor, an author, an employee, a customer, a teacher, an inspiration, or an artist that leads us to achievement.  I work for a guy who understands this.  He’s the CEO of one of the best wholesale distribution companies in the country.  Yet every day as people leave work and he hears the “goodbyes”, he calls from his corner office “thanks for the help”.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to commit to developing an attitude of gratitude at all times and under all conditions.  To look for and recognize the blessings and gifts that just come to us.  To always thank others for help, for things, for ideas, for anything we can find an excuse to express gratitude for.

At a time when people are “thanking” less, what an opportunity to set ourselves apart.  Commit to sending one thank-you card a day to a customer, or looking for one thing to thank an employee for each day. As we do, wonderful things will happen to us as individuals, to those we thank…just watch…

Lead on………..    Cliff


November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Great Expectations

You’ve heard the advice… “Over promise, then under deliver…and you’re sure to disappoint”.  Few things can break trust or weaken relationships more.  Making a habit of it can be “fatal”…especially in trust-based relationships.  Conversely, sound customer service is built upon “under promising and over delivering”, thereby creating situations and results that thrill and excite customers.  The interesting thing is, that while the actual quantity, quality, or degree of what is being “delivered” COULD be exactly the same in every case, it’s the relative expectations that determine the level of satisfaction…and trust.  If you expect a half glass of juice and receive a half glass, you’re satisfied.  If you expect a full glass and receive the same half glass, you’re unsatisfied.  If, on the other hand you expect only a sip of a juice and you receive a half glass, you’re elated!  Again, it all depends on expectations.  The following illustrates well this relationship between expectations, “delivery”, and trust!

I once heard a man talk about his life growing up on a ranch where he worked with his father and brothers raising cattle and horses in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  He was taught as a boy that when he wanted to catch one of the horses to ride, all he had to do was to put a handful of grain into a bucket and shake it for several seconds.  It didn’t matter if the horses were in a corral or a large field; they would come running to get the grain.  As a horse would eat, the young rancher would gently slip a bridle over its head, and prepare the horse for riding.  He was always amazed at how well this simple process worked.  Occasionally though, when he was a little lazy, and didn’t want to take the time to get the grain from the barn, he put dirt in the bucket and shook it, attempting to trick the horses into thinking that he had grain for them to eat.  When the horses discovered they had been deceived, some of them would stay, but most would run away and be nearly impossible to catch.  He said it would then take several days to regain the horses’ trust.

And so it is with service…no matter where it is given…whether it’s at a sales counter, or to your employee, co-worker, boss, or family….anyone that relies on your service, your promise, your “delivery” to them.  Do you over promise…then under deliver? Do you say what you think they “want” to hear, knowing full well you won’t be able to “deliver”?  Do you falsely build expectations by not telling the whole story?  Do you stretch the truth, exaggerate the benefit, or say whatever it takes in order to get what you want…now?  If you’re a manager, a professional, or a parent, your “customers”, those you serve and whom depend on you, expect a higher standard; Anything less is a disappointment!  Think about your “customers” and ask yourself, “what do they expect from me?” Then with that as a minimum, decide what you’ll do today, next week, or next year to exceed their “expectations”… Keep it interesting…keep ‘em guessing…and keep delighting them… They won’t just be “customers”…..they’ll be raving fans!

Lead on…


June 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap…”

Sound familiar? You might remember this verse from Sunday school or from more recent study.  It is a profound principle with powerful implications. It is an enduring principle with a promise that underlies everything we accomplish, or fail to accomplish during our lives. It is the key to joy and abundance or to failure and frustration. It is a sure promise – as sure as the sunrise or sunset.  If we do something, something happens. Everything in nature and in life is based on this principle. We control what we sow, and in that way only we exercise SOME control over what we reap.

Yes, sometimes there are outside (uncontrollable) factors at work. My Mom and Dad for instance led great lives. They worked hard, planned carefully, spent frugally, exercised consistently, ate impeccably, and served tirelessly. Theirs were happy, healthy, full lives… life they truly reaped what they sowed. You’d have thought they’d live forever! However, Dad, at a very young 69 years of age was consumed by a rare cancer in less than six weeks…..and Mom passed away just a few months laterfrom the same foe (cancer).

“So, why bother?” some would ask. “Why even try to plan, to work, and to improve?” It is true that any one of us could be removed from this life at any moment by causes beyond our control. BUT, while we live, while we are able to choose what it is we will sow in our lives, we can rest assured that while we live we will reap and receive in life what we put into it. Effort produces results, honesty builds trust, respect leads to cooperation, and healthy living improves the quality of life. As Montaigne so aptly wrote, “the value in life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them”.

Lead on……….. Cliff

April 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm 4 comments

“…I recommend pleasant.”

I received an anonymous email from an employee in one of our stores.  It was short and simple.  It read:

“I am an employee at the ——- location.  I have a few concerns.  There is absolutely no teamwork within the facility.  I’m concerned, because without teamwork, the store cannot function properly.  It would make the whole operation run smoother if we all helped each other out.  This is a great company and I just want the experience [of] working here [to be] a pleasant one. Thank you”

As a boy growing up from the 50’s to the 70’s one of my favorite movies was “Harvey” (1950), starring Jimmy Stewart in the role of Elwood P. Dowd.  If “Harvey” was ever on TV, the Woodbury house was tuned in!  I remember most clearly a scene toward the end of the movie, when Elwood is conversing with a doctor and nurse at a sanitarium…  Say’s Elwood:

“…In this world you have to be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.  For years I was smart.……..I recommend pleasant!”

Elwood, a wealthy eccentric, was by no means espousing ignorance-induced pleasance.  Instead, I think Elwood would advise: “work smart and be pleasant”…pleasant in your relationships and in your interaction with others.   It is important to be careful, focused, and thoughtful about one’s work, but when it comes to people, few things are more energizing, enjoyable, and unifying than an environment where people go out of their way to be kind, thoughtful, and tolerant…i.e., pleasant with each other.

If, on the other hand, we attempt to be “smart” rather than pleasant in our interaction with others, we automatically pit ourselves against them.  There is an implied position of superiority and one of inferiority, or of dominance and subservience…which leads quickly to distrust, distance, and ultimately…disdain.  Not exactly the environment of “teamwork” and productivity we are after…

So stop and take a look around you…what kind of an environment are you as a branch manager, sales, manager, or department manager fostering?  If you’re surrounded by positive energy, and pumped-up people,  don’t change a thing.  But if things could improve, begin right at “home” by…being pleasant…and then…….

Lead on……Cliff

March 4, 2010 at 10:42 am Leave a comment

Don’t Forget the Free Throws

I once listened to two sports commentators on the radio debating the soon-to-be-over NBA season.  The conversation turned to free throw shooting.  They observed that throughout the season, and as the tournament was in its early games, a number of key games had been won or lost at the bonus line.  Both agreed that it seemed that this year, more than most, there were far more examples of teams and individuals whose free throw shooting percentages were just plain…bad!  One of them commented that “…in professional basketball no player should have an average free throw shooting percentage less than 80%.”

I would agree.  A professional is “a highly skilled individual who performs his or her work for payment”.  Can you imagine even keeping a job where it was acceptable to make mistakes 20% of the time?  Unlike shooting from the field, free throw shooting is a “solo sport”.  When you’re at the line, it’s you, the ball, and the net.  There’s no guarding, no checking, no blocking…no excuses!  Sure, there’s noise, but that’s life.

So why is it that free throw shooting has become a skill in decline in the NBA, and what is the result? 

First, the reasons:  Basketball is faster, more dynamic, and more entertaining than ever.  Athletes are bigger, stronger, flashier, and maybe even more athletic than in the “old days”.  The key word is “flash”.  Today’s players look really good!  They are good…at the fun stuff. But free throws don’t win endorsements, they don’t make the highlight films, and they don’t get “gate” (attendance).  They do however win games…but who’s counting.  Great free throw shooters practice…free throws.  They are more patient, they understand the concept of a “complete” player, and they actually do what their (lower paid) coaches tells them to do…practice free throws.

The result (of poor free throw shooting):  Otherwise “good” teams lose when it really counts!  So, how do they get away with it?  Teams and individuals who struggle the most with free throws are often those “bigger than life”.  They answer to no one.  Fans are amazed when they lose because they play so “big”.  When they lose, even by a free throw, they’re not held accountable because they dazzled ‘em with dunks, pleased ‘em with passing, and shocked ‘em with speed. One of my favorite quotes (by James Thurber), you’ve hear me use before, and you’ll hear me use again, is:

“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”

This applies to both people and things.  Much is or can be obscured (temporarily) by the glare of “flash”.  But when it comes to that critical moment, standing at the line, man, ball, and net, the only thing that matters is that the ball goes through the net.  It doesn’t matter how good it looks…just that it drops through.  And there’s only one way that happens consistently…through practice.  Regular, repetitive, laborious, unexciting practice; Practicing “the basics”…i.e., relax, set, bounce, bend, breathe, focus, 90°, release, and follow through …  Over and over again.  Great free throw shooters spend hours and hours practicing…and never stop.  A great shooter knows that yesterday’s practice was for yesterday, and today demands its own; It is a never-ending cycle.

And so it is in business.  In today’s economy there is much “flash”.  Marketing noise and dazzle are everywhere.  Sales people are more aggressive than ever.  “Customer loyalty programs and incentives abound…and obscure.  But, some things never change.  Flash-in- the-pan companies and programs come and go, but when push comes to shove, when you absolutely positively have to have rock solid service, the only thing that matters is consistent, reliable, dependable, performance – the kind that comes from practice.  Practicing the basics…relax, set, bounce, bend, breathe, focus, release, and follow through… Over and over again.  Great business people spend hours and hours practicing…and never stop.  Great business people know that yesterday’s practice was for yesterday, and today demands its own; It’s a never-ending cycle.

The “free throws” of  business are the mundane, even sometimes boring, but crucial details that make or break success.  It’s receiving today’s shipments…today!  It’s going out of our way to say “thank you” at the end of every sale.  It’s sweeping the floor…every day.  It’s really counting – not estimating, at inventory.  It’s studying and reading about new products.  Not exciting stuff, but if not done, if not practiced could eventually spell the difference between keeping or losing customers.

There are lots of great talents in business.  Some dazzle; Some entertain; Some can sell anything…once.  But when it comes to “the details”… to follow-up, to keeping promises…to actually delivering value…even the best “showman” falls short.  There’s nothing in their bag of tricks of things that glare, obscure, and distract that will win the game…in the long run.

Instead, it’s under-promising and over-delivering; it’s always doing what we say we’ll do; it’s being perfectly predictable and unwaveringly consistent…these define dependability…they are the qualities -the glow- that “illuminate” the way for customers to find their way “home”…to us!

Don’t forget the free throws…

Lead on………..    Cliff

November 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

Every Damn Thing is Your Own Fault

When something goes wrong in your team, department, or organization (and it will), do you blame others for what might really have been your fault?  We all do at one time or another.  Unfortunately, in the heat of the battle we forget this, and worse, we forget the devastating effect misplaced blame can have on others.  The way to stop shirking  responsibility for failures is to realize that by accepting it, you maintain control over your life, your environment, and your business!

In his novel “Green Hills of Africa”, Ernest Hemingway recalls how he missed an easy shot at a prized sable bull.  He could have blamed his guide, who had surprised the animal, but he didn’t.  “Every damn thing is your own fault…if you’re any good”, says Hemingway.

To be successful, managers, coaches, or leaders, people must accept responsibility for everything.  If they don’t, they’ll always find excuses that will keep them from achieving what they want – “It’s our lousy location…”, “He’s just not motivated…”, “They don’t communicate…”, “I can’t get an answer…”, all familiar statements of blame that if really believed by a leader, will ensure little or no progress.

Example:  A store manager watches a sales person that is trying to show a customer how a product works.  The sales guy bungles the job, and loses the sale.  The unsuccessful manager blames his employee for not knowing his stuff, or for folding under pressure, or for not taking the opportunity seriously.  He chooses this option to put distance between himself and a problem, but by so doing, he gives up control of his and the store’s success.  The successful manager, on the other hand, says “I need to train him better”, thus taking not only responsibility, but control over his and the operation’s destiny.  A good leader OWNS it all!

Lead on………..    Cliff

October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

The “Easiest” Job in the World

The other day as I stood in the checkout line at an office supply store, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation behind me.  Actually, I could only hear one side of the conversation…a lady on her cell phone.  Here’s what I could make out…

“…Yah, I heard he just got out of jail…”

“…it must’ve been pretty bad…I guess he was in for seven years…”

“…that’s right, I heard he’s working there now…”

“…Yah, all the guys just coming out are working there…”

“…customer service…”

“…I heard it’s a great job…you don’t have to do anything…”

“…I know…customer service is the easiest job in the world…”

Sure (I thought to myself),…it’s easy…if you’re apathetic, heartless, selfish, have no drive…and no conscience!  It’s easy if you view your job as avoiding saying “yes I can” or “yes I will”.  It’s easy if you’re a master at superficial smiles, insincere responses, and thoughtless quips.  Yes, customer service, or serving customers, can be the easiest, and LEAST SATISFYING job in the world.

Or…it can be the hardest……and MOST SATISFYING job in the world.  It all depends on your orientation and attitude.  If you love people, and enjoy finding creative and mutually satisfactory solutions to problems, and are driven by putting smiles on people’s faces, then it just doesn’t get any better than serving customers!

Yes, customer service can be easy…or it can be hard.  Great organizations and companies prefer doing things the HARD way!

Lead on…


October 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

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