Last weekend, my mom and I went shopping for her upcoming cruise. We went to lots of stores and encountered many levels of service providers. From the very cranky at being alive to the “I live to serve” type—we got ‘em all. But a young woman in the shoe department at Macy’s stood out from the rest.
It was their once-yearly, twenty-five-percent-off-anything-if-you-donated-five-dollars-to-charity day, and by the time we got to the shoe part of mom’s outfit it was late in the day. The place looked like it had rained shoes. Shoes and stacks of shoeboxes were everywhere. A long line of customers waited outside the mysterious “back room” for a salesperson to come out and help them find the right size. Unfortunately, even after viewing this scene with the knowledge that getting someone to help would be a long shot, mom found the perfect shoes and wasn’t leaving until she got to try them on.
I found her a place to sit and dove into the fray. First of all, even though there were at least seven people working in the department, no one could get anywhere near them. With chins down and arms piled high with boxes, each of them had a purposeful desire to avoid eye contact and keep moving. Just when I thought, This is SOOO not happening, a young woman popped out from behind a huge pile of shoeboxes, looked me in the eye, gave me a megawatt smile, and said, “Just one minute and I’ll be right with you—it’s kind of a zoo today!” She zipped off to deliver the boxes to an elderly woman sitting near my mom, taking a moment to open the first box of shoes and say to the customer, “These are a half size larger than you wanted, but they were the only pair and run small so I brought them to you, too.”
She turned and smiled at my mom, looked at the shoe she was holding, shared that those were her favorite shoes in the store, and asked what size she needed. She then said, “I’ll get them as soon as I can—we have only three people finding shoes in the back, two on the floor, and two at the cash register, so it might be a few minutes.” WOW! What a way to inform and delight a customer! She looked like she was having fun, delivered personal service, and proactively soothed a frustrated customer who had to wait.
How did she do this—and how can you do this with both internal and external customers to make them feel valued? By putting the FUN into customer service:
F: Focus your attention: Step one is to focus your attention. Look up and see who is there. Acknowledge their existence. Describe three things about them in your head so when you open your mouth to speak, you are all about THEM. Be sure to notice the small details.
U: Understand their world: Step two is to understand their needs. Do a little detective work. Check in—ask them what they are looking for. If you are not exactly clear what they want, double-check by reflecting back what you heard or add value by suggesting something they may have not thought about. Sometimes a person’s needs are very subtle and if you capture them accurately, you will have a customer for life.
N: Nurture them: Step three is to nurture—to celebrate who they are, respond to what you now know they need, and let them know you care. It is sharing—either overtly or covertly—that they have value and are important, and that you want to improve the quality of their life for the time you are together.
So put the FUN back into serving and create lasting memories! Now more than ever, people need reminders about why to show up wholeheartedly, believe in themselves, and enjoy their lives. Take pride in the small things can you do to get big responses out of people. Make every moment magical by realizing that every day you have the power to create smiles and touch lives.
PS: And yes, my mom did get the shoes!
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their other-focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
My first realization that this was not a “business as usual” situation was encountering Troy at the front desk. He immediately welcomed me to the Hyatt, shared his name, and told me to remember it in case I needed anything while I was visiting.
While checking me in, he asked the purpose of my visit to Denver and when I said it was to speak at ASTD, he said, “Then we must get you a quiet room.” He listened to a special additional request I had and immediately took care of getting my friend a room a few doors away from mine which made my trip incredibly meaningful. In addition, he made sure that I knew where I was going, had instructions for the elevator (it required a room key to access the floor I was on—did he know how many times I have exhaustedly stood in the elevator waiting for it to go to my floor and after five minutes or so realizing it hadn’t moved?) Lastly, he asked if I needed a wake-up call (I said I would call down later) and said he would take care of my friend when she was due to arrive in an hour.
Just the start of a Legendary Service experience
Troy was just the start of an amazing visit to the Hyatt. Here are a few other highlights.
When I called for a wake-up call, the lovely person on the line asked me if I would like to order breakfast, schedule a massage, or if she could help me in any way. WOW—instead of feeling a bit like a pain for asking for help, I was treated like royalty. I left a note for the housekeeper to leave a few extra decaffeinated green tea bags and she had them arranged in a cup like a flower for me when I got back to my room.
My wake-up call the following morning was a gentle woman who shared it was time to rise and shine and the weather was 57 degrees and she was sure I was going to have a wonderful day. Within a few minutes, Bob, a young, friendly in-room dining staff member brought me my breakfast and inquired about my day. He carefully set up the tray and inquired if there was anything else I might need. He had a vibrant personality that started my day out with hope.
My last interaction was leaving my suitcase with the bellman downstairs. He exclaimed, “What?? You have to go so soon? We will miss you but we’ll take good care of your bag until you come back later for it.” To my amazement, he even remembered which bag was mine when I came back to retrieve it!
A clear sign of great leadership
Being next door to the convention center, this hotel is probably always packed with people, which could cause many employees to become tired and frustrated. Instead, they demonstrated an ownership and pride as they served each and every customer at the highest level. They were personable, friendly, interested, and did things for me that I could have done for myself, but gladly, let someone else do.
To me, this is a sign of excellent leadership at the top of the organization in training employees how to treat their customer and make them feel welcomed. Great leaders recognize the importance of getting all employees trained on the company’s standards of what excellent service is and then (hopefully) praising the employees’ great efforts!
I know that I felt loved and cared for during my stay at this hotel, and would gladly stay there again and recommend it to others. That is a sign of Legendary Service—when the service is so good, that your customers are doing the selling for you!
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their other-focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
The 2011 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer reports that 60 percent of U.S. consumer respondents believe that businesses have not increased their focus on providing good customer service. Even more surprising, 26 percent think companies are actually paying less attention to service.
Wow—now is your chance to be the one who CAREs about service! Here are three places to start being the one who leads the charge so everyone in the organization has a customer service mindset:
- Declare “legendary customer service” as an imperative. Put it out there. Say, “We want to be #1 in our space for delivering Legendary Customer Service.” Show any metrics you currently have and set new targets /metrics for success by showing what a good job would look like. Explain the business imperative for service and have a kick-off meeting where senior leaders model the service they want others to emulate—greeting people at the door, shaking hands, valuing them for all they do, etc. In this meeting, actively involve people in activities, get them fired up about the initiative, and have them challenge each other to rally to serve customers and contribute to the vitality of the organization.
- Establish a service champion team who will go out and walk in the customer’s shoes. Do some action learning. Map the flow of customers and research positives and negatives by asking customers, employees, suppliers, and anyone who is in the service chain for their thoughts on what is working and what could be improved. Put them on the agenda at all company meetings to share their findings and use time to brainstorm options, set goals, create first steps, and assign roles.
- Immediately showcase individual employee customer success stories and create images for everyone of the optimal service you are looking for. Remember that the brain stores in images and not words, so to create momentum, be sure to highlight ideal service successes and let people see their outstanding peers in action. Show examples of customers singing praises to demonstrate the impact of great service. Share any improvements such as fewer complaints, improved referrals, or more repeat business.
As a leader, it’s important that you demonstrate a service mindset and show others how to accomplish it. By following these three steps, you can get your organization off to a good start on a path that will lead to better performance.
“Creating an environment where goals are clear, where success can be seen, and where learning is encouraged will help employees engage customers with a true sense of meaning.”
– Garry Ridge, President and CEO, WD-40 Company
I was at a huge warehouse store last week. It was a bit wild. There were rabid sample-seekers, last minute bargain hunters, multitudes of screaming children, and people with lists and carts and flatbeds a mile long, trying to find everything they needed. Emotions were running high and products were running out. Some examples from my personal experience included:
- Early in my shopping, I found a great sweatshirt for my son and put it in my cart. Moments later, as I was looking through the mass of books on the book table, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lady actually removing the sweatshirt from my cart! That’s one way of shopping, I guess. I sure hope it was the size she needed.
- Another person grabbed a lasagna sample when I was clearly reaching for it—my hand was literally an inch away from the little cup. Hey! That was my bite! Of course it was the last sample and the next batch of lasagna had ten minutes left on the timer.
- Someone else bashed me in the ankle with their humongous solid iron flatbed cart. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
What kind of lasting memories do you think these experiences might have left with me? Aggravation? Anger? Frustration? Actually, as it turned out, none of these. For me, the most vivid memories of the day were the gifts provided by four different people—who all happened to be employees of the store.
- The first angel was working in the clothing department. She came sprinting over when she saw the woman take the sweatshirt out of my cart, and said, “We have more of those—what size was that? I see your confusion. I’ll go get one for you right away.” Really?
- Then, during the speedy checkout process, the cashier asked me, “How was your week?” and “How do you like this product?” She seemed to be so interested in me at that moment. Even though she was routinely scanning products through the register, her total focus seemed to be on me and making me feel cared for and important.
- On my way out, I stopped at the member service area to get my picture taken for my membership card. After the gentleman took my picture, I asked him how it looked and he replied, “In my 15 years here, I have never seen such a beauty!” Oh yeah, make my day!
- And then the person at the door, who I’m sure marks off hundreds of customer receipts each day, took the time to say, “I love how healthy everything is that you bought. You must love your family very much.”
So what do you notice about each one of these people? They personalized their interaction with me, showed they cared, and noticed something unique about me from my world and my life. They did their job with great skill, but then went the extra mile to leave a lasting memory and connection, to build a relationship with me.
Create a memory
Take a moment to consider your interactions with your customers and think, “How could I notice the person behind the customer?” Emotions are high during the holiday season and this could be your best chance to leave a lasting memory. Leverage the time; share the love!
Editor’s Note: This guest post by Vicki Halsey is the second in a series looking at exceeding customer satisfaction and loyalty. Vicki, together with Kathy Cuff, are the principal authors of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. It will appear on the second Thursday of each month.
People aren’t picking up new skills fast enough? It might be your fault. Six questions to ask yourself
In a recent webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage, 76% of participants said that in their opinion, at least 60% of a person’s success on the job can be attributed to their ability to learn job specific skills. Yet only 9% identified that any company they had ever worked for used a mindful process when teaching people new skills. For most of the webinar participants, learning a new skill was something they had to figure out for themselves while on the job.
If learning is important to success in today’s complex business environment, why don’t more organizations take the time to train people in the skills they need more effectively?
It’s because most managers and leaders are not trained how to teach according to Dr. Vicki Halsey, Vice President of Applied Learning at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Most leaders are more accustomed to telling instead of teaching—and are often disappointed when they check back to see how people are doing with applying new skills.
If you want your people to pick up new skills more quickly, Halsey recommends addressing six areas when rolling out a new initiative. Have you got a new program that you are getting ready to launch? See if you you’ve covered these six basics to maximize learning and application.
- Energize learners. Set the context for learning before anyone steps into the classroom. What can people do to get up-to-speed on this subject? What can they read, or who can they talk with, to become as excited about this topic as you are?
- Navigating the content. Is the presentation learner friendly? Have you put together a good structure that includes breaking the content down into bite-sized chunks that people can easily digest? Or have you designed this as a lecture type presentation where you will be doing all the talking and it will be a challenge just getting through the content—let alone actually retaining anything?
- Generate meaning. Have you connected the dots so people see why learning this new content is important? People need to see why they should take the time to invest in learning new skills. Your job as a leader is to provide that meaning.
- Apply the learning. What does this new skill look like in the real world? Have you included some opportunities to practice the real life application of this new skill—or is that something you are leaving up to individual learners to figure out for themselves?
- Gauge and celebrate. How will you measure if people are really doing something different with the content? Don’t be vague on this point. What is the business metric you are looking to impact? ROI is something you need address at the beginning of a new initiative—not after the fact.
- Extend the learning. How will you keep the initiative alive beyond the initial rollout? New habits take time to develop and a lot of support in the early days. What is your follow-up plan? How will you ensure that skills learned in the classroom are applied back on the job?
A 2010 Bersin report shows that organizations that successfully create strong learning cultures are more likely to be strong innovators in their markets, more likely to get to market before competitors, and more likely to be a market-share leader.
Learning new skills is an important necessity in today’s work environment. Don’t leave it to chance in your organization. Take a proactive approach to teaching people new skills.
Join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a complimentary webinar and online chat beginning today at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time (12:00 noon Eastern). Dr. Vicki Halsey, author of Brilliance By Design will be discussing learning and application strategies for leaders in a special presentation on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage.
The webinar is free and seats are still available if you would like to join over 600 people expected to participate.
Immediately after the webinar, Vicki will be answering follow-up questions here at LeaderChat for about 30 minutes. To participate in the follow-up discussion, use these simple instructions.
Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat
- Click on the LEAVE A COMMENT link above
- Type in your question
- Push SUBMIT COMMENT
It’s as easy as that! Vicki will answer as many questions as possible in the order they are received. Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.
We hope you can join us later today for this special complimentary event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Now posted! View recording of 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage
As a young college professor, best-selling business author Ken Blanchard constantly found himself in front of disapproving faculty boards. The reason? His insistence on giving out the final exam to each of his students on the first day of the class he was teaching.
As soon as they found out, the board would call Blanchard in to explain himself. As Ken describes it, the exchange usually went something like this:
Ken: “I’m confused.”
The Board: “You act like it.”
Ken: “I thought we are supposed to teach these kids.”
The Board: “You are, but don’t give them the exam ahead of time.”
Ken would never listen and would actually spend the entire semester teaching the students the answers to the questions. Ken’s belief was that his main job was to teach students the content they needed to learn, as opposed to worrying about evaluating them properly with the final exam.
Dr. Vicki Halsey, VP of Applied Learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies uses a similar approach when it comes to teaching. Instead of using tests to identify what people don’t know at the end of leadership training, she uses tests to help people claim and celebrate what they do know. A recent example is work she did with pharmaceutical representatives who needed to learn a new skill in collecting information from doctors. Halsey’s approach helped the learners to feel confident in what they knew and successful when they walked out the door and returned to their jobs.
How do you want people feeling when they finish a class? Do you want people focusing on what they don’t know, or ready to put into practice what they do know? It’s a subtle difference that makes all the difference.
You can read more about Halsey’s unique approach to adult learning at Leaders Need to Be Teachers. Also check out Halsey’s free July 20 webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
A lot of leaders are disappointed these days. Even though they work hard to provide clear direction to their people, when they check in on progress at the end of the month, they often find that little has changed.
The problem, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies is that leaders confuse telling with teaching. In a recent article for the Blanchard Companies’ Ignite! newsletter, Halsey explains that, “If leaders want people to develop new behaviors, they have to become better teachers of what to do and how to do it.”
For leaders looking to get started, Halsey recommends three strategies:
1. Break Learning Down into Manageable Chunks
Leaders need to give people an opportunity to learn the new skills over time, using a variety of different modalities that go beyond a one-time exposure to the content.
2. Create Meaning to Embed Learning
Executives need to generate meaning for the new learning. They need to answer the question “Why is this important for me to learn?” Generating this meaning and connecting it to learning the new skill helps people retain the skill over the long term because now they can see the importance of the task.
3. Remember the 70/30 Rule
According to Halsey, “When people are getting ready for a presentation they focus 70 percent of their time on what they are going to say.” Halsey believes this time would be better spent thinking about how to create a learner-centered environment that helps people learn. As she explains, “Leaders need to shift their focus and spend only 30 percent of their time worrying about what they need to say and 70 percent on how to create the greatest transfer of learning to their participants.
According to Halsey, “The biggest thing is to teach, not tell. Very often leaders think that because they are telling people what they want them to do, people are turning around and doing it. We need to realize that teaching, not telling, is a discipline at which all leaders need to become effective—because the more you teach, the more people will learn and the more successful they will be.”
You can read more of Halsey’s advice to leaders at Leaders Need to Be Teachers. Also check out Halsey’s free July 20 webinar on 6 Keys to Creating Learning Experiences that Inspire and Engage courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Close your eyes for a moment. Place yourself in a traditional learning situation. What’s happening? The teacher is at the front of the room, right? Who is doing the talking? The teacher, right? Who is standing, moving around the room? Who is engaged with the ideas and the information? Whose voice do you hear most of the time? Who’s excited? The teacher, the teacher, and the teacher.
In her new book, Brilliance by Design, Vicki Halsey explains that if organizations want participants to be as knowledgeable and excited about the content as the teacher, they need to shift the focus from the teacher to the participants.
In any good design 70 percent of the total learning event time needs to be the learners practicing new skills, working with them, and teaching others. Only 30 percent of the time should be devoted to the teacher teaching the skills to them.
That means that instructors need to focus less on what they are going to say and instead devote a full 70 percent of their time and energy on creating activities that embed learning.
As Halsey explains, “Active involvement with concepts—versus passive listening—enhances learning and application. The more active, rigorous practice the learner does with your content, the more automatic and natural it will be to use that content.”
To help presenters make the shift, Halsey suggests a six-step ENGAGE Model to replace the old “sit ’n’ get” model with “woo ’n’ do” so learners are actively drawn in and perform activities that reinforce the learning.
Energize learners by challenging thought patterns with pre-reading before session
Navigate content by presenting it in small chunks with interactive experiences
Generate meaning by helping learners determine the significance of the content in their lives
Apply to the real world by helping learners put into practice what they’ve learned
Gauge and celebrate by creating ways to assess and celebrate what has been accomplished
Extend learning to action by following up and helping learners create action plans
Where is your training focused? Is it on the material and your role, or is it on giving students a majority of the time to practice and engage the new skills? Shift the focus for greater success and application.
To learn more about Halsey’s new book, visit her book page at Amazon. To see Vicki in action with engaging content check out her recorded webinar on Managing and Developing People to Be Their Best: The three keys to becoming a smart, flexible, and successful leader