Tag Archives: customer service

A Bad Haircut – and Bad Listening Skills

I recently went in for a haircut and said, “just trim it so that it lays down nice.” When the BadHaircutyoung lady finished, she had cut it way short in a way that it was spiking up on top… if I had added blue sunglasses and an ear stud I could have gone to a costume ball as Bono!   I had told the stylist what I needed… but instead of truly listening she interpreted my needs through her 20 something lens of what she thought it should be.   The net result was that I came out looking like an insecure baby boomer trying to relive my 20’s.

As I was reflecting on the prospect of going out in public looking like Bono, it brought back memories of a similar experience I had with a city hall staff a few years ago.

I was considering the purchase of an atypical infill residential lot to build on that had some unique challenges. Whether the lot would work would be determined by the side yard setbacks. So I called the city’s development services department and asked “what are the side yard setbacks?” The secretary said she would have someone call me. I got a call back about 48 hours later from a development services representative and I asked again “what are the side yard setbacks?”

This time I was told “I am sorry but to answer any development questions, you need to come in for a development review meeting.” So within another about 48 hours, a secretary called me and scheduled me for the next available date for a development review meeting – which was approximately three weeks later.

I showed up at the conference room where the fire marshal, the building inspector, a zoning representative, a planner and the development services director were all in the room. I sat down and they asked what they could do for me. I said, “I need to know what the side yard setbacks are.” So the planner looked at their map and responded with a number that made it clear this lot was not able to be developed for me.

huffyIt had taken me a month and a meeting with five city officials to get a 30 second answer to a very simple and straightforward question.

Later, in a separate context I had a conversation with the development services director and she asked about my experience with the city. She was stunned (and even a little offended) to learn that I did not consider it a very positive experience. She said, “It was excellent customer service – we had a room full of people there to address any concerns you had and we were able to answer your question immediately and with clarity. How could you not consider that excellent customer service?”

The development services director had viewed the customer’s needs through her lens of providing a reliable process instead of through my lens as the customer. Yes, her city hall-centric process was reliable and accurate, but it took me a month and required me to schedule a live meeting at city hall to get a 30 second answer that should have been handled with a single phone call. A city hall-centric process can easily deceive staff into believing that just because it is reliable and accurate that the customer is being well served.

It is not accidental that one of the 12 core values of Servant Leadership is listening.   ListeningMystery shoppers, customer surveys, focus groups, social media and even just asking are all great strategies to improve your organization’s listening skills. Take advantage of them.

You may be surprised at what you discover – and how easy you could improve citizen relations just by making sure your organization is doing a better job of truly listening to customers.

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Customer Service 101

First, read these brief excerpts from the book Overpromise and Overdeliver: The Secrets of Unshakeable Customer Loyalty by Rick Barrera:

Capturing customers is all about creating brand promises and keeping them.
Sooner or later the customer’s actual experience will have to live up to the image.
The unequaled customer service that once set you apart has now been equaled – your competitors have caught up, and your customers have noticed.
Some years ago, USA Today reported that one of every four purchases ends up being a problem for the customer. I believe it.


A few days ago, my wife and I ate in a new restaurant (new to us). The food was fine. The atmosphere was fine; actually, kind of nice. But the customer service? Well, let me put it this way: we both felt like we were somehow intruding upon and interrupting the lives and routines of the servers. They finally gave us what we wanted – but it was as though we were there for them; they were not there for us. (We likely will not return).

So, let me remind you of Customer Service 101 – if you are in the customer service business (and, you are), you are there to actually serve the customer. That is what you are all about. That is what matters most.

Oh, sure, you need a service or product that the customer will really want. But, if you do not deliver that to the customer in a good way, a timely way, an attentive way, your good product will be rejected for another “provider” down the road.

Customer service begins with, you know… serving the customer.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Everything Matters in Superior Customer Experience

There is no tougher customer service/experience challenge than that of health care professionals. Hospitals; doctors; entire medical support staff – every patient judges the entire operation on the worst customer experience moment/interaction in the entire experience. After all, (from the book Service Fanatics):

This may be our most obvious study finding, as well as one of the most obvious facts in healthcare. No one wants to be our customer. Equally important to the point that no one wants to be in the hospital or visit a healthcare provider is that no one wants to come back.

Service FanaticsI recently presented a synopsis of Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way by James Merlino, MD (New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2015) for a top-notch medical practice here in the Dallas area. Side note: this is a medical practice that truly excels at the patient experience. It seems that they already do everything suggested by and even hinted at by Dr. Merlino in this book. Why are they so good? They keep raising the bar, and never letting the bar slip, in their quest to provide a fully attentive patient/customer experience. They pay attention to every detail, every moment, every interaction.

Dr. Merlino knows something about this challenge.

JAMES MERLINO, MD, is the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System and is a practicing colorectal surgeon in the Digestive Disease Institute. He is the founder and current president of the Association for Patient Experience and is a recognized world thought leader in the emerging field of patient experience. In 2013, HealthLeaders magazine named him one of “20 People Who Make Healthcare Better.”

The book is filled with specific findings, and then solutions to the problems discussed. I wrote this on my synopsis handout as reason #2 on “Why is this book worth our time?”

This book reminds us that everything matters. Call it process; call it design thinking; but every single interaction (“touch point”) matters to the patient (customer).

And, though a bell curve distribution is everywhere present in business, there is one place where there is no bell curve allowed. Again, from the book:

Some might contend that it’s acceptable for customer experiences to follow a typical bell-shaped distribution, with some terrible, most good, and a few extraordinary. In healthcare, however, the way we treat our customers—patients—should not be arrayed on a bell curve. We cannot accept anything less than the consistent delivery of safe, high-quality, compassionate, and empathetic care. Who would want to be the patient or family at the bottom of a bell-shaped experience curve?

Here are my eight lessons and takeaways from Service Fanatics:

  1. Give your full attention to the patient, at each step of the designed process, and in each and every “touch point” (interaction). The book describes this as a “process,” a well-designed, nothing – not one moment — left out of the well-designed, and then well-executed process).
  2. “Honest and demanding” can still be great, and certainly needed, customer/patient experience.
  3. But… you have to become a very good “explainer…” 
(patients want, and really need, to understand – everything).
  4. Try little tests.
  5. Remember the “Rule of 17” – it takes 17 “repetitions of a message” for a person to finally get it… 
(The “Rule of 17” is not in the book, but the principle of repeating key messages, especially to all on the team, is clearly and strongly emphasized).
  6. And remember, each patient is different… Your job is to discern the differences – LISTEN REALLY WELL!!! – and 
respond to that patient in that moment. 

  7. And, remember, let there be no weak links in the team. (Coach yourself; coach one another – all for the sake of the 
patient experience!)
  8. And, remember, what really matters to that patient is knowing, and knowing fast… 
(knowing what they are so anxious to know).

If you are in the health care arena, I would call this a must-read book. If you are in the customer service arena – and, you are – this is a great “how to design a superior customer experience” book.

Remember the Rule of 17 - (Click on image for full view)

Remember the Rule of 17 – (Click on image for full view)

(Note: I presented this to a private client, not at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis event. But, in a few weeks, I will record my presentation, and put it up on our 15minutebusinessbooks site. Give me a few weeks).

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Now THAT’S Customer Service!

Last summer, my husband purchased a suit jacket at Nordstrom and he recently noticed that a seam was unraveling around the collar. Somehow, I managed to locate the receipt from six months ago and I headed to the store to see if they would consider altering the jacket. After I explained the issue, the Nordstrom’s representative filled out an alterations form and told me it would be ready tomorrow, without even glancing at my receipt (much to my dismay because I was very proud that I still had the receipt!). Shocked with quick turnaround, I asked what the charge would be – it was free.  

From its tiny beginnings as a single partnership shoe store, Nordstrom has grown into a retail and customer service dynasty. 

In Salem, Oregon, a customer called the Nordstrom store, “She has driven past the mall and had discovered when she got home that one of her hubcaps had fallen off.  ‘Was there anyone in Nordstrom,’ she asked, ‘who could check the road that ran past the mall to see if my hubcap was there?’  A Nordstrom employee did just that, found the hubcap, brought it back to the store, washed it, and notified the customer, who came in to pick it up.  ‘We love that story,’ said Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president of the company… ‘because it means people don’t just think of Nordstrom for buying things, they think of us as a place where they can find solutions.”  [The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence, Robert Spector and Patrick McCarthy]

The employee handbook of Nordstrom is reported to be a single notecard.  One side has a welcome message.  The other side states, “Our only rule: Use good judgment in all situations.”

If businesses are trying to become the “Nordstrom” of their industry, it begs the questions, who/what is the “Nordstrom” of local government?

In government, we do not have sales reports, commission checks, or quarterly investment reports that yield above 2%.  It is difficult to make the connection for the importance of customer service.  Do residents have another choice for a company to turn on their water?  No.  Do builders have another avenue for receiving a building permit?  No.  Does the lack of competition give leaders an excuse to not focus on customer service?  Perhaps. 

However, local government has the ability to deeply affect our customers on a daily basis.  The services that we provide are arguably the most important, basic services that a citizen receives – safety, water, sanitation, streets, codes, library, and recreation. 

It is our job to offer these services in the “Nordstrom” way – use good judgment and look for solutions. 

How is your organization operating in the “Nordstrom” way?



Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

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