Customers Rock!

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Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Book Review and Author Interview: Taking Care of Employees

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 6, 2008

Book review Today I am reviewing the book Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most by Sybil Stershic.  The main premise of the book is this: take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers!  In seven easy-to-read chapters, Sybil describes how to do this using an “internal marketing” approach.  She helps companies see how to really engage employees so they become committed to the cause, not compliant (doing it because they have to).  Believe me, customers can tell the difference!

Here is a great quote from the first chapter:

“Think about it: most products and services can easily become commoditized, but competitors cannot duplicate the relationship an organization’s employees have with its customers.”

The book goes on to describe how to improve relationships, including employee-employee, employee-management, and employee-customer.  People will make the difference, and Sybil gives us a lot of great ideas on both why and how to make them a priority.  Coming from my customer-centric perspective, I especially liked Chapter 4 on strengthening the internal service culture.  It is so important for each employee to understand why they make a difference in the organization and how that is ultimately reflected out to customers.  A strong internal service culture, Sybil suggests, will help improve both employee and customer loyalty.  I wholeheartedly agree!

For those of skeptics out there, Sybil includes answers to some “tough questions” in Chapter 6, such as this one: “Do happy employees ensure happy customers?”  They are great for arming oneself before attempting to start an employee-loyalty initiative at a business.  The book also has several helpful worksheets and charts to assist in planning out the changes that need to be made within a company.  Thank you, Sybil, for making it easy to follow!


Speaking of questions, Sybil was kind enough to answer a few of my own.  Here is the Q&A I had with her about the book. 

  •  Whose job is it to do “internal marketing”? How does it relate to those doing “external marketing”?

 Let me start by explaining marketing in both contexts. You can use it to basically communicate with, educate, and motivate employees, just like it’s used to communicate with, educate and motivate consumers. But while external marketing is usually the responsibility of marketing and/or communications staff, internal marketing is an intrinsic part of management’s job – taking care of the employees so they can take care of the customers. So it’s not really a pure marketing function, which is why I tell people you don’t have to be a marketer to apply internal marketing.

  • Disney has “cast members”. Starbucks has “partners”. Does what we call our employees really matter? Why would customers care?

Interesting question, Becky.  The reality is regardless of how you refer to employees – be it “Associates” … “Team members” … or some other company or brand-relevant name – it doesn’t matter to customers. (And customers will likely call them “employees” anyway.) However, it DOES matter to employees as it sets expectations about the organization’s culture and values. Employees, as well as customers, are quick to see through the rhetoric of employee labels that are merely window dressing.

  • It has been said you should inspect what you expect. How do you measure the success of internal marketing – both from the employee as well as from the customer perspective?

Since internal marketing involves engaging employees and customers, you can evaluate it with the same metrics that measure overall satisfaction and retention for both groups. You can also measure specific internal marketing activities (such as recognition programs, new staff orientation, special events, etc.) through quantitative and qualitative means; i.e., who/how many participated, how did it impact their perceptions and/or behavior?

For companies just getting started with internal marketing, it may be the first time the folks from HR and Marketing Research get together to discuss what benchmarks are available from employee and customer surveys. (Note: For companies that have not done any such surveys, please know there are research providers who measure employee engagement and those who also do “linkage research” which looks at operational practices and employee perceptions and links this information to drivers of customer satisfaction.)

  • How can a strong service culture help grow customer loyalty and improve the customer experience?

Internal service drives external service – when employees take care of each other’s business needs, everyone is better prepared to take care of the external customer.

Here’s another way to look at it – since customers’ perceptions and intentions are affected by what employees experience on-the-job, the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

  • For my final question… what is the best customer experience you have ever had?

I was accompanying my husband on a business trip when I suddenly became ill on the plane – a situation that required emergency surgery. When our plane landed in Boston, we were met by ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. In between the admissions process and surgery, my husband and I looked at each other and wondered what had happened to our luggage. Since we had gone from the plane to the ambulance, we hadn’t time to get to baggage claim.

While I was undergoing surgery, my husband checked into our hotel and explained the situation. The hotel staff immediately called the airport to find our luggage and have it set aside for us. They had a hotel limo drive my husband back to the airport to get our luggage, after which my husband was dropped off at the hospital to wait for me after surgery, and our luggage was placed in our hotel room prior to my husband’s return that evening. We experienced truly extraordinary service provided by the hotel in a situation that had nothing to do with the hotel.

Here’s what I learned from that experience: customers expect a company to be responsive and “recover” any problems created by service delivery failure … but we can’t always expect the same when the problem is out of the company’s control. Nonetheless, hotel staff went out of their way to help their guests who found themselves in a difficult situation.

The hotel was the Marriott at Boston’s Copley Plaza, and it provided one of my most memorable customer experiences. I’ve shared this story in countless presentations since this experience happened more than 20 years ago! (How’s that for word-of-mouth? Amazing how customers have long memories for positive and negative experiences.)

Thanks for asking, Becky.  And thanks for a great interview.

  • Thank you, Sybil, for your time!

Blog Book Tour Continues 

Sybil’s book tour has already had a few stops this week and finishes up the beginning of next week.  Here is her full itinerary; be sure to linger at each stop, since each blog author is coming from a different perspective!



Posted in Book reviews, Customer service, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Groundswell Book Review – Fabulous!

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 17, 2008

I just finished reading the book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (analysts at Forrester), and what a book it is!  I also had the opportunity to interview Charlene about the book.  Here are some thoughts about the book, as well as a few comments from Charlene.  I will post the transcript of the interview with her soon; stay tuned!

Book Review

I do a lot of speaking on how to use social media to strengthen customer relationships, and Groundswell provides a great overview of not just the how but also the why.  The groundswell, as defined by the authors, is a social trend in which people use technologies to get what they need from each other, rather than from, say, corporations.  One of the reasons I like the book so much can be found in this quote:

…here’s the principle for mastering the groundswell: concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.

This is Customers Rock! thinking, and I love it.  

This is not the book to read if you want to know all the details of the current social media technologies (although there is a nice overview in Chapter 2 – check out the part that describes how each technology enables relationships).  That is part of what makes this book so powerful.  Although technologies change quickly, the strategies outlined in this book are timeless. 

Setting Goals

Charlene and Josh stress the importance of setting clear goals when engaging in the groundswell.  They recommend choosing one of five different objectives, matching the objective for entering the groundswell to the company’s objective.  These include the following:

  • Listening – better understand your customers
  • Talking – spread your message
  • Energizing – supercharge Word of Mouth
  • Supporting – get customers to help each other
  • Embracing – collaborate on your business

There is a chapter for each of these strategies, including case studies of companies who are doing them well.  In addition, there are several examples of potential ROI for these activities (Charlene did note for me that they “threw everything into these business calculations”, so the costs may well differ for you!).   Charlene also told me that they turned away great cases for the book because they didn’t have the data to back up their successes.

Customer Profiles

Another very helpful part of Groundswell is the tables of customers and their “Social Technographic Profile.”  Forrester has done in-depth research around people’s activities online, and the tables outline which people are more likely to watch the online world (spectators) versus actively participate in it in various ways (creators/critics/collectors/joiners).  Here is an example for small business owners:


There is also a free tool on the Groundswell site so you can check out what your customers might be doing.  Although it is a little more generic than the tables in the book, it will still give you an idea of what is happening with certain demographics.

Highly Recommended

I agree with Charlene and Josh – the most important part of engaging in the groundswell is setting objectives.  There are too many companies out there trying to “do social media” just because their competitors are doing it.  Groundswell will help your company take the right perspective and set the right priorities.   It will also get you thinking about customer relationships, and any book focusing on that relationship is one I highly recommend.  I am even considering using this book as the textbook for my class Marketing with New Media (UCSD Extension program)…!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer experience, social media | 8 Comments »

Instant Customer Connection – The Personal Touch

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 7, 2008

A note from Tsufit Marketing is all about building personal relationships.  Here is a wonderful example of the right way to reach out to others. 

Todd Andrlik contacted me to say my blog was included in the appendix of a new book called Step into the Spotlight by Tsufit (her full name, by the way).   Customers Rock! was one of 39 blogs on Tsufit’s list of Cool Marketing Blogs.  Thanks, Tsufit! 

Todd wanted to know if I would like a complimentary copy of the book, and I agreed.  It arrived in my mailbox the other day; on the envelope were a bunch of very cool-looking postage stamps picturing movie stars (Tsufit was most recently in the entertainment industry in Canada before becoming a business coach).  Excited to see the book, I ripped the package open (carefully, of course!).


I was really pleased to see that Tsufit had written me a note, on a Post-It, and had attached it to the front of the book.  Not only was it hand-written (see photo above), but it was personal.  She had taken the time to go to my blog, read some of my posts, and find a connection between us.  Here is the text of her note:


Here’s the book Todd Andrlik promised you.  I see you & I have singing in common.  Couldn’t believe it when I found a post on your blog called ‘Where Did My Dress Go?’ – years ago, I co-wrote a spoof song to the tune of You Light Up My Life about a shopper’s disappointment in a store ’cause the dress disappeared & it was called ‘Where Did My Dress Go?’  Hope you enjoy my book.  Pls confirm receipt.  Tsufit”

Not only that, but she autographed it as well on the inside: Tsufit\'s autograph

Her efforts to personalize the material she sent me were very much appreciated and brought a smile to my face.  I felt compelled to go find a quiet corner and sit down with the book. (Note: It is a very interesting book about how to “get noticed”, treating your business and yourself as if you were a star!  I will review it here soon.)  Not only that, but I felt special that she took the time to get to know me and reach out in this way.

A Lesson in Outreach

As a blogger, I am often asked if I would be willing to read a book and review it on my blog (I was asked to read Tsufit’s, but the email that went out in December got completely lost in my inbox).  Sometimes, I say no if I don’t feel the book will be relevant for my readers.  Other times, I accept, and the author sends me the book.  I then share my honest thoughts in a book review post (look in the left margin of my blog in the Book Reviews category to see books I have written about).

Very rarely does an author or PR firm take the time to personalize the material sent to me.  Sometimes, I get a printed letter from the PR firm with “sound bites” about the book and the link to where to get more info/book cover photos.  Usually, there is just a book in an envelope, sent to my address (once, I even got a book I never requested!).

Tsufit provides us with a glowing example of how to market.  It should be relevant.  It should build a personal relationship.  It should stand out in our minds, not due to clever tactics, but due to the personal touch.

Thanks, Tsufit and Todd.  I can’t wait to finish reading the book!

Related Posts:

Where Did My Dress Go?

Your People: The Competitive Advantage

Posted in B2B Marketing, Book reviews, Customer loyalty, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Age of Conversation Bum Rush is on Today!

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 29, 2008

ageofconversation-book.jpg Last spring, the first Age of Conversation (AOC) book was put together by a very smart group of bloggers, lead by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton.  Over 100 bloggers each contributed 400 words on one topic: conversation.  The result was a book highlighting the thinking of a lot of smart people in marketing, PR, and advertising from around the world.  I was fortunate enough to be included in the book.  All book proceeds went to Variety Children’s Charity.

Today, Chris Wilson is hosting an AOC Bum Rush to try and move the book up the charts at Amazon and raise as much money as possible for Variety.

So, if you have been waiting to buy your copy, or if you would like to give it as a thoughtful gift for customers or clients, today is your day to buy it and get the most impact from your money.

Use this link to buy the book at Amazon, then spread the word!  Follow Chris on Twitter or at his blog to watch it move up the charts and benefit Variety.


Posted in Blogging, Book reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Magic, Marketing, and Memes: Oh, My!

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 24, 2007

magic-hat.jpg That Magical Reader Loyalty

(NOTE: no spoilers here!)  The Harry Potter series of books is a great example of reader/consumer loyalty.  After all, they have stuck with Harry through 7 books, 199 chapters, and over 4100 pages.  Many waited line in the US this past weekend, some dressed in costume, all excited to be one of the first to get hold of the last book in the series.  Parties were held all over the country (thanks for pointing out this Harry Potter event, Chris!).  On the beach here in San Diego today, I lost count of how many people were sitting in chairs poring through the book.

Each fan has their own way of dealing with the end of the series.  Some, such as Doug Meacham of NextUp, stepped around the aftermath of the Harry Potter Midnight Party at their local bookstore to buy a copy and start the read (although Doug had a hard time finding it in some places!).  Ann Handley of Marketing Profs decided to take matters into her own hands and read the end first in order to avoid hearing about it accidentally.

Does the hype about the end, the spoilers, and the movie bother these people?  No.  They are loyal fans, and they are dedicated to reading the final book no matter what.

How can you make your product or service impervious to outside interference?  Building strong customer relationships is one of the first steps.

Marketing Bloggers and Media Unite!

A great event is taking place in the community.  Todd Andrlik’s Power 150 ranking of top marketing blogs is partnering with Ad Age!   Todd has worked tremendously hard to continually rank over 350+ marketing and PR blogs.  In his post today announcing the inside scoop, Todd quotes Jonah Bloom, editor of Advertising Age, as follows:

“Of course we could have put something together based on our own opinions or bloggers’ traffic numbers, but Todd’s brilliant creation goes way beyond that and creates a ranking that combines traffic, influence and quality into a ranking of the best out there. We’re excited to be able to bring that to our readers. We also hope it’ll be a great thing for all bloggers listed.”

Congratulations go out to Todd for his perseverance; it paid off!  Congrats also to the blogging community, as we are making an impact on the business world by writing quality content.  Thank you also to Todd for including Customers Rock! on the list; it has been an honor!

In a related story, Kami Huyse of Communication Overtones points out that only 13% of the Power 150 are women.  She shares the Top 20 PowerWomen of PR and Marketing (blogs) to help raise the awareness of top women bloggers.  Thanks for the hat tip, Kami!

Meme-Mania: 8 Things About Me and Glass Half Full

Over the past few weeks, I have been tagged for the 8 Things meme by Janet Green, Steve Woodruff, Valeria Maltoni, Doug Meacham, and Nick Rice.  This meme asks the person tagged to share 8 things about themselves, as a way of getting to know the blogger better.  The tagged person should then tag 8 others to share some link love and to share great blogs.  In addition to the “5 Things About Me” from awhile back, here are 8 more things …

1. I am a fan of science fiction movies and books (especially the “classic” movies from the 60s-80s such as Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, E.T., Close Encounters, Star Wars, and one of my faves Total Recall).  Sharing them with my boys is a lot of fun, even if they do laugh at some of the “older” special effects!

2. I was once in the circus as a child.  Ringling Brothers Circus came to town, and my sister and I were chosen to be in the parade.  It was very memorable!

3. One of my favorite places on Earth is Maui.  We vacation there on a regular basis and stay with some lovely friends.  Aloha!

4. My husband and I love to travel.  We have been all over Europe and the UK, and we hope to go again soon!  I once travelled all the way around the world on a business trip for Hewlett-Packard when I was working there as a marketing manager – and I was 5 months pregnant!

5. I enjoy drinking red wine, especially if it is paired with Scharfenberger Chocolate.  Yum!

6. I just learned how to knit this year.  I think I will keep my day job, though, as I am not very good at it!

7. My favorite actor is Gene Kelley.  What an amazing actor/singer/dancer!  When my kids saw his “I Got Rhythm” tap dance in the movie American in Paris recently, one of them said, “Those aren’t really his feet moving!  The computer did that.”

8. I am a huge fan of Disneyland and Disneyworld.  One of the first things I did when we moved to San Diego was buy Disneyland season passes for all of us.  Tell me if any of you come out this way, and I will meet you at Mickey’s house!  🙂

I was also tagged for the Glass Half Full meme a little while back, this time by Meikah Delid and Ryan Karpeles.  Sorry to take so long to respond, guys!  This meme asked the blogger to answer a few questions.  Here they are:

1. How full is your glass?
2. What kind of glass is it?
3. What’s in the glass?
4. Reasons for #1, #2, and #3

And here are my answers:

1. My cup runneth over.

2. A red wine glass.

3. Ravenswood Zinfandel.

4. Reasons: My cup runneth over because I have been truly blessed in my life, much beyond what I could have imagined or deserved.  The glass is a wine glass because I enjoy drinking red wine with family and friends while noshing on dark chocolate.  The contents are Ravenswood Zinfandel because Ravenswood is a Customers Rock! company, plus it reminds me of my connections to the blogging community (fellow Ravenswood fan Steve Woodruff has been great at creating community with BrandingWire).

I now tag the following people (and apologies if you have already been tagged!): Daksh at TheMarketingBlog, Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData, Katie Konrath of GetFreshMinds, Tim Jackson of MasiGuy, Daniel Sitter of Idea Sellers,  Kevin Dugan of Strategic Public Relations, Dale Wolf of The Perfect Customer Experience, and Christy Brewer of The Diff.

You can choose which meme you want to respond to!  Have fun.

(Photo by nruboc)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Blogging, Book reviews, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing, Memes | 25 Comments »

Age of Conversation: Launched Today!

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 16, 2007

ebook.jpg What book has 103 marketing bloggers representing 10 countries and four continents and where 100% of the proceeds support Variety Children’s Charity

The newly released book The Age of Conversation

Back in April, two really smart bloggers, Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton (themselves representing two countries and continents), set a goal of publishing a book with contributions from 100 bloggers.  Topic: the conversation age.  Each author wrote a one-page chapter for the book, interpreting the topic from their own point of view.  For example, my chapter is titled Conversations and the Customer Experience.

The format of the book provides for a quick read with lots of great food for thought on conversations in this age of new media.  The book is being released in three formats, so you can choose how you want to read it!

Hardcover: $29.99

Paperback: $16.99

e-Book: $9.99

Again, all proceeds are going to charity.  No author is going to earn any money from this book.

I highly encourage you to buy a copy of the book today, and spread the word on your blog, in your newsletter, and through your own conversations.  Be sure and come back here and leave your thoughts on the book!

Check out the great press this book is already getting:

Advertising Age

Social Computing Magazine

Update: more press!

Fast Company blog

Business Week blog


Below is the list of all 103 influential authors.  Here’s to The Age of Conversation!

Gavin Heaton, editor
Drew McLellan, editor

Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G.Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg

CB Whittemore

Posted in Blogging, Book reviews, eBooks, Marketing | 9 Comments »

How to Talk to Customers: An Interview with Diane Berenbaum

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 3, 2007

customer-service.jpg I recently had the opportunity to interview Diane Berenbaum, Senior VP of Communico, Ltd. and one of the authors of the book How to Talk to Customers (reviewed here).  We talked about Diane and her company, measuring customer service, and how to hire customer service reps among other things.  The first half of the interview is being shared today.  In our second half, we will discuss customer listening, moving from Tragic to Magic, the worst mistakes made by call centers, and success stories.


About Diane and Communico

Becky: Diane, thank you for joining me and being willing to answer my questions about customer service.  Let’s start with your background, how long you have been with Communico, as well as where you were before that.

Diane: Sure!  I have been with Communico 21 years, so it’s been a long time.  Through that time, I have been responsible for a wide variety of functions and roles.  I am responsible for the marketing of the company, I’ve been involved with many client relationships and have managed many client relationships, and I even deliver most of our programs as well.  I also look forward for the company and do the strategic planning as well as thinking about where we are heading in the future.

Becky: Wow, 21 years is a long time with one organization; you must really enjoy it there!

Diane: I do, I love it here, and it’s mostly about the people.  Everybody here has the mindset of MAGIC, so it is great to come to work and know that people care about what you do and care about the others in the organization.  I do believe in what we do, and we know and see that it makes such a big difference out there.  It makes you feel good when you are working with an organization and having that kind of impact.

The Concept of MAGIC 

B: How long has the concept of MAGIC been around at Communico; is it something that is recent, or has it been around for a long time?

D: We first came up with the concept of MAGIC back in about 1989, that was our very first inklin.  And then, we came up with the acronym and made it stand for Make A Good Impression on the Customer.  We realized a little later that “Good” wasn’t really good enough, and even before the book came out, we made it Make A Great Impression on the Customer.  Since then, we have taken the core concepts and created a whole range of services that help companies have not just one interaction that is MAGIC but build a whole culture of exceptional service.

B: Tell me more about what Communico does and how you do it?

D: Okay.  Our goal is to partner with an organization to really build that exceptional service culture.  That means we offer a range of services.  We start with assessment to get a feel for where your organization is today.  Based on some of our research, we have come up with a way to identify what we call “pillars” that are elements found in organizations that are able to really sustain great service.  We also work with some organizations, particularly with the leadership teams up-front to explore alignment.  Is there a shared vision for service that engages a whole organization?  It is not just about the customer experience, which is important, but it is also about the employee experience.  We deliver training in a variety of areas, not just customer service but also coaching and written communications, everything that makes an impression.  We also help organizations to sustain MAGIC, look at their own systems to embed MAGIC in the culture, and reinforce MAGIC in various ways such as recognition and reward and even performance management.  Is it aligned with MAGIC, or is it rewarding something different such as quantity of calls rather than quality?

Measuring Customer Service 

B: Exactly.  It seems that quite a few call centers are measured on trying to get through as many calls as they can in a short period of time?  How does a company measure customer service?

D: There are a lot of different measures call centers use.  In terms of the key measures I see today, some organizations measure service levels, and they use outside organizations to do so, such as a JD Power-type organization.  You also have the next level, where many organizations are doing research and surveys around customer satisfaction, though I don’t think satisfaction is quite enough. 

I would say the most important measures now, as time has gone by and more research has been done, the first would be retention.  How likely is it that customers will keep buying from you?  The most recent McKinsey research says that repeat customers generate over 2 times as much gross revenues as a new customer.  So retention is vital.  The latest thinking is on referrals.  How likely are customers going to refer you to others?  They like you so much, but they’re not just going to keep buying from you; they’re going to tell the world about you.

B: Is that something you are working with customer service organizations on, getting the referral, or are you more focused on customer satisfaction and making sure customer issues are resolved?

D: Our focus is primarily on the service levels, but if an organization wants to partner with us in a full way, we will work with them and help them achieve those goals.  If the goal is retention, we will explore all the different elements in their organization, including processes and interactions, and certainly ask customers what they are looking for.  We can help them with customer surveys, for example, and help them reach those kinds of measures, improve retention and referral measures.

Is the Customer Always Right?  What about Customer Value? 

B: Great.  Let’s switch gears a little bit.  Early in the book, on page 26, you talk about “The customer is always right” as being misguided.  You state that the critical issue is, “…one of treating everyone as valuable.”  My background before Petra Consulting Group was being at Peppers and Rogers Group.  Peppers and Rogers would say that not everyone is valuable to the same degree, there are different degrees of customer value (looking at customer value models).  Do you think that should affect how customers are treated?

D: It depends on how you use the word “valuable”.  Our philosophy is, in essence, that all customers have value, and we translate that to mean that you need to treat everyone with that in mind.  This means you treat everyone with respect and accountability, regardless of the size of the organization or the dollar they generate.  This is just a general philosophy of how you treat people, how you treat customers. 

Speaking of the dollar value, certainly customers can have different sales, different profitability, all those customers are part of the mix.  We also even believe you can grow a relationship.  If you treat someone in your top tier “special”, then you decide you are not going to treat the “tier 4” people quite so special, a few things could happen.  You could have the “tier 4” people just leave, but also, if you treat them with a sense of respect and value, they may ultimately become one of your top tier customers.  Customers have different values: sales, profitability, even a PR value, if you have a big name client that has a certain value to the industry – that’s all part of the mix.  We’re really speaking to the fact that if you treat everyone with value, you will see different relationships grow.

B: You never know what’s going to grow into a bigger relationship and what isn’t.

D: Exactly.  A lot of big companies today started as small companies or even started in garages.

B: Yes!  I came from Hewlett Packard, and they started in a garage!

D: It’s the first people that treat them well that they tend to stick with, and those companies benefit from the success, too.

B: Great.  Thanks for your perspective on that, I appreciate it.  As I was reading through the book, I had to stop and think, do I agree with this?  And I decided I did agree, as you are not saying treat people badly nor treat everyone like kings, but treat everyone with respect.

D: I’m glad the book triggered some thoughts like that for you.

B: Absolutely!  If you saw my book right now, you would see lots of highlighting, notes in the margins, question marks, and comments of my own.  I really digest this stuff thoroughly.

D: It is nice to talk to another customer-service focused person!

Skills for Customer Service Reps 

B: Let’s talk about customer service reps, as I feel like a lot of the book is geared to them.  Although, like I said in my review, I think you have written the book in such a way that executives can take it and get what they need from it, distill it, and even pass it on to their reps to help the reps improve their performance.  What do you think are some of the most important skills for a customer service rep to have?

D: Some of the most important skills are what I would call relationship skills.  Most of the reps are good at the task stuff – they process orders, fulfill requests, and they learn that quickly.  To really stand out and make a difference, they need to focus on relationship skills like listening.  That is not just listening to hear the first thing the customer says, it is really listening to understand what the customer wants, what their issues are, and why it is significant to them.  We call that the What and the Why.  To really listen at that kind of level, you give customers security and confidence, and that will be memorable.

B: Would you recommend trying to put that into your hiring process, to find reps that already have this skill?  Or do you think this is a skill that’s teachable?

D: I’d say yes to both!  Whenever you are hiring a rep, in the process you should explore their ability to listen as well as other relationship skills like empathy.  Are they able to acknowledge how others feel?  This is not something that people are explicitly taught or modeled.  However, it is vital.   It shows you care and will set you apart, and it will help customers feel more comfortable.  Calls will actually go faster if you empathize right up front! 

In your hiring process, we recommend and many of our clients use MAGIC as one of their on-boarding tools and as one of their assessment tools right up front.  Not to suggest that someone would really model all of them, but to get a sense of what their natural inclinations are and how they handle customers in difficult situations before they start.

B: When you say MAGIC, are you talking about the 33 points of MAGIC, or the five key pillars of MAGIC?

D: Well, some of our clients use the 33 points, and they will record a conversation.  If MAGIC is embedded in their organization, and it is their standard, then they use it for hiring, the orientation process, as well as training once they are on board. Some of them, for example, have people role play or model a scenario.  One client has a supervisor in a separate room who actually makes a mock call to the person being interviewed and pretends to be an upset customer.  They make it as realistic as possible, they record it and play it back, then they listen!  “Listen to the tone. See, she sounds like she really cares.  She may not have the exact words to use, but we can train her on that, but the tone is right, the pace it right.  Ooh, notice how she says “please” and “thank you” there.”  This can definitely be part of the hiring process.

(Photo credit: guyerwood)

Posted in Book reviews, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Interviews | 5 Comments »

Book Review: How to Talk to Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 14, 2007

book-talk.gifI was sent a copy of the book How to Talk to Customers by Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin, and I would like to share my impressions with you, my readers.  Many of you have probably read the other reviews from great bloggers such as Maria, ServiceUntitled, Drew, CB, and Phil; here is my take! 

How to Talk to Customers is a very practical guide for anyone in customer service (although I believe marketers could learn a thing or two as well!).  It has short, easy to read chapters, making it good for rep or executive alike.  The authors, Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin are senior vice presidents of Communico, a customer service training and consulting company.  The premise of the book is a focus on how to Make A Great Impression on the Customer (acronym MAGIC).  The goal, as stated by the authors, is to create a positive experience for any customer dealing with your customer service team.  The book does a good job discussing the best practices, or skills, that can be employed by anyone to improve their customer interactions.  I felt it was geared mostly to customer service personnel (as well as tech support), but the ideas are really broad enough for anyone to use when speaking to customers.

Their five MAGIC steps of a customer interaction are as follows:

M – Make a connection: Build the relationship

A – Act professionally: Express confidence

G – Get to the heart of the matter: Listen and ask questions

I – Inform and clarify what you will do

C – Close with the relationship in mind

The authors discuss specific words to use (and not to use), apologies, empathy and listening, as well as how to close an interaction.  I like that the focus, at all times, is on building stronger customer relationships!

One of my favorite sections is on the four levels of listening.

Level 1: The dialogue is largely transactional

Level 2: Rapport building takes place with the questions asked by the rep

Level 3: Empathetic listening

Level 4: Sharing of personal meaning (the listener is largely silent).

I view these four levels of listening as somewhat of a continuum.  The first level is seen in most typical call centers.  The second level is a good place to head for call centers making the transition to a more customer-focused call center (as opposed to transaction-focused).  The third level of listening I would consider to be best-practice for a call center.  The fourth level of listening is more appropriate for personal relationships, in my opinion.

The book also gives 33 “points” of MAGIC than can be used to assess calls or customer interactions.  I appreciate that the authors encourage us to look at these points as not just a checklist but as a process of interaction to help focus on both tasks and relationships.  Too many call centers focus only on the tasks and forget that every touchpoint can build or harm the relationship with a customer!

There are a lot of great anecdotes of MAGIC and Tragic encounters throughout the book as well.  Overall, I would recommend this book for any customer service department needing to train their team on the “soft skills” of taking care of customers.  Diane and Tom put a strong emphasis on a regard for others as people.  They also advocate making this a choice: we can choose to be MAGIC!  That’s the attitude of a Customers Rock! company.  Well done!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer service | 7 Comments »

Thank you readers!

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 22, 2007

thank-you.jpgI just wanted to write a quick post and thank the readers of this blog who submitted questions for Jonathan Tisch and helped make the first stop on the Blog Book Tour a success!  I had so many questions sent to me that Jonathan needs to cover the rest of them after this week’s busy tour has ended.  Stay tuned for the answers in a future post.  (Update: Jonathan will be addressing these questions next week, and the answers should be posted on Friday, June 1!  Thanks to Rachelle Lacroix at Fleishman-Hillard for coordinating the responses for me!!)

In the meantime, here are the readers who sent me their questions.  The questions are listed below.

You guys rock!

Mike Wagner, Own Your Brand

Lewis Green, bizsolutionsplus

Kevin Hillstrom, MineThatData

Phil Gerbyshak, MakeItGreat!

Ryan Karpeles, Living Lightbulbs

Drew McLellan, TheMarketingMinute

Steve Woodruff, StickyFigure

Meikah Delid, CustServ

Service Untitled

Questions about vision, motivation, and metrics for employees

1. How do you infuse a sense of customer service into a staff that has not lived by that focus before?

2. Is it important for every employee to know where Loews Hotels are going, how they are getting there and what it will look like? Why or why not?

3. Are employees held responsible and accountable for creating great customer experiences? Do they know what a great customer experience looks like? Do they receive frequent training? Are their evaluations partly based on creating great customer experiences? Are their paychecks reflective of whether or not they create great customer experiences?

4. How do you work with tens of thousands of employees to create a great customer experience, when in reality, there is very little in it for the employee?  In other words, outside of doing what is ‘right’, how do you create a culture where employees earning $10 an hour are willing to go the extra mile to take care of customers?  What is the incentive for the employee to do a great job?

5. It’s easy to say, “Focus on the customer,” but what are some practical ways we can actually inspire and motivate employees (on all levels) to do this in practice? 

6. How do you reward people that do provide great customer service and then motivate others to do the same?

7. Recently I had an experience where the promise of the hotel did not match my experience. Not so very uncommon. But when I researched with the staff of the hotel I found out that they are not resourced to fulfill the promise. In this case the front desk did not have toothbrushes for guests that had forgotten their own. So here is my question; How do you discover when you (the owners and management) have failed your front line employees? And what do you do about it?

Questions about Customer Experience and Customer Service

8. When you started your business (Loews Hotels), was providing exceptional customer service already a top priority?  If so, what made you think that that was the way to go? If not, what or when was the turning point?

9. At your hotels, can you give us an example of how you ensure delivery of consistently great customer service?
10. Reacting to and pleasing customers shouldn’t be that difficult.  It just takes effort.  The hard part is thinking of new ways to benefit them that they didn’t even realize in the first place.   Where do most of these ideas come from?  Internal sources?  External?

11.  Mistakes happen.  Especially in business.  Do you have any personal examples of a time you had to address, correct, and learn from a major mistake?  Did your customers forgive you?

12. What are Top 5 most common ways companies can/do create a negative impression with their customers? (Of course, this simply allows underscoring the positive by highlighting the opposites…)

13. How would you suggest a company engage their customers in designing the customer experience?

14. What’s the hardest part about providing great customer service in a hotel? How have you and your chain overcome this?

15.  The RitzCarlton has their card and their daily meetings. What strategies did you implement for your hotel that have worked best? What did you try that didn’t work?

16. What does “great customer service” mean to you?

17.  How does great customer service in a hotel translate into the bottom line?

18. What are some “secrets” that you could let us in on that your hotels do which other companies could learn from? (Photo: jimparkin)

Posted in Book reviews | 9 Comments »

Blog book tour with Jonathan Tisch is here!

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 21, 2007

chocolates-book.jpgToday I am the honored co-host of the first stop on the Blog Book Tour for Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels and author of the book Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience.  Today’s other co-host is David Polinchock at Brand Experience Lab’s blog Experience Manifesto; be sure to check out his Q&A.  There will be other Blog Book Tour stops throughout the week, as follows:

Monday: Experience Manifesto and Customers Rock! (me!)

Tuesday: The Engaging Brand (both Q&A as well as podcast)

Wednesday: Conversion Rate Marketing Blog – GrokDotCom by Future Now, Inc, Vacant Ready (hotel industry blog)

Thursday: LipSticking(podcast), Experience the Message

Friday: Customer Experience Crossroads, Experienceology(podcast)

Thank you to all of the readers here at Customers Rock! (and there were many of you!) who sent me questions for Jonathan Tisch.  They were all excellent.  For our Blog Book Tour today, Jonathan has graciously responded to my original questions along with questions chosen from those submitted by readers.  He will be responding to the rest of your reader questions soon, and I will post those responses in a future post.  Thank you so much for your time, Jonathan!!

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy these honest, thoughtful responses to our questions in my interview with author Jonathan Tisch!

1. How critical is it to an organization’s success to reimagine the customer experience?

In today’s frenetic and complicated world, the customer has many choices in purchasing a product or in using a service.  It becomes incumbent upon the business to understand that they can’t just offer a transaction but that they need to offer an experience.  Because of the consumers’ ability to differentiate one company from another, one product from another and one service from another, they have the ability to switch on a dime and use another resource if they’re not happy.  This is why customer service is more critical today than it has ever been. 

2. How much of this reimagining do you feel can be accomplished from within the organization itself, and how much do you feel needs a “fresh set of eyes” from outside involvement?

Hopefully if the company has enlightened management, the direction that comes from senior management is the prioritization of customer service.  Ideally, there should be individuals on the team that constantly revisit the company’s touchpoints to make sure that they’re offering the kinds of services a customer wants. Those touchpoints in today’s world include bricks and mortar, clicks and mortar if you translate on to the Web and 800-numbers; the organization should be constantly monitoring these and other touchpoints they have with customers.It is always valuable to bring in advisors and consultants who can help you, but once again, all companies should be placing a high priority on experiences and trying to find the kind of individuals on their management teams who can add to that discussion – from mid-level right up to the CEO’s office.A CEO needs to understand his/her company, but since they cannot witness every touchpoint, there also have to be individuals at every level of management who believe in the same philosophy and believe that, by working together, the entire organization can get to the place they need to be in terms of offering great customer experiences. 

3. It has been said you should inspect what you expect.  How do you measure the success of the customer experience at Loews Hotels?

I like to do it on a very personal, face-level engaging both my co-workers and our guests. We routinely ask guests to articulate how their visit was – Did they have any difficulty making the reservation?  Were they greeted with a smile when they checked in? – which helps me know, first hand, where we stand. The competition in my industry is so intense that it really comes down to the individuals in the front line positions – the ones with the first and direct contact with guests. There has to be a real understanding that your co-workers are the ones who make the real difference, especially in a service industry. .   In today’s world, all hotels have nice lobbies, flat screen TVs, and upgraded bedding products. The real differentiation from one company to another – from one product to another – comes from customer service.  It is incumbent upon us, as senior management, to educate our co-workers and have an open dialogue about what they expect from us and what we expect from them.  I try to engage in those kinds of conversations on a regular basis.  When people within my company say, “Well, I don’t want to bother you,” my immediate and prompt response is always, “Please, bother me!”   

4. READER QUESTION – It’s easy to say, “Focus on the Customer,” but what are some practical ways we can actually inspire and motivate employees (on all levels) to do this in  practice? 

Education and training is key. At Loews Hotels, we are committed to giving all our employees the education and tools they need to do their jobs better.  We also articulate, on a regular basis, the many opportunities available within the company for advancement.  By doing a job well they’re creating success not only for themselves, but for others around them.   We also have financial rewards for great service and an awards program – Loews Legends program – to recognized employees who exemplify the Loews philosophy of service.  Once a quarter we recognize a Loews Legend from each property in our system.  Once a year I host a banquet where the Loews Legend of the Year is chosen.  Not only is that Legend recognized in front of all his or her colleagues at the banquet, but that person is also rewarded with an extra week of vacation.    At Loews Hotels we fully understand that, with only 18 hotels, we are not the largest player in the lodging industry. But we are anxious to grow and we depend on all our employees to help get us there. The programs that we have in place really work for us and work for our culture.   

5. Please share more about the transparency concept used in Chapter 7 of your book, especially as it relates to the blogosphere.  Can organizations engage customers through blogs yet still retain some element of control?

The customer today is highly sophisticated. They have large amounts of information at their fingertips never available before.  If you look at customers’ ability to go to the large travel Web sites, or search the blogosphere, you realize that customers can almost immediately find out if others enjoyed your hotel, if they like your restaurant and if they think they got value for the service. It becomes incumbent upon the provider of any service and product to really be on top of their game in every single transaction and every single experience.   There is so much information out there. The combination of an infinite number of choices and the sophistication of today’s consumers mean every transaction must go well or else you risk the potential of losing a customer. 

6. Speaking of the blogosphere, which blogs do you follow on a regular basis?

Bill Marriott’s Marriott on the Move Blog –

Peter Greenberg’s Blog –

Howie Klein’s Progressive Politics Blog –

Seth Godin’s Blog –

GM’s Fast Lane Blog – 

7. Please share both a triumph and a challenge you have faced as you have reimagined the customer experience at Loews.

A triumph I’ve faced came from my experience of being on the television program,  Now Who’s Boss?, on TLC.  A few years back, I had the opportunity to be a front line worker in nine different positions at Loews Miami Beach Hotel.  I was re-educated to the very important notion of how critical these individuals are to the success of our company.  Having the chance to be a housekeeper, a banquet waiter, a pool attendant and a front desk clerk – all jobs that I had done much earlier in my career, but not ones that I had experienced recently – was a remarkable experience for me and afforded the opportunity to re-familiarize myself not only with these jobs, but with the impact that these jobs and these employees, have on our success.  That experience was a triumph for me because it changed how we do things at Loews Hotels.    A challenge – As a small company, we constantly face the challenge of how to operate in competition with some of the biggest names in American business.  With 18 hotels, we are up against the Marriotts, the Starwoods, the Hiltons and the InterContinentals of the world, and the challenge is how do we compete on a daily basis and at the same time also remain true to our roots as Loews Hotels. We challenge ourselves to be profitable – all the while trying to ensure that our constituencies – our customers and co-workers – are well looked after. 

8. READER QUESTION – Mistakes happen. Especially in business. Do you have any personal examples of a time you had to address, correct, and learn from a major mistake? Did your customers forgive you? 

Like any company, we’ve made our share of mistakes. The first six months after we opened the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in 1998 were a challenging experience because we did not yet have the tools in place to ensure a smooth opening for our customers. As such, there were many apologies. We learned from those mistakes though and it has changed how we open hotels that we’ve either just built or just acquired.    The Miami experience was an incredibly difficult lesson, but I’m happy to say that Loews Miami Beach Hotel is now the most profitable property in the Loews portfolio.  We overcame the initial roadblocks and clearly our customers have forgiven us. In every business, mistakes will be made but it’s all about the recovery. Responding to a mistake well can actually go a long way to winning long-term loyalty from a customer. 

9. What is the best customer experience you have ever had?

For me, attentive and unpretentious service offered with a sense of humor makes all the difference.   A few years back, during a stay at the Four Season Chicago, I put my shoes outside my room to be shined overnight.  To show my appreciation to the person who was going to be shining my shoes at 2 a.m., I placed a few dollars in one of the shoes.  When I opened my door the next morning, I was greeted by clean, spiffy shoes and a note, neatly tucked inside one of them, saying, “Dear Mr. Tisch – Thank you very much and may your feet have a happy day.”  That note impressed me tremendously, and I’ve certainly told the story many times over.  It just goes to show that even some of the smallest acts of customer service really do help set a brand apart.    

10. READER QUESTION – What are some “secrets” that you could let us in on that your hotels do which other companies could learn from? 

Be honest.  Treat people fairly and with respect.  Always listen.

Thank you!!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer experience, Interviews | 14 Comments »