Archive for Customer Service

Open Letter to Criticizers of Restaurant Manager as new MLA in Alberta – no matter what party you support

restaurant_managementDear Criticizer,

RE: Graham Sucha voted in as MLA for Calgary Shaw

Both a daughter and a son in our family are restaurant managers, and I take great exception to the insinuation that restaurant managers are of a lower unqualified class of flunkies as portrayed by the comments I am seeing on several news posts. Let me make myself clear, restaurant management is one of the most complex, detailed, and difficult businesses in which to succeed and the companies that run them do not select flunkies to be in charge of their margins. 

So, for you salaried employees who work a 40-60 hour work-week, who are not in charge of your department’s budget, marketing, training, staffing, or procurement – perhaps you have a bit to learn about just what kind of a job this is.

The Restaurant Business is a Business!

It is hard-won, always changing, consistently challenging and one of the most difficult roles to take on because you must give up your whole life to make it successful. The dedication of someone who chooses restaurant management is tough, they must be responsible for much more than most MBA’s will have to experience in a life-time. Their fiduciary responsibilities go beyond duty and care, they are the stewards of the entire operation and must do so with fewer resources to support them than the average business.

Data Analysts

Restaurant managers must make good business decisions, and they must do so in good economies and bad. Data gathering and forecasting for both supply and service is a detailed and constantly moving target. They must gather data, understand the meaning behind the data and use that data to ensure consistency of service at the same time costs are being tightly controlled.

Re-engineering Gurus

Policies, talent management, streamlining, constant quality improvement, minute-by-minute business and resource optimization and continual response to environmental shifts outside of their control are all necessary for a restaurant manager to be successful. They are hit by more outside influence than most businesses and they are required to react on an instant.

Ultimate Customer Experience Experts

Few people either understand or care to learn about all that goes into your customer experience within an organization that gets an hour or two of your time while you are enjoying yourself. But to give you your water, wine and put a meal out in 12 minutes that is the right temperature, high quality, delivered with exceptional service in an ambiance that meets with your high standards is nothing short of miraculous. Restaurants require a high level of collaboration of all its parts, both front and back of house, and is like a well-oiled machine. Only an exceptional manager can achieve this kind of coordination from all their employees.

Business Management

I reiterate, restaurants are a BUSINESS. They have margins and budgets, supply, demand, service, and staffing issues. Unlike most businesses which are affected by occasional outside influences over the period of a year, restaurants deal with outside factors on an hourly basis. A downtown-city restaurant can have one day where they pull in $1500.00 in receipts to another day where $20,000.00 of receipts are brought in – all within the same week. This fluctuation of supply and demand cannot change the quality or experience to the customer, thus making their job extremely difficult. Budgetary forecasting, review of multi-year actuals, detailed understanding of the complexity of their location, client base, city events, sporting events, special days like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Canada Day, and more – are all on the agenda for pre-planning long before a customer even considers them. And as for competition, they have 8 other stores down the street that are vying for the very same customers so they must be dedicated 24/7 to win the hearts and loyalty of their customers, and they don’t do it by being lazy flunkies.

Personal Commitment

I’m guessing that some of you may head into work on a day off on occasion, that’s because you are dedicated! But did you know that the average restaurant manager is there on their ‘scheduled’ day off almost always as a rule? They are dedicated to their craft, they miss out on all of your fun events because nights and weekends are their busy times, they miss a lot of family functions, they are lucky if they marry a thoughtful spouse who is willing to manage children, house and home while they are consistently raising the bar to compete with the other store down the street, and at a lessor salary than you. So why do they do it?

It is a vocation, it is a love of people, of service and is a dedicated craft that involves dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They are faced daily with incredible experiences and for a moment are brought into the lives of their patrons who are celebrating, enjoying and feeding their lives through experience.

Yes, even the arrogant, entitled people who look down their noses at restaurant management as a lower-class choice in work leave with a meal served in only minutes with a high quality of standard and their glass filled.

Compared to a few MLAs of the past, I am thinking perhaps a little business management, by a people oriented person, would be welcome in our legislature, regardless of what party you support. The fact that this one chooses to seek advice from someone who is familiar with public life, is right out of the books of some of these folks.

Kind Regards,



I happen to know the young man that has been voted in as NDP MLA in Calgary Shaw and have witnessed his dedication and commitment, I am certain he will apply it as steadfastly to this new role as he has in management, and learn just as quickly. 




Beware of Mediocrity

”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” –Aristotle


He nestled snug inside his cheap blanket, not quite heavy enough to keep him warm, trying to digest the mediocre meal that wanted to return for a second swallow. He had a big day tomorrow, and he needed sleep to get through it. It’s not easy work avoiding the right thing, cutting corners and skirting responsibility, he only hoped the car would get him there. His oil had not been changed and his gas tank was sitting on empty, but he hoped he would have enough to make it to the parking lot. If not, walking is okay if it would give him an excuse to go in late and avoid the meeting with the boss. He pulled the blanket up higher trying to keep warm as he thought about how he chose not to pay the heat bill this month because he kept forgetting to put his check in the bank. Stupid banks anyway, they just want to take it all out in charges.


Do you know this guy? I sure hope he isn’t you, because living in the world of mediocrity is like sitting in a stagnant pond. You’re wet alright, but rather than being clean and cool you’re trapped in slimy mud with parasites and mosquitoes coming in for the kill! Not a pretty picture.

Successful peopleand we are talking about true success not the money grabbing, walk-all-over-the-next-guy kind of success – truly successful people are able to lay on their deathbed knowing they did the right thing for their families, their companies, their associates and friends – these guys don’t do mediocre they leave a legacy. (And they are missed when they go.)

The person who skims by barely doing anything more than what’s absolutely necessary to maintain status quo is the most challenging employee. That kind of person frequents the motto, “Meh, it’s good enough,” and chooses to live well below their amazing potential.

Sometimes I wonder what made them decide to keep from wanting to feel the pride and glory of a job well done or seeing the response from a client whose expectations are exceeded. There many be many stories, most of us will never know what holds some folks back, but imagine what it would be like if everyone did their level best to treat every task as though it was the best thing they’d had the pleasure of doing this week. Are you giving your all? Are you working your hardest to avoid mediocrity?

You may not know it, but it is simply a choice!

Try it today, just decide you can, and then do.

Shun mediocrity and adopt an attitude of excellence then show everyone around you what you’re really made of.

”Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” –Ralph Marston


Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop

Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership

through advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.


You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323 | contact her here | book her to speak



Slip-up? Lessons from Facebook Page Merge!

If you don’t use Facebook Business Pages, you may still find the lessons helpful. Strategic Sense has a division called Small Biz Creative we help start-ups and small businesses with the nuts and bolts of getting online by building Webpages, Facebook Landing Pages and online design work. Yesterday, we learned a little more about Facebook changes then we expected. Let me explain..

We were prompted to do a Facebook Merge of Pages and Places

Some background: August 18, 2010 – Facebook rolls out Facebook Places. Some business locations are now showing up as ‘Community Pages’ on Facebook. Some Facebook Business Page administrators will be given a small notice at the top of their page with a match-up between Facebook Pages and Facebook Places asking “Is this your location?” Then prompting them to ‘claim’ that location.

December 1, 2010 – Steps on a customer page – – > first shocking, then scary, now the long wait to see what’s going to materialize…

  1. We “Claim the Facebook Place” – Innocent and worked like a charm – NICE
  2. We are prompted to Merge the Facebook Place with the Facebook Page – Curious and want to learn more
  3. We clicked on “Learn More” the Facebook Help Page and FAQ to see if this is a good idea – It said; “The core content, such as Photos, Videos and Events from your page will remain, as well as any custom tabs or vanity URLs” –>Risks appear limited, we are not given any indication the page will be completely different with exception to the addition of the location and map.
  4. We discuss with Client and make a decision to move forward because we believe Facebook has a pretty cool idea….Geo locations for targeted ads for customers who “already” have visited and like the business – brilliant! –>Location and map available on a Facebook Business Page to find the business easily – brilliant.

Lesson One

Give Customers a comprehensive understanding of the risks involved. Making someone feel comfortable with change is about being transparent so their decision is really an informed one – you will get buy-in a lot faster.

What followed next freaked us out! (And I won’t kid you, we went into freak-out overdrive!)

  • The first page is now called the “profile” including the address, phone number and map filling the space once home to the status update and tabs.
  • Default tabs disappear –but eventually propagate over as navigation links on the left sidebar.
  • The default landing tab options cannot be found in permissions. – this is where the Business page was set to land on a custom tab if folks do not already “like” the page (yet to determine if these are returning)
  • The left sidebar appears to be reduced in width as our picture is cut-off to the right.
  • No clear explanation is given for creating custom landing pages for this new page format.
  • A new FBML application can still be created, we ran a test and where there was once a tab, it now is a navigation link on the left sidebar as well.
  • So, we added the custom landing page here – it is slightly cut-off to the right, making us think this is less than the 520px width (a recent change we had to make not long ago).
  • We no longer see people’s profile pictures who“Like this page” in the sidebar, Instead it shows a numerical example of “500 people like this” with a “show all” link.

Lesson Two

Provide customers with a comprehensive set of support references and contacts. When customers hear nothing, see no way to contact you, your documentation is confusing, all over the place and only allows you to search questions someone else has thought of it can be maddening.

While Facebook Claims this to be a “Richer” design, the jury is out on that as we await the “7 days to propagate” to see what “materializes.”

So we began doing research….Right now our concern is for our many clients who are utilizing the current custom pages and who were lined up to have one made. We have seen only unfavourable comments here, and here and here, but have not yet found any positive comments. The only thing we can find on Facebook Help is this and this (which say exactly the same thing).

One article suggests that all Facebook Business Pages will be moving over to this format, but we have heard nothing official from Facebook at this time.

Lesson 3

Respond to your customers, especially upset ones. If you are hearing a whole lot of screaming, upset, negativity AND you are ignoring it then people will begin coming to their own conclusion about the problem. They will also assume you do not care about them. A company might be very big but change happens at a rapid pace and alienating users or customers could eventually harm a company.

Recommendation to businesses considering the merge:

Wait, as with most Facebook Changes, until the dust settles. If you are prompted to “merge” your Facebook Place and Facebook Page – keep them separate for now – you will thank me. We love Facebook and the exposure it has given our businesses, waiting until resolved will keep you feeling that way too.

Why should Facebook Care, it is a free platform?

Facebook is free to people who sign up and create a personal profile, yes. For businesses, however, it is far from free if they are doing the following:

  • Purchasing advertising on Facebook
  • Paying the huge fee required to run contests and promotions on Facebook (new policy as of December 2, 2010)
  • Hiring someone to manage their Facebook presence
  • Paying designers to customize the site
  • Paying website and social media professionals to link to their Facebook presence

These are HUGE investments by businesses large and small who all deserve consideration for adopting, championing and utilizing the platform. It really IS a two way street.


Make YOUR company a Cirque Du Soleil

This evening I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday a little early by attending KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil, a gift from my kids (thanks kids). What a show – between the antics, the acrobatics and the feats of amazement, I could not help thinking about how all our companies could learn a thing or two in both customer service and leadership.

Here are a few of my observations:

1. Not just any old circus

The quality of each and every act is superior to any show I have witnessed. Painstaking detail goes into every costume, all the makeup, the lighting, the sounds and especially safety. With the maintenance of equipment, upkeep of fabrics for costumes, and the polished shine on the metal parts to catch the light, it is all miraculously new-looking and beautiful, despite hundreds of previous shows. NO cutting costs for cheaper fabrics that don’t stretch with the body, cheaper makeup that runs when you sweat, low-cost equipment – nope, because this is a class act.

There will be no oil leak at this Cirque!

2. Everyone is a star in this gig

If you are a trapeze artist, there’s a good chance you will be moving sets and removing items from the stage. If you have some other talent in your past that would be beneficial like massage therapy or plumbing, you may be asked to provide that as well.

There are no headliners or heroes. Everyone is a star in this gig – you have talent, well, chances are you were gifted with more than one and your job is to not only contribute those talents but also support the talent of others in every way possible by pitching in on everything you can.

Get over yourself – get into the team.

3. Don’t show the customer the cogs, give them what they came for

We went to Cirque du Soleil to be entertained, and entertained we were. There are a ton of mechanical, technical and physical adjustments between acts, but we were barely aware they were taking place because of the high-energy, excitement going on all around us. The clever distractions and crazy antics kept us highly entertained and laughing the whole way through. And then suddenly, we became aware that they’d put together rigging right there out in the open for the next act, and we barely noticed its arrival because we were so caught up with the fun of the show.

This is how the best of the best make your life happy as a customer, they make your experience seamless and fun. You don’t notice how hard they are working in the background to deliver your product and you don’t have to care.

Getting great service or a great experience should be just that, great!

4. Surprise EVERYONE

This is the third Cirque du Soleil show I have attended and I never grow weary of them. Why? I am always pleasantly surprised. They don’t do this with any one thing; it is the combination of things that offer me continual enchantment, so much so I forget to blink in the event I may miss something. There is action happening at every level, every corner of the facility or tent to keep me in amazement. I have a hard time finding anything at all to complain about because of the perpetual activity that astounds me.

If you have one department that truly shines above all others according to customer response, then learn from these folks, because EVERY department needs to shine and surprise. This means learning how to become a company that always exceeds customer expectation rather than meeting it.

Think Apple.

We cannot all be Cirque du Soleil, but we can certainly learn a lot about business and leadership by being one of their customers, I recommend you attend and while you are there, observe, learn and figure out how you can implement.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512


What’s The Real Job?

Image Courtesy Bob Smith

Many jobs are confusing, if performance is based on a spreadsheet, is that what the real job is?

If customers are not being served but the spreadsheet looks great, there is a disjoint between what’s expected and what’s delivered. Your head-office might love you to bits, but your customers might be frustrated.

Many people feel if they don’t manage to the spreadsheet, they are going to risk their career and thus fail to serve the team or the client in order to do what they believe the company wants of them. It’s a tough balance, one that often pits values against performance.

Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are living up to your potential.

  1. Who are my customers, my real customers?
  2. What % of my time is being used to meet evaluation rather than meet client expectation?
  3. Does meeting this performance indicator actually meet my own value system?

Sometimes we forget that our evaluator is not a customer. Become your own customer experience evaluator, try to see what experience you are giving to your customers while still meeting your performance goals.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512


Staples Inc. Shows It Can Be Done

There are some terrific examples of Customer Service out there, some we have come to expect, Zappos for one – a large organization built on providing WOW for their customer. When I am listing examples for my clients, one company would never spring to mind and that is Staples. They are the largest supplier of office products nation-wide and a business I have tried to avoid using, until now.

Previous experiences were…

  • Lack of care or concern for my copy center needs, several times miscounting or getting it wrong then refusing to correct it.
  • Waiting for up to 20 minutes for someone to help or assist me, if they noticed at all.
  • Allowing me to leave the store either disappointed or angry at their lack of concern for my solution.

In fact, last summer I had decided to obtain most of my office products from elsewhere. As a result, I thought I’d try one of the other Staples locations and came to the conclusion this problem was much larger than a local manager who didn’t ‘get it’ because I received the same experience at other locations.

All that has changed! Staples is a key supplier for several things I need for my business, and in the last month felt forced to shop there – was I ever pleasantly surprised.

Yesterday I tracked down a manager/supervisor and asked if the management had changed since last summer. He indicated it had not, and wanted to know why I asked. I mentioned my work in the areas of Leadership and Customer Service and told him I was seeing a marked improvement in their store, he was happy to hear it.

Apparently Staples rolled out a nation-wide customer engagement plan to all their stores. I now intend on being a more frequent customer to observe its sustainability and its reach. From what I witnessed in my last two visits, they do appear to understand that customers are the reason for their job, rather than an interruption.

  • I had at least 3 employees in different departments ask if there was anything I needed help finding or if I had any questions. Score tally 1
  • Managers and supervisors were watching closely to see if anyone looked stranded or lost and directing employees accordingly. Score tally 2

I do hope their customer engagement rollout includes building on that engagement, extending that new customer service goal to include customer experiences as they increase their customer base; they have an incredible opportunity to do so.
Kudos to Staples!

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.


The Happiness Bistro

”Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

Image courtesy of Vangelis Thomaidis

A few weekends ago we worked out in the yard, creating a wonderful outdoor room. We’d already had a start on it last year but were missing a few pieces. This year, the only thing missing was somewhere to sit and eat. Outdoor conversation areas are a fun way of entertaining, but when one has a glass of wine, a plate and silverware they struggle when forced to set plates on their knees. With a wedding gift and a few alterations to the yard we managed to find a way to seat 10 people at tables.

I love to serve, and that goes for my business as much as my home. To cook for others and invite them into our lives is a gift for both my husband and me. We are fortunate to have a large group of friends and hope the weather will offer us a chance this August to invite a few over.

Service is something you do because you care for others. The gifts we receive in return are far greater than what we give. This can be as true for you in business as well as your personal life. When a customer feels they are getting more than they expected, when an employee receives coaching and development, when your boss is pleasantly surprised because you put more of yourself into your work; all of these will garner the same kind of satisfaction and happiness most of us crave!

An easy equation to remember… U+O+P=H

YoU giving + care for Others + number of People you know = Happiness

Have a happy day and reach beyond expectation without any wish for something in return – you just might discover how happy you are!


Cooking Up Solutions for the Customer

This morning I stopped in at the Safeway bakery in Shawnessy, not too far from my home. I wanted to pick up a few decadent treats for the Staff of a non-profit charity I am involved with to thank them for a fantastic year. Providence has the kind of dedicated staff most board of directors only dreams about, dedicated people who are not just there for the pay check, but are there for the children, it shows in everything they do.

When I queried the bakery at our local Safeway, they said they did not really have a code for putting trays of goodies together for 40 people, and that they were not able to really help in the way I expected. These girls were busy getting ready for their very busy workday and were both immersed in those morning duties. I said thanks and proceeded to walk out of the store, but one of the gals would not let me go, she could see I was in a hurry and wanted to solve my problem for me!

Thus we came up with a plan whereby I would purchase the goodies I wanted separately taking them to the front tills. Then, I could bring them back to the bakery section and those two girls would arrange the trays for me. They went to the deli section of the store and secured some trays, added some nice touches, put some pretty paper cups on some of the goodies, gave me a couple of gorgeous trays and I only had a 10 minute wait because they dropped what they were doing and leapt in!

It would have taken me quite a bit of time to find another business, open at 8am who would be able to put something like that together in a hurry. I made the assumption I could obtain treats “my way” and when the store processes did not automatically accommodate that kind of request, these two women simply found a way to provide “my solution” in a way I had not expected and fit my time-line and schedule.

For those of you who work for an organization that SAYS you offer customer service, do you also have gems who work for you that care so much about a customer they will go out of their way to follow them toward the doors to help them find a solution? Will they drop what they are doing and make someone’s day by giving them what they need even if the “process” does not support an unusual request? Does your staff cook-up solutions for the customer?

Shawnessy Safeway Bakery does, stop in if you live in Calgary and say hello, and tell them you heard somewhere that they’re awesome!


Providence is a health, education and therapy centre for preschool children with disabilities. This particular organization has grown in numbers since my first involvement, from a single location serving approximately 175 preschool children and their families to an organization that provides education and specialized services to over 700 children in the Calgary area with 5 schools and another being built in the south. It is a place where children are provided with exceptional early intervention, treatment, therapy and a whole lot of tender loving care.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.


Sweating the Small Stuff

In customer service as in any other area of the business, it is in the details where we strike the defining difference between meeting our competitors on the same plane or rising above them to a level that leaves them wondering what on earth happened.

I found this TED talk by Rory Sutherland packed with great insight as to why those details matter.

Watch the TED video and feel your creative energy begin to form….(under 13 minutes)

I have often felt we’re missing some key positions within companies; roles that could launch an organization passed the competitor but also offer the kind of innovative and creative culture Generation Y is seeking.

Idea Generation Specialist

This person would meet with all levels of the organization listening to thoughts and solutions raised by both employees and senior executive and have a clear understanding of both the challenges and the things which work well. As a bridge between management and front-line, they would have an overall picture many organizations might miss.

Creative Use Product Designer

This person would be tapped into the customer, would know exactly how the product is being used and know what ways the customer would WANT the product to be used. Caution here, we are not saying add any feature requested, but demand and need would drive innovation from the user’s perspective.

Customer Experience Analyst

When building a company customer service department, many organizations work hard to develop a streamlined, efficient manner of approach to customer service. They see this part of the organization as a reactive force to customer complaints and frustrations rather than a pro-active department who’s purpose is to respond with already defined pro-active ways of making the customer feel not only ‘served’ but leaving with the experience of a lifetime that makes them feel like they are royalty. This person would know what the customer is EXPERIENCING. There is a difference between experience and response.
Front-line Knowledge Collector

This is the most fun for me – an individual who knows exactly what is happening at the front-line. A person who’s job it is to share company-wide the great ideas generated by the front-line staff. As Rory Sutherland says, the best ideas that cost the least money are generated by those without authority or budget. How interesting to implement cost-saving, creative and thought-provoking ways to get messages to the customer, all generated at the front-line. Company awards for most creative / least expensive ideas may be worth striving for. (Trust your front-line, they do know your business and your customer.)

Employee Satisfaction Analyst

When was the last time someone came to your office and asked you what it would take for you to feel valued in your organization? How about someone who spent their day helping to create the kind of culture an employee would love to work within. Evaluating organizations to strive for making a difference for the customer base, the world and rallied the employees to strive for satisfying not only themselves, but the organization as a whole through collaboration and team work? You have the people – Generation Y are experts at these things, we have a lot to learn from them.


Failing My Own Leadership Course?

Lessons From The Team

Leaders somehow are given the impression they have to know all the answers and they need to be fully in charge. But I write today to prove that it is the team who can help you navigate your leadership best.

We were working on a large project recently that involved a number of various commercial and web visuals. As we struggled through the process I simply kept thinking…

“I cannot stand what this looks like.”

Have you ever stared at something for a long time trying to figure out what was wrong, but simply could not place it?

Was it the aesthetics bothering me, the layout itself or the whole concept? I just couldn’t pin it down.

I was close to missing a deadline; I was pushing my team hard; and I have to admit, the whole process was making me grumpy. Can’t imagine what they must have been thinking, but there were a lot of odd conversations and weird changes I kept asking for that did nothing to improve the project.

One morning my webmaster said… is it coming from your heart, from the depths of who you are and what you believe in?


Brilliance lives in your team, listen to them! All I needed to do was to say to my webmaster…

“I can’t figure this out.”

I teach this to leaders… I spout it in talks and via social media platforms and I tell it to my kids.

Nothing successful arrives at your door without you first calling it out from passion, from the depths of who you are and you must believe in it.

Duh…. It was clear that I was trying to work with “What we had” which was not inspiring the best of me. I had settled for what was there, for mediocre – and mediocre is NOT my way.

Practicing what I preach, I spent last weekend, (almost a 48 hour exercise) redoing the entire project visuals from scratch…


I believe that without a brilliant team member and without other team members to encourage and support, I could not find the success I am having in so many ways.

It is the team who leads me through learning to be the leader I aspire to be!

Do what it is you believe in, trust your instincts, never accept less than exceptional and always, always, always follow what you know from the very depths of your heart.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us only if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.


When Streamlining Drives Business Away

When Streamlining Doesn't WorkI’ve been focused on some good-sized client projects of late neglecting blog readers – but because I prefer content to be personally from me, client projects became the priority – glad to be back..

Today offered such a great example of how you can drive business away with apparent “streamlining” I just had to share.

CitiFinancial has been leaving automated calls at our home and does not ask for anyone but twice a day the automated voice tells us to call them at this number: 1-877-667-6152. Given there are 5 people in our household, all adults, it makes it hard to know who should call back, my spouse, me or one of our adult kids. Every person has been asked if they are CitiFinancial customers, everyone says no – so here is the scenario.

Phone call 1 – automated message

Phone call 2 – automated message

Phone call 3 – us phoning the number to see who they are calling – only to be told they cannot give us that information as it is private.

Phone call 4 – automated message

Phone call 5 – automated message

Repeat 4 and 5 daily for two weeks.

We call them – this time the person asks my first and last name – I am told that it does not match with that number in their records and there is nothing they can do.

Two more weeks of automated phone calls – twice daily.

Email to their online contact page stating that I either wish to know why they are hounding and suggest they stop. If the calls do not stop I will be calling my phone company to have the number blocked – I receive no response.

Today I received two more calls from CitiFinancial – both automated with the same message.

Today I called the number again and this time the person took the other last name that is used in this house and said it does not match with that number either. I asked if they could possibly tell me WHO on earth does match with that number and was told it was not possible to provide that information to me as it is confidential, but that they will look into it.

Steam begins to come out of my ears.

Here is how I responded – I swore at them – not a great leadership response, but definitely I had reached my limit. I told them I have done what they have asked of me, I have called them. I have done everything a good person is supposed to do to try to get down to the bottom of why my personal phone number is being hounded. I also wanted to know why the number they give me does not provide me with any information as to why I am being hounded by these ridiculous automated calls.

I will admit, I lost my temper… I said that I know this person is not personally responsible for the ridiculousness of the system under which they are working, but that I am not a CitiFinancial customer and they have ensured I never ever will be. The representative says they have no answer for me, could offer no reason for why I needed to call, and that they are not associated with the department that sends the automated calls.

She took a rotten bunch of my attitude today and remained professional. Kudos to whoever hired her, she has a terrible job of sitting blindly without information at a number to which automated calls are directing people highly annoyed with CitiFinancial. I sure don’t envy her that job, and if I knew how to reach her again would offer her an apology.

CitiFinancial, your streamlining does not work… you should be ashamed of your selves.

How do you think an organization would respond if all of us called that number leaving an automated message saying “Call us at this number” not directed TO anyone, and then telling them we knew nothing about why they are calling us back… a little something to ponder…..


5 Ways Managers Add Sugar on Sugar at Company’s Expense

I love candied ginger; it’s spicy and sweet at the same time. I like to add it to salads and recipes. What makes it Sugardifferent is it doesn’t have the “jelly feel” like other sugared candies.

I was thinking about that and how we tend to add sugar to more sugar all the time. Managers and Leaders do that in business so often it tends to come back and bite them.

  1. Performance Reviews: managers are so scared to tell an employee the truth that they dance around it. They’ll say some sugary thing hoping the meaning is understood, and then follow it up with the employee’s good stuff – sugar on sugar.
  2. Employee Surveys: managers worry ‘somehow’ the survey is not anonymous and make carefully worded statements and then add a positive one to buffer it rather than tell an employer or company what’s really going on – sugar on sugar.
  3. Peer to Peer Conversations: when another employee complains, managers smile and nod while listening then offer them good luck as they leave the office without giving feedback or perspective on the employee’s role in it – sugar on sugar.
  4. Angry Customers: managers deal with customers by saying pretty things and offering a gift in exchange for poor service rather than following up by learning how to keep customers from getting angry in the first place – sugar on sugar.
  5. Bully Managers: when allowed to continue beating people down and burning people out, most employees resort to saying nothing or denying it, this is the worst. Tainted sugar on sugar.

I like ginger; it offers a spicy flavour that tastes great. I like sugar (who doesn’t) but when they are together they are a fantastic eating experience. Those jelly candies with sugar on top – they’re average. It’s sweet, but nothing to write home about and easily forgotten.

It seems to me there needs to be a good balance between politeness and honesty; support and development; diplomacy and authenticity in leadership. I am pretty sure most companies when asked would choose fantastic over average, so why on earth build a culture that breeds average?


3 Reasons Why Service Trumps Efficiency

Bacon.and.EggsLast week I was in a local all day breakfast restaurant and was being served by a young woman who was exceptionally efficient. She worked hard, she worked fast and she had a bright smile. When we were seated she offered coffee, put menus down and got on with her very busy morning of completing the opening duties.

I would guess she was one of their best, and her interpretation of her ‘best job’ action was obviously being the most efficient, fastest server in the place. But we left feeling like we had not really “been served”. Here are 3 easy things she might have done to make it a better experience.

Service is about asking the customer what they want. Only once did she ask us a question, and that was well after we received our bill. She “stated” things. “I will take your order now” “You have coffee, ketchup, jam, cream – good you are all set.” But she did miss some things, of course in her efficiency she did not wait to find out what that might be.

Service is about listening. When she took our orders, she heard my first choice and quickly moved on (cutting me off) to take my breakfast companion’s order, then off she ran to efficiently get those meals for us. What she missed was that we wanted orange juice, a side of bacon and some fruit with that. We never did get the chance to order it.

Service is about watching customer cues. I believe this server would have caught the up-sell and gained a bigger sale, made two people happier and combined her winning smile with a more pleasurable experience had she simply stopped long enough to notice our clues, we were looking to order more.

The food was great, the server pleasant, the atmosphere was exactly what we were looking for. Was the service exactly what the restaurant was hoping the staff accomplish? Chances are it was, often times training and leadership in organizations put focus on efficiency but forget to impress on the staff, “…but not at the expense of the customer experience.” Imagine, if you will, what an unbelievable server she could be if her employer were noticing and coached her to raise a bar one level, combining her smile, efficiency and speed with asking, listening and watching.

Service is all about the customer experience. One can get food at home, one can eat anywhere, but the general rule of thumb is; when our customers do business with us, they want it to be the most satisfying experience for their money spent. People rarely go out for the most efficient experience for their money spent.


How Many Customers Did Your Staff Lose Today?

GiftCardEver heard an employee say, “It was only one customer, what are you so hung up about?”
What if you could keep accurate metrics on the number of customers chased away by your staff?

First, a little story told to me by a friend – then onto customer service metrics!!

My friend was given a gift certificate to a local establishment that provides a Dinner Theatre Mystery Night and 4 Course meal. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the number of Mystery Theatre nights (approx 1/month) and the high volume of travel required by my friend’s job, he was unable to use the gift certificate within the time frame of the 1 year expiry date.

Since purchased, Alberta law changed on November 1, 2008 stating that all gift certificates and gift cards issued will no longer be allowed to state an expiry date. That law also includes gift cards purchased before November 1, 2008 so long as they did not expire before the Nov.1 date.

They phone to finally book a dinner on one of the available Mystery Nights, but were greeted with a sour Food and Beverage Manager who simply asked the date the gift certificate was issued, then abruptly stated;

“The legislation did not come into effect until after that gift certificate was bought so it’s valid for a year only, sorry, it’s expired. If you would like to purchase two tickets, I will need a credit card number.”

That is it, not only did she misinterpret the legislation, she was rude and curt! My friend would have accepted a courtesy of at least being listened to, or considered he was a customer, especially since the tickets are valued at 75.00 each. A single 150.00 purchase is worth something to the business, no? It is to me when I shop!

My friend says:

She could have offered to extend the certificate, give us a discount to another function or even just said “I’m sorry, the certificate you have has expired; we can’t honour it but would still be happy to have you as a guest for dinner…”

Lets look at the metrics!

2 = Pissed-off customers this week

8 = The number of people they told (say each of those pissed off customers tell 4 people – conservative estimate.)

10 = 2 pissed off customers + 8 good friends. Lets say those 8 share it with 1 person each.

26 = 2 pissed off customers+8 people they told + the additional individuals those 8 shared with.

Multiply that by how many weeks your business is open to the public (typically 52)

1352 = 2 pissed off customers per week chased away from your business x 52 weeks a year.

A similar encounter every week will guarantee 1352 people within their marketing reach WILL NOT do business with that company or organization due to a story of poor customer service told by someone, and people always listen to those they love and trust.

How does a 21st century consumer make a purchase?

  • They shop from emotion
  • They want a relationship with the business.
  • They want to feel good about how hard they work
  • They want their money going to an organization that deserves to receive it
  • They want a positive experience.

Are consumers really buying your goods or services – NO! They are buying the experience and the relationship. We have all the ‘stuff’ we need, consumers shop and spend because they can and they want to feel good doing it.

If you are not clear with your front line staff as to what that looks like, then I can guarantee you will be suffering –
Let’s take it a little farther – let’s say only 5% of that total number would really have purchased from them based on referrals from satisfied and happy customers.

68 = approximately 5% of 1352 customers.

$5100.00 = per year of lost sales on an average 75.00 purchase. Are you okay tossing that money in the trash?

Now let’s consider that those 68 people may very well have a spouse or friend they would prefer to attend a Mystery Dinner Theatre Night with. WOW, are you as a business willing to toss a potential of $10,200.00 a year down the drain?

So, when an employee says, “It was only 1 person, what are you so hung up about?” That person is NOT suited for frontline service delivery, customer complaints or technical support, (certainly not without training).

Is it worth an investment of 20-50 bucks to gain a loyal customer – you tell me!

Care for your customers and train your staff! Leadership is directly tied to customer service – for every loyal happy customer, you could be making the difference between surviving this economic downturn or closing the shop!

NOTE: I called the organization my friend was talking about – mainly to find out about their gift certificate policy.

  1. They did say gift certificates no longer expire and there are no other conditions.
  2. They told me if I wanted to purchase new ones I best do it at next year’s prices, as this year is getting filled up
  3. When I asked how often they had the theatre, they said once a month, but less this year because there has been a huge slow down (really?)
  4. They were very curt and not at all interested in listening – only ‘telling’
  5. This is NOT the first time I have heard poor feedback on this particular organization

Need I name them? No, they are doing enough damage to themselves!


A Leader's Case for Social Media

For any leaders who don’t believe that Social Media is relevant to leading their teams, managing business or keeping clients happy, here is a great video you might want to watch that shows a very compelling case for the use of social media.

Not a leader? That’s okay, it is definitely worth watching this video if you fit into any of the following:

  • You are seeking work
  • You are in customer service
  • You are an entrepreneur
  • You own a business
  • You wish to keep your career current.

I have embedded the video into this blog, but if for any reason your browser does not let you see it, you can click the following link:

(Be prepared for some loud music – and – Enjoy!)