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Champion Leadership Blog

And Now for a Story of Very Poor Customer Service

My previous post discussed an outstanding customer service, first impression experience I had recently. Today I write about the opposite.

I was facilitating a training program for a client, a regional non-profit, that was using the conference room at a regional business services organization. After our session we needed to schedule a couple of follow up dates so I went to the front counter to inquire as to availability.

poor_customer_serviceThe middle-aged woman at the front counter who knows me from my regular networking events in the area greeted my request with what I would call “less than welcoming enthusiasm.”

Immediately upon pulling out the facility’s conference room scheduling book, a disco music tone begins to emanate from a purse under the desk. With a grumble the woman moves quickly for her cell phone, looks diligently at the caller ID and decides to answer the phone with absolutely no acknowledgement that she is inconveniencing the person she is serving standing in front of her.

It was difficult for me to discern if the call was personal or business, but my sense was that it was personal. The call and the distraction took only about 30- seconds and wasn’t a major inconvenience, but I felt ignored and unimportant through the entire transaction, even after she came to focus on my request. There was no apology upon returning from the phone call, through which I had just stood witnessing wondering how long it would be ’til I confirmed my conference room dates.

I’m not sure what she would have done in that instance if the main phone to the office rang while I was there and she was juggling her cell phone. It would have been interesting to witness, though I’m sure.

I’m wondering if my familiarity with the woman impacted her actions and poor choice of behavior, or if this is the norm and would have been the same if it were a new prospective customer was standing in front of her.

This is the type of poor customer service I may have expected from a teenager behind the counter of a movie theater or a retail store, but not a middle-aged woman behind the desk of a large regional business service organization.

Hmm, what to do, what to do? Any suggestions?

Champion Leadership Tip #2 – Even an 8-Year-Old Knows It’s About “Belief”

James, an 8-year-old boy, was sitting in the front row of a small class room in which he and 15 other Martial Arts students were listening to my workshop on becoming a Champion Leader.

A few minutes into an estudents as leadersxercise in which I asked the students to list people whom they knew that they believed were great leaders, James raised his hand to ask a question. When I recognized him, he asked, “can I put ‘me’?kids as champion leaders

To which I said, “James, that is an outstanding question and one I’m glad you asked because that may be the most important lesson I am going to teach tonight. Yes, you should put ‘me’ on your list because if you want to be a great leader you must believe you are a great leader.”

As the old saying goes, “from the mouths of babes…”

Do you believe you are a great leader?

You may feel uncomfortable proclaiming yourself a great leader as being braggadocious, or feel you just don’t have the experience to make such a claim.

Get over it!

To become a great leader you must believe you have great leadership tendencies within you, and you do. Own it, take responsibility for it, and look for ways to develop the outstanding leader within.

Believing you are an emerging great leader will give you the empetus to take the steps necessary to develop the skills necessary.

Champion Leadership Tip #2 – Exercise:

Before you move on to the next task of the day upon completing reading this post, write down three experiences you have had in your life that are positive references that you either, a) are a great leader, or b) have the potential to be a great leader.

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Little Things Make a Big Impression When It Comes to Customer Service at Vanacore, Debenecticus, et. al.

Often times when I walk into a company for a meeting, whether it be a marketing call on my behalf or a client consulting session I am usually offered a beverage by someone in the company. Sometimes the offer doesn’t come until I meet with my party, other times it comes when I am greeted by reception and I am waiting for my party to arrive.

Today, with regards to customer service I experienced something completely new, different and most importantly – exceptional and memorable

The company is one of the largest and most prestigious CPA firms in the Hudson Valley Region of New York – Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni and Weddell.

After the “Director of First Impressions” greeted me from behind her open window at the reception counter, she promptly called my party to let him know I had arrived, she handed me a menu of beverages. This menu was presented to me as if it were a wine list at a fine restaurant. The options included soft drinks, coffee, tea, sparkling water, and regular water. I chose plain water.

A few moments later she walked out to the waiting area and handed me a real glass full of water. Usually I am proffered a paper or plastic cup, or a coffee mug with water. This was an impressive drinking glass.

In my business consulting I encourage my clients to focus on the “fundamentals” to achieve market differentiation. In football they call it “blocking and tackling,” in ice hockey its skating and stick handling, in basketball its the free-throws and blocking out under the basket. Every sport has them and all businesses have them.

My musical hero Bruce Springsteen wrote a song a long time ago which is rarely, if ever played, called “It’s the Little Things That Count.” It relates to personal relationships but is just as pertinent in the business setting.

So, today, my vote for a “Champion Business” goes to Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni and Weddell based in Newburgh, NY for the presentation of a beverage “menu” to its guests, offered by their “Director of First Impressions.” Great job!

Another simple example is something I encourage one of my clients to do just a few weeks ago. They had a very impersonal way of answering the phone and I encouraged them to change it so that the greeting included:

  1. “Thank You for Calling xxxxxx company”
  2. This is (Insert First Name)
  3. How may I help you today…

Within one week the positive feedback they received was tremendous. Approximately seven people who called in to the company made comments about how pleasant and welcoming the new greeting made them feel.

So, what are the “little things” in your business that for little or no cost and little additional effort, you could easily raise the bar on the impression you make on your clients, prospects and competitors? Pick one today and start working on it.

Champion Leadership Tip #1 – Defining Leadership

Ten years ago I heard former U.S. Army General and first Gulf War Commander Norman Schwartzkopf speak at a leadership conference. He told us that day that defining leadership was similar to the Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity, “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.” He proceeded to try to define it anyway with, “getting others to things they ordinarilly wouldn’t do because they want to do it.”

In preparing for a leadership keynote address I was asked to deliver recently at a regional martial arts school, I decided I needed a definition that rang true for me. Based on my 27 years in business and 20 years in minor league professional baseball management, and now 10 years studying business success and successful leadership in all facets of life, this is what I came up with:

“Inspiring others to do something they ordinarily would not do, and/or coaching them to perform at an even higher level than they ordinarily would perform, if left on their own.”

Think of the best leaders in your life. Why do you see them as such? It was probably because they inspired you to go for something by being a role model in how they went after the same thing. Additionally, they took responsibility for their role in inspiring you to go for it and continued to help you along the way by coaching and guiding you to perform at the level necessary to achieve success at it.

Procrastination Still A Problem for Success Small Business Owners

During the Champion Business Alliance Workshop last week I asked my favorite question, which broaches the subject of procrastination, “what are you not doing that you should be doing?

It never ceases to get even the most savvy and successful business owners or CEOs squirm in their seats. The list of items from our attendees included:

  • creating and implementing a marketing strategy
  • addressing my time management issues
  • addressing important personnel issues
  • performance reviews
  • following up on marketing calls
  • creating a partner agreement for our firm
  • collecting on past due receivables

The above issues are common and I hear them consistently whenever I bring up the issue of procrastination when speaking with a business owner or senior executive.

You will notice they fall into just a couple of categories, marketing and sales, personnel performance management issues, and dealing with financial issues. Although all three can cause significant problems for a business my biggest concern is addressing the performance issues. Failing to deal with employee performance can lead to low morale and poor attitudes in the workplace.

For those that want to stop procrastinating and become a more effective leader I have some resources. The resources on this page are all free audio recordings, one is an interview I did on an internet radio show with organizing expert Monica Ricci a couple of years ago, and the other is an End Procrastination NOW! tele-seminar I offered to my newsletter subscribers.

For those that would want full access to my complete workshop that helps people to stop procrastinating you can check out the full End Procrastination NOW! audio workshop here.

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