John R. Patterson - Facilitator, Consultant, Speaker
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John R. Patterson - Articles


Are Your Customers Creating Storms?
Last year, Forbes reported that businesses are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service.  93% of Americans say organizations fail to exceed their customer service expectations!

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Title: Are Your Customers Creating Storms?
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Article Month: May 2017


Your Service Sucks!
We are in the peak of the season of hyperbole. Spend a few minutes listening to the scream of the media and you learn, according to some pundit, every politician is a saint, insane or Satan.

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Title: Your Service Sucks!
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Article Month: April 2017


Oversee Your Customer’s "Real Time" Journey
Customers are changing rapidly and keeping up with customer expectations in a world where nobody wants to complete another survey can be very challenging!

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Title: Oversee Your Customer’s "Real Time" Journey
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Article Month: March 2017


Taking Care of Loyal Customers
And as new customers become long-term customers, their worth increases--they buy more, spend more, advocate more, and generally are less expensive to serve since they do not require customer training when they deal with you.

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Title: Taking Care of Loyal Customers
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Article Month: February 2017


Did You Bring Your Service Greatness Attitude Today?
You are in complete control of your attitude.  Victor Frankl in his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning, described how prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II determined their longevity by the way they imagined their future.

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Title: Did You Bring Your Service Greatness Attitude Today?
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Article Month: January 2017


Two Very Powerful Words
As the holiday season approaches I think it is very appropriate to stop for a moment and reflect on how we show our gratitude.  “Thank you!”  These are arguably the two most powerful words in the English language.

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Title: Two Very Powerful Words
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Article Month: December 2016


How Would Your Customers Rate Your Integrity?
Customers today are Picky — more cautious in their choices (and they have many more choices), and interested only in getting obvious value for their money.  Customers are Fickle — much quicker to leave if unhappy.

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Title: How Would Your Customers Rate Your Integrity?
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Article Month: November 2016


National Customer Service Week: Twenty Five Ways to Show Your Loyalty to Your Customers
Welcome to this special article marking National Customer Service Week – October 3-7th.  I hope you are delivering special care and appreciation to your customers this week but also every other week.

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Title: National Customer Service Week: Twenty Five Ways to Show Your Loyalty to Your Customers
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Article Month: October 2016


Four Keys to Crafting an Effective Service Vision
Creating a service vision for your company is vital to ensuring your customers and you have a keen understanding of what you offer and how it is differentiated from today’s hyper competitive market.

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Title: Four Keys to Crafting an Effective Service Vision
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Article Month: September 2016


Hosting Customers
I was on my way to a meeting and stopped for lunch.  I am a major fan of McDonald’s French fries—the best on the planet.  I also enjoy the Chick-fil-A salads.  Luckily the two fast-food restaurants were right next door to each other.

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Title: Hosting Customers
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Article Month: August 2016


Searching for the DNA of Customer Experience
What is the DNA of customer service?  What if we assumed there was a component in the service encounter unique to each customer?

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Title: Searching for the DNA of Customer Experience
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Article Month: July 2016


Happy Processes for Innovative Service!
What is a service process?  Given the high level of importance that customers today place on their experience, making certain your processes are “happy” is critical for service success.

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Title: Happy Processes for Innovative Service!
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Article Month: June 2016


It Takes a Country to Deliver Great Service!
Customers are different today!  Their expectations have increased over 33% in the last 12 months!  They have raised the bar on how they view customer experience.  They are looking for service providers who consistently deliver service experiences that drive loyalty!

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Title: It Takes a Country to Deliver Great Service!
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Article Month: May 2016


You Make Me Want To Be A Better...Customer?
Most great movies have one line worthy of frequent repeats: Show me the money; Frankly, my dear…; Win one for the Gipper; Make my day; Greed is good.  The list goes on and on.  What would service need to be like for your customers to say, “You make me want to be a better customer?”

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Title: You Make Me Want To Be A Better...Customer?
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Article Month: April 2016


Politics & Your Customer
The political season is upon us!  And, with a presidential debate every few days, candidates are getting plenty of opportunities to utter misspoken sound bites.

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Title: Politics & Your Customer
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Article Month: March 2016


Making Emotional Connections for Great Service
We have studied the ingredients for GREAT service for many years and we have consulted with some of the brands most renowned for great service.  Here are our favorite eight rules for building customer loyalty through emotional connections.

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Title: Making Emotional Connections for Great Service
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Article Month: February 2016


Where Does Respect Fit in the Customer Journey?
Designing and implementing a customer journey that drives great experiences is a hot topic today.  Customers have their “antennae” on high alert for journeys that are not easy or frictionless, They quickly leave providers whose journeys lack appropriate expressions of gratitude for their business.

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Title: Where Does Respect Fit in the Customer Journey?
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Article Month: January 2016


The 5 Star Service Puzzle
Puzzles are fun…especially, on a rainy day when there’s no ballgame on television.  Puzzles can be a great bonding experience for families. Putting a puzzle together has a lot of similarities with creating a great “5 star” customer experience.

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Title: The 5 Star Service Puzzle
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Article Month: December 2015


The Power of Now
The root canal had a hiccup.  Three weeks after the dental procedure, I called my world-class dentist to alert him that mild discomfort had returned to my wayward tooth.  I was calling for an appointment. “He wants to see you right now,” said the receptionist.

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Title: The Power of Now
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Article Month: November 2015


Do You “Love Up” Your Customers?
National Customer Service Week is October 5th – 9th and I hope you will be showing your customers your own brand of "special customer love" during this week!

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Title: Do You “Love Up” Your Customers?
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Article Month: October 2015


Taking Service Out of Customer Service
We were participating in a panel discussion at a conference of Fortune 100 CIO’s.  One senior leader of one of the 10 largest banks in the nation asked: “How can we maximize the profitability and efficiency of our call centers while minimizing the customer’s involvement?”

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Title: Taking Service Out of Customer Service
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Article Month: September 2015


The Significance of Customer Semantics
At what point does a pond become a lake?  A farmer becomes a rancher?  A boat becomes a yacht or ship?  We have a lot of confusion in semantics in our language.  How about customers?

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Title: The Significance of Customer Semantics
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Article Month: August 2015


Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish with today’s Wired & Dangerous Customer
A few years ago, John Barrier, in Spokane, Washington, asked a bank receptionist to validate his parking slip after he'd cashed a check.  With a glance at his dirty construction clothes, the receptionist informed him that he hadn't conducted a real “transaction” and suggested he make a deposit.

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Title: Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish with today’s Wired & Dangerous Customer
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Article Month: July 2015


Read Your Customer’s Mind
It all started at one of those traveling fairs...the ones that set up in the parking lot of a shopping center with a few rides and attractions.

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Title: Read Your Customer’s Mind
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Article Month: June 2015


What Makes GREAT Service GREAT?
What is it that enables these organizations to consistently wow their customers?  We believe from our latest research, consulting and everyday experiences there are 5 characteristics shared by great service providers that make great service great.

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Title: What Makes GREAT Service GREAT?
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Article Month: May 2015


Leading “Mad Scientists”
We use the label “mad scientists,” not as a reference to some evil maladjusted type like Dr. Strangelove or Frankenstein, but rather as the catch-all phrase for the gifted eccentric and unconventional wild ducks that occasionally enter organizations.

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Title: Leading “Mad Scientists”
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Article Month: April 2015


SURPRISE! Add Sprinkles to Your Customers’ Experiences
“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is:  Is it good?  Does it give pleasure?” wrote Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of the TV show Parts Unknown.

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Title: SURPRISE! Add Sprinkles to Your Customers’ Experiences
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Article Month: March 2015


Innovative Service: Delivering Service that Creates Customer Advocates
We walked into the Marriott Windsor, Connecticut on a Monday about 8:20pm after a two hour flight from Atlanta to find a crowd at the Front Desk.  Looking for dinner we headed directly to the restaurant and requested our favorite server, Lacey.

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Title: Innovative Service: Innovative Service: Delivering Service that Creates Customer Advocates
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Article Month: February 2015


Innovative Service: Customer Connections for Great Experiences!
Walk into one of your favorite service providers and you immediately feel the difference in the experience that makes this establishment one of your chosen few.  What is the difference?

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Title: Innovative Service: Customer Connections for Great Experiences!
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Article Month: January 2015


Great Service the Atlanta Cycling Way!
Customers today use experience (what providers put them through) as their number one decision factor when selecting an organization to do business with.

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Title: Great Service the Atlanta Cycling Way!
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Article Month: December 2014


Designing a Survey Your Customers Will Actually Complete
Asking your customers to rate their service experience from “unsatisfied” to “very satisfied” is like asking them to give you no grade higher than a C!

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Title: Designing a Survey Your Customers Will Actually Complete
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Article Month: November 2014


Innovative Change + Remarkable Service = Customer Loyalty
It is not ironic that the word for “transformation” and the word for that “jingle in your pocket” are the same: change.

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Title: Innovative Change + Remarkable Service = Customer Loyalty
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Article Month: October 2014


Innovative Service: Service with a Spirit of Greatness!
Customers have changed!  As we exit the “great recession” we know that customers’ expectations are higher than ever.

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Title: Innovative Service: Service with a Spirit of Greatness!
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Article Month: September 2014


Creating Consistency for Innovative Service
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on a hot August afternoon in 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a well-chronicled speech.  His oratory did not start with the words, “I have a strategic plan.”

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Title: Creating Consistency for Innovative Service
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Article Month: August 2014


Chopped Liver: Why Your Customers Leave
The etymology (word history) of the question, “What am I, chopped liver?” originated from the use of chopped liver as a side dish.

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Title: Chopped Liver: Why Your Customers Leave
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Article Month: July 2014


Great Leaders are Champions, Not Shepherds
John Longstreet is the CEO of Quaker Steak and Lube, a motor-themed, family fun restaurant chain.  He is also one of the best leaders we have ever known.

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Title: Great Leaders are Champions, Not Shepherds
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Article Month: June 2014


Customer Forensics
Columbo was a wildly popular television series in the 1970s.  The late Peter Falk portrayed Lieutenant Columbo, a seemingly naïve, disorganized investigator attempting to unravel a crime.

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Title: Customer Forensics
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Article Month: May 2014


Customer-Centric Crisis Management
On January 28, 1986, the world watched in horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of all of its seven crew members.

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Title: Customer-Centric Crisis Management
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Article Month: April 2014


How to Serve As Expert
It all started with a discussion with a start-up company about how customers assess the quality of the performance of a service skill they know nothing or little about.  The particular performance happened to be an auto mechanic.

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Title: How to Serve As Expert
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Article Month: March 2014


Serving When Customer Pain Must Be Involved
Castor oil:  “A foul tasting oil used in the 1950s to cure whatever ailment a kid claimed he had that would keep him from having to get on the early-morning school bus.”

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Title: Serving When Customer Pain Must Be Involved
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Article Month: February 2014


Serving Today’s Wired and Dangerous Customer
The landscape of customer service has been re-contoured.  Today’s customers are not at all the way they used to be 20 years ago.  What has caused customers to be so different?

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Title: Serving Today’s Wired and Dangerous Customer
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Article Month: January 2014


Service Gifts
This is the season of gifts.  Christmas trees are filled with gifts.  Hanukkah has eight days of gift giving.  Almost every faith in the world uses the giving of gifts for important symbols.

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Title: Service Gifts
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Article Month: December 15, 2013


If Service Were a Christmas Ornament
Sooner or later it happens if you decorate enough Christmas trees over a long enough time.  At some point you discover that almost all of the ornaments are handmade or have some special meaning.

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Title: If Service Were a Christmas Ornament
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Article Month: December 1, 2013


Season of Servicegiving
Blame it on the pilgrims!  We are about to experience Thanksgiving, at least in the U.S., in a very traditional way.

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Title: Season of Servicegiving
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Article Month: November 15, 2013


The Halloween of Service
Halloween has come and gone!  Parents reflect on October 31st with colorful pictures in their minds—sugar highs, “who ‘ya gonna be this year.

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Title: The Halloween of Service
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Article Month: November 1, 2013


Serving with Pride
Today is the day we celebrate our veterans.  I am a veteran and served as an infantry unit commander in combat with the elite 82nd Airborne.

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Title: Serving with Pride
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Article Month: October 15, 2013


The Fall of Summer
Fall leaves are a lot like customers.  They typically don’t depart simply due to the lure of a competitor like gravity invites a leaf to the ground.

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Title: The Fall of Summer
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Article Month: October 1, 2013


Protecting the Good Stuff
“Matt, give a $10-12 Merlot with an attractive label.”  The request came from the customer in front of me at my favorite adult beverage store.

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Title: Protecting the Good Stuff
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Article Month: September 15, 2013


Service and the Art of Grilling
Holidays like Labor Day are excellent times to sharpen your grilling skills.  I am an avid steak griller.  When entertaining guests, it is important to begin the grilling process by gathering a bit of steak intelligence.

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Title: Service and the Art of Grilling
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Article Month: September 1, 2013


Solo, Duet or Chorus Service?
I love self-service...when it works.  But when solo service fails me, it feels like losing your dollar in a vending machine at a remote location.  Who you gonna call?

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Title: Solo, Duet or Chorus Service?
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Article Month: August 15, 2013


Panning for Service Gold
A fun activity for my grandchildren when they visit my North Georgia weekend home is panning for gold.  The sand comes from a sandy river bank near a sight that was a part of the gold rush in the early 1800’s.

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Title: Panning for Service Gold
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Article Month: August 1, 2013


Service as Circus
“The circus is coming to town!” were words that started every child’s heart racing where I grew up.  You did not “go” to the circus; it came to you.

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Title: Service as Circus
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Article Month: July 15, 2013


Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave
Conjunctions are so bland!  Especially when verbs can bring to language so much more inspiration and animation.  And, Independence Day is clearly a time for verbs.

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Title: Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave
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Article Month: July 1, 2013


Insuring Swimming Pools against Theft
Customers are getting weary of service providers overselling them features they do not need and will never need.  When my phone bill seemed higher than it needed to be I called my phone service provider.

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Title: Insuring Swimming Pools against Theft
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Article Month: June 15, 2013


Great Service is Summer Camp
We are just beyond the season of summer camp!  My eight year old granddaughter, Kaylee, went to her first overnight camp in July...for two weeks and in another state!

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Title: Great Service is Summer Camp
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Article Month: June 1, 2013


Are You a Proud Service Veteran
Veterans are people who serve or have served in the military.  Proud veterans also served, but never were able to get the memories, pride and faithfulness out of their system.

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Title: Are You a Proud Service Veteran
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Article Month: May 15, 2013


You Are Not an Island
It all started with a missing subwoofer speaker cord.  I had purchased a set of speakers which the new receiver promptly blew.  The electronics store was an hour from my home.

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Title: You Are Not an Island
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Article Month: May 1, 2013


Air Conditioned Service
The air conditioning system broke in the little country church we attend when we have a getaway weekend to our North Georgia river house.

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Title: Air Conditioned Service
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Article Month: April 15, 2013


Serving Eagles
An eagle got the neighbors talking.  My backyard fronts a large lake with a cove wrapping around each side of the lot.

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Title: Serving Eagles
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Article Month: April 1, 2013


Missing the Sign
If you saw a familiar white triangular-shaped highway sign that had a red border but the letters were missing, would you recognize the shape and know exactly what to do?

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Title: Missing the Sign
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Article Month: March 15, 2013


Electric Service
Did you ever wonder why electricians refer to an ineffective electrical connection as a “bad” connection, like it was misbehaving and in need of punishment?  It is how many service providers view angry customers.

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Title: Electric Service
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Article Month: March 1, 2013


Are Customer Relationships on the Demise?
What do you expect from the elevator or escalator where you frequently traffic?  You probably want the service to be quiet, reliable and traverse up and down at just the right speed.

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Title: Are Customer Relationships on the Demise?
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Article Month: February 15, 2013


Are Stupid Rules Hiding in Your Organization?
When Alexander II was the Czar of what is now Russia in the mid 1800’s, he look out of his palace window and observed a soldier guarding an area of the palace lawn which appeared to be little more than empty space.

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Title: Are Stupid Rules Hiding in Your Organization?
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Article Month: February 1, 2013


Service Lessons from a Speeding Ticket
I admit I was driving 70 mph!  It was a bright Sunday morning and I was driving on a four-lane highway in a rural area with not car on the road.  Without warning (and without any change in the setting), the speed limit dropped to 45 mph.

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Title: Service Lessons from a Speeding Ticket
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Article Month: January 15, 2013


The Storm of Customer Discontent
Sitting by the window on the top floor of a high-rise Dallas hotel provides an amazing panoramic view.  Weather becomes up close and personal.  I watched a major rain storm crawl across the distant plains to deliver a hard punch to downtown Dallas streets.

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Title: The Storm of Customer Discontent
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Article Month: January 1, 2013


Service Gifts
This is the season of gifts.  Christmas trees are filled with gifts.  Hanukkah has eight days of gift giving.  Almost every faith in the world uses the giving of gifts for important symbols.

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Title: Service Gifts
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Article Month: December 2012


Electric Service
Did you ever wonder why electricians refer to an ineffective electrical connection as a “bad” connection, like it was misbehaving and in need of punishment?  It is how many service providers view angry customers.

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Title: Electric Service
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Article Month: November 2012


If Service Were an Auto Show
It was a perfect Saturday afternoon.  The local merchants association used a festive antique auto show as the magnet to pull customers into the small town square.  The spirit was ramped up even higher by the local radio show broadcasting from the square.

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Title: If Service Were an Auto Show
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Article Month: October 2012


How Tabby Got Rescued
Tabby was a new kitten to the neighborhood.  Escaping from her brand new owner’s side porch one afternoon, she climbed to the top of the tallest tree in the area.  Neighbors advised the owner to let Tabby come down on her own.

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Title: How Tabby Got Rescued
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Article Month: September 2012


Bad Gas in a New Generator
It has been an unusual season for tornadoes in the South—several records have been set for most tornados in a day, longest on the ground, most deaths in some states, etc.  It made me glad I bought a gasoline-powered generator three years ago.

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Title: Bad Gas in a New Generator
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Article Month: August 2012


A River Runs Through Service
Standing on the banks of a magnificent river, your imagination can run wild.  A mighty river can take you many miles, connecting you with countless ports and people along the way.  Rivers are still an important source of commerce transportation.

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Title: A River Runs Through Service
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Article Month: July 2012


My Lawnmower would like to Meet Your Weed eater
Futurists use to tell us the day would come when your appliances would be able to communicate with each other.  Imagine your microwave asking your refrigerator, “What’s for dinner?” and your air conditioner telling your tub to, “Start a hot bath!”

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Title: My Lawnmower would like to Meet Your Weed eater
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Article Month: June 2012


Fly-Fishing for Customers
Very big disclaimer!  There are parts of a fishing metaphor that do not work when it comes to great customer service—like bait, hook, catch, or reeling in.  But, regular fishing is to fly-fishing what whittling might be to scrimshaw; or grilling might be to gourmet confectionary baking!

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Title: Fly-Fishing for Customers
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Article Month: May 2012


The Spring of Service
The spring season is a time of metamorphous.  Ugly brown bushes become green blossoms.  Dreary trees become an engaging lush habitat for colorful birds to sing their very best mating songs.  Fat bumble bees visit bright flowers to lap up nectar that nurtures more growth.

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Title: The Spring of Service
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Article Month: April 2012


Protecting the Good Stuff
“Matt, give a $10-12 Merlot with an attractive label.”  The request came from the customer in front of me at my favorite adult beverage store.  The customer smiled at the clever name on the bottle of wine Matt picked for him.  It made me recall my early experience with moonshine whiskey.

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Title: Protecting the Good Stuff
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Article Month: March 2012


The Super Bowl of Service
There is always something about those “best in class” or “top 10” lists that attract us.  Unless selection is determined by some objective score, we argue with the results.  “I had lousy service from Acme Pyrotechnics!  How come they are on this big deal list?”

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Title: The Super Bowl of Service
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Article Month: February 2012


Dance Me to the End of Service
The deep, gravelly voice of Leonard Cohen sings his hit song “Dance Me to the End of Love” to a lingering Hungarian-like melody.  A single violin makes the experience haunting.  The mystery of the tune matches the romance of the words.

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Title: Dance Me to the End of Service
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Article Month: January 2012


Taking Care of Service Air
There is no season that announces its arrival as loudly as the winter holiday.  Drive down the neighborhood streets at night and you witness an array of colorful decorations.  It reminds me of my first Christmas as a married adult.  We bought a tree early so we could get the best shape.

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Title: Taking Care of Service Air
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Article Month: December 2011


The Future of Service
What is the future of customer service?  One recent author claimed that the best service is no service.  That might become truer than you think.  What if we took the current trends and pushed them out a few years?

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Title: The Future of Service
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Article Month: November 2011


Looking Forward from the Service Museum
A quick trip to any museum not only provides an interesting picture of yesteryear, it reveals an instructive barometer on the ways we have changed.  What would be the artifacts and displays in a Service Museum?  And what would it tell us about the ways customers have changed?

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Title: Looking Forward from the Service Museum
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Article Month: October 2011


Rethinking the Meaning of Service
“There is absolutely no ambiguity about the true meaning of a back blast,” barked the Army sergeant as he was cautioning recruits in boot camp to avoid getting behind an anti-tank bazooka (now the M72 LAW) about to be fired.  How many things in life have “absolutely no ambiguity about their true meaning?”

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Title: Rethinking the Meaning of Service
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Article Month: September 2011


How to “Serve in the Dark” Like a Partner
How do you create a partner-like relationship with customers whose face you never see?  There have always been a host of service providers whose only service signature was the quality of the work they left for the customer--the hotel housekeeper, the auto repair person on the other side of the "customers not allowed beyond this point" sign.

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Title: How to “Serve in the Dark” Like a Partner
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Article Month: August 2011


How to Serve As Expert
It all started with a discussion with a start-up company about how customers assess the quality of the performance of a service skill they know nothing or little about.  The particular performance happened to be an auto mechanic.

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Title: How to Serve As Expert
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Article Month: July 2011


Are You a Genius or Smart?
Chip traded in his Motorola flip phone and Blackberry for a brand spanking new iPhone at his neighborhood AT&T store.  Warren Burgess was the perfect sales person.  But, within a week Chip’s happy scale had dropped from delight to disappointment––the iPhone speaker would not advance past the whisper level.

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Title: Are You a Genius or Smart?
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Article Month: June 2011


Honesty is Not a Policy
The Delta regional jet was packed.  As the flight backed away from the gate, the flight attendant began her ritualistic safety spiel about seatbelts, sudden turbulence and smoking.  She ended by saying, “The flying time to Grand Rapids will be two hours…no, it will be an hour and a half…no, actually, I don’t know.”  The cabin erupted with laughter and applause.

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Title: Honesty is Not a Policy
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Article Month: May 2011


Let Your Customers Count Cows
“Counting cows” was a backseat game parents used years ago in rural areas to quell the endless “Are we there yet?” queries from their children.  The rules were simple:  each person took one side of the car when the journey began.  One point was given for every cow you saw on your side; five points for every horse, and if a graveyard appeared on your side, you lost all your points and had to start over again.  Active participation in a simple, competitive game made the car trip seem much shorter.

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Title: Let Your Customers Count Cows
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Article Month: April 2011


Hitting the Culture Change Wall
Culture change is fun!  It always starts with lots of exciting meetings, colorful new posters, really cool buttons to wear, and even new screen savers reminding you to “Thrive on!” or “Right First Time Every Time” or “We Break for Breaks” or whatever the code name is for the super important, this-is-the-big-one culture change effort.  People get to leave their regular jobs and go to special training.  And, there is always the special banquet with its banter, banners, and big deal speeches from the folks at the tippy top of the organization’s food chain.

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Title: Hitting the Culture Change Wall
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Article Month: March 2011


The Pursuit of Customer Insight
The mayor of Santa Clarita, California annually holds a hairdresser’s luncheon.  The goal of the special event is a focused one--to learn what citizens are really concerned about.  The mayor knows citizens will tell their hairdressers what they would never report in a city-wide survey.

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Title: The Pursuit of Customer Insight
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Article Month: February 2011


The Music is Not in the Guitar
“The music is not in the guitar” are lines from an extraordinary new book called Life is Good by Jake and Rocket (aka, Bert and John Jacobs).  It holds a special message for remarkable service.  Examine how much energy and resources organizations typically spend on CRM software, ironclad return policies, service processes and procedures, and call center metric mania.  In the end, service is not about stuff--it is about people creating positively memorable experiences for customers.  Even erudite and super sterile business to business connections are far less B2B than P2P--people to people.

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Title: The Music is Not in the Guitar
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Article Month: January 2011


Leading Mad Scientists
James Cameron is a "Mad Scientist"—and director of the two highest grossing movies ever made—Titanic and Avatar. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is probably a "mad scientist."  So were Ludwig Beethoven, Henry Ford and Amelia Earhart.  Who could deny their gigantic contributions or incredible gifts?  We use mad scientists not as a reference to some evil maladjusted type like Dr. Strangelove or Frankenstein, but rather as the catch-all phrase for the gifted eccentric and unconventional wild ducks that occasionally enter organizations.  Some are nerdy, some are whiz kids without manners, and some are amazing talents marching to their own drum.  For organizations they bring a mixed blessing.

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Title: Leading Mad Scientists
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With Trumps For
How many times have you looked at a product and thought, "I wish I'd thought of that?"  Today's winning organizations—the ones with the endearing and enduring products and services, design them with customers rather than for customers.  The for group creates a product or service and then conducts market research, including focus groups to get customers' reactions for refinement; "I prefer the blue one over the green one" The customer is viewed as a judge not as a partner.

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Title: With Trumps For
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Service Leaders Simplicity
"Good Morning!  Welcome to our USAToday route.  Now, if I should miss you, please call me at the number below.  I'll personally re-deliver your paper as soon as possible.  If you have a complaint that you and I can't solve, you may call my district manager directly.  His name and number are also below.  Thanks a lot.  We really appreciate your business."  This is the letter to the USAToday home delivery Chip received with his first paper.  It was crafted, copied, and conveyed by the local delivery person, Hazel.  Look at its tone and message!  The top concern of newspaper customers is "not getting a paper."

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Title: Service Leaders Simplicity
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Growing Champions
What do Clint Eastwood in the movie Million Dollar Baby, Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, and Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans—have in common?  They are characters who supported and sought the best in others, even in their darkest hours.  Growing champions isn't necessarily about applause, cheers, or approval.  Those actions may be present, but champion growers go above and beyond run-of-the-mill recognition.  They use the philosophy: if you want something to grow, pour champagne on it.

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Title: Growing Champions
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Imaginative Service
Delight your customer!  Provide value-added service!  These have been mantras of customer service gurus.  How do utilities avoid sending a mixed message by telling the front line to "wow" their customers in the morning and announcing staff cutbacks and expense reductions in the afternoon?  How do you add value when there are diminishing resources to fund the addition?  In a phrase—imaginative service.

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Title: Imaginative Service
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Surprising Customers
If you've ever taken the shuttle bus between the Atlanta airport terminal and the Hertz car rental lot, you may have experienced Archie Bostick—a quirky but highly effective example of how today's business leaders must provide imaginative service to remain competitive—especially in tough economic times.  The first thing you notice about Archie is the welcoming grin on his face.  Instead of a tip jar (baited with a handful of bucks to encourage reluctant tippers), Archie paper-clips dollar bills across the front of his shirt.

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Title: Surprising Customers
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Imaginative Service: You Need it More in Tough Times
Take the Hertz Shuttle Bus at the Atlanta Airport, and you might meet Archie Bostick.  Archie greets you with a welcoming grin.  Instead of a tip jar, Archie paper-clips dollar bills across the front of his shirt.  Nothing subtle about that ploy—it’s an attention-getter that announces this is a unique experience.  Once on the bus, Archie delivers a comedy routine and uses any excuse to break into song.  As Archie pulls up to the terminal, he announces, “Now, I may never see you again, so I want us all to say together, ‘I love Hertz!’” And everyone hollers, “I love Hertz!”  You witness a service innovator at work—he takes your breath away.

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Title: Imaginative Service: You Need it More in Tough Times
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Spirit Leeches: Learn How to Remove Them
One Hazard of fishing Swampy rivers is the risk of getting a leech.  Unlike many parasites, you cannot feel a leech attaching to your leg.  A ritual among river anglers is to always check for the bloodsuckers after emerging from the water.  And, the typical way to remove the slimy hitchhiker is with a lighted match or lighter.

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Title: Spirit Leeches: Learn How to Remove Them
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Accountability Payoffs Are Impressive
Accountability is both the sweet spot and Achilles heel of most leaders.  Leaders learn early the importance of holding employees accountable for results.  Despite its downbeat reputation, accountability, effectively executed, remains the keystone for trust between leaders and employees, employees and customers.

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Title: Accountability Payoffs Are Impressive
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Customer Intelligence: Connecting the Dots for Service Insight
A map confiscated from an enemy courier revealed the location of shallow caves, each containing a cache of weapons used to re-supply enemy troops.  However, when a wise Army lieutenant sent the captured map to a friend he knew could provide a deeper assessment of the terrain covered by the map, he learned that each cave was located on a similar site—same type of soil, same typology and same elevation.  Checking other areas comparable to the cave sites produced another major discovery: there were many more caves not marked on the map that contained even larger collections of weapons.

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Title: Customer Intelligence: Connecting the Dots for Service Insight
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Attracting Loyalty From All the New Customers
Today's customers get terrific service in pockets of their life, and use those experiences to judge everyone else.  When the UPS or FedEx delivery person walks with a sense of urgency, we expect the mail carrier to do likewise.  Customers also have choices.  Shop for a loaf of bread, and you're confronted with 16 brands and 23 varieties packaged 12 different ways.

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Title: Attracting Loyalty From All the New Customers
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Bridging the Customer Trust Gap
"I’ll be back to get you when school is out,” a parent promises as her youngster exits the car with book bag in tow.  So begins an all-important matter of trust between child and parent.  The level of trust that results depends on whether past experiences are more “Mom [or father] always comes” or “Sorry, I’m late again; traffic was terrible.”

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Title: Bridging the Customer Trust Gap
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Competing With Service Air
Customer satisfaction has been the hallmark of customer evaluations.  But if you look up the definition of “satisfactory,” you will find “good enough to fulfill a need or requirement.”  The verb “to satisfy” comes from the Latin word satisfacere which means “enough.”  It also means “adequate” or “sufficient.”  Because we live in an era of too many choices, data over load and sensory excess, our taste for “sufficient” is…well, insufficient.

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Title: Competing With Service Air
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Customer as Boss: Go from Leader- to Customer-Centric
When Organizations are Led by charismatic, demanding or memorable leaders, the focus often turns to compliance, obedience, or obsession with the leader’s way, style and vision.  Centering on customers takes leaders who are more interested in excellence than ego.  It takes a total alteration in agenda, attitude, and action.  To make the shift, employ three strategies.

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Title: Customer as Boss: Go from Leader- to Customer-Centric
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Focusing on a Customer Experience Survey
"We need to survey our customers!"  When these words are uttered by a senior leader it can prompt all manner of meeting, mania and macerations.  It triggers a group of questions someone in marketing masterminds to send around to various departments for critique.  This is where the fun begins.

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Title: Focusing on a Customer Experience Survey
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That’s Great Advice, Charlie Brown: New Rules for Mining Customer Intelligence
Best selling tomes tell us to “get to know your customers’ needs” while the board room is demanding we “get lean or get lost.”  Yet the demands of the competitive arena to attract and retain customers are ever increasing.  We think the lessons from simpler times can be instructive in how we balance competitive necessity for timely customer intelligence with the corporate constraint we do it fast, good and most importantly - cheap.  We found new rules for mining customer intelligence in a 1975 Peanuts comic strip.  We marveled at how timely it had remained and how insightful its counsel for today’s challenging business environment.

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Title: That’s Great Advice, Charlie Brown: New Rules for Mining Customer Intelligence
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Customer Intelligence Through New Eyes
Customer surveys are a potent tool for gathering customer intelligence.  However, surveys are fraught with more inaccurate fiction and erroneous folklore than all other customer intelligence methods.  Breaking free of these mythical restrictions can come through “new eyes” questions.  These “out of left field” questions can yield valuable insights and refreshing “corner turners” for elevating the pursuit of what customers really think.  Below are our top ten favorite themes.  They may make you squirm, blush or feel a bit guilty; they may also help you learn.

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Title: Customer Intelligence Through New Eyes
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Don’t Skip Dessert
Dessert has gotten a bum rap.  Customer service survey application has gotten a similar rap.  In our hasty pursuit of the next initiative we fail to mine the intelligence nuggets gained.  We too often fail to make the “application of data learning’s” as valued as the “acquisition of data.”  Checking the box that we “did another survey” has won out over making the process meaningful.  And, the richest part of the survey effort is overlooked and left behind.

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Title: Don’t Skip Dessert
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What Great Service Leaders Actually Do
"Sure, you’re supposed to be a role model.  We know all about making service excellence a priority and how we need to communicate the service vision," they chided.  "But, that’s just consultant-talk.  What does ‘being a service leader’ look like up close on a Monday morning when the sh_t is hitting the fan?"  We compared their list with what we have witnessed among leaders known for inspiring, instigating, and sustaining a culture famous for service.  Some have names that identify their enterprise—Bruce Nordstrom, Debbi Fields, Bill Marriott, etc.  Most are known only to their associates, stockholders, and customers.  Their actions have similar themes.

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Title: What Great Service Leaders Actually Do
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The Customer Service Dashboard
Dashboards are vital tools for direction, alteration, maintenance, early warning, and the setting in which the organization is operating.  As such, they provide a critical part of the guidance system needed to traverse the marketplace.  Like the odometer of our vehicles alert us to change the oil or the speedometer warns us to slow down, various components of the organization’s dashboard provide a myriad of information key to progress and success.

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Title: The Customer Service Dashboard
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Forget Customer Feedback, Try Customer Intelligence Instead
Focus on Learning, not Evaluation.  Customer feedback is about evaluation; customer learning is about problem solving.  Problem solving means learning for improvement.  Problem solving requires more customer intelligence than customer evaluation; more ideas than critique.  And, customers enjoy solving problems with you when they are invited.  Shifting from a customer evaluation to a customer learning focus requires new tools, new methods and above all, new mindsets.

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Title: Forget Customer Feedback, Try Customer Intelligence Instead
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Command Presence; Animate and Engage People
Great leaders are all about spirit…that is, being, not just doing.  They focus on being there, everywhere, not in absentia.  And, when they are there, they are all there…focused, attentive and engaged.  Great leaders like the mail room air better than the atmosphere on mahogany row.  They hunt for genuine encounters.  They upset the pristine and proper by inviting vocal customers to boardroom meetings.  They spend time in the field and on the floor where the action is lively, not in carefully contrived meetings where the action is limp.  They thrive on keeping things genuine and vibrant.

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Title: Command Presence; Animate and Engage People
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Happy Processes: Keeping High Spirits in Service Delivery
The Native Americans believed every creation was alive.  A tree had a spirit in the same way as a horse or a bird.  Organizations that create customer devotion look at their service processes in a similar way.  While we rationally know the order entry process is not really alive, if we thought of it like that--a part of a living, organic system to achieve goals--we would ensure it was the appropriate process for our “tribe.”  Caretaking “live” processes would ensure the service process always worked well and worked cooperatively with other processes.  A “live” perspective would increase the chances the process received proper maintenance.  It would guarantee custodians of the process oversaw it with great respect, not only for the process itself but for what it helped provide to customers.  Service processes receiving this type of TLC would always have high morale.

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Title: Happy Processes: Keeping High Spirits in Service Delivery
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