When your nose is to the grindstone, all you see is the grindstone.

It’s too easy to get caught up on all the things we need to do or all the things making us unhappy.  But when we focus only on work or only on the negative, we miss making connections with the people around us.  We miss seeing new opportunities.  So look up. Look into someone eyes.  Start a conversation.  Enjoy a moment of silence. Take time to reflect and refocus.  You’ll be glad you did.

Make the most of this long weekend … rain or shine!

Getting Down on the Floor with your Customer

My son was hospitalized when he was 12 years old.  He had a dangerous infection that required two emergency surgeries to drain the build-up in an attempt to keep the infection from getting into his bone.

I will never forget the heartbreaking moan of pain he made when the orderlies were moving him from the gurney onto his bed after his second surgery.  It was a sound no mother should ever have to hear.  I broke down.  I slid down the wall, onto the floor, unable to stand, my arms wrapped around my legs, tears streaming down my face.

I will also never forget the kindness and compassion demonstrated by one of the nurses. She got down on the floor with me. She put her arm around me shoulder and she comforted me.

She did not have to do that. That was outside of her scope of duties and yet, she did.  Her compassion and her kindness moved her beyond friendly, efficiency to an outstanding example of what service is truly about.

The majority of service professionals don’t deal with fear, anger and confusion at the same heightened levels as medical professionals do.  But in any business, customers arrive with certain expectations and emotion is always attached to expectation. When an expectation, a want, a desire is not met, disappointment is felt. Some policies leave us confused, scratching our heads, wondering who in the world thought that one up.

Our customers are emotional creatures and the best service providers are those who have the ability to recognize and connect to the emotion.  They may not be able to fix the problem; they may not have a magic wand to make everything okay, but service professionals who are willing to get outside of their own world and step into their customer’s world, create experiences that are never forgotten.

Perhaps, in addition to asking candidates to describe a time when they had to handle a customer complaint, we should also ask them why they thought the customer was unhappy or angry or disappointed.  That answer would provide some insight into how they view others.  Are they judgmental?  Are they able to see past the obvious “he had to wait too long”?

Good customer service providers are friendly, they are efficient and they are knowledgeable.  They know how and what to say. There is very little they do wrong.  Great customer service providers take it one step further. They see themselves and their business from the customer’s shoes.  They are willing to get down on the floor with their customer.

I don’t think that can be taught.  What do you think?

She Broke the Rules

My dad is getting older and every time he tries to put his shoes on standing up when leaving our home, I’m scared he is going to fall down. The obvious solution; buy a small bench or stool for placement in the front entry.

And so my search began.  It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. We are in a condo which meant a small-scaled stool was needed.  After numerous shops, unable to find what I was looking for, I finally found a beautiful stool, with a linen covered cushion.  The problem, it was on clearance and all sales were final.

I took the chance, put the box in my cart and went home.  When I got home and opened the box, I realized that the stool must have been a return.  It was not packed correctly, the directions to put it together were missing and so was the hardware to do so.  Figuring out how to put the stool together was not a problem, but I did not have the hardware I needed.  And so I brought the stool back to the store.

I didn’t bring it back hoping for a refund; I just hoped they had extra hardware so I could build the stool.  The young lady that helped me went above and beyond. When I explained the problem, she scanned the barcode, saw there were three stools in stock and went to look for hardware or a replacement stool.  After about 10 minutes she returned.  She simply could not find the stools and offered to refund my money, even though my sales receipt clearly said FINAL SALE.  When I thanked her for breaking the rules, she simply said “That stool was no good to you like that. We want you to be happy with your purchase.”

I took a chance when I purchased that stool.  I knew there was a risk buying it “as is”.  I’ve taken that risk before and by far the majority of the time, it has paid off.  The young lady did not have to give me my money back.  My sales receipt clearly stated the conditions of the sale, but as a service professional she took it upon herself to put the customer ahead of the policy.

And the result … I ended up purchasing a beautiful print to put on the wall next to the new bench I knew I would eventually find elsewhere.  The print cost twice as much as the “as is” stool.

Moral of the story:  Putting the customer first is good for business.

Are You Rewarding the Right Things?


Customer-focused companies put the customer at the centre of their business and business decisions.  Customer-focused companies concentrate on long-term goals, like customer satisfaction, retention and repeat business instead of short-term goals like “increase dessert sales by 10%”.

Teaching your team to effectively up-sell is important.  Those skills help grow your business and improve your bottom line, but not to the same extent as loyal, repeat customers who keep coming back to your business and refer their friends, families and colleagues to you.

Customer-focused companies:

  1. Live the customer experience.  In some of the hotels I’ve stayed at, I’m pretty sure the manager has not actually tasted the coffee put in the guest rooms.  As a woman, I appreciate a full-length mirror in the room.  How is the lighting?  Is there room on the desk for your customer’s laptop or is it covered with promotional materials?
  2. Look for ways to make the customer feel special.  Making your customer feel special can be as simple as addressing them by name or by remembering that they like their breakfast with eggs over-easy and lightly toasted rye bread.  It could be putting fresh flowers in the bathroom, speaking directly to the children when taking their order or offering to carry a senior’s tray to the table.
  3. Encourage customer feedback.  Customer-focused companies want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly from their customers. They want to know what their customers like and what they don’t like.  They take the information they receive seriously and use that information to maintain and improve their customer’s experience.
  4. Reward employees for service excellence.  When customer satisfaction is the main goal of a company, it doesn’t make sense to reward product sales.  Rewards based on the number of desserts or upgrades sold send the message the sale is the priority.  Customer-focused companies recognize and reward initiatives and actions that improve a customer’s service experience.

The bonus is that customers who feel valued, customers who believe that their satisfaction is your number one priority are more likely to stay at their table a little longer and enjoy dessert and coffee.  Customers who trust you and respect you are more likely to pay an extra $20 for the upgraded room.  The up-sell happens naturally when you focus on the customer first, instead of the sale.

What do you think?

An Example of Integrity in Action

Integrity.  It’s an easy word to throw around, but not always an easy word to live up to.  Acting with integrity in highly visible moments when actions taken and words spoken are seen and heard by many is highly commendable.  Acting with integrity in seemingly small, inconsequential moments is just as commendable and very often unrecognized.

Desiree Buban is the Front Office Manager at Four Points by Sheraton at the Winnipeg International Airport.  In her role, she is responsible for her team’s customer service and performance standards.  A tool used at the hotel to measure the reservation sales process is the mystery shop and there are incentives and rewards tied to high performance.

Last month, Desiree thought she had found an error in the mystery shop score for one of her guest service agents and she let the administrator of the program know. The unique twist to this is that it wasn’t a case of points being missed; it was a case of points being awarded that she believed shouldn’t have been.

Here’s the reality.  With over 250 mystery shops completed for over 40 hotels each and every month, the chance of that error being caught by the administrator was slim.  Desiree could easily have kept quiet, kept the extra points so that her team could reap the benefit of high scores.  No one would have been the wiser.  Instead, Desiree spoke up.  That’s integrity in action.  That’s leadership.

Do you have an example of integrity in action to share?