Do Your Customers Get a Standing Ovation?

This is a guest post by Chip R. Bell. Chip is a keynote speaker and author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

Give Your Customers a Standing Ovation

I smile every time I think of one of my favorite clients from a number of years ago. What made it fun was a visionary, high energy CEO. The company’s sales came through a retail catalog mailed to customers who then placed orders largely via a call center. It was also a time the company elevated its emphasis on their customers’ experiences, not just the merchandise their customers purchased.

One component of the “voice of the customer” initiative was to hold a focus group session with a group of customers who were chosen because they had recently bought and/or returned merchandise. The first focus group was attended by all of senior leadership, including the CEO. At the end of the session customers were given a gift, and while they got a tour of the large distribution facility, the executives who watched the focus group worked on ways to translate insights gained into actions or, in some cases, a wakeup call to get more customer intelligence.

 

“Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error.” -Chip Bell

 

The highlight of the focus group session was inviting the customers at the end of their tour to have lunch in the employee cafeteria. Prior to their arrival, word was quickly passed that a group of customers were en route to the cafeteria. As they entered the large cafeteria, the entire room erupted into a lengthy standing ovation. It was powerful and affirming!  And, in the words of one employee in the room, “This makes my challenging work worth it.”

In the following weeks, my conversations with the CEO revealed a fascinating discovery.  The standing ovation became a metaphor for the sprit conveyed by the call center employees. Instead of, “Smile more on the phone,” or “Listen more to your customers,” it became, “Give your customers a standing ovation experience.”  It was code for unmistakable valuing and obvious affirmation.

 

“Great relationships are fueled by affirmation.” -Chip Bell

 

The Power of Appreciation

The Secret Success Lesson I Learned from a Total Stranger

Be Thankful In Advance

 

“Thank God in advance for what’s already yours.” –Denzel Washington

 

Around Thanksgiving, we often ask each other, “What are you most thankful for this year?”

Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to that question. I remember one man, years ago, who was sitting at a lunch counter next to me. I was waiting for a to-go order. Now, I won’t call him old, but at the time, I was maybe 20, and he was many years my senior. His face was lined, his hair as white as it could possibly be, and his eyes had a look of mischief mixed with wisdom. It was a few days before Thanksgiving.

I asked him the question as a conversation-starter, and he nodded, a demonstration he was processing.

“I’m most thankful for my business success next year. Growing faster than ever. Having to hire more people to help with the growth. And the expansion to another location. That was more than I expected.”

The place was getting louder. Clearly I heard him wrong, so I clarified.

“You mean this year.”

“No, next year.”

“You’re thankful for opening another location for your business next year?”

“Yes, definitely. It’s even more successful than our first location.”

I didn’t even know what business he was in, but I was beginning to think he was losing some of his mental faculties.

Until he continued….

“See, I’m thankful for what’s happening next year. I am so thankful. I think about the people who made it happen, and I think about the results. I spend a lot of time thinking about them.”

My sandwich was now ready, so I paid for it and took the change. I thanked the man for sharing.

As I was gathering up my things, he asked me the return question. “What about you, son? What are you most grateful for?”

I remember responding quickly. “You. I’m thankful for you.”

And I was gone.

I don’t recall the sandwich I ate from the restaurant. But I sure do remember that conversation. I didn’t realize the power of it then. This gentleman had unlocked a secret. It was visualization with a powerful twist. He not only saw himself achieving his dreams, but he was already thanking people – in advance – for the success.

 

“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” –Bo Bennett

 

Master the Surprising Timing of Gratitude

Gratitude is often the surprising key to success in any venture.

What most of us seem to get wrong is the timing of gratitude. We think the time to be grateful is after. This man taught me that we should be thankful in the first place.

Change the Thanksgiving Equation: Thanks + Giving

Rethink the Order

We celebrate Thanksgiving this week in the United States. It’s a holiday that I love for many reasons.

A tradition in many homes on Thanksgiving is to ask, “What are you most thankful for?”

Growing up, I heard all types of answers from the serious to the hilarious.

The focus on thankfulness and gratitude is a welcome one in a world that’s often negative and draining. It’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re busy thanking those who have made a difference in your life. Expressing thankfulness has numerous benefits from reducing depression to boosting your immune system.

 

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” –Hansa Proverb

 

But today I was thinking about the holiday differently.

Because it’s not only about being thankful and grateful.

The equation, in my way of thinking, is backwards. We often think of it this way:

Giving ⇒ thanks.

We think of Thanksgiving as the time to give thanks. We stop and show appreciation, express gratitude for all that we have in our lives. And that’s good.

But perhaps the equation is supposed to be exactly as stated:

Thanks ⇒ giving

Instead of giving thanks as the end result, it’s the beginning. We should give to others as a result of our thanks. In other words, because of our thankfulness, we are to be giving. Does that way of looking at it change anything?

It does for me. I realize that I can use this opportunity to do more for others.

 

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” -Karl Barth

 

Instead of simply expressing thankfulness, what about getting active in the giving part of this equation? Thanksgiving is not only expressing thankful appreciation but also about paying it forward.

Who in Your Life Deserves a Gold Medal?

Winning Gold

The Olympic rings must be magnetic, pulling me in every few years. Whatever the event, I’m fascinated by the competition and by the stories of the athletes. They are irresistible. The fact that the world comes together, for just a few weeks, is incredibly inspiring.

 

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” – Dan Gable

 

If you’re a student of success, the Olympics offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand drive, determination, and discipline. Every individual has a unique story of overcoming obstacles. You don’t make it to the field without years of practice. You also don’t make it without a team of supporters.

I especially love watching the podium during the award ceremonies. As the medals are placed around the winners’ necks, and especially when the anthems are played, you glimpse the sheer joy of victory. It’s common to see tears, the emotion raw at that moment. And then, if the camera catches it right, you also see some of the others who are also part of the success. Friends, family, and coaches are beaming with pride.

 

“By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.” -Voltaire

 

Champions Behind the Scenes

As the games in Rio draw to a conclusion, I think about all of the people who help us succeed every day but never get a medal. These people are instrumental in shaping us. Maybe it’s a mom or a dad, a teacher, or a friend who is always there. You may have had a mentor or a special boss who inspired you to do more than you thought you could. If you’re as fortunate as me, it may be your spouse who deserves the Gold.

 

“The joy of leadership is helping others succeed.” –Roger Stilson

 

Why not take the time to recognize some special people? Who deserves a Gold Medal in your life? Go ahead and share this post with them. Tell their story in the comments (it’s really not that hard to leave one! You can sign up for Disqus, sign in with your social media account, or sign in as a guest) or in your social media stream.

 

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“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” –John F. Kennedy

 

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” –Veronica Roth

Questions to Shape Self-Improvement

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Questions to Shape The Year Ahead

It is that time of year when many people assess the past year and make plans for the next one. Businesses develop strategies and goals, individuals write resolutions and families plan vacations. Many individual plans involve possessions, places and events.

One of the most important, but perhaps difficult, topics to assess is personal improvement. If you are happy with yourself and your current situation, everything else will seem better. Since it is sometimes more difficult to “see yourself” and develop actions for self-improvement, here is a list of questions to help identify some candidate areas for improvement.

The list covers many topics to generate ideas. I suggest that you simply read the list, make lots of notes as you go and not try to develop or prioritize actions until later. Suggestions for next steps are discussed at the end.

 

“If you are happy with yourself and current situation, everything else will seem better.”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Learning and Growing

What new skills would I like to develop for work or for personal satisfaction?

Am I listening to different perspectives and diverse viewpoints?

What should I read to expand my horizons?

What new challenges should I undertake?

Do I have a role model to observe?

 

Appreciation and Gratitude

What am I thankful for?

Do I tell those I love that I love them?

What are my opportunities to tell others what I appreciate about them?

Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?

How often do I praise or compliment others?

 

“Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Relationships

Am I satisfied with my relationships? Kids? Colleagues? Family?

How can I be a better partner — one that I would like to have?

Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?

Where should I be a more positive influence?

Are the people that demand my time the ones who I really want to use my time?

Are there relationships that I need to repair or let go?

Which relationships do I want to grow?

Do I feel and express appropriate emotion?

How and where can I be less controlling or bossy?

How can I improve my attentiveness and listening?

How do I want to be remembered?

 

“Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Leadership

What culture do I want to create for work, family and friends?

What kind of role model am I? What attributes do I want others to emulate?

How can I bring out the best in others? At work? With family? With friends?

Are my actions consistent with my talk?

What opportunities do I have to make a difference in someone’s life?

How can I help others to grow? Who?

How can I be a better team member?

What are my opportunities to teach?

 

“What kind of role model am I?”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Balance