Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An April Shower of Thanks

Thank you for a fun month! We ran a poll, brought back the guest interview series, and enjoyed some spirited conversation as usual. I look forward to following up on Dr. Keith's insights, announcing our special guest for May, and continuing our dialogue.

My April thanks go to Todd Andrlik, Scott Baradell, Sherrilynne Starkie, John Koetsier, Michelle Golden, Boyd Neil, Rodger Johnson, Chris Mitchell, Jason Keeling, Andrew, Michael Kolowich, Patrick J. Lamb, Brian Keith, Kelli Matthews, and our guest interviewee Dr. Kent M. Keith.

On to May!

Servant Leadership in Dr. Keith's Own Words

To kick off our guest interview series for CSI Season 2, I'm pleased to present the client service insights of renowned scholar, author, and CEO of the The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, Dr. Kent M. Keith.

CSI:  What is servant leadership?

KK:   Servant leaders identify and meet the needs of others, rather than trying to acquire power, wealth, and fame for themselves. Robert Greenleaf described the servant-leader this way:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions… "

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?"

CSI:  What prompted Robert Greenleaf to coin the term back in 1970?

KK:   Robert Greenleaf worked for AT&T for 38 years, retiring in 1964. Toward the end of his career at AT&T, he was Director of Management Research, which meant that he was involved in educating and training senior leaders and managers. After retiring, he worked as a consultant and continued to reflect on his experience. He concluded that the power model of leadership that he had seen at AT&T did not work well. There was a better way—servant leadership. He published his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” in 1970. That essay launched the modern servant leadership movement. Hundreds of thousands of people have read the essay and other Greenleaf writings.

CSI:   What do other leadership experts think of servant leadership?

KK:    Many experts understand the importance of servant leadership. Warren Bennis, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Max DePree, Joseph Jaworski, Jim Kouzes, Peter Senge, and Margaret Wheatley have all spoken at one of our annual conferences, and they have been very supportive of servant leadership. Other experts describe servant-leaders without using that label. For example, Peter Drucker’s “effective executive” is a servant-leader, as is Jim Collins’s “Level 5” leader.

CSI:   How can understanding servant leadership principles help us to better serve our clients?

KK:    Servant leadership is effective because it is focused on identifying and meeting the needs of customers or clients as well as the needs of the employees or colleagues who serve them.

One key practice of servant leadership is comprehensive listening—gathering a wide range of in-depth information about customers or clients to make sure the organization understands what people need. It is hard to meet people’s needs if you don’t know what those needs are! Another practice is changing the traditional hierarchical pyramid, so that the chief at the top is not isolated but is part of a team, and people in the organization look out at the customer as well as looking up at their bosses.

Servant-leaders also pay attention to developing their colleagues, coaching instead of controlling, and unleashing the energy and potential of others. They know that when you take care of your colleagues, they will be able to take care of your customers. These and other practices make it possible to provide superlative service to customers and clients.    

CSI:   Who would you identify as examples of servant leaders?

KK:    Servant-leaders can be found in many roles and occupations. There have been many famous servant-leaders, such as Washington, Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Most servant-leaders are only known within their organizations and communities. They are not trying to be famous, they are trying to make a difference—and they do.

Over the years, a number of companies on the Fortune magazine list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America” have implemented servant leadership principles. Those companies include Starbucks, TDIndustries, Southwest Airlines, Synovus Financial, Men’s Wearhouse, and The Container Store.   

CSI:   How do you and the Center promote servant leadership today?

KK:    We promote the understanding and practice of servant leadership through an annual international conference, publications, workshops, newsletters, a speakers bureau, and our website, We work closely with affiliated organizations in The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Singapore, as well as colleagues in other countries throughout the world.

CSI:  Thank you Dr. Keith!

Monday, April 28, 2008

You Want Convenience or Service?

We live in an age when we're encouraged to do everything online - pay our bills, book our travel, buy our holidays gifts, you name it. Of course in certain situations, we may be inclined to pick up the phone to access whatever product or service we require. When that happens, the friendly automated attendant is there to greet us, or should I say warn us.

Call any airline, rental car company, hotel, etc. and you'll hear the automated attendant tell you directly, "You realize you could be completing this transaction at, don't you?" This is code for, "Get off the phone and fire up your computer. Words can't describe the excruciating experience we're about to put you through unless you hang up the phone NOW!"

Automated attendants aren't designed to replace human phone interaction; their sole purpose is to discourage telephone use - period. Only by embracing this fact will you find the mental strength to survive the automated attendant experience. It's a case study in the power of indifference. The more angry you get, the more even-tempered the automated attendant remains - it's totally infuriating.

So is this better client service? Well, it's hard to argue with the convenience of being able to access records and buy anything you need 24-hours a day. But convenience isn't service; for that, it usually requires the human touch.

So imagine Chris Brogan's surprise when he received a call from a live person - yes, an actual human being from Continental Airlines. Despite the fact that he was called just to be told he left a bag behind, it's nice to know there's an actual person out there still using the phone to service the customer.

We shouldn't have to choose between convenience and service. We deserve both.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't Assume!

Here's another Fun Friday video. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Guaranteed Satisfaction

On April 15th interestingly enough, David Maister acknowledged Valorem Law Group for offering a practice David's been using for more than a decade - satisfaction guaranteed. Simply stated, if you're not completely satisfied with the services provided, then when you receive the invoice you're invited to pay what you believe the services were worth.

I encourage you to read the post and the comments. As part of the conversation, I noted that what I like best about it isn't just the guarantee to clients, but the manner in which the model helps a consultant take a measure of those clients. It inherently makes the consultant more mindful of whom he/she chooses to work with. One can see that trust is the necessary centerpiece of the relationship from the start. If it's not, then neither party moves forward.

I found the timing of the post interesting only because it's difficult not to contemplate what it would be like if the federal government offered the same guarantee - that when we filed our taxes, we could just pay for what we believed our government was worth for the year.

With just a simple amendment to Article 2, Section 1 of The U.S. Constitution, we could elect David Maister our President. I'd take satisfaction guaranteed over change or solutions any day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Take Notes Or Just Listen?

I don't believe you can do both - at least not very well. When you're at a client meeting and the client is speaking, do you tend to be a listener or a notetaker? For my money, in a contest over recalling and understanding the entirety of the content, and truly connecting with your client, I'll take the listeners over the notetakers any day.

Try this simple experiment: Go to a meeting with a colleague and have one of you take notes. When the notetaker debriefs the listener, you'll be surprised at how much the notetaker missed. As notetakers furiously take notes, they work so hard at capturing everything, they always miss something. They can't help but focus on what they're writing while new content is whipping right by them.

I might also add that having the client talk to the top of your head doesn't exactly facilitate eye contact or help you assess one's demeanor either. The only notes one should ever take during a meeting are deadlines and lists of deliverables. (It can be important to most clients that they see you writing down this kind of information.) You want notes? Take a few moments after the meeting to jot down the most salient points for future reference.

Next time your client leads an input session for your team, rather than bury your head in your notepad, make eye contact and listen - really listen - to everything being said and how it's being said. You'll be surprised at what you take away from it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough

Let me share one more of my favorite guest interviews from Season 1 before introducing our first guest for Season 2!

Living Loews! (Originally posted on March 21, 2007)

As part of CSI's executive interview series, Loews Hotels Chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch was kind enough to answer some questions and offer his insights regarding great service as described in his new book Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough. Here's what he had to say:

CSI: Does the title of your book, Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough, refer to the importance of getting your core business right or to offering an even richer experience for your guests?

JT: The latter. I'm not saying that putting chocolates on the pillow of your guests is a bad idea, but it has become so expected that it no longer works to win the loyalty of today's savvy customers. All of us in every business have to think harder and be more creative about how we can make our customers feel like pampered guests who will want to come back for more.

CSI: Talk about the values your father instilled in you that drive your beliefs and practices about client/customer service?

JT: My father and uncle started what is now the Loews Corporation more than 60 years ago with just one hotel. I learned from him at an early age the art of hospitality, and how to treat people with warmth, openness, generosity, and respect. I noticed how much guests responded to attentive employees with an eye for customer service. And I also noticed how much good hotel
design can create a great customer experience. The Americana in Bal Harbour Florida, one of my family's first hotels, was designed by Morris Lapidus, who believed in delighting guests with architecture that entertained with swooping lines and grand open spaces.

CSI: Share with us one of your favorite outstanding service stories, as demonstrated by one of your employees?

JT: During Hurricane Katrina, the staff of the Loews New Orleans hotel ran out of cars to evacuate guests. One of my more creative employees remembered that SUV prizes were parked at the hotel for an episode of the TV show "Wheel of Fortune." They found the keys and were able to evacuate the last guests just in time. These guests will remember the creativity and
attentiveness of these employees for the rest of their lives.

CSI: Great service can be like beauty - it's in the eye of the beholder. If you agree with that premise, then what's the secret to pleasing ALL of your guests?

JT: Customization. There is no one cookie-cutter way to make everyone feel special. Smart companies know how to customize their product or service so that customers feel like they are the only customer instead of just one of the masses. Land's End does this well with their custom fit clothing technology. And Build-a-Bear lets children create a customized teddy bear exactly as they want it.

CSI: How do you build a team and create a culture that cares about great service as much as you do?

JT: At Loews we have a people skills training program called Living Loews. It's vital that leaders get their teams to focus their attention on their guests. Once all your employees have a customer-centric mindset, all the other pieces of the business will fall into place. We find our employees enjoy their jobs more when they understand that their role is to help and please others.

CSI: If there's one takeaway you'd like people to grasp after reading your book, what would it be? Is there an over-arching aha?

JT: Absolutely. Too often we think of business as the sale. But no customer wants to be sold to. They want great experiences. The more we think of giving our customers experiences that feel special, the more customer loyalty and profits will follow.

CSI: Thank you for your time!

Monday, April 21, 2008

CSI Miami

As I continue to share some of my favorite guest interviews from Season 1, please read client service insights from Romy Saunders, director of quality assurance for one of my favorite hotels - Mandarin Oriental, Miami.

CSI Miami (Originally posted on September 26, 2006)

This CSI Miami is led by Client Service Insights special guest for September, Romy Saunders, director of quality assurance at Mandarin Oriental, Miami. (Horatio will just have to wait.)

Mandarin Oriental
is famous for its commitment to exceptional service. It’s one thing to be committed to it, but it’s quite another to deliver it consistently and at so many properties across the globe. Romy offers her thoughts on Mandarin Oriental's approach:

CSI: Tell us what "commitment to exceptional client service" means at Mandarin Oriental?

RS: It means that each colleague, regardless of his or her responsibilities in the hotel, lives the mission of delighting and satisfying our guests, always looking for ways to make a difference in their experiences with us. We are committed to exceeding their expectations by surprising them with our ability to anticipate and fulfill their wishes, personalizing the service we provide and taking ownership of their requests and needs. We are always listening to our guests and responding to what will make their experiences memorable. A Mandarin Oriental guest feels as though he or she is the most important guest in the hotel.

CSI: How do you deliver and maintain such a high level of service each and every day?

RS: In working together as colleagues, we treat each other with mutual respect and trust, drawing on the collective talents of all our colleagues to ensure the highest level of service. Genuine care and concern along with communication and training are key factors in ensuring that we anticipate guest needs.

CSI: How do you manage to stay in touch with your guests’ expectations?

RS: Our guests have very high expectations of us and we pay very close attention to their comments and review them on a regular basis. Guests speak to us at all times – before they arrive, during their stay, after they depart – and we listen very closely to what they say.

CSI: Talk about the challenge of exceeding guest expectations, when those expectations may be different for guests in Miami versus Bangkok or Paris.

RS: Mandarin Oriental promises “sense of place” as each hotel blends the magic of the Orient with its own unique characteristics. There is always the “yin and the yang” of delivering consistent service wherever our guests visit us around the globe, surprising them with unique touches that make each hotel special. Our guests expect consistency in the level of service delivery and our attention to detail but know that each hotel will offer an experience unique to its location.

For example, at Mandarin Oriental, Miami, guests arriving early in the morning, as a part of our Latin Fantastic package or guests paying for an early arrival, are offered complimentary jet lag welcome tea, anticipating the needs of our guests as well as honoring the tea traditions of the Orient.

CSI: How do you know that your commitment to client service delivers a tangible return on investment?

RS: The highest compliment we receive is repeat business.

As always, we welcome your comments. A special thanks to Romy Saunders for her contribution and to Frederick Fung for making this possible. As you might have guessed - first class service all the way!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Client Service And The Presidency

As the Pennsylvania primary draws near, have you ever thought about our next president from a client service perspective? Who are the president's real clients anyway? Let's assume, as the framers intended, that the president is there to serve us, making his/her clients the American people. In your mind, who will deliver the highest level of client service excellence? Who will listen, keep promises, and lead this nation in a manner that delivers on our country's collective expectations and aspirations - on the important matters and values with which we all share a common bond as Americans. Here's your chance to vote!

Client Service And The IRS Audit

For many of us, April 15th was a big day for filing our tax returns. Now we sit and wait - possibly second guessing our liberal interpretation of the tax code and hoping we don't get audited. For those of you who are sweating the prospect of an audit, I thought I'd share this short video with you all as a service to CSI Season 2 readers and subscribers. Where else will you find client service like this? Enjoy this two-minute video spoof titled: How To Bluff Your Way Through An IRS Audit!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Underpromise And Overdeliver

Here's another one of my favorite CSI Season 1 guest interviews, from a terrific leader.

Customer Service The Southwest Way (Originally posted on November 2, 2006)

Colleen Barrett is President and Corporate Secretary for Southwest Airlines. As part of CSI's monthly guest series, Colleen was kind enough to answer some questions and offer her insights regarding customer service and its vital importance to the company. Southwest is not only popular among frequent travelers, but it's a favorite on Wall Street as well. To hear Colleen tell it, Southwest's commitment to providing excellent customer service is a big reason why.

CSI: Tell us what commitment to Customer Service means at Southwest?

CB: I have always said we’re in the Customer Service business; we just happen to fly airplanes. It’s a daily mantra around here that you must have a passion for serving others to be successful at Southwest. We call it living the Southwest Way; you have to have a Servant’s Heart, a Warrior Spirit, and a Fun-loving Attitude.

CSI: How does Southwest strive to deliver and maintain Customer Service at such a high level each and everyday?

CB: First, we attempt to underpromise and overdeliver on the Customer Experience. We want to woo travelers with our low fares and then keep them coming back because of the outstanding Customer Service delivery. Second, we pay attention to the smallest of details. It’s about relationships and the small things we can do for our Customers that we think make a big difference in our brand versus our competitors. We send birthday cards to our frequent flyers; we celebrate all the important milestones in our Employees’ lives; and we purposely set up our relationships to be more direct with our Customers than our competitors who often depend on travel agencies or third-party web sites to deliver their product.

CSI: How do you manage to stay in touch with your Customers’ expectations?

CB: There are many ways we can stay current on our Customers’ needs. One of them is our new corporate blog where we get new insights every day into our Customers’ psyches. We do market and Customer research; we send our frequent flyers quick online surveys; and we TALK to them when they are in our airports and on our planes. Our Employees know each of them is a marketer of our product, and that any ideas or suggestions they might get from a Customer can be sent right up the chain with little effort or red tape. We maintain a constant line of communication with our Customers, and we’re working to improve those channels each day.

CSI: Tell us about the challenges of meeting or exceeding Customer expectations when those expectations may differ greatly across the country.

CB: Southwest strives to match the “face” of each of the 63 communities we serve throughout the country. While at the core of each Employee is a special esprit de corps and a Servant’s Heart, he/she can easily match the demeanor, accent, and personality of the local clientele. When we expand into a new market, we have Employees who often transfer into that city from another location to helps start up the operation. But, we always have local hires as well, and they help acclimate us to the regional or geographical differences of our newest Customer base. At the bottom of it all is a commitment to making travel a “human” experience. A smile and a helping hand are universal.

CSI: How do you know that your commitment to Customer Service delivers a tangible return on investment?

CB: Each month, the U.S. Department of Transportation publishes statistics on the operating excellence of each air carrier. Southwest has consistently held the top position for the fewest Customer complaints of all airlines. That tells us that our attention to detail is not only attracting Customers, but it’s keeping them coming back to experience Southwest’s legendary Customer Service. That repeat business is what has helped keep Southwest consistently profitable for 33 years. That record financial performance is what helped Money magazine a few years ago name Southwest as the top-performing stock during a running 30-year period. That consistency and dependability in terms of serving the Customer has served Southwest well as it has grown to become the nation’s largest domestic carrier in terms of domestic passengers carried. Southwest has truly proven that you can be low cost, low fare, and HIGH value.

CSI: Thank you Colleen!

Four Things!

The Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right can be found in this month's issue of Harvard Business Review. HBS associate professor of business administration Frances X. Frei states that the offering, the funding mechanism, the employee management system, and the customer management system are integral to a successful model for service companies.

Two concepts I found fascinating were (1) "Service excellence can be defined as what a business chooses not to do well." Meaning that trade-offs informed by client preferences allow a firm to optimize certain aspects of service that surface as priorities. (2) Frei raises the question, "Are you trying to be all things to all people - or specific things to specific people?"

The entire article is well worth reading.

Technorati And Client Service

With the upcoming return of the guest interview series at CSI Season 2, I thought I'd take time over the next week to showcase the best from Season 1. One of my favorites is the interview with Technorati Founder and CEO David Sifry. Enjoy!

Be of Service (Originally posted on November 20, 2006)

David Sifry is founder and chief executive officer of Technorati. As part of CSI's monthly guest series, David was kind enough to answer some questions and offer his insights regarding client/customer service and its vital importance to this three-year-old company.

CSI: Tell us what commitment to customer service means at Technorati?

DS: When I founded Technorati more than three years ago, I thought a lot about what sort of credo I would want to both define the company as well as guide its growth. What I came up with is pretty simple and certainly not revolutionary: “Be of service.” We work hard every day to live by this credo at Technorati, and this effort starts with me. In this way more than any other, I strive every day to lead by example. We’re not perfect by any means, but we do put the highest priority on keeping all those we serve in mind as we constantly improve our offering even while we continue to innovate new ways to be of service.

CSI: How does Technorati strive to deliver and maintain service at a high level each and every day?

DS: We have a tradition at Technorati that is called the daily Stand-up. Every day at 10 a.m. people from across the company gather around a table for a few minutes to discuss what is required to be of service that day. It’s a way to constantly check-in with our co-workers about the agreements we make to one another and all those we serve, and to keep us honest and focused. We also have weekly reports from the folks who provide our free technical support about how we’re performing on that front, which are given at our weekly all-hands staff meeting, and we make it a habit to include that in our development schedule. I emphasize that while we have folks at the company dedicated to support, it’s the job every person at Technorati to provide assistance to all those we seek to serve.

CSI: How do you manage to stay in touch with your users' expectations? Does getting involved personally help you achieve that?

DS: We try to eat our own dog food. Using Technorati, we have watch lists – which are save searches – for our name, URL, products, etc.. If someone is unhappy (or very happy) with our service, believe me we hear about it. We take this feedback very seriously and I try to do my part every day to ensure we are responsive to this dialog. We also have an engaged group of friends and advisors that we are regularly talking to, getting feedback from, and learning from.

CSI: What are your biggest challenges in meeting those expectations in a business that's experiencing such rapid growth?

DS: It’s both an honor and an extraordinary challenge to serve the exploding universe of “citizen publishers.” This universe grows every day and includes not only blogs, but also podcasts, video, games, photos and more. Just in terms of blogging, Technorati now tracks around 60 million blogs globally and our full-time staff numbers about 35. These citizen publishers are in many ways changing the world in unexpected, exciting and often profound ways, so it is definitely an honor to help these folks amplify their voices. The key is to get a GREAT team. I am so proud to be working with the team here at Technorati – when you have a team that is experienced and dedicated like ours, the rest falls out naturally. As I said before, we’re certainly not perfect, but I’m so proud of our team and the talent and dedication they bring to our mission each and every day.

CSI: Talk about the challenge of meeting or exceeding expectations when your users' technology savvy varies so greatly.

DS: I think the great challenge around meeting and exceeding expectations has everything to do with our users’ facility around technology and web publishing. Our early users were predominantly in the “digerati”, which meant that they could often trouble-shoot issues they might encounter. As more and more folks are publishing to the Web, there’s a wide range of ability that these people bring to the table and we’re challenged to meet people where they’re at in order to help them be successful. I’ve found it requires a commitment to listening and to patiently responding. Where we are able, we do old fashion hand-holding to help folks address their issues. We’re also constantly looking at how we can better enable people to resolve their issues on their own – both from a technology approach and in terms of things like FAQs.

CSI: How do you know that your commitment to customer service delivers a tangible return on investment?

DS: At Technorati we look at a number of factors including repeat visitors, membership and, of course, feedback via blog posts. Happy users will become addicted advocates for our service and that is great for the bottom line.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CSI's Guest Interview Series Is Back!

During Season 1, I began a guest interview series based on the premise that there was a great deal to be learned about client service excellence from exceptional leaders and scholars outside the PR industry. Southwest Airlines President, Colleen Barrett; Technorati Founder and CEO, David Sifry; and Loews Hotels Chairman and CEO, Jonathan Tisch were among the guests who shared their insights, and we are richer for them.

Later this month, Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership CEO and renowned author, Dr. Kent M. Keith will answer questions from CSI about servant leadership principles and their relevance to client service excellence. Dr. Keith will offer thoughts that will help us continue the conversation we began on April 3rd regarding servant leadership.

Over the next several days, I'll repost several of the interviews from Season 1 and kick-off the Season 2 Guest Series with Dr. Keith. Don't miss the conversation!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fundamentalist Or Curious?

Todd Defren posted a video recently from Seth Godin about Curiosity. I watched it several times and was struck by its implications for me personally and with regard to client service. It would be difficult to watch this video and not ask yourself some hard questions about whether you tend to be fundamentalist or curious in your approach to life and work.

Godin says, "A fundamentalist considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it. A curious person explores first and then considers whether they want to accept the ramifications."

Honestly, I guess I'm curious in some areas and more fundamentalist in others. One would imagine that's pretty natural. We all tend to be drawn to people, programming, and ideas that validate rather than challenge our view of the world. While fundamentalism may make us feel better from time to time, Godin's video is a compelling reminder of the importance of curiosity - particularly in a world that is changing so quickly. Being a curious person, and being that person more often, is something we owe to ourselves and our clients.

When it comes to client service excellence, assessing one's curiosity can be essential. As you consider your role as trusted advisor, are you diligently exploring new ways to work? Seeking new resources? Challenging the proven strategies of yesterday with the promising approaches of tomorrow? If you're not, you should be. That's what your client is paying you to do.

Conversely, it's important to assess your clients' curiosity quotient by understanding where they are more fundamentalist and where they tend to be more curious. It could mean all the difference in the world in the approach you take when trying to convince them to adopt your next great new idea.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will make you a better person and a more valuable professional.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Client Service Insolence

Since it's Friday, it's time for another CSI Season 2 client service instructional video. Have fun watching and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Linking-in to the Mindset!

Yesterday on Linkedin, I asked communication professionals to describe the mindset one needs to be successful at using social media tools. Over the past 24 hours, I received 21 very thoughtful responses.

I agree with most everything everyone said about authenticity, adaptability, conversation, team-building, comfort with the technology, time commitment, etc. I would only suggest it may be more basic.

Success in the social media space first requires you to CARE about what your stakeholders think without regard for your own ego and insecurities. There's a certain core selflessness required. Without it, I don't believe you could ever achieve real success or satisfaction in this space. Once you care enough, you can work on the list of attributes listed above.

Kelli Matthews reminded me recently of an anecdote I posted during CSI Season 1:

Toni Louw, who for my money is the world's best presentation coach, told me a story about a time when he was a young man. After delivering a speech in South Africa where Toni was dripping with sweat from nervousness, he was approached by a man as he was walking off the stage. The man looked at him and said, "Nice speech, just don't be so selfish next time." Toni understood exactly what he meant. Most of us are nervous because we care more about how we're going to be perceived than we do about our audience. To this day, whenever I feel nervous before a presentation, I think of the experience Toni was so generous enough to share with me.

For me this was a life altering story. It forever changed my view of the world and has most certainly influenced my mindset with regard to social media.

A client will always tell you he/she really cares. As the communication professional, it's up to you to determine, based on words and action, if your client is telling the truth. If your client truly cares, then you're off to a promising engagement in the world of social media. If you determine that they don't care enough, then keep them away from social media -- far, far away.

Regarding the 21 responses I received, I read every word and care very much about what everyone had to say. You should too. Please take a few moments to read them as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Media or Mindset?

I was in a meeting yesterday discussing digital communication and social media. I thought about Geoff Livingston's post My "Media" Does Not Bring All the Boys to the Yard, and this morning I read one of the comments that really hit home and aligns with my feelings about social media and client service. It was from jer979, and it read:

"I’m almost at the point where social media is more of a philosophy/strategy than a set of tools/technology. It comes down to an organizational belief of: “do we really, truly want to have a conversation with our customers/prospects?” or would we rather “control the message” and ‘broadcast,” b/c those pesky consumers burn too many cycles.

"Is customer service a cost center or a profit generator? Questions like that tell you about a company’s organizational bent re: ’social media’."

When it comes to social media and decisions about when and how to use it, the course of action is ultimately driven by the mindset and temperament of your organization and whether you're inclined to truly engage your customers/clients. Asking yourself the question about whether you regard client service as a cost center or profit generator, may give you all the information you need as to whether you want to join the conversation or continue to be frustrated by your attempts to either ignore it or interrupt it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

OK, One More. A Client Service PSA!

Now you can enjoy your weekend!

You Can't Handle...

...a bigger logo.  Here's an oldie but goodie - a high stakes exchange that strikes at the heart of truth to power and the enduring struggle between agency and client about the size of the logo.
Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If You Combined Followership and Leadership, What Would You Get?

Servant Leadership. When it comes to client service, the term combines many of the strongest attributes of great followership and leadership, and its principles read as a wish list for achieving client service excellence.

"Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay he first published in 1970. In that essay, he wrote:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

On a Butler University web site, you'll find a review of 10 Characteristics that Larry Spears, former CEO of The Greenleaf Center identified as being critical to the development of servant-leaders. They include:
  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the Growth of People
  10. Building Community
Though somewhat self explanatory, I would encourage you to visit the Butler University site to read the brief descriptions for each term. So what do you think? Do these characteristics square with your values when it comes to client service? What would you add to the list?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

To Lead Clients, You Need To Understand Leadership

When we talked about followership last week, I did my best to define it because followership isn't exactly a household phrase. Providing a definition of sorts helped advance the discussion about its relevance to client service excellence.

By contrast, leadership is a common term. Everyone knows what a leader is, right? They're the people at the head of the table, at the front of the line, or the ones with the titles followed by initials who make hefty salaries.

On second thought, maybe we should give more consideration to the meaning of leadership and what makes a great leader. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a wonderful book called The Leadership Challenge. They talk about leadership in terms of uniting your constituents around a common cause and connecting with them as human beings. They identify 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model The Way; Inspire A Shared Vision; Challenge The Process; Enable Others To Act; and Encourage The Heart. In another terrific book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, Jim defines a "Level 5 Leader" as someone with a perfect combination of humility and will. You may be surprised to learn that true Level 5 Leaders aren't usually the celebrity CEOs.

Obviously, there are countless leaders and scholars from whom we can learn about leadership. I'm simply suggesting that if we aim to achieve "Level 5" Client Service, we should avail ourselves of those lessons. Understanding the challenges of leadership is fundamental to any professional services practitioner.


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