Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Helping Hand

When Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters talk about the customer coming second, this is not just advice for the management team; it applies to all employees. If a co-worker needs your help with something, sends you an e-mail, or leaves you a voicemail message, then you should respond with the same timeliness and enthusiasm that you would afford a client. If a co-worker needs your help, do it fast and do it well. Don't put them in a position where they have to ask you TWICE!

Sometimes co-workers and even family members say things to one another that they wouldn't dream of saying to clients or even perfect strangers. (I always liked the term perfect strangers. They're only perfect because we don't know them.) We simply don't always give our co-workers the same level of consideration we provide to our clients. And it's our clients who pay for it.

Making one another feel appreciated is not management's job alone. We all have to play a part. Be kind. Express appreciation. Go out of your way to help a colleague. Create a positive work environment. Think about how great your client service could be if everyone worked together in this fashion each and every day.

The person sitting next to you comes first; the client comes second. Employees are happier; the workplace is more productive, and your clients get better service. How 'bout giving yourselves a hand!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back to Client Service

Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters wrote a book titled, The Customer Comes Second in 1992. They came out with a 10-year anniversary update in 2002. It was a book that inspired the culture I wanted to create in my company back in 1995 and served as the inspiration for my passion for client service today.

It's a basic but important read. While you might feel as if you can grasp the concept from the headline, that's true. Rosenbluth's theory was simple: if you want your people to deliver great service to your customers (clients), then you have to put your employees first. The genius of the book however is how Rosenbluth created that culture. It's sheer brilliance.

A Publishers Weekly review of the updated version tells the story nicely:

In an update to the volume they published 10 years ago, Rosenbluth, the CEO of an eponymous travel management company, and Peters, his former communications officer, remind readers that despite great changes in the business world, the need for companies "to attract, retain, and develop astonishingly great people" is a constant. They argue that company's employees, not its customers, should be management's top priority: managers should hire "nice people" and create an environment in which friendships can develop. Maybe it sounds a little wishy-washy, but it's worked for Rosenbluth International (NB: they have a 98% customer retention rate and $6.2 billion in annual sales). Tenets include: monitor company morale, keep leaders accessible, make your company "a lifestyle," offer lots of opportunities for learning new things, celebrate success, be flexible. By charting the changes within their own company, Rosenbluth and Peters show how other businesses can become better places to work as well.

I wrote to Rosenbluth in 1995 when I started my company. As you might imagine, he promptly wrote back to me and wished me luck. It may be one of the only letters I ever had framed. I hung it in my office back then and cherish it today as a reminder of the importance if its message.

American Express acquired Rosenbluth International in 2003 for what I can only say was for a "slightly higher" purchase price than I received when I sold my PR firm with only 10 employees three years earlier.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A New Era of Governance

After predicting a landslide nearly a month ago, albeit McCain did better than Goldwater, there wasn't much else to do but watch the election unfold. I might suggest that while much is being made of our electing America's first African-American president, my hope is that history will also regard this moment in time as the dawn of a new era of governance - a time when we transitioned from red states and blue states, back to the United States. We have tough challenges ahead, and I believe that we've elected the right leader to unify the country and move us forward to a brighter future for generations to follow. I haven't felt that way for quite some time.

While picking a big victory only a month or so ago is hardly noteworthy, I don't mind reprinting the post I wrote the day after he announced. At the time I was not only hopeful for the prospects of Obama as a candidate, but also optimistic that the country would be ready for his brand of leadership.

Public Service (Originally posted on February 11, 2007)
Yesterday was such an extraordinary day in U.S. history that it warrants a Sunday departure from client service to public service. At the old State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, U.S. Senator Barack Obama electrified a crowd of several thousand to declare his candidacy for President of the United States. At the same place where Lincoln spoke of America as a house divided and challenged its citizens to recall the values of the nation's founding fathers, Obama asked America to join a collective campaign to unite us once again. To join a campaign for hope.
Though there are many political lifetimes between now and November of 2008, we may have witnessed the announcement of the next President of the United States. The prospect of winning is daunting to say the least. Obama has only been in the U.S. Senate for two years. If he were to win, he'd be the only Senator other than Warren Harding and John Kennedy to be elected to our nation's highest office.* What's more, he'd be the first African-American president in our country's history.
I'm sure there may be countless other reasons why Obama's prospects for victory are improbable. That's why his courage is so compelling. Yesterday, he invited America to get to know him better. To join his journey of hope. To share his vision for an America that can regain a positive standing in the world. To offer average voters a voice in Washington, and to unite a country that has been carved and divided between red states and blue states for too long.
The reason I think he'll win is because of what has shaped him. I'm not talking about his parents, mixed race background, political experience, or his time at Harvard Law School. Obama's greatest asset is his experience as a community organizer. It should be required duty for anyone who plans to run for public office. Grassroots community service promotes people who listen, people who care about the challenges that face average Americans, and those who truly understand that one person can make a difference.
Obama is a once in a generation candidate whose commitment to public service is actually greater than his personal ambition. He's a powerful combination of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Whether one is a Republican, Democrat or Independent, we owe it to ourselves as a country to listen as Obama makes his case for hope.
I'm ready to listen and maybe even get involved. In another lifetime, I was very engaged in political campaigns at the national level, but the changes that have occurred in how Presidential campaigns have been run since 1988 caused me to walk away from a process I once loved. If nothing else, we should applaud Obama's candidacy because we're likely to see a positive shift in how candidates and the news media conduct themselves in a Presidential campaign. We can only hope.
*For historical clarification, I should have been more specific, as there have been 15 U.S. Senators who have served as President, but only two elected directly from the Senate to the Presidency.
This blog will return to the topic of client service next week.


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