Make 2017 Count!

It’s January. The holiday season has come to an end and 2017 is bursting on the scene. I saw this post from a cool guy I follow on Twitter this week: “Is it really a new year if it’s the same us?” Wow. There’s a lot of depth packed into those 43 characters.

In our businesses (and well, life for that matter), how do we respond to that question? If we’re not careful, the real greeting for our customers and friends is simply, “happy year” for there really isn’t anything “new” about it.

So in the spirit of never settling for the status quo, I challenge your thinking and leadership to these three daily strategies that ensure there really is something new about 2017…for both you and your customers.

Forget resolutions. Create action plans.
New years are so often flooded with our wish lists of doing more of this and less of that. And for most people, February 1st arrives and we have already drifted from those grandiose ideals. Why? Resolutions themselves don’t have any teeth. If I want to grow your business in some way, I must have a doable action plan (specific goal tied to time, metrics and accountability). Otherwise, I’ll never reach a real level of success in the business. We talk a “good game” in January of most any year. Without a plan that we keep alive every day in our business those lofty goals gather dust as quickly as the scales in your bathroom (come on, who on the planet doesn’t have a goal of getting more healthy each year?).

Remove the biggest irritant your employees have.
Most employees put up with a “lot” before abandoning your company. It’s the little things that become the big things over time they can’t tolerate. So what are those little things – that attention to detail you are missing that will cause your team to pause, smile and engage in and with your company? Ask them. Don’t worry about the top ten list – focus on one thing. You’ll be amazed at the response of your team.

Just do it.
Nike made this phrase famous but in all reality, no truer words exist in business. Knowing what your are going after is critical (ie: fixing our employees’ greatest irritant). We must have a real plan to get there (ie: more than a resolution). But without this third step nothing moves. What does “just do it” really mean? In the business world it means everyone in your business knows where we are going and their part in getting there. That plan, whatever it is, is visible daily to every employee in the organization. As everyone involved knows his/her part (expectations) and does it (accountability), progress occurs (and we celebrate it).

What will 2017 hold for your business? We want to hear from you! My goal for you is the word “new” can truly be said in your world. Happy NEW Year. Let’s make it happen.

Coffee with a Side of Customer Service

img_0244Imagine what it is like to work in the Starbucks that sits in the lobby of a hotel near downtown Atlanta.  Can you picture it? Hustle, bustle and lot of customers.

I was a guest at this hotel recently and Starbucks was part of my routine 3 mornings as I attended a conference.  That’s where I met Jacob.  You need to know him too.

I mentioned this particular Starbucks receives a LOT of traffic and I suspect serves a LOT of coffee.  That pace could fluster many folks but not Jacob. He’s been working at this Starbucks for 9 years.  And sis experience shows.  Each morning I was a patron, I watched him interact with the customers before me in line and with great consistency provided me the same great experience.

So, why share a story about a busy Starbucks?  Because, in a busy marketplace, when you see someone really go above and beyond, you want to tell someone. That what a great customer experience will do! Jacob demonstrated something unique I believe many businesses can learn from:

He knew his customers.
Time and time again I heard him say to customers, “Good morning.” “Welcome back.” or “Great to see you again today.”  Many (not all) of his customers were repeat – at least for the week – and Jacob knew it.  Something as simple as a “welcome back” sets the tone for a positive encounter.  And for me, by day 2, he knew I was a returning guest.  Why does this matter? In today’s service war, customers want to be known.  And that simple, small gesture of familiarity creates a bond with your customers. 

He looked out for my interests.
One morning I ordered oatmeal , a banana and coffee.  Jacob began entering my order then offered me the oatmeal combo. “By substituting the orange juice with your coffee, I can save you several cents.”   I loved that!  It may have just been a few cents but it mattered to me and made me feel like Jacob was looking out for me.  He offered a small gesture that meant a lot.

He offered a positive spin.
Jacob took ownership of everything behind the counter and acted as though the restaurant was his own.  One morning I ordered a banana with my coffee.  As he handed me one he apologized for the number of spots on it and said, “I’m sorry this banana has several spots on it.  It may not look as good but bananas are sweeter when they are more ripe.  I hope you enjoy it.”  Now think about that. What could have been passed on me as an overripe fruit was explained so I wouldn’t second guess the item. And you know what? It did taste sweeter!  It may sound small, but he took that one extra step to ensure I had a positive encounter.

Small steps that created a memorable experience for me.  Those little “extras” didn’t cost Starbucks a dime but they sure added value for me.   What about your business?  Do your employees take those extra steps for your customers?   Imagine the positive experience your customers could gain by those extra steps of effort from your team.  Pretty exciting isn’t it?  Maybe you should grab a cup of coffee and dream a little…and maybe you’ll meet a “Jacob” in the process.

38 – The Millennial Myth with Jon DiGregory

Most every business today is trying to figure out the best way to attract and retain Millennial employees.  However, who you attract makes all the difference. This company actually fired 4 on the same day – each part of this elusive generation.  Their story may surprise you and also teach a few important lessons.

Connect with Jon and his team at

Between a Tow Truck and a Touchdown: Great Service Wins

There are some things in life you can’t schedule.  Car trouble is one of them.  But when that event does happen, a good customer experience is something you hope for.  Meet Vidi.  He’s a driver with AAA and he’s the inspiration for this customer experience success story.

My car suddenly gave me problems one evening driving to a Vanderbilt football game.  By the time we made it to the parking lot it was evident I would no be driving home.  And now the dilemma:  I knew the car needed to be towed but we bought tickets to the game.  How could I arrange the tow but coordinate timing with the ballgame.  Sounds crazy, but it was a real decision-making quandary.

And that’s where dispatch (Brittany) and my driver Vidi saved the day.

They felt my pain.
I called AAA at halftime.  Not sure how I would explain my situation, dispatch immediately recognized my dilemma when I gave her my location.  She quickly asked who was winning and what great weather we had for the game.  Then she told me she understood my frustration with when to arrange the tow truck.  She said she would delay the call until the 3rd quarter of the game so the truck’s timing would coincide as close to the end of the game. They felt my pain and understood the inconvenience of my car trouble and put me at ease.  That’s great service.

They put me at ease.
When Vidi arrived, he was all smiles (keep in mind, it was 10pm). He also acknowledged the inconvenience of the timing and location of my breakdown but also quickly asked about the game to lighten the mood. And from that moment, Vidi led the conversation.  He actually distracted me with his banter from the worry of how much car repair would cost and the fact that was late.  We discussed the game, our hobbies and even the next day’s schedule – all while he loaded up the car and completed all of steps for the pick-up.  He put me at ease during a frustrating situation. That’s great service.

They took care of me.
What could have been a very frustrating and expensive night turned out okay.  Brittany (in Dispatch) got the ball rolling by coordinating timing as much as she could to not mess up my evening.  And Vidi knew the technical steps of loading the car so well he was able to talk to me while he worked and got me taken care of as quickly as possible.  Bottom line.  They solved my problem.  That’s great service.

So, what about your team?  When customers present their problems, how well does your team respond?  Do they exude empathy?  Do they create peace of mind? And can they solve the problem?  That’s three ingredients of great customer service – regardless of your business.

So my service was a winner.  I just wish Vanderbilt had won the game too.

37 – Customer Experience in Every Cup of Coffee w/ Kathleen McIntyre

Every company makes the claim of having a great team of employees. For new leaders and businesses, this goal is achieved one step at a time. For Bond Coffee Company, that means one cup of coffee at a time.  In this episode, meet Kathleen McIntyre, manager of this locally-owned coffee shop in one of the hottest Nashville neighborhoods. She shares how they prioritize the experience customers receive with each employee. And that experience is defining their team.