The whiskey is good, but the meal is spoiled.

One of my favorite things about marketing is the way a company can project a certain value system to the mass market. Have you ever met an employee of a company that you had bought in full-board to the ideas they projected; but you were quickly turned around when you heard this individual speak? It’s a very disappointing experience, to say the least.

The truth of the situation is that it is much cheaper for a company to build expensive commercials and buy prime time slots than to actually work on producing a culture that exudes the values that they preach. The entire reason that I wanted to write this post is because I am guilty of this as well. When it is time to give a morale speech to employees or discuss what our company is like with someone outside, it is very easy to wholly believe in the values that we have set forth.

The problem is in my daily communication with employees while we are on task. Being a virtual company, my speech and other communications with employees is all they have to go on. They do not have access to see me working on a daily basis, so their entire picture profile of me is primarily based on what I say (backed up by what I do). This is a different problem than most companies have with the values situation, but it is just as detrimental. The good news is that it will be easier (and cheaper) for us to make corrections compared to a company who would have to train tens of thousands of people to believe what their commercials say.

So here’s to a renewed dedication to not only preaching our values when the soapbox is mine, but communicating that message each and every time I interact with our team.

The whiskey is good, but the meal is spoiled. This saying is supposedly from a reverse translation of the saying, “The Spirit is willing; but the flesh is weak.” Our companies should act like one entity. Our people are the flesh that people see. Do yours project your true spirit?

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Behind every successful man…

Too bad this saying has fallen out of favor because its applications are limitless.

As we talk to clients and prospects on a daily basis discussing how to improve their support process, this saying always comes to mind but there never seems an appropriate place to lace it into to conversation without the threat of offending someone. From years before my time, I hear of fables about people who centered their lives around something other than self-serving promotion. One of the recurring characters in these tales is the wife who has a completely fulfilling life dedicated to bettering her family.

Things aren’t worse now than they were (arguably). Things aren’t better now than they were (arguably). They’re just different. But the role of unselfish people is one many times overlooked by my generation and below.

This thought leads me to think about the spiralling decline of customer service. Unfortunate for consumers, customer service rep positions are usually looked at as a straightline cost instead of an investment. Outsourcing to foreign countries, hiring interns, and letting newbies cut their teeth on the business are a few of the common avenues that today’s companies are using to keep the “cost” of customer service to a minimum.

I don’t know the economics of this decision; but, as a consumer, I know full-well the result. A great customer service agent is the unsung hero of today’s commerce.

I like to compare the customer service experience between Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. When you call Delta, you can feel that the goal of the person on the other end is to get to a page on that script that says “End”. But a Southwest operator gives you the feeling of the desire to fix your problem. I would like to see the budgets on a per person basis between these two companies on training to be a customer service rep.

Seth Godin describes a similar experience with Motorola customer service recently on his blog. Seth Godin


I would like to see the leaders of the customer service departments in companies be the type of people who enjoy being the “great woman behind the successful man.” This applies to internal support as much or more than supporting external clients, but that is for another day.

Flows like water

Seth Godin stated in his blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/10/lazy_people_in_.html) that, “You’re busy trying to sell a service or a product or an idea to lazy people in a hurry.”

His basis for this statement, which I happen to agree with, is that your prospects and clients are naturally going to jump on the first solution quickly instead of taking their time to find the right solution.

As marketers, sales reps, client fulfillment reps, etc. serving this demographic we must not only be conscious of this attitude but we must utilize the simplicity of the idea to assist us in improving our product and service offerings.

Client Fulfillment is the area of business that I work in on a daily basis.  The way this theory works out in this realm is that people are going to try and obtain help services in the easiest (and fastest) manner.  Many companies do everything they can to bury their phone numbers and direct email addresses for this reason instead of addressing the real issue.

The real issue at stake here is that your clients only try to call/email you if they don’t trust you.  This lack of trust is certainly not all your fault, though.  This lack of trust has been built on years and years of ineffective self-help tools by all companies with whom they have come in contact.  Just like water, we prefer to use the path of least resistance for the majority of their activities.

In Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design, Robert Hoekman, Jr. writes about the idea that help documents are primarily for “expert” users and not “beginner” or “intermediate” user when it comes to technology-related products.  This concept goes along directly with what we have been discussing here.  The expert users that Robert talks about are going to be individuals who are comfortable with their ability to “find” an answer that is provided where the beginner and intermediate users are more likely not confident in their ability to do so.  If a company does not readily provide this information, your phone will be ringing faster than you can say “screenshots”.

There’s really no need in asking this type of user, “Did you check our help files?”  In their mind, they did.  You just didn’t have the right help file in the right place.  So it is our job to not only provide easy-to-use tools for our clients, but it is even more important for us to get our clients to trust that our help documents will benefit them more than contacting us directly.

Both parties win, and your product/service will be built in FOCUS (For Our Clients Ultimate Success).

Why me?

Blogs have always had a drawing effect on me, but until today I have not had the inspiration to try and start my own.  Time will tell if this things catches on, and I continue to add my random thoughts.

I am naturally a very passionate and opinionated person as many in the blog world are.  Things that particularly stir emotions up in me are Business Ethics, Design, Philanthropy, Education/Parenting, and the topic that will probably be written about here more than any other: Customer Service or as I prefer to call it, Client Fulfillment.

There will also be a pattern of links from other blogs spawning thoughts and posts to further a discussion.

Let’s see where this thing leads.