Steve Curtin

Casual indifference

There is a phenomenon in the services industry (some might say, an affliction) that I’ll refer to as ‘casual indifference.’ Its occurrence is not rare. Casual indifference by uninspired employees toward the needs and expectations of customers is rampant. Casual indifference is demonstrated by retail...

It’s 2015. Do you know where your customers are?

It occurred to me while reading through a list of 15 Customer Service Trends for 2015 assembled by Richard Shapiro, president of The Center For Client Retention, that nine of the 15 trends are related to omnichannel: a seamless approach to a consumer’s experience...

Incorporate essence into function

An observation: While employees consistently execute the mandatory job functions (duties/tasks) for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate the voluntary job essence (service behaviors) for which there is little or no additional cost to the employer. Why do you suppose that is? Possibly it’s...

You must water the plants

Several years ago, after presenting multiple half-day training classes over four days, I was disappointed to hear my client say on the way to the airport, “Well, now I can check that off my list.” True to her word, all of the follow-up activities...

Accept your customers, warts and all

November has been a hard month for me healthwise. Every October, I dutifully schedule a flu shot. Most years, that’s sufficient and I’m generally flu, sore throat, and cold free throughout the winter months. This year, beginning the week of October 20, I developed a...

Service so subtle

Too often, exceptional customer service is associated with breathless, over-the-top actions by employees that capture headlines such as Ritz-Carlton’s Joshie the Giraffe, Morton’s Steakhouse airport delivery, or Frontier Airlines’ pizza delivery. While these illustrations are memorable and inspiring (not to mention, a lot of...

The best customer service book of all time

In 1989 Stephen R. Covey’s perennial book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published. It must have resonated, having sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages throughout the world. Over the past decade or so, when I’m asked for business book...

Walk a mile (or just stand and wait) in your customer’s moccasins

Whoever is responsible for the Chicago O’Hare International Airport TSA clearance should be forced to endure the gauntlet himself. This may be the only way for him to fully appreciate the utter frustration, chaos, and absurdity that I (and thousands of others) experienced on...

Set the tone for exceptional customer service!

For years, researchers have studied disconnects between sender and receiver in electronic communications. It’s challenging to convey emotion and tone, for instance, via email or chat without the benefit of cues such as facial expressions, hand gestures, or vocal tone. One study examined overconfidence over...

J.W. Marriott’s approach to serving customers

When asked about his approach to work during an interview, the late J.W. Marriott, Sr. said, “There aren’t these two opposites, work and play, one bad and the other good. It’s having a vision of the way things ought to be, and then making...

When it comes to social customer service, most companies are hacks

Henry David Thoreau observed: “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.” I thought about how this quote applies to many companies’ social media strategy. These companies are breathlessly “hacking at the leaves” of customer acquisition with...

Does your company have a slogan or a purpose?

Many companies have slogans that look good on websites, banners, and buttons, but often these slogans have little credibility among customers or employees. They are simply a set of words that originated at an advertising firm that usually offer more than employees are prepared...

Unique knowledge separates the best from the good

Voltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher, said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I love this quote because, to me, it highlights the distinction between extraordinary and ordinary, excellence and mediocrity, and exceptional and average customer service. Earlier this year, I attended a conference...

Make no mistake: Employees choose whether or not to serve

Do you work hard? When questioned publicly, an overwhelming majority of us will respond that, yes, we work hard. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but I bet it’s close to the percentage of us who, in the presence of others, would claim...

Keep working for the referral

I know a successful Denver web designer whose mantra is: “Keep working for the referral.” In other words, even after he gets the business, he continues to work hard to deliver a breathtaking design to his clients in order to delight them – and...

Never apologize for your enthusiasm

Once, while I was sharing a retail example of exceptional customer service during a seminar in New York City, a participant interrupted to say, “But what if you don’t want the cashier to act all phony—like she’s your best friend? What if you just...

We have met the enemy and he is us

In 168 BC the Greek ruler Antiochus led an attack on Egypt. Before reaching Alexandria, his path was blocked by a Roman envoy who delivered a message from the Roman Senate directing Antiochus to withdraw his armies from Egypt and Cyprus or consider themselves...

How apologies influence consumer behavior

Earlier this month, I read a Wall Street Journal article titled The Art of the Airline Apology. The article features a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Nottingham’s School of Economics in the United Kingdom that found apologies can be more valued...

Frontier Airlines’ service heroics

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” To deliver service heroics is to go the extra mile, to go above and beyond what a customer might expect given the employee’s...

You don’t really know unless you ask

My wife and I recently hosted friends who were in town from Sonoma County in California’s wine country. One evening, the four of us dined at a trendy, upscale restaurant in Denver’s LoHi district. Being that our friends work in the wine industry and...

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