Steve Ferrante's High Performance Blog for Sales/Customer Service/Leadership Champs and Progressive Professionals!

Walt-Disney-it-takes-people-to-make-the-dream-a-reality

I have been referencing that great Walt Disney quote regularly to my training clients over these past 10+ years since I started Sale Away. To use Walt’s word, I have many examples of great ‘places’ delivering less-than-great, and sometimes just plain poor, customer experiences.  This 2012 family vacation certainly comes to mind.

Sadly, this recent account has joined the my list of great places diminished by a disappointing customer experience. 

2 Tickets To Paradise..

To celebrate our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary we decided to leave our teenage kids home and take a long weekend to somewhere special that we had never been before.  After much research and deliberation we decided on the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina Resort in Key West. As you can see on their site here, the place is just beautiful.

A gorgeous setting and that world-renowned Waldorf Astoria name set high expectations for a top notch customer experience. What could possibly go wrong in paradise?

Here’s a few examples that left us with less-than-happy memories:

 1) Special Requests

Preparing for our arrival, the Casa Marina emailed me a reservation confirmation with details on the resort and included a request on any “special occasion” that we may be celebrating on our visit.  Using this “Pre-Arrival Assistance” form, I informed that we would be visiting for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I fulfilled a similar request at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square for our 15th Anniversary and fondly recall how we were welcomed appropriately (“Happy Anniversary!”) by the check-in staff and pleasantly surprised by a bottle of champagne and card in our room.

Apparently, this was ignored as nothing was ever mentioned or offered during our entire stay. I know what you’re thinking.. they never received the request. They would never ignore it and, in fact, had they received it then no doubt they would go to great lengths to ensure it was acted upon. That what I was thinking too but, as I later discovered, this was only the beginning of a troubling trend. 

 2) The Beach Incident

First off, if anyone ever asks you if you want to drive from Miami to Key West.. SAY NO. Anticipating a pleasant scenic drive for 3 or so hours, we decided to fly to Miami International Airport and drive to Key West. Ended up being a 5+ hour mostly stop n’ go ride with plenty of time spent traveling traffic light to traffic light in, you guessed it, traffic. Of course, the resort awaiting us had absolutely nothing to do with our experience at this point.

Then, finally, we arrived.

After our surprisingly unceremonious check-in (see #1), all we wanted to do is relax so, after a brief room pit-stop, we visited the private beach.  Around 5:45 at this point, the beach was fairly empty with plenty of chairs and cabana beds available.  Not ones to pass up an opportunity to be extra cozy, we laid out on one of the cabana beds. I was dozing off rather blissfully when, not 15 minutes later, a resort employee abruptly asked us to get up so they could move all the chairs back for beach grooming later (not right then). I sat up in bewilderment.. there were easily a few dozen other chairs/beds spread about that they could of moved before even considering disrupting our peace. Not a good second impression of service..

3) Breakfast On Us

Our first morning there, we decided to walk the 1.5 miles or so down to Duval St. and had breakfast at a funky little restaurant there. Pretty good eats for about $40 with tip. 

The next day we decided to stay onsite and have breakfast at the resort. Upon checking-in with the hostess, she advised that their rather extensive breakfast buffet was included in the package I had already paid for when I made our reservation. Well now, wouldn’t that have been a nice reminder at check-in? “Mr. Ferrante, I see you have purchased the package that includes our buffet breakfast. It’s really great and served just around the corner in our main dining area with additional seating on our outdoor patio. The hostess will be expecting you. Enjoy!”

Instead of that, nothing.

It’s worth noting that I regularly stay at Marriott’s all over the map for business, and occasional pleasure, travel. I cannot recall the last time the check-in staff did not welcome me as a Marriott Rewards member and inform me of their free breakfast. The Casa Marina is part of the Hilton Honors program. I am a long-standing Hilton Honors member. Although my reservation had my HHonors number on it, my membership never came up and there was certainly no distinction between ours and non-members service.  

4) We Don’t Give A Tweet

As I often do with poor customer service interactions, I broadcast the post below on Twitter and included the resort wondering if anyone was paying attention there.  

The next day after incident # 3.. 

Apparently no one was paying attention as no reply was received on either tweet. Compare this lack of response to my recent experience at the Marriott and it becomes painfully apparent that there is a valuable customer service component lacking at this establishment. 

Upon departure, I requested to speak with the resort manager to discuss our experience and, when he could not be found, the front desk employee cordially provided his business card. I emailed him, along with Hilton Honors customer service, a detailed account of our experience. When no reply was received, I forwarded the email to them again requesting feedback for this article. That was 3 weeks ago now. No reply has been received.

A beautiful place may bring customers in but their experience is what brings them back

The Gap Between Us  

The gap between a business and its loyal advocates is the experience customers have when interacting with the brand. Every service interaction will either add or subtract from the customer’s overall experience. If poor interactions outweigh the good ones, as was the case here, then the customer’s memory of their experience will be tarnished and the likelihood of securing their future business jeopardized. 

In most cases, customer service interactions come down to the employees tasked to deliver them and whether or not they demonstrate PRIDE on the job. 

Still, even when PRIDE is present, employees can be limited by the organization itself, not having a true customer service culture and/or not being properly trained on what to do (and how to do it) to effectively contribute to it. Reflecting on our time at Casa Marina, I suspect this played a major role in the service shortcomings we experienced. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how nice your business looks if your service is substandard. As Walt Disney said, People make the difference.

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

This article is also on LinkedIn here

While having great products and services is certainly important, the results in any business are ultimately created by the people that represent your business and those products and services.

Those ‘people’ are your corporate culture and they, above all else, are responsible for the level of success your business achieves.

Truly great companies have great workplace cultures. So, if your company has everything but a great culture than you have everything but a great company.

If Your Company Has Everything But A Great Culture

This short video speaks to the importance of corporate culture and establishing clear values to support and guide proper employees behaviors.

tony hsieh culture quote

For more corporate culture, see my LinkedIn article here > Eight Great Practices for Creating a Winning Team Corporate Culture

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer Service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

some-people-dream-of-success-while-others-wake-up-and-work-hard-at-it-22

It goes without saying that being a professional athlete in any sport is not something that is easily achieved. Sure, some people are born with genetic gifts that made them tall or especially strong but, as I wrote about in The Truth About “Born Salesman”, they must still apply themselves and continually work on their game to master their craft and truly achieve greatness. 

And, as referenced in the video below with regard to hockey, once the average athlete does achieve professional status, their tenure at that level is usually short-lived. All that makes the story of hockey great Jaromir Jagr all that more remarkable. 

Have a look and listen to this brief ESPN Spotlight video:

 

As I often say in my training and speaking engagements, success has a formula. Jaromir’s success is certainly no accident. He does indeed have, and more importantly, adheres to a formula.

Let’s breakdown a few key points Jaromir made in the video that speak directly to achieving and sustaining success:

Constantly Adjust

Good yesterday doesn’t equal good today. You have to adjust. – Jaromir Jagr

One of the biggest threats to progress and ultimate success is complacency. While high-achievers like Jaromir are constantly striving for higher levels of performance, average folks get to a point and settle for good enough. As I referenced in the previous post.. If good enough if good enough for you, then you’ll never achieve greatness. To avoid complacency and keep moving forward you must constantly adjust. 

Consistent Practice Equals Consistent Results

The body is like a computer, I believe you can program it.  – Jaromir Jagr

One of the biggest problems I see that stifles growth with many businesses, and consequently the employees in them, is that they are inconsistent with their training efforts. As I wrote about in 4 Seldom Considered Reasons Sales/Customer Service Training Fails, training works with consistent exposure to the training. 

As Jaromir pointed out, you have to keep practicing to program your body and be best prepared to perform at a high level. That type of programming also applies to sales and customer service training. When folks do not consistently practice they gradually deprogram themselves and are not best prepared to capitalize on sales opportunities or provide the highest quality of customer service.

I wish I didn’t have to do anything and be good but it doesn’t work like that, it would be too easy and everyone could do it. – Jaromir Jagr

You Can Have Your Muffins but…

Like Jaromir, I also like muffins. There’s nothing quite like the savory deliciousness of a warm blueberry muffin with a little pat of butter. No great lesson here.. just an intriguing food fact.

Seriously, if you’re gonna cheat with the sweets then you better offset it with regular workouts. Unless, of course, you’re not really concerned with peak performance. Then diet, and just about everything else, doesn’t really matter. 

Be 100% In It

Whatever I love I have to be 100% in it. – Jaromir Jagr

This speaks directly to commitment and passion for your job. As I wrote about in Passion Powers Performance, most folks don’t have it.

You will never achieve the level of success you’re capable of achieving if you’re not 100% invested in your work. Put another way, you’ll never achieve the level of success you would have achieved in something you were 100% invested in.

Like Jagr, in order to be a great you need to be 100% in it .

Jagr Stanley Cup

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer Service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

It’s no secret that most people fall well short of achieving all they are capable of. They fall victim to complacency, reach a ‘good enough’ position and settle for the status quo.

As I often say.. If good enough is good enough for you then you’ll never achieve greatness.

If Good Enough Is Good Enough For You Then You'll Never Achieve Greatness TH1

Perfectly aligned with this principle, this recently published book by Jesse Itzler provides a unique perspective on breaking through your comfort zone:

Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

Promoting the book, Business Insider published the video below.

Here’s the self-explanatory summary as published on YouTube:

“Jesse Itzler felt he was in a rut. So he asked Navy SEAL David Goggins to live with him for 31 days, during which Jesse would do anything David told him to do.

Jesse would later write “Living With A Seal” documenting the grueling experience of getting whipped into shape by one of the toughest men on the planet. They ran through snow storms, jumped into a frozen lake, and did lots and lots of push-ups.

Here, Jesse and David talk about actively pushing yourself and the 40% rule, which means when you think your done and have reached your limit, you’re actually only 40% done.”

 

As Jesse said, “you can’t improve when you’re on autopilot. You have to get out of the complacency of the routine”. 

Indeed. Follow Jesse’s advice and the Navy SEAL’S 40% Success Rule, tap into your ‘reserve tank’ and breakthrough your comfort zone to achieve higher levels of success!

Steve 🙂

No doubt you’ve seen and heard many “get rich quick” offers over the years. Around since the early 1900’s, most of these schemes promise that with little time, effort or money participants can obtain wealth. Desperately seeking success, many well meaning folks fall for these pitches and sadly, in most cases, end up no father ahead then before they began.   

While overnight successes make for great stories, true success is built on the foundation of continuous improvement.  Success rarely (if ever) happens from making big changes all at once. Rather, the path to excellence requires progressive baby steps, small improvements in behaviors and execution that when performed consistently over time lead to big performance gains.

Be a little bit better every day and, over time, you’ll be a lot better! 

Small consistent improvements over time equal BIG results

Make a Great day!

Steve 🙂

Bill Marriott if-you-take-care-of-your-employees

Marriott has long been known as a leader in the hospitality industry. Like the Ritz-Carlton, which Marriott International purchased in the mid-1990’s, Marriott understands it is the customer experience that drives customer satisfaction and, ultimately, loyalty to the brand.

Marriott also knows that the quality of the customer experience is only as good as the culture of the business and the employees that interact with guests. So, like the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott trains every employee — from concierge, front desk, housekeeping, to maintenance — to interact with guests with a focus on enhancing the customer experience. 

The remarkable success of the Marriott brand and their customer service culture is detailed in the highly recommended book by J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., The Spirit to Serve

More recently, and as a tie in to my recent experience chronicled below, Bill Marriott spoke about the role of social media in the customer experience:

Today, social media makes it easy for organizations like ours to ‘listen’ and ask questions of our guests. Our guests and associates have lots of opportunity now to let us know what they’re thinking and how we’re doing as a company. – Bill Marriott

The important part of what Mr. Marriott said is ‘listen’. These days, most reputable companies have some sort of social media presence and the capability to listen to their customers. Of those companies, the impact on the customer experience is in how they turn that ‘listening’ into action. 

Case in point:

Two weeks ago I was back on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii for another round of in-house training with a very-valued client of mine.  As was the case on my previous two visits, I stayed at the beautiful Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

While working on my laptop from my room balcony I tweeted this >

About a half-hour later I received this tweet back:

Good Stuff! Someone there was certainly ‘listening’ and responding in a positive manner to enhance my customer experience!

The next morning I left for my client early, was out of the hotel all day, and returned to my room early that evening to find a fresh fruit plate, 6 slices of banana bread, 2 bottled waters and silverware on my desk:

Waikoloa Marriott Treat

As shown, it included a card from the Director of Sales & Marketing, John Dominguez, with a thoughtful message:

Aloha Steven, If you have to work on your lanai, we hope you will enjoy this small treat.

Waikoloa Marriott Card

WOW! Now that’s exceeding expectations! Impressed and delighted with John’s consideration, I tweeted again:

Seemingly immediately, Marriott ‘liked’ the tweet and, not long after that, I received an “ENJOY!” retweet response. I sure did!

This is a great example of harnessing the power of social media to engage and, along with taking action, personalize and provide a memorable customer experience.

Well Done Marriott!

Steve 🙂

This story is also on LinkedIn @ Marriott Gets Social To Deliver Great Service

Here’s a timely article I originally published last year. The year has been updated, my advice remains the same..

6 Resolutions for a More Successful New Year!

As we come to the end of 2015 we arrive at the intersection of a new beginning, a clean slate and opportunity to be even better in the new year.

While the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions tend to fade away by the time February rolls around, here’s six I hope stay with you for greater success and improved well-being in 2016 and beyond.

In 2016,  I resolve to:

1) Focus On What I Can Control

More often than not, we experience grief, anxiety and/or frustration from situations that are beyond our control. Obviously, this is counterproductive. In 2016, minimize external issues and focus on your attitude (see # 5), your behaviors (what you do) and your execution (how you do it) to best control your destiny.

2) Be Grateful

As I published at Thanksgiving, gratitude is the best attitude for success. Grateful individuals focus on the positive aspects of life/work and do not take them for granted. They express heartfelt thanks and appreciation to others and their genuine gratitude positively attracts others to them.

3) Be a Student of My Profession

High-achievers, in any occupation, are true students of their profession. For sales/customer service professionals, realize that you are in the people business first and your product/services second. That means learning everything you can about improving your ‘people skills’ to better communicate and connect with people, build rapport, trust and relationships. Top performers continuously invest in themselves through training, reading and professional development to further their skill set.

4) Exercise Regularly

This is perhaps the most neglected New Year’s resolution of all time. Although the vast majority of folks do not stick with their resolution to exercise regularly the benefits of doing so are indisputable.  Regular exercise improves heart-lung and muscle fitness, helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, relieves stress, improves sleep, controls weight and generally improves your chances of living longer and healthier. 

5) Be Happy

 As I often say, positive attracts positive in everything you do. You will certainly gain far more in 2016 being happy than you would being miserable. I once read that the ‘grand essentials’ of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. For greater success in 2016, make sure you’re aligned for this and be happy.

6) Make Each Day Count

The Champ Himself, Muhammad Ali, once said “Don’t count the days, make the days count”. This principle is directly applicable to having a successful year… don’t count the days on the calendar, make each day on the calendar count. When you focus on making each day a success your year will take care of itself!

Commit to a Successful New Year 2016

All The Best To You For Success In 2016!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit saleawayllc.com

Santa Claus Is..

As you’re likely aware, there’s a large jolly fellow in a red suit coming to town soon. As usual, he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice this year and, with rather remarkable record-keeping tracked by his team of trusty elves back at the North Pole HQ, your presents in his sleigh will reflect this disposition. 

Not sure how you fared this year? 

A great place to start is in the mirror with a comparison of yourself against the Santa Claus profile (in image below) as published in 1912 by Edwin Osgood Grover in The Book of Santa Claus.  

Santa Claus Is

There is a Santa Claus in all of us, some just need to adjust their self-focus to see him. After-all, like proper sales and customer service, true Christmas spirit is not really about us; it’s about helping and giving to others. 

Ho Ho Ho

Steve 🙂  

Everyday there is much to be thankful for…

Clients, vacations, laughter, yummy food, morning coffee, the comfort of sweat pants, the New England Patriots, rock and roll and cool cars are just a few on my extended list.

Less personal, the Pinnacle Performance produced image below presents common areas that we all should be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving Gratitude

All The Best to you and your family for a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

Steve 🙂

Back in May of 2013, I published this article on Amazon.com’s world-class customer service.

Happy to report that since then I’ve continued to frequently purchase a wide variety of items from Amazon and they have continued to provide the high quality customer care I teach and often preach about.

And that brings us to this latest example of Amazon customer service and the curious case of the 1 eared giraffe..

Seemingly out of nowhere my daughter, Ava, had an urgent need for these animal onesie pajamas. With Christmas fast-approaching, I tried to reason that we could get her this as a present. That offer was met with agonizing opposition as evidently the nearly 8 week wait for the comfort of animal sleepwear would simply be too much to bare. 

Given a selection of colorful creatures to choose from, Ava decided the giraffe would be her ideal mate so I went ahead and ordered.

Here’s the picture from Amazon.com:

Giraffe Onesie PJ's

While most of my Amazon purchases are eligible for their Prime 2-day shipping services this product was being sent from a distributor in China and Prime was not available. 

Eagerly awaiting her cozy companion, every day for 2 weeks Ava would ask me if “the package” had arrived. Finally, on day 15, it did. 

In what was likely the quickest turnaround of all-time, Ava disappeared momentarily then reappeared in our kitchen like this:

1 Ear Giraffe

Notice anything peculiar? At first, neither did we but if you look closely you’ll notice the giraffe has no right ear. If you refer back to the first picture, you can see the girl is actually holding the giraffe by the ears. Apparently, they didn’t try that with this one.

Attempting to avoid a catastrophic meltdown (likely felt where you are now), I assured Ava that I would contact Amazon and was confident they would resolve the issue in short order. 

Below are the series of email exchanges between myself and Amazon.com customer service.

Beginning with this request for return:

 Item: LATH.PIN Unisex Costume Animal Cosplay Onesie Adult Pajamas Anime Cartoon Sleepwear Medium, Giraffe
> Qty: 1
> Return reason: Defective/Does not work properly
> Customer comments: Arrived with only one ear and appears to have been created
  that way. My daughter is quite upset and doesn't want
  to wait several weeks again for a new one to be delivered

Reply received:

Dear customer, we have received your return request. We are so sorry you received
damaged item. You don't need to return the item, you can keep it. We will make a
full refund for you tomorrow. Could you please kindly send us the photo of the
one ear giraffe. We will send it to our QC. Thank you very much.
Please feel to contact us if you have any problem, thanks again.
 Have a nice day.

That’s great.. I don’t even have to return the item, they’re just going to ‘take care of the customer’ and refund my purchase price. Still, Ava really wants a fully functional giraffe so I sent the picture I posted above along with this reply:

Thank You for your prompt response and offer to keep item and refund amount paid.
I have attached a pic on the 1 ear giraffe. Will the anticipated 2 ear version
be sent? My daughter prefers her giraffes to not be hearing impaired..
--

Not long after I received this reply:

Dear customer, thank you for your photo. We will send a new one to you tomorrow.
We will send you the new tracking number later. Thank you very much.
--

As I often say…

The True Test of Customer Service

This is another great example of customer service recovery done right and why Amazon.com continues to earn my business and accolades.

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Also on LinkedIn Pulse @ Amazon.com Customer Service and the Curious Case of the 1 Eared Giraffe

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