Posted by: joannabrandi | March 22, 2011

We Don’t Scoop

I recently went out to breakfast with my friend Elaina. We decided on the Panera’s closest to our homes and I was looking forward to my favorite egg sandwich there.

I ordered first. “I’ll have the egg and cheese sandwich – no meat – on a scooped out toasted whole grain bagel and a coffee.”

“We don’t scoop.”

“Of course you scoop,” I said. “The last few times I ordered the exact same sandwich you scooped it – in fact, I remember how cleverly and carefully the young man scooped my last bagel – he used a spoon and not his finger!”

“We don’t scoop.”

“Well you have scooped before,” I offered.

“We never scooped.”

“Yes,” I stated, now with a little more irritation, “you have scooped in the past, perhaps you don’t scoop now but every time I have ever ordered an egg on a bagel sandwich here someone has been kind enough to scoop it out for me. ”

“We don’t scoop.”

At this point the young lady at the counter went over to her manager. “Do we scoop bagels?” she asked.

“Nope” was the reply.

“You see,  I told you we don’t scoop,” she said with a finality that I understood.

I took a deep breath remembering that being right (which I was) was less important that my pleasant demeanor and positive overall breakfast with a friend experience.

“Okay.” I said. “Perhaps you don’t scoop anymore. Let me buy the bagel, scoop it out and then you can toast it for me so I can have the sandwich the way I want it.

“Can’t do that – sanitary reasons.”


What’s the lesson here?

Please don’t make your customer wrong (they could be right and anyway that doesn’t matter)

Deal with the customer’s emotion (a little I’m sorry and a little empathy go a long way)

Find a way to make the situation right for the customer – even if it means you need to make an exception.

And if your employee has been there for a shorter period of time than the customer has – believe the customer!

Posted by: joannabrandi | February 11, 2011

Listen, Please Listen

Last night while out to dinner, one of my dinner companions carefully and specifically ordered his drink, a bloody Mary. “I’d like it made with plain tomato juice, vodka, and a lime, I don’t want any spices at all, please.” The server took the order and shortly returned with a drink that included the spices. After tasting it my friend said, “Not again! At least 50% of the time I order this drink, it comes to me with spices.  Why don’t they listen?”

He called the server over and started the process all over again, as we waited patiently before sipping ours, to make our customary toast. The second time the drink was perfect. “Nobody listens anymore” he said, “If only people listened well the first time we could avoid a lot of mistakes.” He then preceded to tell us of several other instances, all related to his business dealings, where someone did not listen properly and something had to be re-done a second time because of the miscommunication.

Where do we learn to listen? It’s not a skill actually taught in school, is it? We learn to listen in our primary family situation when we are children. Like many of the things we learned at home, we learned by example. If we were surrounded by people who listened carefully and paid attention, we most likely learned to do the same. If we were surrounded by people who listened while doing other things, while distracted, or half-heartedly, we learned another style of listening. See where I’m going here?

Unless we were exposed to teachers, mentors or relatives that taught us otherwise, we picked up whatever listening habits we grew up with. And that leaves many of us needing a little fine-tuning in the listening department.

Here’s a few tips on tuning up your listening skills:

*Desire it. Want to listen better. You need to have a desire to motivate yourself to slow down and make sure you understood what is being said to you.

*Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is going to say. (And please don’t finish their sentences for them.)

*Concentrate – Focus your attention, all of it, on the person who is speaking.

*Don’t be thinking about your response while the speaker is still speaking

*When the details are important, confirm your understanding of what was said. “So if I heard you correctly..” “Let me make sure I have this..”  “Here’s my understanding..”

*Practice. Like any skill, good listening takes practice. And it takes patience – especially in this fast paced world.

But think about this – there’s a bonus to doing it right. You don’t have to do it over.

PS This great cartoon came from reader Cindy Bland- THANKS Cindy!

I received this little comic the same evening I received your February 11 Blog posting, “Listen, Please Listen.”  It was just too appropriate to not send it to you!  Thanks for the great tips, and enjoy this!
Cindy Bland, CISR


Posted by: joannabrandi | February 3, 2011

Twenty One Years, Twenty One Insights

(This was sent as one of my Customer Care Tips on Feb 1st.)

Today’s my 21st anniversary of being in business. Wow. That’s a long time and a lot of learning. I began with an idea. Imagine if you will, that every business sits atop a tripod – three legs, needing to be in balance to keep the business stable. Each leg represents a set of relationships. One is “External” and is all about the relationships you have outside the company – customers, communities, suppliers etc. The second is “Internal”, all about the relationships inside the company. The third, I call “Inner” is about the relationship each of us has with ourselves and our work.

I call this the Working Relationship Tripodsm and it forms the operating system for my thinking about what makes organizations and individuals thrive.

Today, on this auspicious anniversary, I want to share 21 simple insights, 7 for each of the “legs” of my tripod.


  1. Customers have two sets of needs – business needs and emotional needs. Excel at determining and delivering on both sets of needs consistently and you win.
  2. The bridge between customer satisfaction and loyalty is built with positive emotions. When a customer feels appreciated, valued, important, welcomed, heard, validated and secure you’ve got a better chance than the next guy at keeping them longer.
  3. Customers love consistency and they love surprises. Make your business processes consistent enough that they feel secure and flexible enough so they are occasionally pleasantly surprised.
  4. The customer is not always right so you have to be extraordinarily good at letting go of your own need to be right and skillfully handle all kinds of situations with grace.
  5. These days customers are often tired, stressed and cranky. Ease their pain. Make it easy (and maybe even fun) to do business with you. Ahhhhh.
  6. Customers change – and fast. Your ability to be flexible and responsive is key. Listen carefully.
  7. Customers are not “targets” to shoot for. They are real live breathing human beings looking to make connections and get what they need. Drop the war terminology. Make love, not war.


  8. Everyone inside an organization is a customer and/or a supplier. Together they from a “value chain” that extends out to the external customers. Does everyone know the part they play? Do they take good care of each other?
  9. Teams need a worthwhile vision to work towards and a leader that keeps them focused on it.
  10. Trust, respect, appreciation and clear, open communication without blame or judgment create a safe place where people can contribute, without fear.
  11. Fear narrows focus and shuts down the creative process. Optimism and positivity open the mind and help people be more productive and creative. People like working in a positive workplace.
  12. Teams thrive in a positive environment. A 5:1 Positivity : Negativity ratio is ideal for expansion, engagement and expression.
  13. We can’t motivate people – people motivate themselves when we create an environment that helps them feel good (and safe) at work.
  14. You can’t create real value in the marketplace unless you create real value in the workplace. Culture eats strategy for lunch. The best teams work on their culture and live in their values continuously as part of their strategy.INNER RELATIONSHIPS
  15. People need to know what is expected of them. They usually live up or down to those expectations.
  16. People need to feel a sense of belonging and contribution in order to want to get up and come to work every day.
  17. People like to be challenged as long as the challenge takes them into their stretch zone and not into the panic zone.
  18. Customer CARE relies on “discretionary effort”. It can’t be mandated, it has to come from inside. When an individual feels valued and appreciated themselves, it’s much easier to create.
  19. People operate best when they have a clear personal mission and know how it fits in with the organization’s mission. Good leaders help them find it.
  20. The “What kind of value can I create today?” ethos thrives when encouraged, acknowledged and appreciated.
  21. Organizations don’t change, people do. People have to make the personal choice to make a change. The higher the value the higher the higher the motivation. What’s in it for them?

The biggest shift I’ve seen in 21 years is the “power shift” that has occurred with customers. The power has shifted from the people who sell to the people who buy. The customer is in charge. Customer generated media has changed the world we live in. For the better I think.

Customers today are demanding truth, transparency and authenticity. They can find anything they want at a better price somewhere in the world – which is now at their fingertips. Companies that get that are organizing around their customers’ needs and opening the dialog for change inside the organization.

For 21 years I’ve been asking the same question – How can I help?

Please let me know how I can help you enrich all the working relationships in your life. Thank you so much for being a part of mine.

All the best,



Posted by: joannabrandi | December 22, 2010

“I do it my OWN SELF!

Spending time with Little Miss, my 2 ½ year old granddaughter, is always a learning experience. For her and for me. Just recently while I was attempting to help her put on her jacket, she pulled away and shouted, “I do it my own self!” I couldn’t help but laugh (the kid cracks me up) and think about how we all grow and seek our independence naturally.

In the workplace I hear the same cry but there it sounds more like, “Don’t micromanage me, I’m capable and smart and you need to trust me!”

People need clear guidance and they need room to move. They need to know what a manager’s expectations are, what the rules are (what will get me promoted, what will get me fired?) and how they will be measured. They need praise and recognition for the things they do right, and kind considerate coaching for the things that need correction.

I’m continually amazed by the people I meet that are disengaged from their jobs because their managers didn’t trust them enough to let them do it their own selves.

Here are some questions to think about as you review your own performance as a manager and leader over this last year:

Have I provided a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish here? Have I given those who work for me the chance to add to the vision and personalize it?

Have I been clear about my expectations? Have I checked in to see if they have heard them the way I intended? Have I clarified and confirmed their understanding?

Have I given them authority along with responsibility to do a project? Have I set up benchmarks and opportunities for small wins as well as large ones?

Have I taken the time to listen for and understand their strengths way more often than I notice their weaknesses?

Have I taken time to acknowledge, affirm and amplify what they do right?

Have I created 5 times more Positivity than negativity?

Ahhhh. Just a few leadership and management questions to get you thinking as we transition from one year to the next. Enjoy them. Let them percolate. Find the wisdom in each one.

A leader today can’t have all the answers, but she can sure open her world by having really good questions!

Many warm wishes for a happy holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!



Posted by: joannabrandi | November 16, 2010

Happy Anniversary Jim Blasingame

It’s Jim Blasingame’s 13th anniversary. That’s amazing dedication – he’s been on the air every day for 13 years as the Small Business Advocate.

I’ve had the pleasure of being on his “brain trust? for 11 of those years. Do you have a brain trust? Do you have people you can go to for help, advice, support, feedback and reality checks?

Jim’s story has been the same for 13 years – small business owners are his heroes. He’s worked tirelessly to get sponsorship for his program so he can broadcast every day. Once a week on Sunday he writes a newsletter and his site is chock full of value for any small business need or question. Jim knows how to create massive amounts of value for his listeners and customers.

He even gets us on the Forbes site. You can listen to my programs here Brandi Interviews

Thanks Jim for all you do for small business. We are the future and we love you!

Posted by: joannabrandi | November 11, 2010

Getting too full of yourself? Spend an hour in the cow suit.

At Stew Leonards, the legendary grocer in CT, when young managers get too full of themselves they get an hour in the cow suit. That solves the problem.  Stew Leonard, the grandfather, delivered milk from a truck. He had a cow head on the truck and a sign that said “You wave and I’ll moo.”

That mooing cow was the beginning of a multigenerational  family business that’s known world wide for its customer service. Wacky? Yep. Successful? Yep.

1969 the retail store opened and Stew stood at door like the maitre d’. He got to know the customers and he listened and took their ideas to heart.  Stew Leonard’s grandson Stew entertained and educated the attendees of the Customer World conference two weeks ago in Orlando.

Stew shared stories and we laughed at the story of how the famous “rock” came into existence.

It all started with the Eggnog. Soon after opening Stew offered a special eggnog for the holidays. He loved it but the customers didn’t. One day a customer comes in and asks for her money back. She said the eggnog tasted terrible.  Stew took a taste and told her it tasted just fine.  Stew wanted to be right and the customer wanted to be right. Guess who won? The customer told him that she was never coming back to his store again. It was then that Stew Sr. realized that he lost money and he lost the customer. It was at that moment he decided that it was better to lose money for the eggnog but keep the customer (and keep her happy.)

And so the famous Stew Leonard’s policy was born and inscribed on a giant rock our side the store. Rule#1 – The customer is always right. Rule #2 If the customer is ever wrong, go back and read rule #1.

Just figure out what they want and get them to walk out of the store happy.

Through the years Stew learned how to make those customers happy. When a new real eastate agent is having a showing, Stew sends over a tray of lasagna. When the agent sells the house, their selling Stew’s as well.

How much is that tray of lasagna worth?

I think that if all you watch is what things cost – you don’t get to experience what they are worth. Stew had the patience and the foresight to be able to see past the cost and experience the worth of the positive word of mouth and absolute delight of his customers.

Start small – start in one corner of the business and let it grow.  When a customer commented that she didn’t buy fish there because she didn’t think that fish Stew offered in the plastic packaging was fresh (even though it was only packaged that morning) Stew decided to ditch the packaging and put the fish on ice, the “old fashioned “ way.  Fish sales tripled, since the perception was that it’s fresher.

Same thing happened with the strawberries.  They took them out of the boxes and let them overflow bountifully. Customers bought twice as much,  sales went up – but gross profit on it did go down. Seems they couldn’t help popping some of the juicy little wonders into their mouths while bagging them.  Did they go back to boxing? No.

As legendary founder of Quadgraphics, Larry Quadracci once said, “There are some things that are so important, you can’t afford to know what they cost.”

From the petting zoo to the fun the employees have when working to the community service and the “sweaty palms” awards employees get from going outside their comfort zones, Stew Leonards does hundreds of little things right and makes lasting impressions on the hearts and minds of customers and workers.

Posted by: joannabrandi | October 24, 2010

Are you a Blabbermouth?

During National Customer Service Week I did a webinar for Manpower HowtoCreateMoreWow. The technology was fun and I was able to do a few polls. As I was talking about Moments of Truth and Moments of Magic (a MOT turned into a WOW for a customer) I asked this question: In the last week, most of my experiences as a customer have been 1. Magical 2. Mediocre 3. Miserable. 90% said their experiences were mediocre.

When I talked about the importance of the customer’s emotional needs I asked this question: When I find a company that makes me feel good about doing business with them I 1. Always refer them to a friend or colleague 2. Usually refer them 3. Sometimes refer them 4. Never refer.

60% said “Always”, 37% said “Usually.” That’s 97% of the audience (over 5oo people) that responded!

Just let that sink in for a moment. There is so much opportunity in a world where people are willing to spread the good word about the feel good experience they had (and “feel good” also means that it was easy to do business with you and that the product was delivered on time, correctly etc. Good feeling come from all the value dimensions being capably delivered).

Your customers are talking. Oh yes they are. Here is the last question: When I leave an interaction with a company feeling  poorly I typically 1. Tell 1- 5 people about the bad experience 2. Tell 6-10 people 3. Tell over 10 people 4. Put it out on the web for all to see.

70% tell at least 1- 5 people.

Yep your customers are talking about you okay. What are they saying? What do you say?These days I find that consumers are banding together to get the truth out into the marketplace. We simply don’t trust companies any more to do it. Watch your own behavior, watch your customer’s behavior.

Here in lies tremendous opportunity! Let’s give ’em something (positive) to talk about!

Posted by: joannabrandi | October 5, 2010

Customer Service Week Treats

National Customer Service here in the US began on Monday Oct 4th.

If you are a regular reader of our Tips you’ve been getting daily videos from me. If not you can find them here

Customer Service Week – Day 1

Customer Service Week – Day 2

Happy Customer Service Week! Enjoy!

Posted by: joannabrandi | October 4, 2010

Bill and the Bad Jokes

I was getting ready to get out of the office the other day when my phone rang. I know I shouldn’t pick it up when I’m headed out, but instinct took over and I picked it up.

The man at the other end identified himself as Bill and told me he had one bad joke for me and one quick special offer.

I’d heard from Bill once before and it brought a smile to my face hearing his voice again. He spoke quickly and had a way of engaging me almost instantly. There was no script here, just a skill (or maybe an art) of quickly capturing my attention and holding it, even after I told him I didn’t really have time for the call.

He told me the bad joke first. “What’s the difference between an in-law and an outlaw?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said.

“Outlaws are wanted.”

“You’re right Bill, it’s a bad joke.”

“Told ya. Now I want to tell you about this fabulous special offer.” And off he went into his spiel about a pen with two caps – one side writes and the other side is a screwdriver. 

I was still laughing at the bad joke when he came up with two suggestions on what I could write on the pen – should I buy his advertising speciality product.

He never used a script. He knew his product and inventive ways to use it well. His voice stayed upbeat all along and he paced me well and led the conversation and kept it moving.

Had I been in the market for the kind of thing he was selling, I just might have bought from him. But I wasn’t and when I told him that he took the news well and told me he’d call me back again some time with another bad joke.

I get calls all day long. Calls from people trying to sell me something or to ask me for money for charity. Some I respond to and some I don’t. What’s the difference? Their approach.

Bill engaged me from the get-go. He told me right from the beginning that I was going to get a bad joke. It had the effect of the prize in the Cracker Jack box. I wanted it.  Even though I didn’t have much time, I had time to hear a bad joke.

What are you doing to engage your customers (or prospects)? What are you doing that’s memorable and remarkable? What are you doing to engage and delight your customers and making sure they will take your next call? Do you stand out in the mind of your customer? What little thing could you do so you might?

Posted by: joannabrandi | September 13, 2010

Customer Results

I just got back from a lovely night on the beach with my friend Susan Schluz. We picked up some salads and headed to then beach for a late summer evening of catching up on personal and professional successes and foibles. I haven’t seen her since July, so it was a good time to catch up.

I was in the process of telling her about my new website (still building it) and my new ideas for products that are relevant, easy and cost effective for people to use.

My latest offering is “Creating Customer Happiness MasterMind Groups” ( I know, it’s a mouthful) and I am in the process of crafting the outline of how they will work and who will be involved and how much they will cost, and all the other details that are necessary to implement an idea into reality.

“Customer happiness,” she said, “That’s all well and good but I want results!”


“I’m telling you, sometimes there are people just sitting there waiting for me to call. They are all ready, full of empathy and the right things to say, but they don’t solve my problem. They do make me happy, but they don’t solve my problem.”

“Whoa ~ then you’re not really happy.” I respond.

“Oh I’m happy with the way I was treated but I’m unhappy about the resolution – I’d rather be less happy with the way I’m treated but happy with the result.”

Ahhhh. Interesting. Enlightening. So I’m thinking about this.

Here’s what I mean by happy – happy with the interaction and happy with the result! And even happy after the result when you are more likely to tell others about it. Happy, happy and happy. I guess I should be saying Happy 3.

I realize I walk a fine line when I talk about customer happiness – but twenty years ago I walked a fine line when I talked about customer CARE.

I will never forget the advice I got from a professor at one of the universities I had contacted. “Care?” he said. “Your starting a company that is going teach people Customer CARE? I wouldn’t advise it. It’s too soft.  Businesses (especially in a recession) don’t want to think about things like caring. I don’t think you should do it.”

I’m so glad I have the ability to follow the beat of my own drummer.

Yes – it’s about customer results – what the customer wants and the way the customer wants it. I’ll be careful when I am writing and speaking about it so no one confuses the happy you get from an interaction with the happy you get from getting your problems solved AND having an interaction that leaves you feeling whole, happy, and fulfilled.

If that sounds like the result of a good relationship, you are right. It is.

Thanks Susan for making me think. I’m always smarter when I take the time to listen to what others have to say. The curse of small company entrepreneurs is in believing our own stories. Happy IS important and so are results!

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