Ten Steps To Great Customer Service

Originally Published July 12, 2006
The scene is a national restaurant chain. I’m meeting a client for lunch. I notice that our hostess, who doesn’t appear to be much more than 19 or 20 is wearing a pin on her apron with the number “10” on it.

I must have looked a bit puzzled when I asked “Have you worked here for ten years?

She laughed and said, “No, this just means that I’ve been through our training course and know the ten steps to great customer service.”

Really,” I asked, “what are they?

First, you great the customer with a smile…” she said, her voice trailing off.

Then she laughed, and said “Well, I used to know them,” as she seated us.


What Were Those Ten Steps?

Our waitress informed me that her name was Thelma and she’d be our server today. I asked “Thelma, do you know the ten steps to great customer service?” Thelma said “Oh, sure…” and quickly listed three. She pondered for a minute before naming the fourth… and after a mighty struggle came up with a fifth.

I flagged down three other waitresses in the next 30 minutes, and none of them did any better.

When Thelma brought our check, she also handed me a scrap of paper on which she’d dutifully noted the ten steps, in order. She mentioned that it took a bit of effort to remember them all.

Michael LeBoeuf said it so well in his 1985 book, The Greatest Management Principle In The World: “Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated.” (And if you haven’t found time in the last two decades to read this elegantly simple concept, isn’t it time? Click the link and invest three and a half bucks in your personal management library).

Our restaurant chain thought that ten steps to great customer service were so important that they required all of their employees to learn them.

Those Ten Steps Slipped Out Of Consciousness

Unfortunately, it appears that as soon as all employees memorized the list, management thought their job was done. Employees saw no benefit in remembering the list, or applying it. Consequently, they didn’t bother to do so.

Don’t think this could happen in your company? Unless you’re constantly reminding your staff of the things you want them to convey to your customers, I can guarantee that it’s already happened in your company.

I’ve been conducting a small experiment. I’ve been calling businesses randomly at odd hours and asking whomever answers the phone why their company’s service or products are better.

Dare To Try It Yourself?

When the dispatcher picks up the phone with “Mary’s Pizza, how can I help you today?” ask “Why is Mary’s pizza better?

In the last week I’ve asked “Why is your coffee better?” “Why is the doctor you work for better?” “Why is your customer service better?” “Why are your puppies better?” “Why are your roses better?” “Why is your chili better?

I’ve made fourteen calls to businesses in my neighborhood. So far, nobody’s been prepared with an answer.

It’s a simple test. Only takes a few minutes. Doesn’t cost anything ‘except maybe a few pennies in long distance charges.

Call your own company. Call your competitors. Call businesses in other cities. Call businesses you’re curious about. Ask the question.

What Do You Hear When You Call Your Own Company?

And if you’re not hearing a clearly articulated point of competitive advantage, may I suggest that you have some work to do for more successful fishing for customers.

And if you’re not hearing a clearly articulated point of competitive advantage, may I suggest that you have some work to do for successful fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Need some help strategizing the best way to help your staff to articulate your values? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected] and start a conversation.  Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Inclusive Communication By Design

Originally published September 29, 2006.



Your company is looking at a lot of late night local cable availability, and thinking that a 30-minute infomercial might be appropriate.

The boss has just found out that companies which specialize in infomercial marketing will charge tens of thousands of dollars to produce your program.

He wants to know why you can’t do it “in house.”

Can’t you just put a talent in front of a camera and let him persuade those late night visitors to buy?


DIY Infomercial?

I wouldn’t.

Too many dollars would stay on the table.

In addition to the obvious differences in production quality that an infomercial specialist brings to the table, there is the difference in strategy. The pros know you can’t treat all potential customers alike.

You see, some people want you to just cut to the bottom line and tell them what your product will do for them.

Some want to read the fine print.

Some want to know if other people have successfully used your product to solve their problems.

And then there’s the group that wants to know a whole lot more about your company before they consider doing business with you.

The right thing to say to one is exactly the wrong thing to say to the others.

What’s an aspiring infomercial producer to do?

According to Dr. Richard Grant, you should make a specific appeal to each of the eight different Meyers-Briggs communication styles in our offers. He calls the process Inclusive Communication by design.

It only makes sense that if we talk to people about their concerns, in a style that makes them comfortable, and address the questions that are important to them, that we’ll persuade more of them to do business with us.

Here is my assessment of the approach we need to take with each of the Meyers-Briggs “types” for your new 30-minute infomercial.

E – needs a good verbal presentation. Cover the major points at a fast pace without too much detail.
I – needs time to reflect. Will buy, but not before deliberating.
S – begin with facts, and build to “big picture.”
N – begin with “big picture” and fill in the facts.
T – emphasize soundness, reliability, and statistics.
F – support with first-hand testimonials
J – no surprises. Appear to stay organized.
P – diplomatically remind that a decision must be made within certain time constraints

Here’s how I would organize a program.

In Practical Application

Minutes 1-3
Introduce the show, and summarize the next thirty minutes for the “Js”. Make the overall claims for the product quickly for the “Ns”. Then, for both the “Ns” and the “Ss,” start building your facts. For the “Ss,” build to your conclusion and restate the claims for the product.

Minutes 4-8
For the “Ts” support the claims with science. For the “Fs” bring in the testimonials. Keep it fun and fast paced for the “Es”. Explain the dependability of your staff/call center for the “Js” and the fun people will have interacting with them for “Es.” Remind the “Ps” that this special offer is only good during this program.

Make your first call to action.

Minutes 9-17
Repeat your overall claims in summary form for the “Ns.” Build your facts, and re-state your conclusions for the “Ss.” Amplify and expand on the science for the “Ts.” Refer the “Is” to your web site. Reassure the “Js” that everything you’ve promised will happen right on schedule with no surprises. Consider using recorded testimonials from other customers, and use them now for the “Fs.” Again, remind the “Ps” that this special offer is only good during this program.

Make your second call to action.

Minutes 18-29
Have the interviewer “put you on the ropes” and make you defend the claims for the “Ss” and the “Js.” Keep it logical for the “Ts” but light-hearted for the “Es.” Pull out the science in deeper detail, and discuss the manufacturing process for the “Js” and “Ns.”

Talk about the company, and your commitments to quality and customer satisfaction for the “Ns,” “Ss,” and “Is.” Consider a :40 second interview with one of the call center operators as entertainment for the “Es” and reassurance for the “Js.” Restate that your customers get exactly what they expect on the timetable you’ve committed.

Remind the “Ps” that it’s time to place an order, if they want to take advantage of this special offer.

Make your final call to action, and wrap up.

Cast a Wider Net

Each personality type is more comfortable with information presented in a particular style. Incorporating all styles into your presentation effectively multiplies the bait when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about articulating your value, and making sure people know it? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 304-208-7654.

If you’re interested in learning more about persona-based marketing, I recommend Waiting for Your Cat to Bark by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis. They make simple what could be a confusing subject. That’s probably why the book hit all 4 bestseller lists: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and BusinessWeek.

In the event that you find yourself considering the services of an infomercial professional, you owe it to yourself to talk to Wizard of Ads ® partner Adam Deatherage at ADco Video Productions.

Adam is not expensive. Additionally he knows every way to stretch your marketing dollar, including making long-form video, :30 and :60 second television ads from the same footage. Call him for a quote on your next video project at (940) 636-0089.

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Dear Doctor – How Do Your Patients Rate YOU?

Originally published December, 2007

Dear Doctor:

For a single, brief instant I was your patient.

I’m new in the community and needed to have my diabetic prescriptions renewed.

I didn’t mind that I had to wait five weeks for the first appointment. I like that your practice is that busy. It implies that you’re in demand.

I appreciated the reminder phone call yesterday, confirming the appointment and suggesting that I arrive 15 minutes early to handle any necessary paperwork.

Perhaps you remember that my appointment was for 10am. Since I didn’t know what the traffic would be like, or how difficult your office would be to find, I left for your office at 9am, and arrived at 9:30. After checking in and completing your new patient forms I sat patiently waiting to be called.

I wasn’t upset when 10am passed and no one had called my name.

I wasn’t really upset at 10:15.

By 10:30 I was becoming annoyed. I asked your receptionist if it was going to be much longer. Without even looking up she told me she didn’t know, but they’d call me as soon as they were ready for me.

By 10:45 I should have walked out, but I needed my prescriptions. I didn’t have five weeks left to start this process with another doctor.

I Waited

At 11:02 a nurse called my name. She weighed me, took my blood pressure, confirmed the meds I’m taking, and showed me to an exam room. She closed the door upon her exit, and I sat alone there until you finally walked in at 11:36.

Instead of making eye contact you looked at the chart, and introduced yourself. No apology. No recognition of my inconvenience. In fact, you didn’t look up at all until I asked what had caused you to be running 97 minutes behind on your first 120 minutes of operation.

As you looked into my ears and mouth you told me that you couldn’t anticipate how long each patient would need your attention.

I wondered why not? You’ve been in business for at least 90 days. It seems to me that tallying the number of patients you see, the number of hours you’re open, and dividing one by the other should get you in the ballpark.

Perhaps you recall, Doctor, indignantly telling me that you haven’t been able to take a lunch in the last two months? That you worked straight through your scheduled 90 minute mid-day break to take care of the patients waiting to see you?

If, in every one of the last 60 days it took an extra hour and a half to catch up on half a day’s appointments, then you obviously are scheduling them too close together. This accomplishes nothing but to really make your patients cranky.

Not as cranky as you appeared, though, when you handed me the scrip I’d come in for. (That was when I explained that by working through lunch you were only making my point).

And We Arrived at the Critical Moment

Do you remember when you angrily demanded to know if I understood how much it costs to have your staff standing around waiting on patients, and that you still had student loans to pay off?

That was the exact moment when our doctor/patient relationship ended.

Oh, you’re probably not aware of it. I took the sheet with your charges to the clerk and paid on my way out. But, the relationship has definitely ended. I decided that long before I arrived back at my office at 12:29, very angry to have wasted half a day to simply renew the prescriptions I’ve been taking for years.

You see, whether you realize it or not, you’re a consultant.

People hire you for the expert advice you give them when they have health care concerns. Many other people are consultants, too. Insurance agents, hair dressers, and Realtors come to mind.

They call people who purchase their services “customers,” while yours are known as “patients,” but it’s pretty much the same relationship.

I wouldn’t have waited an hour and a half beyond a firm appointment for any of them. I wouldn’t have expected them to wait on me were the tables turned. But with you and a great many of your colleagues, this is business as usual.

You Keep Your Productivity High by Insuring That Mine is Low

That, and your total disrespect for me as your customer are the reasons I won’t be back.

So, as I tell you goodbye, let me leave you with two thoughts:

1.Your accountant has been counting your inactive patient files as assets of your practice.

He’s kidding himself.

If he ever sat in your waiting room he’d understand why you have such a large percentage of inactive patients.

2.People like me, the well-paid executives who can afford your services, don’t normally make a scene as we leave.

We simply determine that you’re not worth the investment of any further time.

So, when you find yourself squeezed between managed care and deadbeat patients, remember that I’m in my peak earning years, my time is valuable to me, and I’d have gladly paid more for express service.

Remind yourself, too, that I am a great source of word-of-mouth. Unfortunately, in your case, it won’t be favorable. I will, however, get a massive amount of satisfaction repeating this story. I’ll be telling it for years. When you advertise your practice, how many gross ratings points will you have to purchase just to neutralize me?

One of these days one of your colleagues is going to figure this out. He’s going to appear on television with a simple message:

I’m Doctor Johnson, the business person’s doctor. I’m not one of the lower priced doctors in town – in fact, I’m probably one of the most expensive. But, if you’re accepted as my patient (and not everyone is) I promise you’ll never wait more than 15 minutes for your appointment. Come see me. Doctor Johnson, the business person’s doctor, at the corner of Main and Second Street for your convenience.

He’s going to make a fortune on people like me. Something to consider when you’re fishing for patients.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Need some help seeing your service from your customer’s point of view? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected] and start a conversation.  Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Coffee, The Moon Landing, And A Game Of Poker

Poker Hand

A winning poker hand.

I don’t play often, but I appreciate a good game of poker. Poker makes a pretty good analogy for marketing, and for business.

Poker players know what they hold in their hands, they carefully watch what everyone else appears to be doing. They make educated guesses as to the cards the other players hold.

Poker players hoard their resources until they know they hold a winner, then they confidently apply all of their resources to winning that particular hand.

At the end of the game the winner takes the whole pot. The loser loses everything.

The other players pick up a few bucks now and then and manage to stay in the game.

In real life marketing the winning hand is held by the company with the greatest share of mind. Let me give you an example.

Name the First Brand of Coffee You Think of

Now name another.

Can you name a third?

Chances are that you named your first coffee brand rather quickly.  The second came almost as quickly.

Most people take slightly longer to name the third brand.

Most People Purchase the First Brand that Comes to Mind.

Would you like to see how 3,000 other people* answered that question?

Share of Mind for Coffee

Share of Mind for Coffee

People remembered these brands in roughly the same proportion they buy them.

Conclusion #1: Share of mind predicts share of market.
Conclusion #2: The first name that shoppers think of is the one they buy.

How does a company become the first name on the customer’s mental list, and thus hold the face cards in the marketing poker game?

The Easiest Way is to Actually be First.

Who was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic? The second? How about the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic?** Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart won those hands. You can’t even name the losers.

You might remember the second man to set foot on the surface of the moon, but can you name the third?

Can you name the third expedition to the North Pole? The third Pope? The third signature on the US Declaration of Independence? (How about the third amendment to the Constitution)?

In share of mind, share of market, and poker, third position is a loser. Winners come in first. Second place sometimes makes a few bucks. Beyond that, money gets very tight.

“But wait a minute, Chuck” (I can hear you saying), “I have a small business in a small town. I’m not the first at anything.”

This is Where Marketing Makes a Difference.

Charles and Frank Duryea built the first gasoline-powered automobile in 1893 – a full ten years before Henry Ford got into the business.*** Henry made the automobile affordable to every household, creating phenomenal word of mouth on the Model T. Henry held the winning poker hand, and became the most famous automobile manufacturer of all time. How many of the losing hands can you even remember?

The best selling MP3 player of all time is the iPod, but Apple didn’t invent the device. Rio did, in 1998, nearly three years before the iPod hit the market. Rio built an expensive toy for people who loved technology. Apple created a toy for people who love music. Apple wins that poker hand. (And, tell the truth, until I mentioned the name, you didn’t even remember the Rio player, did you)?

Your objective is to make your company the one that people automatically think of when they need what you sell. When you’re first on that list, they don’t even think about buying elsewhere.

You see, the first company to make a claim has an 85% chance of being remembered for that claim. The second company has about a 15% chance. The third company less than 5%.

Ford and Apple simply out promoted Duryea and Rio, respectively. Neither was first in the market. Each became first in the minds of their prospective customers.

Can You be First at Something?

Absolutely. In fact, its essential.

To be remembered, to hold top position in share of mind, to hold the winning hand in marketing your business, you must be first at something.

I’d suggest that you choose to be first in the reason your existing customers do business with you now.

Find out what your current customers believe you provide that they can’t get anywhere else. Then, start promoting that. Promote it to the point that you’re now playing in a whole new game, and in this game you hold the winning cards.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Have questions about finding a niche and being first in it? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 304-208-7654.


* BRANDPOLL survey of coffee brands, January-March 2001.

** Charles Lindberg, May 20, 1927; Amelia Earhart, May 20, 1932 on the fifth anniversary of Lindberg’s crossing.

*** Nicholas Joseph Cugnot designed the first steam powered self-propelled vehicle in 1769. The device was so heavy that it had to run on roadways of steel, and evolved into the modern locomotive. Etienne Lenoir patented the first practical gas engine (coal gas) and drove a car powered with one from Paris to Joinville in 1862.



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