Monday, October 11, 2021

What Makes Effective Leaders?

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Wally Bock from South Carolina, who I first met via Twitter back in 2010. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Wally’s bio.

Wally Bock is an award-winning author and blogger. He writes the popular Three Star Leadership Blog, and his Writing Edge Blog has more than 1,000 posts on how to write a book you can be proud of. His eBook, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time, has 347 tips to help you do a little better every day, and is available on his Three Star Leadership site. Wally’s book Now You're the Boss: Making the Most of the Most Important Transition in Business is available as a paperback and eBook on Amazon. He works with clients as a coach and writing partner to create great business books, and some of the books have won awards and become bestsellers. Follow on Twitter @WallyBock.

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
WALLY BOCK: The move to remote working exposed a lot of incompetent managers. There were (and are) too many managers that can only judge by the activity they see. When their team members are out of sight, those managers didn’t know what to do.

Every leader was tested because work still had to be done and team members still had to be supported, even though the pandemic changed a lot about the work environment. The pandemic added other stresses. There was the flu, and the threat of illness. Some people were suddenly working from a home filled with other family members. Others were suddenly cut off from normal contact with others.

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?

WALLY BOCK: I think studying traits is a colossal waste of time. A trait is a “distinguishing characteristic” according to Merriam Webster.

I think it makes more sense to look at the behaviors of effective leaders. Effective leaders touch base a lot and communicate their core leadership message constantly. Effective leaders set clear and reasonable expectations and deliver consequences of good and poor performance. Effective leaders protect their team and teammates and help them grow and develop.

TWEET THIS: Effective leaders protect their team and teammates and help them grow and develop. -@WallyBock #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference in the workplace?
WALLY BOCK: Do excellent work and help others do excellent work. Have the courage to speak up.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
WALLY BOCK: If we’re talking about CEOs, the term “brand ambassador” is one of those trendy phrases that obscures reality instead of illuminating it. The CEO represents the company to the outside world, but so do salespeople, customer service reps, repair techs, and a host of others. The CEO’s role is to set the tone, training, supervisors, and rewards, so that all those people and others who never work directly with customers can do good work.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO create a culture that inspires its employees?
WALLY BOCK: I don’t think you “create” or “build” culture. Culture is an emergent property of millions of actions. The CEO’s challenge is to decide what he or she should do so the people at the company can do good work. That often means: paying ruthless attention to who gets hired, how they are trained, and how they are supervised. It always means setting the example.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
WALLY BOCK: The job of any boss from CEO to a first line supervisor is to help the team and team members do good work today and better work tomorrow.

TWEET THIS: The job of any boss from CEO to a first line supervisor is to help the team and team members do good work today and better work tomorrow. -@WallyBock #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Wally for sharing his inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Krakenimages via Unsplash.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Alignment Between Customer Experiences and Marketing

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Dan Gingiss from Chicago. We recently discussed customer experience marketing, and highlights follow Dan’s bio.

Dan Gingiss is an international keynote speaker and customer experience coach who believes that a remarkable customer experience can be your best marketing. His 20-year professional career has consistently focused on delighting customers, spanning multiple disciplines including customer experience, marketing, social media, and customer service at companies such as McDonald’s, Discover and Humana. Dan is the author of two books, The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share (released in September) and Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media. He also hosts the Experience This! podcast and The Experience Maker Show, and was a regular contributor to Forbes. Check out his website at www.dangingiss.com, and follow on Twitter at @dgingiss.

QUESTION: Your website features this quote: "A Remarkable Customer Experience Is Your Best Marketing." How can a brand accomplish this on a consistent basis?
DAN GINGISS: When we create positive experiences for our customers, they naturally want to tell other people about them. This is because most of the experiences that we have with brands are average at best, and no one talks about average. The good news is that it's not very hard to differentiate your brand based on customer experience. It simply requires looking at every interaction your customers have with the company, and focusing as much time (and money) on your existing customers as you do on acquiring new ones.

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?

(Check out the story here: https://www.inc.com/john-koetsier/why-every-amazon-meeting-has-at-least-one-empty-chair.html)
 
DAN GINGISS: One of the best compliments I received in my professional career was from the chief digital officer of Discover when he recruited me to head up digital customer experience. He said that he had observed me in meetings and that I always had the proverbial customer hat on. I always looked at business problems from a customer perspective. That insight actually changed my entire career path.
 
The empty chair tactic is great, as are the chairs that literally say “Customer” in Comcast's conference rooms and executive offices. But these become unnecessary when every employee realizes that they have a direct or indirect impact on the customer experience and must think through decisions and implementations with the customer in mind.

QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?

DAN GINGISS: Charles Schwab impressed me early on in the pandemic by identifying my brokerage-specific needs (help navigating through a volatile stock market) versus the standard “enhanced cleaning procedures.” Once grocery stores and retailers figured out curbside pickup, that became a convenient enhancement that I believe is here to stay post-pandemic. Medical and dental practices did a great job of reinventing the patient experience as well.
 
QUESTION: What customer experience metric should every brand use, and why?
DAN GINGISS: Customer retention. Most companies have what I like to call a “leaky bucket,” whereby customers are leaving without even saying why. And usually, they’re headed for the competition. The leaky bucket is extraordinarily expensive, since we all know it costs much more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

On the flip side, the more customers we can keep, the more revenue we generate both from them and from their referrals. Customer retention is also a great complement to traditional CX measurements like Net Promoter Score because while the latter tells us what the customer says, the former tracks what they actually do.
 
QUESTION: To quote Marilyn Suttle (@marilynsuttle on Twitter), "The secret to providing exemplary customer service is making it the priority and part of every employee’s job description." Sounds easy on paper, but difficult in execution. How do you execute this?
DAN GINGISS: I’d probably substitute “customer experience” here for “customer service” only because service is a tactical component of CX that not everyone is qualified to provide. But every employee should look at themselves as contributing to the customer experience in some way, and therefore looking for ways to improve that experience by making it simpler, faster, or more convenient. For example, someone in the billing department may never actually talk to a customer, but they should still be looking for ways to make payments easier. After all, why would we want to stand in the way of a customer paying us?!

TWEET THIS: Every employee should look at themselves as contributing to the customer experience in some way. ~@dgingiss #EmployeeExperience #CX #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: What's your favorite customer experience story?
DAN GINGISS: Well, I make a living as a customer experience storyteller so it’s hard to pick just one favorite! But I’ll choose one from my new book, The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences that Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share:
 
If you’re like me and travel a lot for work, that means you also stay in a lot of hotels. There’s a dirty little secret about frequent travelers that most of us don’t want to admit: Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night with absolutely no idea where we are.

“Am I in my bedroom? No, it’s a hotel, but wait...which hotel is it again? Where is the bathroom? And why is it so dark?”

Even if you don’t travel frequently, waking up at night in a strange place can be quite disorienting.

At one hotel I stayed at (naturally, I can’t remember which one), I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As soon as my feet hit the floor, a motion-activated light turned on from the bottom of the nightstand. It lit the path to the bathroom! Brilliant.

Now, being the customer experience guy that I am, I got down on my hands and knees and examined the light. It surprised me to find that it was a small stick-on light that probably costs fifty cents at Home Depot. Clearly it was not expensive, but it completely changed the experience of getting up in the middle of the night in a dark hotel. That counts as extraordinary in my book. (Literally.)


My gratitude to Dan for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring customer experience marketing insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Impact of Sustainability on Brand Equity

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting inspiring marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is John Friedman, a corporate responsibility and communications expert based in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. We met on a TweetChat on Twitter, #WFFchat, and recently had a discussion about John's areas of expertise. Highlights follow a brief introduction.

John Friedman is an award-winning communications professional and recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience as both an external and internal corporate responsibility leader, helping companies by integrating their environmental, social, and economic aspirations into their cultures and business practices. Connect and follow on Twitter (@johnfriedman), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnfriedman), and on Triple Pundit at https://www.triplepundit.com/author/john-friedman/1321.

QUESTION: On Twitter, you describe yourself as "global #ESG #sustainability #CSR - helping companies live their values and engage." Can you please explain?


JOHN FRIEDMAN: The first part is more of the traditional ‘job description,’ but the second half gets to the concept ‘what you make is not what you do.’ By focusing on how what I do is beneficial to companies or people, it offers a value proposition. It is a short way of saying that I not only implement programs that reflect an organization’s values, but I also help them authentically communicate with, and listen to, their stakeholders.

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, “Managing Sustainability: First Steps to First Class." Can you provide a 64,000-foot view of the book's highlights? (Check out the book here: https://www.businessexpertpress.com/books/managing-sustainability-first-steps-to-first-class/)

JOHN FRIEDMAN: I have been working in sustainability or corporate responsibility for more than two decades now. When I was asked to put together this book, I based it on my writings but also my lectures and college and university business schools – trying to distill the evolution of the profession, the lessons learned and where I see the profession going in the next decade or more. What’s been gratifying, both when I speak to people, but also the reaction to the book, is how it seems to be resonating with the next generation of business leaders.

QUESTION: Where do you see sustainability going?

JOHN FRIEDMAN: With some notable exceptions, many companies are still following the outdated business model that the only purpose of business is to maximize profits and shareholder value without recognizing that beyond simply providing goods or services, businesses maximize value by empowering and engaging employees, maintaining positive relationships with customers, communities and suppliers, etc. Those relationships are maximized by effective sustainability programs that focus on protecting the environment, advancing social justice and sound governance.

TWEET THIS: Businesses maximize value by maintaining positive relationships with customers, communities, and suppliers. ~@JohnFriedman #CSR #ESG #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog 


QUESTION: I worked in France, so I was intrigued by one of your past job experiences as Director of Corporate Responsibility Communications for Sodexo Group in Paris, France. What were some of the professional challenges you encountered working in Europe, specifically Paris and France, and for an international brand?

JOHN FRIEDMAN: Working in France, and Paris, is doubtless a highlight of my career. While I did my best to improve my French language skills, learning the culture was even more important. The way that things are done, how decisions are made, the process sometimes being as important – or more important – than the outcome. I did my best to spend longer periods of time in Paris, rather than short, transactional trips, and used the weekends and evenings to immerse myself in the culture. But the biggest challenge for me was the fact that I was the only remote employee on my team (mostly in the US) and that meant I missed a lot of the informal interactions and conversations.

However, being a part-time resident, rather than a tourist, gave me the opportunity to experience Paris the place, not just the destination. I was lucky enough to find some of the places the locals go, from restaurants, parks, music halls, and art installations. And I really got to know some people quite well, who remain friends to this day.

QUESTION: What is some "dating advice" that you'd offer for brands that want to be loved?

JOHN FRIEDMAN: Here is my advice:
(1) Be yourself and remain true to your values. Don’t try to be something you’re not, in order to impress people. It won’t work.
(2) Recognize that you cannot get everyone to love you all the time. Focus on those stakeholders that are really stakeholders – that is, those who have a stake in your success. That always has to start with your employees, and what matters to them. After all, they are the ones who carry your brand reputation every time they interact with a customer, supplier, member of the community, you name it.
(3) Do not try too hard. Just like personal relationships, professional relationships can suffer from desperation.
(4) Money can’t buy love, or respect. You cannot donate your way into peoples’ hearts. You have to run the business in a manner that is attractive to people.
(5) And lastly, practice self-love. Know what values make your organization special and focus on instilling those values throughout the organization, from HR to sales to procurement and management. Being comfortable in your own skin is the most attractive trait of all.

QUESTION: What are your favorite brands?

JOHN FRIEDMAN: I don’t really have “favorite brands” per se. And I get tired of hearing the same names - Unilever, Patagonia - all the time. There are thousands of organizations that do great work and are never (or rarely) mentioned. For example, I have been working with one company, InstallNET, that helps companies reconfigure offices and keeps old furniture and equipment out of landfills whether through donations to local charities or reselling or other reuse. I like them because it’s their entire business model, not something they offer “on the side.” That’s true integrated sustainability.

My thanks to John for appearing here on my Blog and for sharing his thoughts about sustainability and its impact on brand equity.

Image Credit: WordSwag.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Leadership Tips to Help Your Team Succeed

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Brian Smith from Ontario, Canada. We recently discussed leadership, and highlights follow Brian's bio.

Management Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Published Author Brian Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur and former member of the Faculty and College Professor at Algonquin College’s School of Business having taught skills for success, management, and entrepreneurship. With a strong background in working with and leading others as General Manager of a major retailer, Brian understands the challenges facing organizations today.  

Brian has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to follow on Twitter and has been featured on iHeart Radio, WCKG Radio Chicago, Blog Talk Radio and Rebelpreneur Radio. His Client list includes York University, City of Ottawa, Canadian Tire Corporation, Peel Regional Police, Canada Border Services Agency, PMI Chapters in Edmonton, Ottawa, New York City and New Jersey and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Follow on Twitter @briansmithpld, and visit Brian online at https://briansmithpld.com.

Question: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
BRIAN SMITH: There has been a significant shift in how leaders communicate and interact with their management teams, employees, suppliers, and clients. There has also been a far greater reliance on technology as they move away from the traditional office environment to a stay-at-home workforce. The old business model no longer applies. Leaders need to re-tool and re-educate to stay in business.  

Question: What traits define a good leader?
BRIAN SMITH: I believe there are four. To become a good leader and an even greater leader, leaders need to connect with others to build those all important relationships, communicate in a way that everyone understands, educate their people on what they need to know to move the organization forward, and delegate effectively. My latest book, A 4 Step Guide to Developing 21st Century Leaders, teaches leaders how.

Question: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a fancy leadership title, make a difference in the workplace?
BRIAN SMITH: You don’t need a title to lead. You need to set an example for others to follow. You need to demonstrate what a good team player does. You need to show up every day prepared to do whatever you need to accomplish your task. You need to learn how to work with others even if you don’t like them. That’s what leaders do.

TWEET THIS: You don’t need a title to lead. You need to set an example for others to follow. -@briansmithpld #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

 
Question: How can a President/CEO become an organization’s number one brand ambassador?
BRIAN SMITH: Perception is reality. It is whatever the other person thinks it is. You need to look like, act like, and talk like a leader. The power of social media cannot be overlooked. You are the brand. Everything you do and say has consequences.

Question: How can a President/CEO create a culture that inspires its employees?

BRIAN SMITH: Most people don’t want to lead, but everyone decides what kind of leader they would follow. Culture is top-down, never bottom-up. Leaders need to be patient, open-minded, flexible, empathetic, and trustworthy. Leaders need to create an environment where it is OK to fail. And when others fail, use that as a teaching opportunity, not an opportunity to lay blame.

TWEET THIS: Leaders need to create an environment where it is OK to fail. -@briansmithpld #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog


Question: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
BRIAN SMITH: Your job as a leader is to give others the tools they’ll need to succeed. Your job is to offer support and encouragement. Your job is to be their biggest cheerleader and let them know you have their back.

TWEET THIS: Your job as a leader is to give others the tools they’ll need to succeed. -@briansmithpld #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog


My gratitude to Brian for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights.


Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Tips to Improve Your Brand's Employee Experience

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Russel Lolacher from Canada. We recently discussed employee experiences and employer branding, and highlights follow Dan’s bio.

Russel Lolacher is an international speaker, podcaster and advocate on customer and employee experiences, and social media, and is based in British Columbia. He’s helped private and government organizations grow their relationships to improve their brand reputation and their bottom line. Sharing his thoughts through his blog Relationships at Work, Russel has been internationally recognized as a top customer service expert by Microsoft and Hootsuite and in Forbes and Huffington Post. He was recently named a Top 25 Thought Leader in 2021 by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI). Read his Blog at www.relationshipsatwork.ca; follow on Twitter at @RussLol; follow on Instagram at @RelationshipsAtWork; and visit his Relationships at Work Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/113983628622544.

QUESTION: The employee onboarding process starts the moment a position is advertised. How can employers understand that having an exit strategy should be part of the onboarding process, and that employer branding is important?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: First impressions and last impressions are extremely important, and need to be treated as such. Even though an advertised position should be seen as a first step in the onboarding process, it’s also that impression from your branding that’s determining if a prospective employee wants to even work for you. For example, if an organization still hasn’t figured out the “social” part of social media when interacting with its customers, how do you think a future employee will perceive the organization? Spoiler: “If they can’t figure out Twitter, what else do they suck at?” What story is your brand telling? As for including an exit strategy into onboarding, with anything there is a beginning, middle, and an end. Careers are no different.

The idea that once you’re hired, you are with an organization forever is archaic. Each employee has their own hopes, goals, and dreams for their career, and every organization needs to understand their role in that, including from onboarding to exiting.

How can you set up this individual for success, to contribute to the health and success of your company while they work there and provide an amazing platform for them to grow (either in your organization, another, or in retirement)? Know that employees will speak about your organization to others - including your support of them - to future customers and future employees. They are some of your best brand ambassadors. All you have to do is demonstrate you have a plan for them, right from the beginning.   

QUESTION: How can organizations measure employee experience success?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: A simple question with not an easy answer. Employee experience is as much, if not more so, qualitative than quantitative.

First, the organization needs to define success. It’s hard to measure against something if you have no idea what it looks like and feels like. What is the organization’s model for employee experience success? How do you know you’ve reached it?

Second, an organization needs to demonstrate that the employee experience is a priority. Effort, measurement, and follow up are imperative to success and can’t be done off the side of someone’s desk.  

Lastly, once success is defined and resources are committed, you can effectively look at a variety of tactics. Note: not one tactic fits all, nor should only one be considered enough. 

Here are a few ideas to incorporate:

  • Employee Promoter Score: same approach as NPS (Net Promoter Score) but would involve twisting the question to be more culture focused. “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague as a place to work?” Rate with a scale of 1-10.
  • Seasonal Temperature Checks: use a team of internal champions to routinely check in candidly with random staff on their employee experience, and if the organization is meeting their needs.
  • Professional Development check in: growth and learning are a good sign of employee happiness and motivation. Set up a system to determine how employees are moving themselves forward in their development (sorry, mandatory training doesn’t count).


QUESTION: On a recent post on your Blog, you wrote about "7 Employee Engagement Superpowers for More Than Mere Mortals." Can you elaborate on this excellent post?

(Post referenced: https://www.russellolacher.com/7-employee-engagement-superpowers-for-more-than-mere-mortals/)

RUSSEL LOLACHER: Glad you enjoyed my Blog. When it comes to employee engagement, many organizations think they’re doing enough, while far too many studies show they aren’t. That’s an important gap. So, as a supervisor, manager, leader, coworker, employee, etc., it’s important we take responsibility and make the effort to improve that experience for others.

I’m now thinking of the famous Spider-man line, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” And it’s not far off. As a member of an organization, a part of a corporate culture, you have the power and responsibility to engage others...and hopefully, in the process, engage yourself. So, as I write in the post, don’t focus on the normal when you can be “super” by being self aware, show your active listening or demonstrate patience. If you won’t, who will? Step up, up and away. (See what I did there?)

TWEET THIS: As a part of a corporate culture, you have the power and responsibility to engage others. ~@RussLOL #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that orgs want employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Some orgs use different titles, such as, Chief Personnel Officer, Chief Talent Officer, etc. What are your thoughts?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: If we look at the traditional titles of the C-Suite, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, CEO...you’re telling your organization that you prioritize these functional areas (finances, operations, information, marketing and the executive respectfully). And you can go further to other titles that highlight risk, investments, and compliance. Words matter. So why not commit to standing up for employees? I understand the need for a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), but your most important customer is your employees. A CCO title without a EEO communicates that money is more important than staff.

Though every member of an organization has a role in the employee experience (same as for the customer experience), creating and truly empowering a position of authority to guide and nurture culture is important to bridge the gap between how well the organization thinks it’s doing versus its reality.

QUESTION: There is a relatively new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations? Or is this just marketing buzz?

(Here's the article: https://www.fastcompany.com/40582655/employers-your-idea-about-employee-happiness-is-all-wrong)

RUSSEL LOLACHER: The role of CHO is crap. As referenced in the Fast Company article, the role seems far more about reinforcing the C-Suite/organization’s definition of “happy” rather than understanding its employees and their definitions. Happiness is personal. What fills my cup is not the same for another. I think the intention of a CHO is good (who doesn’t want to be happy?) because it’s putting resources into an employee advocate, but in this case the execution and focus is horrible. It feels like an attempt to look cute to customers/investors while highlighting internally that they are missing the mark in supporting and understanding the employee experience. Organizations should be more interested in putting in the work to understand and support their employees, rather than look for opportunities to put out a fun news release.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
RUSSEL LOLACHER: The problem with the role of presidents and CEOs is most people don’t know what they do or understand their value to the organization/industry/brand. That’s a problem externally and internally.

To become the number one brand ambassador for an organization, this role first needs to be defined in words, communicated (over and over), and backed up with action. This is a communications role, first and foremost, internally and externally to customers, employees, the board, stakeholders...everyone.

This position is the face and passion personified for the organization, demonstrating physical representation of the organization’s vision to inspire, connect, and motivate. (Which further cements that you better have a good vision, or your “brand ambassador” role won’t be as effective as you’d like.)

So what they can do is:

  • Define an amazing vision statement.
  • Become that vision statement.
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate (and you better be a good communicator!).
  • Be open to candid feedback from everyone, listen to it, and stand firm to your vision by responding to it. Every opportunity.


My gratitude to Russel for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring employee experience and employer branding insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Customer Service Secret: Step Up!

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Betsy Westhafer from Ohio. We recently discussed customer service, experience, and engagement, and highlights follow Betsy’s bio.

Betsy Westhafer is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Congruity Group based in Ohio. As the leader of Congruity, Betsy ensures that all clients achieve and exceed the predetermined metrics for success from their customer engagement initiatives. Having delivered Executive-level Customer Advisory Boards in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the US, Betsy has the knowledge, experience, and expertise to masterfully execute these powerful engagements. She is the co-host of the popular podcast, “REALLY Know Your Customer,” and co-authored the #1 Best Selling book, “ProphetAbility – The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail, or Bounce Back.” Visit her website at www.thecongruitygroup.com and connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/betsywesthafer/ and on Twitter at @BetsyWesthafer.

QUESTION: Your company's website states that, "Companies that successfully build and execute an executive-level Customer Advisory Board have a major competitive advantage over those who would rather just guess what the market wants and needs, and then keep their fingers crossed that they guessed right." Can you explain?
BETSY WESTHAFER: So many times, companies will build products or services in a bubble, throw it out to the market, and hope like crazy that it works. This is an extremely dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive approach.

A better solution is to work with your customers as you are innovating your new products and services so that you have the market intelligence throughout the entire process. And to take it a step further, by keeping your customers engaged via a Customer Advisory Board, you can continue the relationship, gain their loyalty and advocacy, and ensure a sustainable future for your products and your company.

TWEET THIS: Work with your customers as you are innovating your new products and services. ~@BetsyWesthafer #CX #brandexperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?
BETSY WESTHAFER: One of my favorite stories through Covid has been about a defense contractor who builds products for our service men and women on the front lines. When visiting his favorite coffee spot at the start of Covid, the CEO of Battle Sight Technologies discovered that the management was panicking because they couldn’t secure any hand sanitizer for employees and guests.

Battle Sight found out that this was a common problem, and subsequently turned their production line from their traditional products to filling bottles of hand sanitizer for small businesses, military units, police and fire departments, hospitals, and other essential businesses in the Dayton, Ohio region. Battle Sight donated a significant amount of sanitizer.

I love this story of rising to the challenge of the day, giving back to the community, and creatively solving a problem not just for customers but for others who they could serve.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite customer service story?
BETSY WESTHAFER: When the manager of a Virginia retirement community needed help preparing and delivering meals to the 350 residents in isolation, he reached out to the nearby College of William and Mary. Almost instantly, numerous cooks, bakers and servers stepped up to prepare meals and bring them to grateful residents in addition to their normal workload. Residents were overjoyed to see happy faces and receive fresh meals.

My heart aches when I think about the people who were so isolated during the pandemic. I love the idea of the residents getting to see happy faces and having good, fresh meals.

(Article referenced:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherelliott/2020/03/24/heroes-of-the-pandemic-these-customer-service-stars-are-offering-coronavirus-help/?sh=3fb05ef5216e)

QUESTION: If you could be the Chief Customer Officer for any brand, which would it be, and why?
BETSY WESTHAFER: My apologies in advance if this sounds self-serving, but I LOVE playing the role of Chief Customer Officer at The Congruity Group. I have the privilege of working with companies all day every day who are 100% focused on their customers. They understand the inherent business value of customer engagement at the highest levels of the organization, and are committed to putting time, energy, and resources toward ensuring that their customers are well-served. Getting to work with people who are passionate about customers is the best job in the world.

QUESTION: According to Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Have you ever had an experience that began horribly and ended by your becoming a happy advocate for the brand?
BETSY WESTHAFER: When we build Customer Advisory Boards, one of the things we tell our clients up front is that we don’t want a board consisting entirely of raving fans because you will not learn what you need to learn.

Engaging with unhappy customers is one of the best ways to:

  • Build trusting relationships.
  • Show your commitment to delivering on your promises.
  • Learn about issues you may not be aware of.
  • Find solutions.
  • Retain and expand revenue.
  • Create customer advocates.

While it’s important to not let one unhappy customer drive your business decisions, it IS important to talk to enough of your less-than-satisfied customers to find trends so that you can address them accordingly.


My gratitude to Betsy for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring customer experience marketing insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Leadership Is Not About the "I" - It's About the "WE"

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Suzi McAlpine from New Zealand. We recently discussed leadership, and highlights follow Suzi’s bio.

Suzi McAlpine is an executive coach, international speaker, and author of the bestselling book, Beyond Burnout, and award winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She is a self-confessed "leadership geek" and is passionate about igniting better leadership in leaders and organizations. She lives in Nelson, New Zealand. Visit her website at www.suzimcalpine.com and connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzimcalpine/; Twitter at @suzimcalpine; Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theleadersdigest; and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/suzimcalpine/.

QUESTION: You recently wrote a book about burnout. What did you learn while writing the book that surprised you?
SUZI MCALPINE: What a great question! What surprised me (and somewhat annoyed me at first) is that we’re treating burnout like it’s an individual problem, when it is, in fact, an organizational problem.

This is a bit like treating the sick fish, when it’s the water that’s contaminated. The internet is awash with articles for the burnt out – how to avoid it, what to do when you experience it and how to recover from it.

But the research tells us unequivocally that the causes of burnout are rooted in the leadership practices, the organizational ecosystem, and even the culture of an organization. So that’s one of the reasons I focus on first and foremost on what leaders and organizations can do (as well as individuals) to stamp it out - in my book, Beyond Burnout: How to spot it, stop it and stamp it out (check it out here: https://suzimcalpine.com/beyond-burnout/).

QUESTION: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference in the workplace?

SUZI MCALPINE: Just because you have a title of manager, doesn’t mean you are a leader. Conversely, you don’t need a title or a formal leadership position to demonstrate leadership. Some of the best acts of leadership I have ever seen have come from individual contributors in organizations.

One way to make a difference in the workplace is to start by getting clear on your leadership values – and then work, live and lead by them every day. Small acts, done often, which are in line with your values, shows leadership. And it will make a bigger positive difference to those around you – and to yourself – than you think. I wrote a blog on how to define and lead by your values for my leadership blog The Leader’s Digest.

(Check out the post that Suzi referenced:
https://suzimcalpine.com/i-used-to-think-values-were-bull-heres-why-ive-changed-my-mind/)

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
SUZI MCALPINE: Leadership starts with leading yourself, before you can lead others. That’s especially important for CEO’s. Modelling what you want to see in those you are leading is one of the most powerful ways to influence others. Leaders often underestimate the shadow they cast – their whisper often comes across as a shout. So I would suggest to a CEO that you ensure you are looking in the mirror first. Are your behaviors, actions, and words in line with the brand and values you are espousing for the organization? What can you do to ensure that you are moving closer, each day, to living and leading by these.

TWEET THIS: Leadership starts with leading yourself, before you can lead others. ~@suzimcalpine #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog


QUESTION: There is a relatively new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations?


(Here's the article about the CHO: https://www.fastcompany.com/40582655/employers-your-idea-about-employee-happiness-is-all-wrong)

SUZI MCALPINE: I’m always a little nervous about catchy titles or slogans. But I like some of what the article you mention espouses. So for me, it’s less about whether an organization has a Chief Happiness Officer or not. And more about what the leadership team and CEO of an organization believe in and put into practice around this concept. What are the strategies and practices of an organization in these areas? What are you doing to measure and hold yourselves and the organization to account on these things? Are your leadership practices throughout the organization reflecting these priorities?

Having said that, having this sort of role on an executive team is a pretty important symbol of how important it is. So it could be a start for some organizations. Just don’t let it be that alone.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
SUZI MCALPINE: I love this quote. To me, this means that leadership is not about the “I,” its about the “we.” Leadership is all about enabling others to reach their full potential at work – for them, their organization and even to help achieve a wider vision and purpose. Sometimes, that’s about removing the pebbles in people’s shoes. Sometimes, its about being their challenging cheerleader. At other times, it’s about influencing up and going to bat for your team. Many times, its simply about listening deeply to another person and being fully present. It’s almost always more about EQ than IQ.

Post referenced in Suzi's final response:
Why Every Leader Needs a Challenging Cheerleader:
https://suzimcalpine.com/why-every-leader-needs-a-challenging-cheerleader/

Further reading on this topic referenced in Suzi's final response:
EQ vs IQ - Why it matters what you measure
https://www.6seconds.org/2020/07/26/iq-vs-eq-why-it-matters-what-we-measure/

Emotional intelligence is more than a buzzword—it’s a requirement for a return to life
https://www.fastcompany.com/90637028/emotional-intelligence-is-more-than-a-buzzword-its-a-requirement-for-a-return-to-life


TWEET THIS: Leadership is all about enabling others to reach their full potential. ~@suzimcalpine #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog


My gratitude to Suzi for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership and workplace insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.