Merge's Blog

Here’s how to destroy customer loyalty in a matter of minutes (aka lack of empathy)

I was recently reminded, first-hand, of how customer loyalty can be lost through a few ill-chosen words.  Let me explain.

Lack of empathyA couple of months ago, my elderly father was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital due to some health complications.  The hospital stay was longer than anyone had anticipated, and in the stress and anxiety related to this medical emergency, he missed making his payment on his ScotiaBank Visa credit card.  Now he’s been a ScotiaBank customer for at least thirty years and has a track record of not only paying all his bills on time, but also carrying a zero balance.  By the time we realized the oversight, he had been charged approximately $12 in finance charges.  As a senior with limited income, this distressed him greatly, so I promised to call the credit card company to see if they would, as a gesture of goodwill for his ongoing customer loyalty, reverse the charge.

My initial conversation with the customer service rep got nowhere.  Even though I explained why my father could not come to the telephone, the Visa rep, citing privacy laws, refused to discuss the situation with me because I was not the holder of record on the credit card.  Fair enough.  However, he suggested that I contact my father’s bank manager who would be able to assist.  So I did.

The real surprise was the conversation with the branch manager …

And promptly discovered a very surprising (and disappointing) approach to treating a long-term loyal customer.  Continue reading

Leadership literacy is essential; ignorance is unacceptable

leadership literacyLeaders have a responsibility to be literate.  And by the word “literate”, I mean knowledgeable.  Now that information is ubiquitous, available through our fingertips at the closest keyboard, twenty-four seven, there is no longer any reason to claim that you don’t know.  Ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse.  But real leadership literacy also requires critical thinking.  It is possible to tell the difference between genuine data and pseudo-science; between real facts and false news.  It requires however that you read beyond the headlines and evaluate the sources and the author.  It is possible to appreciate and comprehend the people you work with.  But that means that you need to make the effort and take the time to get to know them.  Leadership literacy is not only essential, it is completely achievable.

5 Rules of 21st Century Leadership Literacy

With this cautionary counsel in mind, here are five rules of 21st century leadership literacy that every leader should follow: Continue reading

Successful business relationships require that you invest before you withdraw

I continue to be astounded at how many people simply don’t understand what it takes to build solid thriving business relationships that stand the test of time.  This was emphasized to me, yet again, because of something that happened a few weeks ago.

business relationshipsbusiness relationshipsNow that we have opened our new west coast office, I find myself attending a lot more business networking events in Victoria and Vancouver than I have in the past.  At one of these well-attended events, I was walking back to my vehicle at the end of the evening, when I happened to find myself next to a woman who was also leaving the same event.  I had not had an opportunity to meet her earlier in the evening, so as we made the three-minute walk to the parking lot, we shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other.  As we parted ways beneath a street light, she asked for my business card, suggesting that we should meet again over a cup of coffee to get to know one another.  I readily agreed, always open to building relationships in my professional circles.  I took her business card as well, intending to connect with her the next time I was in town.

Our next contact was not what I expected

One week later, I received an email from her.  But it didn’t contain the expected invitation to coffee.  Continue reading

Customer Service Leadership Summit – advance registration deadline is midnight Wednesday

Customer Service Leadership SummitIf you’re a regular reader of the blog, or if you receive my monthly Mega Minutes, then you already know how excited I am about sharing the stage with three exceptional speakers at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary AB on November 15.  Not just these three amazing thought-leaders, but three industry experts will also be on stage, each of whom know exactly what they’re talking about and willing to share their extensive knowledge with you!  Why make the most common mistakes when you can learn how to avoid them from people who are incredibly successful at what they do?  The advance registration deadline is just two days away … just until midnight on Wednesday November 8.  If you act before then, you’ll save 30% off the standard rate.  On Thursday, the price will go up.  We only have a few seats left, so do it now!

Still not sure whether you should attend? Get a sample of what you can expect

If you’ve been waffling on whether or not you should attend, following are four videos that give you just a small taste of what you can expect.  Michael Kerr, Tina Varughese, and Jeff Mowatt are not just my professional colleagues who are renowned experts in their individual areas, but they are also professional speakers who know how to engage and entertain a business audience while sharing relevant ideas

Michael Kerr – Best-selling author

Tina Varughese – Cross-cultural communication expert

Jeff Mowatt – Customer service strategist

And … yours truly

You are a role model for workplace change that you’re leading … so walk the talk!

I started this video tip series on how leaders can successfully implement workplace change back in June, and today is instalment #15, which will be my final piece of advice in this series.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them and found them of value.  If you want to see all of them in one place, you can find them in the Video section of our website (under the Tools tab).  Here is a direct link: http://www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/tools/videos/

My final tip in this series for leaders who are managing workplace change initiatives: recognize that you set the tone.

Recognize that you set the tone

As a leader, by virtue of your position and title in your organization, you are a role model.  Which means that you need to understand that you play a key role in the success of your workplace change initiative.  Your behaviour and actions will set the tone for how your employees will behave and act; it will establish the culture change that you are seeking for your department or your organization.  Truth be told, you cannot expect your employees to change if you’re not willing demonstrate that you’re willing to make changes yourself.   So it is essential that you walk the talk.

Walk the talk

Do as you say.  Continue reading

Last chance for high-quality cost-effective leadership training in the Edmonton area

Earlier this fallHigh quality cost effective leadership training, I told you that we were beginning our third exciting year of partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to deliver a series of “open enrollment” full-day leadership training programs in Edmonton and Calgary. Well, the last two events for Edmonton are coming up at the end of the month! If you live in or near Edmonton AB, don’t miss this opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost (which includes continental breakfast and lunch!), and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors.

Last chance if you live in the Edmonton area!

These are the last two events in this series scheduled for Edmonton, so if you want in, the time is now!

Open-enrollment means “open to the public”

Because these are open-enrollment courses, you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.   Which is a great advantage if you happen to work in a smaller organization that doesn’t normally have the budget to bring in onsite leadership training programs.   Do not miss out on this cost-effective opportunity to get the leadership skill development you need! Click on any program link above for further information or to register directly at the CPA Alberta site. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register, a very quick and easy process.

And please, let me know if you’re planning on joining me for any of these upcoming events. That way I know to look forward to seeing you there!

Business global communication and the importance of “small talk”

tinav_01My professional colleague, friend and global communication expert, Tina Varughese last gave us a guest post earlier this summer offering cross-cultural communication tips for women.  So I’m thrilled that I persuaded her to make a repeat appearance on the blog today.  In her post below, Tina explores the value of “small talk” and its importance in the world of business global communication.

P.S. I am also very excited to tell you that I will be sharing the platform with Tina (and two other eloquent thought-leaders) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit next month on November 15.  I’ll give you more information about the Summit at the end of this post, but first, here is Tina’s contribution.

How important is “small talk” in business global communication?

According to Andy Molinsky, author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process, effectiveness can be limited if global dexterity is not adopted.  Yet, global dexterity can be a challenging skill to acquire – and can take some time and flexibility.  Engaging in ‘small talk’ can feel inauthentic if it’s not part of your cultural norm. Managers can feel frustrated and angry when needing to conform to cultural norms that conflict with their own cultural beliefs and values.

Even when interviewing for a new position, the human resources advisor will often ask if you found the building without issue. He may even talk a little about the crazy snowfall we had yesterday – or even the Calgary Flames’ loss. This part of the ‘interview’ will last about sixty seconds … or even more … depending on how necessary it is. Small talk is, essentially, benign conversation that puts both parties at ease and is essential to Canadian business and global communication. Does ‘small talk’ differ around the world? Absolutely! How important is it? Depending on where you are, it can make or break global business negotiations, assist in creating long-lasting relationships, or potentially contribute to losing millions in revenue. Continue reading

Is workplace loyalty dead in the age of the millennial?

As workplace demographics shift, with the boomer and the generation-Xer increasingly leaving the work force and the millennial entering, the common belief is that employees are no longer loyal to their employers. Young people are regularly maligned for being self-absorbed and entitled; not willing to “pay their dues”; and impatient to get the promotions and compensation they feel they deserve. As a result, the unfortunate, widely held sentiment is they cannot be counted on to stick around for the long haul, nor ever be loyal to a company.  But this point of view is flawed.  And my latest column in The Globe & Mail‘s weekend Management series focuses on why.

millennial

The reality is that workplace loyalty is not dead.  However, “loyalty” has a different meaning than it might have had 20 or even 10 years ago.  You can read Is workplace loyalty dead in the age of the millennial? here.  In this column, I offer three proven ideas to successfully attract and keep employees in this new age of loyalty.

As always, I’d love to hear your point of view.  What has been your experience?  And please, pass the link on to others in your departments and organizations who may find it of interest.  When we all dialogue about this subject, we are on our way to finding sustainable and effective solutions.  Please comment directly at The Globe’s site, or post your response right here on the blog.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, you can read a pdf version at this link.

Workplace change will shift priorities, so address it as a team

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a video blog about how leaders can successfully support and implement workplace change.  Three weeks ago, to be exact (Use peer pressure as a positive force in change management).  But this series has been so popular that I’m not done yet.  In addition to today, I’ll do at least one more tip before I finish up this series on effective strategies for leaders who are spearheading workplace change.  Today’s tip: Re-prioritize as a team.

Re-prioritize as a team

When workplace change occurs, by necessity, priorities will shift as well.  If you’re putting in new or different procedures or processes, then recognize that these require effort and time, and your staff members simply cannot do everything the group did before.  Involve your team in determining what can drop off the list, even if it is just temporarily.  Ask your team, as a group, to rank order all their current work deliverables and focus on those that they and you consider mission-critical.  Non-essential work can them be prioritized separately based on its relative importance and your available resources.

Do not fall into the trap of going it alone

It’s important that you do this re-prioritization as a group, because that’s how you’ll achieve buy-in to the outcomes.  You will recall that Strategy #1 was to involve your employees early on in the change process.  This is simply a continuation of that philosophy.  Continue reading

Customer Service Leadership Summit – early bird rates only until Wednesday!

I am thrilled to be sharing the mainstage platform with three exceptional thought-leaders at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary on November 15.  If you receive my regular monthly Mega Minute, then you already know about this premier event, already tracking to be a sellout.

Customer Service Leadership Summit

Act now for early bird pricing!

I will be joining my professional colleagues – customer service strategist Jeff Mowatt, cross-cultural communication expert Tina Varughese, and best-selling author Mike Kerr – to share smart practices and fresh ideas to not just attract new customers, but also turn current customers into raving fans.  Plus, there will be a bonus super-session titled “Selling the Invisible: Growing your business when your ‘product’ is actually a service”, presented by a panel of industry experts, people just like you who’ve figured this out.

If this is something you know you need, then you must act now to take advantage of early bird pricing.  If you want to save 40% off standard rates, you have to act before midnight this Wednesday October 18.  On Thursday you’ll be paying more!  More details and online registration is on the Customer Service Leadership Summit website. Continue reading