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Category Archives: Communication Tools

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

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

Cross-cultural communication tips for women

cross-cultural communication expert Tina VarugheseTina Varughese is not only an expert on workplace diversity and cross-cultural communication, she’s also my professional colleague and my friend. I am also thrilled that I will be sharing the platform with her later this year at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary.  Tina’s opening keynote at this prestigious event is titled “50 Shades of Beige – Successful sales and service to all cultures.”  Yeah, I know, the irreverent title should give you some inkling as to how thought-provoking and hilarious she is going to be.  Anyway, more about the Customer Service Leadership Summit at the end of this post.  To the business at hand, I asked Tina to guest on the blog today, and she brought a perspective that I don’t often cover on the blog – that of women in international business.  True, I often write about cross-cultural communication and differences, but Tina’s post today focuses on an even tighter subset – women and cross-cultural communication.

The Perception of Women in International Business

As a woman in business, you may need to be prepared for culture-specific expectations and practices in business situations. Understanding cross-cultural differences and having an understanding of cross-cultural communication will definitely further career goals.  Building close business relationships with people from other cultures might often be more difficult than it is for male colleagues.  There are ways to build these relationships and prove yourself as a trustworthy and respected professional that will often need to differ from how males accomplish this.  Continue reading

Dealing with narcissists at work

The July/August issue of CPA Magazine features a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how to function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  Yours truly was honoured to be interviewed as an expert source.  Not just an expert source though as I come by some of this knowledge first-hand.  Back in the 1990’s, I (barely) survived an egomaniacal boss and I live to tell the tale!

narcissists and egomaniacs
Narcissism isn’t just confined to the political arena

In recent months, the popular press has been all abuzz about a certain narcissist (no name needed) in international politics.  But unfortunately, Continue reading

Long-distance leadership tip #8: don’t forget about career planning for remote employees

Back in mid-April, I started a series of video tips on long-distance leadership, giving you one each week.  Last week’s strategy was to remember to praise your staff regularly.  I am planning a new series of tips to start shortly, so this week’s tip will be the final one (at least for now) in this sequence. Today’s idea: don’t forget about career planning for your remote employees.

Career planning is just as important for remote employees as it is for those in the office

When you have staff that work from a distance, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking – “why mess with things if they’re going well?”  But just like the people who are down the hall from you, your off-site employees have goals and aspirations.  And exceptional long-distance leadership means that you have to help them make progress on their goals for growth and advancement.  Even it means that you’ll have to lose them to elsewhere in your organization. Continue reading

If you have off-site employees, set standards for responding to email and voice mail

Last week’s tip for being a more effective leader if some or all of your direct reports are off-site employees was to establish common working hours for at least a fraction of the day.  In our continuing series, today’s idea is to set standards for responding to voice mail and email.

Set standards for response times to voice mail and email

One of the most common complaints voiced by off-site employees is that they feel like communication is more difficult as they lose touch with their peers.  When you’re working virtually, maintaining connections is not as easy as just getting up and walking down the hall to confer with your colleagues.  Which means that there is a much greater reliance on the telephone and on email.  But there’s nothing worse to employees than when they leave a voice mail or send an email to someone in the department which then gets sucked up into the giant cyberspace abyss, never to be heard from again.  Continue reading

Have off-site employees? Establish common work hours for at least a fraction of the day

In today’s blog post, I’m back once again with another tip on how to work more effectively as a leader of off-site employees.  Last week’s advice was to be thoughtful about the communication medium you use.  This week’s tip is to establish common work hours for at least a fraction of the day.

Establish a common core time when all staff are available to each other

Think about establishing common work hours for at least a fraction of the day.  Granted, one of the great benefits for off-site employees is that they can work flexible schedules, but if you don’t establish at least a common core when everyone can be sure to reach one another, then collaboration can become very difficult. Continue reading

Communicating with your remote employees – be thoughtful about the medium

In our continuing series on how best to be an exceptional leader of remote employees, last week I blogged about the importance of getting to know them personally.  Today’s tip: be thoughtful about the communication medium you use.

Think about the medium!

Depending on what you are trying to achieve, certain types of communication work better than others.  As a general rule, the more direct and uncomplicated the situation, the written word can be more effective.  And the more complex and thorny the situation, a verbal conversation becomes a necessity. Continue reading

Build stronger relationships with your remote employees by learning more about them personally

For the last two weeks, I’ve been posting about strategies to work more effectively with your remote employees.  The ideas so far: set office hours and schedule weekly one-on-ones.  Today’s tip sounds fairly simple, but don’t let the simplicity lead you to think it’s ineffective.  In fact, just the opposite.

Get to know your remote employees at a personal level

Learn more about your remote employees.  Make it a point to get to know your team members at a personal level, more than just in terms of the work they do.  Learn more about their family, their hobbies, where they are from, where they want to go.  Continue reading

Strategy #2 for effectively leading your virtual team

Last week I started a new video series on leading a virtual team and my first tip was to set office hours, specific blocks of time in your calendar when your team members could call and expect to get your “live” on the phone.  Today’s strategy to get the highest level of performance from your virtual team members is an expansion of last week’s idea.

Schedule one-on-ones

Schedule weekly one-on-ones.  Give each member of your virtual team one full hour every week on your calendar for a one-on-one discussion.  Just you and the employee, either on the phone or on a video call.  This one hour allows both you and your employee to cover a variety of topics,.  You can really talk through issues that don’t get discussed simply because they don’t see you at the office every day.

And one very important thing: NEVER cancel a one-on-one.  Continue reading