Tag Archives: Adrian Slywotzky

“Empathy” 1st, “Fix” 2nd – A Customer Service Basic!

I provide a seminar on customer service, and have a keynote presentation called The Customer Never Forgets.  I have studied customer service, read a lot about customer service, and written quite a bit on customer service.

But more than anything else, I am a customer.  Constantly.  Practically every day.  Increasingly, my customer experiences are on-line. And most of these experiences are fully what I hoped – one-click, fully satisfied little miracles.  I click my mouse, and my product shows up on my doorstep two days later.  Wonderful!

But occasionally, not so wonderful…

Recently, a disappointing customer experience, which cost me a little embarrassment and about one hour of my time, which was completely the fault of the company providing the service because of a mistake by one of their people, made me think a little more about this whole “how do we provide a better customer experience?” question.

So here is a snapshot of my latest thoughts..

In my training, I state that all customer experience boils down to two critical elements:  be nice, and, be competent.  I am convinced that if a company provides both of these, they will, in fact, keep their customers coming back.  If the product or service is what the customer wants, and the interaction between the company representative and the customer is nice and hassle free, you’ve got a real winner on your hands.  (We’ll leave it for another discussion about what happens when a competitor has a “better” product or service to offer.  That is a different issue).

If you force me to choose, I will take competence over nice.  If the product or service is exactly what I want, and I can’t get it anywhere else for less, I will take a slight absence of “nice.”  Nice without competence does not satisfy – I need to be able to rely on the product or service more than I need someone to treat me in a nice way.  But, give me both, nice and competent, and I am happiest.

But the real moment of truth is when there is a problem; a “mistake; a “disappointment.”   When the company messes up, this is the acid test.  And when I call to say, “you have made a mistake,” the first thing I want is “empathy,” then I want it fixed.  I am not happy if it is fixed first.  And, no matter how nice the person is, after I sense empathy, if it is not then fixed, I am not happy.

Consider this as a way to think about providing that better customer experience:

If I need a precise product The company provides it, with no hassles I am happy
If I need a product, but don’t know exactly what I need The company suggests the right item/solution – I get it, try it, like it I am happy
The company messes up The representative of the company tries to fix it, but without empathy (including a genuine “I’m sorry”), before they then fix it I am not happy
The company messes up The representative of the company is really empathetic, but does not “fix it” well I am not happy
The company messes up The representative is genuinely empathetic, then fixes it I am happy

So – Empathy first, fix it second.  This is what I need when a company messes up.  And without that empathy first, I am not happy – and might look for an alternative.


I have recently presented synopses of two terrific books related to customer service excellence.  One is Demand:  Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky.  This book is terrific on the issue of removing hassles.  And people really do not like hassles!

The other is Prescription for Excellence:  Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D.  Michelli is a superior observer, and he is especially good at pulling out insights that you can transfer into your own arena.

Both of these books are worth reading.  And, you can purchase my synopsis of these books, with audio + comprehensive handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

And, if you are interested in bringing my customer service training, or my keynote presentation, into your company or organization, click the “hire us” tab.

There Just May Not Be a Magic Bullet – It’s Practically always “Both-And”

It is a great principle in psychiatry that “all-symptoms are overdetermined.  This means that they have more than one cause.
I want to scream this from the rooftops:  “All symptoms are overdetermined.”  Except that I want to expand it way beyond psychiatry.  I want to expand it to almost everything.  I want to translate it, “Anything of any significance is overdetermined.  Everything worth thinking about has more than one cause.”  Repeat after me:  “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.”  Again, “For any single thing of importance, there are multiple reasons.” 
M. Scott Peck, In Search of Stones:  A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason, and Discovery


If only we could get (come up with) the right __________.

We keep looking for the magic bullet.  In every arena, we want the answer to the problem, to come up with the solution for all time.

Probably not gonna happen!

There is always more to it – more to add to the equation.  So many books make this point.

Consider the problem of creating a product (or service) that generates genuine demand.  Here is a paragraph about it from Demand by Adrian Slywotzky:

For the demand creator, building a magnetic product is essential, but it isn’t enough—you also need to understand the customer’s hassle map and figure out how to connect the dots in ways that reduce those hassles or eliminate them altogether. Making an emotional connection with the customer is crucial, but it isn’t enough—you also need to make certain that all the backstory elements are in place, so that you can be sure to avoid the Curse of the Incomplete Product. And even that isn’t enough—you also need to find the most powerful triggers and deploy them effectively if you hope to overcome consumer inertia and transform potential demand energy into real demand. What’s more, great demand creators instinctively understand that even creating a powerful stream of demand isn’t enough—not unless you make a commitment to intense, ongoing improvement so as to meet, and exceed, the ever-rising expectations of your ever-changing customers.

Or consider the problem of prolonged, even multi-generational poverty.  Here is a paragraph from the terrific and important book:  The Working Poor (Invisible in America) by David Shipler:

For practically every family, the ingredients of poverty are part financial and part psychological, part personal and part societal, part past and part present.  Every problem magnifies the impact of the others, and all are so tightly interlocked that one reversal can produce a chain reaction with results far distant from the original cause. 
If problems are interlocking, then so must solutions be.  A job alone is not enough.  Medical insurance alone is not enough.  Good housing alone is not enough.  Reliable transportation, careful family budgeting, effective parenting, effective schooling are not enough when each is achieved in isolation from the rest.  There is no single variable that can be altered to help working people move away from the edge of poverty.  Only where the full array of factors is attacked can America fulfill its promise. 

We look for that magic bullet, in our own lives, in our business lives, in our relationships…  There simply may not be that magic bullet.  The problems are many; the causes of the problems are many; the solutions are almost always “both-and,” and very, very seldom “either-or.”

So, keep looking.  There is probably something else to add…

Hire Nice People – Oh, AND Teachable; Oh, AND…

Hire Nice People – Oh, AND Teachable; Oh, AND

I really liked the quote that I included in a recent blog post from the book Demand by Adrian Slywotzky.  It is about the restaurant Pret a Manger:

“We hire happy people, and teach them to make sandwiches.” 

I was telling this to a friend of mine.  He is a Doctor ( a good one!) and has a very successful practice.  He told me about something he did when he was just starting.  He loved staying at the Four Seasons (who wouldn’t?!); was impressed with their customer service/experience.  So, he went to the Four Seasons, asked to speak to the manager (who was more than willing to meet with him), and asked “What is your secret?”  What training do you offer?  How do you get these people to work this way?’  The manager said:  “There is no secret.  We hire nice people.” 

That may be it.  Hire nice people.

Oh, AND make sure they are Teachable.  Because Nice AND Incompetent does not work.  Nice + Competent works really well. And to get competent, a person has to be teachable.

Now, nice may seem important just in jobs that interact with actual customers.  But, it would be a mistake to reduce it to that part of the work equation. Because nice matters in team building also.  People do not like to work on projects, or teams, with people who aren’t nice.  Working with not-nice people can be a real morale defeater.  So, nice is definitely part of the “team player” job responsibility.

So, here is the formula:  hire nice people, make sure they are teachable, thus they become ever more competent.   — Oh, and make sure they are able to manage/embrace/not get freaked out over change.  Oh, AND

But, whatever else you do, start with NICE.

By the way, be nice yourself.  If you have a voice in the hiring process, remember:  people don’t like to work for not-nice people.

Blah, Blah, Blah & Demand – December Choices for the First Friday Book Synopsis

We had a terrific session yesterday at the November, 2011 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of The Shallows, and I presented my synopsis of the new book by Jim Collins, Great by Choice.  It was a valuable session.  Both books were terrific, and I view Great by Choice as an important book for all leaders.

For December, we have selected two books.  The first is Blah Blah Blah:  What To Do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam.  Roam is the author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, which Karl presented back at the July, 2008 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Though Roam is known for his creative use of simple drawings, it his clear thinking that makes him an especially valuable resource.  You can read the review of this new book by Bob Morris on our blog here, and Bob’s most recent interview with Roam (it’s his send with this author), here.

The other selection is Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian Slywotzky and Karl Weber.  I have not yet read much of this book, but Bob Morris speaks highly of it, so I look forward  to diving into it.  The title reminds me of the famous line by Steve Jobs:  “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  You can read the review of this book by Bob Morris on our blog here.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, I will present the new Walter Isaacson biography, Steve Jobs, at the January, 2012 First Friday Book Synopsis.  I have read the first couple of chapters, and am utterly captivated.  It is selling fairly well:  #1 on practically every list, (overall and nonfiction) and its different versions are #s 1, 2, & 3, (Kindle Edition; Hardcover Edition; Audio edition) on the Amazon Business Best-Seller list at the hour I write this blog post.  I look forward to every presentation I make at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but the Jobs books is one that I am unusually jazzed about.


You will be able to register through our home page for the December First Friday Book Synopsis, hopefully, by the middle of next week (around November 9).