Tag Archives: Joseph Michelli

Listen, with Respect – and Don’t Forget Empathy

 “To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more that just their ideas get heard.  It’s a sign of respect.  It makes people feel valued.”  (Deborah Tannen).
Listening is an essential and underutilized service behavior…  Every day you have the opportunity to strengthen your relationships with staff members and customers by listening to them and helping them see the power that comes from “knowing” their customer.   
Joseph Michelli, Prescription for Excellence


It starts here – with listening.  All customer service, all business interaction, requires the attention given by you to the person on the other end of the interaction.  And that starts with listening.

And there are some very physical aspects of listening.  For example, where are you pointing your face, especially your eyeballs.  I use the word “eyeballs” on purpose.  The words “eye contact” seem to no longer be strong enough.  So how about this:  “eyeball to eyeball contact.” 

So, if you point your eyeballs at the eyeballs of the other person, you have a much better chance of actually listening to them.  Here are some places to not point your eyeballs when you should be listening to a person:

At your iPhone
At your computer
At someone else walking by
At a book or a magazine

Or anywhere else – except the person you are listening to…

And then, to genuinely listen, when the other person is talking, you actually listen to what he/she says, both the words and the body language.  You do not take the time while someone else is talking to “figure out what you are going to say next.”  You listen to the other person, and then, after a pause, it is your turn to speak.  You pay attention to that other person, and then you respond to that person.

Listening may be the ultimate sign of respect.  And everything else flows from good listening moments.

(And, remember – it might be even more valuable to remember to listen with “empathy”).

Why Do Companies Fail? – Some hints from Megan McArdle

So, why do companies fail?  A lot of them do, you know.  And more will fail – some of them fairly soon.  I don’t know which ones, and I don’t know all the whys, but there will be companies fail…

In this the Atlantic article, Why Companies Fail: GM’s stock price has sunk by a third since its IPO. Why is corporate turnaround so difficult and rare? The answer is often culture—the hardest thing of all to change, Megan McArdle tackles the question.  Here are a couple of quotes with insightful hints:

All seem to agree on one thing: most companies wait far too long to even recognize that they have a problem.
Change is risky, after all, since it definitionally involves doing something that isn’t already working—and even product lines that have grown lackluster still have some customers.

Here are two valuable hints:

Hint #1 – failure to acknowledge reality; failure to acknowledge “we have a problem.”  This is a universal!  Political parties have this blindness; football team owners have this blindness.  And, I suspect you and I have this blindness.  To see a problem early requires paying great attention to reality, and most of us are a little afraid of taking such an honest look at reality.

Hint #2 – focusing on my “long-term customers” while ignoring the need to find “my next customer.”

This reminds me of this excellent counsel from the UCLA Health Care system (from Joseph Michelli, Presecription for Excellence):

“No matter how good we are today, it isn’t good enough.  Everything we do must be of the highest quality, and we have to be in a relentless pursuit of constant quality assessment and enhancement.  I am pleased with where we are today…  However, each day I think about one thing:  what can I do as a leader to make sure that our quality of care is the best it can possibly be – you guessed it – for our next patient?”  (Dr. David Feinberg, CEO, UCLA Health System)
Create the quality experience for your most important customer – the next one.

So, to avoid failure, (to succeed!), it might help to be honest about problems, and to keep looking for that next customer.

Creating A World-Class Customer Experience – the Key Word is “Experience” (lessons from UCLA Health System, from Joseph Michelli)

It’s in the sub-title:  Prescription for Excellence:  Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli.  Ponder the phrase, mull over the concept:  “customer experience.”  I am increasingly convinced that this phrase, “customer experience” is the best phrase to use to talk about customer service.

Think about the depth behind this statement:  “It’s been my experience…”  When a person utters those words, it communicates a whole lot.  Each person passes judgment on a company within each and every experience.

In discussing this concept, Michelli refers to the book The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, published back in 1999 (this is a book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis over 11 years ago; Spring, 2000):

– from Gilmore and Pine, 1999, The Experience Economy:
• Even in difficult times, 50 percent of consumers will pay more for a better service experience.
• A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member.
• Companies that are successful in creating both functional and emotional bonding with customers have higher retention rates (84 percent vs. 30 percent) and greater cross-selling ratios (82 percent vs. 16 percent) compared to companies that are not.

And UCLA has developed a true customer-centric/customer-experience approach to their core business – taking care of patients.  Principle 1 of their 5 core principles is this:  Commit To Care — Care Takes Vision, Clarity, And Consistency.  And the UCLA Health System requires each and every employee to sign the CICARE promise:

• “CICARE” – (pronounced “See-I-Care”) — the “short version”:
Connect with the patient or family member using Mr./Ms., or their preferred name.
Introduce yourself and your role.
Communicate what you are going to do, how it will affect the patient, and other needed information.
Ask for and anticipate patient and or family needs, questions, or concerns.
Respond to patient and/or family questions and requests with immediacy.
Exit, courteously explaining what will come next or when you will return.
(the longer version, teaches…   elements of Courtesy; Professionalism; Respect)

I thought of all this as I had three different customer service experiences this week.  I use these three “services” each and every month.  They include Constant Contact, and two others.  Here’s what I have experienced:  whenever I call Constant Contact, the person I reach is easily understandable; is fully knowledgeable; is always polite – almost pleasant.  And I always get what I need, with no hassle, and no feelings of frustration.

The second company (notice I am not naming the other two) is hit-and-miss.  One time, I have a terrific customer experience.  The next, maybe not.  Every person I have ever called at Constant Contact seems fully ready to meet my need.  This second company, I either get lucky, or I end up slightly to more-than-slightly frustrated.

The third company, well…  don’t even get me started.  With practically every call, the person is not all that pleasant – it’s as though I am interrupting his or her day with my question/need.  They are not knowledgeable.  They do not have answers.  And though they are not rude, they are nowhere near pleasant.

Let’s think of these as three different spots on the customer experience spectrum.  One, I would gladly recommend to you. (That’s Constant Contact).  The second, I would recommend, because the service is really, really good.  But don’t expect the same level of experience.  The third, I’m about to drop – even though I like their “service,” and dropping it will mean more work for me.  I’m simply tired of dealing with them, and I’m looking for an alternative.

Or, to put it another way — I don’t mind it when I have to call Constant Contact.  I sort of mind it when I have to call the second compnay.  I practically dread calling the third company.

Think about your customers, your clients.  Do they walk away from every encounter with you having experienced a genuinely, hassle-free, fully liked, experience?  Or — not?

By the way, there are no short cuts to providing such a true good experience culture.  It takes constant attention, over the long haul.  You can never let it slide!

Every customer encounter is taken personally by that customer.  Every experience is judged.  Every time.  And each bad experience can lead to the loss of that customer (A full 68 percent will sever a customer relationship because they were treated poorly by a staff member).  You don’t want that, do you?

Here are 3 books you can hear us present this week; Diane Ravitch; Joseph Michelli, Conant & Norgaard

This Friday (Aug. 5), 7:00 am, is the First Friday Book Synopsis.  If you live in the DFW area, this provides a great opportunity for networking, with a terrific dose of content, quickly delivered…

Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Douglas R Conant and Mette Norgaard.


I will present my synopsis of Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli.

Both of these will provide valuable content, with useful, transferable principles.  Come join us!, Friday, 7:00 am.  (We finish promptly by 8:05).  At the Park City Club, near the Tollway and Northwest Highway, in University Park.

Click here to register.


On Thursday (Aug. 4), noon, I will present my synopsis of The Death and Life of the American School System:  How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch.

This session is sponsored by CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries), and is held at noon at the Highland Park United Methodist Church (adjacent to SMU).  Read the details here.  Come join us!

This is an important book, dealing with a genuinely serious issue.

All Business is Experienced on a Personal Level — An Important Reminder from Joseph Michelli, Prescription For Excellence

Can you believe this guy is doing this 
to me?

I don’t think it’s personal, Dana.

Oh it is personal, Jeremy.
(A scene from Sports NightHow Are Things in Glocca Mora, when Pete Sampras allowed an unknown to take him to five sets – thus delaying the airing of Sports Night)


Here’s the lesson.  There is no business encounter, no business transaction, that the customer does not take personally.  Thus, a company must view each business encounter, each business transaction, as a personal encounter.

In other words, humanize each and every business encounter and transaction.

I’m reading Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli for next Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis.  It’s good.  (Bob Morris says it is Michelli’s best book – read his review here).

In the book, Michelli states:

It can be argued that certain business transactions, such as fueling your car or buying a product online, are impersonal.  By contrast, businesses like childcare and healthcare are high-touch industries..  In healthcare, personal connections obviously matter, and the ability of staff members to create authentic caring relationships leads to success.  However, even in businesses where service seems secondary to product, strong customer connections drive brand differentiation and other positive business outcomes.

In other words, all business encounters are taken, and experienced, personally.

So  — how are you doing?