Archives for February 2008

Training Can be Fun

I made a quick stop at my local Starbucks yesterday morning to see, first hand, if there was any noticeable changes after the training session Tuesday evening. Granted, this was 6:00 AM and the store was just opening up. I did notice a few more smiles and a more energetic approach to greeting the customers. It will be interesting to observe changes over the next few weeks.

In order to get a better assessment I searched the web for news stories on this topic. Not much beyond the basic reporting. However, I did come across this “fully tongue in cheek” article on the website. It illustrates creative ways to really irritate your customers – who said that thy come first? (laughing out loud)

Click here – – to go directly to the article. I hope that you laugh as much as I did.

If you don’t have the time to read the complete article, here is an excerpt:

In order to better prepare you for this sort of “customer handling” we here at Starbucks offer these helpful tips:

    Make sure the customer waits in line for a minimum of 5 minutes before receiving service- even if he/she is the only one in the café.
    Anything over 8 minutes before the customer receives service is too long, the smooth jazz music will only relax him/her for so long, and they may leave with our money.
    Be extremely apologetic with large dashes of sarcasm in the voice. Add different flavors of syrup or make the drink decaf if the customer talks back. You don’t deserve this kind of treatment!
    Call out drink name very loudly, even if they are sitting at the table next to the bar. Walk away before they can ask you for a straw/extra syrup/napkins.
    Correct the customer if they call a drink by the wrong name, even if it is only off by one word.  

As the late, great political satirist Art Buchwald used to say, “I don’t have to use my imagination to be funny. I just report what actually happened today in Washington. I don’t have to make it up – people wouldn’t believe me if I did.”

Do you have a funny story about customer service? Share it with our readers.

Starbucks – This is Not About Training

starbucks-closing-stores.jpgI applaud the leadership of Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. As you may know, Starbucks closed all 7,100 of their stores yesterday for a 3 1/2 hour training session. Here is a short excerpt from Mr. Schultz introductory remarks:

“This is not about training,” he said to his employees, looking somewhat somber. “This is about the love and compassion and commitment that we all need to have for the customer.”

I like to remind myself that “A business without customers is not a business.” Customers define your business. Attracting and retaining customers is the number one job of every employee. Starbucks is selling much more than coffee. It is selling the “Starbucks Experience.”  And recently, customers – as well as the CEO – have found that experience to be lacking.

Mr. Schultz and others had a mission and a vision to elevate coffee from a commodity (10 cents a cup and free refills) to a lifestyle choice. He wanted to recreate the experience he enjoyed on a trip to Italy, sipping espresso in a cafe. He wanted to create a sensual experience for customer when they visited a Starbucks location. He wanted to create a sense of theatre as the barista prepared each special beverage. He wanted the exchange between the barista and the customer to be personal.

This is what Mr. Schultz had to say  (in a recent memo) about the present state of Starbucks:

…one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can’t get the message from being in our stores.

Definitely time to wake up and smell the coffee!

I promised to go out to my local Starbucks first thing this morning in order to observe any immediate changes as a result of yesterday’s training. It’s now time to go … I’ll report on my experience later today.

Let me know what you think on this topic. Share your experience with our readers.

Closing Your Business to Work On Your Business

News Flash! Starbucks is closing all 7,100 of their USA stores today at 5:30P.M local time! Incredible!

Except … They are not permanently closing up shop. That would be drastic!

Rather … They are holding a 3 1/2 hour mandatory, company-wide training session for all 135,000 store employees. That is dramatic!

That takes guts! And Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO has consistently demonstrated his vision and leadership. We know he has guts!

(Click here to read more about this dramatic event.)

I am sure that many business owners are saying, “How much is that going to cost them to close down all stores for 3 1/2 hours?”

The bigger question – one that I am sure they will be addressing during their training session – “How much will it cost Starbucks if we don’t invest the time to restore our enthusiasm, improve our service and revisit our company’s culture?”

Starbucks has two choices :

  1. Allow themselves to sink down and accept that they have become a commodity as they face increased competition.
  2. Rejuvenate themselves through special training. Re-visit what they must do to elevate the “Starbucks Experience.”

Happily, they chose Option #2.

Whatever short-term loss they have in lost revenue will be gained back in long-term profits and improved customer loyalty.

Here’s my resolve – First thing tomorrow, I am visiting my local Starbucks to see first-hand how they have changed as a result of today’s training!

I realize that it will take some time to rebuild the romance of the “Starbucks Experience.” I am eager to watch it evolve!

What do you think about this? Please add your comments below. This is a great topic for discussion!

What is Your USP?

“Our faith in the present dies out long before our faith in the future.”

– Ruth Benedict

Do you know your USP? More important – do your customers know your USP? What – you may ask – is a USP?

What does USP stand for? In many ways, your USP identifies exactly what you stand for!

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. It is the specific benefit that your customers get from your product or service. In order to have a successful USP, it is vital that you understand these 2 points:

  1. Your customers need to perceive what you offer as a real benefit to them. It has to be a benefit that really matters.
  2. You must be the first to claim this benefit.

Creating your unique selling proposition also allows you to focus your business. It is a constant reminder of why you remain in business. Why your customers choose to do business with you – and not with your competitors.

Here are a few examples of truly memorable USPs:

  • Federal Express – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
  • M&M Candy – “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”

Are these merely advertising slogans? No. They are operational imperatives.

Federal Express created their business to deliver packages overnight. Long before many customers realized that they actually needed to have their packages delivered overnight. Once enough customers started to see how overnight delivery of packages was important, other transportation companies started to offer overnight delivery.

That is when Federal Express realized that in order to stand out from their competitors, they needed to offer a guarantee. An not just any guarantee. Not just an offer to refund the money if the package didn’t arrive on time. Not just a coupon offering a discount on the customer’s next shipment – (and why would you care about the next shipment if your current shipment didn’t arrive when you promised?)

Their USP – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Here’s an interesting sidebar that illustrates leadership and vision. On the first night of operation, Federal Express used:

  • 389 employees and 14 aircraft to deliver
  • 186 packages overnight to 25 cities in the USA

FedEx helped to create the demand for overnight package delivery. There was little perceived need for this when they began operations. Once enough customers perceived that they needed overnight package delivery FedEx needed to cement their name and reputation in the front of the customers mind. And they needed to structure their operations to ensure that they would fulfill their USP – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

No other package delivery company can claim that USP. UPS (United Parcel Service) had to create their own USP. They had to differentiate their business. That is why you have to be the 1st person or company to claim your USP. Continue reading “What is Your USP?” »

Don’t Blame Your Customers!

“A business without customers isn’t a business.”

– Anonymous

If you are running a business you know that your number one job is to attract and retain enough customers to remain viable. You need to attract enough customers who want to buy what you have to offer. You also need to entice your customers to return and make additional purchases. And… you work hard to delight your existing customers so that they, in turn, will recommend your business to their friends and associates. That is a smart way to build your business.

It is also a smart way to run a political campaign.

To get elected – or nominated by your party to run for election – you need to attract enough voters who want to vote for what you have to offer. And… you work hard to encourage the people who are now ready to vote for you to encourage their friends and associates to consider voting for you.

But the primary responsibility for success resides with you – the business owner or the political candidate. You must offer something that your customers want to buy; something that voters want to support.

Successful businesses do not make sales. Rather, they develop enough customers who are eager to buy the product or service that they offer for sale. Likewise, candidates need to develop enough voters who are eager to support their cause. Voters who are willing to recruit others in support of your campaign.

All of this seems rather simple and straight forward. And it is. The complexity lies in how you ask for your customers business; how you ask for your supporters vote.

People love to buy but they hate to be sold. Likewise with voters. You can – and should – tell them that you need their support; you need their vote. But I would never tell them that it will be their fault that I went out of business or that I lost the election.

Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign is ignoring this advice. Granted, I am not a million dollar a month political adviser (like Mark Penn) so why should they take my advice. But, I would never say this to my supporters: Continue reading “Don’t Blame Your Customers!” »

Don’t Point Your Finger!

hillary-points-finger.jpgYour mother told you! “It’s not polite to point your finger at someone.” And she was correct on this point. I do not like to have someone point their finger at me – literally or figuratively.

Senator Hillary Clinton – It is time that you started to listen to your mother! Remember what she told you: “It’s not polite to point your finger at someone. It will not earn you any points (votes) and people do not appreciate it.”


Senator Barack Obama also points his finger. What politician does not? But this post – and my blog – is not about “political finger pointing.” I am not writing about shifting the blame. I am posting and blogging about effective communications.


I have been watching the videos and analyzing the body language of each candidate vying for their party’s presidential nomination. In reviewing the video of the recent CNN debate between Senator Clinton and Obama I noticed a distinct difference in how each candidate uses the fingers to make a point:


  • Sen. Clinton consistently pointed her finger directly at her audience.
  • Sen. Obama usually pointed his finger upwards or to the side.

This may seem subtle to some. And it may prove significant to others. And it may play a role in the outcome of the voting. We will see. We listen to what we see!


However, professional speech coaches agree that you should avoid literally pointing or poking your finger at someone. Here is a quote form Joan Detz, the author of “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.”


“Don’t point at the audience. The simple truth is, no one likes to be pointed at.”


At this late date in a heated primary election campaign, Hillary Clinton is probably not listening to outside experts on body language and effective communication styles. She is relying on instinct and (unconsciously) responding in the heat of the moment. In my opinion, she does not respond effectively – especially with ter body language – when feels that she is being attacked or is having her proposals rejected. Who does? I don’t. Do you? Of course not. But we must be aware of how we physically react when we are attacked:


We listen with our eyes.


No matter what we say, people will remember what they see. We remember more of what we see than what we hear.


This is the image that plays back in my head when I see someone pointing their finger at the audience.



It is not a pretty picture. It will not win votes. It is not polite. Just ask your mother. She will tell you – and she will not point her finger at you!

When you give a speech or make a presentation you must present your point of view – that’s why you were invited to speak. To be effective you must state your point, present you case and back up your points and finally give your audience a call to action. Make you point. Point out how you differ from your opponent. Just remember not to point you finger at you audience!

They will get the point.

Take Note!

obama-takes-notes-at-debate.jpg As I watched the televised debate between Senators Clinton and Obama, I was struck by one particular piece of “stage craft.” I found it to be annoying. It distracted my attention from what was actually being said. What was it?

Senator Obama was diligently writing notes every time that Senator Clinton spoke – at least during the first 45 minute segment. Why was he doing this?  Surely he had prepared his remarks and rebuttals ahead of time. At this point in the campaign, he had to have heard Senator Clinton’s arguments, stump speeches and 9-point plans ad nauseum. Very little new ground was being broken during the debate. So why was he so preoccupied with his note taking?

It’s simple really! The answer is, it was “staged!” Barack Obama wanted to avoid two things:

  1. Looking directly at Hillary Clinton as she spoke – I felt that his note-taking distracted my attention from her words.
  2. Reacting physically to her comments – he did not wish to convey his agreement with, surprise at or anger about any of her comments. His body language probably would have conveyed defensiveness and weakness had he not kept himself busy scribbling his notes as his opponent spoke.

Was this effective? Perhaps. Several professional observers have commented on Obama’s unconscious physical reactions when he is criticized. He winces noticeably. He tends to withdraw. He looks pained. He looks less than confident.

But the good news is… at least he stopped “raising his hand” asking permission from the moderator to speak! For that reason alone, the diligent note taking was an improvement.

Why does body language matter? Here’s why: Continue reading “Take Note!” »

Strategic Thinking

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do.  Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

– Savielly Tarakover

Name one thing that Sen. Barack Obama has accomplished … Political pundits (Chris Matthews, etc.) have been challenging / brow-beating their guests to respond to this question. Political opponents (Sen. Clinton, Sen, McCain) have been trying to use this rhetorical question to their advantage. So, courtesy of Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, here is one significant accomplishment for Sen. Obama:

He is the only significant candidate whose campaign has not gone broke! He and his staff have defined a successful strategy to capture the Democratic part’s Presidential nomination. 

If nothing else, a presidential campaign tests a candidate’s ability to think strategically and tactically and to manage a very complex organization. We have three plausible candidates remaining–Obama, Clinton and John McCain–and Obama has proved himself the best executive by far. Both the Clinton and the McCain campaigns have gone broke at crucial moments. So much for fiscal responsibility. McCain has been effective only when he runs as a guerrilla; in both 2000 and ’08, he was hapless at building a coherent campaign apparatus. Clinton’s sins are different: arrogance and the inability to see past loyalty to hire the best people for the job and to fire those who prove inadequate. “If nothing else, we’ve learned that Obama probably has the ability to put together a smooth-running Administration,” said a Clinton super-delegate. “That’s pretty important.”

Strategy and tactics – both are important; they are intertwined. Your strategy defines and points you towards your goal. The tactics that you employ enable you to reach your goal.

A clearly defined strategy guides and informs your staff. It shows them they way and tells them what to do – especially when no one is there to tell them what to do; when no one is there to answer their questions.

Your clearly defined strategy provides the answers to these questions: What? Why? and When?

The tactics that they employ to successfully execute your strategy answer these questions; “How? Where? and Who? Continue reading “Strategic Thinking” »

Defining Moments

“The Chinese symbol for adversity contains a symbol for opportunity. Therefore, adversity brings opportunity.”

– Anonymous

How do you rebound after 10 straight losses? Is it possible? Theoretically, yes.  Is it easy? Of course not. How do you do it? Stay in the game long enough to find your opportunity – and then seize the moment!

No doubt about it – Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is on a losing streak. You can not “spin away” 10 consecutive losses. You can not discount the outcome of some state elections  as “not that important.” A caucus or a primary? It doesn’t matter. A loss is still a loss.

But there is always tomorrow. Another opportunity. A chance to gain a foot-hold. A chance to debate. A chance to turn her ship around. A chance to turn adversity into opportunity.

All eyes will be on Austin, TX – the scene of the next Democratic Party Debate.

More precisely, the eyes of the camera will be focused on the eyes, the hands, the posture of the candidates. It is my opinion that the outcome of tomorrow’s debate will be determined more by style than substance. And specifically, I predict that the outcome will be determined by how Senators Clinton and Obama master their body language during the debate.

The audience will be “listening with their eyes.”

We will not require a political analyst to tell us who won the debate. We can throw away the scorecard that tallies points scored on policy matters. The only points that matter will be how the candidates react to each other. Non-verbal reactions to each other.

We will “listen with our eyes.” We will determine the winner based upon what we “hear with our eyes.”

My advice to Senators Clinton and Obama: Spend more time preparing your non-verbal communications than in polishing your 9-point policy positions. The outcome of this debate will be determined by what the audience sees!

This has been the case – at least since the first televised Presidential Debate in 1960 between Kennedy and Nixon. The outcome was determined by a “close shave.”Future President Kennedy came across as a tanned, vigorous, confident leader. Then Vice President Nixon appeared to be hiding behind his “5 o’clock Shadow.”

Who can forget these images? Moments when non-verbal communication decided the outcome of the debate: Continue reading “Defining Moments” »

Who’s Line is It?

“People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.”

– David H. Comins

I love quotations! I enjoy collecting and categorizing them. I enjoy reading them. And I use them – liberally – in my writing, speaking and training. I strive to always cite the source of the quotation, but this is not always possible or practical.

With all due respect to Mr. David H. Comins – and I assume that he is a decent, honest and wise man – I could not easily locate any biographical information on him. I remembered this quote and I verified it on the Quotations Page website. But a Google search and a search on did not turn up any background information on Mr. Comins.

So… is my audience more interested in Mr. Comins or in his pithy comments?

And, since I am not a citizen of the fine state of Massachusetts, I must admit that I knew nothing about their current Governor Deval Patrick – up until this past weekend, that is. The 24-hour news cycle continues to churn out stories about Sen. Barack Obama’s alleged plagiarism. Obama “liberally lifted” a riff that Gov. Patrick had previously used – “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.”

As was to be expected, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was watching and vetting Sen. Obama’s speech that night and quickly alerted all parties who would listen – not to mention all ships at sea – about this “outrageous plagiarism.” Full of high dudgeon, they demanded that justice be served – or at least that the press properly criticize Sen. Barama on this matter.

The press did indeed criticize Sen. Barama on this matter. They also played a video tape of Gov. Deval Patrick when he delivered these lines and compared it to Sen. Obama’s speech in Wisconsin. It is almost scary to see how closely Sen. Obama invoked not just Gov. Patrick’s words but also his tone of voice and even his body language.

The question is: “Was this plagiarism?” The answer is: “I don’t know. It depends…” Continue reading “Who’s Line is It?” »