Author: maripat

The communication adventure – examples abound

The great news for folks who want to improve their communication is that we have coaches, tutors and guides all around us providing examples of big and small ways we can improve.

A few days ago I stopped into a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. The waitress, Nancy, approached the table and with a big smile on her face and said, “Gosh, you look so much like my sister, Carol, and because of that I am gonna be super attentive to you today and if you want dessert, I’ll be sure to secure the biggest slice of cake for you. I know you probably don’t have a lot of time, so, what can I get for you…?” Nancy delivered a great experience for me that day and I noticed as she floated from table to table she exhibited the same upbeat friendliness to all her customers.

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Many ways to get to the finish line first…

Horse Racing today is justifiably fraught with controversy and scrutiny due to the recent deaths of high profile horses and the on-going risks that jockeys are subjected to every time they get in the saddle. At yesterday’s Kentucky Derby – May 2, 2009 – it was good to see how much of the coverage focused on new safety regulations and innovations and the on-going pursuit of ways to make the sport safer for the horses and jockeys. I need to mention this because as a Kentucky gal – born and bred – I grew up having an enormous respect and appreciation for horses and the men and women who ride them. Part of me thrills at a horse race and another part of me is repelled by it because of the danger. Cheering one minute and chastising the next.

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Hallway Hellos: What happens on the way to your next meeting speaks volumes

The first time I ever visited Africa I had a life-altering experience. It had nothing to do with the incredible wildlife or beautiful landscapes I saw. Those things were wonderful but what changed me was the people and most specifically it was the way they communicated with each other. I was instantly struck by how friendly people were. No matter where I walked I was greeted by whoever passed by me – on an isolated dirt road or in a fancy international hotel. I consistently received a direct eye contact, wide smile, friendly “Jambo” (Swahili for hello). I was told that in African culture it is considered very impolite and disrespectful to not greet everyone with whom you come in contact. It is the custom…. it is what people do to continually re-enforce the idea of community.

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Looking at your WorkPlace through the Customer’s Lens

Working with the Chief Customer Officer at Northeast Utilities, Johnny D. Magwood, has been a great experience. We had a stimulating conversation last week about the challenges and opportunities that surround a shift in organizational culture to one that focuses on the customer. He recalled an experience he had early in his career where the organization he was working for had determined to be more customer-focused. He described that the entrance to the company headquarters doubled as a smoking area for employees. The lobby area where customers passed through on a daily basis was a mine-field of ashtrays and cigarette smoke that individuals had to wade through to make it to their appointments. He wondered what kind of impression that environment made on customers. Rightly so, he assumed customers were left with the notion that the company did not value them and were OK with putting obstacles in the the way of them having a positive experience. Recognizing this issue, management removed all the ashtrays and instructed employees to smoke elsewhere. Within a week, the ashtrays were covertly brought back in and old habits resumed. Eventually, through persistent effort, the smoking area in the lobby was permanently shifted to another area – away from customer’s view but it took awhile longer to shift people’s mindset around building an environment that worked for the customer.

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