Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Your Facial Expressions: What They May Be Saying About You

Take a couple of minutes to listen to the brief audioblog below, and you will hear my suggestions about the importance of facial expressions. Before listening, think of the many terms we use to describe faces: "sourpuss," "smiley," "stone face," "grumpy," "stern," and "angelic" are among them.

To achieve powerful communication, we want our facial expressions to reflect accurately what we are thinking and feeling.

For more information, please visit my Web site:
this is an audio post - click to play

Losing Golfer Talks About Winning in Life

Sports writers and announcers had practically conceded the 2005 U.S. Open Golf Tournament to Retief Goosen. He was the defending champion, he had a three-stroke lead as he started the final round at Pinehurst and he was known as “Mr. Cool,” because he had never wilted under pressure.

Yet Goosen surprised the golfing world by shooting 81, eleven over par, moving him from first to eleventh. Most people would think he would be enraged, bitter and full of self-blame. Instead, he commented: “This is nothing serious. Nobody has died or anything. I had a great Father’s Day this morning with the kids, and the family is a lot more important than playing anyone out there today. . . .I obviously threw this away, but I will be back next year.”

Wow! I suggest that we keep these words in mind the next time we:

  • Lose a sale that we were 100% sure we would make
    Make a speech that doesn’t match our usual level of poise
    Say something we wish we hadn’t said to a customer
    Send an e-mail with inaccurate information
Thanks to Retief Goosen, we can decide that a bad day doesn’t mean we are a bad person or will have a bad life. As in golf. . .tee it up again, and try for a better score.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

Friday, June 17, 2005

Small Talk Can Be a Big Advantage

“Let’s skip the small talk, and get right down to business.”

That comment personifies the type-A, hard driving, make-every-second-count individual, who considers common conversation a waste of time. Judging by the twenty-three years I spent in management, and what I advised in my book-- The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life! --the colleague who allows no straying from the main topic misses some great advantages. Here are three of them.

  • Small talk creates a connection with people who would otherwise remain very unconnected with you. Imagine that your colleague Sally makes her decisions based on data, while you are more inclined to rely on your intuition and hunches. So how do you two interact harmoniously? Small talk certainly helps, such as “Last night we went to that new restaurant, Poor Richard's. Have you been there?” You establish a common bond. When conflicts arise, that bond makes both of you a bit more tolerant.
  • Small talk makes a person appear “up to date,” well informed. This is why it’s advisable to keep up with the news. When someone says, “Looks like there's a new storm brewing in the Caribbean,” you don’t want to be confined to “Oh, really? Haven't heard about that.”
  • Small talk relieves tense situations. Your sales manager calls you into his office for a performance review. Instead of confronting you instantly, he says: “We finally got some rain in our neighborhood yesterday. What happened over your way?” You breathe a silent sigh of relief. While you know he will move next to your slumping sales figures, you no longer expect a hostile scene.
When I coach executives about their communication skills, I discuss the value of small talk, and give them tips on how to talk about events not related to their work. For more about my coaching services, check the description on my Web site:

Maybe we should stop calling it "small talk," because casual conversation plays a big role in our personal and professional relationships.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Put Your Best Voice Forward!

Click on the audioblog below, to get my tips about how to make your voice mail message represent you well. Your voice is you--that's not an exaggeration. So put these tips to work to make a great impression when people call you.
this is an audio post - click to play

For Once, I Agree With Ted Turner

To see why I agree with Ted Turner, listen to the audioblog below that contains my comments about CNN's founder.
this is an audio post - click to play

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Adhering To Rules Is Not Always Wise

This excellent advice comes from:

Bill Kalmar
Lake Orion MI
Former Director of the Michigan Quality Council
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Examiner
Former Member of Baldrige Board of Overseers

Dining out with a friend or associate can be an enjoyable experience even when the discussion is about work if the meal is delightful and the customer service is impeccable. The conversation tends to be focused on work related topics and the meal and service become secondary which makes for a successful meeting.

Recently, I had a luncheon meeting with a friend I had not seen in about a year. We had a lot of catching up to do on business issues and both of us looked forward to meeting. We agreed to meet at a large nation wide restaurant chain. I ordered first and requested a cup of soup and a small Greek salad. The waiter asked me if I wanted the soup and salad combo, which consisted of a bowl of soup and a salad. I passed on the combo. My friend ordered the combo but with a Caesar salad.

Several minutes later the waiter delivered my cup of soup and placed a Caesar salad in front of my friend. Both of us were obviously surprised and my friend inquired as to why he had received the salad first instead of the soup. The waiter politely responded that if you order the combo the salad comes first followed by the soup. Obviously if you don’t order the combo, as I did, you receive your soup first. Trying to explain to the waiter that since both of us wanted soup and salad it would seem appropriate and logical to bring both soups at the same time. Our protestations made no sense to the waiter as he kept mumbling something about how the combo is served – salad first. A lot of our “business conversation” over the next hour kept coming back to this rather ridiculous soup and salad fiasco!

This episode just points out the adverse impact one can have on customer service when rigid processing rules are carried out to the extreme. One can only imagine the presence of Combo Police in the kitchen making sure that no one has the audacity to break the rules and bring out the soup first when circumstances dictate such as in our case – we both wanted to eat our soup at the same time!

I had another similar confusing experience at a nationwide coffee shop several years ago. I had ordered a cappuccino and while it was being prepared I noticed a sign that read “Coffee refills 50 cents”. After I finished my cappuccino I went to the counter and asked for a coffee refill for 50 cents. The young lady who waited on me asked the manager behind her if she could comply with my request since I had not ordered a coffee originally but had ordered a cappuccino. Surprisingly the response was an emphatic “No”. Had I ordered a coffee I could have a refill for 50 cents but since I ordered a cappuccino I could not take advantage of the offer.

I countered that a coffee was only $1.35 while a cappuccino was $3.50. The answer was still “No”. I then asked how would one know if my empty paper cup contained just coffee or a cappuccino. Believe it or not, the manager told me that he would be able to tell since there would be foam in my cup. (This guy has obviously missed his true slot in life – he should work in the CSI lab. Anyone who can detect foam in a cup and then refuse to grant a coffee refill is detective material!) I then stated that I would wash out the foam at a nearby drinking fountain and return. This exasperated him and he reluctantly filled my cup with coffee after I paid him 50 cents.

Both of these episodes illustrate a need for customer service personnel to exercise a bit of common sense when dealing with customers even if it means deviating slightly from their rigid processes. The goal of customer service should be to “Wow” customers and not make them feel like they are on a game show – if you fail to adhere to their rules, you lose!

For more information, please visit my Web site:

A Restaurant That Doesn't Know What "Rush" Means

Greg Robinson and I became acquainted when we both held vice presidential posts at a medical center in Gainesville, Georgia. Now Greg serves as CEO of Lowcountry Medical Associates in Charleston, South Carolina, and I head my company, Championship Communication. Fortunately, Greg and I stay in touch.

After reading one of my monthly e-mail newsletters, Greg wrote about an incident he and his wife Mary had at a local restaurant:

Mary and I had a bad experience one evening in a popular local restaurant. We arrived early and had only thirty minutes to order dinner, eat and leave for a church meeting. We asked the waiter to recommend something that would fit this difficult situation. The waiter did not comprehend but that was not immediately obvious to us. The experience was a disaster--the food took forever, we had to gobble it down in less than 2 minutes and it wasn't very good. I wrote a very nasty e-mail to the restaurant."

The restaurant manager exchanged a couple of e-mails with Greg, and included an offer for a refund or a $50 gift certificate for another visit to the restaurant.

Greg's reaction: "Although their offer was very generous, we have never eaten there again and did not accept the $50 gift. There are so many good restaurants in Charleston- - why bother?"

Well stated, Greg. We all know the axiom, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

For more information, please visit my Web site:


Hardware Store Scores an "Ace" in Customer Care

Bill Bell, a member of my prestigious "Circle of Champions," lives in Otto, NC. He sent me this account of a Customer Care incident incident he witnessed in nearby Franklin:

In our Ace Hardware here in Franklin, I was looking for some wood screws. The aisle with the screws and bolts was temporarily blocked by a store clerk and a lady who needed some kind of a fastening device, but had no idea what kind it was or hardly how to describe it. I was pleased to overhear and watch the kind, patient and genuinely helpful assistance that the clerk rendered this customer for one very modest sale. He asked a few questions then showed her several kinds and sizes until she found one that she thought might replace the one that was lost. It was a heart warming scene especially thinking of stories my Pat has told me about being intimidated, hurried and talked down to by hardware store clerks in times past when she needed some rare, almost undescribable item that might be found in a hardware store.

Two observations:

  • Note that I use the term Customer Care. I prefer that to Customer Service. Why? Because we can service someone without demonstrating care. You have seen that happen many times, I am sure.
  • Second, the Pat that Bill mentions is his lovely wife, who has been a gracious hostess every time I have visited in their home.

For more information, please visit my Web site:


A Waiter Who Adjusted His Level of Service

Bill Kalmar--mentioned in my blog "Customer Service Expert Responds to Two Articles"--wrote this about a waiter:

"Your comments on customer service struck a chord with me. Maybe it's just me but it seems that when we dine at an upscale restaurant and don't order a drink, the customer service seems to deteriorate (not at the Ritz Carlton of course!) Mary and I went to a top restaurant in the area several years ago and since we don't drink we both ordered ice tea. The waiter of course had given us an elaborate wine list menu but we pushed it aside and asked for the nonalcoholic beverage. He obviously was distressed knowing that he would be missing out on padding our bill with an extravagant amount for the wine. His demeanor suddenly changed and while he was courteous, he was also distracted and used all of his energy with the people next to us who were ordering a bottle of wine. We never went back!"

Ah, Bill, because you have worked so closely with the Ritz-Carlton, as I have, you are right that this incident wouldn't happen there. You did what we call "voting with your feet," by leaving, and never coming back.

For more information, please visit my Web site:


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Customer Service Expert Responds to Two Articles

I met Bill Kalmar of Lake Orion, Michigan, when we participated in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company's “Legendary Service Symposium” at the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. Bill was there to emcee the event, and I was there to write a series of articles about the Ritz-Carlton for Expert Magazine. I invite you to read those articles online:


Bill is a former Director of the Michigan Quality Council, and he has served on the Malcolm Baldrige Award Committee, so he has dealt with customer service at the highest levels for many years.

In response to two recent articles in my blog, Bill wrote:

Both articles--"A Jewel of a Jewelry Store" and "Customer Care Pays Dividends"--illustrate what separates "Good Customer Service" from "Exceptional and Memorable Customer Service". Organizations that know how to ratchet up their customer service to higher levels are able to transform "Regular" or "Normal Customers" into "Loyal Customers". Loyal Customers will shop at your organization and buy services even if there is a store or company closer and even if the closer store charges less for the same product. Loyal customers appreciate extraordinary customer service!. This group of loyal customers has now become ambassadors for your company and will spread the word about your service to new potential customers. So if you can't afford your own Public Relations Firm, institute a policy of providing exceptional and memorable customer service and new customers will beat a path to your door!

For more information, please visit my Web site:


Friday, June 03, 2005

Handle Stage Fright: Make the Right Choice

Every time I direct a seminar on Presentation Skills for corporations, government agencies, banks, hospitals and other groups, I begin by talking about Stage Fright—because I know that’s the number one concern speakers feel.

Among the guidelines I share about stage fright--guidelines I learned during a decade as a full-time professional speaker--this may be the most helpful one: Make the right choice.

You see, speakers have three choices when they stand up to speak.

First, they can focus on themselves entirely. Their self-talk goes something like this:

“What if they don’t like me?”

“Did I wear the right outfit, or is this too informal?”

“Sometimes I stammer when I get excited. That could happen right now.”

“Are they paying attention, or do they seem distracted?”

All right, what’s the result of this choice?

Every mistake becomes magnified in importance.
We get so wrapped up in performance that we forget what we want to achieve.
“Paralysis by analysis” turns us into robotic reciters, not speakers.

The speaker’s second choice: Focus on the audience

To begin with, change your opinion about audiences. Too often we think of an audience as a room full of critics, ready to analyze our every word and gesture. Really, though, the vast majority of listeners are not critics—they are your cheerleaders. They want you to succeed. They are glad you are the one up there speaking, not them. Too, from experience they know how uncomfortable an event is for everyone involved if the speaker fails.

Then pick out the most responsive listeners as soon as you can. They are easy to find. They are attentive, usually smiling and physically alert. Their supportive nonverbal communication elevates your confidence. Look at them frequently to draw strength from their feedback.

Involve the audience when you can. Today’s audiences don’t want to be passive. Even in my convention keynote speeches, I ask participants to shake hands, raise their hands, stand up and stretch or carry out brief assignments as partners.

Your third choice: Focus on the message.

Haven’t you noticed that when you are genuinely involved in your message, when you are determined to persuade others about your conviction, that speaking changes from a chore to a privilege? Your creativity increases, and you come up with catchy word combinations you had not planned. Your adrenalin flows, and you become animated on the platform. You are not preoccupied with the impression you are making. Yet, amazingly, you become more impressive than ever.

Now then, which of these three choices have you usually made when you face an audience?

If you have selected the first option, you have made yourself highly susceptible to Stage Fright. On the other hand, when you focus on your audience (as a friendly, receptive group of people who want you to succeed) and your message (as a deeply held conviction you can hardly wait to share with others), you will feel competent, confident and committed. Not only will you sense this, your audience will. That's when speaking becomes exciting and productive.

For some of my other tips on “How to Become a Dynamic Speaker!” I suggest that you order my recently-produced audio CD that carries that title. For thirty-five minutes, Doug Smart, CSP, another professional speaker, interviews me on this vital topic. You can read a description of this CD and place your order at:

And here's a book I recommend highly: You Are the Message, by Roger Ailes. Available in paperback and audio CD. Ailes was a speechwriter for the first President Bush and Ronald Reagan. He has been a speech coach for nationally famous CEOs. Now he is President of Fox News. I totally endorse his approach to public speaking.

For more information, please visit my Web site: