Empathy matters

Let me begin by confessing that I’m a bit of an idiot sometimes…

Long story short, I had an iPhone from Verizon that ran out of contract. I found a new carrier that wouldn’t lock me into a 2 year contract. If you know anything about people born after 1978, you know that we don’t really like anyone to tie us down. Oh, and it’s roughly 1/2 price from what Big Red was charging me.

verizonAs a part of the switch, I ordered a new SIM card, popped it in, and then got an error message that this card wouldn’t work because my carrier had to unlock the phone. No problem, right? The phone was paid for.

When that happened, it ported my number from Verizon as if the SIM card worked. Because it didn’t work, I now have a service with a new carrier but no phone that will allow me to use it. That’s when I called Verizon…

“We don’t do that,” the customer service agent said, “we only unlock it if you’re going overseas and want to get a carrier over there.”

Funny thing is, the other carriers will unlock an iPhone, but Verizon says they won’t. Hmmmm…

What emotions do you think I felt?

Yep, all of those. It’s been a few days now (without a cell phone – man I’m in the stone ages) and I’ve had time for my lizard brain to subside and my adult brain kick in. It got me to thinking about empathy.

You see, before this, I wouldn’t have thought much about a company basically refusing to release something that I gave them hard earned money for. Heck, Wouldn’t have crossed my mind because that would be practically stealing! Not so anymore.

Unfortunately, I had to experience first hand the experience of dealing with a company policy that makes me feel like I’m dealing with a thief, or at the very least, a company who doesn’t care even a little bit about me as a customer.

This, however, is not Empathy, it’s Sympathy. Sympathy is feeling the same thing as someone else because you’ve felt it. Empathy is understanding that feeling without ever having necessarily felt that yourself.

I do not have enough empathy. In my job working with successful corporate leaders, I find that my problem is a common one. That’s no excuse; I need more.

Ask yourself, do I empathize? Can I understand and anticipate the way people feel, even if I don’t feel the same way? If you’re a leader, you should probably ask a series of questions like this:

What are we doing that makes people angry? Sad? Frustrated? Feel less important?

I’ll bet that there are great people at Verizon. I’ll bet that some of them can sympathize with my situation. It appears that the problem is that the leaders of that particular company have an Empathy gap. They only see things in terms of dollars and cents and haven’t been able to see what their customer is experiencing. That’s a shame.

Puppy empathySo thanks, Verizon, for helping me stop a minute and think. I am trying to “Make progress every day.”

What about you? Do you have empathy? If so, we need to talk. I have to get better at this if I’m going to serve the way I need to serve. Let’s connect!

The Passion of the…Customer

Customer service is truly a passion.

passion for customers, No, not the passion you might think – the passion where you get all excited and don’t realize how much you’re working – rather definition of passion for the last 1,000 years before the 1990’s. More like passion you see from Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. The kind of passion that involves  total suffering and labor.

You know what I mean. There is no way you can enjoy the experience because it’s so painful. Remind you of anything? Sounds a little like government service for some. Why do we make our customers (constituents/taxpayers/citizens) pay for our unhappiness? We make them suffer but they don’t have any other choice. They’re definitely not here because they want to be…

I think it’s because we have too many people “Right Fit Roles.”

Why do you stay in a role that doesn’t fit? Why do you STAY miserable if you hate your job?

I know, you don’t hate your job…you just hate your boss/co-workers/technology/system/etc.


Here’s the problem. Christ’s mission was to save those who were lost. Your mission isn’t that important. Yeah, it’s important to you, but you need to step back and see that your mission is not worth this kind of passion.

So what do I do? I think it comes down to 3 steps to avoiding the passion of the customer:

1. Recognize that your job is replaceable. You’re using the excuse that jobs are tough to find. I know you can’t go somewhere and get paid the same kind of money for the level of education or skills you currently have, but that’s no excuse. Get the skills. Find an education. Search for a company that you can get excited about working for. you’ll be amazed how well you will do if you’re excited.

Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 5)

ImageEver wondered how they manage to hire those folks at the DMV?

No doubt SWA’s success is because of their people. In post #5, we’re talking about Jose Luis Romero’s article Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation – hiring. More specifically, how does SWA’s philosophy compare with the practices within the government. Ultimately, is it possible to have great customer service within the government?

5. Hiring.  Historically in civil service, the government jobs have always been considered stable, well-compensated and safe…(I said historically!!). Because the jobs were very desirable, many government jobs regressed to what’s now called the “spoils system” where anytime a new politician would be elected, he would put his cronies into the government jobs.

Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 4)

Southwest Airlines is the best…Yep, the best!

We’re talking about how SWA maintains employee motivation according to Jose Luis Romero in his article Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation, and whether that can be applied in the government.

We’ve talked through the 1st three factors for great motivation: Strong Set of Values, Employees Come 1st, and Rewards & Recognition.  Now let’s move to #4.


“The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”

Romero argues that the mission isn’t what sets Southwest apart. Any company can write the words down on paper and post it for the world to see, however, Southwest has managed to get buy-in on a much deeper level because “SWA has been able to place its mission as a noble purpose in the eyes of its employees…”

So what about government?

The issues in this arena I’ve noticed are these: Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 3)

ImageSo here we are at Value #3.  In this series, we’re exploring the 7 key elements in Southwest Airlines seemingly superior Employee Engagement philosophy. Today, we’ll be thinking through the 3rd value they hold very dear – Rewards & Recognition.

The premise is that Southwest encourages employees to explore every possible option and rewards them for trying new ideas. Although they have a formal recognition process, one key item is that every member of the team continually encourages and pushes each other, not just the management.

How does that translate in the government? Good question.

As we talked about before, there are many legislated rules/regulations with which an employee must comply about virtually everything.  The climate itself doesn’t really promote exploration of new ideas but there are some employees and managers who refuse to bow to the way things have always been.

Think about it. Would you challenge the process if the process had been laid out in a policy or worse yet, a law? Would you encourage your team to think creatively when the environment says we should do things a certain way? I’d like to think I would but who knows.

I’ll leave you with 2 questions Jose gives us in his article. Continue reading

Is Great Customer Service Possible in Government? (part 2)

Okay, we talked yesterday about the possibility of customer service in government.  Southwest Airlines was our starting point and we’re visiting the 7 key elements of Southwest’s success in the white paper by Jose Luis Romero. Let’s get to it.

Value 2. Employees come first.

“To our employees: We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.”

Sooo, yeah…that’s an easy one. From what I’ve seen, the stable work environment is Continue reading

Don’t advertise your weaknesses…

Everyone is trying to jump on the Social Media bandwagon, right? Sure they are.  You hear “join us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” regularly, even outfits you’d never expect.

That said, if you’re considering a move to/on FB/Twitter, make a move.  Don’t pull a false start.

I’m a bit of a coupon hound and appreciate good marketing.  I use Groupon, City Coupons, Amazon Deals, etc., but one way I think is particularly relevant is on Twitter.  You have chosen to follow me because you like what I’m doing and want to stay informed.

The other day, I was sitting in the car watching my 1 yr old while my
I jumped on Twitter looking for anything that might be out that day. That’s when I saw a HUGE hole in SK’s business strategy.  This is what it looked like – My wife ran into Smoothie King.  Being the coupon lover that I am, I spotted this poster right in the front window directly in front of my car.  Down in the right corner (get past the sexy woman you’ll be if you drink smoothies) you’ll see the FB/Twitter advertisements.

Note the last Tweet – 179 days! 2,878 followers and no Tweets for 179 days!

No, it’s not ONLY that they aren’t active on Twitter, it’s that they are asking people to go somewhere they aren’t! No SM strategy = no business strategy…here’s why:

They spent thousands, no doubt, developing advertisements, printing posters, sending out communication to their stores, and otherwise investing in getting out the word that they were going to engage customers.  Then, without regard to the implications, they weren’t there when the customer came to see them.

What if they tried that with a Brick & Mortar location? They’d be carted off and told to drink the energy additive that “Helps increase energy, brain function and mental alertness.

Do you know why we capitalize the word Internet? Because it’s a place, not a thing.

What does this tell you about their marketing strategy?  About their customer retention strategy?  About their customer interaction strategy?

Don’t tell everyone where your weaknesses are.  Make them figure it out on their own.

What weakness are you advertising?  People skills? Anger management? Leadership? Don’t draw attention to something you haven’t worked on. I’d love to hear what you think.

Customer Service: used car salesman?!?

There are millions of stories about bad customer service, especially in the used car industry.

Setup – I’m frugal when it comes to car shopping…okay, cheap.  I set a target price and don’t buy new cars.  Sorry, Detroit, Dave Ramsey said.  Anyway, I often go to numerous lots and see numerous cars before taking the plunge, usually from an individual.  The experiences are always the same.

Don’t get me started on the  “no haggle pricing” strategy (that’s just American’s being lazy and avoiding confrontation).  Even when I hear that “Dealer X is super-duper fantastically customer focused,” I know they’re really all the same…right?

Wrong!  I met George, a salesman at Chevrolet’s 2nd oldest dealership by accident when I stopped in to look at a vehicle I spotted on the internet.  At the time, the car wasn’t there and I told him I’d return that night to see it on my way home.  I didn’t show.  He called me the next day and told me he had the vehicle back on the lot if I was interested.

Two days passed.  I dropped back by there on my lunch break and George had just returned from taking a woman to the courthouse to apply for a tag (how weird is that?).  The car had been moved to the other lot the dealership has across town.  He told me it would be back this evening.  No problem, I was in a hurry anyway.

At 3:30, George called me and said he had the vehicle.

“Alright,” I thought, “I’ll come by if I get a chance tonight,” or whenever…

THEN…George tells me that he personally went across town and got the car.  He was bringing it to my work so I could see it.

What an amazing lesson for salespeople.  He over-delivered and totally caught me off guard.

When’s the last time you wowed a potential customer?  How about a current one?

Have I bought the car? Not yet.  My wife needs to see it…

I’ve talked to about 15 dealers in the last week.  Guess who just jumped ahead of all of them?

By the way, before you think “I’d go get a car too for a $40k sale’s commission,” this car is less than $10k.  Makes it even better.

FTR, I know, shame on me for stereotyping.  I hate it when people say government employees are lazy and don’t care.