Last week we looked at defining customers as guests and clients and how those definitions take us away from thinking of customers as transactions.  As I thought more on these definitions, three words stood out, welcome, honor, and protection.  This week I want to look at the first of those three words, welcome.

When you think about welcome, what do you see?  What is welcoming?  What do you do to welcome people to your home?  What is welcoming behavior?

When my wife and I are expecting people for dinner or a party, we do a lot of work.  We vacuum, clean rooms, buy drinks, cook food, mow grass, weed the garden, the list goes on and on.  It usually turns into a blessing in disguise as we get a lot of cleaning done that we’ve been putting off.  Anyway, we put in a lot of effort to make things look as good as possible.  We want to make our guests comfortable and give them an experience of being at a home away from home.  However, this is only the preparation for welcoming.  The real deal is in the actions that follow.

When guests arrive, we give them a very cordial greeting. We open the door and make them feel like they are at a place where they can rest and enjoy themselves.  We want them to know that they don’t have to do any work; we are there to do things and serve them.

Isn’t that a real welcome?  You prepare a place of warmth and invite people in to be served and enjoy themselves.

Now put all of that into the context of your business.  Are you welcoming your guests?  Have you prepared a place of warmth?  Do you invite them to be served and to enjoy themselves?  Think about it, what are you doing to welcome people and move them from feeling like customers to feeling like guests?

Look around your workplace, does it scream, “Welcome to this place that is warm, friendly and comfortable?”  What do you do every day to prepare a place that’s a home away from home for your guests?

Take another look.  Are you, your employees and your policies and procedures working for the guest or do they make the guest work?

Just how welcoming is your business?  What can you change to make it a welcome place for guests instead of a place for a transaction?


Defining “Customer”

Many times I enter a business and while I get pretty good service, it seems fake or scripted.  It makes me feel like I’m on an assembly line and I am waiting to get a bolt installed instead of a person with individual needs.  Why has it gotten to this?  I think it has to do with how most businesses define customers from the very limited view of buying and selling.

How would defining customers differently change our behavior and cause us to perhaps behave more genuinely?

To get to that, let’s look at some of those definitions.  A look into Webster’s finds a customer defined as someone who buys goods or services from a business.  That’s pretty standard; however, customer is also a synonym for guest or client.  A guest is defined as a person invited to visit or stay in someone’s home or a person invited to a place or event as a special honor.  Finally, a client is defined as one who is under the protection of another.

Now how does that change things?  Think about it, what if we began to think of customers, those we serve, as honored people invited to stay in our home?  What if we thought of them as people to protect?  How would our behaviors change?  What would we do differently?

I think we would welcome customers as people we want to impress; we would do things in their best interest to protect them from difficulty and from being harmed.  Our behaviors would genuinely be about people and not about a transaction.  Imagine your business being represented with employees who demonstrate an attitude that treats customers as guests to be welcomed and clients to be protected, how would that change your bottom-line without having to market or come up with pricing schemes or new products?  I think you would agree that it sounds like a refreshing change from the typical scripted, impersonal, transactional service being delivered all around us as well as a way to differentiate you and your business from the crowd.

So, what can you do?  Have a meeting with your employees and ask them to define customer.  Share the definitions of guest and client.  Ask them how those definitions change things.  Ask them how they would treat a guest and how they would protect a client.  Have them try going one day thinking of customers as guests and clients that they are bound to protect against harm.  Have another meeting and ask what was different.

If you want an inexpensive way to a better bottom line and more loyal customers, begin driving honored guest and protected client into your business’s language and culture.


What’s Your Mission?


What’s your mission?  I am always surprised at the number of employees who have no idea of the mission of their company.  They often cite the fact that it is a statement that is largely meaningless or it is too long to remember.  When I hear that, I ask them, “What does your company do?  What do they sell or provide?”  That elicits a variety of answers depending on point of view.  Some people even chortle that it doesn’t matter, they just do their job.

Well, why does it matter?  Why does a mission matter?

If you are in a military unit, the mission is everything.  You must know what the coordinates are and what the expected outcome is.  From there you must be part of a plan to reach the objective.  Imagine going into battle with a simple, “Just go that way and shoot.”  Would you be inspired to go blindly forward?  Doesn’t it matter WHY you are doing it?

In business, many people seem to go blindly into battle without knowing why.  They go to work every day to fulfill tasks without a sense of the larger “why.”

Why am I concerned by this?

I am concerned because I think this leads to work becoming a series of boxes to check without inspiration and without creativity.  This all leads to a lousy experience for workers and an even lousier experience for customers.

If you are a leader in an organization, what is the mission?  What are you working so hard for?  Is it to help others or is it simply to check off boxes and get a paycheck?  If it is the latter, then your staff will do the same.  If you lead, come to terms with a mission, make it known, inspire others to participate in it and create a movement of people working hard for something meaningful like helping others or providing excellence in ________.

QUESTION: What are you leading people to?  Why is your business in business?  What is the mission?

Listen: Four Steps to Building Your Fan Base

How can I grow my customer base?  How can I build a large following of loyal fans?  Well, here is the simple answer…LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS!

  1. Review every customer satisfaction survey. How many times do you look over surveys and when you see good scores, you put it down and look for ones with bad scores believing there is nothing to learn if there are good scores?  This assumption can cause you to overlook critical details.  Even “satisfied” customers can leave clues for things that can be improved.  Remember, a satisfied customer is just one mistake away from being dissatisfied or leaving altogether.
  2. Search out customer comments on social media. Many customers delete surveys or don’t return them as a course of habit. However, this does not stop them from rating you elsewhere.  Go online and do some snooping around.  Search for “customer comments” on your company.  Search Yelp!.  Search “reviews” or “service reviews.”  Be diligent to find out what the word on the street is about you.
  3. Ask your employees what’s going on. Your frontline staff hears a lot and many times they are hesitant to bring it up for a variety of reasons.  Make your business a safe place where employees can bring up what they hear without fear of being a troublemaker.  Welcome this input, in fact, encourage it.
  4. Talk to customers. When was the last time you went out and met with actual customers and got real feedback?  Many business leaders simply watch their business from the sidelines, or worse yet, from the press box and never get their hands dirty by getting face-to-face with their clients.  Get out there and ask the hard questions.  The greatest leaders take the good with the bad and act on the bad.

What you do with what you learn is a subject for another post but learning from your customers is the first critical step to getting real about your business and correcting the things that are keeping you from developing a huge base of loyal customers.  Whether it is fear of learning the truth or just simple laziness, learning from your customers is vital to business survival for the long term.

Am I a Leader?


I taught a class on customer service basics yesterday and also spoke a bit about leadership and the need for leaders in delivering great service.  While we discussed this, I heard some say things like, “I’m not a leader, I’m just an employee” or “when I get into management, I’ll get to lead.”  This drove me nuts.

I am a big believer in the fact that leadership has nothing to do with titles.  Leading others to a better future requires no formal authority.  There are many people with titles who people are reluctant to follow, all the while within the organization there are highly respected people who people willingly listen to and follow.

But how do you know whether you are a leader or not if it’s not about titles or formal authority?  In a recent post by Michael Hyatt, he lists 12 things that will help you make that determination.

  1. You long to make a difference.
  2. You’re dissatisfied with the status quo.
  3. You’re not waiting on a bigger staff or more resources to accomplish your vision.
  4. Your dreams are so big, they seem impossible.
  5. You acknowledge what is but inevitably ask what could be.
  6. You realize you don’t have to be in charge to have significant influence.
  7. You refuse to blame others for your circumstances, and you take responsibility for finding solutions.
  8. You foster unity by bringing people together and encouraging dialogue.
  9. You’re quick to say, “I messed up. Here’s what I’m going to do to fix the problem I’ve created.”
  10. You value relationships more than tasks.
  11. You walk your talk, not perfectly but sincerely and intentionally.
  12. You’re a learner.


Leadership isn’t something you are appointed to, it’s a choice to stand up and show the way to something better than the status quo.  If you see yourself in most of the above list, congrats, you’re a leader.