John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


[tweetmeme source=””]Your customer service has many legs and pockets.   It is not only the way your employees interact with your customers, but it’s all the messages being sent to your customers in countless ways. Everything speaks: verbal cues, systems, technology, physical signage, uniforms, etc.  It is imperative you take a step back and review any negative cues that are making your business appear less than world class.

Verbal – Medical practices are the leaders in negative cues of all kinds. First, negative verbal cues: when a patient is checking in and the receptionist says, “We need to VERIFY your information.”  Verify makes me feel like they don’t believe who I am; that maybe I am trying to use someone else’s insurance information.  How about saying, “we need to CONFIRM your information?”  Another example is when a patient is being seen by a doctor and a nurse comes into the room during the exam and says, “Your 10:30 is here,” or “You have a call on line 2.” At that point I am convinced the doctor is now rushing and more concerned with the patient waiting rather than focusing on me. Some great medical practices have created both verbal and non-verbal codes for this.

Signage has by far the highest occurrence of negative cues.  I have collected so many examples over the years and am constantly receiving more each week from all of you.  Businesses are so concerned about getting taken advantage of by 2% of customers that they end up insulting 98% with threatening signage.  Here are just a few examples:

This is an actual sign on the glass door at the entrance to a high-end wine bar located in a beautiful shopping area.  There are 12 things they tell you that you cannot wear. But they have a line underneath it all that says, “Business casual or business attire is suggested.”  Couldn’t they have just put that on the door?

This one is so popular that actually sells it!  I have another one that says, “No English, No Service!”

I was recently speaking to a group in Sydney Australia, where a partner of one of the most successful real estate companies in Sydney approached me. The partner confessed that he has some negative cues.  When they have an open house for potential buyers, they display the following sign on the door that reads, “CONDITIONS OF ENTRY,” and it proceeds to tell you that you cannot enter with food or drink or shoes or unaccompanied children or a slew of others barriers to viewing the house.  I was so excited when this gentleman said, “I realized we could position this notice in a more positive way by saying:

Out of respect for the homeowner, we appreciate your removing shoes…

He got it!

On Stage vs. Off Stage
Do your employees really know what is considered on stage and off stage? I recently worked with some QSRs (quick-service restaurants) and after touring some of their locations, I repeatedly saw their employees on break, standing in front of the restaurant where customers were walking by, smoking.  This goes back to last week’s service aptitude article.  This is not their fault.   To them, they are on break and can do what they want.  It is management’s responsibility to make them aware that even though they are not interacting with customers while on break, if they are in uniform where customers can see them, they are “on stage.”  This can apply to all our businesses. I worked with a hospital and found nurses chatting behind the nurses’ station forgetting that they still can be seen and heard by patients and their visitors.

It is critical that you do a periodic review of the negative cues that can be expressed in numerous ways and can project a less than world-class image.

About the Author
~John DiJulius is President and Chief Visionary Officer of  The DiJulius Group, a customer experience consulting firm used by top organizations, to create, develop, and improve their customer service systems. Our customer service consulting engagements help improve and maintain a healthier corporate culture and performance; lower employee turnover costs; increase customer retention factors; generate more referrals and make price less relevant. Companies across the world use The DiJulius Group to create World-Class Customer Experiences every day.  John will be a presenter at The Secret Service Summit 2010.


Marriott World Center Orlando

Recently I was a keynote speaker at a company’s annual conference held in Orlando, Florida. Their meeting was held at the Marriott World Center, the largest Marriott property in the world.  When I arrived from the airport at around 10:00 am, I requested of the nice bellman to please have my luggage sent directly to my room so I could meet with the meeting planner and then deliver my keynote.

Unexpected Surprise

By the time my presentation and book signing were completed, it was now 5:00 pm. I was free, but I had a productive night scheduled. My plan was to run up to my room, change out of my suit and tie and go work out. I would then come back to my room, order room service and get caught up on several days of piled up email.

Well, things didn’t work out as planned. When I got to my room, I searched for my luggage, but it was nowhere. I then called down to the front desk, informing them that the bellman never delivered my luggage as requested.  Shortly after, the front desk called me back and said they were unable to locate my luggage, but would try to as quickly as possible.  So here it goes again: yet another horrible customer service experience!

I sat in my room, in a robe, like a prisoner. I had no workout clothes, couldn’t go to the gym like I had planned, my evening schedule was being compromised, and everything was getting pushed back. Why me?  I was working myself up, getting stressed over the inconvenience, and imagining a horrible night’s sleep as a result.

Opportunity to be a Hero

What seemed to be hours later (actually only 10 minutes at most since I called the front desk looking for my luggage), the phone in my room rang. “Mr. DiJulius, this is James. I am the head bellman. I want to apologize for your inconvenience. We haven’t found your luggage yet, but I promise you we will soon. Can I ask you if there was anything in particular you needed that I can send up to your room?”

I responded with, “Just my work-out cloths. I was planning on getting a work out in.”

James responded, “Mr. DiJulius, I apologize. If we do not locate your luggage within the next 15 minutes, I would be happy to get you a pair of workout shorts, tee shirt and tennis shoes from our store outside our spa. Can you tell me your sizes?”

I responded that he didn’t have to do that!  I could easily flip -flop my plans and get my emails done first, and hopefully by then my luggage would be found and I’d work out then.

James said, ”Are you sure?  I promise you, I will personally find your luggage and get it to you ASAP! You are the last person we want to inconvenience, and I am truly sorry.”

I responded, “James, I appreciate your effort, really. I am fine. There’s no inconvenience. Thank you.”  Within 15 minutes James brought my luggage to the room, and I thanked him and gave him a big tip for his effort.

Attitude Adjustment

What happened here? One moment I was an angry guest, working myself up, feeling sorry for myself: poor me, why does this have to happen to me, my entire night is screwed up, not realizing that I had an option of rearranging my plans.  The next minute I was feeling bad for the bellman, telling him I was fine with plenty of things to do, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all, stop with the fuss.   Why did this attitude transformation occur? (I went from being a potentially angry dissatisfied customer to telling them they were making too much of a fuss.)  Because this particular Marriott properly trained their associates to recognize when something goes wrong, empathize immediately with the customer, and instead of focusing on the problem, (missing luggage) to focus on the inconvenience and offer solutions and alternatives.  As a result of James’ sincere empathy to my horrible situation (exaggerated in my mind), the situation flipped and I was feeling badly for him and how hard he was trying to please me.

While they may complain about the Service Defect,

They are going to rave about how we handle it!

World-Class customer service companies train their employees to be Zero Risk. Commandment VII is anticipating your service defects and having service recovery protocols in place to make them right.  We can’t eliminate things from going wrong, but what we can do is reduce errors and be better prepared to be a hero when things do go wrong.  With over 2,000 visitors per day, just on that sheer volume, Marriott is going to misplace a small percentage of luggage from time to time.  They know this and they are prepared.

  • Have you recognized the reoccurring service defects in your operations?
  • Have you trained your employees on how to show empathy and recognize the inconvenience versus the problem?
  • Do you have protocols in place to turn your potentially upset customers into even more loyal evangelist?

~John DiJulius is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, consultant and the President and CVO of The DiJulius Group.


Key to a Service-Oriented Culture is Employing People with Service DNA ~ by John DiJulius
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John DiJuliusHaving a service vision for your company is only the first step in developing a top-flight, customer experience oriented business. Even the most visionary organizations can’t pull off top service if they don’t have a world-class internal culture. That is accomplished only by attracting, hiring and retaining only those people who have the all-important service DNA.

As business leaders, we need to have standards that require prospective employees to earn the right to be a part of our company. Having a set of non-negotiable hiring standards will turn your prospective employees either on or off.

People need to earn the right to work for you. The main objective of any human resource person who conducts first interviews with prospective hires is to try to scare the applicant out of working for you. If the applicant doesn’t scare, chances are high that he or she is a good fit for your company. What “scare” really means is to help candidates recognize that a job at your company may be either a much bigger commitment than they wanted or exactly what they have been looking for. In order to do this, your company needs to have its own set of non-negotiable hiring standards.

Very similar to creating the service vision, there are two distinct parts of creating your hiring standards:

  1. creating the values that truly embody what your company stands for and
  2. being able to articulate those values to potential, new and seasoned employees so clearly and passionately that, within minutes, you can tell if your are turning them on or off.
Otherwise, it will just be another company slogan.

A world-class culture does not compromise values; rather, it remains faithful to values, even when remaining faithful means doing things differently from everyone else. A legendary culture is created in the head and the heart of the leader and passed from team member to team member.

Build the culture and the customers will come

If you truly want to be a world-class customer experience organization, then you have to be the employer of choice. And to do that, you need to be known for four things:

  • Being a great place to work
  • Providing great training
  • Having superior customer service
  • Offering unlimited opportunity

If you can create that type of reputation, you will never have a shortage of applicants.

The employee career experience

The employee career experience encompasses the traditional stages an employee has during his or her career with your company. These stages are quite consistent from company to company; recruiting, screening and hiring, orientation and training, 90 days after hire, six months after hire, one year after hire, two years after hire, and after five or more years of employment.

Because the employee’s mentality is different at each stage, managers need to be trained how to coach, so they effectively emphasize and avoid certain factors at each stage. By creating this, you are designing a blueprint on how to create a positive working environment. This blueprint teaches new managers – and reminds experienced managers – how to create a great culture throughout an employee’s career in a way that continually reinforces his or her emotional capital in the company.

There are three components of each stage: service defects, standards and above-and-beyond opportunities.

Service defects are the things that the company and management need to avoid at each stage because those things can cause the employee’s morale to take a nosedive.

Standards are actions we want the company and management to deliver at each stage because those are the things that will differentiate the company from any other company for which the employee has ever worked.

And finally, above-and-beyond opportunities allow management to demonstrate a culture of going out of their way to care about the individual employee, leaving a reoccurring impression that this company is unlike any other for which they have worked.

I have never come across a world-class customer service organization that wasn’t a world-class company to work for — not only vertically (management to employee) but horizontally (employee to employee), as well.

Becoming World-Class is Not an Event, it’s a Cultural Evolution ~ by John DiJulius
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John DiJuliusWithout execution, systems in manuals are nothing more than ideas on paper. This is where most companies fail – the execution of these systems.

The two most important words in the success of implementing systems are consistency and continuity. Nearly every company has more ideas than it knows what to do with. Here’s a scenario familiar in every company: Some executives attend a fantastic seminar, get dozens of great ideas, and return to work all fired up to start executing. A month later, not one idea is being executed even 10 percent of the time. The managers are either  preoccupied with a crisis or have moved on to a new focus. Managers are not short on ideas; they are short on strategy that will result in successful implementation.

Select a path and stick with it

I can’t tell you how often I hear the same thing from the companies I consult: “A few years ago, our theme was ‘fish,’ last year our theme was ‘raving fans,’ and this year our theme is your book.” It’s no wonder nothing sticks. There’s no continuity from one generation of employees to the next because they joined under a different theme. There is nothing wrong with using any of those books and concepts as themes. What I am saying is pick a path.

The world-class customer service companies focus on one concept and build their training program around it. Over the years, every new employee goes through the same training, learns the same underlying concept and theme, reads the same book, and hears the same message.  That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t evolve. But you have a consistent foundation on which everyone has been trained. And it can’t just be new employees who go through intensive training; existing employees need to be retrained and re-energized on at least an annual basis. Beyond that training, world-class customer service companies advertise superior customer service to their employees on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

Implement slowly and properly

Let’s assume you have just successfully completed the Customer Experience Cycle Workshop with your entire organization. You should now have the buzz. Stop right there. This is when the train wreck so often happens. The workshop was easy; the hard part is implementation. Yes, you are excited about the buy-in to being world-class. Yes, you want to maintain the enthusiasm and the momentum. But now you must crawl before you can walk. A worst practice is to allow managers to roll out the implementation on their own or to introduce many new concepts every week. If you do either, in about 45 days, all of those great ideas will be a distant memory because not one of them will stick. The only result will be a loss of credibility. Employees will feel that all their work was just a bunch of rah-rah and hot air because nothing ever came of it. Customers will be disappointed by the inconsistency between your promises and their experiences.

Both your front-line managers and employees already have too much on their plate to digest and manage the execution of more than a few things at once. You need to create a roll-out calendar of new customer service systems. Never introduce more than two or three things per 120 days to any one department. This may sound like a slow process, but wouldn’t you be doing cartwheels if I told you that a year from now, you will have introduced 10 new initiatives that are all being executed consistently?

Manage the Experience

It is imperative that every manager is uncompromising about the execution of your standards. Your employees have to know that they cannot pick and choose. That is why it is very important NOT to have too many standards for every stage of interaction. Less is more, so keep it realistic to achieve. As soon as employees start to think no one is really paying attention or cares, the standards go from nonnegotiable to optional. To avoid this, managers have to routinely do audits of the standards and recognize when they are being executed and immediately coach when they aren’t. You can have the greatest customer experience on paper, but it is the leadership’s responsibility to make sure every employee is well aware of the importance of consistent, continuous execution.

5 Hours of “Service” ~ By©Jeff Nischwitz
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To better introduce you to our new Revolutionists, I am excited to share with you an article by Jeff Nischwitz.  Find out how your industry can benefit from Jeff’s airport experience. ~ John DiJulius

5 Hours of “Service” ~ By©Jeff Nischwitz

Recently, I had the “pleasure” of traveling back from a long weekend in Charlotte and I experienced the “best” (apparently) that the air travel industry had to offer.  Unfortunately, my day ended with a missed flight out of Philadelphia, and I was forced to spend the night at the Philadelphia Airport.  But that’s not what I take issue with.   I understand that stuff happens.  My issues are with the various “experiences” that I had along the way.

The shining moment actually came right at the beginning.  I was checking in at the Charlotte Airport, and my bag was under the weight limitation.  I told them that I wanted to put my jacket in my bag (if it didn’t go over the weight limit), but my jacket put the bag one pound over the limit.  To my pleasant surprise, they said “Go ahead; we’re not sticklers.”  A little thing, but a pleasant surprise to have my desires accommodated rather than following the one-pound over rule.  However, everything thereafter took a turn for the worse.

As I approached a confusing intersection, I asked one of the airport employees (who was clearly tasked with directing people) which way I needed to go to get to my gate.  Seeming annoyed, she gave me a quick explanation, and I started to head off in that direction.  When I immediately saw a sign that suggested that I was heading the wrong way, I went back and asked her to confirm her directions.  With a sarcastic and edgy tone, she responded, “Didn’t I tell you to go that way?”  A swing and a miss for this employee whose job it is to help people find their way.  Apparently, there’s a one ask rule in effect.

Later during my travels I learned that my flight was going to be delayed, which put me at risk for missing my connection out of Philadelphia.  Obviously, I was concerned and asked the service (interesting word) representative if she thought I would be able to make my connecting flight.  After asking me what time my connecting flight was, she responded simply, “You might not make it.”  Nothing more.  She did not check what gate my flight was leaving from or ask where I was flying.  It was a simple statement that I might miss my connection with no further input or assistance.  Another swing and a miss for this airline.

After a longer delay than even expected, we finally boarded the plane to Philadelphia and the pilot told us, “We will have you at the gate in Philadelphia by 9:45 p.m.”  This was hopeful news to me, since my connecting flight was scheduled to leave Philadelphia at 9:50 p.m.  I was optimistic that I might make my flight.  Unfortunately, the pilot had apparently been telling us what he thought we wanted to hear, rather than the truth.  We arrived at the gate in Philadelphia at 10:00 p.m.  At the time, the pilot certainly knew how long it would take his crew to ready the plane for take-off and he knew where he stood on the take-off priority list.  I understand that delays happen, but I would rather get accurate information than be further disappointed when they do not meet their stated commitments.  Yet another swing and miss when it came to the service experience.

Lest you think me merely a complainer, let’s look at the opportunities to easily get this right.

  • The first airport employee could have politely (and with a smile) repeated her directions, or perhaps clarified them, to make sure that I understood.  After all, my need was for directions and that was her job.
  • The desk person could have asked a few more questions to better understand my challenge and offered to check to see if my connecting flight was on schedule.  Several little things that would have demonstrated to me that she cared about my plight even if she couldn’t fix it.
  • Instead of giving me an overly optimistic estimate of our arrival time, the pilot could have given me a realistic estimate so that I would know that making my connecting flight was not a likely scenario.  I understand that delays happen, but I don’t like to be misled.

Five hours of mostly horrible service which all could have been averted with some simple, common courtesy and just a tad more proactive attention to me, the customer.  None of these “fixes” would cost more money and at most they would have taken a few more seconds to execute, but it would have changed everything regarding my experience.

But what’s the airport experience have to do with MY business you might ask?

  • Who in your firm has the most contact with clients regarding mundane or basic topics (e.g., directions, schedules, basic follow ups, etc.)?  Do they ever have a bad day or a day when they’re bored with the job … which might result in clients feeling like they’re “bothering” your team member?  I’m just saying…
  • When clients or prospective clients call into the office, do your front line team members ask questions to understand their needs (to see if they can help), or do they quickly transfer the call to someone else?
  • Do you or your team members ever provide overly optimistic time frames which result in your client being disappointed  because something didn’t go as promised?

No matter what your business, we all have opportunities to connect with and engage our clients based upon the experience that we provide.  We also have the same opportunities to “miss” with our clients, which may cause them to feel like they don’t matter.

What are your customers and clients experiencing that’s causing them to feel neglected, unimportant, and not cared about?  More often than not it’s the little things that matter the most in how your customers and clients “see” you and your value.  When it comes to the customer experience, you must sweat the small stuff.   The cost of missing the small stuff can be substantial.

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Have you truly benefitted from this recession like others have?
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John DiJulius

John DiJulius

Are we starting to come out of the recession? Is the worst over?  Am I the only one a little sad about this?  Don’t hate me for saying this: I know it has been a long recession and I know it is not over yet. But I truly believe there have been so many benefits to this recession that have made all of us much stronger and our organizations much better today — and especially in the future.

The recession is a horrible thing… to waste

Customer service is finally getting the attention it deserves

Okay.  So this might sound a little self-serving coming from a customer experience consultant.  However, good customer service has been considered a “nice to have” amenity by the majority.  So many of those companies are no longer around.  The rest of us have both appreciated our commitment and realized that customer loyalty is an organization’s greatest asset in any economy.

The recession is like a business enema

Less competition

Most industries have 1/3 fewer players today. I truly believe there are very few victims of the recession.  Most of the businesses that failed to withstand these times were benefiting from a tidal wave that they were not responsible for creating.  They were bringing down the professional reputation of our industry.

There are two factors which determine a company’s size and growth:

  1. Size of market – a.k.a. the size of the pie. How many customers are out there to fight over, and what they can spend.
  2. Market share – the amount of the pie we have.

This is repeat customers, loyal customers, customers who refer us, customers who are not looking for the best deal and shopping us to the lowest bidder. We have little control over size of the market. If it shrinks due to economic constraints and government regulations — it shrinks. But we do control market share.  That is driven by the customer experience that produces customer loyalty, which results in price becoming less relevant.

Show me you care about my business rather than just getting my business

Renewed Focus and Drive

People are creative and working harder than they ever have before, and sometimes for less!  Business is earned. Nothing is on autopilot.  Professionals are returning phone calls, people are following up, demonstrating they care, customers are being thanked.  There is a genuine authenticity happening.

Organizations have also had a rally cry that has forced employees and departments to come together, support each other, and fight the battle to survive.  This has created teamwork and a renewed sense of purpose.

Get yours before it is too late

We may have seen the worst of the recession. It probably will be awhile before we are fully back, but the clock is ticking, the opportunity is fading, and the window is closing.

Ask yourself, have you truly benefitted from this recession like others have?

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John DiJulius

John DiJulius

On occasion, when I have been made to wait longer than typical, I have received this card from Starbucks.  Every time I receive this card, I am more impressed with them than had they served me my coffee on time.

I use this example in my presentations with every audience I speak to, including professional service firms, (accountants, lawyers, etc.), and I ask, “Why would I share this example with you, when I realize you do not sell coffee?”  I will not share an example just because it is a good story, every example I share, can be leveraged in their business. To my amazement, my audiences have difficulty bridging the gap between this example and how it applies to their world.

Starbucks Card

What I love about this example is Starbucks recognizes they have a reoccurring service defect (in this case service delay), that inconveniences their customers from time to time, that they cannot eliminate. They can ‘reduce’ but can never ‘eliminate’.  Now, they do not know if it is going to happen today at noon, or 3 pm, but they do know it is going to happen a certain amount of times per week, per location.

Does your business have reoccurring service defects that you know are going to occur and inconvenience your customer?  Are their tools your front line employees can use to recognize when a customer does not receive the experience they were hoping for, and demonstrates you are willing to make it up to them?  It doesn’t always have to be giving away something or discounting.  Below is a great example of an email apology that provides the customer peace of mind in future dealings with you.

Apology Letter

Action Plan
Examine the areas you drop the ball the most and create some simple tools, your employees can utilize, to turn the service defect into a ‘WOW’ for your customer.


Dear John,

I have to vent to someone who understands.

Yesterday was my 19th wedding anniversary.  Saturday we had theater tickets, so we decided to go to dinner first.  When I made reservations at a well known restaurant, the receptionist inquired if we were celebrating anything special.  “Good.”  I thought.  “She’s gotten John’s message.  This will be nice.”  Of course I told her it was our anniversary, and when we showed up at 6:00, I expected perhaps a customized greeting acknowledging the event.  Nothing.

OK, then perhaps the waiter will say something.  Nothing.  OK then, maybe a little cake for dessert.  Again, nothing.  We ordered dessert, and I thought, “OK, maybe it will come with a little candle or something.”  Nothing.  Just look at all those missed opportunities!  Our meal was delicious, and it won’t deter me from going to the restaurant again, but as you say, they could have really WOWed us – but they didn’t.

Then, last night, our actual anniversary date, we just went to another well known restaurant for a quick bite since we celebrated on Saturday.  At the table, Len and I exchanged anniversary cards with each other, and set them up on the table between us.  It was clear the waitress noticed the cards, but said nothing.  Then the manager came over to greet us and make sure we were happy – but never said a word with four cards sitting on the table.  Again, another missed opportunity. Really, I just don’t get it!

You’d think in this crummy economy people would be looking for ways to secure business.  I don’t get it.

Thanks for listening.


~Article written by John DiJulius