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Maset News

Volume 31  October 15, 2003

Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
Top Ten List
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
QBQ! QuickNote
Coming in the Next Few Issues


Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers




I take this opportunity to welcome Elie Beniflah as our first associate in France. His ability to speak Spanish, French, and English fluently will be a great asset to our European customers. Elie recently retired after 33 years service with Motorola.

This month’s feature article, "Customer Service is a Journey, Not a Destination", by Larry Caris, describes fifteen powerful ways employees at all levels can enhance customer service.

The second article, "How Mentoring Pays Off", by H. James Harington, supports my opinion that mentoring is the most important aspect of every manager’s duties. It becomes a significant part of the manager’s responsibilities. Mentoring, tied into good performance appraisal and reinforced by fair salary administration, provides an excellent environment for continuous performance improvement by employees and their management.

The QBQ feature by John G. Miller, addresses the connection between effective coaching and employee motivation. If your organization needs help in improving its coaching skills, call us for assistance.




  • A Customer comments following a recent (Maset) facilitation of a Strategic Planning Conference – "Personally, I also thought it was the best retreat I've been to. Often our retreats have either been too heavy on the "let's have fun and bond" or mainly reviews of what we've done rather than what we'd like to do and how to get there. I also appreciated that you kept control of the group - not an easy thing to do with 40 or so folks in our business where the ability to talk and "smooze" is very important!" – New York

  • "I am an avid reader of your news letters. They are totally absorbing and informative." - India
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  • We welcome Elie Beniflah to the Maset team. Elie will be our associate-on-the-ground in France. His vast experience in Performance Excellence Management, Coaching and Team Building will greatly enhance Maset customer services.
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  • When making a presentation, it is advisable to ask the audience what they expect from their attendance. If the response is some off the wall request, it is important that you address the request as it is made by commenting, "While that idea is a good one for future discussions, it will not be covered today".
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    Guidelines for Giving Effective Feedback – Seven of Fourteen

    1. Get permission before offering feedback.

    2. Present feedback as a peer.

    3. Focus on learning and behavior change.

    4. Provide balanced and fair input.

    5. Maintain two-way dialogue.

    6. Communicate in real time.

    7. Be specific and detailed.




    Customer Service is a Journey, Not a Destination

    15 Powerful Ways to Get a Head Start

    By Larry Caris, Regional Manager,
    Quest Consulting and Training Corporation

    Why is it we get mediocre service nearly everywhere we go? Is it so difficult to understand the only reason businesses continue to get a paycheck is because of the customer? The customer is their sole reason for being in business. Shouldn’t they act like it?

    Fact is, 68 percent of customers who quit doing business with companies do so for one reason – an attitude of indifference on the part of one or more employees. And, studies show, they talk about it to more than 3 times as many friends as those who are happy with you. What a pathetic scenario! And what any easy way to lose everything you’ve worked for.

    But here’s the good news. If employees show customers they care, more than 2/3 of those who might leave, would stay.

    Sharing this fact with employees is certainly a step in the right direction, but there’s more.

    So let’s take a look at 15 powerful ways to enhance your customer service.

    1. For jobs that require talking to customers, hire people who like to deal with people. It’s that simple. Attitudes show. Whether it’s on the phone, at the cash register or at a restaurant, we can tell who enjoys serving us and who doesn’t. As employers, we need the right people in the right jobs.

    2. Treat your people like you want them to treat your customers. Good service starts at home. It’s tough for employees to put on their best service face if they’re constantly being criticized or treated as second-class citizens by the boss.

    The front-line troops represent your company to current and potential customers. If you want your employees to be enthusiastic, helpful and caring with your customers, treat them the same way.

    3. Be swift! That means returning phone calls promptly and handling customer requests with speed and efficiency. It also means fixing problems fast. The longer the customer has to wait to get a problem solved, the more likely you are to lose that customer to the competition.

    4. Take the customer service litmus test. After every customer interface, did that customer feel good about:

    1. you, personally?
    2. the transaction?
    3. your company?

    If you can answer "yes" to all three questions, you have served your customer ... and your company ... well.

    5. Build in flexibility. Too many rigid rules can handcuff employees and often make no sense to customers. I recently went to a restaurant with my wife. We ordered "all you can eat" salad bar, and a sandwich. After eating the salad, we were no longer hungry and decided to take the sandwiches home. That is when the waiter informed us it was against their policy to allow food to be taken home when ordering from the salad bar. When I asked him to explain the rationale, since I was paying for both the sandwiches and the salads, he referred me to the owner. The owner grumbled "what’s your problem" and proceeded to tell me I obviously have never been in the restaurant business and I should leave his establishment. Interestingly, several months later he wasn’t in the restaurant business either!

    6. Be the customer advocate. "It’s not my job" is not an acceptable answer. Handle it! Or at least get the customer to the person who can. And that doesn’t mean simply giving him another phone number. It means going the extra mile and being responsible for that customer’s satisfaction. Show you care.

    7. Eat humble pie! There will be times when things don’t go right. The customer will get upset. These situations can provide an opportunity to clearly demonstrate just how dedicated to customer service you are. Listen to the complaint and show empathy. Apologizing is almost always an appropriate response. Even if it is simply: "I’m sorry we upset you." Then do everything you can to resolve the problem quickly.

    8. Have a recovery strategy. Advanced planning can go a long way towards turning a difficult situation around. For Domino’s Pizza that means discounting the price if the pizza is not delivered when promised. A major bank in our area gives you $5 if you have to wait in line too long, or their ATM is out of order. No questions asked! With some creativity you can come up with an effective strategy to diffuse many situations that are bound to come up in the course of any business. This also leaves managers free to handle the really tough ones!

    9. Do the unexpected. Write thank you notes to customers when they buy from you. I was floored – and pleased – the first time a Nordstrom’s sales rep wrote to thank me for my business. It’s been years, and I still remember it. By the way, I can count on one hand the other times this has ever happened to me.

    10. Exceed their expectations. If you think you can deliver in 3 days, tell them 4. Then work hard to deliver in 3. Thomas Peters calls it "underpromise and overdeliver." And it really "wows" the customer.

    11. Keep them informed. Customers don’t mind having to wait as long as they’re kept informed. If they call you and you need to check some information before giving an answer, let them know. And if it will take longer than you planned ... call them and tell them that, too. Waiting in the dark upsets customers far more than just waiting.

    12. Look sharp! Cleanliness, appropriate dress, and being organized are all indicators of how effective and efficient an operation is run. Dirty bathrooms and silverware certainly tell you something about a restaurant. Be alert to similar signals in your own business. Most are easy to fix so you can really put your best foot forward.

    13. Continuously look for ways to improve your product or service. Discover ways to add greater value to what you sell ... or the buying experience. Your employees can often be a great source of creative ideas that will set you apart. Ask them!

    14. Be a good finder! Like Kenneth Blanchard said, "catch people in the act of doing things right." Be lavish in praise of your employees who are doing their part to provide excellence to your customers. Put them on a special pedestal for all to see and emulate.

    15. Monitor your service. Take customer surveys. Find out what they like and don’t like. Often the opportunity to sound off can placate a dissatisfied customer who might have otherwise just gone away. Of course, you must follow through and fix what they complained about.

    This is a great question to ask when you want to elicit more than just a yes or no answer:

    "If there’s one thing our company could do better for you, what would it be?""

    Many people will tell you they’re satisfied even though they may not be totally happy. Asking them to suggest improvements will help you fine tune your product or service.

    As a leader in your business, your people will follow your lead. So "walk the walk." Demonstrate what you expect. Then inspect what you expect.

    When your company meets and exceeds the customer service goals you set, reward your team for a job well done. But remember, great service is a journey, not a destination.

    - - 30 - -

    To learn more about Quest, for additional information on leadership & performance, and to subscribe to their FREE monthly Leadership Edge E-zine, visit




    How Mentoring Pays Off

    Managers shouldn’t shirk this important responsibility.

    By H. James Harrington

    As the first part of an ongoing examination of the performance appraisal process, I previously discussed how to prepare an employee performance plan. Once this was done, the mentoring part of the process can begin.

    Ideally, mentoring is the most beneficial aspect of the total performance appraisal process. It’s when the manager provides constructive advice and encouragement to the employee, such as pointing out positive accomplishments as well as activities that were completed inadequately. However, mentoring doesn’t mean that the manager keeps the employee from making errors; we all learn more from our errors than we do from our successes. The challenge facing every manager is knowing how closely to monitor employees – enough to keep them from making serious errors while giving them enough latitude to learn from their less-critical mistakes.

    Mentoring is usually the most difficult part of the performance appraisal process, and most managers fail to meet this obligation. The difficulty stems from the following perceptions:

    • Most managers want to be liked and not considered overly critical.
    • Employees tend to over-analyze compliments.
    • When done correctly, mentoring takes a lot of time.
    • Employees often belittle managers when they say good things about them.
    • Often a manager isn’t technically capable of mentoring a particular person.
    • When employees make mistakes in the presence of other people, managers feel they shouldn’t comment at that time. However, when they do get a chance to speak to the employees privately, it’s usually too late for the advice to be effective.

    A manager can indeed come up with many excuses why he or she can’t do a good job at mentoring, but that’s just what they are – excuses. These must be addressed and overcome if he or she wants to be a meets-requirements performer.

    Once every three months, the manager and employee should sit down in a quiet, confidential area and review the employee’s progress against the quarterly and yearly plans. Both people should spend some time preparing for the quarterly review by filling out a simple performance evaluation from listing task titles, a rating of how well each task was performed, the employee’s major accomplishments since the last review and his or her goals for the coming three months.

    The performance review meeting should focus on tasks the employee rated higher than the manager did. The objective is for the manager and the employee to agree on each of the ratings. If they can’t agree on an item, they should jointly establish a more detailed performance plan for it that will be used during the next three months to provide data for resolving the differences of opinion. If the employee’s rating is lower than the manager’s, the latter’s prevails. As soon as the manager and the employee have agreed on the individual task ratings and the overall rating for the previous three months, they should then agree on a performance plan to cover the next three months.

    Because the quarterly reviews are informal, no official report is sent to personnel. However, the reviews form the basis for the formal yearly review, which is simply the average of the quarterly ratings.

    It’s very important for the manager to coordinate his or her quarterly review with upper management to ensure there’s agreement with respect to the manager’s rating. Nothing is more detrimental to the appraisal process than to have the manager and the employee agree on a quarterly rating and then learn the employee was rated higher than he or she is performing, based upon someone-up-there’s uninformed judgment.

    One of the biggest problems with performance evaluation is a manger’s dishonesty to employees by rating them higher than they were actually performing. It’s an easy way out of an uncomfortable situation, but it’s unfair to the company and employees for three reasons:

    • The employee is misled and not provided with the information that he or she needs to improve.
    • The company is misled because the employee really isn’t doing the job as well as the manager indicates but is getting paid for a higher performance.
    • It’s unfair to other employees who are performing their jobs better and receiving similar ratings.

    Salaries should be directly related to employees’ job levels and also to how well they perform their responsibilities. All job assignments can be performed at different levels of effectiveness, productivity and quality, so it’s only logical that each job should have a salary range associated with it. The employee who puts out large quantities of work at high-quality levels should be paid more than the employee who just meets standards and frequently makes errors. The yearly performance evaluation provides an ideal way to relate employees’ salaries to their performances. And one of the very best ways to reinforce desired behaviors is through a merit pay system.

    About the author

    H. James Harrington recently retired from his position as COO of an Internet-software development company. He has more than 45 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 20 books. Visit his Web site at

    Originally appeared in Quality Digest, November 2, 2002, p. 12. Reprinted with permission.




    QBQ! (The Question Behind the Question) QuickNote #5

    John G. Miller
    Author of the QBQ! book.

    "Why aren't people motivated?" and
    "When will others care the way I do?"

    Two very dangerous questions for coaches and colleagues to ask. They can lead to some lousy answers.

    When asked, "How many people do you have working with you?" one weary department manager replied, "About half!"

    Richard, the VP of Sales at a software firm and leader of a dozen salespeople, had an archaic belief that managers could and should motivate their people - and could do it through threats, fear and manipulation. "By any means necessary!" was his rule. One month, when particularly frustrated with "his" people's performance, he began what became a long-standing management practice. He bought a 50-gallon fish tank and put it in his office. He got a dozen tropical fish of various kinds, and assigned one to each salesperson. Then he divided the tank in half, placing the tropical fish on one side. On the other, he put in a large and always hungry piranha. Every month he would call the entire sales force into his corner office and announce the identity of the lowest performer for that month. He then scooped out that person's fish and dumped it into the other half of the tank: All 13 people in the room would ceremoniously watch the piranha devour that month’s "loser." Can you imagine?

    Sadly, maybe you can. There's a good chance you have your own "Piranha" story. You may even know a "Richard" yourself. These dangerous beliefs are easy to possess - and so costly. When we slip into the mindset of thinking we can actually motivate others (we hire motivation and desire, we don't instill them) and judging a colleagues' level of caring and commitment (and measuring it against our own), we may engage in behaviors that are counterproductive. Simply put: We only create frustration and stress in ourselves, and opportunities are lost. Let's instead practice personal accountability by asking the QBQs:

    "How can I be a more effective coach today?" and "What can I do to contribute?" That's the way to make great things happen!




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