Customer Service Posts

Words that kill: I am just a sales guy

I was on a product demonstration yesterday when I heard a salesperson say, “I am just a sales guy.”

In isolation, one could think this phrase is harmless, but let me continue to document an alarming trend starting to blanket the business world.

Imagine you are visiting a restaurant for Mother’s Day, and your waiter shares with you the day’s specials. You respond, “Wow, that omelette sounds great. This place looks cool. How long have you been open?”

I am just a sales guy.

Just ‘doing the job’ doesn’t cut it today. You need to exceed all expectations — no matter the role.

“I am not sure. I am just a waiter. I’ll have to ask my manager,” the waiter responds, his voice quivering with indifference. In your mind, you wonder why this waiter doesn’t care enough to know this answer.

You sit in the dentist’s chair as Dr. Smiles views your molars for decay. “Have you been brushing and flossing every day?” Dr. Smiles cheerfully asks.

“I try to floss every day, but sometimes I just forget,” you respond. You notice his University of Texas degree on the office wall and say, “I see you are a Texas graduate. I love the Longhorns. How long have you been a dentist?”

Dr. Smiles answers: “Oh, I don’t remember, a few years, I think. I was hoping to become a surgeon, but I wasn’t smart enough, so I just became a dentist.”

For a man that might be drilling holes in your mouth, this string of words isn’t a way to fill you with confidence.

These words that kill can also infiltrate your home.

You’ve plans to turn your backyard into a blanket of color and beauty with some native Texas landscaping.

A number of landscape experts visit with you, sharing details and proposed costs of the work you want done. One gentleman, whom you particularly like, shares: “I can probably do this work, but remember, I am just a lawn guy.”

This phrasing, this unfortunate sequencing of words: “I am just a ___ (dentist, lawn guy, fill in the blank) is a demoralizing put-down. As a potential buyer of your services, I am immediately second guessing if I’ve made the right choice.

You’ve immediately placed yourself into the world of a commodity. Instead of being a unique, talented professional with specialized skills, you’ve branded yourself as a regular, typical, ordinary worker.

My time and money are valuable. When I choose a restaurant, dentist, landscaper, I want to know that I am working with people who think of themselves as artisan craftsmen, not just someone after a paycheck.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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That’s not my department.

Responsibility; ownership; accountability; these themes sound weighty, and they are; being responsible, accountable, with an ‘owner’s mindset’ is tough to achieve.

A few weeks ago I witnessed firsthand an employee lacking the drive or interest in being responsible and accountable when I was ready with an open wallet to buy his store’s products.

It was Sunday afternoon and the family and I were finishing some ‘before school’ shopping. The store wasn’t insanely crowded, so I believed that I could get some help if I needed it from one of the store clerks.

When a customer arrives at your storefront, act as if you want them there.

When a customer arrives at your storefront, act as if you want them there.

After meandering through the store in search of running shorts, I was at the end of my rope; I needed some help. A few minutes passed before I was able to locate an associate, sporting a bright blue shirt. The clock read 1pm, but he appeared as if he had just awakened from a nap.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, hopeful that I’d soon find some shorts.

“Can you help me find the running shorts?”

“Uh. Hmm. Not sure. That’s not my department,” a pimple-faced clerk announced.

He pointed towards the back wall of the gargantuan store and reluctantly shared: “I think it is “kinda” that way. I would just walk over there and find someone wearing a blue shirt.”

I faked a thank you (what was I thanking him for exactly?), mumbled something under my breath and walked away. I must have displayed a troubling, confused, bewildered look as I glanced at my wife.

Eventually, I found a few pairs of nice running shorts, but let’s rewind and see how the sales associates could have played this one better.

  1. Take ownership: Walk me over and introduce me to a sales associate who knows the department a little better. Pointing in a vague direction isn’t leadership.
  2. Be a servant leader: Instruct me to wait where I am for a few minutes while the clueless associate finds someone to help me.
  3. Apologize: This person had to know he could have done better, but his lack of an apology had me convinced that this wasn’t the case.

Responsibility, accountability and ownership aren’t just pie in the sky, ethereal concepts. When present, these themes empower employees and shoppers, creating memorable transactions that will make a difference.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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eBook: How Do Brands Win Business

Friends, Product marketers, business owners, customer service reps, product managers, marketers:

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to publish a book. I am thrilled to announce: I did it!!

Here’s my first of what will hopefully be many e-books and books.

The journey is just beginning.

The journey is just beginning. Let’s get there together.

This book is titled: How Do Brands Win Business

In this book, you’ll learn what brands such as Subway, Walt Disney, Hertz, Cirque Du Soleil, CBS did and didn’t do to connect with their customers.

I’ve collected some of my stories and lessons in hopes that you can do more of the good things and fewer of the less desirable things that push us further from our goals.

Enjoy this book and help spread the word.

Note: The book can be yours for only $2.99. That’s less than the price of your extra caffeinated treat this morning.

Until next time,

Dan Naden
Naden’s Corner
How Do Brands Win Business’ – eBook

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I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world.

On a typical day, you’ll encounter a wide variety of people, performing many different roles.

  • Susan, the perky red-haired Starbucks barista prepares your mocha latte just the way you like it.
  • Joe, a distracted Jiffy Lube ‘mechanic’ changes your oil in the amount of time it takes to check your e-mail.
  • Grassy Greens, your lawn care company, trims your lawn to a point where it just might be the envy of the neighborhood.

These services are too often ignored or taken for granted.

I need to reflect more and be gracious to the people who serve me on a daily basis. We could consider that these services are not ‘our right’, but more of a privilege worthy of sincere appreciation.

Some of these jobs may not be glamorous, yet this does not diminish their importance.

During a recent busy travel stretch, where airports blended together like one big revolving door, I overheard an older gentleman direct the following impulsive comment to an airport shuttle bus worker:

Everyone's role has value. What can you do to show appreciation?

Everyone’s role has value. What can you do to show appreciation?

“I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world.”

If you were on the receiving end of this comment, how would this make you feel? Diminished? Disenfranchised? Irrelevant? Is all of the above a choice?

Perhaps this gentleman wanted to share a genuine comment about this person’s selfless job. Nothing embodies servant leadership more than lifting and pulling bags off and on a shuttle bus while cranked, harried travelers wonder: “Why is this taking so long?” and “I am going to miss my flight if this guy doesn’t hurry.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t come across this way. When the shuttle bus driver digested this insensitive comment, he froze, unable to muster a response. No doubt his day felt a little less meaningful after this episode. How much better would both of you feel if you added a genuine, friendly comment?

Words mean things. Let’s be careful about how we communicate with strangers. Not knowing people doesn’t give us the right to step all over them with malicious words.

Yours in civility….

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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I wanted to do business and I got ignored

I recently had some small business owners visit my home to give me an estimate for some yard work. As expected, some were keepers, while others weren’t a good fit.

Within a few days, we started receiving proposals.

I quickly responded with “Thanks for the proposal; I’ll let you know if I have questions after I’ve had some time to review.” A few weeks passed from these initial visits. My wife and I discussed options, plans, next steps.

My yard may look like this one day, but it's been slow going to find a suitor.

My yard may look like this one day, but it’s been slow going to find a suitor.

The 3 proposals that I received were good, not great. They left a few questions that were perfect for a follow up call, or, at the very least an email thread.

Amazingly, it has been nearly 2 weeks since these initial visits, and not one small business owner has followed up with me.

I expected a:

“What did you think of the proposal?”

“Did you have any questions?”

“Can we schedule a time to start the work?”

My hope for these business owners is that they are so floored with business that they don’t have time to respond. Maybe these owners have 50 proposals in flight all at once. This sounds like a good, and avoidable, problem to have. Unfortunately though, as a potential customer, I do expect a response.

If you are bursting at the seams with business, hire someone to follow up with prospects.

I can only imagine what percentage of a small business owner’s business happens through referral. When you refer someone, it is based on ‘out of this world’ commitment to winning your business, overdelivering on your need, making you thrilled that you made the right choice when selecting a vendor.

I want American small business to thrive, yet I am discouraged by a recent experience of feeling ignored, unwelcomed. Let’s hope this is an anomaly; a small blip on the trail of unrelenting focus on the customer for small business owners everyone.

Meanwhile, my yard sits; waiting for an eager and willing small business owner to transform into a garden paradise.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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