Client Engagement Found in Fall Fables

One of the things I love best about living in the Midwest is the change of seasons. The transition from summer to fall is stunning.  There is apple picking and pumpkin lattes. Fall foliage explodes into a kaleidoscope of colors. Cool nights turn to warm days, challenging one to creatively dress for arctic morning commutes with the ability to peel layers from the afternoon sun. You can feel the expectation of the holiday season. You can smell the change of seasons in the air.

Fall is a favorite because we prepare for it.  We prune perennials, shrubs, rake leaves, mulch, guess how many times the grass will need to be cut before dormant winter arrives.  We prepare for Fall and the winter season ahead. We become the ants in Aesop’s fable of The Ants and the Grasshopper.

If you’re unfamiliar, the fable provides a lesson for balancing work and play.  The story illustrates how a spirited grasshopper experiences the perils of a harsh winter because he didn’t prepare for it. As he plays his fiddle alongside a parade of working ants he asks:

“Where are you going with those heavy things?” asked the grasshopper.

 Without stopping, the first ant replied, “To our ant hill.  This is the third kernel I’ve delivered today.”

“Why not come and sing with me,” teased the grasshopper, “instead of working so hard?” 

“We are helping to store food for the winter,” said the ant, “and think you should do the same.” 

The ants are diligent in their seasonal preparations. When winter arrives, the grasshopper is homeless, hungry and starving because of his lack of planning. So, whether you experience the shift in temperatures or not, as Fall arrives, is your team thinking like the Ant or the Grasshopper?

What is the team doing to prepare for consistent customer engagement? What resources are available to make the best of every client and guest experience? Developing efficiencies for our teams is paramount.  With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season on the horizon, this is the time to create a plan.  The holidays and year end rush seem to arrive earlier every year. Do you have methods in place to meet the timely demands of the season?  Are you Deviating from the Process to deliver superb customer service?

Time is a limited commodity for everyone; especially near year end as we scramble to meet deadlines and year end quotas.  We feel a necessity to pack in as much as possible before the new year begins. Daylight savings and earlier sunsets bring more urgency to our day.  For the Midwest, we drive to and from work in the dark.  The loss of daylight emphasizes the race against the clock.  Time becomes the essential we need more of.

To provide the best client engagement experience this season, a gift of TIME.


Tell the team the purpose and focus for client engagement. Tell them how, tell them when, and tell them often. Whether it’s reinforcing the company mission or implementing a process for the busy season ahead, be certain it’s clearly communicated to all staff on a regular basis. When teams know the WHY; the intent, the motivation and purpose for operations, they can produce and provide memorable moments with impact. Most importantly provide the tools necessary for staff to be successful.  Brene Brown writes in Dare to Lead:

“When you have a value printed on posters, hanging in the halls, but you don’t dig into the behaviors that support it and teach people those behaviors, you’re in BS territory.”

Implement every day.  The initiative, whether a new process, service recovery plan or new enterprise should be considered a MUST DO; a non-negotiable for operations.  When we make exceptions, “misplace” consistent efforts, slack off because “we don’t feel like it,” we cheat our staff, our brand, deplete our leadership credibility, and the client experience suffers.  This is when accountability becomes an issue and sustainability is lost. Consistent implementation is the only path to sustainable success.

Measure Results. Implementation without measurement is folly. Adding metrics to initiatives supports sustainability, team focus and provides insights for future enterprise.  After a month, 45 days, a quarter; was the process faster? Did it increase guest satisfaction? Was there a profit? Increased gross? Increased sales? Increased social media presence? Client Inquiries? Website hits, etc. Know your WHY to identify the proper metrics for success.

Extend Appreciation.  When you see your staff implementing and making an impact on the client experience, provide feedback. Show appreciation.  Appreciation builds momentum, impacts culture, and increases employee retention. It’s a skill every leader in an organization should master.  Simple truth, people want to know they are contributing.  They support the world they help create. Be certain express gratitude for the team members who service your clientele.

May this gift of TIME impact your team’s operations, provide consistent client experiences and add credibility to your leadership style. Happy Fall!

For more details and workshops dedicated to leadership development, visit

The Mountains We Create

When you set a goal for yourself, do you listen to your internal dialogue?  Are you aware of how you talk to yourself? Is your glass half full? Half empty? Refillable? Do outside elements influence you? The weather? Traffic? The clock?

When you set a goal for yourself, what self-talk or limiting dialogue happens in your head? Are you aware of it? Do you let it go on and on? Do you ignore it? Squash it? Do you wait for some outside source or sign to validate the thought?

“Traffic is heavy. I shouldn’t go to that networking event tonight.”

“Need to start that diet after the holiday.”

“See, I always mess up at this.”

“Do you really think you can……”

How many speed bumps or hurdles do you create to make that goal or milestone unattainable?  A mountain to climb.

It’s a scientific fact that when we set a goal for ourselves, we instantly identify obstacles to prevent its achievement. It’s a human protective element. We do this to ourselves and we do this to others. When we tell others our goals, they respond and offer insights; either encouragement or detailed insights into the challenges and obstacles on the horizon.

It was dance banquet night and as I sat at the table with one of my fellow and cherished dance moms, she announced to the table her 12-year-old daughter intended to start a car fund.  The mom communicated, “she want to purchase her own car when she turns 16.”

The table responded with affirmative and supportive comments.

“Good for her.”

“Love that”

“Great Goal.”

Then the mom communicated the vehicle of choice was a Tesla.  For some reason, this announcement completely changed the goal.  The reactions and responses instantly changed. The hilarity of such a lofty ambition. The comments became:

“Did you warn her about the cost of insurance for a luxury vehicle?”

“How’s she gonna afford that?”

“Oh, that’s choice.”

“Well maybe a used one……”

“A tesla?  She can get a Fiat. Fiat’s start at $17,000.”

As with most conversations the conversation diverted to new dialogue and we never revisited the topic.  But the conversation resonated with me. Why did the model of the vehicle impact the ability for achievement?  Who were we to place judgement on this goal? How often do we do the same to ourselves?

I can lose 5 pounds, but 20 is a huge endeavor.

I can run a 5K, but not a marathon.

I can make $75,000 in a year, but $100,000 is a reach.

Insert your limiting belief.

The next day I called my friend and told her to play my voice mail to her daughter on speaker.

“I was thinking about our table conversation last night and your daughter’s goal for a Tesla when she’s 16.  Please let her listen to this message.

You want to buy a Tesla? I say go for it!! I hope you find a way to fund this purchase. I hope you have a massive brain spurt that will give insight into how to make the money. And don’t feel like you have to settle on a pre-owned one.  Go for it, because it’s good to have a goal. Go for it!  Be the only 16-year-old at your high school who purchased their own Tesla.”


To jump the hurdle, overcome the obstacle, go over the speed bump or climb the mountain, consider these tips to achievement.

  • Keep a picture of what the end goal is: a photo of the car, the vacation spot, the dress, the house, the diploma. Some visionary prompt in a prominent spot like your phone or computer screen saver image, your office, or your nightstand so that you see it every day. Create a vision board. Look at it daily and believe that you can achieve it.
  • Work with a life or business coach to help keep you on track. No budget? Is that a self-imposed obstacle? Find a friend who is loyal to the death, believes in you and your goal as much as you do and will hold you accountable to timelines.
  • Ask yourself the following:
    1. Why do I want to achieve this? Knowing your “why” is key and has momentum in itself to you propel you forward. What’s the reason behind the goal? Go deep on this one. It’s not simply “to be debt free.” Keep asking yourself why again and again and again.  When that a-ha moment arrives. You’ll know it.
    2. What are the three steps needed to get there? Breaking down a goal into chunks creates a pathway and identifies the road to get there. Can you place a date on the steps and call them milestones or targets for achievement? If you plan to create a new website, by what date would you have the domain name, write the content for the pages, and then launch it? Then you can add detail to each of the steps to break those down into chunks.
    3. What realistic date could I achieve this? Placing a timeline on a goal means you will need to take action.  What would make you start today? Tomorrow? Keep pushing the date out on the calendar?  Return to your “why.”
    4. Celebrate your successes! Not necessarily with chocolates but tell your friends and neighbors. Post it on social media. Share photos.
    5. Practice these daily. Know that there will be bad days. You will doubt yourself.  You will question yourself.  Revisiting your “why” and reflect on your successes will propel you to more action.
  • Find a quote that resonates and inspires you towards your goal. Read it every day when you get up and when you go to bed. Some of my favorites:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

“All Limitations are Self-imposed.” 

“Yesterday, I really wanted a burrito and today I’m eating a burrito. Follow your freaking dreams.”

“Dream becomes reality when passion and persistence meet.”

When you set your next goal, consider the obstacle that comes to mind as a gift helping you identify steps towards the target. Those thoughts are enabling, supporting, and encouraging a proactive mindset to prepare for the journey to achievement. And remember that the obstacle is merely a speed bump.  Not a mountain.

Dream It. Believe It. Achieve it.

The Death of Customer Service or Human Decency

Recently I had an acquaintance tell me, he expected bad customer service because it had “gotten so bad out there.  I just don’t let my expectations run high anymore.”

I suppose there’s good and bad in that thought practice.  Setting low expectations means that one’s needs should be met.  It could remove an element of frustration or disappointment that might otherwise occur with hope. In essence one is protecting them self from being let down. But it also means we’re not getting excited.  There’s no eager anticipation, butterflies in the belly, or optimistic outlook……and that has me troubled.  I believe the expectations we have are fulfilled in how we perceive the world around us.  If we expect good things, good things happen. If we’re looking for the worst, it will appear.  Call it optimism. Call it pessimism. Pragmatic thought. People usually deliver what you anticipate.

So when I speculate how expectations impact customer service, I ponder if it is a client engagement discussion or if we could generalize it to human decency? Is there a difference?  Is one or the other, or both on the decline?  Multiple articles and conversations recently spark this communication.

Are we so caught up in our own personal vortex that we don’t think about how our actions impact others?  Simple example, I’m lost so I’ll stop here just as I exit the down escalator and completely pause and disrupt the flow of people behind me.  I’m not implying that all actions are intentionally rude, yet I see a deterioration in insightfulness, and I echo Brigette Hyacinth’s sentiments from a recent Linked In post and ponder the decline of human decency.

The professional HR Space

Brigette frequently posts about interactions in the Human Resource space. She is a bestselling author, and an international keynote speaker on leadership, management, HR, and a multitude of other topics.  Her posts usually discuss the human resource experience from the applicant’s view point.  Lack of follow through and communication were the core of her recent post.

Brigette illustrated the breakdown in communications when an HR rep tells a candidate: “We’ll get back to you,” with weeks passing and no response or updates.

Ok, I can foreshadow the HR replies:

“We can’t reach out……..

What if we want to keep the candidate as a backup?

What if the candidate thinks we’re promising something?”

OK, when did we lose the ability to communicate and set expectations???

Are we fearful of a litigious society? In my previous blogs Deviate from the Process and Held Hostage by Customer Service, I suggest this very thing. Set expectations. I’m dumbfounded why this is such a challenge.

So, when one considers this example as it relates to expectations, human decency and customer service, I find the HR space runs parallel to other industries.

The Sales Galaxy

No matter the product or service pitched, any sales professional can find solidarity in feeling a genuine enthusiasm for initial conversations with a client only to later be ostracized like the plague.  The relationship during discovery conversations appears to be a great fit, but then communications turn sporadic. Emails go unanswered. Voice mails become the norm.

The successful sales consultant will follow a timed cadence to follow up; diligently attempting to sustain the pipeline.  Yet this rhythm is perceived as relentless and harassing by the client. This feeling could be eliminated if we picked up the phone to communicate,

“I’m no longer in the market.”

“It’s not the right time.”

“Our financials have changed.”

“Thanks for the follow up, we’ve gone a different way and we’re not able to provide any additional feedback.”  (that one sucks, but we don’t always get the closure we want.)

Yet, when a client calls for an update about a product or service, results must be provided, or a social media assassination ensues.

The Customer Service Universe

Persian cat lying down on table

Human decency is most lacking when a customer, guest or client feels inconvenienced.  This universe is the most subjective.  What one individual may perceive as phenomenal client engagement; another may interpret as sub-par service. When customer service is found lacking,

timely and prompt responses from the supplier are necessary and should exceed any remedy suggested by the patron. Dependent on the perceived severity of the situation, emotional and turbulent dialogue becomes the norm. Human decency can be lacking from both parties in this scenario. Customer Service and human decency collide from both parties in this circumstance.

The Personal World

And here is the verity. What happens professionally bleeds into our personal life.  In our quest for human interaction, to belong and flourish within a community, we bond exclusively.  We judge and compare from our secure circles of influence; critiquing and assessing those outside of our known.  In our quest to connect with others, we add value to that connection and then create criteria for others to join.

Show me the person that likes to be excluded, who thrives on being left out, loves isolation. In her book, Daring Greatly Brene Brown calls out a culture filled with critics and cynics.  She writes,

“We are constantly judging, so as much as we need human interaction, we avoid it when there is conflict or a perceived issue.”

Yet we create these issues and shirk responsibility from its creation.

A bit ago, my husband and I hosted a cookout at our house. We invited all our social circles to the same party.  It was time to integrate our friendships.  A particular group sat on the patio and positioned their chairs in a circle, leaving a visual message that “we’re closed to those we don’t know here.”  The other guests who might have wanted to interact observed the visual barricade and moved on to find camaraderie with other attendees. I felt shame and discomfort for this interaction.  When I brought attention the group’s actions, they were oblivious.

Connecting with Others

fluffy gray cat

And here is the reason I write this. Be it customer service or human decency, at the core it’s simply connecting with others.  The Saratoga Foundation did a study years ago that measured the amount of people we could reach out to in times of need. Sadly, the study showed that people had two thirds less connections to ask for help than 5 years prior. Which means, if I had a flat tire, lost power after a storm, needed help picking my kids up from school, we’ve had a family emergency, so could you please let the dogs out….that if you had five people you could completely rely on, that today you might have two. To me, this is disturbing.

Social media implies that we’re connected.  Instant updates of our happiest moments suggest our lives flourish with utopia. Sadly, we measure our worth based on the number of likes, follows and comments on those posts. “It was such a great moment, how come more people didn’t like it?”

When faced with an opportunity to follow up, when the phone rings and the urge to send it to voice mail ensues, when you have judgmental thoughts as to how that person wouldn’t fit within your circle – answer the phone, communicate an update, provide eye contact, simply smile and engage.    Whether one labels it customer service, kindness, or human decency, there should be more of it.  Observe and find patience when interacting with others. Peel back the onion, because we all have so many layers.  Your interactions could be a person’s primary point of contact for the day.

If you like this article, follow more of my blogs by subscribing.

And because this message is so paramount, please share with your circle of influence. Together we can impact someone’s day.

A big thanks to Brigette Hyacinth and a multitude of friends and neighbors for the inspiration for this article.

Brigette’s original post provided once again below:


Held Hostage by Customer Service

They simply don’t make things like they used to.  After 6 years of operation, my washing machine took a dive.   The transmission blew, but before that could be official, I needed to have a repair technician provide an accurate diagnosis.   The machine wouldn’t spin or do anything. It just loudly clicked. I called multiple places. I asked for referrals on our neighborhood Facebook page. I asked new contacts at networking events of any appliance repair man they knew.  I was looking for “the guy” to fix my washing machine as a mountain of laundry developed by the moment. 

The first referral provided from by the neighborhood Facebook page never returned my call.  The first blind call to the most reputable spot found on Google, tried to upsell me 10 times before actually confirming the appointment. With instant trepidation in my gut, I cancelled that appointment 20 minutes after scheduling it. Seriously, if you’re training your call center attendants to upsell before the appointment, how have you trained your technicians? Will they be able to fix it the first time or is this a money pit dive? 

I called the second most recommended Google source and was given a window of arrival for the technician.  That window was originally 8am – 11am, but when I mentioned that I had to get my daughter to school at 9am, they suggested a 9am – 12pm window.  I thought, “wow, you’re looking out for me.”  That is the last moment this thought would be entertained.

I provided my credit card information to hold the appointment, and moments later, I received a text notification with appointment details, arrival windows, the name of the technician and his cell phone number. I was impressed with this use of technology.  I was told that the technician would call or text me when in route to my house.  

Two days later while at a networking event, I was given a referral for an independent appliance repair guy.   His name was Dave. Dave’s contact info was texted to me with his first name and a phone number.   And although grateful for the referral, the hassle of trying to re-arrange schedules combined with laundry piles reaching new elevations, I refrained from reaching out. I was intrigued and decided to keep Dave as a backup.

At 10:30am on the day of the appointment (now in the middle of the time frame window), I called the appliance repair offices for any updates or ETAs for arrival.  I was told I’d be given an update and the line went dead. Expecting to be placed on hold, I dialed the main line once again and the phone was answered by a different customer service agent.  I provided my name and advised the operator that my call had been disconnected. Rather than being placed on hold and connected to the original customer service agent, the operators began discussing my name and updates with each other as if I wasn’t on the call. The agent soon returned her attention to me, and I was told they would call back with an update. 

An hour passed.  No update. 

At this point, I felt like a hostage in my own home. My dogs were pacing back and forth at the front door; anxious for their daily walk. Incessant whining from two Wheaton Terriers who knew that their schedule had also been altered on this day.  Their whining echoed throughout the house and empathized the fact that I was confined to my home and held captive by customer service.

At 11:30am, I texted the company from the original text thread received the week prior.  I asked if I should be concerned because I had provided my credit card information to confirm the appointment and no one was responding to my request for updates. No response.

So now I need to vent. I call my sister. I communicate my frustrations, and she advises: “It’s what they do. That guy will roll into your drive at 11:59.” 

Turns out he would be late. But my sister’s statement hit a nerve. “It’s what they do.”  Why do we accept this as the norm?

At 11:58 I called the referral provided to me from the networking event. Dave immediately answered the phone and diagnosed the washing machine’s condition:

“It’s the transmission. I won’t take your money.  It’s not worth my time or yours for me to come out and try to repair. Visit my website, I have machines that I recommend there.” 

Instant trust.

At 12:13pm while finalizing my conversation with Dave, guess who arrives at my house?  You guessed it. The man who held me hostage all morning long. There was no text or communication to advise that he was in route as the initial confirmation email suggested. No true apology or acknowledgement that he was late. In fact, all customer service promises – broken. His diagnosis the same as Dave from the phone.

washing spilling out of washing machine

How could one person diagnose over the phone and the other need an ineffective call center that failed at communicating the appliance issues in the first place? What if the call center could relay the initial concerns to the technician in advance?  Why not charge a phone diagnostic fee? Why keep me hostage in my home for three hours? 

Which brings me to the essence of “the window.”  I find that most clients when given a window of time believe and assume that the supplier will arrive at the top of that window.   

Supplier: “It could take 30 – 45 minutes.”

Client thought: (so 30 minutes).

Supplier: “It could take an hour or two.”

Client thought: (One hour.)

When did communicating expectations become a challenge?  Advising the time frame of “the window” would eliminate any frustrations from the start.  If you tell a client, “hey our guys run late,” or “here is the window and you’re the first or third appointment of the day,” then the client can guestimate. Use of technology to provide text updates is also encouraged.

Suppliers consider this. When you are called for a service need, it’s because there is a pain point attached to it. Life and routines cannot be performed because the car, the washing machine, the air conditioner, the heater, etc. does not work.  We desperately hope for a prompt repair and for life schedules to return to the norm. Mountains of laundry depend on you.

Simply communicate expectations and capabilities. Under promise and over deliver and you will find loyal clients and advocates for your business even when things go wrong.  

Companies have been purposely omitted from this blog.  Want to learn who the customer service offenders were? Respond below and I’ll reveal the businesses from this post.

Creamer, please?

Sometimes I’m amazed and perplexed by the simplest customer service interactions.

We can become so engrossed in routine, that numbness sets in; resulting in systematic procedures where staff lack insight to provide the basics of customer service.  

Recently, I wrote a blog titled Deviating from the Process. From recent interactions, perhaps shifting the dialogue to training and development may prove more productive.

I love Starbucks. I love Starbucks coffee, chai tea lattes with soy, a peppermint mocha, an iced tea with a pump of sugar. They have so many delicious offerings, and they tailor to it my needs.  I can only imagine the training the baristas must endure to create our personalized caffeinated treats. To start my day, I prefer coffee.  My coffee orders are simplistic; the bold blend with room for cream.

On this particular day, the drive-thru line extended past the ordering lane and encircled the building.   The parking lot offering a plethora of spaces, I decided to venture inside for my bold blend.  The cashier greeted me enthusiastically and prepared my grande coffee leaving room for cream. I then approached the buffet offering cream, sugars, and mixing sticks. I lifted the creamer canister to pour into my coffee and drip, drip, drip.  Empty.  Instant despair.      

I took the canister to the counter to ask for creamer. The staff were focused, concentrated.  A busy drive-thru triggered frenzied team-members to fulfill orders; each with their own station and focus of operation. After a few fleeting moments of eye contact, my imploring looks registered with the cashier and she approached with a smile. Extending the empty creamer canister, I asked, “Would it be possible to have cream for my coffee? The canister is empty.”

There were four dairy jugs on the counter next to the drive-thru window. FOUR.  Two appeared to be milk, one half and half, the other skim or soy. The Barista took the half and half canister from me and vanished to the back-storage area. She was gone for two minutes.  Emerging from the back-storage area, she was flagged by a new guest and stopped to assist with the order; placing the creamer canister next to her at the register.

Now forgotten, I made eye contact with a different employee.  As he approached, I queried, “Could I possibly get some creamer for my coffee?”  This employee nodded yes, pivoted on his feet and vanished to the back-storage area. I stood there in disbelief.  He passed four jugs of dairy in his pursuit. Did they have special cows in the back?

A third employee made eye contact and recognizing my imploring look, approached. This now my third plea for creamer, I tried a different method of inquiry.

With a smile and eye brows raised, he asked, “how can I help?”

I looked at the barista. I glanced at the dairy gallons on the counter. I glanced at the barista and then back to the dairy gallons, at this moment feeling like a puppy looking for food. 

I am looking at your plate of bacon. I am looking at you.

I am looking at your plate of bacon.  I am looking at you.

While looking directly at the gallons of dairy on the counter I began, “could I possibly have some cream,” and I looked back at the barista “for my coffee,” and looked down at my cup. Lid off.  Cup extended. The barista instantly grabbed the gallon of creamer and poured it directly into my dark roast.

I heard angels sing as the creamer filled my cup.

The cashier continued to process the new order. The creamer canister remained at the register.

The second barista never returned from the back-storage area.

As I exited Starbucks, I pondered how two staff when approached with a need for cream, instantly pivoted and vanished to the back-storage area; passing four gallons of dairy on the way.  Two staff who had been trained efficiently on process.  This made me realize; to differentiate the client experience, training for awareness should be exercised in concert with training procedures.  

Do you have a process that inhibits the client experience?

Are your staff empowered to deviate from the process?

How do you communicate client engagement expectations to the team?

What are those expectations?

Are you celebrating exceptional client engagement?

To different your client experience, reach out to Slone Solutions, LLC.

Deviate from the Process

Recently, while excelling as a road warrior, I touched base with my husband on the day of my return to discuss my ETA and any plans for the evening.   On this day, my husband offered to pick up dinner.  At my suggestion of the regular, “just grab chicken and a vegetable,” I was shocked to arrive home to find Sea Bass. Sea Bass was the protein purchased for dinner. I looked at my husband and asked, “who are you and what have you done with my husband?” His response was simply, “thought we could do something different.”

Discussions on flexibility and versatility are rampant lately. In a world where technology is constantly changing, information is readily available at our fingertips, and studies supporting that we, as a society, are evolving faster than ever, it’s becoming paramount to show versatility and the ability change.  Darwin’s theory of evolution is reinforced in business cases that failed to deviate from operations like Toys R Us, Circuit City, Sears and Blockbuster.  These businesses either didn’t see the need for change or adapt to market changes fast enough.

Then we see the success of Netflix whose versatility is the paragon of change in the business world.  Think about your most recent conversation about favorite TV shows and what you may be watching or binge watching.  More than likely a show from Netflix was a part of the dialogue.  A business that once had us skipping with excitement from our mailboxes over the arrival of a red envelope, now has sitting for hours while streaming movies, sitcoms and original shows.  From mailing Blue Rays and DVDs to streaming, talk about a change mindset.  Netflix could be the poster child for change.

Yet, if we step back and analyze the success of Netflix, it’s because an individual within that organization suggested the change.  How often do we encourage our teams to think differently? How often do we foster innovation and creativity?  As a consultant, differentiating and embracing versatility is a consistent conversation with many of my clients.  So, I ponder:

If we expect our teams to change, do we find more success when we practice this personally as well?

There are studies that support the benefits of patterns, processes, and routines.  A plethora of books have been written and interviews with the world’s most successful communicate how daily structure influences productivity and impacts efficiency.  Other research argues how a deviation from process can build attentiveness, increase innovation, and enhance creativity.   There are findings that confirm an increased awareness when we deviate from our daily routines.  Considering all things in moderation, it’s the awareness to deviate or to stay the course we often lack.  While we do like our patterns, we should ask; when to do they help us and when do our routines hold us back? When do processes impact the experience?

Two years ago, I attended a conference with the resounding theme of change.  From the open, the days’ schedule was thrown off when the keynote speaker ran long. Very long.  Over an hour long.  By mid-morning attendees could tell the days’ schedule was off.  Yet sadly, those who had produced this ‘conference of change’ did not deviate from their own process and scheduling to demonstrate what versatility may look like to the attendees.  Indeed, a missed opportunity.  People were hungry and tired, and they wanted lunch. 

Nope, sorry, here’s another speaker and a tour!

Deviating from the process is a leadership cascade.  We must demonstrate what we expect from the team.   There should be conversations on expectations and encouragement for innovative thought, entrepreneurial spirits and proactive mindsets.

What happens if that leadership mindset is not in place? 

Most recently, while checking in to a hotel at the end of a travel day, I found myself in a lobby with a line at check- in. It became humorous to listen to the front desk attendant. No doubt trained eloquently on client engagement and customer service, he rattled his scripted greeting and communicated the features of the property to every single guest as he prepared room keys. Yet as I became the final person to clear the line of late arrivals, rather than a smile with a “welcome” or “did you happen to over hear about our hotel amenities?” he continued to spout the same monologue I’d heard three guests before.  I smiled in wide-eyed amazement as he completed his speech and wondered:

Why was deviating from the process such a natural conclusion from my perspective, yet acutely absent for this front desk attendant?

The next morning while eating breakfast, I overheard a group of business women discussing frustrations over process deviation. From their dialogue they were in the medical field of some sort.  What resonated most was their inability to stray from process. One woman interjected,

“He became frustrated that I didn’t approve the next round of testing, but we can’t approve that until we get the green light from the other team.  That’s the system. That’s how it works.”

I thought in that moment, (warning extremely dramatic thought follows) this is how people die.  Their procedure could be impacting someone’s life, and they were focused on a process.

I ask again, why is deviating from the process so difficult for those in the operational role, yet so clearly transparent to those on the receiving end?

If you think about it, there are processes and routines around us at every moment of every day. We are wired for them. We rely on them. These systems support the very structure of society, and we flow with them like a machine. We become the machine.  We become the patterns that impact client engagement. We become the monologue to welcome guests at a hotel. We become the late lunch at a conference.  We delay a patient’s next step in testing. We become Sears.  Toys R US.  Blockbuster. We lose the ability to adapt and flourish.

Unless………..we deviate from the process.

I believe that building awareness is key.  Processes can be good, but we always need to ask:

What is the goal?

Is the process helping or hindering?

Does the process support and sustain or stifle and limit? 

Are we differentiating? How?

What would happen if we did it differently?

What will you do differently day?

How will you deviate from the process?

Slow Down to Speed Up

I’m in my kitchen. It’s after dinner, and I’m cleaning up. Exhaustion sets in.  We’ve all helped clean plates and wash dishes, but I feel the need to ensure that every pot and pan is returned to its rightful place so that counters are clutter free.  I feel fatigue from a long day. I look to see my husband sitting on the couch, snuggling with our daughter.  My first reaction is jealously and judgment.  Then I pause and ask myself, “why do I feel the need to clean? Why am I not resting and taking a moment with my family?”  This a goal for me in 2019. I stop and leave the dishes on the counter, but my compulsion to finish up is overwhelming. “Just a minute more,” I think, “and everything is in its place.”   I recall my December blog and sit with my family.

What is your focus for the year? It’s late January and many of us may have dropped or forgotten our resolutions (side note:  you don’t need a resolution.  Visit my December blog). Yet, any time is a good time to pause and review goals. What will the remainder of the year look like?  What does it look like to make my goals happen?

There are moments when we each feel pumped up and vigorous.  The energy level is soaring, and our goals feel like, “Wahoooo, let’s do this!!!”  At other moments, we can get in to a world of overwhelm and the self-talk that ensues becomes a downward spiral of reasons why we can’t.   What mind set are you?  What are you doing for YOU to keep the mindset positive and focused?

They’re always telling us when we fly on airplanes to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before helping our fellow passengers.  Do we take care of our mind and bodies on a regular basis to ensure we’re able to help those around us? How often when we make goals, are we budgeting time to rest and recharge?

Our body is a physical machine that supports our actions.  We often take for granted how it helps us live.  If you think about it, the magic of reading and comprehending is crazy cool.  Right at this second, your body is breathing, and you don’t have to tell it to do that.  It just knows how to function on its own. We are able to read and comprehend.  We can get up and walk across the room without first telling our mind: ‘ok, stand, and now right foot, left foot.’ It just happens.

If you talk to any specialist, that specialist will tell you how that body part supports the rest of the body. That specific body part is the most paramount. Your eye doctor will tell you it all begins with sight. The podiatrist will proclaim your feet are the foundation.  The chiropractor will tell you it’s the back because it connects the nervous system and the brain. 

One thing is for certain, as much as we are told to take care of our bodies, very few are proclaiming, It’s all about the sleep. Yet, rest to recharge, to regroup, to maintain and sustain our physical and mental capabilities is paramount.

There was a study I heard about years ago on worker productivity during construction of the Hoover Dam. I don’t recall if it was during a tour of the facility or during a training session, but they split two crews into two separate teams and measured productivity and injury levels.  They offered one group lunch and breaks throughout the day, and the other team a working lunch and minimal breaks.  Not surprisingly, the team with a lunch and breaks was more productive, and the team without breaks was not only less productive but had increased injuries.  This same study was recently performed during a bridge construction in Queensland, Australia and the same results ensued.

Slow Down to Speed Up is a phrase I first heard from Doug, a current colleague and a word wizard.  His phrases are often a paradox to make one think deeper.  Slowing down to speed up is one of my favorites. Basically, sometimes we have to slow down & stop and look at current operations, so we can see where, or if it needs tweaking.

Recently, I attended a networking event and the discussion was sleep and how it impacts our productivity.  The rep from Edgewood Clinical Services gave insights into how our bodies work in concert; how rest and better sleep result in better health.  So impactful, I reconnected with the presenter, Debbi Del Re, APN, PMHMP-BC, at Edgewood Clinical Services for further insights. 

Deb is a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner who has worked in mental health and psychiatric nursing for more than 25 years.  Her insights and suggestions for the mind and body are key as we look at new year resolutions and 2019 goals. Deb said, “taking care of the whole body and mind is key.” 

She communicated that many people have challenges sustaining new year resolutions and goal setting.  “We often set goals and resolutions for the new year, but too many changes all at once can set you up for failure.  Focus on two good habits for the next 30 days.” 

When asked to rank diet, sleep and exercise she said, “All of them are important.  What are you doing to move more? Enhance your mood? Eat better? Sleep better?  If you are good to your body, and listen to your body, your body will be good back to you.”

Deb emphasized that rest and good sleep are keys to help re-energize. 

“It helps hit the re-set button. Our bodies need time to rest and they need the down time to fuel it to move forward. What are you doing to tell your body it’s time to sleep?”

Below are a few additional tips to help you hit the re-set button when it comes to sleep.


  • Napping during the day?
    • Limit naps to a 20-25 minute power nap
    • Take naps before 3pm
  • Evaluate your nighttime routine
  • What are you snacking on before bedtime?
    • Limit evening snacks to lighter foods like pretzels, popcorn, or crackers
    • Limit sugar and caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime
  • Exercise is good but limit heavy cardio 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
  • Warm showers can help relax before sleep
  • Read a good book
  • Work late, so dinner is late? Choose lighter foods. Try to avoid fast food.

Deb concluded, “Everyone is different.  Find what works for you. Be Mindful.”

Sooooooooo……..What mind set are you?  What are you doing for YOU to keep the mindset positive and focused? Are you budgeting time for downtime

Give your brain time to rest.

Slow Down to Speed Up.

Slone Solutions, LLC provides hospitality solutions through customer service consulting, process improvement, and keynote speaking.

Edgewood Clinical Services offers a multitude of services including health assessments, counseling, behavior management, sleep studies and therapy to name a few.  Many thanks to Deb at Edgewood Clinical Services and Doug Fielder for their insights and inspirations for this article.

Waiting for the New Year Resolution

Christmas is tomorrow, yet I hear the murmurings of New Year’s Resolutions beginning. 

Next year I’ll be more organized.  I’ll start my own business.  2019 will be the year of professional growth. Next year, I will eat healthy.  In 2019, I will stay in contact with people more.  I’ll use social media less. 

As I reflect on 2018, and look toward the new year, I ponder resolutions, and wonder why we need them. The resolution is a fresh start to a new year. Yet, why do we need a new year to make a commitment to ourselves? Here’s why I ask. In October of this year, my uncle passed.  Now, we all have instant reactions when we hear of a loss, and I write this blog not because of the loss, but because of our reactions when those that we cherish are no longer with us.  In a way, it’s like a new year’s resolution. 

My uncle passed this year. I personally don’t do well with any type of death. I become a ball of emotions and tears well up instantaneously. Yet, if I’m honest, I should disclose that I didn’t know my uncle very well. He lived in Texas and that side of the family, well, we never got together as much.  I went to the funeral to support my dad.  The two had a brotherly love and I learned more about my uncle at his eulogy, than any family interaction could have ever provided.

The memorial was standing room only.   To keep it on “Tom Time” as my uncle was huge on time elements (to this our DNA proves relation as I’m huge on time organization myself) the long list of those who wished to speak on his behalf and how he impacted their lives became too long to complete before the end of the service. Oh my goodness the stories, the words of tribute; the impact this man had on people’s lives was incredible. On social media, people proclaimed that he had saved Pakistan. PAKISTAN!!!!  And one person who stood before the crowd communicated, “he had an ability to see people not for what they were, but for what they could be.” Those words continue to impact me. This was a life lived of purpose.  Why do we need a loss or a new year’s resolution to make a change or a commitment to ourselves?

In these moments whether of loss, or an adrenaline rush to avoid catastrophe, a celebration of life, or planning for the new year, we often reflect and gain moments of insight and clarity.  The light bulb pops on and the a-ha moment looms.  We find our purpose and eagerly proclaim our objective with passion and unknown tenacity to the world.

I’ll think twice before I judge.

I will make certain I stay in touch with you more frequently.

I will take more time to be with my kids.

I’ll tell my sister sorry.

I’ll cherish the little moments.

I’ll call my mom and just listen.

I’ll tell my dad I love him.

But over time, it dwindles. The emotional rush fizzles. The sense of urgency and passion and movement stop. Like a poorly planned new year’s resolution, it fades. We don’t stay in touch.  We judge. We’re too busy for the little moments. We don’t call. We forget to say I love you.

I call this the Fresh Paint Smell effect. My husband prefers new carpet smell. So whichever your preference, the analogy works both ways.  Here’s how it works. You paint a room.  It’s clean and organized. You can smell the fresh paint.   You love it.  You feel the happiness when you walk in. Two days later, it’s still a fresh room, but the new paint smell has faded and the excitement of it has passed. Over a week or so, it’s the room we love, but the newness is fading. A month or so passes, and it’s just another room in the house.

It happens with paint and new carpet. It happens after our life changing moments.  It happens every January 31st, or for some, earlier in the month.

How do we keep these insights effervescent? How do we sustain the momentum and clarity found?   My suggestion is simple. Decide and MOVE!  Stop waiting for the new year.  Don’t wait for that life changing moment. Make a decision and move!  Let every day be a resolution to yourself.  Set a reminder on your phone.  Place a quote in a visible spot so you see it every day.  Change your mind set and find a way to make an impact on someone’s life every day.  Don’t let yourself get comfortable.  Live for someone other than yourself. Be the person that sees others not for what they are, but what they can be.   

In loving memory of Tom Slone.

Too Many Thank You’s

Too many thank you’s?

In this season of thanks, and with the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us, a conversation on customer service and customer service expectations should be addressed.  We share stories about our customer service experiences when it’s surprisingly amazing or when our experience goes horribly wrong.  We retell our encounters to friends and family and post our reviews online and throughout social media.  We speak in awe over the amazing heart felt interactions of exceptional staff or relay our bafflement over the lack of common sense and insight of staff who simply do not care.

Recently during a live chat with an online customer service consultant (Can you tell where this conversation is headed?), every single response to my comments began with “Thank you, Holly.” (not what you were expecting was it?) The experience made me wonder; in a world of inconsistent customer service, is there such a thing as too many ‘thanks you’s’?

I was on line with a tech company because the heart rate monitor on my device was no longer working after two months of ownership.  It was gifted for my birthday.  It could still tell time, and perform basic functions, yet the essence of having this particular watch and the accuracy of calories burned were all impacted by the heart rate monitor function. I had attempted to call their 800 number for support, but the endless circle of options and selections for pressing 2 or 3 to speak to a specialist became ridiculous.  After 10 minutes of pressing 2, and eloquently speaking my request for “AGENT” and then hearing, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that,” I opted for the online chat specialist.

The specialist became available after two minutes of waiting.  This time frame was the exact estimate the queue provided.  (Client expectation met.)  The initial hello and thank you for reaching out was appropriate.  The agent introduced herself and then asked how she could be of service. I responded with a friendly salutation and provided a brief description of my challenge; something along the lines of “Thank you for helping. My watch is two months old and the heart rate monitor is not working.”

The agent responded with, “thank you for telling me this Holly.” The agent then asked the make and model of my device.  Once provided, the agent again responded with “thank you for this information Holly.” I was beginning to see a pattern to this company’s customer support. Every…. single…. chat began with ‘thank you.’ As a consultant who specializes in client engagement, I continued on intrigued to see how far the ‘thank you’ would continue in the process.

Although from my perspective this was an obvious warranty issue, what followed was an inquisition, several hoops to jump through, and multiple steps to reboot the device to verify the gadget’s guarantee. At every step, the agent’s reply began with ‘thank you’. By the 8th thank you, it became awkward and irritating, and it read as disingenuous. The responses suggested that this company followed a set process for client responses.  It also implied the team did not consider how the response could escalate client frustrations when providing service recovery.

Often, the reason we connect with customer service through a live chat or call center is because there is an issue.  We have questions about product use, its malfunction, lack of parts, or billing.  I advised the customer service agent during our chat that although I appreciated her thank you’s I would be more appreciative if she deviated from the process because I was finding it frustrating.  I explained, “I know it’s part of your process, and I know you’re doing your job. All I need is one or two.”   Kindly, the agent complied.

For myself, too many ‘thank you’s’ is the equivalent of repeating someone’s name too often when you first meet them to remember it.  “Great to meet you Ted. Ted, how’s your day? Thanks for coming Ted.  Are you enjoying yourself Ted?”  It doesn’t sound right.  Intermittent use is always best.

Happily, the process and interaction eventually resulted in a device replacement.  Although in hind sight, I think the little bubbles that show that the agent is typing were a tad longer as she was habitually typing ‘thank you’ and had to go back and delete it before hitting send on the chat. A survey requesting “how did we do” immediately followed. The same comments I communicate to the agent were provided in my survey.  I hope they are reviewing their response processes.

In the hospitality industry, any complaint or guest concern is considered a gift.  A client, guest, or customer communicating suggestions for any process improvement is an opportunity for dialogue and service recovery.  Clients who leave a hotel, restaurant or venue who do not communicate their service frustrations during their experience are more likely to share their poor service experience to friends or post poor reviews on social media.

Just as there are countless avenues for one to express their satisfaction or lack thereof for a guest encounter, there are a multitude of organizations tracking your feedback for measurement on your experience. JD Power and Associates is known for measuring customer satisfaction and suggests, “It (customer service) is a moving target.  You never get to declare victory.” This global marketing services firm is considered the expert on measuring client satisfaction including: how a client responds to frustrating experiences, how soon a client will shop the competition and how soon a client will defect entirely from shopping your brand.

Every business is trying to master the art of client engagement.  Think back to your last purchase of anything.  Was there a survey at check out?  The challenge is that expectations grow faster than our ability to meet them. And sometimes, we simply have the wrong processes or training in place to provide the very satisfaction the client needs.  If your business provides any essence of customer service, know that it’s not too late in the season to have this critical conversation with your team. Focus on the client.  Give eye contact. Acknowledge and say, “Thank you for your patience,” if it’s a long line.  Do what’s right.

If a consumer, preparing one’s mindset prior to venturing out to the world of commerce can also contribute to one’s experience. The retail industry during the holidays is brutal.  In our hurry and hustle and bustle to get through traffic, there will be moments of frustration, irritation and disbelief.  Traffic will be heavier.  Lines will be longer. Your personal space will be invaded. Try not to berate the retail associate for their lack of engagement. Maybe it was poor training. Maybe, like yourself, they are tired and having a bad day.  Be kind to those cashiers working minimum wage while you shop.  They are working to support their family holiday too.

No matter your part this holiday season, whether shopper or customer service associate, let’s all remind ourselves to step back and remember why we celebrate. Look around and find joy and wonder in the season. And (shameless business plug to follow) if you find they really need help, pass along my name.

Slone Solutions, LLC

Impacting the Client Experience from the Inside Out






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