Practical Practice Management

The Stories Our Customers Will Tell

Whether you work in a medical office, grocery store, or restaurant, if the business’ main purpose is to provide a service or product to people then you have customers.  Customers are the lifeline of any business as without them the business does not exist.

It is the customer service they receive that can make the difference in whether people come back to your place of business or another who offers the same service. Having a choice is great especially if the service is bad, as in my Kinko’s story.

Several years ago, I needed to have thousands of copies made for a conference I was overseeing (this was before the digital handout age).  There was a Kinko’s printing store was just down the street from my office, so it was very convenient for me to use their services, which I had be doing for years.

I went to Kinko’s on my lunch hour with originals of handouts that I needed to be reproduced.  I told the young man at the counter what I needed, as he looked over some of the copies, I handed him.  He then told me that the pictures on the handouts would look better if I uploaded them to the Kinko’s website and placed my order that way.

I thanked him for his concern and told him that it would be just fine if he copied them, as I had done this many times before and the copies were just fine.  He again told me, in a stern way, that I should upload them for better quality.

We went back and forth over this a few times when I finally said, “Are you going to print these for me or not?”  He pushed the copies back at me and wrote a web address down and told me to go back and upload them.

I was shocked.  I had over a thousand dollars in printing to be done and this clerk was turning the job away for his company.  I asked to speak to the manager and this clerk told me he was at lunch.  I went back to work and told my co-workers the story, no one could believe it.  When I went to the website, he gave me it was Kinko’s, but in a foreign language.

I promptly called Kinko’s and asked to speak with the manager.  I told him of my experience, and he said that he had some complaints about this clerk before (apparently there was no discipline or further training involved).  I then told him that I lecture all over the country on customer service and every chance I get I will tell this story of poor service by Kinko’s as an example of how to lose customers for your business. I have never used Kinko’s since and have told the story many times.

Customers have needs they expect to be met when they patronize a business.  If you want to win their loyalty it is necessary to understand what it is that they are looking for and be able to provide it at the highest level on a continual basis.

When people leave our place of business, they have a story to tell of what their experience was with us.  It will either be a raving review, nothing much to mention, so they don’t, or a bad story about the service or product they received, which makes for great stories to tell. I’m sure you could probably tell a few bad service stories yourself.

The question you need to ask yourself is what kind of stories are your customers telling about you?  Is it time to step-up your customer service?

Happy Thursday!


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Team Collaboration

Working with a team of people can be a challenge, especially if you have a hard time listening to your teammates and considering their problems and solutions if they differ from your opinion.

We do not have a lot of scheduled team meetings at our office because we have a morning huddle each day. At our huddles, we can discuss things that came up the day before or possible issues that might arise in our schedule, so we are all on the same page.

When we do have meetings we usually have a topic or question that each one of us it to share their idea or solution to. For example, yesterday we had a meeting, and the topic was for each of us to come up with one thing that we felt would make our job or the office flow to be better and why. We also had to come up with one idea that we could do that would improve our customer service.

What I like the most about these types of meetings is that we get to hear from each other about how we see and understand our position. When someone comes up with a change that they feel is necessary we take the time to hear them and understand what they are experiencing and why they feel a change in a system is necessary.

Nor does everyone always see things the same way, but we have learned to listen and try to see things from each other’s point of view.

I have seen growth in teams when they make the effort to listen, try to understand, respect each other’s opinions and be willing to work with each other. There are so many valuable lessons I have learned from those I have worked with over the years.

It pays to be open to other ideas and options and willing to grow.

Happy Thursday!


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Are You A Leader Worth Following?

A leadership role is not given to someone, it is something that they earn and are called to fulfill. In the workplace many times this is done in reverse. Someone is promoted or hired on to be a manager, supervisor, or director and yet they have never held such a role (or had any training) prior to being placed in the position.

I am sure the percentage of managers who get the position by default, they were the next in line, is very high. The difficult problem is that the employees they manage are subjected to their inexperience and thus are guinea pigs for these newly appointed management personnel.

If you have worked in this type of situation you will agree that it is not only frustrating, but so much time is wasted being non-productive. Not only is this difficult for the managed employees, but what about the inexperienced manager? How stressful is it to be put in a position that you want, but are not ready for yet? Many of the managers who are promoted before they are properly trained fail and then they are either let go or demoted. How unfair is that?

There are so many great “Leadership” books and courses that new leaders and experienced ones can learn from. I am an avid reader and will read at least 2-3 good leadership books a year. In my opinion, a leader never finishes growing and learning how to help those around them. Through Top Practices, we offer several programs for managers and leaders, not only to learn skills but to understand how to work with and lead people. My partner Dr. Peter Wishnie is a Certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach.

John Maxwell has an excellent blog called “Leadership Wired.” The site is directed at helping leaders to become the best that they can be. Dr. Maxwell discusses what he calls the “Five Levels of Leadership.”

  • Level 1: Position – People follow you because they have to.
  • Level 2: Permission – People follow you because they want to.
  • Level 3: Production – People follow you because of what you have done for the organization.
  • Level 4: People Development – People follow you because of what you have done for them.
  • Level 5: The Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.

If you are a leader or feel that you are called to be a leader, then you will want to check out Dr. Maxwell’s blog or leave a comment below if you need a few good titles to some great Leadership books. Leaders must invest in themselves before they have the ability to invest in those that follow them.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~ John Quincy Adams

Happy Thursday to you all!


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5 Positive Practices

“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.” ~ W. Clement Stone

I’m sure we all have been around people with positive and negative attitudes.  Which do you prefer to hang out with?

We are not always going to have a “Positive Attitude” when we wake up in the morning or if we do there are things that can come up during our day (and most likely will) to change our good attitude very quickly.

If we know this then we can be prepared to get our positive attitude back and get going on the right track with just a little effort on our part.  Below are five things that we can do to help us stay on the positive attitude side.

  1. Look for opportunities to do something for others. It doesn’t have to be anything big, maybe just offering to get your coworker a cup of coffee as you go to refill your cup. Or offering to clean up after a meal for your spouse. When we are kind and helpful, we feel good, and our attitudes become good.
  2. Thinking about what “is good today,” make a mental list of the good things in your life. Or what can you do today even if it is small, to move the needle closer to your goals? Focus on what is good, what good you did do not what did not go well.
  3. Hang out with the happy people. There is no better medicine for a negative attitude than to drown it out with happy people with positive attitudes. Find ways that you can make others happy as well.
  4. Take time for “self-care.” Steal 15 minutes for meditation and relaxation. Hide away in a quiet spot and sip a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the quiet. Make time to read your favorite type of book even if it is one chapter a day, or listen to your favorite music, just sit and listen or maybe dance.
  5. Along with self-care, practice positive self-talk. Describe yourself by using positive words only. This is a great exercise and really gets your mind thinking about who you are and who you want to be.

Whatever our situation is on a moment-to-moment basis we must remember that we have the choice to choose our attitude. It may not be easy to always choose a positive one, but you do have the power to change it.

Happy Thursday to you all!


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Making Communication Clearer

There have been times when my employer will ask me what a certain employee does because something has given him reason to wonder and he figures I should know since I’m the manager. If I do not know, which I may not at that very moment, he will wonder why.

Ask any manager and they will tell you that it is almost impossible to give an actual accounting of what each employee does, every minute of the day. Managers should know what the employee’s job tasks and responsibilities are, and they should have a system to know if they are being completed or not.

When setting up systems to make sure employees are completing the necessary tasks each day, there are four key communication points to use with employees to allow for clearer communication between them and the manager.

These four lines of communication need to be explained to each employee so they understand their importance. Managers need to have the employees report on what they are working on either daily or weekly depending on what their job consists of. This will allow the manager to be able to give an accounting to their supervisor or employer.

1. Employees need to communicate to their managers what their priorities are for the day or week. This will allow the manager to know what they will be working on, but it also will allow the manager to guide them if their priority list needs adjusting.

2. For some employees it is hard to ask their manager for clarification about a project or task they have been asked to complete.  They fear asking questions may make them appear less competent.  The manager needs to make sure their employees know that questions are encouraged so they can complete their tasks correctly.

3. If an employee needs help in finishing their job tasks they also should be encouraged to talk with their manager and give an accounting as to why they need extra help, possible a coworker was sick and they had to cover for them. Managers would rather have an employee ask for the help than to run behind or let things pile up.

4. Make sure you are clear on deadlines for all of the employee’s projects and job tasks.  When an employee is asked by their manager to complete a task right away, make sure you define “what does right away means, is it days, hours and minutes?”  Do not assume the employee will know. By both parties understanding and being specific at what the deadlines are, everyone will be happy because the work will be done on time.

These four simple communication steps can be done quickly; they will save time and multiple questions throughout the workweek. It is very important that the lines of communication are kept open between employees and their manager.

Keep moving forward,


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We Are The Sum Of Our Actions

“We must remember we are not the sum of our intentions but of our actions.” ― Brendon Burchard

As you encounter others today whether it be a work, or otherwise, remember that you are what your actions speak. Far too often we forget that as humans we hear with our eyes. It is what we see people do that speaks the loudest to us.

If you say that you are a “hard worker” yet your coworker sees you doing less than what is expected do you think that they believe you by your words or actions?

Brendon’s quote is a good one to keep on our bathroom mirror or the dashboard of our car as a reminder to check our intentions as we interact with others and to make sure that our actions speak, kindness, caring and respect.

Have a great Thursday!


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Does Your Team Know It’s Purpose?

When working with a group of people it can be difficult to get everyone on the same boat and rowing in the same direction at the same time.

Often this is due to a lack of leadership with a passion for what they do and a clear understanding of what the purpose of the team is. They may know that certain tasks need to be complete or a certain amount of money needs to be made each month, but if the team players do not know how to achieve these goals and understand the overall purpose of what they do there, it will be rocky seas ahead and most likely often.

In Brendon Burchard’s book “High Performance Habits” he states to get a team to become high performers their leader needs to encourage them to do the following:

“Listen to one another more.”

“Show each other respect.”

“Support each other more.”

“Spend time getting to know each other.”

“Give each other feedback.”

What he is saying is they need to engage with each other on a continual basis as they work together each day. The more they do the above the more cohesive they will become as a team. And the more willing they are to fulfill the purpose of the team expectations.

Often, leaders want great teams, yet they do not encourage the team players to talk together as they do their work to develop this bond. They see the “talk” as a disruption, not a link for developing stronger relationships which will create a better team.

Of course, there needs to be a balance of personal and work conversations but if the leaders have set an example of this because they are developing these relations as well then the team will follow their lead.

Have a great Thursday!


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Training Can Not Be A Drag

In talking with managers many times I find that they think training is a drag or pain. It takes too much time and they often have complaints about their employees whether they are new or old in the “lack of how they catch on.”

I know that training takes time and often we as managers have too much on our plates to begin with. But that is no reason to look at training as a pain. When you take this type of attitude you are not going to be the best trainer for your employees to learn from.

What if you look at training as an opportunity to invest in others that are going to eventually make your job and the workplace a better one? This is what it really is about. When you can enjoy teaching others much differently than if they realize that you do not want to be training them.

If you do not care about them and do not provide a great learning experience then what do you think that makes them feel like and think? About you and about the business?

When you train someone you are sharing your knowledge with them. You are giving them the opportunity to be a great employee. If you care it will show, if you do not it will show as well and your employee probably will not stay.

Having a good training program is essential in growing great employees. Job tasks, descriptions and protocols are necessary to make the training program successful. But the most important key element to successful training is the trainer’s willingness to train and having a great attitude while doing it.

Happy Thursday!


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The Benefits Of Sharing At Work

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” ~ Annie Dillard

In my years of working with other managers, I have found that some are not willing to share their knowledge with those they work with. Why? Well, I think there are many reasons, but the most common one I have found is that the manager feels they no longer will “hold power and knowledge” above the troops to be superior so they can hold their position.

If the others do not know what the manager knows then they are valuable. They feel more secure in their position. But what they do not realize is by doing this they are destroying the potential of bettering the business and the people who work there with them. And after a while their staff, if they want to grow as an employee, will seek other employment to get the opportunity to do so.

Being in a management position has its good points and its bad ones. It is hard to grasp sometimes that by growing your staff members up and giving them more knowledge and raising their skill set actually shows that you are a great manager and the people you manage will appreciate you more and are willing to go up and beyond for the manager and the business.

The hard part about getting to this place where the manager feels secure and wants their staff to grow in knowledge and skill is the manager’s mindset. They are stuck in a mindset of the “What ifs” What if someone is better than me at something? What if people end up liking one of the staff better than me and wants them to manage? What if the boss sees someone excelling and wants to promote them?

It will take a mind-shift to get to the place where the manager can see that they are a better manager because they help their people become successful and thus the business overall is more successful.

I have coached many a manager who has been stuck in this mindset and that is why I want to help others so they can be “freed” of this mindset and not only be more successful themselves but to raise those up that they work with.

If you want more information just click the link below or email me at [email protected]

Have a great Thursday!


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Make Great Stories For Others To Tell

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at a virtual seminar on Customer Care Opportunities, or in my case Patient Care Opportunities.

My point was to let the attendees know that they have care opportunities all day long with the people with whom they serve, their patients. These are the same opportunities anyone has when they encounter their clients or customers. I call them C.A.R.E. opportunities.

C. = Be Creative

A. = Be Appreciative

R. = Be Real

E. = Be Enthusiastic

If we all think about our encounters with patients, clients or customers are stories for them to tell about how their encounter was. Was it nice? Was it nothing to tell about? Was it something that they would say something bad about?

We have these three options when we engage with our customers, to make the experience really nice, (something they would remember and tell others about), an experience that was not good or bad, it just happened, or it was bad and they will remember and tell others about.

No matter what you choose to happen it is a story for them to tell to others, the question you must ask yourself is, “What stories are you telling?”

People can choose who they go to for their services, if you want them to come to your business, then make it a memorable experience, because this is what people want. Right? Don’t you want a great experience when you go to a doctor, bakery, restaurant, grocery store, etc?

My challenge to you is to make great stories for your customers to tell today!

Happy Thursday to you all.


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