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Book Recommendation – The War of Art

I’m ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.

The title is clearly a play on The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and it is a highly appropriate title. The “enemy,” in this case, is RESISTANCE. That is, anything that keeps us from doing our work. While Pressfield’s chosen work is writing, the principles he outlines apply just as well to anything from running a marathon, starting a business, starting a diet, or anything else that requires attention and commitment. In my world, his principles apply to any organization wishing to improve their customer service.

Here’s the key line at the beginning of the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” That line can apply to any endeavor we want to do (or even were meant to do) and what actually gets done. The gap between the two reflects the resistance succumbed to when faced with actually doing the work.

Here’s another quote that got my juices going: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” (Italics are mine).

Resistance is one of the main reasons companies abandon one customer service initiative after another. When the planning is done, when the meetings are over, we have to sit down and do our work to actually implement the plan. Like the writer staring at the blank page, we become easily distracted by other “urgent” matters and never get around to doing the thing that really matters. Changing an organization takes commitment and a willingness to battle resistance on many fronts – from ourselves, our employees, our bosses, and even from our customers.

For every excuse about why an organization can’t implement this or that strategy, there’s another company who “slayed the resistance dragon” and got the work done and is better for it.

Please, please, do yourself a favor and get the book. After you’ve read it, which I’ll bet you’ll read in one sitting, send me a note with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what The War of Art inspired within you. One of my hopes is, of course, that it inspires you to beat resistance in applying the customer service principles in the new edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. Shameless plug I know, but Unleashing Excellence really does provide you with the tools to break through the resistance you’ll face in improving your organization’s customer service.

Book Recommendation – The War of Art

I’m ashamed it has taken me so long to recommend one of my all-time favorite books, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.

The title is clearly a play on The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and it is a highly appropriate title. The “enemy,” in this case, is RESISTANCE. That is, anything that keeps us from doing our work. While Pressfield’s chosen work is writing, the principles he outlines apply just as well to anything from running a marathon, starting a business, starting a diet, or anything else that requires attention and commitment. In my world, his principles apply to any organization wishing to improve their customer service.

Here’s the key line at the beginning of the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” That line can apply to any endeavor we want to do (or even were meant to do) and what actually gets done. The gap between the two reflects the resistance succumbed to when faced with actually doing the work.

Here’s another quote that got my juices going: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” (Italics are mine).

Resistance is one of the main reasons companies abandon one customer service initiative after another. When the planning is done, when the meetings are over, we have to sit down and do our work to actually implement the plan. Like the writer staring at the blank page, we become easily distracted by other “urgent” matters and never get around to doing the thing that really matters. Changing an organization takes commitment and a willingness to battle resistance on many fronts – from ourselves, our employees, our bosses, and even from our customers.

For every excuse about why an organization can’t implement this or that strategy, there’s another company who “slayed the resistance dragon” and got the work done and is better for it.

Please, please, do yourself a favor and get the book. After you’ve read it, which I’ll bet you’ll read in one sitting, send me a note with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what The War of Art inspired within you. One of my hopes is, of course, that it inspires you to beat resistance in applying the customer service principles in the new edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. Shameless plug I know, but Unleashing Excellence really does provide you with the tools to break through the resistance you’ll face in improving your organization’s customer service.

The Curse of Arrogance

Southwest Airlines has been my favorite airline for a long time – I’ve written about them often in this blog and talk about them often in my speeches. I’m a Southwest fan not only because of positive experiences, but also because their success and almost cult-like following has been a great case study as a speaker and consultant.

But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over the last several flights I’ve had with them. It seems that more and more of their employees have adopted what I would call an “attitude of arrogance.” Since most interactions are with flight attendants, this trend has been most noticeable with them. Whereas in the past just about every flight attendant was personable, funny, and helpful, I’m seeing more flight attendants being standoffish, mechanical, and (even worse) impatient with passengers who might be struggling with overhead bag space or trying to find seats for the whole family.

On a Southwest flight last week, in fact, I watched a flight attendant work herself into a huff as a mom was making sure her children all had seats before she sat down. Yes, the mom was slowing down the boarding process, but the flight attendant should’ve helped out rather than embarrassing the mom in front of a planeload full of passengers. By helping, the flight attendant would’ve sped up the process and saved the mom’s dignity and peace of mind.

Southwest has never been a perfect airline; I’ve seen a few less-than-stellar Southwest employees before. But those instances were rare. But lately I’ve noticed “unSouthwest-like” behaviors becoming more common with more employees. I don’t know about you, but I feel let down when a trusted organization violates a trust that has been built up over many years. It almost feels like a close friend violating a trust. And once an organization begins to lose the trust of their loyal customers, lost loyalty isn’t far behind.

I’m hoping that Southwest Airlines hasn’t gotten too big for its britches. But the attitude of some of their employees is one of resting on their reputation. It’s as though they’re saying to passengers, “We’re doing you a favor by allowing you to fly an airline with a reputation as legendary as ours.” Well, they should study the fates of other once successful companies that started taking their success for granted such as General Motors, Circuit City, Woolworth’s, Eastern Airlines, Washington Mutual, Bennigan’s; and the list goes on.

The lesson here is that no matter how stellar your organization’s reputation is, that reputation is very fragile. Customers might be willing to forgive the occasional blip in service, but they won’t forgive arrogance. They have too many choices, and every one of your competitors would be giddy to get your customers’ business. Each of your employees must be hungry to build solid customer relationships, and the only way to do that is to treat customers with the care and respect that demonstrates that you value their business and are honored that customers have chosen to do business with you.

Do your customers feel you VALUE their business and that you are HONORED they’ve chosen to do business with you?

Is there even a hint of arrogance creeping into your performance?

What Can Paul McCartney Teach About Customer Service?

A key customer service principle is to “deliver on the promise of the brand.” Every organization owns a particular brand image in the minds of customers, and anything out of alignment with the brand creates a disconnect and a disappointment for the customer.

Imagine, for example checking into a Ritz Carlton hotel only be treated rudely or with an attitude of indifference. The contrast between the brand image and the actual experience would be jarring and memorable. But when the experience and an organization’s brand image are in alignment, the result is confidence, trust, and loyalty.

Brand Image + Aligned Experience = Confidence, Trust, Loyalty

Two recent experiences reinforced this formula for me. First was the purchase of Paul McCartney’s “Good Evening New York City” 2CD + DVD combo, recorded at the newly constructed Citi Field (on the former site of Shea Stadium). The concert was kind of a tribute to the concert The Beatles played at Shea 44 years earlier. As a fan of anything remotely connected with The Beatles, I immediately purchased the set when I saw it for sale at the Starbucks checkout counter.

My only concern was wondering how McCartney, at 67 years of age, could pull off the quality of voice and musicianship of the music produced when he was in his twenties. Well, what a thrill to listen and watch as he performed Beatles, Wings, and solo classics nearly flawlessly, with the same energy as he did decades ago. Talk about delivering on the promise of the brand. If you’re a fan, buy the recording – you won’t be sorry.

The second experience took place last evening when my wife and I, along with our sons and their girlfriends, attended an Orlando performance of the Broadway musical, Rent. Many years ago, I saw the play on a rainy day in London and, having no idea what to expect, was completely blown away by the production. I also was delighted by the 2005 movie version of Rent, and have listened to the soundtrack many times.

So, I was prepared for an evening of a familiar show, hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed because of that familiarity. Just like McCartney, the cast (including the two original lead actors) performed as though it was opening night for the most important audience in the world. The show was incredible and stirred the same excitement I experienced when I first saw it in 1998.

So, what does any of this have to do with customer service? Well, imagine how many times Paul McCartney has sung the same songs, and how many times the cast of Rent has performed the same play. And yet each time they do it, the performance feels fresh and vital. The performers clearly don’t want to disappoint so they give it their all.

A business should operate the same way. Every employee of every organization should understand that:

  • An organization’s brand is fragile.
  • An organization’s brand image is on the line with every interaction.
  • Yesterday’s performance no longer counts. Today’s performance drives future loyalty.
  • Disappointment results from a disconnect between an organization’s brand image and the actual customer experience.

We can all take a lesson from enduring performers who consistently deliver excellence. These performers recognize that while they may have sung the same songs or delivered the same lines thousands of times, RIGHT NOW is the only time that matters for this customer.

Is your performance timeless?

P.S. If you’re serious about improving your organization’s customer service, be sure to check out the just released second edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service.

What Can Paul McCartney Teach About Customer Service?

A key customer service principle is to “deliver on the promise of the brand.” Every organization owns a particular brand image in the minds of customers, and anything out of alignment with the brand creates a disconnect and a disappointment for the customer.

Imagine, for example checking into a Ritz Carlton hotel only be treated rudely or with an attitude of indifference. The contrast between the brand image and the actual experience would be jarring and memorable. But when the experience and an organization’s brand image are in alignment, the result is confidence, trust, and loyalty.

Brand Image + Aligned Experience = Confidence, Trust, Loyalty

Two recent experiences reinforced this formula for me. First was the purchase of Paul McCartney’s “Good Evening New York City” 2CD + DVD combo, recorded at the newly constructed Citi Field (on the former site of Shea Stadium). The concert was kind of a tribute to the concert The Beatles played at Shea 44 years earlier. As a fan of anything remotely connected with The Beatles, I immediately purchased the set when I saw it for sale at the Starbucks checkout counter.

My only concern was wondering how McCartney, at 67 years of age, could pull off the quality of voice and musicianship of the music produced when he was in his twenties. Well, what a thrill to listen and watch as he performed Beatles, Wings, and solo classics nearly flawlessly, with the same energy as he did decades ago. Talk about delivering on the promise of the brand. If you’re a fan, buy the recording – you won’t be sorry.

The second experience took place last evening when my wife and I, along with our sons and their girlfriends, attended an Orlando performance of the Broadway musical, Rent. Many years ago, I saw the play on a rainy day in London and, having no idea what to expect, was completely blown away by the production. I also was delighted by the 2005 movie version of Rent, and have listened to the soundtrack many times.

So, I was prepared for an evening of a familiar show, hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed because of that familiarity. Just like McCartney, the cast (including the two original lead actors) performed as though it was opening night for the most important audience in the world. The show was incredible and stirred the same excitement I experienced when I first saw it in 1998.

So, what does any of this have to do with customer service? Well, imagine how many times Paul McCartney has sung the same songs, and how many times the cast of Rent has performed the same play. And yet each time they do it, the performance feels fresh and vital. The performers clearly don’t want to disappoint so they give it their all.

A business should operate the same way. Every employee of every organization should understand that:

  • An organization’s brand is fragile.
  • An organization’s brand image is on the line with every interaction.
  • Yesterday’s performance no longer counts. Today’s performance drives future loyalty.
  • Disappointment results from a disconnect between an organization’s brand image and the actual customer experience.

We can all take a lesson from enduring performers who consistently deliver excellence. These performers recognize that while they may have sung the same songs or delivered the same lines thousands of times, RIGHT NOW is the only time that matters for this customer.

Is your performance timeless?

P.S. If you’re serious about improving your organization’s customer service, be sure to check out the just released second edition of my book, Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service.