Sharing My Story Part 2: You Can Reinvent Yourself


FACT: I am one of those Gen Xers. Did this term really take off as it has for other generations? I mean, who wants to be called Generation X?

FACT: I have been unemployed for the last 7 months. This is the longest I have ever been unwillingly unemployed and at my age, that’s pretty damn scary. In the beginning, there was a lot of doubt about myself. I wondered why I spent 5 years in my previous job to only be out of work. I wondered what I did wrong. I thought it was my fault. I thought I was too old. Hear me on this friends: I WAS WRONG!

After I had my brief pity party, I started thinking about what I really wanted to do. You see, since my last dream of owning and running a Day Spa came true, I did not know what my next dream should be. I had to work to support my family, so it was essential to work. I knew I had to get a job no matter what. Here’s what I did to get to my new dream:

Daily, I would get up at 5am, have some coffee and start applying for jobs online. 

My goal was 20 applications a day. That’s 2,800 online applications since I started. That’s also 2,799 rejections. Rejections were tough because I spent a lot of time and effort, not only with my applications but with companies and with people. It’s amazing how some companies don’t respond to you at all. Just ignore you as if you don’t matter. If you read nothing else, read these words: YOU DO MATTER!

I joined a support group for job seekers like me. 

This was the best thing I did. Job Seekers Network gave me new in person connections. Some friendships came through and others did not. However, there was always an inspiring speaker to get our day started. We heard about other people’s successes. We got our resumes reviewed, we learned how to interview better, network better, handle our finances, and market ourselves. There were a lot of Gen Xers in this group reinventing themselves.

I joined Camp Gladiator so I would working out as much as possible. 

This was so helpful in my journey to reinvent myself. Oh yes, there were days I did not want to go but the people in this group were so supportive and encouraged me to go. I made the commitment to go even when I did not feel like it. As a result, I lost 20 lbs and gained strength and courage to keep going.

I invested time in learning something new. 

I took an online course from with Northwestern University and started practicing Social Media Marketing. Let me be clear, I am not from the generation that grew up with technology. We had those brick size phones and maybe a pager. Our computers at that time were big and clunky and not everyone had one in their house. However, once I started taking the class, I fell in love with social media. Why? The connections that I made with people all over the world, sharing ideas, talking about struggles, support for one another. It takes a while to find the right group and friends, but once you do, there is no turning back. Here’s where I want to thank all the people who are true experts in Social Media. These people gave away knowledge and advice so that I could become better. During a time where I did not have any money, this was a game changer for me.

I helped others whenever I could. 

With my new skill in Social Media Marketing, I started to share my knowledge with others and help them to market themselves better on social media. I helped them understand their passion. Any time I could give a kind word, or encourage, or physically help someone, I did.

I also volunteered to visit the elderly, babysit, and clean houses. This volunteer work was tremendous for my soul and my attitude.

I trusted my intuition and took action. 

While I was on Twitter, I noticed CEO, Anthony C Gruppo was putting out his own original quotes about leadership and teamwork. They were very inspiring. I started to think how I could get them more noticeable. I started to create quick moving pictures of his quotes. I did this every other day just because I wanted to. I didn’t know if he would like them or see them. But, he noticed them and liked and commented on them. Then he graciously sent me all the books he had written. I read his books and continued to do moving pictures or still ones with his quotes every week, very consistently. I also continued gain real followers on my Twitter account. I went from 100 to 2,700 followers in about 5 months. Anthony made a comment on one of my posts “I should hire you to promote my work.” Now, I could have ignored it, said thank you and moved on but instead, I took action. I immediately messaged him and said “We should have a discussion about this.” He gave me his number and we set up a time for an interview. We talked for an hour and we got to know each other. He told me his group could use some Social Media training and asked if I would be interested in coming to New York to consult his team. I said “yes” and now I am going to New York in October to train his team.

I stayed positive and did not give up.

Other people gave up on me. I heard “You don’t have a job yet?” quite often. Some of my “friends” did not hang out or call me anymore because I did not have extra money to spend on going out. However, I kept going and spent time with friends who supported me in spite of my circumstances.

I applied at Whole Foods for a Team Lead role on their Global Support team because I saw the opening and I have always loved Whole Foods. I got an in person interview and really enjoyed all the people I met there and I thought I would definitely get an offer. But I did not! I was devastated. The manager reached out to me and said, there is a position coming up that I would like you to consider but it’s not posted yet, let’s have coffee and talk about it. We had coffee together and discussed the position. I told her that I was interested. This was a month ago. I started to think it was not going to work out because I have heard others tell me this before and the job ends up getting cut or they delay in hiring someone due to budget constraints. However, I am starting on Monday working for Whole Foods (which just got bought by Amazon) as a Program Manager. The group of people I am going to work with are outstanding. They have the same values as I do and I can’t wait to start on their team.

Two dreams came true for me: I am working for an awesome company, Whole Foods and I am excited about being a part of their Corporate Headquarters team. I have become a Social Media Strategist!

My reason for writing this is to encourage you to keep going and not give up on your passions, dreams and job searching. In fact, what’s your dream? Please tell me in the comments, I would love to hear about it.

5 ways Juan at my local @Walgreens gives me an outstanding customer experience?

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Just down the street from my house is a Walgreens. For those of you who don’t know, Walgreens is a place to pick up your prescriptions but also a place for small items you forgot at the grocery store.  From aspirin to cards to glow in the dark necklaces, you can find just about anything. However, this is not just a typical Walgreens store, this is a place where a model of great customer experience lives.  His name is Juan. You would not know this to look at him. Juan is an older gentleman, he speaks fluent Spanish in addition to his excellent English. Over the years Juan and I have made small conversations.  I would ask about his grandkids and he would ask about my kids.  He always has a smile and greets me when I come through the door.  What made me write this article about him, you ask? Simple, one day while checking out my conglomerate of items, Juan said “You know, your son was in here with his buddies the other day and bought an energy drink.  Those drinks can be harmful, do you want him to drink those?” Understanding his concern I said, “He only gets one a week, so if you see him get more, you let me know. Thanks Juan!”  Juan knows he can’t prevent my son from buying the drinks because he works at Walgreens, but he was kind enough to let me know what my teenager was up to so I could intervene with some parenting if needed.  It’s this extra level of compassion that inspired me to write about him.  I started to think about what Juan does that sets him apart from other workers and other stores. Why do I always use this local Wallgreens instead of the CVS around the block or the 7-11 across the street?  What is it that Juan does to exemplify the customer experience? It comes down to these 5 essential ways:

  1. Be familiar: Juan knows my name and my family member’s names.  It was not instantaneous familiarity.  He saw my name and used it, looking me in the eye to confirm that he was pronouncing it correctly.  I nodded yes and saw his name on his name tag and said his name.  Later, I came in with my kids, he asked their names in a pleasant way “Who is this big fella here?” Always smiling, very cordial. Important point though, when he knew our names, he didn’t forget. 
  2. Be inquisitive: Juan would never let the check out transaction be a boring one.  He always asked something different.  “What are you all doing today?” “How’s everything?” “Hows that tall boy of yours?” “Where’s your daughter, I haven’t seen her lately?” I wasn’t offended by these questions and was happy he asked.
  3. Be humorous: The checkout would never leave without a joke about something. One day I was with my son and as I was putting items on the counter, Juan looked at my teenager square in the eye and said  “Are you buying these for your mom?” Now, Juan knows my son does’t have a job and couldn’t pay for it. But my son would smile at him shyly and we would all laugh. I would reply “Juan, he may have to work in the back, do you have a job for him?”  Juan’s eyes would light up and he would say “Oh yeeesss!”  My teenager at this point would would grin and try to grab the bag of stuff to get out the door.  It’s all in good fun  but my son is now thinking that he might have to work to pay for stuff right?
  4. Be consistent: Now every time I go to Wallgreens, I am hoping Juan is there to do our usual joke. It’s a little silly but this is what we usually do. When I rush into the store, if he sees me first, he will say to me  “Merry Christmas, Brenda!”  (keep in mind, it’s the middle of July) and I laugh and greet him with “Happy New Year, Juan!”  It’s our joke and I feel special. We may use other holiday type greetings but I always think of one that he’s not using. It’s a fun exchange. Juan is also consistently smiling and talking to everyone like he knows them as friends. It’s expected behavior from him with everyone, not just me.
  5. Be sincere:  Even if Juan is having a rough day, he will tell me.  The other day he said in response to my “How are you doing today Juan?” with “Oh, I am tired today, my allergies are acting up.” All I have to do is nod my head in understanding and we move on to the smiles and wish each other well. I know he is sincere because I know he is human.

Customer service, success or experience, whatever you want to call it, is really about a creating a community that cares about it’s patrons.  You can get to know your customers well enough to go the extra mile and make an impression which creates a loyal community.  Who do you know in your community store that does this for you?  How can your business implement these to give your customers the best experience?

What can #Businesses and #Customer SuccessManagers learn from #Italian #Glass Makers?

Murano glass

Similar to Italian Glass makers, Customer Service started with only the profit in mind and not the customer.  By this I mean that Italian glass makers were originally creating staples that people would by in order to keep the glass business profitable.  Then fires from the Kilns where glass was formed were causing houses in the town to burn down. The glassmakers were moved to an island so they would not be a hazard to the rest of the community. This isolated them. With this isolation, the Italian glass industry was easier to control and influence when it was in one particular place. For a while there was tremendous control over who went to the island to learn glassmaking and who left. In fact, if you left the island you could not work as a glassmaker somewhere else. However, because of this isolation, there was a tremendous cross-fertilization of ideas which led to the leading role of Venetian glass within Europe. Today, beautiful pieces of art are created by multi generation glass makers. For fun, watch a Virtuoso glass making artist in action Murano Glass Video

To understand how the customer experience evolved in the United States,  let’s take a brief look at the history of how customers connected with businesses in it’s earliest forms:

  • 1800 – Reach the seller – by horse – walk
  • 1876 – Telephone invention! You could directly talk to the person you bought the product from and get direct information.
  • 1894 – Women ran a switch board to connect you
  • 1920 – Rotary phone helped you to dial the number and connect yourself
  • 1960 – First call centers were invented
  • 1967 – Toll Free number invented – no more collect calls – no more operators
  • 1970 = IVR – an automated operator of sorts so you could press the right option and get to the right person without human assistance
  • 1989- Outsourcing call centers – India
  • 1991 – Invention of the internet – service at your command (mostly)
  • 1996 – Email and Live Chat

It has been predicted by many sources that by 2020, Customer Experience will overtake price and product and the key brand differentiators. This brings us important factors to consider when understanding Customer Success in a business:

We are in the age of MultiChannel Customer Experience through the customer’s personal computer which is now their phones or wearable devices

Mobile may be the first customer experience with the increased use of mobile data and speeds reaching 5G, driven by social media, enhanced use of a plethora of apps, instant messaging, and chats – mobile has become the ‘go-to’ medium for all customer communications.

IoT and “Big Data’s” role is momentous

We have so much data now that companies are not sure what to do with it or how to analyze all of it.  There are also competing opinions within companies about the what the data means.  There will have to be major shift to consolidate and prioritize this data in order for companies to move forward and give an effective performance for the customer.

Self Service & Artificial Intelligence are Key Players 

Your customers don’t want to get in touch with a contact center every time they hit a roadblock of face an issue. Therefore, they are most likely to switch to easy self-service options, and that is precisely why we are observing an upsurge in ‘in-app’ support and features. It will be imperative to get anyone working for a company prepared for what the customer is calling about and have the valid data from the customer in hand.

Customization of Location Based Services

Now there is the ability to track and migrate a customer engagement across all channels of communication.  This tracking will be able to help businesses understand where customer’s go, but will it be a true sense of what the customer wants?

Value and Respect Customer’s Time

77% of consumers say that the number one most important thing companies can do to provide good customer service is to value and respect their time. This should be at the heart of your strategy when designing an Multi Channel approach for a quality Customer Experience

According to Aaron Smith, Apps have become the first part of the communication supply chain However, platforms like Twitter represent the “one-to-many” channels of service, where consumers can see the issue and get involved with it,”. “One of the ways to bring it back to the “one-to-one” approach is through apps,” According to Aaron Jacobs, while apps have proven to be a worthwhile approach, many brands have internal silos that embed the customer service inside the app, meaning that customer service teams don’t have much say in their evolution or development. “Secondly, consumers rarely download company apps unless they can practically live inside them, the examples being social media, lifestyle, and travel brands that can penetrate the majority of phones,” said Jacobs, closed the point with his hypothesis: “If you could offer a stellar customer service experience inside an app and offer an added benefits to the customer for using it, then it becomes worth downloading.”

One great example of a multichannel approach done well is the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. This is simple easy to understand and customers can choose what way they want to contact the Airlines if they can’t find the answer for themselves:

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In the the United States, customer service was originally provided as a cost to the company and it was a need of the consumer.  As faster and more communication devices were created, businesses felt the need to control communication and monitor it closely. Businesses wanted to isolate their Customer Service and Customer Experience channels. Some businesses still try to control the communication and service needs of their customer’s today.  They want to protect their brand. However, if businesses want to succeed, they must know how to create customer experience as an art form.  It needs to be unique, colorful, and inviting. Customer’s sympathy and patience is limited. The complexity of options to a customer produces constant change and anxiety for the customer.  Customers can no longer be thought of as a group with the individual needs being ignored. Businesses will have to give an experience the customer wants live in and look at everyday. Is your Customer Service and Customer Experience at the stage of sophistication? Is it an art form?







3 Ways Customer Success Managers Can Be Champions! #pittsburgpenguins

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators

I heard a great speaker last week. The title, “Thriving in the Uncomfort Zone” by Jeff Moore, CEO of Moore Leadership. He says the key to success in today’s economy is one’s willingness to compete,”to strive together.” Jeff trains leaders in both college sports and the corporate world develop championship teams, building on his winning experience as a former UT Women’s Tennis Coach. Jeff explained what makes a Champion versus a Winner. This is important to understand in order to see recognize the value of a Champion.

What is a Champion?

Champions are built from the inside out. They ask questions like, “How will this impact who we are?” or “How will we get better?” Champions have a fierce collective spirit.  Champions also focus on competing. People on a Championship team respect each other even before they like each other. In contrast, Winners are built from the outside in.  Winners are focused more on results. Winners compare to each other whereas Champions strive together.  There is a certain personality that comes with being a Champion, being a “striver”.  A striver will always try to reach beyond their grasp and they are driven by a purpose that transcends winning. This will be an uncomfortable place.  Winners have a typical characteristic as well, they are called arrivers. “Arrivers” spend all their time creating a perception of success. They want to always be compared favorably.  This leads to a superficial type of improvement.  “Arrivers”  will show up and say, “I am good at this now, so how are you going to get me to the pros?”.  They more that likely ask, “How long is practice?”. When these questions come up, the answer should be “How long are you willing to play at a competitive level in every practice for the team?”.  

How can you test for a Champion?

You can always change your performance but not your personality.  Jeff has a test which shows if you have a high “Striver” ability.  His approach for the workplace regarding building teams is that workers should have a high SQ (Striver Intelligence) in order to get a high performing team. “Strivers” support each other unconditionally and push each other.  In my own experience as a manager, I have been in a company culture where I was not allowed to push and stretch my direct reports because it may upset them.  In addition, my direct reports were not encouraged to push me to make me a better manager.  I believe this is because managers see the “Arrivers” on their team and they believe they are already good so they promote them higher without challenging them to do better and improve their character.

Can Customer Success Managers Be Champions?

My thoughts went to how this relates to Customer Success Managers for a business. Business cannot just have the appearance of success in comparison to others and be “Arrivers”  but they should strive for success like champions do. Here are three ways Customer Success Managers can be champions:

  1. Customer Success Managers can practice their craft by building relationships in a way that is honest and supportive and challenging. In some instances, let the customer push you to reach new ways of achieving excellence.  Always establish yourself as the customer advocate and problem solver but also ask them for ideas that will challenge you. Hopefully the client will be receptive to your challenges as well, if you promote this by your own example. 
  2. Customer Success Managers need to track relationship progress with clients. Not just renewals and churn rates but specific conversational wins. How did they challenge you?  What was your response? What could you do better next time?
  3. Customer Success Managers should keep their companies and coworkers in check by encouraging the “Striver” mentality. Companies need to listen carefully to their Customer Success Managers and be challenged to become better. Get used to being uncomfortable. This would be a striver mentality and would produce a championship business. Truly understanding each customer’s goals and definition of success will push the customer into making touchdowns! When customers get touchdowns, business will get the retention and renewals needed to keep moving forward.

In conclusion, think about how you can be a Champion in your daily life.  Are you challenging yourself?  Are you part of a team that has a “striver” mentality? Winning is not everything but being a Champion in your daily life is will make a difference.