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July 2014

Garbage In, Garbage Out - The Secret to an Exceptional Customer Experience

We live in a world of too busy.  Too busy to listen carefully, too busy to focus on things that are important and wayyyyyy too busy to pay attention to details.  Sound familiar?  It's a reality of our fast paced world.  Sadly, our fascination with being busy has crept into many of our businesses too.  We often focus on the big picture, forgetting about the details of the customer experience.  

Let me give you a quick example.  Recently I was in Denver, CO at a beautiful hotel.  Great room, decent front desk service and a friendly staff.  Unfortunately, one small detail left a bad impression that I can't get out of my head.  It wasn't a big deal...actually, it was a pretty minor detail, but it was big enough to make me think twice about the establishments attention to detail. 

It was a public restroom on the first floor of the hotel with a washroom attendant just leaving, having wiped down the counter and mirrors.  All sounds like great attention to detail until this... 

Attention to Detail Builds Customer Loyalty
Attention to Detail?

Yes, I actually took a picture of a garbage can in a restroom.  Really you say?  Forgive me, but it made an impression.  I watched the washroom attendant put all of his attention into the little details like wiping down the sinks and washing the mirrors, yet in his business and rush to move onto the next chore of the day, he forgot to pay attention to this little detail.  A little detail that wasn't so little.  Why didn't he empty the garbage or at least compress it?  He was too busy being busy.

So what's the point you ask? The point is that attention to detail matters!  Your ability to focus on detail can set your company apart, because your competition probably isn't taking the time to do that.

 Let me contrast this example with a recent experience that we had at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara.  Just two weeks ago we had an open house breakfast event for our CEL Core class. 

They paid attention to every detail.  Let me walk you through our few hours on site.  I personally arrived about an hour early.  The room was set from the night before and everything looked great.  I sat at a rear table to review some presentation materials.  Not one minute later, someone was offering a cheerful good morning greeting and offering a cup of coffee.  Did I need anything?  Did I want anything?  I can go on an on about this particular venue and the event, but let me sum it up this way.  ABOVE and BEYOND!  Above and beyond in every interaction from maintenance worker to server to banquet manager to hotel manager.  Every single person was focused on us, the customer and our clients.  I can't explain how they did it, but it is obviously part of their culture.  The attention was in the details and the positive attitude that every team member exuded.  It was obvious to us that the entire team was focused in serving the customer with a genuine sincerity that flowed seamlessly through their team. 

Why should you care?  Because this type of over the top customer service is so rare that if your organization has it, you have an incredible competitive experience in the marketplace and you can likely charge a premium for it.  Is the Buffalo Marriott Niagara the cheapest place to hold our events?  Absolutely not, they are on the higher end of the choices available to us.  That being said, we will gladly pay a premium for our team and our clients to experience that magic that happens when customer service is the focus and not an afterthought. 

A Legacy Worth Living - Planning Your Living Legacy

By Verne Harnish “Growth Guy” and Tom Ulbrich "Assistant Dean and Executive Director University at Buffalo School of Management Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

Far too often we get caught up in the “busyness of stuff” and forget about what is really important in our lives.    We often engage in strategic planning to create alignment in our businesses, but fail to do the same in our personal lives.  When is the last time that you sat down and really spent some time thoughtfully engaging your personal plan and living legacy?

People often joke that the best moments of boat ownership are the day they bought the boat and the day they sold it.

There are similar punctuation marks in our lives—the day we’re born and the day we pass away. As busy executives, if we’re not careful, our personal lives can end up as neglected as those vessels, forever docked in the harbor (or parked in storage!).

I’m a big believer in building a living legacy. Your life will be more meaningful if you treat every day as if it was your last and, instead of rushing from one obligation to another, you proactively establish personal priorities and align them with your professional goals.

As readers of this column know, there are four decisions you must make to build a thriving company: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. In your personal life, there are parallel areas: Relationships, Achievements, Rituals and Wealth. Commit to writing your goals in these four areas, just as you weave the Four Decisions into your business plan.  To guide you in creating a personal one-page plan, here’s a link to a “ME: Living Legacy” tool.


At the end of the day, what matters most in life are relationships.  The first step in using the Living Legacy tool is to list the key people in your life on whom you want to have a lasting impact.

In business, you have a tremendous opportunity to influence your employees or customers.  In your personal life, the important people in your life will likely include your family, your friends, and those in the various communities to which you belong. Limit the list to 25 people, so you don’t get overwhelmed. 58797_3761395994702_1171238792_n

At the same time, there may be some people in your life who are destructive and/or distract you from your higher goals. There’s a space on the form where you can note relationships you want to end.  Doing so is important, so you can free time for the people who matter most to you.


Many CEOs find that even when they reach critical milestones for growing their company, they feel they haven’t made a real difference in the world. The achievements section of the Living Legacy tool can pave the way to a more meaningful life. Think about the major ways you’d like to make an impact through your work beyond reaching monetary goals—perhaps by mentoring others or setting up a nonprofit organization or pro bono initiative—and set objectives in these key areas. File9751272655027

In your personal life, you’ll want to think about how you can make a real difference to the key people in your life. For instance, you might aim to have a happy marriage, instead of just staying married, as many people do.  Signing on to facilitate the 5-year strategic plan for our children’s school was something I enjoyed prioritizing this past six months. 


Establishing regular routines in your life will help you achieve your larger goals. Examples of rituals might include a weekly date night with your spouse and booking some “alone” time with each child once a week. For distant family members, you might build a regular routine, like taking a vacation together every two years.


You might also want to establish rituals with people whose presence in your life supports your bigger goals.  Meeting regularly with a workout buddy, for instance, can help you maintain good health—something that’s important to achieving any goals you set.   

Like destructive relationships, there might be some bad habits or behaviors you wish to stop – list those as well.


Rather than financial wealth being an end in itself, see it as a resource for supporting the rest of your personal plan.  Set goals for the amount of money you want to donate to causes that matter to you.  Decide what you need to set aside to support activities with your family and friends, investing in experiences that create lasting memories.  In the cash section of the Living Legacy document, you’ll want to make note of any financial goals you must meet to fuel your living legacy.  And when you let money flow through you to help those around you, it seems to appear more effortlessly.


It’s not easy to do this type of planning, but just getting yourself to think about what matters most is 90% of the battle.  You want to make sure that what you leave in the wake of your life as you sail along is a legacy worth living.