Friday, March 24, 2006

Introducing the Phooey Awards

I make a profession of teaching people how to communicate honestly with each other, in ways that benefit everyone. In keeping with this tradition, I’d like to announce the launch of the Phooey Awards – where I periodically “honor” organizations that seem to do exactly the opposite of what they say. This month, our inaugural award-winner is (drum roll) … US Airways.

US Airways recently merged with America West Airlines, and now bills itself on its web site as “the world’s largest low-fare airline.” As the primary air carrier serving my small hamlet in upstate New York, I recently checked their roundtrip fare from here to Philadelphia – a scant 191 air miles away – and was quoted a fare of $725.00. (Or, put another way, roughly the same price as a round trip from New York to London plus a three-night hotel stay on the same dates.) So, the world’s largest low-fare airline? I say Phooey.

To be fair, I am really glad to see US Airways emerge from bankruptcy, join with a new partner, and start hiring back a lot of their furloughed employees. They are a good airline with a long history, particularly here in the Northeast, and I have always been happy with their service. But to paraphrase Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, you’re no Southwest Airlines.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the prestigious Phooey awards – and until then, if you are a business that doesn't communicate honestly with your customers, Phooey to you!

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On the personal front, even though my new book Great Customer Connections won't be officially released for more than two months, it is already climbing the charts at Its sales rank is already close to 50,000, the day after doing my first radio interview about it. (Being in the top 150,000 out of their 4+ million titles roughly equates to selling well at major bookstores.) Want to join the party and pre-order a copy? Click here.

Amazon sales ranks seem to involve a complex, proprietary formula that only the CIA could love - for one person's view, check this article. My best sales rank to date was 2019 for my previous book The Soul of an Organization, at which time it was also one of the top 10 books on corporate culture in the US. Yes, it's just a number, but checking your sales rank on Amazon remains a pleasant addiction for most authors.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Television can be hazardous to your wealth

I recently drove back to my home in upstate New York from a business trip to the Washington DC area and, for a change of pace, listened to a simulcast of CNN Headline News on my car’s satellite radio. Over the next couple of hours, I heard:

-Nancy Grace deep-sighing her way through a couple of recent true-crime stories, seemingly blaming everyone within 100 feet of these crimes, and angrily blasting guests who dared bring up piddling details like who did and didn’t actually break the law.
-An hour-long entertainment show whose host kept promising to tell us “why Paris Hilton’s 15 minutes of fame were up” – with the answer ultimately being, well, because they said so.
-An interview with a quote-unquote Mafia expert on why Tony Soprano would make a lousy mobster in real life, because he is “too sensitive.”

What we’re all hearing on television these days may be entertaining, but at another level I feel it is pure, unadulterated poison to being successful in your own life.

Why? Because psychologists tell us that we often “model” what we see around us in our own behavior. And when you feed on a steady diet of watching Bill O’Reilly interrupt and talk over his guests, or Sean Hannity scream about people being traitors, or people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter insult everyone who doesn’t share their political beliefs, you start to accept a level of incivility and divisiveness that, if you stop and think critically, has also gradually been creeping into our lives and workplaces.

In my own books and training courses, I devote a lot of attention on how to speak to another person’s interest, in ways that ultimately benefit you as well as them. This style of communication will never get me a gig on a major television talk show, but it creates more happiness on a day-to-day basis than you can possibly imagine. And when I see entire groups of people speaking and interacting that way, with customers and with each other, the results are nothing short of magical.

More important, the people who know how to connect with others are often the ones who succeed in life, while the ones who mimic their favorite TV hosts tend to stay mired in hard feelings and limited opportunities – which, of course, they never understand because in their minds, it’s all someone else’s fault. And in a sense they are right, because the most highly-rated media figures seem to fail miserably as role models for success.

So, turn off your television once in a while – curl up with a good book (I can recommend at least one :) – and look thoughtfully at what you say to each other. The results can change your life.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What this is all about

Most people feel that good communications skills are a matter of being a "nice person" - and by corollary if you go out, hire the nicest people you can find, and lock them all in a room together, you will have great service. I strongly disagree with this view.

In my experience, good service and good communications revolve around specific skills that you learn and practice, until they become habits. It is a craft, much like carving wood or playing football.

Here is a quick example, from my new book Great Customer Connections: What do you say to someone after you have just towed their car away?

I once had the pleasure of doing this exercise with a campus parking and traffic bureau who did, in fact, regularly tow people's cars away - and even though they were all certifiably nice people, they responded to this question with statements like "You were parked illegally," "You shouldn't have parked here," or "You need to pay a fine to get your car back" - just like 99 per cent of you would.

Now, tell me how someone would react to these statements. Not well, right? So, I challenged this group to do something completely different - think of things to say that *benefit* the other person. After a lot of hemming, hawing and squirming in their seats, the ideas started to flow:

"Your car is in a safe place."
"I can help you get your car back."
"It's really frustrating when something like this happens."

Guess what? When we role-played using statements like this, the other person found it impossible to stay angry! Even with their car towed away! So just imagine what a similar approach could do for your daily interactions with customers or co-workers.

I didn't just make up this idea - it is based on a powerful principle of behavioral psychology known as social cognition, where we subconsciously identify friends or foes within seconds of meeting someone, and react accordingly.

My new book is chock-full of specific, named techniques that will dramatically change the way customers react to you, all based on well-established concepts from behavioral psychology. And in this blog, I will regularly share real-life examples of what happens when you change the way we communicate with each other. Stay tuned!

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On a personal note, I am starting to ramp up the promotion for Great Customer Connections, which will be released in May by AMACOM Books. Over the next few weeks I will be starting to do radio interviews, publish print articles, and plan a visit to Book Expo America in Washington, DC (the annual publishing convention, during which I am always like a kid in a candy store!). Promotional work is always a labor of love for me, and one of the things I enjoy most about having a new book published.

Check out my upcoming activities on the book's website at (how's this for easy to remember!) - and I always welcome your feedback as well. Contact me anytime at