Slides should enhance, not confuse. Learn simple steps to keep audience attention.
In early March, I spoke with a friend who said she believed the coronavirus was “nothing more than a glorified cold”. She went on to say the media was going to send this country into a quick recession if they didn’t stop hyping the story.
I strongly disagreed and we argued. Like me, she is a former news reporter. She is also one of the smartest people I know. After our disagreement, we agreed to disagree but didn’t speak for a while.
Two months later she emailed me. Her healthy vibrant Mom had died of COVID. Living in a senior facility, Mom, who had no underlying health issues, contracted the virus. She was gone in six days.
I reached out to my friend who was clearly devastated. Opinions and political differences aside, we have always been there for each other and still are.
Weeks later, when we spoke again, we agreed we were both upset with the escalating COVID numbers. She said she was furious that states were making individual decisions that were hurting the economy. She strongly believed businesses should be allowed to open quickly.
I said if the country had a master plan and stronger leadership at the top, states could follow protocol. She disagreed. We debated some more and said we’d talk soon.
My mother is also in a long- term care facility that has seen COVID deaths, so like my friend, I have a personal connection to this story. However, as a communications coach who has helped companies navigate a myriad of crises for more than two decades, there are seven basic crisis principles that should be applied in every situation including:
- Have a plan
- Act quickly
- Prioritize those who are affected
- Be proactive and transparent
- Take responsibility
- Communicate early and often
As a proud citizen and business owner, I understand the importance of economic recovery, but not at the expense of lives.
New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam, and other countries including nations in the Caribbean are now moving forward because they either banned incoming visitors in the early stages of the pandemic or quickly initiated quarantines. Some countries like South Korea developed their own testing systems while others simply responded faster to the pandemic.
In many of these successful countries, specifically Asia, they believe the government is responsible for solving the problem and instituted national plans that were quickly communicated to their people.
Putting people first is critical during any crisis and here in America, we failed to do that. In a recent survey by public relations firm Edelman, 71% of respondents said they would lose trust in a brand if they believed that brand was putting profits over people. With the United States leading the world in confirmed cases of coronavirus, the need for empathetic compassionate leadership has never been more important.
My friend and I haven’t talked in a while. We will. When we do, we’ll again agree to disagree. Fortunately, we care about each other too much to let it ruin our friendship. Unfortunately, nothing will change. She’ll stay on her side and I’ll stay on mine. She’ll hear me and I’ll hear her.
Yet, like so many on different sides of the discussion, we will be listening, respond and defend our positions, not understand and fix our collective problems.
We were shopping for a career coach for our son and reached out to someone who came highly recommended as one of the best in the business. “Robert” immediately sent us an email with a multi-page PDF of the services he could offer us.
Included was a category called interview preparation. For $250.00, Robert’s one-hour interview preparation service would provide clients with “live simulated interview practice” to help them clearly articulate their brand and answer difficult questions.
My husband, son and I set up a phone interview using the conference line in my office.
As the call began, we heard a lot of background noise making it difficult to hear. We were asking Robert questions, but his connection kept cutting out and he said he was having trouble hearing us. At first, I thought it was a problem with my conference connection until I heard what sounded like “Iced grande six-pump vanilla latte.”
“Excuse me”, I interrupted, “did you say something”?
“No, thank you, just one shot”, he answered. “Oh sorry, he continued, I’m at Starbucks.”
Let me get this straight. Robert is being interviewed to work with our son. He offers services to help people improve their interview skills and articulate their brand. Yet his brand states ordering coffee is more important than paying attention. How can someone possibly offer interview preparation services if they don’t know how to conduct an effective interview?
My father used to say, “actions speak louder than words.” It means people’s actions, not their words show their real attitudes.
Someone can talk about being the best in the business, but nothing says that better than their behavior. Attitude, attention and approach to people from the moment you meet is what sets you apart. Whether pitching new business, delivering a presentation or attending a networking event, you have one chance to make a first impression.
One of our clients calls this a “customer centric” approach. In their case, they’ve spent millions of dollars, put policies in place and re-structured their entire business model to truly become more customer centric. There are thousands of companies who claim to put consumers first. They have catchy taglines that say so, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
How often have you sat on hold for long periods of time listening to a recording telling you “your call is very important to us”? Then there’s the customer service line that says, “this call may be recorded for quality purposes”. What does that even mean? How about “calls may be recorded to help our employees handle your inquiries more effectively”?
If you have any interest in truly improving customer interactions, begin by becoming your customer. How would you feel if you sat on hold waiting for your call to be recorded for quality purposes? Or what about apologies that ring hollow?
A recent example of a bad hotel experience comes to mind when I took a team of coaches to a meeting at a high-end resort in Orlando only to experience a tsunami of problems. My air conditioner wasn’t working and when I requested a room change, the front desk manager suggested I didn’t know how to work the air properly. No apology. My colleague had a water leak and had to switch rooms. No apology. That didn’t even compare to another coworker who, to her horror, woke up to cockroaches crawling on her ceiling, bed and floor. Again, no apology. When they moved her to another room, the toilet wasn’t working and overflowed.
Furious, I located the hotel manager who asked me what I wanted him to do. I demanded he take room and food charges off the bill, but he refused. He told me he gave the girl with the cockroach issue a $100.00 room credit. Considering the client was paying for the room, that was hardly satisfactory.
When I got home, I took the issue to the top and got a call from a representative in the CEO’s office. She said she was sorry and offered me 15,000 hotel points, which can’t even buy a room for the night. I told her I wanted the hotel to apologize to my colleague who was traumatized by the roaches. They never did.
Here is what I find astounding. In today’s world of social media, my colleague, who had photos and videos of the bugs could have sent those images around the world. She didn’t and wouldn’t, but how can any brand take that chance?
The Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact report says a happy customer whose issues are resolved tells 4-6 people about their experience. Approximately 13% of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people and those people will tell more people just as I’m telling you. The report says 86% of customers have quit doing business with a company due to bad customer experience.
Every customer interaction is an opportunity to create positive experiences. When we treat others the way we want to be treated, we send positive silent signals that often speak louder than words.
When we send silent negative signals, they can have long lasting damaging effects, sometimes without our knowledge. For example, after our call with Robert the career coach, as a courtesy, I thanked the person who recommended him. I also shared my experience. After referring him to dozens of people over the years, she is not likely to recommend him again.