Tag Archives: Business

Maximizing The Customer Experience Through Taking Ownership and Follow UP

take ownership, customer experience, customer service, follow up Companies desire to significantly maximize and differentiate their customer experience. Vast sums of money have been spent on this quest. However, two of the most important approaches have still not been mastered at most companies. These are Taking Ownership and Following Up. Taking Ownership and Following Up are the mot powerful levers of a superior customer experience. That is, mastery of these two concepts will have the greatest positive service impact on customers, let alone improving customer service surveys/assessments. Although every organization has existing service processes, customer perceptions of service excellence can be dramatically improved by focusing upon Taking Ownership and Following Up. In fact, ineffective and inconsistent implementation of Taking Ownership and Following Up virtually guarantees a less than desirable customer experience. Unfortunately, these two concepts are constantly being preached, but rarely being implemented at levels of executional excellence.

Overview of Taking Ownership and Following Up

These two vital concepts are not novel to the business world and are in fact desired by most companies that want to increase both the external and internal customer experience and positively influence service metrics. However, converting these concepts into consistently implemented and embedded behavioral actions is the real challenge. Although both concepts typically resonate with Leaders/Managers/Coaches (LMCs) and line employees, merely having insight into their importance is not the same as achieving sustainable executional excellence with customers. Furthermore, these are not novel concepts employee populations, and they have been communicated to them over and over again for years. so, if these two concepts are apparently so self-evident and logical, why are they not routinely being implemented at levels that differentiate and organization from the competition? Unfortunately, communicating the importance of Taking Ownership and Following Up, regardless of how eloquently and motivational, is not in and of itself enough to embed the desired behavioral changes at the right quality and frequency levels. Communicating the value of these two concepts, regardless of how frequently it is done, just sets the stage.

Projection – A Performance Killer . A classical belief set error of the leadership and management of many companies is the psychological concept of projection. This is the situation where those in charge feel that what they are asking their downstream employees to do is so self-evident that it is unnecessary (and even ridiculous!) to have to train them to  do. And, even if there is some training involved, reinforcing that training, inspecting what is expected and holding people  specifically accountable, is only minimally done. This projection mechanism is a killer of performance excellence. LMCs must drive the behaviors that are desired, rather than simply wishing that they were so, and getting frustrated when they are not. This unquestionably applies to Taking Ownership and Following Up, especially because they are somewhat amorphous and less concrete concepts for most employees.

So, what is necessary to truly achieve world-class Taking Ownership and Following Up?

The process starts with a Success Triangle analysis of how Clear, Capable and Motivated company employees currently are regarding Taking Ownership and Following Up, and then transitions into creating and implementing specific solution action plans.


First, have companies establish a methodology to codify and assess/measure these concepts? If not, it is critical or else they will remain metaphors. As we all know, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Whether or not companies measure their Taking Ownership and Following Up baselines, baselines do exist. Therefore, if these two critical concepts are not already being measured, it is necessary to establish nd assessment methodology so that baselines can be established and improvements can be analyzed. Unless this is done, it is unlikely that Taking Ownership and Following Up will be culturally embedded. Second, Companies must determine whether their employees are Clear about the mechanics of Taking Ownership and Following Up within each job family on a situationally specific basis, versus individuals and teams being only “conceptually clear”.  This is critical as goals about these concepts are necessary but not sufficient to do the job. Many employees may at least be able to generally explain the importance of Taking Ownership and Following Up, but that does not mean that they are precisely clear on how to do so.

Example for Taking Ownership

For example, one of the most common directives that many companies give to their employees is to implement “one touch” solutions with customers. With respect to Taking Ownership, ideally, a one touch solution means that whenever customers ask questions/express  concerns/complaints/overall dissatisfaction, the employees whom they are speaking to are able to provide solutions on the spot without the customer’s having to speak with anyone else (although the employee might need to).

The one touch desire is commendable, but realistically, it is often not possible. Therefore, just communicating to employees the company’s desire for one touch solutions, when the employees do not have one touch enablement, is often frustrating to these employees, as they do not specifically know what they are supposed to do in each and every situation (at least on a prioritized basis.) And communication alone will rarely maximize the customer experience.

If it were so easy, Taking Ownership would be much further along than it is within most businesses. The fact is that most companies are sub-par in this regard. Consequently, merely having a Taking Ownership initiative, without clearly defining what the employee is supposed to do on a situationally specific basis, is a formula for under-performance.

The reason is that even when an employee can potentially provide a one touch solution, it doesn’t mean that they are enabled to do so. Furthermore, there will be some situations where the employee can’t solve problems with a single customer touch, as these situations will require one or more follow ups with customers and perhaps include the need to engage multiple employees in the solution as well.

Also, there are clearly times when a different employee will need to engage with the customer instead of the customer’s original contact, who may (appropriately bow out of the situation. This will require a “warm hand-over” internal referral, including necessary data transfer, so that the customer doesn not perceive that he or she is being handed off and/or starting all over again.

Additionally, if an internal referral is necessary, what does “Taking Ownership” precisely mean with respect to the employee contacted following up and following through thereafter, so that the “solution chain” is not broken?

These internal referrals are typically a challenge for companies and are one source of customer complaints, particularly when they are not handled at the highest levels of professionalism. There is a big difference between desirable customer centric/friendly internal referring and the perception by customers of having been unceremoniously handed off to someone else. Of course, if customers perceive indifference from the initial contact or down-the-line contacts, it can exponentially increase the problem.

Whether one touch is doable or not, unless the employee who initially speaks with the customer knows precisely what to do with respect to protocols and what to say/ask, let alone is able to execute seamlessly, the odds of a positive customer experience and probably be diminished.

However, the need for multiple touches with multiple employees does not mean that you can’t still create and extremely positive customer experience.

This can be achieved by training employees to pre-position and immunize customers against disappointment in the most positive way through effective communications, as to what customers can expect in each and every situation.

Examples for Following Up

One of the most egregious Following Up failures, which consistently upsets both external and internal customers, is when employees make promises to get back to customers (or LMCs to their downstream employees) at a particular time, and don’t.

It would seem blatantly obvious that when a promise is made about following up with a customer that the promise is kept. They why doesn’t it happen?

Here are five common possibilities (there are more) that are all understandable, but unacceptable if companies want to achieve world-class Following Up, which unquestionably links to perceptions of service excellence.

1. The employee was too busy with other “priorities”.

  • Poor time management prioritization and/or “an excuse” (see #3 and #4 below.)

2. The employee “forgot”.

  • Poor data entry/contact management and/or “an excuse” (see #3 and #4 below.)

3. The employee didn’t get the information that was necessary for the follow-up and so he/she simply didn’t contact the customer.

  • The employee perceived that contacting the customer without the necessary information would result in an upset customer, and so elected to avoid the situation.

4. The employee would have to present “problematic” information to the customer, so he/she simply didn’t contact the customer.

  • The employee perceived that contacting the customer with problematic information would result in an upset customer, so he/she avoided the situation.

Note: we call the avoidance of Following Up in #3 and #4 above FOFU…Fear of Following Up…and it is far more common than most companies realize.

5. Problematic existing Following Up habits

  • Not uncommon, especially if there is poor role modeling of Following Up by LMCs and/or because of poor role modeling of Following UP behaviors from employees’ life experience in general.

Surprisingly, employees often don’t follow-up even when they have good news to convey to customers.

If employees often don’t follow-up even when they have good news to convey to customers.

If employees don’t follow-up when they have made a promise to do so, regardless of their reasons for not doing so, it is a clear sign of disrespect for customers, and it is the antithesis of a customer centric culture that desires to maximize the customer experience.

All of the preceding reasons for poor Following Up can be remedied by implementing the proper training and LMC solutions.

As an example, #3 and #4 above, which are often emotionally difficult situations regardless of the given realities and potential negative customer reactions and rehearsing their communications until they are fluent and second in nature.

One of the Cohen Brown Laws about potentially fearful communication interchanges is, “Anxiety is the price you pay for the unprepared mind and mouth“!

If employees are anxious about Following UP, it is not unlikely that avoidance and delaying tactics will occur.

Discover It, Implement It and/or Refer It.

In short, every employee must be Clear about their personal Discover It, Implement It and/or Refer It responsibility regarding the specificities of TAking Ownership and Following Up.

Using a sports analogy, employees, as well as their LMCs, must be crystal Clear about the “plays’ that they have to execute with respect to these tow concepts


Once the Clear side of the Success Triangle has been dealt with, it is essential to train employees to know “at the drop of a hat” how to implement these plays flawlessly, fluently and confidently on a situation-specific and job-specific basis, regardless of how challenging the challenging the communication with the customer may be.

Ultimately, it is all about executional excellence, as knowledge is not power…acting on Knowledge is power. Jsut as in sports, knowing something and doing something and doing something and doing something/doing something well are vastly different.

This also applies to Taking Ownership and Following U between LMCs and the line, LMCs and LMCs and peer-to-peer.


It is essential to continuously motivate LMCs and the line to sustainably implement Taking Ownership and Following UP behaviors.

Unfortunately, the common reality in organizations is that when people move out of their comfort levels and pre-existing performance baselines, there is a stong tendency to regress to pre-existing levels, unless there is continuous motivation to maintain (let alone improve) new performance levels. This requires best of class LMC.

However, if LMCs and their employees are not absolutely Clear about the precise responsibilities and are not Capable of implementing them at the highest possible levels, motivational approaches will at best be short-term fixes, driving only increased frequency and perhaps higher levels of enthusiasm during interactions, with regression soon thereafter.

Unfortunately, Motivation does not typically result in superior quality performance as Motivation, in and of itself, does not increase competency, unless the Motivation inspires LMCs/employees to engage in specific training including necessary levels of practice and rehearsal (that is, the Capable side of the Success Triangle). This naturally applies to Taking Ownership and Following Up.

Furthermore, Motivation is enhanced when people feel confident. However, real and lasting confidence is only produced as a by-product of clarity and competence.


Should companies choose to embrace this level of precision interventions to maximize Taking Ownership and Following Up, it may appear somewhat daunting to do so because of the number o real world scenarios that need to be mastered.

Furthermore, the human brain can only digest and embed a finite amount of information in a particular period of time, let alone convert that information into action.

Consequently, the solution is to stage-in prioritized interventions and create a time managed rollout, which focuses on the most important opportunities /challenges that occur most frequently, rather than trying to get employees to learn everything at once.

This staged prioritized approach will significantly increase the probability of both rapid behavioral implementation and incremental performance results.


Companies desire to significantly improve their differentiated customer experience, customer-centricity and customer service realities and perceptions.

There are numerous contributors to service excellence. However, two of the most important direct service perception modifiers are Taking Ownership and Following Up. In fact, as mentioned earlier, if these two concepts are not operationalized at world-class levels, it is very unlikely that companies will achieve their customer experience and service objectives.

Superior levels of consistent Taking Ownership and Following Up will require improvement in:

1. Clarity about precisely what must be done in each and every interaction with both external and internal customers. (Unless these two concepts and also operationalized internally, it is unlikely that they will be operationalized externally).

  • It is essential that a superior level of If/Then scenario granularity regarding “what must be done” should cascade throughout companies.

2. Capability with respect to implementing “what must be done.”

3. Motivation regarding achieving the foregoing.

  • This includes improvements in LMC.

By utilizing the approach overviewed in this document, the probability of companies achieving mastery and consistent implementation of Taking Ownership and Following Up will be significantly increased. Thusly, along with other company service initiatives, companies will enhance and accelerate their ability to achieve their desired customer service outcomes.

This article is a re-print which first appeared on BankersHub.com December 2013.

About The Author

Martin L. Cohen, M.D. is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Chairman of Cohen Brown Management Group. Dr. Cohen is one of the leading strategists, consultants, managers, lecturers, and trainers in the financial industry today. A widely respected expert in psychiatry, Dr. Cohen shares his knowledge of human behavior to train and motivate institutions to change and improve their sales and service behaviors in order to achieve dramatic, profitable results.

Email: info@cbmg.com

Bold. Daring. Innovative. On her terms.


Beyoncé released her self-titled album exclusively on iTunes last week and the bold move paid off. No promotion, no press junket, no gimmicks.

Once upon a time, entertainers sold music from the trunk of their car and visited radio stations one by one in hopes of getting the on-air personality to play their music.  Artists went straight to the market by way of street marketing.  Then the labels took over with elaborate campaigns which were carefully staged, creative, and costly.

So imagine, a star who dared to be different.  The pop diva wanted to connect with her fans; which is about as close to one-to-one marketing as you can get.

So what can businesses learn from Queen B?  Aside from knowing your target, try breaking from tradition with innovative and risky tactics to build your business on your terms. Go outside of your comfort zone and get in touch with your product or service offering and build a strategy. The goal should always begin and end with your passion to reach your core audience with knowledge of how your service or product will resonate. Beyoncé is a brand, she knows her audience, and counted on her fans to respond and relate.  She took a big risk and it paid off.

This year, take another look at your marketing traditions.  Consider saying, “I know we’ve always done it this way.  Maybe it’s time for something different.”  And remember, it’s not innovation if there’s no risk.

Rhonda Nelson is Senior Vice President of Marketing for Cohen Brown Management Group. She is recognized for her  expertise in strategic marketing and tactical implementation. Her area of specialization includes social media, events, and B2B marketing.

Above and Beyond

exit signI would like to tell you about one of the best service experiences I received in recent memory.  It occurred at my grocery store where I had purchased five greeting cards.  The cards were nowhere to be found when I got home, so I called the store and spoke with the lead bagger.  He checked the counter and asked the cashier, but still, they were nowhere to be found.  He said that if I could fax the receipt to him, he would refund the amount to me so that my son could pick it up within the hour.  Not only did the bagger refund the money, but he gave me all the same cards as well.  He had picked all the cards using the item numbers on my receipt.

This man came to an easy and quick resolution which he communicated clearly with me, delivered on time and went above my expectations.

Think about the best service you’ve received and what made it exceptional.  Now, how do you emulate those same behaviors within your team and yourself?

I would love to hear your story.

Cynthia Whitmer Griffith currently serves as Performance Results Network Results Consultant for Community Banks and Credit Unions at Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Don’t Interrupt Me When I’m Interrupting You

workflow, time management, interruptions, Winston Churchhill, Edward G. Brown, Cohen Brown Management Group

Today’s workplace has changed dramatically, especially since the economic downturn of 2008. The ongoing recovery has created a work environment that constantly requires companies to do more with less.  In turn, employees are expected to work not just harder but “smarter” as well.

Employers are demanding hiring freezes and downsizing through leveraging time and innovative opportunity. These events are generating time and workflow backfire and the “fall out” is apparent.

As a result of lowered morale, self-esteem, and distress stimulated by unrealistic productivity goal demands, productivity has actually been decreasing instead of increasing. People are either losing focus in order to abate the mental and physical overload or are so overwhelmed without sufficient staff, backup or even basic knowledge about how to perform roles and tasks, that interruptions are abounding, more frequently, stress and distress.

The solution can be found in those companies that understand unwanted, unnecessary and completely unproductive interruptions.

When Churchill said “Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting,” certainly he was speaking of those who steal time from those who need more time.

The concept and practice of time management has never been so popular as it is today. Hundreds of books are being published on the subject annually, along with gurus, coaches and proponents of time management, eager to tell us “what to do” in order to solve our problems. Yet many of us still seem to not be able to get a firm grasp on it – at all.

It’s time for an intervention.

While there are numerous solutions to time management, none of them address the core problem which is eliminating unwanted and unnecessary interruptions.

So, what’s the intervention solution? Do you “just say no?” While you might have the urge to do so, in a work environment, to, “just say no,” could be suicidal. I’m guessing you may want to keep your job, clients, friends, and perhaps your freedom.

For over 35 years, I have consulted with hundreds of companies on change management solutions that permanently alter the mindsets of participants. The challenge is to get your “interrupters,” who by the way, have no consideration for your time, loss of momentum, work quality or your stress level, to understand how important it is to eliminate interruptions in order to increase your productivity and/or better serve the needs of your clients.

It is my experience that, a management/employee culture change, which treats time as a precious commodity, versus something that can easily be replenished, can and does succeed in not only recovering time, but adding time they didn’t know they even had.

I don’t have another self-help time-management program. What I DO HAVE is an innovative proven process for ensuring that workers can manage their time, workflow, and stress which in turn will raise their performance levels impressively. Some programs will only tell you WHAT to do to manage your time. I can show you HOW; how to recover lost or stolen time due to interruptions.

The important question now is, “What would you do with up to 2 additional hours in a day?”

Edward G. Brown is President, Co-Chairman, and co-founder of Cohen Brown Management Group, the leading sales and service culture change specialist for the financial services industry. 

Ten Steps to Better Performance

leadership processIf cooking is your thing, you know that you have to follow certain steps for your recipe to turn out right. The right ingredients need to marinate, rise, set, simmer, or blend properly for success in the kitchen.

At Cohen Brown, we don’t teach cooking, but we do support our clients in leading and managing their teams to perform optimally on a consistent basis. So what are the key steps that business leaders and managers can take to coax the highest performance levels from their teams?

The steps are discussed in our Ten-Step Leadership Model:

Vision: Next time you pass one of your colleagues or direct reports, ask them if they know what the company’s vision is. If they don’t, then it’s time to get back to basics. A Vision nobody can remember, or one that’s just mere words on the company website, is as good as worthless. A good way to make the bigger, Company Vision come to life, is by asking “What does this vision mean to me in my role and how does my daily focus contribute to this vision?” People strive when they believe in and own the Vision.

Goals: These are the numerical producers of your Vision. Ask yourself, where do you want to be? And when do you want to get there? Once you and your people set specific Goals, you’ll be compelled to move forward.

Plans: Isn’t it worth planning how you’ll achieve those Goals? I suppose you could completely skip over the planning part and act out all your impulses, but you’ll probably find that you’re experiencing more perspiration than success (or) intended results. Don’t ignore this step. Don’t get too complex with it. Just do it and do it consistently.

Actions: Now that you have your plan, hit that ground running, engage that clutch, do a little dance if you need to. You might be a brilliant planner, but I have to admit the Chinese Proverb says it best: “Talk don’t cook rice.” Or, as Cohen Brown says, “Execution is the chariot of Genius.” Don’t just sit on it. Do something. Engage that Plan!

Results Tracking: You need to find out what’s happening, what’s working, what’s not working, and if you’re reaching your goals. That way, you’ll know what you need to do to refine your Plans and increase productivity. And…you’ll discover Success stories, hence, Proven Best Practices that can be cross-pollinated to others.

Follow Up & Provide Feedback: As a leader, manager or coach, you should provide feedback because that’s what you’re there for. This is your chance to give advice, remind people of their goals, re-direct people who’ve gone off course and show you care.

Motivation: Take it from me, if you follow these steps, you’ll be increasing motivation far more than incentive compensation can do on its own…but getting financial remuneration isn’t too bad either! Just make sure your company’s incentive plan actually reinforces the right behaviours!

Resource Management: Manage your space, budgets, time and people as if they were the last living and non-living resources left over on Planet Earth. In other words, stop blaming what you have or don’t have for not achieving your very best.

Relationship Techniques: You can also manage your work relationships effectively by using these ten steps. Build trust and rapport, know what motivates people, and you’ll surround yourself by those who not only report to you, but truly look up to you.

Well, there you have it. Now it’s up to you to implement these Ten Steps and experience the sweet rewards that come with them. And if you prefer to bake lemon meringue pie instead, don’t forget to add me to your guest list.

Your thoughts?

Neda Bayat is Global Business Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc. and Breakthrough PerformanceTech, LLC.