Positive listening keeps the customer satisfied

Stay positive.

We’ve all been given that advice at one time or another. But I work in the humor industry and when it comes to making comedy audiences laugh, the opposite is often true. Adults and children laugh when a more important person is the victim of a joke. That’s why comedians poke fun at royalty, politicians and famous celebrities – and get away with it. They’re not picking on someone struggling, down on his luck, or without the ability to put up a good defense.

That wouldn’t be funny.

When I work with students, from junior high to college, it’s important for me to emphasize the importance of being positive in productive communication skills. It’s common and trendy today to be sarcastic, insulting or cutting edge. It’s easy to point a finger of blame at the recent generations of stand-up comedians, but this is nothing new. In fact, it’s still the way my college pals and I communicate. I’d be shocked to receive an email or phone call from one of the guys that didn’t open with an insulting comment about my intelligence, age, looks, weight – or whatever is trending on their mind at that moment.

It’s how we communicate on a personal, as close friends level. It’s also very acceptable in the comedy world and why a pie thrown in the face of “the boss” is just as funny in the movies today as it was when Charlie Chaplin was the brightest star on the silent screen.

But what’s considered cutting edge in the comedy industry is not usually funny or productive when it comes to customer service. Using negative humor for laughs outside of a close friendship can send the victim on a defensive course by feeling inferior or unwanted. And as we all know, that’s not a way to build or continue a business relationship.

Keep the customer satisfied.

As a consumer, my business is earned because the product or service is what I’m looking for. I’ll become a repeat customer because I’m a happy customer. In the best scenario, the people I’m dealing with make me feel important; even if I know very little about how they give me good results (in my case, anything to do with cars). I don’t feel inferior or unwanted and that’s good customer service.

Is the customer is always right?

No, of course not. Sometimes they misunderstand what they are buying or being promised. It’s usually a miscommunication. But when dealing with a product or service, even when terms are written out or explained by a sales representative, misunderstandings might occur.

There’s a game we’ve all played at one time or another where your friends or classmates would sit in a circle. One person whispers something in the ear of the person sitting next to him. Then that person whispers it in the next person’s ear, and it continues around the circle until it comes back to the one that started it all. Usually the original statement has been misunderstood, changed and shared in various ways until it’s completely different than what was said originally.

I remember playing this with our teacher when we were in first grade. The teacher started by whispering something very innocent to the first student. By the time it went around the circle and back to the teacher, it had turned – either through a misunderstanding or one player’s attempt at being funny in a negative way – very, very insulting to the teacher. I distinctly remember her turning a bright shade of embarrassing red and the game was over.

In fact, the game was never played again in our classroom.

That’s a good lesson in customer service. A misunderstanding or miscommunication can quickly turn a positive situation into one that is negative, embarrassing, or even to the point of anger. The best we can do to prevent this is to listen and try to understand.

And of course, stay positive.

In my training seminars I play a game with two audience victims… I mean volunteers. They come to the front of the room and the audience assigns each an alternative career. Since I always insist on creativity and imagination (elements of good humor) some fun examples have included an astronaut, pro surfer, television game show host, and… well, use your imagination.

I ask the two volunteers to have a simple conversation as if they were in the profession given to them. Every once in awhile during this conversation I’ll shout, “Stop!” and ask one to reach into a basket and pick a notecard that has a printed random (funny) sentence. They read this as their next line in the conversation. The astronaut, pro surfer, game show host – or whoever they are – has to reply and keep the conversation going.

It’s all about listening.

Of course it always takes the conversation in a completely different direction and often ends up like the “whispering around the circle game” with the ending nowhere near what they had been talking about at the beginning. The main difference between a group of mischievous first graders and our training audience is that I insist we stay positive. When it comes to customer service, the goal is to have your customers return satisfied and happy, rather than leaving with a bright shade of embarrassing red on their faces.

Listening to what was said and being positive are the first steps in productive communication. This is a solid foundation for good customer service and can lead the way to the ultimate goal of keeping the customer satisfied.

Musical interlude: Keep The Customer Satisfied by Simon & Garfunkel (enjoy for the fun of it!)

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, nationally-recognized comedy coach, and two-time CILC Pinnacle Award Winner “For remarkable quality of educational content and exceptional skill at program delivery.” For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive training programs and breakout sessions for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

A memorable 1st impression is easier than taking a bite out of Elvis

How do you make a memorable first impression? I’ll tell you how one aspiring entertainer made sure The King of Rock’n Roll wouldn’t forget him, but before we go to extremes let’s try an easier method…

We live in a fast-paced world. I’ve discussed in past articles how technology has changed the way we receive information. Television and radio commercials have become 20-second blasts of entertainment, often humorous and creative, that grab our attention long enough to deliver the advertiser’s message.

A great first impression should do the same. Today it takes more than a firm handshake and a toothy smile followed by boring small talk such as:

  • “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

Your ice-breaker should lay the groundwork for new opportunities. And if you don’t know what to say, then it’s time to stop thinking about the weather and come up with a winning game plan.

Whether you’re looking to move up in your career or move on to a better one, what you say and how you say it can make you the “go to person” and set you apart from the competition. One way is to strike up a conversation by using a hook.

  • So… what is a hook?

The idea is based on the technique shared in a past newsletter (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations). It gives you an opportunity to show your personality, which always counts. And if you have one (I know you do!) there’s no reason why you can’t use it for your benefit.

  • So… what is a hook?

Imagine you’re fishing with an invisible rod and reel. But instead of going for fish, you cast out a conversation starter that grabs the attention of the person you’re meeting. If you make it interesting by referring to a topic they can relate to, it should hook them into continuing the conversation.

I’ll admit I didn’t invent this technique. I’m only sharing it, with a few refinements. During my career as a talent coordinator in Hollywood, I watched some of the best communicators in the world practice this night after night. Their goal, like yours, was to catch and hold the attention of listeners.

These great communicators were stand-up comedians. And their careers depended on having successful, creative and, of course, funny conversations with audiences. Here are a few examples of million-dollar, attention-grabbing comedy hooks:

  • “Did’ya ever notice…” (Jerry Seinfeld)
  • “I don’t get no respect…” (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “You might be a redneck if…” (Jeff Foxworthy)

Of course these hooks wouldn’t work as well in a professional business setting, but they are attention grabbers and memorable enough to be called famous. And once you hear them, you want to know what the comedian will say next.

  • How do you create a business conversational hook?

It’s simple. Find a topic you know your listener can relate to. For best results, make it something current and you’ve both experienced. Look around your settings and become an observer and commentator. For example, you both might have encountered rush hour traffic driving to your meeting place, or met over a cup of coffee during a needed break.

Borrowing a song introduction that’s been overused by more than a few bad lounge singers, the potential conversation, “Goes a little something like this…”

  • You: “How are you?”
  • Reply: “Fine. How are you?”

And like a bad lounge singer on cruise control, your verbal efforts could hit a dead end because all you can come back with might be…

  • Automatic You: “I’m fine. Thanks.”

Ouch! How often have we heard potential conversations stall because of this automatic (you’ve said it so often that no thought is required or needed) reply? It’s become such an instinctive and common reply that – from many people – it sounds insincere. They’re just saying “words.” It’s not conversation.

And even if you try to change it up with a different, but also overused reply, there’s a good chance boring small talk (yawn) will creep in…

  • Dull You: “I’m fine. Nice weather we’re having.”

That’s a conversation-starter that will single you out from the pack – right?

Wrong!

Instead, this is where you should be creative and hook your listener (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations)…

  • Creative You: “I’m fine. In fact I’m great. This coffee tastes good after that drive this morning. Did you go through the same traffic? I’m positive they have speed limits around here…”

Okay, it’s not comedy club “Ha-Ha” worthy, but then again, we’re not trying to be stand-up comedians. The example was based on topics you could both relate to (driving and/or coffee) and included thoughts and opinions (personality). Chances are your listener will have a reply, allowing the conversation to continue. The goal is to make you remembered, build new connections, strengthen old ones, and improve networking.

If the person you’re talking to bites the hook – you’ll have a conversation that should make you more memorable than someone still dishing out boring small talk (yawn).

And now, speaking of bites, I promised you an extreme example of making a first impression. A newsletter subscriber who works at a very famous medical center emailed the following story. I know she won’t mind if I share it:

I recall a guy talking about meeting Elvis. He was an up and coming singer at the time so to meet Elvis, who was an icon, was very exciting. What he did though was drop down on the floor – grabbed Elvis’ leg and bit him on the ankle. Needless to say Elvis was taken aback and shouted, “What’s wrong with you man?” To which the less known singer said, “Well, if I had just shook your hand that would be it. But now you’ll remember me.” Elvis had to laugh as it was certainly true and this story has survived for 40 years.
It might have worked on Elvis, but for everyone else a creative verbal hook should be enough to (excuse me while I quote another million dollar hook) – “Git-R-Done.”

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Think you know everything?

As you know, I believe in the value of communicating with a healthy dose of humor and creativity. So keeping that in mind, here’s a personal favorite from my newspaper humor column, Something To Laugh About

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I don’t admit to knowing everything, unless I’m talked into a corner and the person who steered me into that awkward position wants facts:

“Just because I know,” is a standard answer. Obviously I consider it to be a pretty good one, because I’ve been using it since I was three years old.

This reply doesn’t work too well in our house, especially when I use it in front of my wife Debbie. I still won’t admit to knowing everything, but I’ve occasionally claimed to know a little bit about everything. Our kids might buy it if I use big words and talk convincingly, but Debbie refuses to go along. When I corner her about how she can be so sure that I’m not an undiscovered genius, she has a standard answer to back up her superior intelligence:

“Just because I know.”

For the average guy, that answer would be enough. For Debbie, it’s only a beginning.

Earlier this week I received an email from my wife testing my know-it-all attitude. I won’t discuss how the Internet has changed ways the world and even married couples communicate (she was only in a room down the hall), but her method of communication didn’t allow me to give a verbal response – not to mention my standard answer – without leaving my comfortable office chair or trying to shout through walls.

It’s just as well though, because my standard answer wouldn’t work anyway.

She must have been having a cyberspace discussion with some of her friends about know-it-all husbands since it was forwarded to a few addresses I recognized. Plus the subject line was something I’m sure we’ve all heard before…

“You think you know everything?”

I used to think so, but not anymore…

* Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury

* Men can read smaller print; women can hear better.

* Coca-Cola was originally green.

* It’s impossible to lick your elbow.

* The state with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska.

* The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28 percent.

* The average number of people airborne over the U.S. at any hour: 61,000

* Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

* The world’s youngest parents were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910.

* The youngest Pope was 11 years old.

* The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

* San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile national monuments.

* Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

Spades – King David
Hearts – Charlemagne
Clubs – Alexander The Great
Diamonds – Julius Caesar
* 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

* If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

* Only two people signed The Declaration Of Independence on July 4th – John Hancock and Charles Thompson. Most of the others signed on August 2nd, but the last signature wasn’t added until five years later.

* Hershey’s Kisses were named because the machine that makes them looks like it’s kissing the conveyor belt.

* Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.

* Most boat owners name their boats. The most popular name requested? Obession.

* If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until finding the letter A? One thousand.

* What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common? They were all invented by women.

* What is the only food that doesn’t spoil? Honey.

* What trivia fact about Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny) is the most ironic? He was allergic to carrots.

* What is an activity performed by 40 percent of all people at a party? Snoop in your medicine cabinet.

* It was the practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month – known today as the honeymoon.

* In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden – and the word “golf” entered into the English language.

And finally…

* At least 75 percent of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

 

What is corporate comedy material?

Hi Dave – You’ve talked about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. What is considered corporate material and what is not? – B.E.

Hey B.E. – You know what? I’ve never been asked that question in such a general way. Usually it’s more specific, such as a comedian or speaker asking if a certain joke or material they’re planning to perform is appropriate for a corporate show.

Being clean is part of your job

Being clean is part of your job

But for right now – as a general answer to your general question – my experiences as both a booking agent and corporate speaker is to work clean. I’ve said that many times before, but I wouldn’t continue to say it if it wasn’t true.

Recently I’ve been following a debate on one of the popular social networks over whether or not the F-Bomb will soon be acceptable at corporate functions. If you ask me, the people spreading that opinion are a little more than F-Bombed themselves.

It’s not happening now and it won’t anytime soon.

Oh yeah, as always in showbiz there might be an isolated instance here or there for an edgy company (think MTV or Comedy Central) but if you want to work regularly in the corporate market, then you work clean.

That means no F-Bombs or any bits where F-Bomb is the focused activity. Got that?

Okay, so now that we know you must work clean in the corporate market let’s get back to the real topic of your question. What type of material are they looking for?

A lot depends on the corporate function. It’s all about the theme…

I’ve found through experience that stand-up comedians get booked more often for holiday parties and special events, like a retirement banquet or an awards ceremony. And yes, there are exceptions. But when I get calls from businesses looking for comedians those are the most often mentioned.

If you’re a comedian, it’s important to know the theme of the event.

Guess the event and win!

Guess the event and win!

I’ve scheduled comedians to perform at corporate Christmas parties where the client wanted at least some mention of the holiday season. The comic can talk about his marriage, kids, sports, news events – whatever – for a lot of his act, then throw in some holiday jokes and the client is ecstatic. Other times the client might complain that he specifically wanted holiday jokes and doesn’t give an F-Bomb about the other material.

I’ve also booked comedians for retirement banquets. The comics don’t even know the person the company is retiring and feeding, but they know the audience wants laughs. The comics for this type of event are usually good at roasting and ad-libbing. But as usual, most companies will demand a clean show.

So it’s always good to know the theme and work that into the act. One way to do that is to talk with the client before the engagement to see what type of material they’re looking for. Again, for comedians it can be most anything because they’re considered entertainment. No business lessons, training or message is required. The job is to make the corporate audience laugh in a way that doesn’t embarrass the CEO or other head honchos (that means clean comedy).

Humorous speakers are different.

They already have a topic that fits into the corporate market. For instance, they may talk about stress relief, communications, networking, tech training, or even proper office attire. Believe me, there are a lot of different topics that can work within the themes of a lot of different corporate events. Humorous speakers with a message can be hired to deliver keynotes, do breakout sessions, and half-day (or full-day) training seminars. With a humorous delivery they’re entertaining and delivering information (infotainment) at the same time.

The material – the speaker’s topic – will be based on their expertise.

For instance, if you’re an expert in communications – that’s what your material will consist of. If you’re an expert in technology, finance, marketing, selling – whatever – that’s what you will talk about.

That should help you determine what is corporate material for a comedian and/or a humorous speaker. As I mentioned earlier that was a pretty general question – but I hope my general answer helped. Now it’s up to you.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing