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The best $380,000 I ever spent

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

“If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
Adam Grant

In our first year of operation, the company I founded earned a profit of $80,000.  That was in Singapore in 2001.

We had done well with two Customer Service workshops I’d written and we’d landed two global Mystery Shopper research programs which were well underway.

Business was off to a great start.

But I knew that what had made us successful so far wasn’t going to necessarily make us successful in the mid to long term.

I hadn’t left working in the corporate world just to find myself having to go back in to that because I hadn’t helped my Clients solve their problems.

So I took $40,000 of that first year profit, signed a contract with a consulting firm in California and flew myself and a Singaporean colleague to live in the isolated mountaintop home of the firm’s founder.

For a month.


Why did we spend a month on a mountain top in California? 

It’s a reasonable question.

My colleague and I travelled to the U.S. to receive four weeks of private instruction in Contact Center management directly from the consulting firm’s founder.

I had done my homework before signing on the dotted line and everything went the way it was supposed to go.

It was a superb and intellectually intense month.

Every morning we were up and seated in our Instructor’s home office to start class at 9:00AM.

Our 12:30 – 1:30 lunch consisted of sandwiches that he made for us in his big kitchen downstairs (which my Singaporean colleague despaired of at one point saying, “Argh, in Asia we prefer to eat warm food!”).

To highlight how isolated we were, the Instructor had his own small plane and airstrip and he flew himself to most of his engagements.

Aside from two or three trips into town, we lived as if we were in boarding school.  And I loved almost every minute.

Over the four weeks we covered four different domains of Contact Center knowledge in great depth:

  • Operations Management
  • Leadership & Business Management
  • People Management
  • Customer Relationship Management (for CX folks remember it was 2002)

The deep grounding in know-how that I gained in that month has informed my view of the Customer ecosystem ever since.

Which I can summarize as this belief –

I believe that leading & managing in the Customer ecosystem, whether Contact Center Management or Customer Experience Management, is a business discipline.

As with any business discipline, there is an essential level of know-how, across multiple domains, that an industry professional needs in order to avoid negative outcomes and achieve great outcomes.

In the Customer industry, as was true in my own case, people don’t typically go to school to learn these things.

Many people in Customer Service & Customer Experience end up in the industry by accident and then end up learning on the job, which as you’d expect can be very hit or miss.

I know this because I’ve met thousands of these folks in our workshops and have had the privileged opportunity to listen to their stories.

And it’s my own story too.


By Year 6, I had signed checks totallying nearly$380,000 

By the sixth year of my company’s operations, I had signed checks totalling nearly $380,000 to cover costs including IP & content rights, long distance travel expenses to join workshops and meetings and to pay for various membership & certifications for myself and our Team Members.

And it was worth every penny.

Clients were flying me all over the world to teach their people how to succeed in the Customer ecosystem.

I remember one week where I finished a class in Beijing in the evening, went to the airport to board a flight, landed in Delhi in the early morning hours and took a taxi straight to the venue to begin a class there.

And I continued to write training content of our own.

Which our Business Partners and Clients began to buy or license from us and which created another stream of business for the company.


I’m grateful I came up through Finance

I came up through Finance before entering the Customer domain. So the concept of a business discipline was second nature for me.

To get hired for the kinds of senior level Finance jobs I held required a relevant university degree and industry certifications.

Of course you learn on the job.

But I never heard any VP, Finance say that their bosses were fine that they learn how to prepare accurate financial statements ‘on the job’.

It’s both. Formal knowledge + experience.

Where you apply your knowledge based on the context and culture where you work.

In my last Finance role, I worked at a direct marketing company that sold music, children’s toys and gardening tools via TV commercials and catalogs.

We served our Customers through our own Contact Center & Distribution Center based in El Segundo, California.

I’d been preparing the financials and budgets for both the Contact & Distribution Centers for a few years and knew the numbers inside and out.


Then a remarkable thing happened that changed my life

One day the current VP, Operations had resigned from her post to take another job. An hour later the CEO called me up and offered me her position.

To move from VP, Finance to VP, Contact Centre & Distribution Operations.

I was honored and excited and said yes right away.

Looking back, I think my finance background was one of the key reasons the senior team extended the offer to me.

The fact that I knew the numbers and was able to explain them had earned me face time and trust with very senior people.

I was also fortunate that the outgoing VP, Operations had been so generous with her time, often explaining the art & science of Contact Center Management as we’d have lunch or take long walks around the grounds.

Of course over the next eight years of senior Contact Center positions in the U.S. and Asia I learned a lot on the job.

Experience matters and helped me grow.

But I absolutely knew that I wasn’t a master of the domain. That I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

And I was the VP, Operations with nearly a decade of solid work experience!

I filled the gaps as best I could but anyone who has worked in Operations will tell you that taking time off to learn is tough. You’re often on call 24 x 7.

So when I left the corporate world and started my own company, I was committed to closing the gaps in my knowledge as soon as I could.

I mean how could I credibly help Clients solve their problems and become their preferred provider if I didn’t have the know-how to do so?

And that’s how I ended up on a mountain top in California.


You’ve got to know what you’re doing

One of the most common comments we get from Participants in our workshops is this: “I wish I had taken this course earlier. If only I had known this stuff earlier. Now that I can see the full picture it all makes sense.”

To which I reply with Maya Angelou’s wonderful quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

And no, you don’t have to do what I did.  You don’t have to start your own company and spend $380,000.

I know what I did is pretty unique.

But the lesson for me has paid off.

In an industry that requires business discipline level know-how, and one where people generally don’t go to school for this stuff, it’s never a bad idea to look in the mirror and say, ” I don’t know what I don’t know.”

And then doing something about it.

What lessons can Contact Centre folks learn from CX folks?

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to stay up to date on our articles and other information just send me your email or add your details to the contact form on our website.

Daniel Ord

[email protected]


Daniel Ord teaches the Customer Experience Team at Agoda in Shanghai.

Cover photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash



Why regular and ongoing Employee feedback matters – even if Employees have to go out and get it

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Regular and ongoing Employee feedback matters – even if Employees have to go out and get it.

There are cool things about being a Trainer. And some pretty intense things about being a Trainer.

Venn Diagram example

And sometimes, in the Venn Diagram version of the job, those two things overlap.

For example, when it comes to regular and ongoing feedback.

Every week, typically 2 – 3 times per week, a group of smart professional folks evaluate my work and give me feedback.

How much feedback has that been?

Using 2 workshop sessions per week x an average of 10 folks per workshop x  40 training weeks a year x 20 years of training and that works out to be 800 individual feedback reports a year or 16,000 feedback reports over the 20 years I’ve been teaching.

Excluding university classes, speeches, Emcee duties and keynotes.  


And what does all this feedback mean? 

It means that I’m up to date, on a regular basis, as to what’s going well, what could be improved, what’s ‘irrelevant’ (some is) and what actions I need to take – both short term & long term.

If I want great ‘scores’ and feedback I have to do something with it. Otherwise, I’d have been out of business long ago.

There are obvious parallels with what I’m describing here and the role of Voice of Customer.

But my purpose in writing this isn’t to explore those parallels.

It’s to share how important getting regular ongoing feedback at work is – no matter what you do and no matter where you work.

And how important it is to get regular Employee feedback even if you have to go out and get it yourself.



Regular Employee feedback – my old Corporate life

In my old life in the Corporate world, my boss(es) would perhaps 1x  or 2x per year take me out to a nice lunch.

Dessert at Performance Review lunch

And at that lunch they’d either skirt around a few issues in between courses or now and then shoot straight between the eyes as to what I needed to do better (usually after dessert was served).

They were almost always very uncomfortable. It showed – despite the fact they were all CEOs, VPs or Business Owners.

And for me, it felt like there wasn’t enough regular Employee feedback, or userful Employee feedback, to make concerted changes or develop myself.

I often found myself trying to read between the lines to see how I could be better.


Pretend everyone is an external Client

When you serve external (vs. internal) Clients you’re automatically in the feedback headlights. Over the 15 years or so that I employed Client Service Managers I found that most of them grew dramatically.

Invariably they told me it was because of the regular ongoing feedback they received from Clients – and that to succeed in the job required a lot more attention to external feedback.

Especially as compared to ‘old’ jobs – which were mostly in the Corporate world.

The realized that in their old jobs they could work for months with little or no developmental feedback from their bosses.

But Clients – who were paying for our services – never held back on how they felt.



So what’s my point

No matter if you’re working with internal or external Clients. No matter what it is that you do.

Go out there and  ask others how you’re doing and what you can do better. Be proactive and fierce about it.

Don’t wait for the sometimes antiquated performance review process to guide you – that may come too little, too late.

And as painful as it can be, take (most) of that feedback seriously. Because there’s wisdom in it.

For me I knew I was always a good communicator. It’s a personal strength.

But remember those 16,000 individual feedback forms I had to wade through?Gosh they helped.

Thank you for reading!

DanielNo alt text provided for this image

Organizational culture matters more than where you live

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Organizational culture matters more than where you live.  And blaming ‘national’ characteristics for poor behaviour is just lazy.

That first morning

One of the great things about facilitating workshops across many countries & regions is that you get to see a lot of organizational culture up close and personal.

Whether in Kuala Lumpur, Colombo or Frankfurt, the first morning of a scheduled workshop session is always interesting.

  • Will all the Participants turn up? Will they turn up on time?
  • Will Management turn up? If so, who – and how long will they stay?
  • Does Management all sit together? Or do they integrate into the group at large?
  • What does the energy feel like before the session begins?
  • Do Participants talk to each other or do they stare at their mobile phones?
  • How does management speak to staff? As adults? Or like children?

What I see on that first morning of a session – before introductions have been made – should be the ‘best’ in organizational culture.

Why?  Because it’s not work.

Participants are there to learn and grow.

And because the gap or opportunity is so significant, an external Provider was asked to come in.

On a recent drizzly morning in _____________ (fill in the country).

On a recent drizzly morning session in ________(fill in the country), half the Participants had not arrived by starting time.

The HR Representative leaned over to me and said –

Well you know we _________(fill in nationality here) like to sleep in.”

Or –

“We’re always late in ______(fill in country)” or “When it rains you know how it is in ______(fill in country).”

But over the years I’ve been conducting sessions, I find that what matters most is where you work – not where you live.

Organizational culture matters most

In countries which are notorious for staff absenteeism and tardiness, I’ve worked with organizations where people aren’t late.

In countries with a reputation for staff timidity, I’ve worked with organizations where the folks laugh and chat and catch up with each other.

In countries where a traditional management hierarchy is revered, I’ve worked with organizations where management and staff intermingle and sit together.

Great organizational culture always matters the most.

The way the Employees at Company X carry themselves can be quite different than the way Employees at Company Y carry themselves.

Even when their offices are in the same office building.

Blaming poor behavior on country or national dynamics is just lazy

Of course, there are wonderful examples of national culture that embody happiness, wellbeing and getting things done.  An entire article could be devoted to these examples.

It’s not my style to be negative.

But when HR or management blames poor behavior on country or national dynamics – then it’s unlikely that you’ll see a great culture at that particular organization.

The happenstance of being born in Country X doesn’t guarantee a worklife of tardiness, timidity or futility.

Individuals always have a choice.

A choice to be on time, a choice to speak up and even a choice to find employment with an organization with a better culture.


A Culture of Fear & Compliance are poor tools for delivering a great Customer experience

Thank you for reading!


Why Manners will always matter

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share why manners will always matter.

Why manners will always matter.

The wonderful etiquette author and columnist, Emily Post, wrote the following –

Emily Post Manners

In this day and age of personal branding, social media profiles and content marketing, it’s nice to reflect on the reality that the essential foundation of a gracious person, or by extension, a gracious society, lies not in knowing which fork to use, but in consciously choosing to become aware of the feelings of others.

Emily’s definition is so great because it nails empathy and care – ‘a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others’.

Wow – this is pretty heady stuff.

At a very basic level – having manners involves inconveniencing yourself

At some basic level, having manners or being gracious means that you are willing to inconvenience yourself for the sake of someone else.

What do I mean?

  • Holding the lift door open for a few extra seconds so that a latecomer can rush in and get to work on time
  • Letting someone else in the buffet line have that last bit of sushi or nice dessert
  • Letting someone with just a few items proceed before you in the queue
  • Saying thank you and job well done a bit more often
  • Paying attention to someone when you really just want to go home

Manners are not something that you trot out to ‘wow’ the Guests

Military dress uniform

I remember as a child, growing up in a military family, my parents reminded us to bring out our best manners when an Admiral came to dinner or my father had an important delegation over to visit.

My parents never said ‘Bring out your manners tonight’.

That reminder would have implied that manners were something to be put on or put away like a sweater.

We kids were taught and required to demonstrate our manners in our daily life, even if no one else was around.

I am convinced that this grounding has been an essential aspect of my own personal ‘success’ which is defined for me by the richness of my relationships.

You’re always there to serve someone

At work you’re always serving someone else, whether that is an external Customer or Client, or an internal stakeholder like a Colleague or a Boss.

In training, whenever people ask me if ‘manners’ or ‘graciousness’ can be learned I always answer ‘yes’.

Because it’s not about the forks.

It’s about the willingness to look out for the feelings and situation of another person.

It feels good

Another great saying I love is this one –

If you hold the door open for someone and they just rush through – well that’s ok – you added some positive energy to the world.

In closing – Emily Post also wrote

Emily Post good manners

Thank you Emily and thank YOU for reading!

Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord


What Service People can learn from “The Princess & the Pea”

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

The rise of digital interactions has generated a corresponding rise in the volume and intensity of difficult Customer situations.

The story of “The Princess & the Pea” has some lessons on how to deal with difficult Customer situations.

The Princess & The Pea

In the story of the Princess and the Pea, a Prince seeks to find and marry a ‘real’ Princess.

Though there were a lot of young ladies that claimed to be Princesses out there, something seemed to be wrong with each one.

It was hard to find out if any of them were, in fact, a real Princess.

One night, during a severe thunderstorm, there was a knock at the castle door.

Outside, there stood a young lady.  Wet and dripping she asked for shelter for the night.

The Prince’s mother, the Queen, decided to test if this was indeed a real Princess.

“We’ll soon find out,” she said to herself.

She went into the bedroom, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom-most mattress.

Then she proceeded to lay another 20 mattresses on top of the pea, and finally 20 more comforters on top of the mattresses for good measure.

“Here you go young lady”, she said.

“You can sleep here.”

The next morning, the King, Queen and Prince entered the bedroom where the young lady had slept and  the Queen asked, “How did you sleep?”

To that the young lady replied –

“Oh, very badly!”

“I have scarcely closed my eyes all night…

Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something so hard, that today I am black and blue all over. It’s horrible!”

Imagine the worst NPS score ever.

Now they all knew that she was a indeed a real Princess.

Only a level of sensitivity that great could feel the pea below all that bedding.

I think there is a valuable lesson from this story.

Especially those of us in the Frontline and who deal with difficult Customer situations.

Dealing with difficult Customer situations

When we teach how to deal with difficult Customer situations, we ask participants to define or describe a difficult Customer situation.

Common responses include –

  • They are so demanding…
  • Why do Customers repeat the same thing over and over…
  • Our Customers  are persistent and refuse to understand…

Then I usually ask –

“Ok – did you have any fear about your physical safety as a result of what you just described?”

” Um…no…”

“Did you experience any emotional damage as a result of what you just described?”

“Not really…”

“Then is it possible that perhaps, in this moment, you’re responding a bit like the Princess with a pea?”

Usually we all laugh here.

The role of emotional maturity

In the world of Customer Service – or Corporate life in general – you’re bound to come across people that are demanding, irritating and unpleasant.

We can always thank our parents, our teachers, a higher power or whatever it may be, that we don’t behave that way.

That we don’t look at the world from an unhappy vantage point.

That we don’t operate as if somebody owes us a living.

According to research, people that succeed in life have high levels of emotional intelligence.

And the most predominant characteristic of emotional intelligence – as isolated by the researchers – is self-control.

Self control

Self control involves not taking things too personally or with too much sensitivity – especially if we’re not in any physical or emotional danger.

It’s not about what we go through – and in Customer Service we go through a lot.

It’s about how we choose to respond to what we go through.

And that includes difficult Customers.

Thank you Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen’s story is a classic and you have to give it to the characters in the story.

She got a Prince and he got his Princess.

The Queen can return to matters of state – or whatever it is that Queens in fairy stories do.

But getting back to real life my advice is – stop looking for the pea!


Daniel & M&C Class