Don’t knock old school ideas. If it were not for old school there would be no new school.
Nancy Friedman is one of the country’s leading experts on customer service, communications and telephone skills and the founder and President of Telephone Doctor in St Louis, MO. The Telephone Doctor helps companies communicate better with their customers and coworkers. Friedman is a highly respected and much sought-after trainer at franchise, corporation and association meetings and conferences and was voted a Favorite Speaker in a national poll for Meetings & Conventions Magazine. She is the author of nine books relating to improving customer service and communication skills. Nancy has appeared on Fox News, The Today Show, Oprah, CNN, and CBS This Morning for her expertise in improving customer service and has been the subject of stories in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today..
Where did the idea for The Telephone Doctor come from?
I had a terrible customer service experience with an insurance company so I called the agent and cancelled all my policies. He wanted details. I told him, “his people stink” and told him how I was treated. He asked me to come to the office and tell his staff what happened and how they could improve their service.
I went to their office and spent about 30 minutes explaining how I should have been handled. What they should have said and done. And that was the start. I realized there was an opportunity and business in advising companies how to improve their communications with customers.
At one of my later meetings, a newspaper editor, in Davenport Iowa, who took part in the program complimented me and said he was going to call me the “Telephone Doctor”. I ran home to my husband and said, ‘what’ll we do’? He said, “Let’s go get it registered; we’re going to have some fun”. The Telephone Doctor name has helped us brand our business.
Since then, I travel the country giving speeches and training sessions at franchise, corporation and association meetings and conferences and was voted a Favorite Speaker in a national poll for Meetings & Conventions Magazine. I help businesses improve their consumer service by training them to communicate better with their customers and co-workers. My main message: More business is lost due to poor service and poor treatment than poor product.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Most days I work from my office in St. Louis. I’ll be setting up phone calls with potential clients for future programs and / or helping our sales department, when needed. When I’m not in the office, I’m flying somewhere in the US to present a customer service or sales training program to executives, managers and employees.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We’re a family business. My husband and children all play key roles in the company. So, almost all ideas for operating the business or making improvements result from a collaborative decision. That said, we are always open to our employee’s suggestions about how we can better improve the business and they know they can come to us with their suggestions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I wouldn’t say it’s a trend, but it’s a belief: that the need to train management and employees is on-going. It will never go away. It’ll always be there. Smart companies understand that excellent customer service not only improves sales, but also generates repeat business. And now more than ever, when shaming businesses on social media is so prevalent, it’s crucial that companies strive for excellent customer service to avoid viral shaming.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It’s not a habit as much as it is a medical condition. I am A. D. D. I have Attention-deficit disorder and ironically, it’s played a key role in my success. I enjoy the multiple ideas I get – some good, some not so good. And because I made the decision to not to take meds for it, I feel I’m a happier person. Staying on topic can be a challenge, but I credit, in part, my condition for the success I’ve achieved.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t knock old school ideas. If it were not for old school there would be no new school. I think many young entrepreneurs believe that the past is irrelevant. While I agree businesses need to be forward thinking, I also think some of the “old” ideas still have merit and should not be ignored and often considered.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Occasionally, I’ve been told that our brand – Telephone Doctor – is outdated. But when those people make that point, I ask them to name me a brand name company that doesn’t have a telephone? When our company phone rings it’s usually a request for phone skills. Cell phones are great and we all use them, but reputable businesses still have a main headquarters phone number and direct landlines. The Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training is a recognizable, valued brand. It has value. So, we’re keeping our roots and our brand.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would recommend to keep your sense of humor. You will need it to startup a business and succeed. As my mother taught me: It’s not the problem. It’s how you handle it. Keeping positive and is good humor is an important asset to have and essential as an entrepreneur.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Keep our eye on the ball and don’t stray from your business mission. We’re a customer service, communications company and we only provide services that address that. We’ve had opportunities to go in different directions, but we’ve stayed the course and it’s served us well. By sticking to our core beliefs, we have flourished. Businesses that try to be all things to all people will find it difficult to achieve success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We produced a children’s video: Telephone Tips for Kids. It involved me and a professional group of puppeteers. We spent lots of money producing it and running around the country trying to get sponsorship for it. Finally, Encyclopedia Britannica said they’d like to distribute it into schools. They sold it at $395.00 each. But it didn’t do too well. We took it back from them and tried to sell it at $14.95. And that also failed. So, we ended that venture and stayed the course offering adult training arena and never looked back. It was a great learning experiences.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One business idea I’ve always thought would succeed would be teaching kids theatre. I think today’s kids are married to the TV, video games and smart phones. Theatre education and performing in plays will help mold them into better employees when they become adults. To my knowledge there in one only franchise doing this – there is room for more.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It ended up costing much more than $100, but the $100 I paid for my new iPhone 8 plus. it was a great investment. I love it. And it’s made those many days when I’m traveling the country giving customer service training so much more productive.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Salesforce CRM. It’s been a terrific assist for holding sales accountable.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I always suggest: “How to Stop Worrying & Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. It can be life changing! The book deals with fundamental emotions and ideas and is a fascinating read. It’s key message: There’s no need to live with worry and anxiety that keep you from enjoying a full, active and happy life! It has helped me greatly and I credit its message for a good part of my success.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quotes come from my mother. “There’s very little new; just new people doing it.” Also, “ Better to have and not need, than need and not have.” I live by them both.
- Your questions were excellent, very thought provoking. It made me think about me and how I operate my business.
- My entrepreneurship story is more interesting than I realized
- I’m blessed! I work with my family and we’ve been very successful. Your interview reminded me how lucky and thankful I am!
Nancy Friedman on Twitter: @telephonedoctor
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.