NLPhilia Blog

NLP Articles, News, Trainings, and Products

Archive for May, 2008

The customer is always right, except when they’re not

with one comment

I’ve been doing some customer service training for my employer, so I’ve been reading a lot of stuff that other folks have to say on the subject. Today I found, on, a wonderful article on the nonsensical attitude that “the customer is always right”:

Here are the top five reasons why “The customer is always right” is wrong.

  1. It makes employees unhappy
  2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage
  3. Some customers are bad for business
  4. It results in worse customer service
  5. Some customers are just plain wrong

I think my customers are always right about one thing: they have a problem that they want solved. That’s pretty much it.

Now, for those who fall into categories #2 and #3 above, I’d say that their problem is that they need someone to abuse. I’m smart enough to realize that I may not be the one to solve that particular problem, and I’m willing to concede that perhaps someone else can better serve that customer.

Though I am in full agreement with the above five ideas, I’d like to suggest a sixth: It’s simply too much to ask of our customers that they always be right.

My thought is this: our jobs are becoming more and more specialized, and we, the providers of service, are therefore expected to know a great deal about very few things. To place on every customer the expectation that he or she will know, even better than we do, what “good” means in the context of the service we’re providing is too heavy a burden for them.

My favorite example of this (I think I read it in a book by Tom Hopkins, but I’m not certain) is about a car salesman. He sold high-testosterone cars, something along the lines of Ferrari, the commission on the sale of one being a year’s salary for just plain folk. A traveling salesman came in and asked to be shown one of their top models. The salesman found out that the guy put about five years’ worth of miles on a car every year and sent the customer down the street to a Mercedes dealership instead. His rationale was that the Mercedes, having a diesel engine, was a much better choice for someone on the road that much.

There was no way that particular customer would have known that. Cars weren’t what he knew. If the salesman had chanted, “The customer is always right,” he would have created one very unhappy customer… and that customer would have been telling everyone who asked him about his car that he was really unhappy with it. If I’m recalling the story correctly, the customer instead had sent several friends and acquaintences to that salesman, more than making up for the “loss” of commission.

Of course, working in a hospital, I see a lot of customers who are “just plain wrong.” Consider, for example, the suicidal patient. If we would consider him to be right, we’d hand him a razor blade and a set of instructions. We don’t do that because, even though he’s our customer, he’s wrong. He doesn’t know what we know. That has to be OK.

I have a story of my own that had to do with a customer who was a great combination of numbers 2, 3, and 5. Nasty human being she was. I can’t mention any of the particulars, but I’ll say this: in the process of helping her with what was apparently a medical emergency, I left a bruise, and she had the audacity to file a formal complaint against me for it. She took it all the way to our CEO and demanded that I apologize to her. The CEO refused to either compel or allow me to apologize to her because she was wrong and he knew it. Now… would you care to ask me how I feel about working for him? Or do you already know?

So I think putting employees head of customers is a great idea as long as the employees are putting the customers first. We on the front lines have to know that our managers trust us to do the right thing.

I did say that I wasn’t going to make this blog into a customer service blog, but this one was too good to pass up. Thanks for indulging me.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 31st, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Articles,Business

I’m not sure how to feel about this…

without comments

I’ll let you check it out for yourself:

I’m Jen. I am a mommy. It’s what I love. It’s my job to make owies go away. Whether it’s a kiss or a big hug, the magic happens immediately. This is the power of placebo. I have a baby girl and two sons. One of them always needs my comfort and the knowledge that I will make them feel better. I invented Obecalp when I realized that children might need a little more than a kiss to make it go away. Obecalp fills the gap when medicine is not needed but my children need something more to make them feel better. You’ll know when Obecalp is necessary.

Obecalp – The original placebo

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 30th, 2008 at 2:51 am

Posted in Left Field

How to Be a Rule-Breaker

without comments

Dustin Wax over at has written another spot-on article, this time on the five rules for breaking the rules:

  • Break the rules as a last resort;
  • Rule-breaking gains its power from the strength of rules, not their weakness;
  • For every broken rule there are a dozen unbroken ones;
  • For every broken rule, there is a reason;and
  • Accept the consequences.

I must admit that I’ve followed these rules quite a bit in my life, and it’s worked consistently well for me.

How to Break All the Rules (

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 26th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

An interesting take on modeling

without comments

Adrian at has Seven Useful Lessons You Can Learn from a Bad Boss:

Macho, insensitive bosses share certain characteristics. Their behavior is arrogant, quick-tempered and controlling. Their motives are typically selfish and manipulative. They show little concern for others and few signs of understanding why others don’t trust them. Most of all, they are quite unaware of their failings and the impact they have on their subordinates. No only do they see no need to change, they often make their high-handed behavior a source of pride.

That’s why you can trust them to be some of your best teachers about productivity and success.

Read the rest of the article at

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 23rd, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Business,Modeling

The War on Optimism

without comments

It’s a small, private war. I sometimes think I’m the only one fighting it.

I think the assumption that “everything will work out for the best” is delusional. Optimists ignore the things that are going poorly rather than dealing with them, so as to perpetuate their delusion.

Keep in mind that I hold the same sort of opinion of pessimism. Pessimists ignore what is going well, thus failing to build on success. I don’t fight a war on pessimism because most of Western culture already does that:

P: “Keep sailing toward that waterfall and we’ll all die!”
W: “Oh, stop being so negative!”

Each side has advantages. For example, optimists keep going in the face of adversity, and they therefore win more often; pessimists give up too soon. Pessimists tend to be right more often, and when they’re wrong they get to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed.

It’s fortunate for me, since I disagree with both, that they aren’t the only two available options. It’s possible to take the strengths from each while leaving their weaknesses behind. I’ve taken to calling it “paying attention,” but I’m sure there’s a more interesting label. Take this excerpt from John Morgan’s recent article, If It Could Only Be Like It Never Was:

Each time you pretend the dirty clothes aren’t there, the pile gets bigger until you have a dreaded mountain of clothes to wash. If you wash clothes every day, you’ll never have a pile bigger than your perceptions can handle. The same is true for life’s dirty clothes. They do exist and they need to be acknowledged. When we practice washing them on a regular basis, the quicker they wind up in the clean pile.

(Thanks for the tip to that article, T.)

My personal hero in this arena is my old friend Quentin Grady. Few have gone through, and responded thoroughly to, the adversity he’s faced while maintaining a determination to bring out the good in himself and in others. I aspire to be like him in that aspect, and I love the guy. In a manly, macho, we-play-on-the-same-rugby-team sort of way, of course.

So… hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Pray to God and row away from the rocks. Build on success and mitigate losses. You can choose both.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 19th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

What’s a tachistoscope?

with 4 comments

A tachistoscope is a tool that displays an image for a specific, usually extremely short, amount of time. If you remember the movie, “Lawnmower Man”, you saw the guy using one. I’ve wanted one ever since I saw that movie because I thought it was a great idea.

If I ran Windows XP on my computer, I could have one, because Dan Heard has created an application he calls “Swiftword”:

Swiftword is my version of a text based tachistoscope application. Essentially it is a speed reader – you feed it a text file containing the content you want to memorise, and play the file through at progressively faster speeds. Eventually, your subconscious begins to anticipate the next word before it is even delivered as your memory begins to retain the information. This can be used to help you memorise things like speeches and course notes, and can even assist slow readers to speed up through coaching to avoid sub-vocalising words as you read.

It’s getting good comments so far. If you try it out, let me know in the comments.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 17th, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Choice is better than no choice…

without comments

…but, apparently, not always. Not when we limit our own choices. From the Freakonomics Blog:

Standard economic theory implies that we maximize our happiness if we have more choices. Yet we limit our choices β€” impose self-control mechanisms β€” voluntarily in order to improve our well-being.

Read the rest of Manipulating Yourself for Your Own Good.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 16th, 2008 at 11:29 am

A gift from the Central Intelligence Agency

without comments

Our inimitable CIA has released the full text of its book, “Psychology of Intelligence Analysis,” in HTML and PDF. From the author’s preface:

This volume pulls together and republishes, with some editing, updating, and additions, articles written during 1978-86 for internal use within the CIA Directorate of Intelligence. Four of the articles also appeared in the Intelligence Community journal Studies in Intelligence during that time frame. The information is relatively timeless and still relevant to the never-ending quest for better analysis.

The articles are based on reviewing cognitive psychology literature concerning how people process information to make judgments on incomplete and ambiguous information. I selected the experiments and findings that seem most relevant to intelligence analysis and most in need of communication to intelligence analysts. I then translated the technical reports into language that intelligence analysts can understand and interpreted the relevance of these findings to the problems intelligence analysts face.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, HTML, table of contents

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, full PDF version, 1.9 MB direct link

(Another hat tip to BoingBoing!)

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 11th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

It USED to be seven, plus or minus two

without comments

Is the research being better refined, or are we becoming more forgetful? This Lifehacker article points to this article on Live Science:

Researchers have often debated the maximum amount of items we can store in our conscious mind, in what’s called our working memory, and a new study puts the limit at three or four.

More goodies I remembered to post about:

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 11th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Learning,Neuro,Psych

When I first realized I was old

without comments

From my old friend Chad’s blog comes When I first realized I was old. Funny stuff. πŸ™‚

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 10th, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Left Field