Today’s profile is of Kirt Manecke, award-winning author and sales, marketing, fundraising, and business development specialist with over 30 years of experience surprising and delighting customers. He is also the author of “Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service-The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course”.
Q1. Hi Kirt, thanks for joining me today. What do you believe was the turning point that led you from owning a successful surf shop near Keego Harbor, Michigan to where you are today?
After owning the surf shop, I worked for a New York Times Best-Selling children’s book author handling his sales and PR. I saw how well he was doing financially selling books and decided to write and sell my own books. I felt it would be a powerful way for me to be able to make a difference in the world and help fund causes close to my heart like animal welfare and land conservation.
Q2. Did you ever expect the success of your “Smile” series of books and have they changed your views on what “service” is?
While I was writing them, I thought they’d sell, but I also knew there was a chance I’d be wasting all this time writing books that would not sell. It’s a scary thought. I think that’s true with any product or service that people create. There’s always a risk that a product won’t sell. I’m pleased with sales.
The only thing that has changed about my views on service is that I’m very surprised to learn that it is really difficult to try to help some businesses that have poor service. Some managers and owners are not open to feedback and get very defensive. The ones who are open to feedback are usually the ones with the best customer service who are already delighting customers, and these are usually the people who purchase my books.
I guess it follows that statistic: 80% of companies think they are providing superior customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree.
Q3. What is the best part of your career?
I set my own hours. I get to work hard helping people gain confidence and skills to improve their lives, and the lives of their customers. I love donating 1% of my proceeds to animal welfare. It’s not a large amount, but I enjoy being able to help in some small way. I hope to do a lot more in the future.
Q4. What is the best piece of leadership advice you’ve received and how has it helped you?
Be Yourself. I think I heard that on Shark Tank. It’s helped me always go back to my foundation and just be who I am.
Q5. I know you’re involved in many animal welfare groups, how did that come about?
I saw an ad on the Internet for saving bears and I was horrified at what I learned about bear baiting and bear bile farming. I thought that with my sales background I could volunteer and help some of these groups raise funds, and have them use my books to train staff. Now I’m in the infancy stages of starting a campaign to get animals out of cages and the awful living conditions at horrific roadside zoos.
Q6. What are you top 5 tips for great customer service?
2. Greet customers promptly with a friendly “Hello”
3. Answer your phone properly and with a smile
4. Always say “Please” and “Thank you” (not “Yep”, or “No problem”)
5. Follow up promptly
One more tip I’ll offer is to hire people who genuinely care about people, and train them in your product or service. Hire for attitude, train for skills.
Thanks Kirt, it was a pleasure to interview you today and share your profile.
Kirt’s “Smile” series of books also includes “Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World-A Crash Course in Face-to-Face Communication” – Winner 11 Awards: Teachers’ Choice Award, Mom’s Choice Gold Award. Visit Kirt’s website to learn more about his books and programs. His books are available on Amazon.