Episode 52 – Getting Your Customer Experience Mojo On

Join us as we discuss: a coffee shop that helps patrons get their mojo on, how to leverage the knowledge of all of your customers in one place, and why words matter – if you want to sound smart.

Caffeinated, Educated, and Articulated! Oh my!

[Experience This! Live] Mojo Coffee [1:22 – 14:41]

On Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago there is a place that sells coffee – and yet it that lacks the familiar green awning and the other “usual trappings” of a typical coffee shop. Welcome to Mojo Coffee – where customers come to get their “mojo on” in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. We sent Dan out into the field to learn about this new coffee spot in Chicago that is working to change people’s perceptions of the coffee shop experience.

A cup of coffee sitting on the table isn’t coffee. Yes, it’s a product. But it’s just the vehicle for doing what you and I are doing right now, which is having a conversation. So if you say to me, “Let’s go for coffee,” it’s not just about coffee – it’s about this kind of a chat. ~ Steve Gianoutsos

  • In order to stand out from the crowd in “a commodity business,” Steve Gianoutsos focuses on two core components of his business: (1) the in-store customer experience and, (2) the employee experience. 
  • Coffee isn’t just a product – it’s a vehicle for conversation and a positive customer experience.
  • Consider employing people with less experience in the field. They can learn your company culture and are less likely to bring in any bad habits from other experiences in your industry.

Steve Gianoutsos, Owner of Mojo Coffee

Christian Cook, Barista at Mojo Coffee

[CX Press] Online Community Customer Care [15:03 – 22:29]

This week’s CX Press article comes to us from our friends at the Sitel Group. It is titled, How an Online Community can Improve Your Customer Care and is written by Jean-Baptiste Ranvier, a social media strategist at Sitel. The article shares how brands are empowering their customers to take customer service to the next level by providing a forum for the customers to work together to answer questions and solve each others’ issues. 

Peer-to-peer communities boost customer satisfaction, deflect the easy calls to the call centers, and empower customers in the process. 

  • If a customer has a question, they will often use Google to seek out the answer. If the first “hit” is your community forum, you succeed in driving the customer back to your website and further cementing your reputation as being focused on customer solutions.
  • Millennials are leading the way in expecting and desiring self-service opportunities when interacting with brands. Other generations are following their lead because it’s easier and faster to Google something and get an answer than to new call a toll-free number, send an email, or even tweet at a brand. 

[Say What!] Words you’re using wrong [22:53 – 30:02]

Navigating the English language can be a dangerous proposition. It’s easy to make mistakes and these mistakes usually happen when you’re trying your best to sound intelligent and make a good impression. The Harvard Business Review’s article, Nine Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong outlines this common challenge. Written by siblings Ross and Kathryn Petras, the article offers keen insight about commonly misused language. Kathryn shared her experiences in avoiding words that are regularly misused in business-related conversations.

There are a million mistakes you can make in English. If you’re at all confused about the meaning of something, if you’re at all unsure about the meaning of something, just drop it. Who needs it? Keep it simple. ~ Kathryn Petras

  • Many times, grammatical mistakes happen because you’re trying too hard. In your desire to sound intelligent, you use a phrase or a word that doesn’t mean what you think it means and in the process, you sound anything but intelligent. 
  • The best way to avoid these common mistakes is to stop using words and phrases that you’re not quite sure about when it comes to their meaning, usage, or placement in a sentence.

[Three Takeaways] Questions to Consider for Episode 52 [30:24 – 32:28]

  1. Do you know what your company’s mojo is, or how your customers get their mojo from you? What really makes your company different? Not, “we have a better product,” or “we have better customer experience,” because let’s be honest – everyone says that. Instead, find the one or two things that make your company unique and make sure those things are part of your brand storytelling.
  2. Where do your customers go for customer care? Have you considered setting up any self-service communities for people who don’t want to call, e-mail, or tweet? Could you successfully deflect easy calls and let your agents focus on the more complex issues? You may be leaving money on the table and preventing your customers from finding answers easily if you don’t have a place on your own website where they can learn, ask questions, and ultimately, make decisions about doing business with your company.
  3. How well do you speak and write? Be honest – do you take the time to proofread everything or just assume that spellcheck will find any errors? Remember what Kathryn said about trying to sound smart? You often end up sounding the opposite when you make a spelling or grammar mistake. Keep it simple (ironically enough, a common mantra on the Experience This! Show). Take the time to have someone review documents before sharing them with your boss. Or, harken back to what your elementary school teacher probably taught you to do – read it out loud to yourself to see if it makes sense. Every interaction counts in business so don’t waste any opportunities by incorporating bad language/grammar.

Links We Referenced

How An Online Community Can Improve Your Customer Care by Jean-Baptiste Ranvier

9 Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong by Ross and Kathryn Petras

Host Contact Information

Tweet Dan Gingiss: @DGingiss

Email Joey: JoeyC@JoeyColeman.com



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Episode Transcript

Download a transcript of the entire episode (Episode 52) or read it below:


Welcome to Experience This – where you’ll find inspiring examples of customer experience, great stories of customer service, and tips on how to make your customers love you even more. Always upbeat and definitely entertaining, customer retention expert Joey Coleman and social media expert Dan Gingiss serve as your hosts for a weekly dose of positive customer experience.

So, hold on to your headphones. It’s time to Experience This!


 Dan Gingiss: Get ready for another episode of the Experience This! Show.

Joey Coleman: Join us as we discuss: a coffee shop that helps diners get their mojo on, how to leverage the knowledge of all your customers in one place, and why words matter – if you want to sound smart.

Dan Gingiss: Caffeinated, educated, and articulated. Oh my!


Joey Coleman: Sometimes we need to get out of the recording studio and experience things in person. Get ready to feel like you’re standing right next to us as you Experience This! Live.

[EXPERIENCE THIS! LIVE: A Coffee Shop That Helps Diners Get Their Mojo On]

Joey Coleman: We’re excited to bring you a brand new segment type this week. And we’re calling it Experience This! Live. What we did is we sent Dan out into the field, our little roving reporter, to learn about a new coffee shop in Chicago that is trying to change people’s perceptions of what a coffee shop experience should be like. From the field, here’s Dan’s report on Mojo Coffee.

Dan Gingiss: In downtown Chicago on Wacker Drive right across the street from the Sears Tower, no one really calls it the Willis Tower, sits a coffee shop without that familiar green awning and without the other usual trappings of a typical coffee shop. Welcome to Mojo Coffee where customers come to get their mojo on in a friendly, laid back atmosphere. The word mojo, by the way, has African roots and originally referred to a magic charm or spell but has taken on new meaning as confidence and charisma, according to the Urban Dictionary. Owner Steve Gianoutsos though, cites different influence in determining the name of his company.

Steve Gianoutsos: You know the name for Mojo basically was a moment in the shower. You know, ‘oh, that’s a good name, let’s use that.’ And back then, you know, Austin Powers and all that was all the – mojo’s all the talk and a kind of- The idea was basically you know you come to the shop in the morning, 8:30 in the morning, you have your coffee get your mojo and get off to work.

Dan Gingiss: But the magic of Mojo coffee, so to speak, is that people don’t just come in at eight thirty in the morning. They pack the place all day long, including at 3:00 in the afternoon on this random weekday that I met with Steve in his shop.

Steve Gianoutsos: Our regular customers are in about five or six times a day. Why do they come in five times a day? Well the come in for the morning coffee, they might come and have breakfast, and then they’ll have three or four meetings lined up that day. And they’ll come back for those meetings.

Dan Gingiss: To really understand what makes Mojo different, you had to learn a little bit more about Steve Gianoutsos.

Steve Gianoutsos: Steve Gianoutsos is my name and I’ve been doing coffee for about 18 years, but I’ve been in hospitality of pretty much all my life. So I mean I can remember when I was 3 years old, serving my first customer standing on a Coca Cola box.

Dan Gingiss: Three years old. Fast forward a few decades and Steve is selling his café in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, to buy a coffee roaster so he can make his own coffee. He called his wife to deliver the news.

Steve Gianoutsos: She says, “But you don’t know how to roast coffee,” and I said, “Yeah but I’ve got six weeks, six weeks and a book so I’ll make sure I can do it by then.”

Dan Gingiss: He thought he’d just roast coffee for other cafes, but he ended up opening his own shop in New Zealand in 2003, calling it Mojo Coffee. He ended up opening 33 more shops in New Zealand before crossing the pond to open his first shop in the US in downtown Chicago. In order to stand out from the crowd and what he calls ‘a commodity business,’ Steve focused on two core components of his business. The in-store customer experience and the employee experience. While he had the vision in his head, it took him a while to verbalize it.

Steve Gianoutsos: That’s a really hard thing to explain. I remember the first time I was sitting in Japan trying to explain what Mojo was compared to other coffee shops and I’d say, you know, I’d say, “Well, we’re about quality product,” and they’d say, “But the others say that too.” I go, “Alright, we’re about the experience.” “Well the others say that too.” I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ And for me, like, a cup of coffee sitting on the table isn’t coffee. Alright? Yes it’s a product and- But it’s just the vehicle for doing what you and I do right now, which is having a conversation. So if you say to me, “Let’s go for coffee,” you don’t- It’s not just about coffee it’s about this kind of a chat. And for me, that’s where, that’s what mojo is, right? That’s more than just a cup of coffee.

Dan Gingiss: OK. So it’s more than just coffee. It’s about conversation. Steve calls this the ‘New Zealand’ way. But how does a coffee shop promote conversation? Or translate the New Zealand way to the United States? By engineering a unique coffee experience.

Steve Gianoutsos: You have to actually come to the shop and experience it. People ask me about all the time and I try and explain and they go, “Uh, yeah, I kind of get it.” But when they do come they go, “Ah, right! Yeah it is different.” When someone orders a cup of coffee at the counter, they sit down and we bring it to you. Alright. What do get with a cup of coffee? Well it comes in the cup, you get a saucer, you get a spoon, you get a bit of sugar. Oh yeah, and you get a glass of water. Generally it’s sparkling water. That’s part of the service, right? Subtle, but different. We don’t expect you to bus your dishes to the counter. We’ll clear the table. We’ll come back and we’ll top up your water, and we’ll also ask if you want a second cup. Once again subtle, but different. We don’t do Wi-Fi. Alright, so that’s a big point of difference, right? So there’s no Wi-Fi in the store, and if you look up and down the shop right now, I can see one, two laptops open of what, 30, 40 people. But what you do see is everyone sitting around having a conversation and that’s what coffee is about, and that’s what we’re trying to provide. You know, an atmosphere and ambiance. To have a conversation. You know, we want to be professional but we want to be laid back. We want to be relaxed in the service style. That’s a really important thing and that’s kind of the ‘New Zealand’ way.

Dan Gingiss: Steve told me that he interviewed hundreds of potential baristas before he settled on just a handful that serve drinks and food to the customers in his Chicago store. So what exactly was he looking for during all those barista interviews?

Steve Gianoutsos: Our recruitment policy is just find nice people, right? Nice people with good attitude. We can teach them the rest. We tend not to employ people have been in the industry for too long. Generally they come from other businesses with, you know, just bad habits. And it’s a lot harder to get them to think our way. We’ve been really successful in Chicago so far because our store manager, who’s American, lived in New Zealand for a year and worked for us there. So she’s been out to bring over the New Zealand coffee culture as well as the company culture. There’s nothing like living it, right? And actually working in the shop with New Zealanders and, yeah, learn it that way. Yeah.

Dan Gingiss: One such barista is Christian Cook, a native of Springfield, Missouri, who made his way to Chicago after a friend told him about the opportunity to work for a unique company. He welcomes every guest with a genuine smile.

Christian Cook: Hi. How’s it going today?

Dan Gingiss: I asked Christian about working at Mojo and why he thought it was different from other coffee shops. His response was remarkably similar to Steve’s, which I took is not at all coincidental. Steve only hires people who believe in his vision. The ‘New Zealand’ way.

Christian Cook: What makes Mojo different from other coffee shops is it’s got the resources of a large company, but definitely with the heart of a small company. We still run water to your table. We ask you how your day is going and we remember your name and what you like to drink, how you like to drink it. So it’s those small touches those fine details that kind of make Mojo a special place. Everyone’s been so supportive and they really emphasized just looking for good people. They figure all the coffee skills, all the facts about coffee, you can teach. You can train. It’s a craft. But what they’re looking for is people who will come in every day, be supportive, and really create that nice environment.

Dan Gingiss: Steve asked Christian to walk me through the mechanics of one of Mojo’s prized coffee machines called The Steampunk. The machine, which reportedly sells for ten thousand dollars, is another part of the unique experience at Mojo. It is controlled by an iPad-like device that is connected to all of the other Mojo coffees around the world. So if a barista creates a new recipe he or she can immediately share it with other stores who merely have to tap a device screen to make it. The machine itself looks like a giant glass French coffee press, and when it gurgles and bubbles and does its thing, takes more than two minutes to make a single cup of coffee. All you can do is stare at it. In fact, when I was in an event at Mojo Coffee with guests from a huge restaurant industry conference – in other words people in the hospitality business not normal customers like you and me – I was struck by how many of them pulled out their phones to take videos of this impressive machine.

Christian Cook: Alright so we’re making a steampunk coffee at the moment. Our steampunk brewers are made by a company called Alpha Dominche. They’re based out of Brooklyn, New York, used to be Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a mechanized coffee siphon. It’s an intricate system of glass jars, uses heat pressure and vacuums to brew and extract that coffee.

Dan Gingiss: Christian goes on to describe this machine in so much detail. You’d think he was one of the guys on the assembly line making the thing. He does the same thing with the coffee grinder. His detailed knowledge is incredible.

Christian Cook: And so now that we’ve got the hot water ready in the chamber we’re going to grind the coffee. We use a Mahlkonig Grinder. It’s one of the best in the world. It lets us be really accurate about how we grind that coffee. Now that we’ve got our ground coffee ready we put it in a chute, put in the piston, and then drop that coffee into the top. You get a quick tamp to make sure everything brews nice and evenly. We get full extraction out of those beans.

Dan Gingiss: Those beans, by the way, are a special Ugandan variety that Steve and Christian have selected for me today.

Christian Cook: The being that we’re using today is Rwenrozi Kaswa It’s a really nice natural processed, high quality Ugandan coffee. So Rwenzori Kaswa is going to start with some nice aromatics. It’s a really bright raspberry note at the start, then it develops into some more plum wine and raspberry notes in the taste. It’s got a really bright acidity and a delicate almost tea-like body.

Dan Gingiss: If that sounds like a wine tasting instead of a coffee tasting that’s not a coincidence. The baristas at Mojo are often called upon to describe the different brews from around the world. Today, besides from the Ugandan variety, they’re also serving a Parte Alta from Guatemala which boasts notes of pear and brown sugar according to a sign posted in front of the steampunk machine. And speaking of food, all this talk of plums and raspberries and pears has gotten me hungry. Mojo’s menu is anything but standard too.

Steve Gianoutsos: When I go back to the beginning where I, when I started Mojo, we had no food. We were busy until 11 o’clock and then no customers for the rest of the day.

Dan Gingiss: Steve soon realized that his customers were going down the street to a local cafe for food, so he immediately added food to his own menu. And cool interesting food. Chia pudding with coconut Chai spice, goji berries, honey, and yogurt. Bang bang chicken salad with mango, bean sprouts, peanuts, cabbage, snow peas, and tomato. A housemade crumpet, and even a peanut butter and tomato sandwich. Yup that’s a thing.

Steve Gianoutsos: So our food is a point of difference for us and really, really important.

Dan Gingiss: One challenge in the coffee industry, and in the restaurant industry as a whole, is holding on to good talent. And since Steve put so much time and effort into hiring and training his staff, he knew he had to do something to retain them as well. Not surprisingly, his approach was unique. The industry is quite a low paying industry and the tough thing about that is you have really good people working for us. The hardest thing is to hang onto them because obviously they see they grow up, and they start their own families and they need a higher income. But one way to hang onto people is to give them some ownership. Now, I would open a new store and I would take aside a really good manager. Someone that we trusted, someone we knew that trusted us, and worked really hard and I would give them a 50 percent ownership in that store. And, you know, they freak out and go, “But I don’t have any money.” And I go, “That’s okay I’ll fund it, alright? You just work and we’ll split the profits at the end of the year. And that’s how we really, really fast. We had 12 of those partners at one stage. Some of them had two shops, some had three, and it was just brilliant. They had ownership, the seats of ownership. Every Monday we’d get together, we’d sit around the table, and we’d make decisions about direction of the company and what kind of sugar we should use, or how we would serve their drinks. And we built a really, really strong company culture via that model.

Dan Gingiss: Mojo eventually restructured into a single company rather than many separate entities, but those managers retained ownership. Though their 50 percent share of a single store became about one and a half percent to the overall company, Steve says their portion was actually worth more money. And the result was better collaboration between the shop owners, because everyone was working for the betterment of the entire company. “A cool thing to witness,” Steve said. As the company has grown, it has not lost sight of its relentless focus on the people who matter most.

Steve Gianoutsos: The answer is yes. What’s the question, you know? It’s about the customer.


Joey Coleman: There are so many great customer experience articles to read, but who has that time? We summarize them and offer clear takeaways you can implement starting tomorrow. Enjoy this segment of CX Press, where we read the articles so you don’t need to.

[CX PRESS: How to Leverage the Knowledge of All Your Customers in One Place]

Dan Gingiss: So, Joey, have you used online communities before to get questions answered?

Joey Coleman: Well, a little bit. I must confess I’m not a big online community user, but I’ve definitely experienced some great value from them. I’m part of an online community of speakers where sometimes I’ll put questions out there that other speakers would be able to easily answer. And, you know, I’ve done stuff with technical things for some softwares and tools I use where I’ve kind of jumped into their online communities. I would not say that I am an online community aficionado or expert but I’m definitely familiar with how they work.

Dan Gingiss: Well good. And I, too, have used them a bunch of times. I think the two that stand out for me are Apple because pretty much whenever you have a question about an Apple product and you Google it, the community is the first answer that comes up.

Joey Coleman: [Laughing] 7000 other people have asked the same question.

Dan Gingiss: Exactly, and then also as we’ve talked about previously the big Turbo Tax user and Turbo Tax has a great community that actually integrated into the software so if you get to a point in doing your tax return where you have a question are your stuck you could just type a question into it and it, it takes you right to the community for expert answers which I think is really cool. But, because I’ve used this stuff before it’s why I was intrigued by this week’s CX Press article. It comes to us from our friends at the Sitel Group, and it is titled How an Online Community can Improve Your Customer Care. Now it’s written by Jean-Baptiste Ranvier, who is a social media strategist at Sitel, and the article talks about how brands are empowering their customers to take customer service to the next level by working together to answer questions and solve customer issues. Now in some sense this is similar to what is often called the sharing economy that has produced companies like Airbnb and Uber. You’ve got a customer on one side who needs something and you’ve got a provider on the other side who can deliver it. But in this case, it’s all online on a company’s website or mobile app and it’s really about becoming the Wikipedia of your own brand.

Joey Coleman: Interestingly enough the article notes that, “peer to peer communities boost customer satisfaction, they deflect the easy calls to the call centers, and empower your customers in the process.” After all no one knows more about your products or services than your customers, and these types of online communities allow your customers to become a valuable resource; an asset of your business as well as a way to get faster answers and maybe even more robust answers to your customers and users. An online community allows a company to harness the knowledge and then use that to deliver support when the customer needs it 24/7 365 without needing to be staffing up the center, or the group to monitor, you let the customers help your customers out.

Dan Gingiss: Yeah that 24/7 part’s really important because, obviously, nobody likes sitting on hold. What’s nice about online communities is that customers can basically help themselves on their own time. And we know from tons of studies out there that millennials especially have really led the way in desiring self-service and other generations are following suit and catching up because it’s just easier and faster to Google something and get an answer than to call a toll free number, send an email or even, dare I say, tweet.

Joey Coleman: Oh man I’ll take ‘Things I’m Not Going to Do Anytime Soon’ for 500, Alex. But you know, Dan, you hit on another benefit of these type of communities which is SEO or search engine optimization. You know, we all know this is how Google finds a site and ranks it in its results. The fact of the matter is the more quality content that you have on your site the higher your ranking. So one key here though is: you want to hire a competent community manager who can help organize questions and answers. Because let’s be candid, when you throw that conversation to the masses you usually get kind of the masses group produced answers and they have a tendency to be all over the place. While accurate, they’re not really organized. So you want a community manager who can not only organize these but also supply any additional information as needed to make sure that the community is actually generating the SEO value that it can and should be given the nature of the content and the information they’re sharing.

Dan Gingiss: Yeah and one other thing that the Sitel article mentioned that I really liked was that a brand’s community already exists. Now I’ve said this before, too, people are already talking about your company so you might as well be part of that conversation. And I think what’s interesting, specific to communities, is that Sitel says that it’s best to shift that conversation to your own properties instead of social media sites, where the conversation is probably taking place already, because then you get the SEO value, you get the self-service value, and ultimately you get a chance to directly impact and convert prospects and customers.

Joey Coleman: Yeah and this kind of brings us to that age old question when you think about online communities. You know, when you asked me at the beginning of this segment if I had used online communities the one I mentioned is one on Facebook. And while it’s certainly a very valuable community and I get a lot out of it, it’s not promoting the brand of the individual in the organization that started it, right? It’s kind of making all of that work happen somewhere else. And I think this is one of the perennial questions in the age of social media. Do you ‘build your building on someone else’s land?’ And I think the point that the Sitel article is kind of trying to hammer home is this idea that if you build it on your own site, not only do you have more control about how it looks and it feels and how people participate, and you can have a community manager really kind of contributing to that, but you get all the extraneous benefits when it comes to search and SEO.

Dan Gingiss: For sure, and you know this reminds me a little bit of when we talk about our good friend Marcus Sheridan’s book, ‘They Ask You Answer,’ way back in episode 4 last year that basically people came to your website to find answers to questions about your product, and they expect you to be the expert there. And having communities on your site is a great way to do that because you don’t have to create all that content yourself. If you remember Marcus’s story he wrote, you know, something like 1800 blog posts himself all about the swimming pool industry. And communities can help essentially create a shortcut there because you have people that are asking questions so they’re coming right to you with the questions that are kind of in their heads and bothering them. But you also have lots of people in the form of customers there to answer those questions and therefore create that content that that sets and lives on your website.

Joey Coleman: Absolutely, and as always we’re going to include a link to the article in the show notes, and as it turns out the Sitel group provides outsourced contact center support. So if you’re looking to stand up a new community, or improve an existing one, or kinda take some of these ideas that they mention in the article and implement them in your own organization, we recommend that you check them out.


Joey Coleman: It’s shocking how often people use 38 words to describe something when two would do the trick. We’re looking at you, lawyers and accountants. Words matter, and there is no excuse for trying to hide what you mean. We explore words and messaging in this next iteration of, Say What!

[SAY WHAT!: Why words matter – If you want to sound smart.]

Dan Gingiss: So we talk a lot about words and language on this show. We even have a segment dedicated to the topic. I’ve always been a bit of a grammar nerd stemming from my time as managing editor for my college newspaper. Plus my dad, who is a listener of the show, is perhaps a bigger grammar nerd than I. Not me, right Dad? Throughout my professional career I’ve always been the one people come to for proofreading and copy editing, and most people have worked for me have experienced me quietly correcting a PowerPoint slide here or a Word Doc there. For some reason spelling and grammar errors just jump off the page and punch me in the face, whereas many people don’t even notice them. Which one are you, Joey, are you a grammar nerd as well?

Joey Coleman: Well here’s the thing Dan, I used to think of myself as somebody that paid a decent amount of attention to grammar. That was a nice sentence that I just constructed right there. Wasn’t that a decent amount of time of much to grammar? But then I met and married my amazing wife, Berit, who is the resident grammarian in our family now. She holds the title.

Dan Gingiss: Fantastic. Well, if you have one by your side and you don’t need to be, uh–.

Joey Coleman: Exactly! I don’t have nearly as hard she takes care of it for me.

Dan Gingiss: Yep, it’s like having a good navigator in the car.

Joey Coleman: You guessed it!

Dan Gingiss: So anyway the reason I’m talking about all this is that I stumbled on an article in The Harvard Business Review by a set of siblings, which I think might be the first time we have featured anything by siblings here. Their names are Ross and Kathryn Petras and the article is called, ‘Nine Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong,’ and is actually based on the pair’s new book which is called, ‘That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.’ Now as a grammar nerd this was right up my alley, so I reached out to Kathryn Petras and I asked her to share some thoughts with our audience. Here’s what she had to say.

Kathryn Petras: Hi. I’m Kathy Petras, co-author of the book, ‘That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words and Their Tangled Histories.’ I wrote a book with my brother Ross, and we also did an article based on the book for the Harvard Business Review for their ‘Managing Yourself’ section called, ‘Nine Words and Phrases You’re Probably Using Wrong.’ We did both the book and the article because, well, English is a minefield. It’s really easy to make mistakes and usually happens when you’re trying your hardest to sound intelligent and to make an impression, and you make one of those errors and you make an impression but it’s just not the kind of impression you really wanted to make. A lot of times we found it happens because you’re trying a little too hard. You really want to sound intelligent and you use a phrase or a word that isn’t what you think it means. That’s the title of the book. Methodology: that one you see so often in corporate reports, you see in government reports up the wazoo. And it’s, again, it’s you think it’s a fancy way of saying method. Ooo… methodology… It’s one of those, like, polysyllabic words that people love to put in because they think it makes them sound smarter. Well, methodology is not the same as method. Methodology, it has an -ology on it right. That means study. So when you’re talking about methodology you’re talking about the study of methods. You’re not talking about methods so you’re actually, in your zeal to sound smarter, your sounding dumber because you’re using it wrong. But this is really important in your business communications if you’re writing something, especially in resumes we’ve seen a lot of it, is the confusion between affect a-f-f-e-c-t and effect. And people confuse them for some reason. Affect means to act upon, effect is usually a noun and it usually means something that changes as a result from something acting on it; in effect something that affected it. So don’t make them say your and you’re, there and they’re. There’s a million mistakes you can make in English. If you’re at all confused about the meaning of something, if you’re at all unsure about the meaning of something, just drop it. Who needs it? Keep it simple. You want to present yourself in the best possible way, right? The best possible thing to do then is to not gum things up by throwing in words and phrases that you’re not quite sure about and making yourself look a lot less good than you want to, right? Am I right? There’s a lot more. Oh gosh, I could go on for hours. Did I say you’re, your? They’re, there? I and me. Ugh! Never mind. Good luck.

Dan Gingiss: Don’t you just love her?

Joey Coleman: Yeah she’s… she’s pretty hysterical I will definitely say, and very much into her words and phrases for sure. You know, I would sense that getting into a conversation with Katherine is very similar to how I feel when I’m having an extended conversation with my wife, Berit, in the sense that I can see on her face that she’s not trying to judge when I make a grammatical error, but then she’ll say something it’s almost as if it’s habitual. It will just come out and she’ll kind of correct it and I’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly what I meant to say.”.

Dan Gingiss: You can almost hear the tsk tsk which is you know, under her breath, right?

Joey Coleman: She never takes it that far at all but like I’ll say something, you know, and she’ll, you know, “Hey can we do this?” She’ll say, “Yes we may.” And I’m like, “Oh. Right, right sorry. May we do this?” Yeah you know it’s a work in progress.

Dan Gingiss: Understood. Aside from the examples that Katherine shared I want to touch on one more from the article and then share mine number one language pet peeve. Ross and Kathryn mentioned ‘unique’ as a word that people mess up a lot, and I definitely hear that all the time as well. Unique, by definition, means one of a kind. So something can’t be ‘very unique’ or ‘truly unique’ and frankly saying totally unique is just being repetitively duplicative, if you know what I mean.

Joey Coleman: [Laughs] Yes Dan, I do know what you mean and you are definitely unique.

Dan Gingiss: Well thank you, Joey. As are you, which our show so great. But the one that really gets me is that people who don’t know whether to choose I or me instead choose myself, which they think means makes them sound smarter. But what they’ve done is they’ve taken a 50 / 50 chance of being correct and turning it into a zero percent chance. Because if the choice is ‘I’ or ‘me’, then ‘myself’ is always wrong. I’ve heard things like, “Please let Sarah or myself know if you can make the meeting,” or even, “Myself and Susan ran the marathon together.” [Groans] It makes my ears bleed!

Dan Gingiss: I hear you, and you know I think in the Mojo Coffee live segment we talked about there was a slight mention of Austin Powers, and I’m reminded of that scene in the Austin Powers movie where he says, “Allow myself to introduce myself,” and every time that’s what goes on. My ears don’t bleed. I just see the person morph into Austin Powers and then invariably I start laughing and it just gets really awkward really fast.

Dan Gingiss: That’s actually a great coping mechanism.

Joey Coleman: Laughter is usually a good way to deal with the insanity of the human condition you might run into.

Dan Gingiss: For sure. So, hey, check out the Petras’ article on HBR and also their new book, both of which we will link to in the show notes and ExperienceThisShow.com, and then hopefully you won’t ever end up on your own segment of Say What!


Joey Coleman: We’ve talked, you’ve listened. Now it’s time to act. There are many things you could do to take what you’ve learned in this episode and implement it. But at times that can feel overwhelming. Instead, why not just focus on three takeaways.

[THREE TAKEAWAYS: Questions to Consider for Episode 52]

Dan Gingiss: Takeaway #1 – Do you know what your company’s mojo is, or how your customers get their mojo from you? What really makes your company different? And not, ‘we have a better product’ or ‘we have better customer experience,’ because as Steve heard from his investors, everyone says that. Find the one or two things that make your company unique and make sure they are part of your brand storytelling.

Joey Coleman: Takeaway #2 – Where do your customers go for customer care? Have you considered setting up any self-service communities for people who don’t want to call, e-mail, or tweet? Could you successfully deflect easy calls and let your agents focus on the more complex issues? You may be leaving money on the table and preventing your customers from finding answers easily if you don’t have a place on your own website where they can learn, ask questions, and ultimately, make decisions about doing business with your company.

Dan Gingiss: Takeaway #3 – How well do you speak and write your language? Really? Do you take the time to proofread everything or just assume that spellcheck will find errors? Remember what Kathryn said about trying to sound smart, but ending up sounding the opposite when you make a spelling or grammar mistake. Keep it simple, she advised. A common mantra on this show. Take the time to have someone review documents before sharing it with your boss, or even hearken back to what your elementary school teacher probably taught you. Read it out loud to yourself to see if it makes sense. Every moment counts in business so don’t waste any opportunities with lousy language skills.

Joey Coleman: And those are the three takeaways from this episode of Experience This!


Joey Coleman: Wow thanks for joining us for another episode of Experience This!

Dan Gingiss: We know there are tons of podcasts to listen to, magazines and books to read, reality TV to watch… We don’t take for granted that you’ve decided to spend some quality time listening to the two of us.

Joey Coleman: We hope you enjoyed our discussions, and if you do we’d love to hear about it. Come on over to ExperienceThisShow.com and let us know what segments you enjoy, what news segments you’d like to hear. This show is all about experience, and we want you to be part of the Experience This! Show.

Dan Gingiss: Thanks again for your time and we’ll see you next week for more…

Joey Coleman & Dan Gingiss: Experience This!