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'Running the Steps' in Customer Service

I was in the grocery story with my cart, trying to get some Greek Yogurts. I am all fired up to be in super dooper shape when I turn 50 in July, so Greek Yogurt and all its' protein is now on the Grocery List. As I stood there, a grocery worker was stocking other yogurt. It was obvious I wanted to get something where he was, but he never stopped stocking. He went on for 45 seconds, got done, and wandered off.


He never thought of the customer.


Like many of you, I am passionate about the topic of Customer Service. I don't proclaim to be "Mr. Author of 9 Books on Customer Service" but when you are on TV News for 23 years and literally interact with thousands of customers, and have hosted over two dozen Group Travel trips, you learn ALL about the subject.


In the opening chapter of Stoke the Fire Within, I share the story of the gruff TV News camera guy that made me run the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum when I told him I wanted to do a LIVE shot by the Rocky statue. I had wanted to merely stand by the statue. He wouldn't let me settle. Thus, we ran the steps like Rocky Balboa live via satellite. I have told that story all over the world and it has never ceased to connect with the audience. The whole point is you can do things the 'Tripod' way, which is solid and all...or you can 'Run the Steps.' That means going all out!


In 2006 I started started hosting Group Trips for Edgerton's Travel, a company that goes back to 1924 and is steeped in legendary Customer Service. In initial talks with the owner, Tom Edgerton, I could tell he comes from the 'Running the Steps' mentality. You see, a traditional group travel host makes him or herself available, is personable, tells some jokes and stories, and that is about it. Sort of 'the Tripod' way.


I wanted to take the "Running the Steps" approach, especially regarding Customer Service.


Tom encouraged me to take a video camera along and produce a trip DVD for each passenger. That has often led to getting up before dawn to get a shot of the rising sun, and becoming almost obsessive about putting together a 60 or 70 minute documentary that they will always treasure. Some of these folks are on a 50th anniversary trip and maybe can't ever afford to go again. I want the sights and sounds of their trip to always be available to them.


The Best Legs Contest!


If there is one thing I learned from interviewing peak performers during my TV News and Sports days is that they never settled. As Lou Holtz used to say, if what you did yesterday seems important, you haven't done anything today.


The production of the DVD eventually led me to wanting to write a Trip Journal for everyone. So each hour of the trip I have a camera bag strapped to me (including a still cam) and a note pad to take notes on all of the interesting things along the way.


As a Speaker, I tell jokes and share inspiration along the way. Following in the 'Running the Steps' mode I have taken it to the point now where I research jokes specific to the area (Cajun jokes in Louisiana) and often get up at 5 AM to practice the tailored jokes and stories for each stop of that particular day.


Then there are the Trip Managers of these trips for Edgerton's. They are ladies who are truly on fire for Customer Service. I don't think they sleep. Trip Manager Sherrill stays up and hand delivers special gift bags and takes them to each room. With full groups of 50, that takes awhile. Trip Manager Trisha spends weeks before her trips making special engraved cards that she gives out to each person on each day.


In the 'Run the Steps' mentality, one thing I have done is organize post trip Parties about thirty days after the trip, with raffle prizes, and the "world premier" of the DVD. My whole point is to try to make the 'Travels with Charlie' an experience unlike any other...anywhere.


Another thing I got from countless interviews with peak performers is always realize your weaknesses. I know I have to get better with names. Sometimes I run my mouth too much up front with my jokes and stories ("My gosh, does he ever shut up?" I can picture someone in the back of the motorcoach who simply wants to read her good novel, thinking..).


As I have written about before, I think my Fire for Customer Service goes back to Mr. Paul James when I sacked groceries for him at The Jitney Jungle grocery store in Oxford, MS. Not only did he have us sack the groceries, but we wheeled the cart to the car, unloaded their groceries, and open and closed the door for ladies, especially the elderly. If it had been snowing, we would clear their windshield before zipping back in with the cart.


If you saw that today, you would fall over backwards and croak from shock.


I think there is a lot of good, solid Customer Service out there, but as I approach 50 I don't think many of the younger people have been exposed to "On Fire" service. Of all the group trips I have hosted, I can say without a doubt the best Service - by far - is Branson. I will host my fourth trip there later this year, and Branson is a cut above everyone. Their Service comes from the heart. The people there "are gold inside" according to entertainer Roy Clark. They are sincere and they truly care about their customers. The entertainers 'Run the Steps" too. We saw the wonderfully talented Brett Family this past October. They are a husband and wife and three children who sing and dance like you wouldn't believe. We arrived in our motorcoach an hour before their show and Mr. Brett made it to each motorcoach to welcome everyone. After the show, his one son and him came on again.


I have done so many Motivational programs where I will be sitting by the CEO before speaking, and he or she will lean over and say, "It all comes back to Customer Service. It is how we separate ourselves."


I love speaking on the topic. This particular 'Stoke' talk has been utilized as a keynote, a breakout (2 hour form with video clips) or as a central theme of the 'Stoke the Fire Within' keynote.


- Charlie Adams, Motivational Speaker
574 807 2279 || Email Charlie