Marilyn Suttle: “Suttle” Shifts that Create Big Breakthroughs

‘Don’t grow a wishbone where your backbone ought to be.’

Rather than running from conflict, Marilyn Suttle suggests that if you are willing to listen when a customer or colleague is angry, there is a real opportunity to grow and strengthen the relationship.

Suttle is a customer service and communication expert who is known for helping teams make ‘Suttle Shifts’ in thinking to achieve breakthrough success with customers. Her clients include Ford Motor, American Axle, and Visteon, among others. She is also a sought-after international speaker, presenting to global leadership teams with a focus on customer service and composure under pressure.

Suttle is the best-selling author of the customer service guides Who’s Your Gladys? and the 2016 release, Taming Gladys! Her advice has been featured on a number of well-known podcasts and TV news spots and in publications like Psychology Today, Fast Company, and US News and World Report. Today she explains how to reframe conflict, why political discourse shuts down the frontal cortex, and how simple changes can have a big-time impact. Listen in to identify your Gladys—and what you can learn from her!


Key Interview Takeaways

 Your ‘Gladys’ is the customer who points out problem areas. She requires more patience and effort, but you need her because Gladys is willing to speak up when others don’t.

Look for the simple changes that make the biggest impact. For example, your entire team should be aligned with the same definition of ‘response time.’ Customers crave consistency of experience.

Create a culture of customer service. Leadership must demonstrate customer service and model it internally.

Don’t grow a wishbone where your backbone ought to be. Conflict, well handled, leads to stronger relationships. Rather than avoiding it, shift your mindset to focus on staying calm and really listening.

People don’t always tell you when they’re upset. If you are dealing with a global team, for instance, ask in advance what parts of your PowerPoint slides might be offensive, confusing or off-putting in translation.

Political discourse requires that we manage the fear. When fear goes up, intelligence plummets—shutting down the frontal cortex. Stopping to breath reactivates your logic sensors, shifts your brain chemistry and puts you in a creative space.

Don’t take ‘grumbling’ personally. For some, grumbling is part of their process when faced with a task they don’t want to do. When you get upset and interfere with the process, you create unnecessary conflict.

Connect with Marilyn Suttle

Marilyn on Twitter

Marilyn on Facebook

Who’s Your Gladys on Facebook


Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty by Lori Jo Vest and Marilyn Suttle

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