Creating happy customers – a success story

Thriving Under Fire
Turn difficult customers into business success

By John Faisandier

Published by Steele Roberts, Wellington, 2009

Not just another ‘how to’ manual written in dry management-speak, this book grips the reader like a good novel.

John Faisandier’s mission is to show business people how to deal confidently with all sorts of customers, particularly the most difficult ones. [Read more] The scene is Sophie’s Café, a busy bar and café run by Sophie (the owner) and her three staff Angus, Lily and Rose. We learn about the challenges faced by each as they deal with the full gamut of business relationships from happy customer to abusive neighbour.

As they learn the Thriving Under Fire (TUF) system with John, their skills at defusing difficult situations improve and they learn to work together better too. John shows us things from the characters’ point of view. He uses real language and real dilemma to illustrate the TUF principles. I couldn’t put this book down – I got caught up in the action and kept wanting to see what happened next. So I found myself learning new ideas without even trying.

John reminds us that if there were no customers there’d be no business. It is important to deal with all of them really well, not just the easy ones. TUF is about thriving in difficult situations, not just surviving. He de-mystifies mental illness, for example, giving staff specific and practical tools for dealing with customers who are unwell.

There are chapters on people get so upset when faced with angry, distressed or aggressive customers and how to communicate well, stay positive and develop empathy through systems thinking. Also what to do when customers go ape, and how to deal successfully with customers who have mental health issues and those affected by drugs and alcohol. He shows people how to deal with feelings, care for themselves and be aware of escalating situations.

Cheerful cartoon graphics enhance the story and there is a one-page review at the end of each chapter summarising what the characters in the café have learnt. The book ends with suggestions on where people can go for help and a detailed outline of the TUF programme.

John has a masters degree in adult education along with degrees in anthropology and theology and is a qualified psychodramatist and trainer. He has encountered angry and aggressive people in many areas of his life, as a Catholic priest, as a Race Relations mediator and at Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer Springs where he was the psychodramatist and trainer of counsellors for five years. All these experiences have been incorporated into the TUF programme.

John shows people how to manage customer relations within the competing priorities involved in running a business. The reward is that business owners feel less stressed, feel better about the business and their customers feel better about it too. This means happier staff, less staff turnover and a better bottom line as customers who feel listened to spend more and tell others about their experience.

Although the book is aimed at businesses, its insights can also be applied to personal and family life with good results. We all like a success story and this book shows us how to be one.

By Sarah Maclean

July 2009


NZATD August Newsletter
TUF Book Review -Steve Coy


ANZPA Journal -Peggy Cook

Earlier Reviews

Customers are the lifeblood of any business – no customers, no business – and staff are our greatest resource. To support staff to keep customers happy, read this book – it’s the next best thing to having John help you in your business.
Melissa Clark-Reynolds

This is a useful, practical book that I would recommend to anyone wishing to handle interpersonal relationships better. It will help make your business more profitable.
Peter Cullen
Employment Law Specialist, Wellington
Link to Cullen Law

Even the most emotionally aware and interpersonally skilled person will be refreshed by Thriving Under Fire. More than a great common-sense approach to customer service, it’s useful for helping people engage effectively with families and colleagues. A must-have for the management bookshelf.
Elizabeth Valentine
CEO Aviation, Tourism & Travel Training Organisation

This book is essential reading for anyone in the hospitality industry. Those in public service should read it as well, including parking wardens, the police, or anyone that deals with the public. My staff who did the course are far more comfortable and confident with all customers than they were before.
John Coleman
Owner of Hummingbird Cafe and Bar, Wellington