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Jan. 21, 2022

The 2021 Broken Windows Awards With Michael Levine

This episode features guest Michael Levine. Michael is a best-selling author, media expert and success coach. He has represented a record-breaking 58 Academy Award winners, 34 Grammy Award winners, 43 New York Times best-sellers. In addition, he has authored 19 books, including 5 best-sellers including: Broken Windows, Broken Business: How Small Remedies Reap Big Rewards.

In this episode Michael Levine reveals his 2021 Broken Windows Awards. Discover what constitutes a broken window along with the list of the 10 worst offenders of 2021.

Are you sick and tired of businesses poor treatment of its customers? Michael sure has and it is why Broken Windows has become a movement that says we are sick and tired of being treated poorly and we are not going to take it anymore.

Little details matter and matter a lot in business that is the premise of the Broken Windows movement. Learn from mistakes of today's biggest Broken Windows' offenders and how you can use their broken windows to improve your business in a series of stories like only Michael can relate.

Each company has the same issues each that involved not caring for its customers. Make sure your business is not guilty of the same sin if you want to grow in 2022.

Episode Action Items:

You can find Michael Levine's best-selling book, Broken Windows, Broken Business How Small Remedies Reap Big Rewards at Amazon or read his full bio on his website at


Andy Splichal - Make Each Click Count PodcastAndy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.

New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and


Andy Splichal  0:02  


 Welcome to the Make Each Click Count podcast, this is your host Andy Splichal. And today I've been joined by a very special guest. He is the best selling author, media expert and success coach. His guest has represented a record breaking 58 Academy Award winners, 38 Grammy Award winners, 43 New York Times bestsellers. Some of his former clients include Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Prince and George Carlin, among many others. His work has included media counsel, the former presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. In addition, he himself has offered authored 19 books including five bestsellers, including Broken Windows, Broken Business, How Small Remedies Reap Big Rewards. A big welcome to the man CNN dubbed America's branding expert, and my friend, Michael Levine. Welcome, Michael.


Michael Levine  1:42  

Thank you, Andy, thank you for sharing your valuable audience with me and of all the titles that you indicated attached to me your friend is high in the list. So I appreciate the opportunity you've created a really interesting conversation with your podcast with what you're doing. So I'm honored to be sharing your valuable audience with you.


Andy Splichal  2:10  

Well, we're excited to have you on. Now before we dive into your list of Broken Windows Award Winners. For those not familiar with your book, Broken Windows, Broken Business. Can you talk a bit about the concept the book deals with and how that led to your Broken Windows Award winners?



Michael Levine  2:28  

Yes, sir. Broken Windows Broken Business is a business book predicated on a theory of criminology called Broken windows theory. And the Broken windows theory of criminology was born in August of 1982, created by a UCLA professor who was no longer alive, Professor James Q. Wilson, and what the theory of criminology said, The Broken windows theory of criminology said that if you go into a neighborhood, and you see a broken window, or some graffiti, a minor infraction, and the authorities did not repair the window or the graffiti, within a short period of time, say 72 hours, it would send a psychic signal to the residents, the homeowners, the tourists, and the criminals that the bad guys are in charge. And very quickly, much more serious crime would ensue. So what I did is I took that theory of criminology and I dragged, I moved, I pulled it right over to business and I said in exactly the same way. It affects a society. It also affects the business. So if you arrive or any of your wonderful listeners go into a restaurant today, and you walk into the bathroom, and the bathroom is dirty, it sends a psychic signal to the brain. Perhaps the kitchen isn't too clean. If you and I run an airplane, we pull the coffee tray down, and there's a spot that's unclean on the coffee tray. It sends a psychic signal to your brain that perhaps the engine maintenance isn't as good as it could or should be. And that's the theory. Little details matter a lot in business. And I hope that's an interesting way to start the conversation to your valuable audience. 


Andy Splichal  5:00  

And so yeah, no, thank you for explaining that. I think as you explain it, the listeners are think they all have seen Broken Windows now that they know what it is, how did you create this list that we're gonna go through in just a minute of the 10 biggest offenders of broken windows?


Michael Levine  5:19  

Well Andy, to be honest with you, I have become like I think a lot of Americans sick and tired of businesses treating customers in a way that is not human. We've all had the experience of calling people, companies that we pay cable companies, insurance companies, health companies, and we're routinely asked to wait on hold for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. I've sick and tired of it. And so what I decided to do is help maybe turn the book into a movement. The movement says we're sick and tired of being treated poorly. And we're not going to take it anymore. And so what I've outlined for you, Andy, and you have it right there is last year 2021's list of the 10 worst offenders, the companies who disregard the humanity of their customers, they treat them as if they're insects. And I'm sick of it. And I think a lot of Americans are sick of it. And the reaction to the list was extraordinary. We asked people of course to send in nominations for this year we're going to and things are not I mean, there are many, many, many 1000s and 1000s 10s of 1000s of companies who treat customers like crap. But these, in my opinion, are the 10 worst. 


Andy Splichal  7:24  

All right, well, let's let's do it. Do you want to go through the list or?


Michael Levine  7:27  

You read it out. You throw out a name and all offer commentary, dear friend.


Andy Splichal  7:33  


 All right, these are in alphabetical order, I believe not any, that is not any 1 to 10.  


Michael Levine  7:39  

They're all so horrible. It doesn't. 


Andy Splichal  7:40  

You don't have a big, big broken windows winner. They're all they're all equal, okay, Signum.


Michael Levine  7:46  

Signum. First of all they are disgrace. But they're part of an industry that is disgrace. We're talking about the health the care of a customer, right people calling that corporation will be calling very often in times of distress, will they not? My goodness gracious, to take advantage to treat customers. And again, I think many listeners here probably treat their insects better than we're, I'm not joking. It's a disgrace, they should be ashamed of themselves.


All right, next up Dish Dish Network. 


Well, there you go cable or any television product, seem to believe that you the customer will pay or the work for them to see that's their mindset. When you purchase a cable product, that television product, there's a mindset that invades that industry which says, Andy, Michael, you work for us, you'll do what we say you'll surrender to us, you'll grovel to us. And it's, it's contemptible. And by the way, most of these companies are doing very poorly in terms of their trend line. Now they're large companies so they can afford loss. But the trend is not good. And the worst offense is customer service, the lack of any customer service. Every corporation on this list believes that you don't need to talk to a human. It's not convenient. You can talk to a robot or a person in another country who can't speak English well, or a person in a phone room, who is the noise is so loud, you can't even understand what they're saying. So there you go.


Andy Splichal  10:18  

Now let me ask before we continue on the list, Amazon is made their whole success with that. With that you don't have to speak to a human. But I haven't ever heard of anybody saying Amazon has bad customer service.


Michael Levine  10:34  


They have standing customer service, and you can talk to a human being at Amazon anytime you like. Now, initially, Amazon had a policy which they have now removed, but I think it really was outstanding. And let me share with you, if you call the in this was of maybe two or three years ago, if you call the Amazon with a complaint, let's say you had a package that was supposed to be delivered on Tuesday, and the package wasn't delivered on Tuesday, it was delivered on Wednesday, let's pretend one day late, and you called Amazon up and you said Hey, Mr. Mr.  Mrs. Amazon, the package was received, but it's a day late. Instantly, without hesitation, Amazon would say, Well, I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience. And we're gonna give you a $25 credit for that inconvenience. That is outstanding customer service. Now, it's true that Amazon has removed that. And that may be a necessity of the pandemic or other market forces. But it shows a mindset. Not only our customer do an apology, very often, their due compensation, right. Your Time matters. That's what Amazon was saying when they gave you the 25 bucks. So anyway, they're outstanding.



Andy Splichal  11:58  

No great, great example. So the next three on the list, Equifax, Facebook and McDonald's.


Michael Levine  12:03  

Okay, well, Facebook doesn't have any customer service, Facebook, unless you pay the money. That's see, that's the mindset of Facebook. If you pay them money, we will talk to you. If you don't pay us money, we will treat you as if you're scum. And that is in my opinion, contemptible, right? If you don't want to talk to customers, then simply stop the free service. But people who have who have been seduced on Facebook, personal photographs, personal messages, or you know, the whole concept of Facebook was building a closer world. Well, my goodness, if it if a customer of Facebook or for a client to Facebook loses valuable stuff, and all they want to do is talk to someone at Facebook and get some help. I don't think that's too much to ask for a multi billion dollar company. So Facebook is


Andy Splichal  13:15  

And what about McDonald's? I guess you're not you're not loving it with this list?


Michael Levine  13:18  

Well, I'm not loving it. Because I'm very familiar with the McDonald's formation with Ray Kroc, where Ray Kroc started McDonald's let me tell you how obsessed he was with cleanliness. There were franchisees are all parts of the country in the world. And Ray Kroc said to the franchisee not only is it your responsibility to keep your store spotless, it is your responsibility to keep the area one block in either direction of your store spotless. 


Andy Splichal  13:57  

Wow, I did not know that. 


Michael Levine  13:58  

You must go outside of your store and clean the street, one block in any direction. That is how obsessed Ray Kroc was with cleanliness. Now, dear friends if you ever been in a McDonald's lately, it looks like a gas station in a bad neighborhood. When I used to go to McDonald's as a younger person, it was a wonderful middle class experience. The service was friendly. The stores were clean, the prices were reasonable, or even cheap, and and the service was fast. Now let's grade McDonald's today on that criteria. How friendly is the service? 


Andy Splichal  14:53  

Not very good. 


Michael Levine  14:54  

How quick is the service? How clean is the facility? I mean I've been into some McDonald's bathrooms, taking pictures for the website and the blog. It's mind numbing mind numbing how they could have allowed a corporation, one of the greatest corporations in the history of American commerce to degrade to the extent it has.


Andy Splichal  15:22  

You know, what is fascinating about the McDonald's story as well as I find it that service and speed and cleanliness even vary so much from restaurant to restaurant. Now compared to when it started, there are certain McDonald's I'll never go in, you know, my kids love to eat there. I'll never take them. Because it is so dirt. Yeah. But, you know, when, under Ray Kroc, everything was factory line. Perfect, right? That's really changed.



Michael Levine  15:50  

And I want to tell the business owners watching this, listen to this dear friends, you probably own a business significantly smaller than McDonald's or Facebook. And therefore the pressure on you to repair your broken windows 's even greater. And that is the issue. I would like to invite every single person watching or listening to this to take a very intense inventory over the next 30 days. Starting today, you have 30 days of your broken windows. Let me give you an example. Let's say you call your dentist let's say you have a toothache you call your dentist. That's generally when you call your dentist by the way, and your dentist's receptionist picks up the phone after the 12 rings, 12 rings, pick up the phone. The first words from the receptionist after 12 rings are


Andy Splichal  17:01  

Customer, please hold


Michael Levine  17:03  

Can you hold? They do even day, they do even say, stay hold. 

And you put on hold, you're asked to wait. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, whatever it might be. Three minutes is rather routine. Now hold your breath for three minutes. Go ahead, just hold your breath for three minutes. And you'll get a sense of visceral palpable sense of what a customer feels like. Now, you're holding your breath for three minutes without a toothache dear friend, try it with a toothache. And this is what your health provider your dentist is saying to customers every day, five days a week. So think about the broken windows. And by the way, if you own a business, let's say you your your a dental practice. My good friends, wouldn't it be a good idea to consider opening that business at hours that are convenient for your customers? Maybe one night a week, perhaps one weekend a month dear friends, dear friends think with the customer in mind. 

 Obviously people are going through a very difficult time right now. And so if your business can put its mindset in the direction of what's good for the customer,  not what's good for you, not what's good for your pet, not what's good for your staff, not what's good for you watching your kid play soccer. What's good for the customer? I think you're gonna soar in this environment.


Andy Splichal  17:05  

Maybe you are but I don't think you're so much trying to disparage these companies, but to show examples of broken windows, that business owners can learn from them.


Michael Levine  19:09  

I'm trying to disparage them too. I'm trying to tell them that the game is over. We're no longer going to take it as American consumers you do whatever you want. It's a free market, but you are going to pay McDonald's if you continue to treat customers like this, we will find other places to go as you said with your child, and I am disparaging them they should be ashamed of themselves. Every one of these corporations has vast resource and treating customers horribly, which is what every single one of these do. They should not only be ashamed of themselves, but they should be penalized in the marketplace and I want customers to say enough enough. I've had it.


Andy Splichal  19:57  

Alright, well back to the list the next two are Monsanto I don't even know who that was before I read this list and Spectrum.


Michael Levine  20:05  

Well, spectrum is part of. By the way, you know, it's hilarious. This is so funny. Obviously, if you've ever called Spectrum television, you'll see what a horrible experience it's like it's it's mind numbing a 20 minute, 15 minute wait, the all of it. However, what's really fun if you enjoy these types of things is go on YouTube or on the web, and find some a Spectrum TV commercials, and watch how they purport to treat customers. They will, it is such a lie. It is so, hypocrisy isn't even a strong enough word. They know they treat customers horribly. And we know they treat customers horribly. They won't say it. I just did. All these type of companies pretend and their TV commercials to treat customers like they're gold. And of course they don't. Monsanto is a corporation that has been, I think, quite fairly maligned for its production of chemicals that are really, really concerning to American consumers for lots of reasons. Now, there's nothing wrong with a corporation valuing profit to a high degree. That's the purpose of business. And that's the purpose of capitalism. However, there is a there is a point at which responsibility is also an important goal of American corporations, particularly with consumers who are more concerned about these type of things. They, you know, as you pointed out, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, American consumers weren't that concerned with these things. And they are today.


Andy Splichal  22:03  

So and the last three to finish off your list here of 


Michael Levine  22:09  

The worst of the worst, 


Andy Splichal  22:10  

Worst, the worst winners are United Airlines, The United States Postal Service, 


Michael Levine  22:19  



Andy Splichal  22:19  

And Wells Fargo.


Michael Levine  22:21  

Okay. Well, Wells, Fargo, forgive me for saying this. It's, you know, it's pretty, pretty harsh. But Wells Fargo for a period of time was quite, I mean, involved in nothing less than criminal activity period. Now, their response to their it's not bad behavior. This is criminal, criminal. And their response largely has been oops, you know, we're sorry, we fix it. Well, you know, Andy, if you were in a supermarket parking lot today, and I unintentionally banged your car with a shopping car, right? And they created a dent in your car. And it came up to you and I say oh, gee, I'm terribly sorry, my friend. It's been a hard day for me. I have a headache. My kids have been sick. And I'm real sorry. I think you would say to me, Well, I appreciate your apology very much, but you're gonna have to pay for the debt. And that's where I think, well, where Wells Fargo has failed so miserably. It's been window dressing, their behavior was criminal. And they haven't responded as well as they could or should, frankly. Now, the United States Post Office. I live in Los Angeles, California, Andy, and my bookkeeper mailed to me a check recently, from a suburb area of Los Angeles called Malibu. Now from the suburb of Malibu, to where I received my mail in Los Angeles. That drive is about an hour by car. something in that range might be 45 minutes, but about an hour, I would say. That piece of mail took eight days. 12345678 8 days United States Post Office. Now, certainly we understand that maybe during during this terrible pandemic, that things have slowed down a bit. Maybe normally it should have taken one day or perhaps two and it would be acceptable perhaps for it to take even three or four today. But eight, eight. And again, you want to have some fun go on YouTube and watch him the UPS United Postal Service TV commercials. It's hilarious. What was the last one dear friend?


Andy Splichal  25:43  

United Airlines


Michael Levine  25:45  

Oh my god. Well I don't have to tell you anyone who has ever flown on an airline, a domestic American airline and coach, or, or even first class or business for that matter. But coach particularly, we're about 85% of airline passengers fly in coach. I mean, it starts with the seat. I mean, it What can one say? It is as if the the airline had intentionally decided to make the experience as miserable as possible.


Andy Splichal  26:23  

So how did I mean you know flying we all can agree is not usually a great experience? But how did United and The Friendly Skies able to separate themselves into the broken windows?


Michael Levine  26:36  

Because they're because they're their disconnection between what they proclaim Friendly Skies. And how they treat customers. They're on top there on time record is deplorable, their services non existent. Have you ever tried calling tried calling United Airlines for fun? Give it a try. You you will. It's not fun. So there are many airlines that are horrible in in customer service area, but United is just I thought I would pay a special salute to United for their just deplorable record.


Andy Splichal  27:20  

So thanks for sharing your list. Now I would want to ask we got this list. But more importantly, for a business owner for though, how do they uncover broken windows in their own business? What's the best way to do that?


Michael Levine  27:36  

Mystery shop is a good way. But do it yourself. Let's say you own a business. Let's pretend right? And you have 10 employees. Go outside your office. Maybe take another person's phone if you choose to call your office and see what the experience is like. Pretend to be a customer put yourself in your customers shoes. Also, if you've had a complaining customer for any reason. Don't run from them. Pull them closer to you. Ask them what is it? Tell Tell me more. What? What was your experience? How did that make you feel? Don't Don't hang up the phone and say I'm sorry, say tell me more. Invite them to maybe mystery shop your business and learn from the negative. Never let a crisis go to waste. Never let a bad experience go to waste those complaining customers can be your best allies strangely, interestingly. And also inventory. How, listen, if I call a business today, on a Tuesday, Tuesday at noon, and Wednesday, at 4:30 in the afternoon, I get an email response that's a broken window bro. Now if you're not smart enough to figure that out, to understand what I just said is a broken window, then you're probably not smart enough to be in business in the first place. If you think that responding to a telephone call at 12 noon on Tuesday with an email at 4:30 on Wednesday is acceptable. You're probably not bright enough to run a business in the first place.


Andy Splichal  29:56  

You know I love that tempt turning complaining customer into assets. I think that's allies. That's great. And another thing


Michael Levine  30:05  

It's hard to do, it's hard and it's humbling. But that's cool. 


Andy Splichal  30:09  

And mystery shopping, I believe, you know, especially nowadays, where there's so much ecommerce, I'm always telling my private clients, place orders on your website, do it on desktop, do it on mobile. And if you're not doing it, you should be doing it at least a couple times a week, because that would be a great way, especially for my Ecommerce listeners to uncover broken the windows.


Michael Levine  30:28  

And have your relatives do it. 


Andy Splichal  30:32  

Yeah, no, absolutely. 


Michael Levine  30:33  

Your cousin, and you're older aunt have your older aunt do it don't have a teenager, do it. Have your 71 year old older and try to do it. That's really smart, Andy.


Andy Splichal  30:49  

So let me ask another question. So do you ever get to a point where there's so many broken windows in your business, you should say, let's just scrap this and start again?


Michael Levine  30:59  

Maybe that's for, see, I'm not, I'm not arrogant enough to tell you what is repairable and not most things are repairable with the enough effort. By the way, let me talk about the first rules success in broken windows, listen carefully dear Andy and listeners. The number one rule in repairing broken windows is attendance. What does that mean? Dear friends, the reason that the bathrooms and the outer area of McDonald's are so deplorable. Is because the owner isn't there. The owner thinks that he or she doesn't need to show up. Because he's the owner. He has a manager for that. And then the manager is there. Monday through Friday, nine to five, well, what if you go into McDonald's at six o'clock at night, who's there then you gotta show up, you got to look you got to see gotta be part of the experience. If you own a business, the first rule of success and repairing broken windows is attendance.


Andy Splichal  32:21  

So my last question for you, Michael, before we wrap it up. There's an old adage that says no press is bad press. Should these companies be thanking you today?


Michael Levine  32:34  

In certain strange ways, I think each of the 10 businesses that we've reviewed today should be I should be added to their board of directors in certain strange way. Not that I want to be. But I think that if they were as committed to repairing these, they would find this conversation of immense value. And they they owe me and the consumers who have joined me in this movement. It's a movement. We're not going to do it anymore. We've had it. What was it in that movie Network? 


Andy Splichal  33:13  

Network. Yeah, yeah, we're, we're mad as hell. And we're not going to take it anymore.We're mad as hell, we're not going to take it anymore. I'm going to ask each of the people listening to this broadcast mentally to repair theirs. They should they should if they want to succeed, but also, in your daily decisions, consumer purchases, knock it off. I'm done. I'm done. If you can't do better than that, go to hell.


So your books, including Broken Windows, Broken Business are available on Amazon? How else can how else can interested listeners,


Michael Levine  33:47  

Let me  make a reference. On Amazon, there is a new edition of the book that just came out right with a totally revised, so make sure and get that new 2021 edition, not the older edition book initially came out I think in 2006.


Andy Splichal  34:08  

You know, they're both very good. Maybe a listener wants both.


Michael Levine  34:11  

But I want you to get the new one, the revised one because that's where I think we talk a lot about what's going on in modern life today.


Andy Splichal  34:21  

So beyond the books, is there any other ways that our interested listener can learn more about you?


Michael Levine  34:26  

Well, of course we have a website michaellevinemedia which if you choose you can review and and I would be flattered by that. And also you know, I think I've been told that if you go on YouTube and you type in Michael Levine success speech. There are several pretty good videos up there at least once more worth checking out. But I think the Broken Windows Theory of Business paying attention to little details making treating customers As if they're friends, treating customers as if they're friends could well be a very valuable tool particularly in this age of automation. 


Andy Splichal  35:11  

Well, this has been fantastic. Thank you for joining us. Is there any final parting words before we wrap it up today?


Michael Levine  35:19  

Well maybe we can end this way. Ladies and gentlemen friends brothers and sisters children of the night, in the end in the end life provide you with the stark choice you can either do the difficult or endure the difficult dear friends discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tongs, get to work, make your business great. Make your life great. And Andy, I just I commend you for this valuable podcasts you do some great work for your customers but I think this podcast opens up dialogue that might not normally be present. So congratulations, well done.


Andy Splichal  36:19  

Great. Well thank you once again for joining us Michael. For listeners, remember if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcasts, leave us an honest review. And if you're looking for more information regarding Michael or his books, including Broken Windows,  Broken Business, How Small Remedies Reap Big Rewards, you will find the links in the show notes below. In addition, if you're looking for more information on growing your business, check out our all new Podcasts Resource Center available at We've compiled all past guests by show topic and include each of their contact information in case you would like any information on services they offer. That's it for today. Remember to stay safe, keep healthy and happy marketing and I will talk to you in the next episode.