One Big Thing for 2015

A new year is on its way and that means resolutions and goals are being set ad nauseum.

I’ve never been good at this stuff.  I am like so many in that I set too many and then give up on most.  When it’s all said and done, I look back and I haven’t really made a concerted effort all year on any of the resolutions I’ve set.

Well, this year I am proposing that instead of making several resolutions, you make one, just one.  And you can start the process by answering this big question, “What one thing can you do this year that would have the biggest positive impact on your life, friends, coworkers and family?”  Ask it, answer it, write it down, hang it up somewhere that you’ll see it every day and get to work.  Find your one big thing and make a difference in 2015.

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Do it because you want to

Tomorrow’s the big day.  For those of us that celebrate Christmas anyway.

I was thrown into a quandary this year as I thought about gift giving.  I began to think about why we do it.  I began to think about whether I was doing it because it was expected or because I really wanted to share something of value that expressed my gratefulness for the other person being part of my life.  I became haunted by, “Is it because I want to or because I have to?”

The answer changed my plans.  I decided on not buying a lot of stuff.  Rather, I bought a few things that I thought people would really value.  Some were no more than a gift card to a place they like to eat, another was some earrings I made (I do that as a hobby of sorts).

It ended up being an important part of my holiday experience.  Think about it, do you give because you want to or because you have to?  The answer here can make a big difference both at Christmas and, more importantly, over the rest of the year.

Make a resolution for 2015 to begin doing for others because you want to rather than just because you have to.  This applies to work and home.

And I say this because I really want to… Have a happy and blessed holiday!

Caring

About a month ago, I needed to make a change to one of my frequent flyer accounts.  When I inquired at the ticket counter, I was told it could not be done locally and I would have to write a letter and jump through a few hoops.

Well, as things go, I put it off for a variety of other more pressing things.  However, as I was in another airport recently and needed something else done, I made mention of my frequent flyer issue.  The Customer Service agent, Martha, told me she could easily do this and take care of all of my needs in one fell swoop.  Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to get something off of my to-do plate.

The reason I am bringing this up is because I am interested in getting an answer to the following question, “What makes some people care and be willing to sacrifice, and why is it others don’t care and are not freely willing to sacrifice?”  It seems to me that if we could crack this nut, we would reach the Holy Grail of service.

Is it a motivational thing, is it genes, is it upbringing, what causes some people to care, to want to serve?

I don’t know the answer.  I only know why I care.  I care because I want to see others happy; I want others to feel and be successful.

Now, before you start thinking that I am going to begin talking about unicorns and rainbows, fear not.  I am only getting at what I believe is the true answer to serving others whether they are customers or fellow team members of even family. It’s all about care.  It’s all about compassion and a willingness to sacrifice for someone else, and the sacrifice doesn’t have to be huge, it can be a sacrifice of a little time or a little bit of extra effort.  Regardless of the size of the sacrifice, it’s the willingness that matters.

Care, concern, wanting to help others and solve their problems or make their life easier, this is truly what it means to serve.  Do you care?  Are you willing to sacrifice?  If you’re not, your employees, your children, and maybe your friends will be less inclined to do so.  We all lead this effort; we all have a chance to make caring a way of life.

We Care About You

I recently went to one of the big office supply stores to get some things printed and copied.  When I approached the counter I was met with, “How may I help you?” coming from a young lady at a computer station a good 6 to 8 feet away.  I said yes and waited for her to come to the counter.  She looked up and said it again, “How may I help you?”  So I said yes and she said to go ahead and tell her what I needed.  The problem was that she then looked back down at her computer to do other things while I talked.  I immediately stopped speaking and she looked up and said she was listening.  I responded that I would be glad to share my needs if she would look at me and pay attention.  You can imagine how well she took that.  Anyway, she proceeded to look at me while I went through the details of my printing.  She asked me when I needed it and I told her I needed it all in a couple of hours.  She then told me quite directly that she couldn’t get it done until the following day.  With that I left.

I then drove down to a FedEx Office store that is a bit farther away.  I went in and was greeted by two – yes, two – people who enquired as to my needs, looked at me while I talked and when I told them I needed it quickly, said they too were backed up, however, unlike the first experience, they gave me an option to do it myself so I could get it done in time.  I said yes to that option and one of the young ladies followed me to a machine and walked me through the entire process and stayed until I proved to her that I could do it.

Now, contrast these two experiences.  In the first, I was met with someone who just didn’t care.  What they had to do outweighed what I (the customer) needed.  Simply put, it was about them not me.

In the second, it was about me (the customer) and my needs first not about what they needed to get done.

This brings up a whole variety of questions, the least of which might include, how do we get employees to care, how do we get them to see that people are more important than the tasks they need to perform?

There are many parts to this answer but I think it begins with the leaders of the organization.  What mission is being communicated?  Is it all about getting the work done and making money or is it about ensuring that customers are successful?  What the leaders of the organization communicate as most important is what employees will act on.  If it’s all about the bottom line, then your customers will be left out and eventually, will go looking for someone who cares… about them.

If you consider my experience as a microcosm of this principle, it becomes clear.  I was treated with a lack of concern with me so I left and so did my $100 of revenue.  I then found someone else who I perceived to care about me more and they made the money.

If you want a healthy bottom line, it’s time to reconsider your prime mission.  It’s time that you find or refocus on a mission that rises to a higher level, a level that is about serving others first and you second both inside and outside the organization.

10 Things to Ensure Great Service

Last week, we in the USA experienced that great holiday of shopaholics, Black Friday.  This is the day when crazed shoppers fight and scrap for the best deals on gifts for the holiday season.  On this day, service often takes a back seat to simply keeping up and the mayhem often makes businesses and their employees forget the principles that make for good service.  Well, here are ten things (there are more but I went with ten) in no particular order that may make your service better over the holiday season and hopefully in the longer term.

  1. Get congruent. What customers see is what they believe, however, it may not be what you want them to believe. Make sure the messages that are telegraphed by your workplace, advertising, etc. are matched by your actions, words and policies.
  2. Maintain a good reputation. When customers are unhappy, they complain to friends, relatives, and the world on the internet. Your reputation is only as good as every one of your customers’ experiences. Every employee should understand this whether they touch customers or not.
  3. Empower your people. Employees must be trained and allowed to make decisions on their own to help a customer without talking to “the boss.” The “boss” should be a last recourse for dire cases. 
  4. Listen to your customers. Give customers some way to voice their thoughts about your business. Take the time to hear or read their comments carefully, and, whether you like it or not, pay serious attention and take action. 
  5. Give your employees a break.Be sure to have a space where employees can kick and scream out of sight of your customers. Dealing with people can be frustrating, and when we’re frustrated, we often do and say things we shouldn’t.  A place to vent can keep unfortunate events from happening. 
  6. Admit your mistakes. Every person and company makes mistakes. Admit them, apologize, and make amends even if it costs you.  Believe me the short-term cost will be better than the long-term, negative word-of-mouth.
  7. Keep your promises. If you make a promise, make sure it is kept and that you follow through to completion. Even if you made an error and promised too much, keep the promise.  The story of greatness will be worth more than what you lost. 
  8. Acknowledge great performance.If a customer can recognize an employee, so can you. Give public kudos to your great performers, particularly if a customer told you so.  It is good for them and good for you.  What you’re really doing is endorsing that employee’s performance as the example that everyone else will want to emulate. 
  9. Adapt. Every one of us is different. Don’t go with scripted, generic service.  Treat every customer as unique.  Learn who they are and take time with them.  Customers are people, not transactions. 
  10. Protect the people who keep you in business. Having fine print that the customer should have read to avoid some calamity is simply unfair play.  As a business person, you should be there to protect your customers not find ways to hurt them with hidden policies, charges or legal mumbo jumbo.  Be straightforward and transparent. What customers see should be what they should expect to get.