Archive for the ‘Responsiveness’ Category

Service of Making it Hard to Pay a Compliment

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Kudos

According to an article in Bulldog Reporter, 71 percent of office workers in a survey responded that they “are likely to contact a company with feedback after a good customer experience.” [I realize that the operative word is likely.] Nevertheless, I do this in 98 percent of instances. But sometimes a company makes this hard to do.

If you’re a Verizon customer you may notice the company doesn’t provide a contact phone number [!] on its website and if it does, I couldn’t find it. A Google search didn’t help either. It turned out I had one in my phone’s address book. So here’s my story.

buzzing on phone lineOur house is on a country road that isn’t a profitable place for Verizon’s landline business so maintenance isn’t a priority. [Verizon mobile phones don’t work there at all.] The buzzing on our landline recently became overwhelming so I finally called for service. Someone came a few days later and when he left, we could no longer receive calls which we learned the next day—Saturday–when I looked at my mobile in a place it did work and saw texts and emails from folks who had tried to call.

Long story short, the dispatcher sent someone else immediately, and he was wonderful. After tracking down and fixing the reason we no longer could receive calls he said that the buzzing on our line was still unacceptable and he wanted to fix it. [If he thought the improvement was bad, he should have heard the deafening noise before.] He drove down the road and worked his magic on a pole high in the sky and our line is clearer now than it has been in many years.

telephone repair on poleI wanted to send an enthusiastic note to his supervisor or department head and while he shared his first name and employee number, he didn’t know who that would be. [He probably isn’t allowed to give it out.] When I called the dispatcher she had to ask her supervisor and eventually she gave me a general phone number where I left my message that I fear won’t be heard or reach his file to do him any good.

Have you ever run into such a situation? I wonder why a company doesn’t want to hear about exemplary employees in a way that can do their staffers some good by easily adding a kudos to their files.

 Dont want to hear

Service of Unexpected Outcomes: Shout-out to Chase Bank & Morton Williams & a Dud

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Surprise

There’s a surprise associated with an unexpected outcome, mostly happy, but not always.

Juicy

I am grateful when a grocery store cashier gives me the discount Morton Williams logowhen I buy only one in a promotion offering a fantastic price if I buy two. It happened when I bought a giant Tropicana OJ at Morton Williams this week. I didn’t want, nor could I use, two. Her decision put me in a good mood and the store on my “I’ll be back” list.

Check it out

I put a stop-payment on a check when I learned that a hefty May payment never arrived. The USPS let me down. I went nuts. When I arrived at Chase Bank in Pleasant Valley, N.Y. the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I was rattled. I saw my stellar credit rating going up in smoke.

Chase Bank LogoStacia Zimmerman, bank manager, greeted me pleasantly and was sympathetic. She made a copy of the new check and late notice for my records and gave me an extra copy of the stop-payment confirmation to include with the check. She even gave me an envelope so I could go immediately to the nearby post office to zip the replacement check by Priority Mail! To my astonishment, she waived the $30 stop payment fee as well.

I also noticed that Ms. Zimmerman called almost every person who entered the bank by name. She merged a charming, small town feeling with the benefits of a very big bank.

Dining Disaster

Bad restaurant serviceThen there was the dinner that we’d happily anticipated at a restaurant we’d visited for brunch and lunch, marveling at the food and cheery service. When we arrived the place looked fairly full but not jammed, however there were only two waitresses in view. We were seated  promptly by a pleasant server—the older of the two–and then ignored. We waited and waited. Eventually, after perhaps half an hour, the other waitress took our order. Then we waited again.

An hour after we had arrived, having asked three times for two glasses of white wine, only one arrived half full in a diminutive Champagne glass and the second, 10 minutes later. Meanwhile, staff was handing out beer and wine to those waiting for a table.

Did I mention that the AC wasn’t on and it was 80+ degrees outside? People tend to eat–and order more–when not roasting.

Our main course and one of two appetizers arrived together half an hour after the wine. They tasted fine, but still. We never saw the bread; no spoon came to capture the sauce in one dish. We’d given up by then.

The course we didn’t get remained on the check. My husband had to send it back a second time so the tax reflected the reduced total. He’s a generous man, but he was irritated.

At the next table when food arrived for a graduate and five celebrants, there was nothing for one in that party. She slapped her head in exasperation. Once they’d eaten the grandmother said, “The food was good but the management severely lacking.”

What had happened? The restaurant didn’t realize that it was graduation weekend for a local college, [a waitress admitted], and wasn’t prepared. By not turning away the unexpected  customers to handle only the number they could manage, they ruined the evening for everyone.

Can you share unexpected outcomes, both good and bad? What else might the restaurant have done to salvage its disaster?

Bad restaurant service 2

Service of Responsiveness

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Speed of light

I’m all for acknowledging a client or colleague’s query with lightning speed if possible.  

I’m in a business that involves juggling so adding to communication the high velocity component that emails and texts do wasn’t as hard for me as it might be for, say, civil servants or postal workers with unmotivated managers.

bananaSplitBut there are limits. I have two friends whose boss—or bosses’ boss–have unrealistic expectations regarding responsiveness. Neither saves lives nor does their work involve hospitals, tow trucking, the fire or police department.

Apart from the fabricated stress they feel because they are expected to reply in split-seconds, they love their jobs. They are on tenterhooks long into the night 24/7 waiting for urgent emails or texts that demand information immediately.

In all cases they shared with me their responses could have waited until morning. Sometimes a question involved the input of a vendor available during daylight to early evening hours so there was no choice but to wait.

One boss, in a job with one deadline a year, makes herself feel important by creating false ones the rest of the time. The other doesn’t sleep much—three or four hours–and with nobody to speak with at home late at night he launches questions about facts or requests for additional analysis that his direct report would forward to my friend who is responsible for the nitty-gritty.

responding on smartphoneThe first friend has already changed jobs and the second is looking to do so.

This is why a paragraph in the middle of Michael M. Grynbaum and David W. Chen’s article, “Offstage, Quinn Isn’t Afraid to Let Fury Fly,” in The New York Times caught my eye. The Quinn in question is NYC mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, currently speaker of the New York City Council.

The reporters wrote: “Ms. Quinn’s aggressive style extends to private sessions with her staff, with whom she can be demanding. Her aides operate under a Quinn-imposed “15-minute rule”: e-mails or text messages from the speaker must be acknowledged within a quarter of an hour, or there will be consequences.”

urgentI cannot imagine that every thought that comes to Quinn’s head is crucial, urgent, pressing and vital. Can she prioritize? This is a crucial quality for a mayor. What’s the turnover on her staff that’s worn down unnecessarily? A consistent lineup of nubies doesn’t enhance performance in either an administration or department. If the staff is racing at a hysterical pace day-to-day, it can’t summon the energy to rise to a real emergency. Until I read this about her, Quinn was a top contender for my vote.

I am not impressed. People who work scared or feel used can’t do their best. Do you agree?

exhausted employee

Service of Response

Monday, June 11th, 2012

fashion-students

I’m so grateful to readers of this blog who respond to my posts. It’s quite remarkable, especially when you consider the many instances of people whose job it is to take action or in whose best interest it is to reply–yet they don’t.

I asked Erin Berkery-Rovner, senior career advisor at Parsons the New School of Design, how she inspires students to respond. “Sometimes we scare them,” she advised. “Let them think that there are dire consequences if they don’t.”

studentfacebookShe observed that students don’t regularly check emails or the Internet, so she resorts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and traditional posters along with emails and frequent website updates to reach them.

She noted that the readers of this blog might have confronted other roadblocks to communicating with students. When she was in grad school, some of her classmates confronted their social media addictions by using smartphone applications [apps] that disable all Internet connections for a period of time. “They lock themselves out so they can concentrate on work and not be distracted by beeps signaling a text or Tweet to read and respond to,” she said.

Even so, when she would like or requires responses, she takes action when she hears crickets. For example, she asks the students which companies they would like her to invite to Parson’s annual Career Day where they and the fashion companies explore internship possibilities and candidates, respectively. Parsons is considered by some-such as Eric Wilson of The New York Times-as “the premier design school for fashion in the United States,” referring to the perception of Seventh Avenue designers and European luxury conglomerates.

So if she doesn’t get a healthy response, she tells the students that they can’t be upset with the companies that participate in Career Day–“I warn them that I’ve asked who they wanted me to invite, and I sent out invitations based on feedback.”

womanmegaphoneStudents aren’t the only unresponsive people Berkery-Rovner deals with. She needs intern evaluations at the end of a semester and some company contacts neither send them nor react to three emails and two phone calls. “As a last resort, we send an email to the students with a subject line, ‘Possible incomplete on your internship.’ When we enroll students in this way,” she admits, “it works.”

When I request information from a group I try to make responses easy by giving them options in a mini survey. They can click “send” after noting “Answer B.” Most often, they add comments. At the least, I get enough responses to feel an accurate pulse.

What tips can you share to encourage people to respond to queries, surveys, emails and phone calls? We all know individuals who hide behind voicemail and are unresponsive to letters and emails no matter what, but as a whole, are people more unresponsive these days and if so, why?

pleaserespond

Service of The Only Show in Town

Monday, March 19th, 2012

fingerprint1

When Greg Smith left a much talked-about billet doux on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” he set off enough tongue wagging that Mayor Bloomberg dashed to the banking institution to give management a supportive hug.

I read and heard some of the conversation.  Take-aways: The company was always known for making money and had no reputation for treating its customers either with kid gloves or kindly. Further, as they are currently about the only investment banking company left standing, companies that need their services don’t have a choice.

flashlight-in-darkI thought of this when a client described his experience at a well known convention center, [not in NYC], where there is only one choice of vendor if you want to light your exhibition booth-an essential for visitors to see what you’re selling.

At some trade shows or art, craft and other events open to the public at convention centers, lighting is part of the exhibit space package, but not at this one.

My client followed the procedure and placed his order by fax, before the deadline. It was worth it: After the deadline, the price for the lighting would increase almost 60 percent.

On the second day of the show, he arrived five minutes before the doors opened as his exhibit was set up. He found a letter from the electric vendor in his booth. It noted that since he hadn’t placed an order, if he didn’t pay for the electricity at the show office immediately, they would turn off his lights.

fax-with-copyWith no minutes to spare before crowds swooped down the aisles, he dashed over and explained to two young men at this vendor’s desk that he had sent a fax with his order-even kept a confirmation that the fax went through. They replied, “That doesn’t mean it went through.”

He said he’d pay but as he’d placed the order before the deadline, he’d appreciate the pre-show price. Not possible. One replied, “It’s not up to me.” Client: “So who is it up to?” Answer: “It’s up to the fax machine.”

The young men went on to say that the instructions stated he should receive an email confirmation. There was no such info on the fax sheet-my client checked on his return to his workshop office–though he admitted it might have been in the online instructions.

“They weren’t aggressively rude,” he noted. “However, they didn’t get it and they didn’t care. They probably know that they are the only show in town.”

My client is a successful businessman and entrepreneur-which describes many of the hundreds of exhibitors at this event and thousands if you count all the others. He is so busy filling orders–and does most everything himself–that he hasn’t had time to lodge an official complaint to the vendor and the show management–yet another dynamic that this vendor and others like it count on. [Perhaps he’ll copy this post and fax it in with a note: “She is writing about YOU,” and that he tells them they are lucky because the blog’s policy is not to bash a brand unless it is in the news.]

This is my prediction: Goldman Sachs and this event’s lighting vendor had best watch their backs. Regardless of unpromising odds, I bet that an enterprising person with a better mousetrap and attitude, such as Fredrick W. Smith who founded Federal Express in 1971, will slip in and knock out Goldman Sachs, this lighting vendor and countless others. Who would have thought, some 41 years ago, that the United States Postal Service would have competitors such as FedEx and the Internet?

Do you know of other companies or services that are the only shows in town that don’t fight to maintain their positions, they smugly take advantage of it? How about those that honor their spot and try to do everything right?

 no-competition

Service of Matching a Person to the Job

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

job-interview

In a response to a previous post, Mervyn Kaufman explained inadequate service by retail staff by pointing to lack of motivation, inexperience, poor pay and/or little to no training. He especially resents  it when sales associates don’t know their inventory. Mervyn also blamed a store’s cynical management that believes it can get away with such poor performance and maintain business levels. I agree with him.

Short of asking each person who provides lackluster/inadequate service at retail or in a service job or restaurant, it’s impossible to know all the reasons. In some cases the reason is as simple as the wrong person has the job.

office-lobby-reception1In the New York Times “Social Q’s” column, columnist Philip Galanes advised a Houston man who staffs the desk in the lobby of a big building. The receptionist, Joseph Z, told Galanes that it was exhausting when he had to smile, nod or wave back each time someone who’d just passed his desk did so again within minutes. “I’m sure it’s annoying to be cheery all day, but short of a large ‘One per Customer’ plaque, I’m afraid that smile fatigue is simply a peril of your profession,” wrote Galanes. I asked the guard/door person in the lobby of my office building whether it annoys him when people say “hi,” “bye,” wave or smile at him even if it happens within minutes. He said he liked it. I think that Galanes might have told “Joseph Z. in Houston” to get a job better suited to his personality. Maybe he could ask for the night shift.

In another instance, I dropped by a high-end deli near my office to buy a pound of ham. I wanted it cut very thick and held up two fingers, at least a quarter inch apart, to illustrate just how thick. The ham here is baked with bone in and is unrelated to the lumps of pressed meat you see at many delis.  My heart sank when the counterman turned in my direction to weigh a pile of very thin slices. He’d used the slicing machine, not a knife. Did he hear me? Did he understand English? Listening carefully and giving customers just what they ask for determines the success of a place that sells special things and charges appropriately-i.e. plenty–for them. Did the manager check for this trait when he hired the guy, even if he’d had umpteen years experience at a supermarket deli counter?

turkish-food1New York has great ethnic restaurants and many are value priced. I’ve noticed no relationship between the level of service and the price. I’ve enjoyed the most elegant and cheerful dinner service where grilled chicken shish kebab served with rice costs $12. Imagine being a waiter here, standing and walking all day long with enough energy at night to be pleasant when tips, based on a negligible total, won’t stretch far?

Can you think of instances where a person’s personality, rather than or in addition to skill, determines their success or failure at a job?

good-personality

Service of Duh

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

duh2

I was surprised by the glitch in the planning of the President’s speech before the joint session of Congress tonight. When planning an event for a client, I check industry calendars and place a call to a trade editor or two to see if he/she knows of potential conflicts for a date in question. I can’t believe that the White House staff didn’t do such elementary research. Duh number one.

calendarOK, so they didn’t. I am equally surprised and disappointed that there is so little respect for the office of President that the Republican debate organizers didn’t defer and select another date. This isn’t a duh moment as much as a worrisome attitude for a country with huge problems to solve.  And everyone’s watching: Duh!

The cat’s out of the bag given our slip in a World Economic Forum listing. In 2008 we were first, Mathew Saltmarsh reported in “U.S. Slips to Fifth Place On Competitiveness List.” He wrote in The New York Times: “The weaker performance was attributed to economic vulnerabilities as well as ‘some aspects of the United States’ institutional environment,’ notably low public trust in politicians and concerns about government inefficiency.” Would you invest in a corporation with warring factions? Another duh: Why should people want to invest in this country if our leaders can’t even be cordial and cooperative about a date?

electricity1On another subject, some of the electric companies in the NY Metro area after Hurricane/tropical storm Irene–in Long Island and Connecticut especially–got a zero grade in both customer service and PR. Caroline Gatto commented about her friend and relatives’ frustrating experiences in these states in the “Service of Silver Linings” post. Some customers, sitting in houses without electricity for five and six days, couldn’t get through to their supplier on the phone. Others were unable to speak with a person. Routinely people in suburbs and exurbs lose electricity whether from weather or blackout. An effective crisis plan for an electric company to communicate with customers in such instances is elementary. Not having one is a duh.

In fact, all these examples illustrate disrespect: White House staff for anyone else, John Boehnor & Co. for the office of President and the electric companies for their customers.

Do you see a relationship between duh-like work and behavior and disrespect? Any duh situations you’ve noticed lately or that are memorable?

 disrespect

Service of Taxis

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

taxis

There were 7,700 complaints about taxi drivers in NYC, February-February 2010-2011, according to Andrew Grossman. In his Wall Street Journal article “Many Taxi Complaints, Little Action,” he noted that these reports of dangerous or discourteous behavior resulted in hearings for 11 percent of the drivers, according to Taxi & Limousine Commission statistics.

I’m also sure that the 7,700 complaints are only a fraction of the number of complaints that there might be. On the way in to work today I was almost run over by a taxi driven by a man who wanted to make the turn onto 42nd Street at Second Avenue when he was ready to, whether or not there were pedestrians crossing at the light. It happened so fast I didn’t get his license.

mail-a-letterGrossman also reported that after making the complaint, few bothered to take the next step to get the hearing process rolling, which was to send back to the city a letter that the city had sent them. Whew! What effort! An onerous time-killer.

Most city people or frequent travelers to cities have at least one memorable taxi story, their own or a friend’s.

A client told of a hair-raising drive to a NYC airport even though he had plenty of time and told this to the driver. He pleaded with him to slow down. Driver didn’t listen.

My parents found themselves face on with a taxi in a two lane, two-way NYC tunnel. He was passing another car and he ignored the “no passing” signs and double yellow line.

A colleague told of a nut driver who swore nonstop after she entered the car, using increasingly foul language. She scrambled out and tossed money at him when she could safely exit.

speeding-taxiI saw a driver, enraged from having to stand in traffic, dash off at such a rate his wheels jumped on the sidewalk at a crosswalk barely missing people waiting there for the light to change. His passenger must have had an anxious ride. Nobody on the street had time to note his license number because they were jumping out of his way.

Given the potential harm to others–Grossman described additional complaints such as “drivers offering marijuana and whiskey and pulling away before riders get both legs out of the car,” as well as one medallion with eight passenger complaints because the driver appeared to be sleeping or not fully alert–don’t we owe it to fellow pedestrians and passengers alike to follow up on such behavior?

What’s the cause of this passenger passivity: Lack of time? Ennui? Fear of retribution? Dread of causing someone to lose his/her job? Do you have a taxi story–good or bad?

no-time1

Service of Reaching Out to Opponents

Monday, May 9th, 2011

handshake

I’ve written before about going to an all-girls school for 12 years at which along with academics, athletics was a big deal. The school had two teams: Each child was made either a “red” or a “white.” We spent hours honing our basketball, volleyball, badminton, running and hockey skills, and before each game, we’d also practice a cheer which lauded the other team. So if you were a white, you’d end a clever ditty with a hearty “Go reds!”

Granted this was an extreme and the opposite of today’s fashion in politics and business to mash, crush, pulverize, obliterate, bankrupt, belittle or embarrass your opponent and for goodness sakes, never be caught on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, email, TV, radio or in public writing or saying something positive about your adversary or competitor.

presidentonphone1This is why I was thrilled and proud to hear that one of the first people President Obama told about bin Laden’s death was President George W. Bush and that he invited President Bush to join him at Ground Zero. I was equally delighted and proud when I heard conservative talk show hosts lauding President Obama for his bravery in signing the go-ahead. They acknowledged that he’d have suffered tremendous setbacks had the Navy SEALs failed in their mission.

Instead of bashing each other we should recognize and rejoice in this model by extending a hand, including those in congress and on corporate boardrooms and Wall Street.

In this mature atmosphere, extremists appear jarring and discordant, like a wedding guest passing out discount divorce coupons at the reception. Countless callers to radio programs ranted about President Obama’s fake birth certificate even after he’d provided long form proof. The same ones are now railing about where bin Laden was buried, how the attack was flawed, all the while missing the point that the murderer is out of the way. Enough already.

Do you think cooperation and mutual respect at high levels can happen again and continue? Is a moderate, supportive America in the cards?

 cooperation

Service of Excessive Choice

Monday, April 18th, 2011

choice

You can’t be too rich or too thin said Wallis Simpson and I agree with her except when someone is too thin because they are sick or overstressed.

I don’t always welcome excess especially when it comes to  choice. Even when I feel flush I don’t like humongous menus with a million choices. How can all this stuff be fresh? I am never distracted by the endless list of options when I have a yen for a toasted poppy seed bagel and coffee.

bad-gradesReviewers gave Research in Motion, the BlackBerry folks, bad marks last week for their new tablet. A big complaint: RIM’s tablet has only 3,000 apps when others, such as Apple’s iPad, provide 300,000. I can imagine the disappointment and inconvenience when just the programs you want to download aren’t available on the tablet you just bought, but does everyone really need hundreds of thousands of choices? The coverage I read in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post didn’t note that RIM selected to partner with the 3,000 best apps in the world, which would have been a smart thing to do, to counteract the opinion that  “more is always best.” Is much, much more always better?

I knew a wife who sounded like the waiter at a sandwich counter when asking her incommunicative husband what he wanted for lunch. She’d list a zillion combinations of cheese and cold cuts including a range of condiments. That extreme may have kept their marriage intact, who knows?

When I shop for a skirt, shirt, dress, shoes or a gift-and I love to shop-I stop when I find what I want. Do I need to see 10? 50? 1,000? I guess 20 options of style and color would be perfect. Must I check all the rest or continue shopping once I’ve found IT? No: Who has time?

When is a ton of choice ideal and when excessive?

choice2

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