Archive for the ‘Follow-Up’ Category

Service of Follow-Ups and Reminders

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

I believe in following up and in reminders. The day before a client’s scheduled interview I send an email with time, phone numbers, addresses etc. to the producer/reporter/ and the person being interviewed. If media is expected to cover an event I’ll remind them on the eve with all key information.

I appreciate USPS notices about the whereabouts of packages I’ve mailed and heads up from vendors that a package has been delivered so I know to look for a notice from the front desk at my apartment. If I’ve signed up for a remote event I love receiving the link the day of and for a zoom, Google meet or similar call, a virtual nudge 15 minutes before.

But sometimes a business overdoes it.

Before I leave one doctor’s office where I’m slated for six month checkups I make the next appointment. About a week before D-day I begin to receive an avalanche of reminders. They come by text, email and phone and each time I’m asked if I confirm the appointment which I do. Enough already!

I mostly eat at local restaurants where I drop in though recently made a reservation at a popular place that required it. I was bombarded with reminders starting a few days prior, including the morning of the dinner. The place wasn’t done with me yet. As I waited for the bus to meet my friend in came a text that said, “You have half an hour to arrive at XYZ.” I was so turned off. I didn’t appreciate the pressure and arrived in a grumpy mood.

How many reminders does a person need to get from a restaurant confirming a reservation or a doctor about an appointment? Do you appreciate getting five or six because you tend to forget?

Service of Employee Behavior: It Reflects on a Company’s or Organization’s Image

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Most organizations diligently protect their images but it’s not always clear to members or employees how important each person can be.

I was first aware of this as a young child. We wore school uniforms. Students were asked to behave  in public to reflect well on the school. “You represent us out there.” Made sense to me. [Many of us graduated from the school bus and took NYC public transportation as early as 5th grade.]

What about corporations? Just last week a friend told me that she’d had a few good job interviews via Skype with various people at a company and never received a response when she followed up with one of the staffers to see if she was still in the running. Such thoughtlessness on the part of a company’s employees reflects poorly on it.

How difficult is it for someone to draft a simple note–approved by the appropriate entities–to send any candidate the  moment they are no longer being considered for a position? It took less than one minute to write this rough draft: “Hello________. Our job search took a different direction since we spoke. We enjoyed meeting you, thank you for your time, and have kept your resume on file. We look forward to being in touch again should the right position open up. We wish you all the best.” It’s important to keep up the spirits of anyone looking for a job and to make every candidate feel good about themselves. It costs little to do and reflects well on a company if its employees show empathy.

In my line of work following up is my middle name.  I don’t expect to hear from people I pursue in my PR and fundraising efforts unless they are interested in my client’s product or event or in participating in a fundraising project. If the answer is “NO,” I am grateful to be told and think well of the person [and by extension, their company] for taking the time because they have been mindful of mine.

Are there other subtle ways that employees and students can boost—or detract—from the image of the company or organization they work for or attend? Is caring about such details passé?

Service of Taxis

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

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.

Grossman 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.

I 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?

Service of Follow-Ups II

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I like to follow up on the topics covered. I did so last on January 14.

Being a twitch, details are important to me-and to service. I covered the topic directly in Service of Details and Service of Being Detail Oriented.

Here’s the update, where someone wasn’t:

The Wall Street Journal ran a headline, “Condo is Sold, After A Decade,” in the “Greater New York” section on October 9/10. The article went on to describe the sale of an important apartment in one of the most high profile cooperatives in the city, River House. Most New Yorkers know the difference between a co-op and a condo even if they rent. What happened to the headline writer at the Journal? [Most simply, in a condo, you get a deed to your apartment; in a co-op, you own shares in a corporation and must be approved by a board. In both you pay monthly maintenance.]

Service of Ka-ching was about the cockamamie new and unimproved New York State voting system. The election is on Tuesday. Last week, The New York Post reported that the instructions tell voters to fill in the oval above the name of your choice of candidate when it should be the oval below. More “details” than “Ka-ching? Wherever it fits, it’s a disgrace.

After I wrote about the Service of Age and, among other things, discussed the riots in France where workers wanted to stop at 60, not 62, I thought “what in the Sam Hill are these people going to do for 40 years?” A fellow office tenant told me today about a marketing class she is taking at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She didn’t know about this blog or previous post when she described her wonderful professor who founded FIT’s communications and advertising department. He’s 86.

We’ve covered deception quite a few times, most recently in Service of Who are We Fooling? I thought of it when I read Katy Tomasulo’s study, “95% of Green-Marketed Products Utilize Misleading Claims,” published on ebuild. The title says it all-except the subhead and second paragraph gave me pause. The subhead: “While only 5% of the 5,300 products examined by TerraChoice were free of some form of greenwashing, the results, including in the construction sector, showed improvement over last year.” Similarly the second paragraph: “On a positive note, that 95% is an improvement over last year, in which only 2% of studied products were free of greenwashing (and only 1% in 2007).” I need to write about green products soon. I’ve been putting it off.

Any thoughts on these updates or other follow-ups to share?

Service When It’s Great

Friday, July 30th, 2010

A recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer inspired me to cover instances of great service again-it’s been a while. The Barometer reported that Americans will pay an average of nine percent more to receive quality customer service and that 61 percent noted that in this economic environment, service is more important to them.

The latter surprises me because I expect top quality service regardless of the economy, but I digress.

Happy Surprise

I was having guests on the roof of our NYC apartment and lined up some volunteers to help me install the chair cushions, stored elsewhere both to preserve them as well as to keep them from flying off and injuring someone. When I got home that day the super-and he is-told me that the cushions were already on the chairs and the tables all cleaned–a blessing on a sweltering day.

Four Star Credit Card Bill Resolution

My heart sank when I saw my credit card bill this month because it showed a finance charge and an unexpectedly large total. My habit is to pay the full amount so as to avoid both instances. I no longer get back my checks or even facsimiles, and I didn’t make a copy of the check mailed, so I figured I was up the creek. The issuer-USAA-which has never let me down, came through again. I asked the customer service rep to look at my payment history. He put me on hold and on his return didn’t question me and told me to delete the finance charge. It wasn’t  so much money, yet I was so relieved that I didn’t have to argue or speak with a thousand people.

Immaculate Delivery Follow-Up

The Wall Street Journal is delivered to the office. In the last month or so, it’s gone missing on three occasions when nobody in the building received a paper, according to the responsible man at reception. The third time it happened, I called the Journal and a copy came by messenger within an hour. I subsequently received emails from the paper and the newspaper delivery business as well as a phone call from the newspaper delivery concern’s customer service department. I was impressed at how much they wanted to keep the Journal’s and my business.

Exemplary Honesty

We totaled the car earlier this year and our trusty warhorse, with close to 135,000 miles on it, was sent to car heaven. Before it left, we visited it one last time at a garage a few towns away where someone representing the insurance company had seen it and determined that it wasn’t worth repairing. We were there to retrieve the stuff in it, though we could only open one door and the trunk. A week or so later, my husband got a letter with a $20 bill in it from what he thought was an employee of the car cemetery. The letter explained that the writer had found the bill in the car. So my husband wrote the chairman of the insurance company-USAA again-to let him know what a great supplier he had.  In return, he got two telephone calls from USAA until the rep found him in. He thanked my husband for the letter, and told him that the man who had returned his money actually worked for USAA and that he would be commended for what he’d done.

Friends Who Help

My last example is the service of friends. I was one train stop from where I get off on Friday night when my husband called to tell me he was stuck with a flat tire in a torrential storm. I reached the only car service in the vicinity and the woman explained that she couldn’t pick me up because of a fair going on in town so she couldn’t get near the station.

For years, I’d patted the cat of a couple who traveled on the same train and who got off a few stops north of mine. Their cat purred so loudly you’d hear him even if you were seated four or five rows away. People don’t generally speak with strangers on this train, but we began to chat. On hearing of my situation they immediately told me they’d drive me home. They live in the opposite direction, it was late, and their kitty gets carsick but they didn’t hesitate. I know it’s not service when friends do you a huge favor, but the feeling of gratitude is similar.

Do you have examples of great service to share?

Service of Guidelines

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Every job has guidelines. People often ignore, forget or question them but a few procedures are infallible and dangerous to disregard because of potential consequences.

Employees casually shrug off 1) good manners in communicating with office colleagues 2) a pleasant demeanor when speaking with patients and their family members in a hospital or nursing home or 3) gracious service at a spa or restaurant. You’ve heard the perpetrators claim: “Wasting time on such frills is so yesterday and I’m not paid for that, anyway.” I’m convinced that those sentiments manipulate insecure associates who don’t want to appear old fashioned–the opposite of hip–so they follow.

Nobody gets really hurt when people ignore some guidelines. Ignore others and the outcome can range from costly to horrific. A friend had to inspect every pill each nurse handed her husband while he was in the hospital because a careless one had given him a medication to which he was allergic. The warning about his allergy was clearly noted on his chart, but who looks?

Then there’s Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s downfall. For anyone dealing with the press, there is one guideline for which there are no exceptions: There is no off the record. Translation: Unless you don’t care or want it to leak out, when dealing with the media, keep your mouth shut about proprietary information or your opinion, if it doesn’t match the mission. That means not a word to your cousin, sister-in-law or some freelance writer for a publication that has nothing to do with your business–period. Why? Because the press’s guideline is the opposite: To get you to say something news, gossip or gotcha-worthy.

Some guidelines seem obvious and yet need to be spelled out: When planning a fieldtrip for children, spec out where you are going and every detail about the outing. Last week a 12 year old drowned at a beach that had no lifeguard. Two teachers from a NYC school and an intern watching 24 children by the ocean did not take the place of a lifeguard and a hidden rip current didn’t help. I’m dumbfounded that before finalizing the trip nobody called the town hall or local authorities to confirm that there was a lifeguard on duty or looked up the beach’s summer schedule on line.

Public school children aren’t the only victims. I knew a family who lost a child during an overnight at an expensive summer camp. The counselor pitched camp near a ravine and the child woke up in the middle of the night, became disoriented and fell into the canyon.

I admire the adults who take children on class trips especially in the NYC subway. I’ve seen teachers herd hoards of kids into a subway car and out at the right stop. It’s important to show the children points of interest where they live, but guidelines are essential in these instances.

What other guidelines are meant to be followed, no exception?

Service of What Were They Thinking?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Case I. A middle aged postman delivers the office mail. Although there are seven businesses here, some with several employees, we get little USPS mail. Envelopes and junk mail are usually scrunched together by several thick, tight rubber bands. One of the pieces in this particular pack was a 9×12 envelope, with cardboard to keep the contents flat. To accommodate the mailman, it was folded along with the rest of the stuff and the contents were ruined.

Case II. As a result of my stolen wallet, [reported here on January 21 in “Service of Opportunity“], I received a letter from the fraud department of one of the credit card issuers. The bank’s missive asked me to sign and return the letter. I could do it only after changing the sentence in which I was asked to swear that I had never used the credit card. Well, I had used it–until it was stolen. So I amended the letter to say I had not used it “since it was stolen on January 17.”

The letter also listed as fraudulent a charge I’d approved when reporting the theft. [This meant my taking time to warn the recipient about the situation and to ask them to let me know if the money bounced.]

The letter did not list the online purchase I was told had been made after the card was stolen. I’ve just learned that nothing was stolen. The amount quoted as spent, by the clerk to whom I reported the stolen card, was my total expenditure of the previous month.

Lastly, it became a game for me to figure out where to return the signed form. The paper was plain–no letterhead–and the address elements were sprinkled here and there over the sheet.  No return envelope came with the query.

Case III. One of this blog’s readers, graphic designer Iris Bell, sent in this malfunction. A drugstore chain in New York, Duane Reade, has a new website as part of its redesign, she noted. She wrote that she was “just told by their Customer Service department that: ‘Unfortunately, our website is not Mac-compatible.'” And Iris concluded: “Amazing. I don’t know if their site works on smartphones.”

I wonder how many slipshod moves are made because of lack of training, thinking, caring or supervision or maybe plain stupidity or boredom? Shouldn’t folly be caught by a supervisor, or have all the supervisors been fired?

Service of Opportunity

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

My wallet was lifted from my purse in a library in a bucolic upstate New York village last week. When the state trooper took down the particulars and I asked if he thought that the economy was the reason for a sudden spate of robberies in this normally crime-free town’s library, he politely and quietly said, “and opportunity.”

I use the word spate as the library director’s pocketbook was stolen from her office three days before Christmas–two similar crimes in less than a month in this library is a first.

I wasn’t home for long when I got a call from the library’s director. She apologized. Her immediate response, the phone call and her concern were a surprise to me even though I’ve lived in this town for quite a while. I was born and bred in a city where you are largely anonymous and where a lifted purse is considered no more serious in the scheme of things than a head cold.

She really made me feel better.  She mourned for the time–until now, really–where theft wasn’t an issue at her library. She said they’d have to consider installing cameras [the state trooper wished they already had them]. She repeated several times as we spoke, “We’ve been so spoiled.” She is right. And I felt spoiled that she took the time to reach out to me.

So what else did I learn as a result? So much obvious stuff–what I put in a “gosh-gee-whiz” category and others would give a great big “duh.” I nevertheless share my findings in the hopes you will never need to use any of them.

**Just because you’re not in the five boroughs of NYC doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant.  [Darn].

In an early Woody Allen play, Don’t Drink the Water, he spoofs a typical American tourist in Europe. In the opening scene, she’s ironing, with her oversized pocketbook swinging from her arm. I try not to be a city slicker in the country, but I will no longer be shy about dragging my bag with me even for the seconds it takes to cross the library from the computers to pick up a paper from the printer.

**Remember where you squirrel the sheet of paper onto which you’ve copied the fronts and backs of all your credit cards. In my panic to call the bank and credit card companies, I couldn’t find it and my bills with the numbers aren’t stored at the house.

But all you need is your social security number.

Do make the calls the second you realize what’s happened. The perpetrator had already charged up money for an online purchase.

Don’t forget to cancel the bank card you use to pull out money from ATM machines. In my case, it required speaking with a second department at the bank.

The state policeman asked for the credit card numbers and it would have been simpler had I had them on hand.

**Make a list of any entities that automatically suck money out of a credit card account. I am sure I forgot one and it’s driving me nuts.

**You can get a temporary ATM card from the bank. [I must remember to return mine and I know this only because I asked. Wonder what the fee would be if I tossed it?]

**Turns out that I must wait for 12-15 days before I get my credit cards which seems nuts to me–they have all my information and know how I pay my bills. I obviously can’t use something I don’t have–aren’t they missing business? I’m told that American Express gets you a replacement card almost overnight.

**I keep a credit card holder as well as a wallet in my purse and I should have put more in the holder–spread things around. I do this with cash and have emergency money tucked here and there. But I use my driver’s license all the time to get into office buildings in the city and all but my business credit card gravitated to my wallet: Big mistake.

**Speaking of driver’s license, while I can sign up for another one on line, it could take up to 15 days to get: Another head-scratcher. Are people supposed to hitchhike for half a month?  So I plan to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person to get a temporary one.

**Ask the police for a written record of the theft. I was told I won’t have to pay for my temporary license if I have it and you never know how else it might come in handy.

**A friend suggested I check with the local post office to see if the person had dropped the wallet in the postbox. There’s only one box in town, in front of the office. The staff looked while I was on the phone and it wasn’t there.

**Try not to think of the money lost, whether in train tickets, on a subway/bus MetroCard and in cash. It doesn’t help. I miss a shot of my Mom as a teenager stored in my wallet and other mementos. My new wallet will be streamlined.

Do you have tips to share to help smooth the mop-up of lost ID and credit cards or to prevent their theft to begin with?

Service of Follow-Ups

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Have you ever watched a movie and had to leave early–so you don’t know the ending? I like to know what happens. So here are some follow-ups to four previous posts.

Postal “Service”

Mervyn Kaufman wrote about his excruciating US post office experience in “Service of Ho Hum,” December 8, 2009. The who cares attitude he described struck us in other ways this Christmas, the first year that the postal service lost two packages-one we sent and one destined for us, mailed from the Midwest.

All we have from our lost package is the address and return address ripped from the book mailer packaging and sent us, with a printed form letter postmarked Atlanta, noting that the package had fallen apart and sorry, but the contents [wrapped gifts] were lost. The package, mailed from upstate New York, was slated for New Hampshire.

In addition, a letter with a check in it that we mailed to Brooklyn in mid-December has yet to arrive or be returned, and we hear from a friend who lives in the Midwest that she hasn’t received a bill from a credit card company for the past two months. All this happens as USPS business continues to drop off while staffing doesn’t.

Fur Flying

We left Catherine C’s story in “Service at the High End,” November 23rd, up in the air. Did the furrier find and return her lost coat? No. This is what she reported:

“I got a check from my insurance company, which will duke it out with the furrier.  I had to ask the furrier to give me a refund for the storage, cleaning, and relining of my coat (shouldn’t have had to ask), and I never got any kind of written apology.  I still believe the latter knows what happened to my coat.

“I’ve learned some things that make me question their quality and make me thankful I’m no longer dealing with that firm. I’m glad I didn’t take their offer of a more expensive coat if I paid the difference in value between the new one and my coat.

“I am in the process of having a new coat made at a furrier that was recommended by the style editor of my client, Departures magazine.  It happens to be a close friend’s furrier, too.  And I’ve triangulated and heard only good things.  This furrier stores on premises, which is good.  It’s taken me a little while to get my head around the whole idea of making a coat because there’s an element of faith involved in what it’s going to look like.  It’s starting to come together.  Wish I had it now!” [Catherine wrote this on a frigid day.]

Ring Up a Great Deal

On a cheerier note, I visited the same T-Mobile phone store that was the subject of the January 28, 2009 post, “Good Service is In the Air, Isn’t It?” Last year, I bought a cell phone with charger, earphones and 1,000 hours of service for $130–$10.83/month for 12. The purpose of the visit last week was to renew the account, which I did for $10-there were 700 phone hours left to use. This brings the monthly cost of the phone and service to $5.83-for what I hope will be 24. The charming and efficient young woman helping me had me in and out of the store in minutes.

Cup of Joe from Sam

And Sam in his coffee cart– “Coffee Service with More than a Smile,” December 15, 2009–is as welcoming as ever. His music transitioned this month from seasonal Christmas to energetic music with a Middle Eastern twist. He’s added a variety of cold cereal to his breakfast offerings and his prices remain reasonable–75 cents for a cup of coffee.

We missed him when he left a substitute coffee person to tend his cart on the southeast corner of 44th Street and Third Avenue so he could visit his family in Egypt. The substitute had no interest in any of us–didn’t bother to remember if we took sugar, skim or regular milk and could be sour and rude. He also left each day hours before Sam does.

Do us a big service: Share some follow-ups either from one of our post topics or your life.

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