Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Service of Dónde? Où? Woher? Dove? Onde? Nerede? Gdzie? Translation: Where?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

I was born in Manhattan and have lived much of my life in New York City. There are miles of neighborhoods in the five boroughs I would have trouble finding in a car, GPS or no GPS. Tell me where you want to go in Russian, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese and most languages, other than French and English, and I’m lost.

So apart from the fact that English has been the lingua franca in this country since its inception, does it make practical sense that speaking English is no longer a requirement of New York City cab drivers?

  • Should a Greek, Chinese or Arabic driver familiar with a different alphabet be asked to take a passenger to an address on Amsterdam Avenue, Broadway, Houston Street or Columbus Circle, for example, will he/she be able to read the street sign to know that they arrived?
  • What about the crucial direction in Manhattan“East” and “West?”

Should I invest in a street sign business in anticipation of a lineup of street names on every pole in the most used alphabets in addition to Roman? [I wonder if the English street name will remain at the top?]

No doubt I sound harsh but my dad came to this country in his 30s and had to learn English from scratch, which he did extremely well. He also wrote beautifully. [His charming accent was to die.] Millions of others have done the same. How many generations of newcomers were forced to learn English before they were eligible for certain jobs?

Years ago I met a laborer who lived and worked in New Jersey for 50 years and if he knew 50 English words, that was a lot. He spoke his native language with neighbors and colleagues at work and local shop owners too. But I wouldn’t recommend him for the job of taxi driver.

In order to work as a cab driver or in most jobs wouldn’t you want to learn Italian, French, German, Portuguese or Japanese if you moved to Italy, France, Germany, Brazil, Portugal or Japan?  Or even if you went there to live? What do you think of this new ruling?

 

 

 

Service of Why

Monday, June 27th, 2016

I ask questions in every post and the question word also appears in a few titles. Today I share some unrelated observations and ask WHY:

  • Do you think a mother pushing a stroller gave her young child a tablet to stare at when there was plenty to look at on the street between the traffic, other pedestrians, store windows and dogs passing by?  The child was so little—around one–and the screen so large that he could hardly hold the device that was crammed in between his legs and the stroler. We weren’t near each other for very long but while we were, not a word passed between them.
  • Do I go to the right in some elevators and to the left in others to reach the floor control buttons and inevitably, my instinct sends me the wrong way? Why aren’t these buttons installed universally either left or right?
  • Do telemarketers hire people who mumble? I asked one last week—an American—to repeat what he’d said. The phone volume was fine, I clearly heard the end of his intro—“and how are you today?”—yet totally missed who he represented or the reason for his call. He slurred his words while repeating, at 200 mph, what he’d uttered countless times before. When I couldn’t decipher or isolate a single word on the second go-‘round, I hung up.
  • Do companies require their live operators/receptionists to answer the phone with a ridiculously long greeting—and not because the name of the firm is of the “Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith” variety–thus wasting everyone’s time?
  • Do some general call-in numbers never work? Take 511. I access it to confirm train schedules and to learn if the railroad is running from upstate NY to NYC, and not a substitute bus. [If a bus, passengers must arrive at the station 40 minutes before scheduled departure time. Miss the bus and you wait two hours for the next one. And the website isn’t always accurate.] From upstate, the electronic voice on the phone announces I’ve reached information for the Hudson/Catskill region. So far, so good. After that, whether I respond to prompts with my voice or by punching numbers on the phone, I end up with Long Island bus or NYC subway schedules and for the life of me, I can’t reach an operator or information about the Harlem Line I take.

Do you have answers to any of these or questions you’d like to pose?

Service of People Who Make You Happy

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

There are some people who are not your dearest friends or relatives but what they do and/or how they treat you and others make you happy.

Drilling Down

Dr. Jaslove

Dr. Jaslove

I got a message from my dentist, Alan Jaslove, DDS, this week. Normally this wouldn’t make me happy as I’ve spent far too many hours since childhood in a dentist chair or quaking at the thought of the next visit. But this call was to thank me for having written a review of his dentistry on Yelp. So what’s the big deal? He runs a busy practice, has a wonderful receptionist who has known me longer than I’ve known him [I went for years to his partner, now retired], and he could have asked Rose to make the call. But he took the time to call himself—and he didn’t have to thank in the first place. By the way: That’s the kind of care Dr. Jaslove grants his patients.

Happy Talk

Then there is Bob Marrone, the host of The Morning Show with Bob Marrone at Cumulus WFAS 1230 AM in White Plains NY. I was hoping he’d interview a client. As I didn’t hear back after I sent a few emails and left a few voice messages, I wrote him a letter. I was late to work one morning—actually I was at Dr. Jaslove’s office. [He was rescuing a tooth.] On my return there was a phone message from Bob and as I was about to return his call, the phone rang and there was Bob calling again—to apologize. He said his phone and email were down for days and was sorry I had trouble reaching him and for his not responding in a timely manner. In my line of work following up with the press is normal. Media apologizing for being unavailable is unusual. Bob is a charming, gracious man and his interviews are spot on. He is the voice of Westchester–a crack communicator both on and off the air.

Tech Savvy Plus

Brandt Ziegler, [Photo right], is the service coordinator for one of the businesses in the office in which my office also is. He is interesting, interested, fun and tech-savvy. This week he turned around an after-hours computer crisis for me in minutes—[though he’s usually here until 7 pm so technically it wasn’t after hours for him]. But he was on the list for this post long before this happened because he makes people he speaks with happy. His cheerful attitude, enthusiasm, exemplary manners with everyone at the office, quick smile and sense of humor set him apart. He’s a hip throwback—refreshing to be around. His clients, colleagues and boss are also fortunate.

Does an above and beyond approach reap benefits as much for the donor as it does the recipients? Can you add to this list?

Service of Apology IV

Monday, November 9th, 2015

I think that Donald Trump has done a disservice to the business of apologies. He doesn’t offer them, nor does screenwriter/film director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino made headlines because he won’t apologize to the police whom he called murderers.

On a smaller stage, but in the same vein, a friend had a dustup with a major department store where clearly, the message about a customer being right or  treated with kid gloves hasn’t reached or been taught to staff.

She wrote:

“I had a horrific customer service experience both online and in the store. What got me was that not a single employee would apologize. Even the in-store person where I eventually picked up my order refused to do so BECAUSE he said the inconvenience and lack of communication wasn’t HIS Fault so he has nothing to apologize for.

“I was on the phone for 25 minutes today to find out if yesterday’s online order, promised for today, had arrived. I never got an email order confirmation, a receipt or a status update.

“The customer service agent kept repeating herself [while providing no information] and finally put me through to the store where I was put on hold at least 3 times. A guy at the store eventually found the order, but wasn’t interested when I said that it took forever for this to happen. He couldn’t explain the delay and wouldn’t attempt to answer why I got no email communication about the order. [The information would certainly have expedited the search and shortened my phone wait–or saved me the call altogether if I’d received an email confirming arrival.]

“The same man was there when I picked up the order. I again asked him about the lack of communication and he was very direct in saying he had no idea why there hadn’t been any. He said that the online function has NOTHING to do with the store and that he had no reason to say ‘I am sorry for your inconvenience!’

“I told him it’s a competitive market out there and that the reason there is so much medical malpractice in the country is because it was found that docs won’t say ‘I am sorry.’ (I admit this was a stretch and slightly irrelevant but it happens to be true and I think says a lot!!)”

The recent great experience I had with CVS, that I covered in “Service of Sales Promotions,” is an example of a company that trains its staff to understand that customers don’t want to hear about the differences between online and in store purchases or possible Internet glitches. The store gave me a full return on the online purchase I made in error.

I unfortunately had to again deal with my credit card bank–see last week’s post, “Service of Contagious Credit Card Theft,” because when I called to activate my card, it had already been used fraudulently! Seems someone had paid for a $9 massage. No wonder the bank was suspicious: The card wasn’t activated and whoever heard of a massage costing $9?

I hadn’t carried it for one second–it traveled from the company that fulfills credit card orders through the post office to my postbox. When the phone connection was poor, the customer service person–who had nothing to do with the lousy connection–kept apologizing. The one who shared the bad news did so as well.

Do you think that publicity about public figures who never, ever apologize impacts how the public treats one another? Do major department stores have floor walkers anymore who might hear conversations between employees and customers? Why do people find it so hard to say, “I am sorry this has caused you stress?” Do you find that an apology takes the sting out of an otherwise negative situation?

Service of Clumsy Communication

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

The three people who made these errors in judgment didn’t mean to offend—I’m pretty sure. All these examples involve volunteers.

Fifth Choice

A friend whose career is skyrocketing is counseling a fledgling group in her field pro bono. Several times one of the principals of this company has called and asked her if she can do something for them on such and such a date and when she says, “Yes,” the person replies, “Good. I’ve asked five other people before you so I’ll get back if none of them accept.” She is secure in her talent but found the communication insulting and irritating enough to mention. We now laugh because the situation has happened a few times since we first spoke about it and after the last, she told her contact that she’s done helping them.

Last Choice

Then I heard about an organization’s committee co-chair who was looking for panelists among winners of a grant. She approached my friend, a winner, the day before the event, to see if she could participate. My friend knew she was clearly a last choice and said “no.” From the start the co-chair should have asked all the winners to attend—there weren’t that many–see who could come and then select her panel and moderator. The more the merrier: Their mingling before and after the formal discussion would have benefited the other guests who were attending to learn more about the grant.

Choice Words

I often identify the elephant in the room which is unusual these days–has always been in fact–and many don’t know what to make of it. If I’m on a board or a committee, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest a solution when most don’t dare recognize the problem. I know when and how to be deferential and polite and to carefully word what I write or say whether I’m suggesting a different approach or pointing out an error.

I was taken aback when a person, in front of a third person, asked me recently to first show her correspondence I was going to send about a mistake someone had made. She said she feared I’d be too harsh. [Common sense taught me eons ago to be gentle when I want something/or a correction. It works.] This was not a client—I don’t make a move without client approval on copy and for decades my clients have trusted me to write appropriately worded missives. I was distressed that this person didn’t trust my ability to distinguish between offline private chatter and communicating with others. I sent the note, copying only those affected by the error—not this person [who was only peripherally involved]. The recipient was extremely apologetic as she realized she’d made a mistake—which happens. She immediately fixed what she could. As for my relationship with the distrusting person, my mother used to advise, “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” I’ll give it a try once again.

What causes some to take down others unnecessarily? Is it thoughtlessness? A feeling of power? A case of foot in mouth disease? A misunderstanding of the dynamic in a volunteer relationship? Have you been the target of such insensitivity? Then do you forgive–how many times–or walk away?

Service of a Bad Sign

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Luxury for blog

A business can so easily give the wrong impression. Here are photos I took on my walk to and from work that illustrate the point.

The sign featured above inspired the post. It touts luxury apartments for rent. The fact that this dirty sign has drooped in this manner for weeks tells me that as a potential tenant, my leaky faucet, broken toilet or elevator, lack of hot water or heat will suffer similar neglect.

Nail sign for blogNot sure I’d want to have my nails done at a place with insufficient soap and water to keep its unprofessionally hung sign clean–photo right.

New Yorkers are chomping at the bit to enjoy a spring sidewalk drink or meal but would anyone consider this place featured below? Chairs and tables have been laced with boxes and filled garbage bags for days.

Have you noticed similar easy-fix neglect in neighborhoods in which you hang around?

 Restaurant sign blog

Service of Shouting

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Americans—or maybe people in general–seem to think that if they raise their voices, they’ll get the reaction they hope for.

One of the comedians at an event I attended recently wasn’t getting the laughs she’d hoped for. Seeking to make the phrase witty she raised her voice, expecting that the volume, in addition to the repetition, would resuscitate a tired, overused expression. The audience was neither deaf nor stupid nor did most react to the ear-splitting noise: I looked around and saw straight lips and glazed eyes.

I noticed a similar attempt to inspire a reaction at an in-law’s bedside. The patient couldn’t move or speak so visitors thought yelling at her would help. They’d lean over and shriek, even after her son assured them she could hear perfectly well and asked them to please lower their voices. Soon they were shouting again because she still wasn’t responding.

Ever hear Americans communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English? They slow their words and speak as loudly as their lungs will allow expecting the volume to perform the trick of translation.

Are there other instances in which people feel volume enhances communication? In a brief Google search I wasn’t able to learn the reason. Your guess?

 

Service of Negative Marketing

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

I missed the class on the effectiveness of negative advertising which serves politicians so well even though these ads are counterintuitive. Given 30 or 60 seconds to state your case–at major cost–you’d think you’d want to tout a candidate’s great ideas, victories and accomplishments. Positive messages these days would  no doubt result in negative polling figures and goodness knows what outcome on election day.

Politicians aren’t alone.

Have you seen the “They Lived” automotive TV commercial? It shows a series of cars so smooshed and flattened in car accidents that they look as though they were made of the cheapest tin can material. Someone yells “They Lived” at the worker, in hardhat, who is motioning the crane holding a metal heap that once was a car into a big pile of the same, referring to the passengers. Brrrrr—gives me the shivers.

I just got off the phone with a stranger who said, “Hiya Jeanne, this is Mike Morrow from Merrill Lynch.” I thanked Mike for calling, told him I was on deadline and someone was waiting for me with which he slammed down the phone or clicked off the connection, racing to the next patsy. Result: Bad taste in my mouth. Too bad he spoke so clearly. I can hardly understand most telemarketers. A “sorry,” would have been nice.

What about the US World Cup team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who announced, before the games, that his team wasn’t ready to win?

And then there’s CheapOair. The name makes me want to avoid everything to do with the online Internet travel agency. I’d anticipate shoddy service from them and goodness knows what from their travel partners. They might be the most responsible travel agency on the Internet and many might consider the name of this company a hoot but travel is serious business. I’m a fan of discounts and great prices, but cheap? Not so much.

Do you respond in a positive way to negative marketing? Why is it so effective? Have you noticed other examples?

Service of Being Untethered Communications-Wise

Monday, June 16th, 2014

At a panel on the future of communications, Sarah DaVanzo shared a spark of hope for those who feel “enough already” about being reachable by mobile and other devices and expected to respond 24/7. The chief cultural strategy officer at Sparks & Honey noted that “JOMO is beginning to replace FOMO.” Translation: The joy of missing out is replacing the fear of missing out which originally inspired the unnatural relationship between people and the gizmos that connect them.  She mentioned an increase and popularity of vacation spots that tout zero connectivity and of restaurants that ask patrons to “check your phone at the door.”

Before releasing balloons in celebration, if you are on tech communications overload, another panelist at the New York Women in Communications [NYWICI] program last week reported that she communicates with her children via snapchat when they are both at home and it seems this may be the norm. Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents and American Baby and content director of the Meredith Parents Network underscored that she also has frequent heart-to-hearts with her children because face-to-face communication is crucial. She said that experts notice lack of emotion as a side effect on young children who are in touch almost exclusively via technology and social media. They depend on emojis [smiley or sad face icons as examples] to speak for them. They also don’t see the impact of their words on recipients of virtual messages.

On the other hand, a third panelist’s shy teenage son benefits from being able to express himself and be heard via these tools. She is Lisa Stone who cofounded and is CEO of BlogHer, Inc. She reported on preliminary results of a survey she is conducting of NYWICI members in which while they felt they could multitask–communicate and listen simultaneously. Yet a majority didn’t think that someone else was listening to them under similar circumstances. I’ll be interested to learn the final results of what respondents said in the survey about the expectations of their employer–which I chose to extrapolate to include clients–as to whether or not they are free to be connected when and where they choose and if free, if they liked having the choice be theirs.

In the intro to coverage of the event on the NYWICI website, Tekla Szymanski linked to a video, “Look Up,” that I recommend you watch and forward to friends and relatives who are missing out on life because they are so busy reporting on what they are doing and checking up on their “friends'” activities.

Are you tethered to your communications devices? Do you welcome a time in which you feel secure enough to cut the virtual cord for long stretches of time? Would you dare vacation in a spot without wifi or mobile phone connectivity? Would you sit through a meal with your phone parked at a restaurant door?

Service of Limiting Communications

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The French got the recent headlines but German companies such as Volkswagen already had email policies in place to curb the enthusiasm of people in management who send emails at all hours and expect employees to respond.

The alert employee who gets the worm–i.e. the promotion–must be on the job at dawn, at night and on weekends with eyes riveted on smartphone screens should a business-related email pop up. A friend’s former boss has a sleeping disorder which kept him up at night. My friend had a hard time fitting life in after 8 pm or 9 pm, when he left work, as there was no after work: He was expected to respond with charts, figures and explanations into the night.

Wrote Adam Auriemma and David Gauthier-Villars in “French Pact Could Give Workers an Email Break” in The Wall Street Journal:  “The French pact between companies and workers, settled last week and awaiting government approval, amounts to a declaration of principle more than law. It gives certain technology-sector workers the right to stop using work tools such as email and smartphones after logging France’s state-mandated maximum 13-hour day.”

What had Volkswagen done in 2011? It cut off email to 3,500 non managers at headquarters in Germany between 6:15 pm and 7 am. The authors reported Pew Research findings that email frenzies “start at the top,” as they increase with salaries, and they quote others who note the obvious: For the behavior to stop, the brakes must also come from the top. They wrote: “But as long as promotions go to the workers willing to do company bidding at any hour, policies intended to limit the workday are unlikely to matter, managers and scholars say.”

What do you think of email curbing policies? Are they realistic in a world where bosses and clients demand and expect immediate attention? Do you know of managers who overtax and burn out employees by expecting their full attention and immediate response 24/7? Are you one of those?

 

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