It has felt like a rough few weeks. A few days ago our water heater burst in our basement, ruining the floor, baseboards and some of the walls, and they found asbestos. Luckily we were home and not traveling, as the water heater was continuously refilling and emptying, it started in the middle of the night and we found it the next morning. We took this week off to recharge a bit, so starting Sunday morning using the wet vac to suck out the water, call plumbers for new water heaters, and the insurance company was not how I wanted to start a week of vacation. Additionally, most of Nico’s toys are downstairs and it is where we spend the most time with him.
I am not going to lie. I’ve been extremely frustrated and short. I had a plan for how we were going to spend the week. Day dates with Chris, sleeping in as much as Nico would let us, and definitely not waiting for contractors to come or sitting on the phone to find out the insurance process is extremely slow and frustrating.
And then…we take a moment and realize that the insurance company is slow and frustrating because they have been on the phone with families in California who have lost their homes. My heart goes out to those that have lost their homes and it is a startling reminder that the flooding in our basement while annoying and disruptive is not nearly as big of a deal when I think of all the families that may not have a home. Interesting how quickly things can be put in perspective.
A few weeks ago a good friend was attacked in the face by a stranger and may need to undergo reconstructive surgery to his face. It took me almost a week to process that this happened. My friend is extremely fit and definitely capable of taking care of himself and hearing about the experience made me realize how vulnerable we all are – which can be scary. As a woman I am always aware of when I am safe or not, and when I am alone at night how freaky it can be. To learn that someone I care about was hurt, and probably did not have a moment to react, makes me fearful, but also aware that we never really know what is going to happen next. If we live in fear then we are never really living. A group of friends that love him started this Go Fund Me to raise money for his recovery. Feel free to contribute if your heart desires. He is one of the really good ones, and always takes care of others.
Like I said it has been a rough few weeks (other things in addition to the water heater and my friend) but I will not bore you with the details. Instead I am hopeful that I am reminding you to look up and squeeze the hand of someone you love, give them a hug, tell your kid how much you appreciate and love them, or maybe it is a coworker that could use a little lift. We always have more than we realize even when the world throws curveballs our way. Just take a moment to see and be grateful for the little things even when they may be hardest to see.
It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?
Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.
Anyway, on to the examples:
Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?
Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.
Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.
Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.
I have a few phobias. Snakes. Bats. And one I will not go into on the Internet involving personal safety. I freeze when I see a snake and depending on where I am and where it is, I imagine every time that I am going to shit my pants. I have not yet, but there are still many years left for that to happen.
Bats. I have a story from about five years ago involving a bat and my house. I was on a conference call with my boss at the time. I worked from home in Portland and my team worked remotely, with my boss in Boston. I am sitting in my office at my desk, with my old school headset (corded) connected to my BlackBerry when I see a black flying object zoom past my head, just grazing me. I screamed (and I have lungs) and jumped. My headset went one way, my BlackBerry went another, and I ran like hell out of there. I run back and decide to try to shut the door to the closet so that I can lock the sucker in the office.
I freak out some more. Try to call Chris on the phone at work and do not get an answer. I go outside. No one was out and we barely knew our older neighbors. I look down the street and see a landscaper. I run down and ask him if he can help me. Shit. He does not speak English. I flap my arms, know I have the most panicked look on my face, and motion for him to follow me. He does.
Back in my house, I open the door and basically lock him in the office and then go outside to show him through our sliding glass door how to open the door to let the bat out. It takes a while of back and forth and he eventually does. I am petrified and wonder how the bat got in so I, being so scared shitless, bring the man around the house and upstairs through the different bedrooms to see if he can figure out where it came in. We are not communicating well and I start to realize I have just brought a strange man into my bedroom! I realize I need to thank him and get him the hell out of my house. Hoping there are no more bats where that came from, I finally breathe, and realize I was on the phone with my boss. About 15 minutes have passed and I call him back. He was so worried that he had not heard from me and due to the loud scream followed by the disconnected call, he was in the process of calling my local police to have someone sent out to my house. Wow.
Can you imagine a place with no cell phones? It is harder and harder to find. You almost have to go to a remote island, or a place with no cell phone reception (see these seven locations where you can escape the Internet). Last week I was traveling for work, and while in the airport waiting for a flight, I saw on the news a mention of Green Bank, West Virginia, and that cell phones are not allowed. They are part of the “National Radio Quiet Zone.” See the picture in the link — the zone is enormous.
Intrigued? I was. It is often hard to imagine a place where cell phones do not exist. Green Bank has a population of 143. Why no cell phones? The Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The GBT is part of the reason that it is a law in Green Bank that you cannot have a cell phone. The GBT is the largest, fully steerable radio telescope in the world. This excerpt from a National Geographic article explains it a bit more:
“Because of its vast size and sophisticated design, the GBT is exquisitely sensitive to even the faintest radio pulses coming from space. For the same reason, it is also extremely susceptible to electronic interference. Any device that generates electromagnetic radiation—a cell phone, a television, a wireless Internet router—can skew its data. And so the people who live in these parts must, by law, forego some of the gadgets that most of us take for granted.”
Would you want that kind of life? Maybe for a vacation, but could you handle it 365 days a year? I am addicted to information and I am not sure how I could go without the Internet. A phone – yes, I could probably go without a phone, but not the Internet. Check out the National Geographic article for more details on all the discoveries that have been made due to the GBT. Oh, and they need another 9 million dollars if you are interested.
Lately I have been thinking about the idea of asking another person for their full attention. How many times do you go into someone’s office and they do not give you their undivided attention? They might for a few minutes and then maybe they get distracted by their phone or computer and you wonder, is my meeting important to them? On the flip side, I also wonder if I give everyone my full and undivided attention? Are we all in the end just the same? Someone does not give us their attention and we in turn do that to someone else?
What would it look like if we were direct and transparent with everyone about our attention? What if we confronted others when we were not getting what we deserved? What would that look like? Would it mean that we actually called someone out when they stopped focusing on the conversation, tuned out, or got distracted? I am actually getting excited thinking about it. I would love if someone did that to me and held me accountable for when I was getting distracted. In turn I hope I would do that for others that do it to me.
Are our phones and computers, the emails, texts, and whatever other notifications really more important than the person that sits right in front of us? Sometimes they are. Sometimes emergencies happen or are boss alerts us to an urgent need, but many times we get bored, or clearly are easily distracted. I am not exempt from this — I need to focus on where my attention is just the same. Chris and I were just talking about it last night. There are times where I am doing too many things at once and my nature to multi-task means I might miss things along the way. However, in the same conversation we discussed that he had not given the needs of the conversation his clear attention. What he was thinking might not have been what he actually shared aloud and due to the lack of information there were key details that I needed that never got shared.
Our full attention is important in so many interactions. At the deepest level it shows that we care, and that the other person matters. I would say I do give a lot of my life my full attention, but I can see some clear areas that I could work on. Try it. See where you are not giving your full attention. Put your phone down, quit texting, and leave the emails. Be present for the other person, they deserve it.