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.
Can you imagine making a recipe from every country in the world? Sasha Martin did it. Over the course of a few years, she made a meal from every country in the world. She did 52 countries in a year, took each week to research the food, recipe, ingredients, and customs and make the selected meal and then published a blog post about the experience. Her husband did not really start out as a fan. A picky eater from the start. I would say she changed his life. Eventually her blog turned into her memoir: “Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness” by Sasha Martin. She did not give up. Even at times when she was completely burnt out, she was relentless in her priorities and effort to complete the project.
It is a book about food, family, and how to balance life. I love the idea she shares on page 335 as it is often the way I approach things in life:
“’When I don’t know what you do about something,” she tells me, ‘I just leave the idea alone for a while. A good idea will feed itself and grow. A bad one will disappear—as it should.”
It happens all the time at work. A project surfaces and the solution that presents itself looks to make sense, and then sometimes it just does not happen or work right. Whenever that happens, I do not look at that as a failure, I see it as a product that is developed and it not ready. Maybe it just needs to go back on the shelf for a while. Sometimes it gets taken off the shelf months to a year later, and then it is ready, it makes sense, and is timed just right. Other times that product never leaves the shelf, its time was not meant to be.
It might be in your personal life. It happens for me sometimes when we plan a trip. There are times when we know immediately that we should buy tickets. The timing, cost, and event all make sense, and it all works out. Other times, when a decision is not easily made, and you let it alone, you might find that a new idea pops up, or maybe a fare sale happens, or you learn that plans have changed at your destination. Then you are grateful you gave it a bit of air and delayed your decision.
Martin’s quote is such a good reminder to let it go, leave it alone, and see if it finds it way off the shelf. A good idea has a life of its own.
I have been thinking a lot in the last week about awareness. Being aware. Watching. Being present. After a few day training session at work, I realized how much more I could be aware of my surroundings, my actions, and how I approach situations. Last Friday I specifically practiced awareness, and while yes I was only in day one, I had a very good day. It could have also been because the sun was out, which means that those I was around were in a great mood. Sunshine in Portland in February does that to folks.
Regardless, I focused on listening in each conversation. I stopped, slowed down, and was aware and I enjoyed the day so much more. Sometimes that means I am more focused in my listening, other times it means I quiet my mind and do not say all the things that are happening within it. I am an extremely direct and transparent person, but I am learning that does not mean that I have to say everything that comes to mind. Part of being aware is listening to see if the person you are interacting with needs to talk and share from their own minds.
As I learned last week, awareness takes practice. Just as an Olympic athlete must train every day, so must each of us as we continue to be better and better, or as we continue to learn how to be our best. All we can do is try again each day. Try to be more aware, more present, and listen more. I love a line from this Fast Company article titled: “How One Simple Change Can Make You A Better Listener.”
“When people feel as though they have been heard, they trust you more.”
As well as:
“Ultimately, the ability to extract what people mean from a conversation is one of the most important tools of any leader. It takes a lot of work. And it requires curbing your natural tendency to jump right to a solution to people’s problems.”
I have a lot of work to do. I need to resist my constant urge to find a solution to problems, and start by listening first. Here is hoping I can keep up with my awareness this week. Listen more. Be more aware. Are you with me?
Sometimes I have so little patience. I wish it was a quality that I had stored up in tons. I remember growing up in Indiana where you would so often see those big grain towers, where you knew there was potentially a store of grain in them, or maybe it was the tall water towers. I would like patience in that volume. Is that even possible?
Yesterday a lot of issues came up at work, where it seemed like things were 99% okay, but that extra 1% was the very piece needed to make sure something could happen. Without that 1% I could not pull the trigger to execute or finish an entire project. That 1% mattered so much in the project and I had to rely on someone else to make it happen, and somehow for each aspect there was something missing. I came home and thought: “ugh what a day.” Honestly it all does not matter in the grand scheme of things, yet. Yes, there is a yet. I think what matters more is that 1% equates to dependability and trust. When you are given situations where someone does not come through for you, you start to wonder if they will the next time and the next, and the one after that.
It is something that Chris and I talk about often. One of my biggest pet peeves is: if you say you are going to do something, DO IT. Bring it, give it your all, and be present and there for what you said you would do. Whenever Chris and I get into it with each other (and that is so rarely) it is usually because of that very fact. We agreed to something and then we did not honor that agreement. Take a stand, agree to what you are going to bring to the table, and then bring it with all you have got.
I need to practice patience and give folks a chance to come to the table. If you come to the table and show that you have put some thought around it, cared, then I am going to be with you and walk together to a solution. If you have not tried, or you show you do not care, then my patience is thin, and short.