Who Do You Serve?

James Arthur Ray, author of Harmonic Wealth is someone I have admired since first hearing him speak in The Secret.lodge His subsequent interviews on Oprah were inspiring, and I have benefited greatly from Ray’s philosophy about living a life of wealth. His business is built on the theme of teaching you “the secret of attracting the life you want.” At this moment, I’m not sure that James Arthur Ray is happy about the circumstance he’s attracted into his life.

On October 8, 2009 Ray’s empire started to crumble when two people died during a sweat lodge ceremony held in Sedona, Arizona. Another ceremony participant died a week later and close to twenty other people were injured. What was meant to be a personal cleansing experience turned into a death trap for some and an emotional, life changing experience never to be forgotten by the others there that day.

Put aside for a minute the fact that there have been a number of complaints registered against Ray’s organization by people injured during his programs. Perhaps if someone had taken the collapse of a male participant in a 2005 sweat lodge activity seriously, the tragedy four years later could have been avoided.

I have to wonder if Ray’s rapid rise in the world of motivational “guru”dom began to cloud his judgment. It seems quite possible that he has not been listening to the concerns of his community. No safety personnel on sight during an exercise that clearly had the potential to become a disastrous problem is unthinkable. In the crush to up the competitive ante in the world of personal development products, did Ray’s organization go too far with the Spiritual Warrior vision quest retreat? It would seem so. From the looks of things, Ray’s business is shutting down. At least temporarily.

The tragic deaths of people who expected nothing more than to improve their lives during that Sedona weekend with Ray are a reminder of the harsh consequences of what can happen when a company has forgotten who they serve.

Time to Re-imagine!

tompetersIn search of inspiration, I cracked open my copy of Re-imagine! I haven’t read it in some time, but I couldn’t help smiling as I turned the pages. Tom Peters is at his ranting best as he sounds the wake up alarm for businesses and individuals alike. Published in 2003, it is almost a little spooky to read Tom’s predictions about the future (many have come to pass already) about things like personal branding, HR, supply chain management, the web, talent attraction and development, or the value of running departments like accounting as internal professional service firms. In the wake of 9/11, Tom’s book challenges us to re-envision what is possible. The visual impact of the Re-Imagine! and Tom’s prophetic words make this book a must read for anyone looking to reinvent themselves or their businesses.

How Thrifty is Your Customer Service?

castleI’m just back from my first trip to Ireland and what a trip it was. It’s possible that my boyfriend still hasn’t recovered from the crazy person I became on a few of those Irish back country roads:) The Irish summer weather, which included rain every day, was surprisingly enjoyable. The castles, the pubs, incredibly charming towns, an art festival and seeing U2 in Dublin are just a few of the reasons that I know I’ll be heading back soon.

You Can Rent the Car without Actually Having the Car

Remember that Jerry Seinfeld episode when Jerry reserved a rental car only to discover when reaching his destination that they had no car to rent? That’s this story, but at least the rental car employees in Jerry’s story were honest about the problem…they ran out of cars.

When we first arrived in Dublin we were rested and excited to get going with our journey. Thrifty Car Rental changed all that. We had reserved our car and after grabbing luggage, we got in line to check in. Only a few people ahead of us, so we thought “how long could it be?” Believe me, way to long! It seems that some of Thrifty’s employees were more on a mission to sell their insurance policies than they were to get people the rental cars they reserved. We finally get through that part of the process and we are whisked offsite to where you actually pick up the car. We thought…cool, we’re on our way. Um…an hour later, we finally got our car. What should have taken minutes was 2 hours long in the making.

How Thrifty is Your Service?

There are several definitions of “thrifty” on the Webster’s website. I happen to like, “thriving, prosperous, or successful”. I just have to wonder, how thriving, prosperous or successful Thrifty Car Rental is going to be if they can’t manage their fleet and reservations systems any better than what I experienced. Even the return was a major hassle. And DO NOT get me started on the GPS that we paid for but couldn’t use because their equipment was faulty. Two hours of waiting for a rental car and when we finally get one, we get in the car and drive away only to discover that the GPS is dead. The thought of going back to Thrifty was so painful that we just went on.

Have You Defined the Experience?

We live in a world that is driven by the customer experience. If you haven’t noticed…buyers have choices. They rule. Frankly, they always did. The difference now is that they can access information, recommendations and referrals like never before. It doesn’t matter what product or service you sell, if you don’t create a strategy that defines what you want the experience to be, you may well end up fumbling the ball. Thrifty didn’t just fumble, they kept digging a deeper hole with every contact we had with them. They’ve defined the experience all right, but I’m betting it’s not actually what they had in mind.

In Athens GA? Need a Haircut? Get 1 Free

arborOver on colleague, Joan Curtis’ – Say it Just Right blog, Joan posted information about an event hosted by Arbor Salon & Spa on July 12 from 1pm to 5pm. Salon doors will open up and the stylists will offer their services to those in need. They are calling it Job Fair for Hair. The whole idea is that people who are in job transition must continue to look their best. While it might easy to think that putting off that much needed haircut doesn’t matter. Appearance is important part of the interview/selection process.

Though you may not live in Athens, GA – this is still pretty cool, so I’d like to suggest that maybe you can get a salon or two in your own local community to consider doing something similar. Read Joan’s entire post here.

OMG – Where Has Customer Service Gone?

In the past, I’ve written about the lack of attention far too many companies place on delivering a customer experience that wows. Being the optimist that I am, I keep hoping with fingers tightly crossed that companies will eventually get it. And you’d think that with times being what they are, the emphasis on delighting customers would be a big priority. Oh, if only that were true!

womanbitingnailsThe dismal customer service that I have received these past few months from a company that has had my business for almost 5 years is what prompted me to write about service again. The experience has me thinking about what can happen when a family owned business is bought out by a mega corporation who clearly doesn’t care if customers are happy or not. This company is stagnating – not an innovative thinker in sight. No matter what the situation, they not only have one excuse after another, but after 5 months they have yet to resolve the problem. Frankly, I don’t care about their operational issues or the lack of staff, though I will say that if you must reduce your staff, please make sure you don’t keep the village idiot on board. Whatever their problems, they are not mine! I’m a paying customer who expects accurate billing and promises kept. What about you?

In the bestseller, The Pursuit of WOW! Tom Peters reminds us that 70% of customers hit the road NOT because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service. Research conducted by The Forum Corporation supports this fact and indicates that 45% of these same customers said they switched to another company because the attention they did receive was poor in quality.

Is providing great customer service really that difficult? IBM founder Thomas Watson is attributed with saying, “if you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work”. Delivering WOW service is a commitment to do whatever it takes to serve the customer, and that commitment must be imprinted on the hearts and minds of every single employee. Only then can any organization stand apart from their competition.

Based on my own professional experience, I have defined four rules crucial to delivering winning customer service:

Rule #1: Listen! When customers complain there is a reason. Hear them out. This is an opportunity to make it right and to learn something. Listen without interrupting, giving excuses or arguing.

Rule #2: Don’t take it personally. Customer complaints are about products or services that did not live up to their expectations. Taking it personally, getting defensive, or getting angry only makes the situation worse.

Rule #3: Offer a sincere apology for the inconvenience and then fix the problem! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Consider how you feel when something you bought didn’t do the intended job or caused an even bigger problem than the one it was supposed to fix.

Rule #4: Never say, “It’s not my job, my department, or my responsibility.” If you work at the company that made the product or sold the service – it is your job! Make a personal commitment to do whatever it takes to fix the problem even if it is not in your job description.

In the end, only those companies with an ongoing commitment to listen and serve can consistently keep their customers delighted and buying from them. Now would be an ideal time for my vendor to heed these words!

Are You Taking Right Action?

Conversation continues about the economy, the economic stimulus package, people losing jobs, higher taxes and on and on and on. Frankly, it’s depressing, and I don’t want to engage in the discussion.

I am a huge fan of Wallace Wattles and his landmark work -The Science of Getting Rich. He reminds us that “We must guard our speech. We must never speak of ourselves, our affairs or anything else in a discouraged or j0432847discouraging way.” The starting point for success begins with minding our attitude. Are you aware of what you are thinking and saying? You need to be! Energy flows where attention goes and negative thoughts and behavior will draw those same results to you.

So what can you do, in addition to keeping a lock on your thoughts? Take right action.

Right action is an essential ingredient to achieving what you want. It starts with a clear vision of where you are headed, faith that you can achieve your goals, gratitude for knowing you’ve already achieved them coupled with taking action NOW.

Far too many people sit around wishing and dreaming but they do absolutely nothing. I’m a Law of Attraction believer. I believe that we create our own reality, but notice that the last 5 letters of attraction are ACTION. Even if we don’t know “exactly” what action to take, it is important to do something.

I often encounter people who stop themselves from achieving success because they don’t know HOW it will happen. But our job isn’t to necessarily know HOW something will unfold. We just have to get moving. As we do, more will be revealed.

Moving forward in faith that you will achieve success leads to a chance meeting, a phone call from someone you’ve lost touch with, an article shows up that is related to your desire…you just never know what will come your way when you get into action.

Get out of the “gloom and doom” mindset! Remember that taking action will lead you in the direction of our goals. Stay open to new possibilities, have faith that success will happen and stay out of your own way. If you do, success takes care of itself.

Read Outliers

outliersIf you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book – Outliers - do yourself a favor and pick up a copy right away. As with his first 2 books, Tipping Point and Blink, Gladwell manages to turn your thinking about his topic upside down.

The why of success (and it’s not always what you think!) – how it happens, what factors lead to monumental success, how it is that some gifted individuals never quite achieve the success in life you would expect.

You will better understand why the kids in Asia are really so much better at math than the average US citizen. How players are chosen to become elite hockey players. Why school cut-off dates give some kids an unfair advantage. And so much more.

I was drawn into the stories and case studies immediately. An intense read that I found difficult to put down, Gladwell’s Outliers certainly challenges traditional thinking about the subject of success.

You Are CEO of You, Inc.

Chris Brogan is President of New Marketing Labs. I love following his blog posts. On Monday, his post talked about how each of us is the president of our own career. I couldn’t agree more. It’s an excellent piece. You really should read it!

140140I have believed for some time now that we are the architect of our own lives. We must be accountable for the doing whatever we need too to achieve our career goals. What do you think?

Here is my response to Chris’ post:

Right on! Last year I gave a talk at Verizon titled Whose Career is it Anyway? I lack patience for people who cry the blues about how their company doesn’t do anything for their career. Of course, I believe they should, but who said they were obligated too? The investment that a company is willing to make in their people will vary, but one thing holds true. It’s up to each individual to manage their own career success.

Back in my corporate America days, my employers didn’t always pay for the classes I took to improve my communication, management skills, coaching skills, etc. Books are cheap and these days there are so many great FREE webinars on every topic imaginable. Or, read blogs – like this one!

There just isn’t any excuse. I worked to remain lay-off proof then and now as a business owner. People are buying. We just might have to work a bit harder or pay more attention to the opportunities that at first glance might not seem like they will lead to something. I keep my attitude straight and stay on my priorities and coach others to do the same!

So? What’s your plan?

1. Do you have clearly defined goals written down?

If you need to sell products and services, you better! I challenge you to focus on the 3 things – nothing more – the 3 most critical things you need to do to create value for your clients and soon to be clients. Learn new technology? Learn a new skill? Broaden your network?

**If you work for someone else, what’s your plan to take charge of your career? What do you need to learn? Who do you need to know? Do you need to seek out a mentor?

2. Is your attitude in check?

Now is NOT the time to focus on the negative or worrying about a “down” economy. Of course, focusing on what we don’t want is never a good idea. Soooo – be positive. See in your mind what you want success to look like and it will manifest in your reality.

3. How will you innovate in your business or career this year?

Now is the perfect time to be creative. Looks for what’s needed. Where is there a gap – either in your company or in the your customer market – that you can fill with what you have to offer?

Get going. Take charge!