Sunday, September 4, 2011

Never Run from the Chain Gang

The news outlets here in Nashville recently covered a story about a 28-year-old man (if you can call him that) who escaped from a prison work release program. While other inmates picked up trash along the interstate he decided to make a run for it, and initially succeed.

Reading this story, and too many like it in the past, I couldn’t help but ponder why we have such difficulty learning from our mistakes.
Life gives us lessons all the time. If we look to experience to avoid preventable mistakes, then we unlock the true worth of history. Most of us were taught this early in life, have had countless reminders, and still have trouble applying it in our personal and professional lives. I know I do.

The inmate who bolted in Nashville is a perfect example of this simple but valuable lesson.
He stayed on the lam for six days, until he was caught in Texas, hiding under a mattress with a bag of money from a bank robbery earlier that same day. He faces multiple new charges and will be sentenced to a much longer term in prison. If he’d paid his dues and accepted the error of his previous ways, he would have been eligible for parole in 2016.

Here’s the point: It never ends well when we try to outrun our own mistakes. We must take accountability for the pain, sorrow and shortcomings of the past in order to grow toward the future.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holy Cannoli!

It’s fried.

It’s creamy.
It’s sweet.

It’s amazing.

Not all cannolis are created equal. Not by a long shot. It is possible to mess up a seemingly simple combination of fried dough and sweet cream. The pastry can be dry and tasteless. The filling can be have a weird consistency or taste. When it happens, it is heart-wrenching.

This is never the case at Nana Rosa Italian Food. Just look at this picture, then go and get some. There’s really nothing more to say.

Okay, one more thing to say: I can never eat cannoli without thinking of this SNL skit with Adam Sandler and the great Chris Farley. RIP Chris.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Need Supporters for a Customer Service Renaissance

What happened to the concept of customer service? Huh?

You’d think in this economy every business would be drilling its employees on the importance of pleasing the customer. Money is tight for most families and good jobs are hard to come by, yet I find front line workers every day who treat customers like we should be grateful that they chose to come to work. It’s the other way around, for crying out loud!
What I always believed to be the minimum standard for customer service has greatly diminished or been lost altogether, even here in the South, where it should thrive if nowhere else.

Here are three examples from the past 24 hours:

1.     Yesterday was on a conference call with a client and another third party. A representative from the third party said to my client, “There’s absolutely no way we are meeting that deadline. Sorry.” What? After an awkward pause the client – who pays the bill of this vendor – had to initiate the conversation about what other arrangements could be made and coax the third party vendor to commit to some reasonable plan. Never in my career would I handle a situation like that. Maybe it was my upbringing. Maybe it was my professional training. At any rate, I am proud to carry a work ethic that is about doing whatever it takes to make my customers happy.

2.     Went to Subway for lunch today. I go to this same spot at least once a week. It’s three blocks from my office. I know the woman at the register recognizes me. Yet as we complete the transaction I don’t get a “Thank you,” “Enjoy your lunch,” “Have a nice day,” or any other simple courtesy I should expect after handing over my money. In fact, I often find that I am the one saying “Thank you” – even though I paid you!

3.     On the way home from work we stopped to get the car from our local gas station service center. We trust these folks with all our auto maintenance and repairs, and they are typically polite. Today after I settled the bill, the manager asked one of the mechanics to pull the car around to the front door. He did, and as I walked around the front of the car, he got out, shut the door and walked the other way without so much as glancing at me, the guy who just paid the bill. I stood there for a second, shook my head, then drove away, re-evaluating the whole relationship. There are lots of mechanics in town, and plenty who I’m sure would love to earn our business.
So, from this point forward, I am launching a Customer Service Renaissance. What does this Renaissance entail, you ask? I won’t deny that there will likely be some indefinite boycotts, as I am known to practice. But the bigger issue here is choice.  

I will choose to do business only with companies that train their employees to treat customers the way we expect to be treated.
Give me less attitude and more gratitude.

Give me the bubbly 16-year-old at Chick-fil-A. Give me Publix, where shopping really is a pleasure. Give me Disney World, where employees in the Magic Kingdom made my little girl’s dreams come true.
I will not conform to anything less.

The Customer Service Renaissance has begun. Who's with me?