"We are all in this humans race together and it's our job to make sure we all cross the finish line as one."

Friday, July 29, 2011

For My Daughter: On Her 3rd Birthday

When the winds stop whistling
When the leaves stop bristling
When the cows stop grazing
When the poets stop phrasing
When the scholars stop learning
When the devils fire’s stop burning
When the planets stop spinning
When the holy men stop sinning
When the borders start falling
When the weary stop yawning
When the old timers dancing
When the young stop romancing.
I will still be there to love you.

Dream Well

Cherub angel in lace and white
Drops off  her dreams and says good night.
The sandman’s been and’s on his way
As he closes the doors on another day.
And as you drift off to sleep
Slumber pixies tuck in your feet.

Hoot owl blinks and sings his song
The crickets chirp and play along
The swaying branch conducts the tune
Under the spotlight of the full moon
All while today replays in your head
And I sit in wonder on the end of your bed.

Happy Birthday
I sung to you the moment you were born
I sing still
I sang during this photo too
Every song is you.

Same Spot. Same Face. Different Year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cheers! Classic Sitcoms & Customer Service

 I’m going to mention four sitcoms and I want you to close your eyes and try to remember each ones theme song. It doesn’t matter if you remember just the tune or some of the lyrics. Just see how you do:
Laverne and Shirley
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Two and a Half Men
Now, I’m going to bet the farm that you were able to get somewhere with the top 3 but had to either reach or give up on number 4. Why? TV Theme Songs, particularly sitcoms, are a lost art. The song was part of the show and part of the event of tuning in. It told you about what you were going to watch and invited the viewer in like an old or new friend. The songs were timeless. The songs were positive. The songs are now classics and they lasted longer than the quick 20 second “song bites” that are today’s “theme songs”.

These songs play into customer service on two levels:

First, today’s customer service tends to be somewhat forced, fast and mechanical just like modern sitcom themes. You don’t get that feeling of wanting to tune in again next week or rush out to by the 45 rpm (God, I just dated myself there). Every week you were tuning in to be invited into the lives of these characters you loved to visit. How many places of business can you say that about?

Second, the songs had great “customer service” attitude themes. Especially “Cheers”. The entire premise was about an establishment that people wanted to go. The song says it all. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name/And their always glad you came”. Look at Norm. Every time he entered Cheers the bar let out an enthusiast cry of “NORM!” Norm knew good customer service! What more could he ask for? Tremendous service and a product he was very fond of. Everyone who visited Cheers enjoyed the same attention, even the pompous Frasier Crane.

Look at Laverne and Shirley’s theme. “Give us any chance /We’ll take it. Give us any rule/We’ll break it. We’re going to make our dreams come true.” Golly, sounds like it should be hanging on every CEO’s office with the line “Our Customer Service Mantra” on the plaque somewhere! Every company wants to have a reputation of making their guests customer service “dreams come true”, yes?

How about dear sweet Mary Tyler Moore? The opening line to her theme speaks volumes! “Who can turn the world on with her smile?/Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? /Well it's you girl, and you should know it /With each glance and every little movement you show it.” I always tell my customer service trainees, seminars, etc. the same thing every meeting. “Your smile could change the course of someone’s day and maybe even their life”.

A simple smile or genuine kind tone of voice can alter someone’s bad day and give them hope. Everyone who enters the doors of your establishments has a story. It’s up to us to be listening and be aware that that guest, who is relying on us to get them through a rough day, reaches that positive goal. We don’t know what that guest has been through that day. As far as you know, they may have been thinking about suicide and your employees smile just gave them the spark or glimmer of hope they needed to quell that thought process.

There will never be another M*A*S*H, Happy Days, All in the Family or any of the shows I have mentioned here. Sure today’s sitcoms are funny but they lack a couple of things the old ones had. Their short the killer theme song and they lack heart. Help your customer service staff find its heart. Be the composer of a memorable sincere hook that will want people “to go where everybody knows their name”.

Now if you would excuse me, the Mork and Mindy all day laugh-a-thon is on. Shazbot! Nano-Nano!

This blog was inspired by a Tweet from Tristan Bishop (@knowledgebishop)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Being There: Customer Service & Community Gardening

 Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.  I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

                                                                                                                - Being There

Behind my building in Queens, NY there is a back alley. It’s a relatively healthy plot of earth that my wife and I thought would make a wonderful garden to add some life to a rather lifeless area. We had been contemplating a garden for some time to honor the memory of our daughter’s twin sister, Summer, who passed away prior to delivery. This looked like the spot to do it.

We went to Home Depot and brought seasonal perennial flowers, seeds and some items for basic gardening and Summer’s Garden became a reality. It got us thinking about how rich the area is for beautification and what a wonderful opportunity it would be for other families in our building to come together and plant their own gardens. The campaign to bring awareness to it has just begun so I will update you on the progress but that is another blog.

Now, I’m a huge fan of the book and film, “Being There”, the story of a psychologically challenged man who tends to his garden and falls into becoming an economist with his simple wisdom of gardens and economic stability.  All this gardening talk made me realize the importance of a few things that companies can be doing in the garden of customer service and in community:
~ For everything, seeds must be planted. Whether it be with tools that customer service representatives need to grow and flourish or in the case of community outreach; dissemination of your intentions to raise awareness for a cause. All these things need a base. But the gardener must create the base for there to be growth.

~ The seeds must be nourished. Great customer service can only be achieved with support. It needs to come from C-Suite level to management and then the root, the team. Encouragement and acknowledgement is the greatest nourishment. For community outreach, the seeds must be nourished through educating your teams in what the cause is and its importance of its resulting success. Growth can only happen when the proper attention is paid to the project.

~ Sometimes, the plant must be trimmed but the root remains. Like plants, sometimes we must trim and prune to thwart contamination of the root. If there is an element of customer service that is being poisoned by negativity or disruptive behavior in an organization, don’t be afraid to trim that plant off. All it takes is one bad apple. Save the root and the core and make the necessary adjustments.

As I tend to Summer’s Garden with my daughter I try to explain as best I can these philosophies. To a three year old we must of course integrate ‘Tinker Bell’ into the discussion and though she may not understand everything we talk about, the seeds are planted. They will grow and I am certain she will nurture them.

Be the gardener. Plant the seeds in your company for great customer service reps. Plant the seeds to make a difference in your community.

Nurture them and the outcome will be fruitful for all.