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Author Archive for Pamela – Page 3

I had forgotten…

Do you ever have a really good work day and realize that you’d forgotten some aspect of your work that you really, really enjoy?

I had a day like that today.

I organize things professionally because its who I am. I organize, I sort. Pity my poor husband. Its not something I learned to do as a profession. Like so many other solopreneurs, its something that I do naturally that I turned into a business. Homes, offices, its about the mindset, not the space for me.

Today I remembered what I love to organize more than anything, and that is words.

Words?

I know, its a little odd to think of writing and copy editing as ‘organizing’ words, but to me that’s what it is. Is this word doing the proper job here? Or should it be some other word? Does this paragraph enhance the flow of the idea here? Wouldn’t it work better two pages down? I know this anecdote is lovely and fun but its cluttering up your idea, I’m afraid it will have to go.

To me, that’s organizing. And its almost play.

How lucky, to get to earn a living doing things I’d really do anyway.

Honey still works better

You remember your mother saying “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”

It wasn’t really about flies.

My last post was about a problem I had and what to keep in mind when fixing things for your customers. Considering how surprised the nice customer service rep was that I wasn’t irate and screaming, I thought a few tips for the customer side of things were in order.

1. Don’t yell at people who can’t help you.

If you’re angry about a situation, chances are excellent that the first person you get on the phone doesn’t know anything and can’t help you. Wait until you reach the right pay grade.

2. Be clear on what your problem is, and when appropriate, what you’d like the resolution to be.

‘I’m really unhappy’ is not a good complaint. Give them a chance to actually help by providing clear details. Have your paperwork handy.

3. Don’t assume everyone is out to get you.

Business don’t stay in business by intending to deliver a shoddy product. (I don’t want to talk about government departments right now.) Approach each problem with the assumption that it was an honest mistake and they’d like to fix it for you. There’s plenty of time to get irate later if its necessary.

4. Control your temper.

Even when losing your temper is appropriate, don’t. Either the person on the other end of the phone really wants to help you, or they don’t. Screaming about it isn’t going to change them one way or the other. Honestly, when I’m pleasant and restrained most customer service reps I deal with are so shocked that they’re happy to bend over backwards just because I’m nice.

5. If you need to escalate, go right ahead, but don’t assume.

Everyone wants to talk to a supervisor or the manager. That isn’t always necessary. Often anyone in customer service can help you. You’ll always have to wait for a manager, and when you summon one specifically, they’re already on the defensive. Of course, if you get someone who isn’t competent, your issue is complicated, or you’re not getting anywhere, then don’t hesitate to ask for a supervisor, and then let the supervisor know you tried to handle it at the lower level, but it wasn’t working for you.

Mostly, I think a generous application of Calm Down would improve most customer service issues immeasurably.

Its about the fix

When you are in business, you will make mistakes. You will mess things up. You will do things so boneheaded that you want to hide under a rock for a week (or maybe that’s just me). The point is, mistakes happen.

What’s critical to your business is how you fix the problem.

Today I got my order from my food delivery service. It was not at all what I was expecting. A number of critical items were reduced or missing. Apparently when I was placing my order I went well over the ‘points’ I’m allotted by the system. While I was on hold to fix the problem I reviewed the order placed and can see that there was definitely too much stuff.

What went wrong:

So the first problem was the original order. I suppose I should have paid more attention, but really, I don’t have the point system in front of me. I assumed that it was the job of the guy on the phone to pay attention to that and they’ve always done an excellent job in the past. So that’s their first mistake.

The real big mistake was, when the error was discovered, they did not contact me to ask me how I’d like my order adjusted to fix the differences, and by the way apologize for not paying attention. They just made some assumptions, all of which were completely wrong. This just sets up their customer service department for dealing with irate customers. Not a nice thing to do to your coworkers. This is the mistake that lingers and could encourage me to talk badly about their company for months.

What went right:

The delivery driver (who is a great guy by the way, always pleasant. Always someone I’m perfectly willing to have in my home) knew what I needed to do. Call the guy I placed the order with and find out what happened. He’d arrived early for my delivery and since he had the time, he didn’t give me any trouble when I insisted he wait until I got a resolution. He played with my cats while I was on hold. Teach your people who is responsible for handling problems.

I asked to be directed to ‘the guy’. When I got his voice mail I went back to the switchboard and said “I have a problem with my order, I need to talk to ‘the guy’ right away before the driver can go.” He was on another call, so Switchboard made the intelligent decision to find someone in customer service who could help me right away. Timely response cuts down on the time your customer has to think about exactly how upset they are.

Right away turned out to be Hannah, who was pleasant, cheerful, apologetic, and apparently shocked that I wasn’t screaming at her. (hmm. I see another post in my future.)Be pleasant and apologetic.

She had all the answers from “send the driver on and you and I’ll will work this out” to “lets look at your account” and “wow, we really messed this up”. So we worked out a fair exchange, and then she threw in some extra stuff as an apology. Know what you can and can’t do to resolve problems. Be proactive with ‘can’.

And then she didn’t rush off but asked me about quality and service and took the time to discuss things with me as long as I wanted. Take the time to add a positive human component to the experience.

Thank you very much Hannah at Town and Country customer service. You did your job excellently today.

Are you networking? Really?

When we go to networking events in person, there are really 2 kinds of attendees. The people often referred to as card ninjas, who are here to pass the maximum number of business cards as though it were a competition, and the people who are there to meet other people with whom they would hopefully like to do business. Certainly its really a continuum, but those are the biggest categories.

People work social media the same way. Some people want to have as many links, fans, or followers as they can possibly manage. My question is, to what purpose? If you aren’t taking a moment to connect with any of these people, to exchange a few words or Tweets about who they are as a person, then it isn’t a connection, its just a crowd. And yelling into a crowded room just isn’t useful. Few people will actually hear you, and only a few of them will actually care. And at least one of them will probably take exception to what you just said!!

So lets back off on the card-ninja approach and take a little time to hear what other people are really saying. If you listen to them, you’ll have a much better chance of them listening to you.

Break it down

Last week we watched The Next Master Chef on Food Network. It’s yet another reality show, if you don’t watch it. Their task was to cook for 400 hungry Marines. (I need to make the Marine solidarity noise now that I’m related to one. My baby sister just got married.)

The cameras caught just about everyone participating on that show talking some variation of “400 people!!! I’ve never cooked for 400 people!!!” And they proceeded to run around like headless chickens and ignore that critical part that they didn’t feel they knew how to tackle. Not a single one stopped and thought it through.

The team who made the best food? They lost, because they ran out. You can’t be feeding soldiers and run out of food. seriously.

I’ve never cooked for 400 people either. But I know how to break it down.

I’ve never cooked for 400 people. But I’ve cooked for 10. So I look at those giant pans they use for military cooking and I say ‘If I’m cooking au gratin potatos for 10 people, my pan is so big. How many of those pans fit into this one.” And then its a just matter of math.

That’s really how you have to handle any big scary project. Figure out what you do know, and use those pieces to help you figure out what you don’t know. The more complicated (or the more scary) something is, the smaller you may need to break down the pieces. Often you can figure out the parts that you don’t know either by handling the parts around it, or by breaking it down small enough to figure out who to ask for advice.

Ignoring the parts you don’t understand isn’t a sound strategy.

Not good for strangers.

As I’ve said before, Facebook is the perfect place to maintain any friendly relationship. Cousins, business friends, kids, everyone is out there.

But its a little more personal than I’d like to be with someone I’ve never met. This week I have gotten no less than 7 friend invitations from people I have never met. Friends of friends. I’m sorry, I know you’ve been told you need to be out here for your business, but it doesn’t work that way.

I read this article this morning, it was interesting, but mostly I liked the subtitle, which is ‘most people don’t do it very well’ and it was referring to networking. It could have been referring to social media as well. There are no short cuts people. Get rich quick on the internet is approximately equal to Lose 20 lbs in 10 days.

Its about reinforcing connections. Its not the right place to make new ones. At least not this week.

Personalizing your professional voice.

They say “you have to be personal on social media”. So we get people talking about the most narcissistic stuff. There’s personal and then there’s over sharing and many people are definitely over sharing.

The problem is, a lot of the people who use social media are entrepreneurs and business owners. What that really means is, we have no life apart from business. Or does it. Maybe what it really means is that business is an integral part of our real life so personalizing it is really easy, once you realize what ‘personalize’ means in this context.

There are a lot of levels of ‘personal’. Lets go with beach-personal and water cooler-personal.

At the beach, you’re really letting it all hang out. Fish belly white skin. Grey hair. Saddlebags. Beer guzzling, really bad volley ball, whatever it is you as a person are and like to do, its all out there. And the beach is an appropriate place for most of that.

At the water cooler, that’s still in your office, but its become axiomatic for a place for relaxing a little. Talk about what’s new in sports or your favorite TV show. (I’m so ready for Big Bang Theory to start the new season!) We had a great weekend up in Estes Park. Things you could tell your boss (assuming you aren’t embarrassed by your choice of television viewing) or your grandmother with equal confidence. But here there are definite limits. When asked what’s up for your weekend you might say “My mother in law is coming to visit” and roll your eyes, and that’s just the right side of appropriate. You’ll get some commiseratory groans and eye rolls and then the conversation will move to the next person in line. It is definitely NOT the time to explain, in detail, about the time when your mother in law did some horrible thing. That would be crossing over into the wrong side of the line. Definitely.

Personalizing social media is like that. Had a business lunch somewhere? Well, was the service excellent? Or Terrible? Did you learn something new about the restaurant, or owners, or menu? “I had lunch with Pamela today. Did you know Jason’s Deli serves items on gluten free bread?” Its personal, because we have a friendly relationship, and its about sharing with others. “Went to the Women in Business Breakfast today. Did you know (insert interesting fact you learned.)”

Share your perspective, your insight, in short *you*, the inside of your head, what makes you unique or interesting. If it happens in a business environment, that’s ok, that’s part of you too.

Please keep up.

Facebook is for chatting. Facebook is for connecting with friends. Facebook is for passing information and being available to people you know. Facebook is for building social connections to your business and professional friends. Facebook is for messaging people who’s email address you can’t find…

Yes, it has now become common place to use Facebook messaging to communicate with business connections. Don’t shake your head at me. Its hugely convenient. I may not have your email address handy. I may not be sure which of the 5 emails I have for you is the one you actually check. But I’m betting your Facebook notifications go to the useful one. And I was there anyway.

Facebook has become a one stop shop for all things connectivity. I’m sharing my business blog while consulting with my newly married sister and talking a good friend through moving.  I like it that way. All the pieces of my life jumbled together, just like my life.

The thing about blogs

is that a lot of people, most particularly myself, tend to say too much.

I know better. I absolutely know that if a blog is more than a few short paragraphs, maybe 3, then I’m going to say “I’ll look at that later” when what I really mean is, “too much information, I’m going to set this aside then forget to ever come back.” A blog has to have something I’m seriously in need of to catch my interest longer than about 1/2 a screen.

So why do we fall into the trap of thinking we don’t have enough time to blog, or we don’t have enough to say? If you have a topic you’re interested, anything really, then you probably have enough to say. So here’s a few things to keep in mind when starting to blog:

  • Keep it short. One complete thought per post. If you have more than one thought about a particular topic, make a series of posts rather than one really long one.
  • Post often. You’ll get a better readership if you post regularly. If your blogging software won’t let you write today and schedule it for tomorrow, look into a better blogging engine.
  • Be conversational. Most audiences expect blogs to be personal and conversational rather than strictly formal. It can depend on your topic, but if people are looking for dry facts, they probably aren’t going to trust a blog post as their source anyway.
  • Reread before posting. Posting a great article that’s full of errors and typos and incomplete thoughts isn’t going to build your readership.
  • Don’t revise. If you’ve changed your mind about a stance, write a new post, don’t go back and fix the old one.

I have some more, but that’s enough for one post. I know you’re all watching the clock to see how much longer this is going to take. Off you go.

Passion

Not that kind!

The kind where you’re excited by what you get to do for you business or community and you can’t wait to get started. The kind that makes you babble at length about your business or latest idea so that those you talk to can’t help but get excited with you.

Today I made a brilliant business connection. Our one hour ‘maybe we can work together’ meeting turned into 3 hours of shared excitement, two firm commitments, three new ideas to ponder and build on until they become full plans, and the knowledge that we’ve each met a kindred spirit who will be a great addition to our lives, business and personal.

That kind of passion makes every hardship of owning your own business worth it. I don’t think you ever get that kind of joy and satisfaction out of working for someone else.

Passion, if you don’t have it, maybe you should go look for it.