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Now that we have a daughter working at Target (“Cool Managers” blog), I’ve learned a bunch about the challenges—headaches!?—of managing a retail store. And here’s what I know:
Now that we have a daughter working at Target (“Cool Managers” blog), I’ve learned a bunch about the challenges—headaches!?—of managing a retail store. And here’s what I know:
Well, author’s prerogative—I’m adding a 48th:
Be Like Mike.
Our Colorado land-line and Internet provider is CenturyLink. They do a fine job for us, but I don’t go around raving about them. I have better things to do. However, I will take the time to extol the virtues of Mike, because people like him are the key to organizations being outstanding.
In the summer of 2012, Karen and I bought a “second home.” Yeah, I know, sounds snooty and uppity all at the same time. We didn’t plan to do it, but when we rented a house in Fraser, CO for a three day June get-away and saw that it was for sale, we asked, “Do we want to invest in this?”
So, we did. Overall, it’s been great, except for one thing: the DSL. Yes, even up in the mountains—I. Want. My. Internet! (more…)
I’ve engaged in cross-country travel for 17 years, and have spoken in each of our lower 48 states. I’ve stayed in so many hotels, they now sort of all look alike. I’m sure the hotel chain marketing execs who work hard to create “brand loyalty” would cringe at that, but it’s true. Truthfully, I’m not very hard to please. If my room has a bed, TV, running water, and a coffee pot—I am very happy.
But recently, I stayed at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida, and witnessed something I’ve never seen before. This:
Trust me, I didn’t fold them.
Now, the place wasn’t perfect. The room service was limited and an A/C unit in the bathroom ceiling dripped some water that I had to mop up—but I’d go back. Why? Well, the 78 degree temps in January help, but mostly because an unnamed housekeeping person went above and beyond.
When I saw those clothes on my extra bed that day, a gas station back home immediately came to mind.
We all know that organizations fire people, but as we say in Outstanding!, people fire organizations.
Recently, while conducting a “Be Outstanding!” day of training with a senior management team representing a well-known appliance manufacturer, I asked them to each identify an organization they’ve fired; that is, one they will never do business with again—and why. Every single person in the room had an example. Here are some:
I shared an example, too. I’ve fired a post office.
Where we live 15 miles northeast of Denver, Colorado, I can choose between four PO’s to use. That’s right—four. Some, of course, are closer than others. They are 9 miles south, 7 miles northwest, 5 miles west, and 10 miles north. And that northern one has a built-in logistical advantage for the Millers: It is only blocks from the school we take our kids to and pick them up from five days per week, thirty-six weeks per year, year in and year out. How convenient!
But I will never go back.
Why? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint, but let me try. Slow. Apathetic. Solemn. Lethargic.
Did I mention S-L-O-W???
I’ve felt this way for a long time, but a couple years ago I decided to risk it again on a Saturday. I had to get some books shipped that weekend and with other errands to run in town, I thought, Well, I’ll give the Brighton, Colorado P.O. another shot. How magnanimous of me!
And this I what I saw:
A longtime client and friend to QBQ! sent us this email. Completely in his own words, Kim Stephens shares this story. Outstanding service – it’s just not that complicated! Enjoy!
My recent stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Boston-Raynham completely reminded me of Chapter 24 in Outstanding! and how great service is “doing something someone didn’t have to do.”
It started with an excellent and timely pre-arrival email from the front desk supervisor – Nathan – letting me know they wanted to exceed my expectations. But one thing Nathan did that made me feel important, and that he probably didn’t have to do, was to provide me with both his direct phone number and his personal email address.
I arrived at the hotel on Monday evening without my luggage. I guess the 1:45 delay f my connecting fight was not enough time for the airline to get my luggage transferred! But they guaranteed they would deliver it to the hotel the next day.
So the next afternoon, I slipped out of a meeting to call Nathan to see if it had arrived. After a quick check, he replied it had not arrived. He then asked me what time I expected to be back at the hotel and what airline I had flown. After telling him, he replied, “Don’t worry about a thing; I will personally contact the airline and make sure it is here by the time you arrive back tonight. If there is going to be any issue, I’ll call you back.” Wow, I thought, now that’s doing something he didn’t have to do! And it saved me the hassle of calling the airline and listening to all the recorded messages in the automated phone system before getting to someone that could help me. Eventually, my luggage was received.
Then, on the next day of my stay, I needed to get something notarized and immediately sent back to my home office. I went to the front desk where one of Nathan’s employees greeted me. I asked if there was a notary on staff at the hotel and she said she didn’t think so but would check to make sure. After confirming they did not, she said, “Let me see if I can find one for you close by.” She looked up the number of a nearby bank and called to see if they had a notary available, which they did. Wow, this is now the second time the hotel staff did something they didn’t have to do.
Well, needless to say, John, this hotel is Outstanding! I swear Nathan and his staff must have read your book and for sure Chapter 24 because they seemed to know about that flashing neon sign around my neck with 12-inch-high letters saying MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT! And Nathan and his staff definitely have “not forgotten who pays the bills”! If you ever get a chance to stay at this particular Courtyard, I would highly recommend it.
Kim Stephens, CPT
Director of Training and Development
Schwan’s Consumer Brands
The point of this missive is not to pick on a nice guy, but to show how easy it is to say, “I believe in accountability!”—and then not practice it.
A month ago we had a gent named Kyle, representing a large landscaping firm, come to our house to talk about a major project. Kyle is the general manager of the company and its many employees. This is no “mom and pop” shop.
As this likeable fella and I chatted—and connected—he asked what I do for a living. I told him I’m an author of books about personal accountability. His immediate response was, “Well, that’s the way I raise my kids. It’s all about being responsible, ‘ya know!” I said, “Really? That’s terrific. Good for you. It’s the only way to live.”
Fast forward one month.
His crew was supposed to arrive and get to work yesterday morning at 8 AM. In response to my email around 10 AM, he said it would now be 1 PM. At 5:00 PM nobody had shown up and when I emailed Kyle, this smart-phone-to-smart-phone dialogue took place:
Kyle the Supplier: “In a mtg. Be there in the morning.”
John the Customer: “But what happened to today???”
Kyle the Supplier: “The day got away from us; finishing up on another project.”
John the Customer: “A phone call to let me know would’ve been nice.”
Kyle the Supplier: “Been in the mtg all afternoon with my cell turned off.”
While the customer with cash in hand waited the entire day …
Excuse-making, it’s one of the easiest things to do. Excuses are like pounds of fat on the body: They creep into our life. Until one day, when we look in the mirror hard with the keen eye of self-awareness and see them.
And the affect they have on our lives.
People who truly understand and practice personal accountability are extremely aware of the excuses that can slip easily from ones mouth. Accountable people are vigilant and diligent about not making any. In fact, they consistently avoid excuses by developing the emotionally mature reflex action—let’s call it a “habit”—of saying, “I’m sorry. I could’ve done better” or some pithy variation of that statement.
And now, as I reread this post, the words, “There but for the grace of God go I” come to mind.
Excuses. Have I made any lately?
PS: Recent (August 20th) interview on Parenting the QBQ Way.
Personal Accountability … Bengy Style!
Need to buy a car? If so, then here’s where you go:
Mountain States Toyota, Denver, Colorado.
Why? Because they are outstanding!
Ask for Bengy Martinez—the happy salesperson with the big smile (email him at Bengy.Martinez@mountainstatestoyota.com). Let me tell you, Bengy is a star. And like every star, he has a supporting cast. In his case, sales manager, Matt Marr, and General Manager, Tim VanBinsbergen.
Some background: My wife, Karen, and I were not planning to buy two new vehicles this year, but a horrific May hailstorm—like none we’ve ever seen in our dozen Denver years—destroyed her Honda Odyssey mini-van and my fav “candy red” Toyota Tacoma longbed!
So, long story short, off to Mountain States we went, because we’d bought there before and have always been treated with dignity and respect. Well, low and behold there was a “pre-owned” (back in the day we called them “used”) Nissan Xterra for me—almost candy red—and another Odyssey van for Karen.
We bought. And all was well.
A few days later, I noticed the Odyssey’s back right tire looking soft, so I put some air in it. Honestly, I never thought much about it, until a June Saturday evening when our 22-year-old son, Michael, drove Mom and Dad to the Denver Int’l Airport to fly out for that long-planned cruise from Seattle to Alaska to celebrate our 30th. It was then on busy Peña Ave.—the only highway into DIA—we heard a “bam!” and a “bonk” and pulled over to find a flat tire. Yep, right side, rear.
Stupid! I thought. Should’ve gotten that tire fixed!
Decision time: Change the tire on the shoulder, call for a tow from the roadside, or try to go two more miles to DIA and let Mike handle it all. But Mike spoke up with, “Come on, Dad, let’s change the tire.”
“Oh, fine.” I responded, with absolutely no heart in it.
But then—wait for it—the problem that would lead to Bengy, Matt, and Tim becoming heroes presented itself.
There was no spare. Nor was there a Honda-specific tool to remove the wheel lugnuts.
My first thought was, I know it’s a used car that we purchased “as is,” but who sells a car with no spare and no lugnut wrench!?!?
So while calling for a tow truck, we limped on to the airport. Once there, we hugged Mike goodbye and headed to our gate. Fun way to begin the trip!
The next day, before we left Port Seattle, I emailed Bengy this note (abbreviated):
“Bengy, we bought the Odyssey from you and it had a bad back right tire from the start which blew out last night as Karen and I were being driven to the airport. We had to have the car towed to our home where it sits. Karen and I are now heading to Alaska and I’d like to ask what can you do for us? It’s not normal to sell an expensive vehicle without a spare and no way to remove the lugnuts, is it!? Thank you!”
After I sent my polite, frustration-laced note, I feared Bengy and Cast had only three choices:
1. Apathy. Do nothing.
2. Point fingers at the prior owner who kept the spare tire or at the “other department” who took the car into the dealership and didn’t check for a spare. And then do nothing.
3. Do something to help us, but charge us.
I did not really think there was a fourth choice, but that’s what outstanding organizations and people are all about:
Surprising and delighting the customer!
So there we were, enjoying life on the “high seas” while the problem back in Colorado was getting solved. As Mountain States Toyota moved fast to excel, son Michael later texted me a suggestion: “Dad, you should write this story up as a QuickNote!” As a father, just that observation makes me proud, because we can’t be outstanding, till we can see outstanding. I’m glad he saw it.
So, what was Bengy’s solution? Mid week, a tow truck was sent 18 miles to our home to pick up the car, tow it to the shop, and repair the tire. Cool, right? But then, on that Saturday night, Bengy, the sales guy, personally drove Karen’s van to our home, parking it in our driveway. When we arrived home Sunday, there it was—ready for “Mom use.”
The next day, joyful, helpful Bengy told me, “Finding your house in the dark out in the boonies was not an easy trick. I bet I passed it five times before I knew it was yours! But, no biggie—glad we got it to you!”
That’s Bengy, a happy guy who loves to serve—and sell cars. And that’s a good thing, since most of us need one.
Oh, and guess what? I later found out that the Odyssey model we have does not come equipped with a spare. This makes Mountain States’ actions even more impressive. Clearly, they could’ve said, “Sorry, not our problem!”
So, do you need a car? If so, go to Bengy and see what personal accountability and outstanding service look like wrapped in a really big smile.
John G. Miller
Author of …
Outstanding Happens in Moments
Our QuickNote story is from Antonio in Indiana, an Outstanding! reader.
John, I ordered Outstanding! the minute it was released, and have applied the principles to my personal and professional life. My staff has done the same—and we have seen our business move in an outstanding direction. So, I want to share an “outstanding” story with you that I experienced!
I phoned in a “carry out” lunch order to our local McAlister’s Deli for two grilled chicken salads. The gal on the phone told me they would be ready in five minutes. When I arrived ten minutes later the place was packed with a line of customers reaching the sidewalk.
Slipping up to the counter, I learned from the cashier my order had gotten lost. She apologized for the mistake and told me she’d resubmit it “priority” status. When I moved to the side to wait, the Be Outstanding! Moments began.
Be Outstanding! Moment #1:
As she continued to take orders, the cashier offered me a drink on the house. She had already addressed my problem, but rather than ignore me waiting in the wings, she made sure I did not feel forgotten.
Be Outstanding! Moment #2:
Not more than two minutes later the manager came by and apologized. I never even asked to see the manager about this issue. It just wasn’t that big of a deal!
Be Outstanding! Moment #3:
The manager gave me two complementary meal cards for my next visit, saying, “Please come back and see us again. Next time we’ll get it right.” He offered no excuses about being busy or some “trainee” making a mistake.
Be Outstanding! Moment #4:
The manager started walking up and down the line of patrons. I wondered what he was doing. When he got closer I was able to hear for myself: He was taking drink orders for people and apologizing for the wait. The manager himself was out with the customers. The most outstanding part was nobody was complaining! He was doing this, I assume, because he knows it’s the right way to treat his customers.
Be Outstanding! Moment #5:
My order was ready. After grabbing it and heading toward the door, I realized I had not paid. When I turned and asked the cashier for my total, she said, “Don’t worry about it; your lunch is on us today!”
John, every action I saw them take was designed to avoid what you write about in Outstanding! where you say, “People fire organizations.” Not wanting their customers to vote with their dollar and go somewhere else the next time they’re hungry, this organization went the extra mile at every turn.
Not only do I intend to continue giving McAlister’s Deli my business, I have told countless people about my positive experience. The fact they lost my order is the furthest thing from my mind. That stuff happens. It’s how an organization reacts to their mistakes that will determine if it is “Outstanding!”
Antonio, you’ve said it well. Organizations do not become outstanding overnight. Nor do they fail in a day. Outstanding moments lead to outstanding experiences which lead to the building of outstanding organizations. Remember to make the moments exceptional.
Be Outstanding! radio show with host John G. Miller coming March 29!
Dave Ramsey/FOX TV interview with John on Outstanding!
Purchase the new Outstanding! book here.
QBQ! (The Question Behind the Question) QuickNote®
Be Outstanding!: Make No Excuses
Daughter Tara, while a high school senior, came home one weeknight after I’d turned in and typed out a note on my laptop. This is exactly how it looked and read: “Dad, I’m sorry for not calling to let you know I wouldn’t be home by ten. I understand things like this can take away the trust you have in me. I won’t even make excuses, because I know I need to have Personal Accountability!”
I remember thinking, Wow, great note. She really gets it. What a good kid. Then I saw a P.S. that said: “Of course, there are always reasons if you want to hear them.”
Life teaches us all—whether we’re a child, a teen, or an adult—that we cannot control what other people say and do, or most events occurring around us. The only thing we really have control over is ourselves. And this is exactly why personal accountability is so critical, and why people and organizations who demonstrate accountability stand out.
In truth, there actually are reasons things go awry: people make mistakes, the ball gets dropped, stuff happens. Life can be complicated, confusing, and complex. Because of this, any one of us on any given day could go on and on with “reasons.” But when we attempt to exonerate ourselves with explanations, all they sound like are excuses—and, of course, that’s all they really are. What we need to do, instead, is look to ourselves and ask, “What can I do?” and get to work solving the problem. In other words, practice personal accountability.
Certainly there are situations in life where we pull out the swords of Facts and Logic and wield them mightily in our defense. But when we are tempted to do so in front of anyone we call “customer,” we might want to remember the country song that says, “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” Never forget: The customer does not care to hear our reasons and excuses.
Just ask Alan Farnsworth, head of customer service worldwide for Bausch & Lomb. He’s been on the receiving end of the better approach and shares it in this story:
Connecting through the Paris airport, I was on a bus full of travelers heading out for a remote boarding on a distant tarmac. When we reached our plane, we weren’t allowed to get out. Instead, an Air France person came onto the bus to let us know the airplane cabin wasn’t ready. I wasn’t concerned about the delay since I was not in a hurry, but I could see other passengers getting increasingly annoyed as the minutes passed.
Once we were finally on the plane and settled in, forty minutes behind schedule, the captain came over the speaker. Honestly, I expected the standard, canned, insincere airline spin such as, “Sorry for the delay, but it’s due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft” or some other routine excuse. Instead, here’s what the captain said: “I’d like to personally apologize for this delay. It was due to our failure to get the cabin ready on time, and as captain, I am responsible for that. I didn’t get the job done. This is inexcusable. Our practices will change to ensure this never happens again, at least not with any team for which I am responsible. This is not typical of Air France, and I hope you won’t hold this against us, because we can do better—and you deserve better. Now, please sit back and enjoy the flight. We may be late, but we’ll make it as pleasant as possible for you.”
I have never heard such honesty like this in circumstances like these. You should have seen the passengers’ response. It was fascinating to observe. Nodding heads, smiles, and faces that clearly said, OK, that’s pretty nice. I feel better now. People’s agitation and irritation seemed to be replaced by acceptance and relaxation. While observing all of this, it occurred to me that candor and accountability like this are exactly how every organization ought to deal with their customers. After experiencing it—after feeling it myself—I know it works!
Question: How complex is it for an airline to get a plane off the ground on time?
And more often than not, the crew is as frustrated as the passengers. They want to get going, too! But if this Air France pilot had shared “The Five Reasons You Can’t Blame Us” with his customers, what would that have accomplished? Nothing positive, that’s for sure. So he took the High Road of Personal Accountability and simply said, “No excuses.” Outstanding!
Alan’s tale is a terrific example of one individual taking responsibility for a problem in a surprising and inspiring way—but that’s probably not the whole story. Since individuals often act within the context of their organization and its culture, I can’t help but wonder what might have been in the captain’s training and the organizational environment that contributed to his behavior.
More important, what can each of us do to engage in the same behavior in our organization today?
Our story today comes from José in California. Enjoy!
John, you’re totally correct when you say in Outstanding! that “people fire companies.” With all the problems in the economy and how hard it is to gain and keep customers, organizations should not do dumb things.
I had received several emails from a major computer manufacturer offering post-Christmas discounts and free shipping. Combining those benefits with getting in a last minute 2009 business expense, on December 26th I ordered a customized computer online. It was to be completed and shipped about ten days later.
On January 6th, I checked on my order and was incredulous: The order had been canceled December 28th with no attempt to call or e-mail me. So I called and reached a customer care person on the other side of the world.
She spoke decent English and was helpful. She did have to contact her “next level” a couple of times during our call, but that was okay. Meanwhile, I tried to be a good customer—she was not responsible for the cancellation—by working hard to be even-tempered, speak clearly, and to give her the information she needed.
What we discovered is they’d canceled my order because a peripheral (a webcam that clips to the monitor) was not in stock. It seems their system is programmed to automatically cancel an entire order if one item is not available. So, a $75 webcam isn’t in their inventory and they cancel a $3,000 order—without giving the consumer the chance to say, “Forget the camera!”
So, not good for me—but I also can’t figure out how it’s good for their business.
Anyway, the rep told me I’d have to submit an entirely new order. I calmly expressed my frustration, letting her know I still expected the promised price discount along with free shipping. I told her nicely if that wasn’t going to happen, I would need to speak to a manager so I could explain why I was now going to get off the phone and go buy a new computer from the other guys.
I was then put on hold again while she went to speak to her boss. Oh well, at least she was trying.
Finally, my order was re-submitted with all the perks. But then she mentioned it might still be canceled if the webcam wasn’t in stock. I quickly said, “CANCEL THE CAMERA!!!”
John, this is an example of a once great, big name company shooting itself in the foot by doing something so customer-UNfriendly it caused me to want to “fire” them. And, of course, I might do that in the future when I need to buy another computer—and have a another choice to make.
One more point: I’d send this email to them but they make it so difficult to contact them online it’s not worth the hassle. But if I could, I’d give kudos to a customer service rep overseas who seems to care more about the paying customer than her own organization’s marketing and IT executives here in the States do!
Thanks, José. Certainly an outstanding example of the dumb things organizations do to push customers away—the exact opposite of what every organization wants. It’d be a good idea for all of us to look hard at our systems, processes, policies, and people and work to ensure we’re not giving customers reason to fire us, because who can afford that?
At QBQ, Inc. we like customers. So, please email us at the address below and — believe it — we will respond! Or give us a call! But email will usually get you a faster response.QBQ, Inc.