March 5, 2010

Karma

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 pm by lindaslongview

In early Feburary, I requested a cab for a 4:00 a.m. pickup from my home to get to the airport.  The fare is usually between $36 – $40 (I take the route frequently).  I admit that on that morning, I did not notice whether the meter was zeroed before we departed that early morning.

At arrival at the airport, the meter read $52.  I unsuccessfully disputed the fare with the cab driver (Chris).  When I told him that I wasn’t prepared with appropriate change (I usually paid $40), and that I would need $8 in return (from $60), he told me he only had $3 to provide change.  At this point, the driver held my bag (hostage) while I needed to catch a plane, so I accepted the $3 for a total fare of $57 just to be on my way.  I explained to Chris that I would be complaining when I returned and I requested that he prepare a detailed receipt including cab #, driver name, and total fare.

I called the cab company several days later (when I had returned), explained what happened and requested a refund.  The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me back that day.  Days passed, and I called again and explained that I wanted a refund.   The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me that day.  More and more days passed.

I called my local cab licensing/enforcement agency (an arm of the local police) and explained what happened and how I had tried to resolve the problem.  The first thing I was told is that the cab company did not have a driver named Chris, because he was not on their approved (background-checked, finger-printed, allowed to pick up fares) list.  I assured her that indeed his name was Chris and that I had paid him $57 for my local trip to the airport.

When the police called the cab company, they successfully achieved a $22 refund and an apology on my behalf.  However, it came at a cost — the police opened an investigation because the cab company had allowed an unapproved driver to pick up fares!  So even though the cab company had already fired Chris, all of a sudden they are now in the center of a certification investigation.  They could have made so many different choices along the way….Karma!

What I don’t understand is why anyone (or any business) freely chooses to be dishonest, deceitful, or exploitative, because it creates only a short-term gain — it is not sustainable over the long-term.  Even though it might be “easy” to get away with deceit occasionally in a culture of complacency, it’s a game of Russian roulette.  Eventually a strong emotional response to dishonesty (coupled with the energy to pursue remediation) will emerge.

For me, it was initially about my loyalty to a long-term taxi service to let them know about their problem and offer them a chance to remedy my experience.  Later, it was about warning others.

People have long memories for both exploitation and generosity.  In our crowdsourced world, with services like Yelp! amplifying both, misdeeds/deeds are more durable.  Why risk enduring unflattering amplification?  My Long View Advice:

  • Be honorable; do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
  • Skip the shortcut, especially if safety or credibility is involved.
  • Make your choices as if they will be your destiny, they will.
  • Eschew complacency and participate in feedback, create opportunity to correct honest mistakes, amplify generosity when deserved, and warn others if necessary.

I have been a long believer that everyone makes his or her own karma.   If you live honestly, with integrity, and are generous, you will be reap value and amplify positivity over the long view.  Conversely, if you live dishonestly, deceitfully, are exploitative, it will catch up with you.

What kind of karma are you creating and amplifying?

P.S.  The destiny poster (at right) is courtesy of my son’s middle school, it hangs on the wall.

P.P.S.  I received my $22 check today.

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February 19, 2010

Both Sides

Posted in Business tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:48 am by lindaslongview

Now that I am fully self-employed, I have achieved new levels of reality about interactions and negotiations.

When I used to contract for services or products on behalf of an organization, I always appreciated that over the long view both sides need to accrue value in order for a deal to be positive. Today, I am appreciating the details in new and acute ways.

I am learning quickly how to discern which clients want to take advantage of my integrity, work ethic, and desire to over-deliver and which ones are grateful and willing to fairly compensate me for my service, skill, and ability to add value to their organization.  It is truly a pleasure to work with the latter.  🙂

Even in these times of extreme austerity for business and individuals, the world is bigger than any of our personal or business interactions.  So, what is true immediately will not be true forever.  Thus, actions taken today (in immediacy) that could be considered opportunistic, manipulative, or exploitive, will live on indefinitely.

Real value is created when there is synergy from collaboration.  In an environment of opportunism, manipulativeness, and exploitation, synergy is extinguished and replaced by minimalism – what is required is delivered rather than what is needed.

My long view advice to clients:

  • Leave enough on the table to ensure that the interaction is valuable to both sides. (If you squeeze the turnip hard enough, you might get what you wanted in the short-term, but not over the long-term).
  • Recognize the bounds of your agreements and/or contracts. (Don’t scope weeks of work while contracting for a few hours of service.)
  • Be gracious to those that provide you service, say “thank you” and provide constructive feedback when accepting deliverables. (You would be surprised how far a little graciousness goes in creating extra value.)
  • Foster collaboration with external providers worthy of internal rapport. (Ultimately, if you can create real synergy, you can achieve much greater value.)

Before I finished my post, I read Seth’s post: more, More, MORE! – apparently we are channeling the same subject today!  🙂

In your interactions, are you considering both sides?

February 12, 2010

Adding Performance

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , at 12:46 pm by lindaslongview

I got one of my clients to use BaseCamp (very cool workplace networking and project dashboard platform).  It was clear to me that they could benefit due to the geographic diversity of their team and their need to increase visibility of their project work.  For this client, BaseCamp was instantly successful and they now collaborate more effectivley (than before) commercializing some very promising technology.

BaseCamp itself solves project visibility issues for team members, but instantly creates the proverbially “cannot see the forest for the trees” problem for project managers (PMs).  It’s just not possible to get a top-level, Gantt view of projects, tasks (to-dos), and milestones inside BaseCamp.  But….

TeamDirection makes both a stand-alone Gantt chart product (IntelliGantt) and an MS Project Add-in (aka IntelliGantt) that interfaces directly with BaseCamp giving PMs an immediate Gantt view.

I became a raving fan even before I spent a penny with them.  Here’s why….

I noticed in the Trial IntelliGantt Add-In (FREE) that my BaseCamp imports of completed-tasks were not shown as complete yet associated Milestones indicated progress in MS Project.  I wrote to John at TeamDirection and explained the problem.  Over the course of a few days, we worked together by phone and by web – John even joined us at our BaseCamp until he understood and could resolve the problem.

The fix was dramatica wow moment, like putting glasses on for the first time! The quality of the data import was now high fidelity and aligned exactly as I would expect to see it in MS Project. I loved even more that he thanked Linda on the software update for helping them.  :*)

What made this interaction special is that TeamDirection clearly adheres to my three favorite (long view) customer service mantras (previously blogged at Rocking Customer Service):

  • Build relationships with your users. Creating connection encourages honest, timely communication.
  • If your customer calls you to complain or seek advice, THANK them, encourage narratives, and listen for information in the details.
  • Fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity.

Thanks John and TeamDirection!

If you are BaseCamping, are you IntelliGantting? (I’m buying the Add-In!)

July 19, 2009

Pivotal Blood Service

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:57 pm by lindaslongview

BloodMy husband is a wonderful guy, constantly giving back to the community in so many ways.  One example, he donates blood – he knows that the community counts on him especially in the summer because there is always a shortage.  Drip, drip, drip…yesterday morning, he got up early to donate blood.

When he returned from donating, he expressed frustration about the service.  As he recounted a tale about the person who handled his “in-take” – they wasted his time, denigrated his offer of assistance to find his recent travel destination on the map, and was rude.  I realized once again how lucky the world is that he is so calm, unflappable, and honorable.  Had I been in the same situation, frustrated would not be the word choice to describe how I would have felt…

Considering the importance of keeping eligible donors returning at regular intervals to donate blood to create blood supply (the only source of raw material), it is simply shocking that the blood center does not ensure that donors have an amazing experience.

As my husband recounted his blood center tale, I recalled the advice I gave previously in Proverbial Zebra about the importance of knowing the organizational constraint and understanding the pivotalness of staff roles.  That key advice came from Beyond HR:  The New Science of Human Capital (Bourdeau/Ramstad) and applies directly to a customer service organization like the blood center.  In fact, the authors use two different customer service roles at Disneyland to describe pivotalness – Mickey Mouse and the street sweepers.

At Disneyland, there is not too much differentiation from a “guest” point-of-view between the worst Mickey and the best Mickey – not pivotal.  However, there is significant differentiation between the worst street sweeper and the best – very pivotal. Sweepers who go out of their way to help a lost guest or find assistance make a big difference in the overall Disney experience of guests and, thereby, the success of Disneyland.  Thus, Disney makes a great effort to hire the very best street sweepers – those with initiative and courtesy.  Pivotalness is determined by the attributes that relieve an organizational constraint.

In the bloody supply business that is in chronic shortage and in need of donors, the organizational constraint is recruiting eligible donors.  So, if the Blood Center were to review staff roles relative to the constraint, there is not too much differentiation from a “donor” point-of-view” between the worst lab technician and the best lab technician (assuming baseline competence) – not pivotal.  However, there is a significant difference between the worst “in-take” technician and the best “in-take” technician – very pivotal.  “In-take” technicians that are knowledgeable of world geography (where has the donor visited in the last six months that might exclude them), charming (able to make comforting small talk through the finger-prick and blood pressure testing), and efficient (every donor minute wasted reduces the chance of return) make a big difference in the overall blood center experience and will affect the willingness of donors to continue to donate.

My long view advice to any blood center is that they need to be proactive about deploying excellence in “in-take” technicians. It is not an entry-level position that can be delegated to the lowest common denominator in the organization or the blood supply will suffer over the long-term.  As noted before, pivotalness is determined by the attributes that relieve an organizational constraint — access to blood NOW and in the FUTURE.  Do not count on a donor’s sense of duty or Oreo cookies to sustain donor returns.  Select staff for “in-take” positions that are knowledgeable, charming, and efficient and then compensate them for doing these things well because it matters!

Do you know what staff positions are pivotal in your organization?

May 31, 2009

Rocking Customer Service

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:48 pm by lindaslongview

iSH3_Interval_H20AudioI had a rocking customer service experience yesterday with H20 Audio that reinforces why I am a raving fan for them…

Even though swimming is a second-string pursuit (I’d rather be rock climbing, running, biking, etc.), I swim regularly because it “rehabs” everything I injure in my other athletic pursuits. The downside of swimming is the boredom.  So, about six (6) years ago, I started a down and up affair with music while I swim…

I started with waterproof earphones coupled to a waterproof “bag” that held a 1st generation iPod.  I stuffed the bag in my swimsuit and swam happily to tunes for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the “bag” sprung a leak and that iPod is now a doorstop (husband was very unhappy).

A year or so later, I found and purchased a SwiMP3.  The sound quality of the bone conduction speakers was awesome, but it was terminally painful to update my music because it was iTunes incompatible.  As I became more and more iTunes exclusive, it became more and more obsolete.

When I found the iSH2 from H2O Audio, which holds an iPod Shuffle, I was delighted.   Unfortunately, those early waterproof earphones had inconsistent performance and I still pined for the sound quality of my SwiMP3, but with the ease of iTunes.  I began sending notes (to both companies) asking for sound quality AND iTunes compatibility.  I was elated when H20 Audio told me that they were about to come out with the iSH3 (aka Interval) incorporating their Surge headphones to the iPod Shuffle casing.  I was so delighted that I ordered two as soon as they were available in Feburary 2009 (one for me and one for my friend’s birthday in May).  I was so early in my purchase that I had to work with customer service to register – the warranty website had yet to list the iSH3!  That’s how I met Richard at customer service.

I have been rocking my splashes very happily ever since.  I love my iSH3 and whenever anyone at the pool asks me about it, I encourage him or her to purchase an iPod Shuffle ($50) and the iSH3 ($80) – great deal!  I provide the H2O Audio website info and tell them that they will not regret it.

Imagine how distressed I was when I found out that my friend’s gift had a broken latch!  Considering that I had purchased it in February and I desired to make it right when I saw her next weekend, I was glad to have a relationship with Richard.  I typed up an email to Richard, explained situation and he made it right!  I have a new iSH3 on the way so that I can swap with my friend when I see her next weekend and then I’ll send the broken one back. With this gesture, H2O Audio amplified my raving fandom. ☺  Their customer service exemplifies my three favorite (long view) customer service mantras:

  • Build relationships with your users. Get to know each other – exchange full names and try to know something about the other person that allows you to connect. For a customer, nothing is more frustrating than either not knowing whom to call or not having comfort to call when a problem arises.  Creating connection encourages honest, timely communication.
  • If your customer calls you to complain or seek advice, THANK them, encourage narratives, and listen for information in the details.  No matter how hard it is to say “Thank you” to someone who is complaining, be sincere.  The provided information is a gift that will help you to make products better – you will learn how the product is actually being used.
  • Fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity.

This advice applies equally to technology development (internal customers) as to consumer products (external customers).

Are you building relationships with your users?  Thanking them? Fixing what isn’t right?  Staying grateful for the opportunity?

Are you rocking your splashes with an iSH3?