Would You Do Me a Favor? | Gratitude for WordPress.com Staff

wordpress2 imagesCAH55A5X

Taking my own advice is a lot harder than giving it. That’s an embarrassing truth.

Like a lot of people, I don’t like change that makes me feel helpless. I need to feel that when things start going awry, I have the ability to take the reins and keep things on course.

So you can imagine how it felt for non-tech me when I took the plunge last week to switch to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Now I know what a cold sweat feels like.

Support is magic.

 I’ve known for a while that I needed to expand what I could do on my blog, but, because I dreaded the change-over, I made lots of excuses for putting it off.

It took some straight-talk from my friend, Pam, to cut through my resistance. I finally got the ball rolling with the help of my consulting practice website host.

During my corporate management days, I’d been through a number of IT changes, big and small. I was fully aware that there is a potential nightmare lurking in every one.

I’ve also come to know that technology today is complex to the nth degree. No one can know  fully how everything fits together, since the piece parts often take on a life of their own.

Even so, I was still caught off guard when things got stuck so close to the finish line.

WordPress.com staff to the rescue

 It was crucial for me to be sure that my subscribers and three years of statistics were transferred from the free WordPress site to the now self-hosted one.

Luckily, I learned that WordPress.com staff could do this for me. But again I felt helpless, not really knowing how to access the right person. I’d followed forums before, but I really needed to find someone to partner with me to make things right.

And I did!

I’m a bit old school, being more comfortable in live conversation when I’m in a pinch than sending notes. The challenge is knowing how to explain the problem, so that no one ends up down a rabbit hole or going in circles.

I submitted my issue as “transferring subscribers” to WordPress and then was assigned a WordPress.com staff member  to assist me in a private forum.  That was the start of a great experience.

The response and customer care that I receive from this expert staff was exemplary. He knew exactly what he needed to do and directed me with clarity and calm to complete  inputs required on my end.

He helped me understand what was needed to make the changes, answered my questions patiently, took on the stats transfer issue, and conveyed a genuine sense of caring. He made me feel that my needs really mattered to him.

In every way, he was the consummate professional. My gratitude is enormous, and I told him so many times.

A favor request

It looks to me like my blog is working fine. I have noticed that there are some search wrinkles where you might find an old post on a search engine, but when you click on it, you’ll get a “page not found” notice. But that seems to be clearing itself up. I’m also taking some other steps to help mitigate that.

But because I hate that old helpless feeling, I would appreciate it if you could do this for me:

Please click on the “Like” button at the end of this post.

If you are a subscriber, I’ll know you were notified. If you found me by googling an issue, it’ll confirm that too. And if you just liked this post, I’ll get the message.

Please write a comment if you’ve had any problems or to share your thoughts.

That way I can do more troubleshooting.

Thanks so much for continuing to support my blog. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my perspectives with you.

Photo from WordPress

Engaging Employee Minds and Hearts | Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

It’s special to write a post inspired by the new book by my friend, Sybil Stershic, a champion of the key role employees play in the success of any organization. Sybil gives voice to the intimate connection between marketing effectiveness and the engagement of employees who deliver on the organization’s promises.

Her first book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care framed her message for business. This book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, aligns marketing strategies with employee engagement essentials tailored to the challenges faced by nonprofits. The book’s concise principles and guide format will help you frame a plan. It’s rare to have a marketing guide specific to the needs of nonprofits. Sybil has filled the void.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

It’s a downer when we murmur to ourselves at work, “My heart’s just not in it today.” It’s even worse when we realize we feel that way most days.

Explaining away malaise may be easier when we’re doing work that feels mechanical without an  “I’m making a difference” dimension.

What’s not so easy is feeling de-energized even when the work we’re doing, either paid or unpaid, fills an important human need in the community through a nonprofit organization.

I’ve been there myself. Years ago I worked for Head Start where my job included all of these duties: grant writing, coordinating volunteers and parent programs, supervising cooks and bus drivers, and schlepping government surplus food. Yes, there were many days when my mind knew how important the work was but my heart couldn’t overcome the weariness.

Nonprofit jobs are just as demanding today, maybe more so. Employees in nonprofits are the mission’s engine. Most aren’t there to get rich but to enrich. Nonprofit leaders need to recognize that their jobs include being in service to their employees.

The  essential link

Most nonprofit leaders face challenges to sustain their organizations, meaning they need to bring in the revenues that keep things going.

What too many leaders forget is that they need to invest considerable time and attention in their employees, the very people who are the real faces of the organization and the credible voices “marketing” the good work being done each day.

Sybil Stershic’s new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, provides nonprofit leaders with a fresh and practical approach to marketing their organizations with an inside-out strategy.

She starts by reminding us that:

Proactively marketing your nonprofit enables you to:

  1. create an effective presence in the marketplace that helps differentiate you from competing organizations, and
  2. pursue your mission through positive relationships with your stakeholders (consumers, members, volunteers, donors, referral sources, influencers, etc.)

Then she quotes marketing professor Philip Kotler who posits that: “‘marketing is supposed to build up…share of mind  and share of heart for the organization.’”

Further defining this concept, Sybil writes that:

  • share of mind “is about creating and maintaining public awareness of your organization”
  • share of heart “is creating and maintaining an emotional bond with people who are important to your organization.”

Leadership is the mission within the mission in successful nonprofits. Executive directors and all others managing operations need to balance their marketing outward look with an internal one.

The employee as marketer

Taking employees for granted or inadvertently making them feel that way invites an organizational downward spiral. It’s like shooting yourself in your marketing foot.

Sybil reminds us that:

Engaged employees stay for what they give–they like their work and are able to contribute, whereas disengaged employees stay for what they get–a comfortable job, good salary, and decent job conditions. Who would you rather have work in your organization?

She makes this essential point:

An “inside-out marketing” approach enables you to take care of …internal stakeholders so they can take care of your external stakeholders….”

Many nonprofit leaders then ask: “How do I do that?”

Sybil’s answer is straight-forward:

To gain employee and volunteer commitment and facilitate their engagement with an organization, internal marketing strategy is based on what I call ‘The Three Rs Formula’:

  • Respect–ensure your staff members and volunteers have the necessary tools and support to do their work.
  • Recognition–catch them doing something right.
  • Reinforcement–continually support a mission-based, customer-focused culture.

She drives home her point writing:

The difference in how volunteers and employees are treated on a daily basis depends on the management style of the…people in charge. Are employees and volunteers recognized and respected for their roles in fulfilling the mission or are they considered disposable commodities?

Minds and hearts

Nonprofit employees are the faces and voices of the organization and its mission. They need to have their hearts and minds fully engaged to feel fulfilled.

Nonprofit leaders need to pay attention to what  employees need and listen when they provide  feedback, verbally or by their actions.

Marketing needs to be an organic function that starts with a strong internal message voiced by engaged employees. When the heart and mind work together, we can make big things happen.

Everyone Has a Hidden Agenda. Can You Uncover It? | Kevin Allen Has.

When I accepted the invitation to write about Kevin Allen’s new book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, I thought I knew what the book would be about. Instead, I got a terrific surprise and an eye-opening experience.

Ulterior motives. Inauthentic behavior. Secret maneuvers. Hidden agendas for many of us have often been considered the tactics of career climbers impatient to get ahead. Finally, there’s a new and tested perspective that will better serve us.

Kevin Allen, business development expert, shows us that hidden agendas are actually gateways to discovery and revelation. When clarified, they can propel us to the best kind of success.

Uncovering the hidden agendas of clients, coworkers, and our companies means tapping into your inner Sherlock. Fortunately, dear Watson is now as near as your bookshelf.

Embracing the pitch

Kevin Allen is an adman and every successful adman is also a pitchman who understands the importance of connection.

In his book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, Allen gives us an insider’s look at ad campaigns around the globe that he pitched, specifically MasterCard’s Priceless campaign, and how he was able to tap into each client’s hidden agenda.

Allen’s career history is extraordinary and extensive but a couple things stand out.

He writes:

I grew up in the tough hallways of the toughest ad agency in the competitive field of advertising, McCann Erickson.

Whereas I first thought it a business weakness that I was sensitive and intuitive, it actually became a potent business asset, one that will only increase in importance as time progresses.

It was Allen’s soft side that was his differentiator. Once he realized that and learned how to capitalize on it for the companies and clients he worked for, his career was off and running.

He learned early on that pitching is about connecting with others at an emotional level:

…behind every decision to buy–whether the item is a service or a product, an argument or an idea–is the unspoken emotional motivation. This is the hidden agenda.

Every day you personally have an opportunity to make a pitch for:

  • the job vacancy or promotion you seek
  • your idea to improve the way work is done
  • new business–new products or services
  • favorable treatment by regulators, community leaders, or donors
  • media coverage, on-line support, or endorsements

To pitch successfully, you need to understand your target’s hidden agenda.

Digging deep

Connecting is step one. Creating a following is what follows.

No matter what you have to sell or propose, you need to frame a pitch that goes to the emotional heart of every hidden agenda.

Allen explains further:

People don’t follow you because they’ve been hoodwinked; they follow you because they believe in you. They employ you, promote you, buy from you, or hire you because you understand their values, their wants, and their needs.

He drives home this point:

The hidden agenda is the unspoken, emotional motivation that resides in the heart of your audience. This emotional core is the true motivator behind every decision.

Allen explains three driving forces that underpin every hidden agenda, along with sample questions he asks to identify them like:

  1. Wants–What frustrates you about the perceptions connected with your company/brand?
  2. Needs–What keeps you up a night?
  3. Values–What is your company’s noble calling?

His book  takes you through the process for uncovering the hidden agenda and framing the pitch. His easily readable examples and illustrations are compelling, motivating, and straight-forward. Allen gives us the inside scoop and makes it feel incredibly comfortable. Yes, we all can do this if we’re willing to dig deep.

Big points for soft skills

Allen gives full-throated voice to the value of intuitiveness, sensitivity, and humanity in the workplace, even in large, hard-driving advertising companies battling fierce competition.

He writes:

Success in winning business and creating a following means coming across as your own genuine self and allowing others to see you as you are, all in the name of making a human connection.

He’s so right about that. We all need to remember to be true to ourselves and positive about our capabilities, never apologizing for what we do well. If we tap into our own hidden agendas, we’ll likely find our careers moving in just the right direction.

Got a Problem? There’s a Career for That. | Taking Service to Heart

Real jobs are born out of need. They’re created to solve problems. Solve those problems and create a win-win situation: The business profits and the customer/client is satisfied.

The better we are at solving problems, the more career opportunities we create for ourselves.

Accidental discoveries

I had the misfortune last month of being hit broadside in my new car by a woman who ran the red light while I was turning left off a green arrow. I was not hurt (thanks to my Subaru Outback which deserves a pitch here) and, so far as I know, the other driver only minimally.

A car accident is a problem. In a flash people appear on the scene to help solve it. Others provide help later. Each of these people has a job and a career because car accidents occur frequently. They make a lasting difference when their caring shows. I learned a lot from them.

Police officer–He gathers information for the incident report and later the accident report. Part of his job is to be sensitive to the state of mind of the victims and to be as calming as possible.

Emergency Medical Technician–His/her role is to assess the condition of the crash victims,  provide medical treatment if required, and get a release if either party doesn’t want to go to the hospital. S/he too needs to be observant, patient, and positive.

Tow truck driver–Two tow trucks were required at the scene; my driver was a woman which made me smile. Her job was to get the wreckage off the road quickly and to let me know where the car was being taken. She too was pleasant, efficient, and professional.

Insurance adjuster–The adjuster is the insured’s representative with the other insurance company. His job is to record my account of the accident over the phone. He and the other driver’s adjuster make a determination of fault. The adjuster explains the process, advises on next steps, and also needs to be patient and calming.

Material Damage Adjuster/Appraiser–The appraiser determines what the insurance company will pay in damages. This job requires the ability to communicate these hard numbers with the claimant in a way that demonstrates the fairness of the final decision. Just like the adjuster, the ability to be both factual and caring is important.

Body Shop/Salvage Company Staff–Along the way, my car took a stop at a body shop for a more detailed damage assessment. Then it went to the salvage company that purchased it. The staff and owner were professional, sincerely commiserating with my misfortune.

Rental Car Manager–I got a rental from Enterprise where the young woman manager took the time to make conversation before explaining the terms. It turned out that she was eager to develop her leadership capabilities, so we chatted about that. (When I returned the car, I gave her a copy of my book and she waived the gas charge. Okay, I’d only used 1/8 tank over two weeks, but the gesture was lovely.) She treated me like I mattered as a person.

Car Salesman–I called the salesman who sold me the original Outback and left a voice mail that I’d need a new one. He called me at home to cheer me up. He immediately set aside a car for me. I knew I was in good hands.

For my accident case alone, there are nine jobs, representing nine different career paths, that had been created because people like me get in car accidents.

Each role exists to solve a piece of a big problem, helping accident victims deal with and recover from a scaring and costly experience.

Distinguishing yourself

What has struck me most about this experience was the seemingly effortless caring that each person demonstrated. Every person in my chain had a heart for service.

I know that not everyone with a service jobs “gets it” and I’m sure you have a horror story to tell. But, if anything, this accident demonstrated that when you’re in a job that solves a problem for people and you really care, your commitment to serve will motivate your best performance. Let that be you, okay?

Please remember: Stay off your phone while driving. No texting. Wear your seat belt. Be attentive! :-) Thanks.

Photo from @Doug88888 via Flickr

Luck-of-the-Draw Customer Service—Which Card Are You?

Make a phone call. Go to the service desk. Ask for information or a fix and hope for the best. 

Some companies call it “customer care,” so we really get our hopes up. 

I once managed and, at times, ran a large call center. There were over 250 reps taking an endless stream of challenging customer calls. The most important part of their job was to be accurate and courteous, so the customer was satisfied and didn’t need to call back. 

It’s the same expectation for customer service employees at a department store, an auto repair shop, or a grocery store. Customers need help they can count on. 

Dismissing …Attempting…Caring 

Here’s the challenge: Customer service employees need to understand the customer’s needs, what a customer’s question really means, and how to resolve his/her issue. 

Customer service work isn’t for everyone. Some take off like rockets and achieve amazing things. Others plod along, making progress, slipping back, but eventually achieving competency. 

Some realize, in short order, that it’s not  for them. But they hang on because they need the job, and supervisors let them. 

When you and I need customer service, the rep we get to help us is purely the luck-of-the-draw. We may be talking to someone who: 

  • Dismisses our issue as either not the company’s responsibility, not really a problem, or outside of his/her authority (S/he’ll say, “You need to talk to my supervisor who isn’t in right now.”)
  • Attempts to piece together what they know with what they think we need, hoping that they’re saying and doing the correct things, when, actually, they’re not
  • Cares as a committed professional about resolving our issue completely, thoroughly, and efficiently, right now, while keeping us firmly in the loop 

Here’s how it recently played out for me. 

Let me see 

I bought new eye glasses a year ago at a retail chain. I dropped them and the metal frame broke at the nose piece. I went back to the store and showed them to the manager who informed me that “those frames were fragile.” (My interpretation: “Too bad lady!”) 

I had to buy a replacement frame for $100.00. When they came in, I returned to the store with my lenses and waited 35 minutes while a service employee struggled to put them together. (While there, her coworker told me that the frame I’d purchased—now twice—was, in her words, “crap.”) 

One week later, I returned to have the fit adjusted by the store manager. I mentioned that the right stem creaked when I moved it. He gave it a look and told me it worked “just fine.” 

Two weeks later, one of the lenses popped out of the frame and onto my dining room floor. I returned. The same nice employee put it back in. (She nicely said she couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.) 

Guess what? One week later, pop into the bathroom sink. Back I went. Yes, I was steaming inside but holding it together. This time I was helped by the “those frames are crap” employee. 

She talked to me, explaining that she would use a thicker line to hold the lens in place. She loosened the right stem, explaining that it was so tight it was pulling against the lens. (Remember, the manager told me it was A-okay!) 

Here’s how my hand was dealt: The manager (Joker) dismissed me. The first employee (Queen of ♥) tried unsuccessfully. Finally, I got a pro (Ace of ♦) who cared about doing it right and did. 

Be a winner 

We all have opportunities to provide service, whether it’s to our external or internal customers. Doing it right the first time matters to the customer and brands you. 

Unfortunately, many companies shoot themselves in their own service foot by setting up performance metrics that can discourage exceptional service. Our commitment to doing an outstanding job can overcome them. 

Giving our customers a winning experience is what sets us apart. Let’s always be the high card that shows up in their hand.   

Photo from Viri G via Flickr

 

 

When You Don’t Know, Find Someone Who Does—Like Jack Nadel

Success is the prize. Seeking it gets us to make the effort. 

Sadly, our efforts don’t always deliver the success we’re after. We look around and wonder what we’re doing wrong. Now it’s time talk to someone who’s been through it all. 

Enter Jack Nadel.  

At this writing, Nadel is in his late 80s. He spent 65 years in business, primarily in product sales, as founder of Jack Nadel International. After serving as a decorated combat veteran in WWII, he started his business in a tiny office without money, education, or experience. He became a successful global entrepreneur, author, TV personality, and philanthropist—a source of the guidance we need. 

Starting with nothing and ending with enormous success is inspiring. We want that to be us, initiating a great idea, building know-how, and taking prudent risks that work. Often, when we read success stories and try to replicate the steps, we end up disappointed.

The value of priceless wisdom 

Our flawed or misguide notions often get in our way. It’s not what’s on the surface that gives us an edge: It’s how we interpret, translate, and innovate what’s behind it. Insights are the real keys to success. 

I was treated to that special insight when I was invited to blog about Nadel’s new book,Use What You Have to Get What You Want: 100 Basic Ideas That Mean Business. 

I admit I didn’t know anything about Nadel before the book arrived. But I was immediately taken by the uncluttered, easily absorbed advice he gave. Each of the 100 ideas with a real-life illustration from his experience fits on one page. 

His insights work, no matter whether you’re managing a household, a small business, or a department in a corporation. 

Selling is a success staple.

 Nadel’s expertise is broad: His knowledge of sales and deal-making is laser sharp. There’s selling in everything we do: We sell ideas, products, services, relationships, and opportunities. Whenever we try to get someone to act, we’re closing some kind of transaction. 

Nadel zeroes in on the principle that there’s right-way and wrong-way selling. The right way ensures success that lasts. 

Here are ten Nadel selling ideas that struck a particular chord with me. (The parens are how I intend to apply them.) 

  1. “If you can’t explain your product or service in 30 seconds, you probably can’t sell it.” (Test my elevator speech and revise as needed.)
  2. “Selling…[has]…a built-in scorecard.” (Track revenue and opportunities in the pipeline to measure progress.)
  3. “The best way to learn to sell is to go out and sell.” (Make contacts. Meet with people. Use #1.)
  4. “Features tell and benefits sell.” (Clarify my “what’s in it for the client” message.)
  5. “It’s easy to sell glamor, excitement, hope and feel-good products. It’s tough to sell insurance.” (Understand my service touch points.)
  6. “Perceived value is what sells—real value is what repeats.” (Continue to deliver what’s promised.)
  7. “The road to hell is paved with misrepresentation.” (Make sure there are never any surprises.)
  8. “Honesty is not only the best policy; it’s the most profitable.” (Own up when I goof up. Make things right.)
  9. “After you negotiate the best deal, give a little extra.” (Be counted on to over-deliver.)
  10. “Careful planning is more important than hard work.” (Think first; then act.) 

Life runs on transactions 

There’s a business aspect to almost everything we do. Good business ensures that each transaction feels like a win on both sides. As Nadel says: 

 “If I give you a dollar, and you give me a dollar, we each have a dollar. If I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas.” 

Our success is achieved on the shoulders of others. Generosity in the way we do business has a way of boosting success. Nadel’s generosity in sharing his immense insights is an example of that. 

You can purchase a copy on Amazon.com.

10 Ways Customer Service Pros Are Wired

Does your blood run cold when you have to call a big company for service? Pressing 1 for this and 2 for that adds to the chill.

The music plays. The automated voice says, “All agents are busy with other customers. Please stay…” You know the drill. We’re desperate to hear a live voice before nightfall, hoping s/he’ll be able to help. 

Bad things happen, sometimes. 

We remember when they do. We get an agent and the call is dropped (intentionally?). We get transferred multiple times, explaining our need repeatedly. We’re constantly holding or waiting. 

I used to manage a 300-seat electric utility, call center. I know how demanding it is to process thousands of calls everyday. It’s stressful to reps and their supervisors. In spite of the demands, some are exceptional at it. Why? Because helping customers matters to them. 

These reps stay focused on the customers they’re talking to at the moment. It’s a special kind of laser commitment to one person, fixing things right the first time. They are pros wired to serve. 

The gold standard 

I recently installed DSL on my residential (consumer) phone line prior to taking it off my business line. Yesterday, I needed to re-point my email from one to the other. So I called Verizon, not really knowing what it would take. 

At first, I had my own IT technician on the phone with me. When the first rep wasn’t up the task, we called back and got Tyler who was on it like a shot. He explained that my job involved both consumer and business technical services. When he connected me to Sharman in business tech support, she grabbed hold of my situation and wouldn’t let go. 

I was on the phone with Sharman for four hours. She led me through many rings of fire by confronting misinformation, leveraging her internal relationships, and protecting my interests. Ultimately, the fix was made with Sharman testing it herself. 

Advocacy is the heart of customer service  

Reps truly wired to serve make positive results their mission by: 

  1. Understanding the customer’s needs precisely
  2. Being invested in the resolution, knowing if and when they can put the customer in someone’s else hands with confidence
  3. Leveraging personal relationships to get the best people involved
  4. Challenging poor or incorrect advice
  5. Respecting coworkers even when there’s disagreement; being courteous and patient
  6. Staying in close contact with the customer during wait times
  7. Anticipating next steps and having documentation ready
  8. Engaging in casual conversation with the customer during wait times to quiet frustration
  9. Explaining the process and answering customer questions
  10. Double checking the fix and thanking the customer for their patronage 

At one point, Sharman was clearly facing internal questions about why, as a business tech, she was still on the phone with an issue in the hands of a consumer tech. She asked if I needed her to stay with me and I said, “Yes.” She could have opted out but seeing this fix done right mattered to her. The average call handle time in her department was 17 minutes. We were way past that. 

Show gratitude 

I wanted to communicate how grateful I was for Sharman’s advocacy to Verizon, offering to fill out a satisfaction survey and to speak to her supervisor. She was thrilled and connected me to Michael. 

I was effusive to say the least, putting what Sharman did in the context of my experiences as a call center manager. Supervisors usually hear from disgruntled customers, so to hear a rep praised was something special. Michael assured me Sharman would be recognized.

Over 6,000 people worked in that mid-west call center with Sharman. The call volume there is enormous. In that environment, it’s easy to forget how much each customer is counting on each rep for both service and advocacy.

Service work is one way we make a difference in the lives of others and our community. Each phone call and each face-to-face meeting is a chance to help someone. That’s one measure of how much we care. Be an advocate, okay?

Photo from oskay via Flickr