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

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

 

 

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

 

The Power of an “I Think I Can” Attitude | An Interview with Donna Hosfeld

I met Donna Hosfeld on Facebook. Her contagious enthusiasm for, of all things, insurance, struck me each time I read her posts. I have long been curious about what got Donna into the insurance business and why it matters so much to her. Her story is inspiring.

DL:  You’re a woman entrepreneur with an insurance agency. How did all this get started?    

DH: My career path is something I never could have predicted. No one in my family had gone to college, so my goal was to be an executive secretary in a big company. I developed award-winning secretarial skills and had a head for numbers which came in handy while working for a CPA during high school. That’s when things started to change. 

DL: What happened?  

DH: The CPA I worked for encouraged me to go to college, even though I hadn’t taken any college prep courses. I did, though, get strong SAT scores which got me accepted to Kutztown University. With the help of my high school guidance counselor, I earned seven cash scholarships and suddenly, I was on my way to a B.S. in business administration. Once graduated, I had what I thought was the ticket to a great job—a college degree. I was wrong. 

DL: The situation you were in sounds like conditions today for new grads. What were your next steps?   

DH:  After 100+ rejected job applications, I was really down but wasn’t going to give up. My neighbor hired me for a radio station commission-sales job that wasn’t right for me. Then a friend’s dad told me about Prudential’s management training program. I applied and was hired, working in a Claims office near Philly. I liked insurance work but not being so far from home. 

It all started to happen for me when I got a central office claims job with Erie Insurance in Allentown, PA. The management team had created a family-like working atmosphere. I worked there for eight years as an adjuster. I was again ready to advance. 

I applied and was rejected for an Erie home office position which would have included interstate travel to do claims auditing. I was crushed because I felt I was the most qualified. My branch manager, though, saw the job as the wrong fit for me. Instead he suggested I become an independent agent. Now, that was the real “see if I can” challenge. 

DL: Was that the first step to becoming an entrepreneur? 

DH: It sure was. Being an agent meant setting up my own office and making it profitable. I had to obtain a license to sell, find and outfit an office location, create a business plan, and build a book of policyholders. To get started, I had to invest my own money, just like any another other small business start up. 

My first office was in a basement. Over the years, I’ve literally come up in the world, adding space and employees. I participated in a merger with a large agency group for a time, but soon realized that I missed the advantages only a small, personally run agency can deliver. So I went back to sole ownership. Now, after 13 years as an agent, I am happier than I’ve ever been and writing more business than ever before. The business is in a great location and has a terrific staff. 

DL: What have all these experiences taught you about yourself? 

DH: If I thought I could achieve something in my life, I realized that I was usually right. I only wish I would have known that ahead of time to quiet the “doubter thoughts” that often plagued me.   

The most important discovery, though, was how much I care about my clients, about serving them, and about helping them stay safe. My clients are like my family; I feel protective of them. Insurance is my product but service is my passion. I’m where I am today because I believed in myself and others believed in me too. I try to pay that forward every day. 

DL: You really show how self-motivating it can be to want to prove yourself to yourself, thinking you can achieve something and then succeeding. Each time you tried something new, you overcame your fears by being fearless. There’s real power in that, something that we all need to put to work for ourselves.

Donna Hosfeld AIC, CPIW has over thirteen years experience as an Independent Agent. Her partnership with Erie Insurance extends over 20 years. She also offers coverage through Progressive and several other leading carriers. Her agency sells home, auto, business and life insurance products. You can follow Donna on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, her blog, and on her website.

Personal Customers As Good As Gold | Your Life Is Your Business

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is as much about personal customers as it is about competing out in the cold. Just look “outside the ropes” at each venue.                                      

In February we’ll get a chance to watch Lindsey Vonn, USA alpine skier, the oldest of five who started skiing at 2. As a youngster, she already had a coach and by the time she was 10, her talent was so obvious that her father laid out a skiing future for her. 

He ultimately moved Lindsey and the rest of the family from St. Paul to Vail—the land of world-class slopes. The move paid off, launching Lindsey’s winning skiing career. 

Lindsey’s story isn’t unique. Nearly every Olympic athlete reaches this pinnacle of competition because of the selfless, unflappable support of family members, friends, sponsors, and even whole communities—their personal customers. Whether there’s a medal or not, these customers share a moment that’s as good as gold. 

The people who are invested in us become our personal customers. Why? Because we have an impact on their lives. 

Here’s how I plan to serve three of mine this week. I’ll: 

  • comment on an article for a retired colleague living in Seattle
  • call my best friend to arrange a fun day in Philly   
  • send my neighbor a birthday card 

Every business needs customers or it won’t survive. So, in the business of our own lives, we need to understand what our personal customers need and want from us. 

Who are our customers? And what do they want?  

We each need to get a handle on these questions for ourselves, but here are some answers: 

  • Immediate family members want support, caring, love, loyalty 
  • Our friends want a confidant, an empathetic ear, laughter 
  • Our neighbors want courtesy, respect for property, a helping hand 

For most of us, our crowd of customers may not be as large or as glamorous as an Olympic athlete’s, but each of us has something unique and valuable that we contribute to them. It may be the: 

  • Ability to keep a confidence
  • Advice on how to make a perfect layer cake
  • Availability to baby sit on short notice  

We need personal customers to become business fit because they become our following. To serve them well is to meet or exceed their expectations. We do that by letting them know that what they need matters…that they matter. 

Because our life is our business, we interact with our customers far more intimately that any other business would. Our ability to engage our customers in our own lives is one way to celebrate and honor their support. 

Do you have any personal customers whose lives you have impacted? What was the impact of that experience on you?

A “Dirty” Business Done Right

 

I am always amazed at the capacity of a bad situation to teach me something important.

I’d been a race and show horse breeder for many years and had gradually sold or placed most of my charges except the pensioners. Old broodmares have a special place in my heart since we shared many momentous occasions together.

Hail Sarah had been with me the longest, was 24, had had an eye removed in 2008, and then hurt her hocks (back knees) while trying to lie down and get up in places that seemed safe but weren’t, a consequence of her impaired vision.  

In October I came out early to feed and found her lying on the ground in an awkward position. We both knew she couldn’t get up. Her look told me she’d lost the will try. So she was quietly euthanized.

“So, how does this story fit into a career and business blog?” you ask.

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, there are people in the business of retrieving large animals like Sarah after they have died. I always dread this as Part 2 of a really bad day.

This time, my veterinarian suggested someone I had never used before. Based on my prior experiences, I was not expecting much. 

Instead, I was greatly surprised. When I spoke to John, the owner of the livestock hauling company, I heard an articulate and caring man. I knew immediately he was the man for the job.

As promised, he arrived within two hours, dressed in clean work clothes. His vehicle was also immaculate and in good repair. He went about his business carefully and, in less than five minutes, had Sarah’s remains loaded on the truck without incident. 

Before he left, I asked him about his business and his answers reinforced so many truths about what it takes to be successful:

  • Provide a service or product that matters.
  • Care about your customers. Serve them well.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do and then a little bit more.
  • Present yourself well in appearance and conversation.
  • Charge a fair price.
  • Be grateful for the opportunity to serve. 

Just when we think that being a professional is about sitting in an office, clean, warm, and dry, we need to remember that professionalism is about how we conduct ourselves no matter what our work. 

People in “get-your-hands-dirty” careers have always had my admiration, especially those that hold themselves to the same high stands of performance that we would expect from any professional. 

Business fitness is the product of many smart moves—attracting a following is one. Although I dread my next loss, you can be sure that I will call John again. I’ve already sung his praises to my horse friends. 

Thanks, John, for setting such a great example and for chaperoning Sarah on her last ride. 

What’s your view of the state of professionalism today? Is John the exception or the rule, in your view?