Does customer service matter?

By Esther Denn, CCAM, ARM

I asked the question recently, “Does customer service matter?” I was inspired to write about how one person’s negative experience can have a far reaching impact even unbeknownst to them. Let me know If the travel experiences noted in this article had happened to you, how would you have felt about your experience, the people, the hotels, the businesses and the State? Whose fault is it? Do you think your behavior can impact the reputation of your City, your County and even your State? Let me know what you have learned from your experiences and what if anything you can you do to prevent negative perceptions and increase your goodwill, reputation and economic potential?
I recently took a trip with my daughter to a South Eastern State that shall remain unnamed. We had two goals in mind – to visit my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren and to scope out my daughter’s corporate office hub in a suburb of a major metropolitan City for her job relocation possibilities. Once we arrived at the major international Airport, debarked off the sardine packed plane, stretched our numbed legs and looked around at our surroundings – the trams, the moving sidewalks, elevators, escalators whirling by, we were overwhelmed and wondering where do we go next. To our delight, we were approached by friendly Airport staff who had anticipated our questions just by the puzzled looks on our faces and asked us, “How may I help you? “Where is baggage claim I asked?” “Take the tram to Baggage Claim 3 she pointed. Let me take you there.” We were often accompanied by Airport personnel as we walked to our destination. “Ah, I said to myself, this is the South I remember from my childhood growing up in a Southwestern State, “customer service oriented, friendly and happy to help.”

 

Our final destination was, a suburb located forty miles northeast of the Metro area where my son lives with his wife and children. My daughter and I were excited to visit my son and grandchildren, the Southeastern part of our great Nation and to get to know the people and the traditions during our travels. We were happy with the size of our hotel suite and were anticipating the grandchildren coming to visit, perhaps sleep over with us, swim in the pool and eat breakfast with us at the lobby breakfast bar. We met up with the family for dinner and returned to the hotel at 8:00 pm to go to our room and discuss the next day’s activities. Upon entering the hallway to our suite, we caught the whiff of acrid chemical fumes and noted that the hotel room doors were propped open. It was evident that the hotel was in the process of remodeling its rooms and refinishing the tub and shower enclosures. No one bothered to tell us when making the reservations or we could have made alternate plans. The windows were cracked open two inches and could not be opened further due to jammed shut window locks. A worker came out of our room and told us “I have just applied a second coat to the tub shower enclosure so please do not use the tub for a few hours. I felt a headache coming on and my breath became labored. My Son complained of breathing problems and headaches from the chemicals.
I went downstairs and asked the desk clerk to move us to another room. We were informed that the move would be temporary as all floors would be remodeled during our visit and that carpet replacement would be next. I shuddered when I thought of the overpowering smell of formaldehyde that emits from newly installed carpet. I felt confused possibly from the fumes and could not understand why the hotel would remodel its guest rooms while guests were staying in the rooms and expect them to deal with it. In the Apartment Industry, when tubs are refinished, it is done when the apartment is vacant or when an owner is out of the apartment for several hours and the room is aired out. The same is true of installing new carpeting. I offered my advice that perhaps the Hotel staff would consider opening the windows wider so that fresh air could get in and dissipate the fumes. I was met by blank stares and shoulder shrugs from the desk clerks as well as the General Manager. I could tell that they were not interested in my suggestions.
We packed up our luggage again and moved to another floor. The following day, we spent entertaining our grandchildren and returned to the hotel to find out that the floor we were on was also in the process of having the tubs and shower enclosures refinished and carpets changed. The smell was overpowering and we developed headaches again. I went downstairs to the desk clerk and demanded to see the General Manager. My complaints were met by blank stares and shrugged shoulders. I demanded his bosses’ phone number. The General Manager went back into a room and hid for several minutes leaving me standing at the front desk. I asked the desk clerks, “Where is the GM?” “Oh, he is in the back.” A hotel sales director came to the front desk. I noted he had been showing two business women around the hotel. “Can I help you, he asked?” “Yes, please give me the telephone number for the head boss over the GM.” “I will be happy to call him for you, he is on his way over here anyway and I will ask him to meet with you.” “Thank you, I said. I will be at the pool.” The head guy showed up and I explained what happened and the staff’s response to our complaints. I asked him to move us to another hotel that was not being remodeled at his expense. He apologized for the staff and our inconvenience and agreed to move us to another hotel and gave me $150 in gift cards for my trouble.
We packed up our luggage again and moved down the street to another hotel and unpacked and settled in. The pool was under remodel and closed. It opened three days later and the water was dirty. My grandson became ill after swimming in the dirty pool. I asked the desk clerks for help in getting a local County newspaper so that we could get real estate information and local information for my Daughter’s possible relocation. They told me to look online or check a gas station. I went to eight gas stations and could not find a local paper. I called the paper and no one answered. “Why isn’t someone answering the phone at a large newspaper office,” I thought to myself. I left a voice mail and wondered if the paper was going bankrupt and maybe no one cared. The Circulation Manager called me several hours later and said rather resentfully, “the paper signed a deal with the local cable company to provide free newspapers to the subscribers which is everyone in the County and they all receive the paper.” “Well, how do newcomers or visitors to town get the paper to find out what is happening?, I asked. “Well, you can go to the paper’s office in a nearby unnamed City and buy it from the dispenser in front or go to the racetrack (no City or location given). Those are the only places around where the paper is available.” “By the way, you can go online. Right now it is free.”
My daughter met a retired older female insurance executive at the hotel who was moving out of the State to return to the Midwest. She complained about the utility companies that they cut off utilities if payment was not received within nine days. She mentioned that she was stopped for a traffic violation and the officer towed her car and told her to walk home down a dark country road three miles from her home. She added that the prevalent response to queries she made questioning why things were the way they were, “If you don’t like it, go home.” We began to wonder if this State was a viable relocation choice for my Daughter or myself when I retire. “I don’t think they want us here,” we thought. We reached out to people everywhere we went to discover that the majority of people we talked to were recent transplants from out of the State or from other Countries. “Maybe this is why they don’t like newcomers here,” we mused. After all, we met few local people. Most of the people we talked to could not wait to leave the State and felt they had made a mistake in coming there.

 

In answer to those questions I posed at the beginning of my article, I believe that customer service begins with people in all walks of life who are doing every job imaginable whether it is cleaning the floors, greeting customers, clerking in a store, managing a business, airport representatives or executives from the highest echelons of corporate America as well as those in the branches of local, state, and federal government. We all need to have the mindset that people matter, that we matter, that what we do and how we behave matter, that our dollars are a powerful vote in our economy. We need to make the decision that we are informed and empowered consumers. And as such, we are not going to spend our hard earned dollars with businesses, States, and people who do not respect us nor provide the services we require and want from them. Our jobs no matter how humble or powerful require us to learn, grow and challenge ourselves to take an active interest in our job, our communities, our families and our relationships. I encourage you to be proud of your knowledge and accomplishments and be willing to share and mentor others. Anticipate and be perceptive to other’s needs and reach out to them. Your kindness and caring towards your fellow man, woman or child is its own reward.

On the flip side, how many negative experiences does one need to destroy a first impression? Only one. We get one chance in this life to make a first impression. Don’t waste it. The key to success in becoming customer service oriented is within everyone. Playing “stupid”, acting “small”, leaving your post and “hiding” from the world in your job and this one and only life by doing the “bare minimum” does not serve anyone. Half measures will always fail. The impact of failure can be felt in the local as well as the national economy. We are better than that. We need to make a difference. I believe in this great land of ours that was founded by a strong work ethic from immigrants who came here because they wanted something better.

 

One of my favorite watchwords is, “Let it begin with me.” It only takes one person to make a change in any organization, group or activity. We need to put our whole heart and intention into our jobs as well as the things that matter to us to find true meaning and happiness. We need to contribute to the economic growth our nation needs so we can hang on to our jobs and feel proud of ourselves. We want to be successful. No one wants to be a failure. I encourage you to choose the road less travelled. Be the best employee, the best parent, the best friend you can be. It will make all the difference.
P.S. Because I believe in standing up for what you believe in, in this case, customer service, I wrote the CEO of a major hotel chain and complained about my experience. I received a sincere apology, a gift certificate for three days and three days credit on my credit card. “The squeaky wheel gets greased.” Will I stay in that hotel again? Probably not.

 

 

June 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

A Christmas Wish For You

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A CHRISTMAS WISH FOR YOU

This holiday season I light the Advent candles for you.  My prayers are to send you comfort and hope when all is confusion, peace in the face of turmoil, love and joy among friends and family.  I ask that you have a warm place to lay your head under the stars, savory food to warm your heart and soul, clothes to cover you from the night chill.  I pray for smiles upon your face when you see the twinkle of a child’s eyes and hear their merry peals of laughter.  I wish that you know the joy of freedom from bestowing forgiveness, generosity and kindness upon others.  I pray for humility in acknowledging your weaknesses as well as your strengths to others. I give thanks for knowing you and the blessing you are to me.  May you face the future with a glad heart knowing you are loved.

 

Esther Mendez Denn © 12.19.13

December 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm 1 comment

Holiday Food for Thought

foodforthoughtheaderHolidays can be stressful.  Add to the mix, balancing work with family.  I am considering this Holiday food for thought.  There are two things that I wish for this holiday season – that I not have regrets about the past and that I am open to forgiveness.  In the movie, “Eat, pray, love” there is a scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvXCQT1wKS0 where Julia Roberts is dancing with her ex-husband in her mind. It is a powerful scene on forgiveness.  I am struck by the dialogue, “send me love and light every time you think about me and then drop it.  Nothing lasts forever.”  I remember complaining about a workplace environment when I was in my twenties.  A coworker told me that when I left, I would never look back and remember.  She was right.   I don’t want my life to be a bad reality television episode where the characters are continually whining about their problems with others.  I will turn the mirror on myself.  There will always be haters in life.  Misery loves company and it’s easy to get wrapped up in negative energy.  I will walk away if only in my mind and send out love and light and drop it.  I will not reciprocate with anger and lash out.  I will remember that I am a whole and wonderful human being. Bruno Mars sings it brilliantly in this video –“They got nothing on you babe” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PTDv_szmL0 I will not engage in resentment and will speak my truth from a place of love, understanding, and compassion.  I will face reality and not what I want to manipulate or create for myself and others.  I will accept the truth for what it is.  I will be happy and content with what I have.  I will look to the future, one day at a time, with hope and faith.  I will know peace and happiness.

“To the degree that you cannot forgive, whether it be yourself or someone else, you perpetuate lack and limitation in your life. You hold back.

Many people don’t want to forgive others. They say things like: “Why should I let them off the hook after what they did?” The enemy is someone who you think can take from you or harm you. People harm you through yourself. Actually, they don’t harm you at all. You just give them the instructions on how to treat you and they follow through.

When we deal with forgiveness we tend to think that we must forgive because someone has done something to us. It is difficult for many people to realize that people haven’t done anything to you. When you finally realize that you’ve done it to yourself by your responses to them then you are free of it. You are free because you’re not holding onto the person as a source of your problem.”

from Dr. Robert Anthony.

Maturity is the growing awareness that you are neither all powerful nor helpless. It could be said to be the knowledge of what is, what might be, and what cannot be. It is not a destination; it is a road. It is the moment when you wake up after some grief or staggering blow and think, “I’m going to live, after all.” It is the moment when you find that something you have long believed is not so; and, parting with old convictions you find that you are still you; the moment you discover that someone else can do your job as well as you – but you go on doing it anyway; the moment you do the thing you have always been afraid of; the moment you realize that you are forever alone, but so is everyone else; and the hundred moments when you see yourself as you are. It is letting life happen in its own good order and making the most of what there is. It is “Letting go and letting God.”

From The Blueprint for Progress.

December 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Drones: A Controversial Eye in the Sky for Property Managers

“Drones”

An act was passed in February that’s ultimately going to open new doors of opportunity for real estate and property management officials. The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act requires that the FAA “accept and support” drones–or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)–in United States airways.

 While awaiting the new stipulations to be defined and take effect (by September 2015), many industries are taking a look at how UAVs can support their business ventures.

And professionals in both property management and real estate businesses have determined several ways drones could be of use. For example:

  • Satellite imagery and data collection
  • Aerial photography, without the expense of manned aircraft
  • Property surveillance and maintenance oversight

There are, however, also concerns surrounding laws allowing UAVs in our airspace. Property owners and tenants, for instance, have expressed concerns about privacy violation.

There are slews of opinions on both sides of the drone controversy. And, until the new laws are defined and released, the future of UAVs is still a bit blurry. What’s your opinion as a real estate professional?

To read the original article and see what interviewed experts suggest for the future of drones, visit the Software Advice blog and read Drones: A Controversial Eye in the Sky for Property Managers by analyst Ashley Halligan.

 

November 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

The House on John Street

The modest, small, wooden frame house that stood on John Street, Houston, Texas,  during the 1950’s where our Grandmother lived is no longer there.  A large part of the multi-cultural neighborhood in Smith Edition was torn down in the 70’s by a freeway expansion.  Time has not erased the memories of our childhood spent there at Grandmother’s house.   The dark haired, dark eyed cousins, who lived and played there were a tight knit group bound together by their friendship, love of laughter and play.  There were ten in all, Josie, Alex, Jessie, Vicki, Nita, Paul, Robert, Michael, Yolanda and myself.  Occasionally, we were joined by Debbie, Junior, Larry and Dimpie, brothers and sisters from my father’s second marriage.  We were friends, mentors and playmates.  We watched each other’s progression of growth from children to teenagers to adulthood.  We explored every nook and cranny of the neighborhood.  The streets, gullies, and fields were our playgrounds.  We sat for hours in the drainage ditch in front of Grandmother’s house on John Street and watched the world pass by.  We speculated on J.Kelly, the handsome young man who lived across the street and wondered what his life was like.  We watched Tony, the preening, tall, dark and slender young man who would gun past us in his black TBird to show off.   When we heard the call of the bugles, we ran to the large parking lot at the North end of John Street behind the movie theatre and watched the Milby High School Buffs Drill team practice their routines.  Out Aunt Lilly had been on the Drill team when she was a teenager.  Every Saturday, we went to the movies for the matinees.  A dollar went a long way in those days.  We could buy the movie ticket, popcorn, drink and candy bar.  We felt rich in those days.  Sometimes, we would pile in the car with Aunt Lilly and go to the drive in and watch grown up movies.  We felt so grown up. Cousin Vicki, Yolanda and Nita would invite the girls over for slumber parties.  We shared our secrets, fears, hopes and dreams.  We were proud of each other and celebrated each other’s achievements.

Alex went to work at the Rice Hotel coordinating events and shows when he was a teen.  It is a business and career that he has to this day.  Jesse was a good son and help to his mother.  Paul the comedian and clown of the group would entertain us with stories, and silly antics that often drove us crazy with embarrassment or laughter.  Robert was the star football player in high school and our hero.  Michael was a quiet and contemplative soul with a beautiful laugh.  Vicki always had a smile on her face.  She grew up to value our Hispanic heritage and to fight against discrimination.  I admired her because she had the courage to stand up for what she believed in.  Yolanda loved to sing and play the piano.  Nita was the baby darling of the family.  We took turns hoisting her around on our hip and showing her off.  She grew up to be a fine business woman and entrepreneur just like her mom, Aunt Lucy.  Josie was wise beyond her years.  My sister Josie told me once that I was the keeper of secrets, the story teller of the family.  I have had a love of writing since the 4thGrade when I wrote an award winning essay, “What my Country Means to Me”.  Our group was adventurous and daring.  We filled up Alex’s car’s gas tank with $.50 and went on road trips in the adjoining neighborhoods playing a game of Chinese fire drill at the stop signs and stop lights just to annoy other drivers.  We would stop random strangers and ask for directions.   I can’t tell you who came up with these ideas just that we were all complicit.  We would sneak away to Galveston and walk among the Tiki huts on the beach and watch the older adults dancing.  One time, a small group took off on a trip to Six Flags without telling their parents and had a blast.  They came back from their trip and told us how silly they had acted and how much fun they had.

The cousins come from a long line of strong, smart business women.  We looked up to Aunt Lilly and Aunt Lucy as mentors and we aspired to be like them and to make them proud of us.  At family events such as funerals and celebrations, my father, Henry would tell us all that we had to attend and stand together and support each other as the Mendez family.  I didn’t appreciate what that meant until I became an adult.  Family is everything.  I left the house on John Street in 1968 when I became an adult and my daughter Angela was born.  Like most of us, I became caught up in life and work.  Eventually, I moved away from Texas to California in search of a better life when I turned 36.  I didn’t realize that those close knit bonds we forged in childhood would slip away over time if I didn’t make time for them.  It’s hard to face your own mortality and realize that we don’t live forever in this life.  The time to let those we care about know how much we love them is now.  Tomorrow is not a guaranteed.  Cousin Paul has passed and now Vicki.  Those formative years we spent together were special.  The tight bonds we formed will never be broken in this life or the next.  We were grounded by a sense of family, that we are all in this together, that we are our brother and sister’s keeper.  I know in my heart that Vicki as well as Paul knew that we loved them and that we look forward to seeing them again with our heavenly father.

 

               “Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13   

 

 

October 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm Leave a comment

Have you considered a Bucket List for 2012

Written by Esther Denn, CCAM 

Nobody likes to talk about New Year’s resolutions because they mistakenly think that they are a waste of time.  Often resolutions start out great then lose steam and fizzle before the year ends.  The goal to lose 20 pounds doesn’t work out because you eat that fudge cake, blow your diet, shrug your shoulders and say to yourself, “I knew I couldn’t do it.”  Or you plan the perfect vacation and lose your job, receive an unexpected bill, life crisis, etc. and think to yourself, “I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”  “Watch your thoughts for they become words.  Watch your words for they become actions.  Watch your actions for they become habits.”  Anonymous  I propose that we change the word resolution to “Bucket List” and remove the negative connotation.  The bucket list gives you the opportunity to plan what you want to do before you before you “kick the bucket.”.  It allows your imagination to run free and plan those goals that you have always dreamed about but were afraid to say out loud.  I looked at http://www.bucketlist.net and found the top ten bucket list goals:  1. see the Northern lights; 2. skydive; 3. get a tattoo; 4. swim with the dolphins; 5. go on a cruise; 6. get married; 7. run a marathon; 8. visit the Pyramids in Egypt; 9. go white water rafting; 10. write a book.  I would like to offer some helpful suggestions to get started on the bucket list that I am going to use myself in 2012.

 Take five minutes out of your busy day to think about what you want out of your life.  Write it down.  “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you want to be.”  Mark Victor Hansen   Make your goals specific.  Instead of writing “vacation” – specify where you want to go and ask yourself if it is attainable and is it measurable?  Detail the steps of when are you going, how you will get there, how much it will cost and how you are going to fund the vacation.

 At http://www.personalexcellence.com, there are six reasons listed for setting goals.  “If you don’t have a goal in life, you are spending your life running in circles and not achieving anything for yourself.” Bill Copeland  The reasons to start goal setting now are to give clarity to your vision, to drive you forward, to give you a focus, to make you accountable, to achieve your highest potential and to live your best life.

 I have been thinking about my goals for 2012.  I heard a woman on the television news saying that she was tired of struggling and getting by and that she wanted to thrive and to earn an income that would allow her to both meet her financial obligations and to enjoy a vacation once in a while.  What a great goal – to thrive -  to flourish, to make steady progress and to prosper.  I have adopted it as my own goal for this year.  My bucket list for this year will be to:

1.      Thrive in my small business and my life by staying focused, human, agile, and learning.

2.      Add two accounts to my business portfolio to increase my income

3.      Give myself permission to enjoy down time each day and relax and know what I do matters.

4.      Set aside thirty minutes a day to walk and enjoy the world around me.

5.      Change my daily chocolate habit by replacing it with fruit, nuts, cheese, yogurt.

6.      Schedule regular dental and medical checkups.

7.      Reduce my credit card debt by paying down my lowest balance, highest interest credit card first.

8.      Plan a two-day vacation retreat at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California.

9.      Plan a two-day vacation with my grandchildren.

10.  Add meaning and appreciation to Christmas by helping the less fortunate.  Pick up 10 letters to Santa from the Santa Ana post office and fulfill the wishes of children who are forgotten.

 That’s it for this year.  I am fleshing out the details for my goals.  I am shopping for comfortable walking shoes and looking for scenic places to walk.  I am thinking about my marketing program for increasing my business.  I have the brochures for my two-day vacation.  I have scheduled dental appointments.  I have made up my mind to bite the bullet and quit the daily chocolate habit by not buying and keeping chocolate in the home.  I am resolved to pay cash as much as possible and reduce my credit balances.  I have set my eyes on the mark to THRIVE in 2012.  This is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind.  That is the way I fight.  Not like someone shadow boxing.” I Corinthians 9:26

 

January 15, 2012 at 12:55 am Leave a comment

Facing moral or ethical dilemmas in the workplace

Written by Esther Denn, CCAM, ARM

What is Ethics?  Simply put, it is:   knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do what is right. Our everyday business transactions with our peers, supervisors, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders present many opportunities to face moral or ethical dilemmas as well as our family and personal lives.  How do you equip yourself to do what is right?  Most people would say morals and ethics have to do with how a person is taught, i.e. their values.   If you grew up with the Golden Rule , Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you may choose to do what is right.  But what about those who grew up with, what’s in it for me?” Do they choose “NO” unless it is in their best interest?    At the end of the day, why would a person want to choose to do what is right?

A reader of my blog recently shared the following with me:  “I recently encountered a moral dilemma in my own life.  A tall, dark and handsome business associate presented me with the potential of an affair of the heart.  Wow!  Who wouldn’t say “YES” to that?  I said “NO.”  Why?  Because I discovered that he is happily married.  Now for some people that may be okay.   To be frank, I felt flattered at first.  But for me, it is contrary to what I value and that is when you make a commitment to another person, you remain true.  If you are not happy, then leave the relationship.

I was flabbergasted to discover that my business associate thought it was okay to flirt with me, to tell me how beautiful I was, how much he adored me and if he had not married his wife and met me then surely he would be with me.  When I confronted him, he told that I was making more out of it than what it was and that he was just being open and honest.  I felt angry at not being heard or understood when I said that it was not okay for him to tell me those things.   I made the decision to remove myself from  interaction with the business associate because I felt that if I continued to be “friends” with him, the temptation to go down a slippery slope would be  there.  I felt guilty just knowing he had those feelings for me and not his wife.

I chose to do what was right for me in this situation because I know the pain first hand from discovering that a spouse was having an affair.  What may seem exciting and fun to one at the time can turn to bitter ashes in the end.   My former spouse struggled with guilt and then tried to relieve himself of it by sharing it with me.  That sharing destroyed trust as well as the relationship. ”   

The reader’s  story reminded me of the importance of examining your motives as illlustrated in the following:    “We were rigorously honest, except when to do so, would harm or injure others.  There are some things that you just have to live with if it would mean destroying someone or putting them in jeopardy.” (The Fourth Step of The Twelve Steps).”

The keyword here in our relationships with our coworkers, friends and family members is TRUST.  Without trust, there is no foundation for a relationship.  Our daily interactions with others depend greatly on our belief that we can trust them to do what they say they will do and follow through.  We also need to have a framework of values to guide us in our lives.  In the end, when facing a moral or ethical  dilemma, it is more about yourself and what rings true for growth and happiness in your own life.

April 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm 2 comments

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