Friday, April 25, 2008

Misplaced Passion

Have you ever been yelled at by someone and their energy was just over the top? Or perhaps you got in someone’s way while driving and they lay on the horn so loud that it is just a bit unreasonable? How about, have you ever seen someone go off at a restaurant or at a store when they didn’t get the best customer service and they just have to let the whole world know? I have a new term for it!!! It’s called MISPLACED PASSION!!!

I’m seeing it all over the place. Drivers on the road who are really stressed about their bills at home act reckless and blame others. Family members who are stretched to the max handling babies, children, bills, jobs, companies, husbands, wives, vacations, insurance, taxes and millions of other things, get fired up when they don’t receive enough calls, or parents on the soccer or baseball fields screaming at their little kids to perform, when what they really should be doing is cheering all of the kids on for just showing up and learning the rules and about good sportsmanship.

I believe that I’ve had a lot of misplaced passion in my life. When I wasn’t working towards a goal that psyched me up, I would place my energy behind issues of customer service. If someone did right by me I’d go to the ends of the earth to let their company know what a great employee they had on board and that the person should be recognized as the star they are! And certainly, on the flip side, if I don’t get invited to an important family function then I will let everyone know! Or if a company did something unethical, or cheated me out of money in a way, I have demanded a return plus a bonus for my trouble. Being a media person, I’ve always thrown that in there, and promised to let the whole world know of their mistake if I didn’t receive the proper compensation or get treated fairly. I normally get whatever I ask, and never make a big deal of it if it wasn’t completely fair, but I’m guessing I am probably stressing someone out with the threat of negative media attention!

Finally, though, I have a passion that I’m getting behind, that is a cause worth sharing with the world. I’m on a mission to educate the educators and teachers and counselors who work with children who have high sensory issues and ADHD because if they have those two, they might have others. If they have up to 6 issues that are uncovered, it bumps them to the Atypical autism scale. These children mostly go undiagnosed, or are mistreated. As a result, the families are stuck with trying to figure out their children, who actually might have some information processing issues that no one knows about. If they get a proper diagnosis, then the children receive lots of additional help from the state and can be treated without the family spending thousands of dollars with no insurance coverage.

We’ve worked with probably 15 different doctors who never suggested we get a neurological assessment for our son. And now that we have one, we’re thrilled to have a deeper understanding into his personality and his brain and his development. He’s a super gifted child, with a few quirks, but now he won’t get in trouble for these quirks as he did before. We have a road map and with that, we’re having much success with him and enjoying our family life for the first time in a long time.

My misplaced passion has been replaced by enormous energy, and focus to let the world know about this misdiagnosis. I’m happy that I won’t be wasting my energy and focus and passion on trivial things that don’t matter any more.

But still, if you’re a customer service person and are treating someone with disrespect, I’m still guessing I won’t bite my tongue. So I guess my passion isn’t going away completely… but my guess is too that when it’s completely channeled, you’ll be hearing a lot about atypical autism!!! And that absolutely THRILLS me!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ending a Client Relationship

All of us at some point or another become friends with our best clients. Spending time with clients on the phone, in person, in meetings, conference calls, out to lunch, dinner, conferences, or wherever our jobs take us, offers us time to get personal with our clients. We find out about their families, their kids, grandkids, about their vacations, trips and personal interests, likes and dislikes. We often start to think of our client as a friend. So what happens when our client is no longer a client?

It can be really difficult. It can feel like a great relationship is over and never to return. There might be a sense of grieving for a time and a period where there is no communication in place of where there had been constant contact.

Ending the client relationship needs to be well thought out in advance because its bound to happen here and there for one or many reasons. Maybe the individual you were friends with will get a new job. Maybe the predecessor has a different relationship already in tact. Maybe the owner has a company he or she wants to try. Perhaps your prices went up or your vendors made a mistake. Perhaps there were problems in the invoicing, billing or paperwork that got too confusing or perhaps there was a misunderstanding somewhere along the way that you didn’t even know about before it was too late.

Relationships come to a close for many different reasons. And it’s best to have a planned out system to deal with these, just as you would for the beginning of a relationship.

1. It’s natural to want to save an account that you’ve come to rely on as a regular source of income. Try to get to the bottom of the problem to see where things went awry and to see if there is any way to salvage the relationship. Offer to give a service for free or at a deep discount. But when it is clear that the relationship is over, then face it like a champ.

2. Just as in any relationship, human emotions often change with the tide, so it’s best when a relationship has ended that the relationship is given space. After all is said and done, it’s best not to beat a dead horse. It’s best to let some time slip away so you can regain your composure before writing a letter to your former client and it can sound gracious instead of whiney or angry.
3. Write a letter that apologizes for the confusion or the mistake. Be sympathetic and understand their frustration. Reiterate the offer to make amends or offer a discount or something free if they ever come back. Then continue the letter and outline several wonderful things that occurred over the course of the relationship. Outline the successes, the money saved, earned or made based on the relationship. Then share how much the relationship has meant to you personally as well as professionally and that you will look forward to staying in touch.

4. At the end of the letter, start to treat the client as a potential new client. Offer to be of service to them, to be available to answer any questions, or concerns they may have. Offer to be utilized as a resource to them if they need it.

5. Put them in the potential client file. They are no longer a client. But who is to say that they won’t be a client in the future? Keep them on your mailing list. Keep them up on savings or specials or opportunities that your company is offering. Touch base every so often by phone and by email and speak with them personally as well as professionally.

The key is to always maintain your composure and don’t let your emotions get the best of you when the relationship sours. Maintain your dignity even if you made mistakes and had to apologize for a misunderstanding.

The old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.” This saying can be used in business too. Perhaps over time, after working with other vendors, they’ll realize what they’ve missed. Perhaps if the relationship is still in tact and well oiled, they’ll feel that coming back won’t be uncomfortable at all, and that they’d be able to pick up right where they left off before.

When we show dignity in losing, we prove what a winner that we are. Over time, our last impression can become a good impression. And no matter what ever happens with the client, we can always feel good about it for the mature way we handled it!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Conquering The Master of Ceremonies Role

Conferences can be long and drawn out. They can also be overwhelming because of the amount of information that is presented in such a short time. At conventions where industry experts present, the presentations are highly professional, packed with rich information, research and show hard core results. Most of the speakers use PowerPoint, with video spliced into the speeches which breaks up the slides of data.

Because each presentation is so thought provoking and jammed pack full of information, there seems to be a need to process the information after each speech. Our brains can only hold so much information before they start to tune out and think about all of the items sitting on our desks at home.

For the past few days, I was the Master of Ceremonies at the national Emarketing Association Convention in San Francisco. There were about 6-7 speakers per day on the highest level of marketing. This made the conference challenging as well as highly innovative. They brought results, tips and the tried and true secrets that have worked for their high level companies and clients.

Because I got to sit in and listen to the speeches, I was swimming with new and exciting information and constantly stimulated at the many ideas that I developed. Additionally, I met and get to know so many dedicated marketing professionals; I nearly decided to switch careers, based on their passion for their jobs.

As the role of Emcee, my job was to give breaks to the participants and to introduce the speakers. I always love this role because it’s an opportunity to be playful with people and to bring some lightness to break up the serious topics that are being discussed. Because this role is often given to professionals in their own field, I came up with a list of suggestions for others who are also engaged in this position as facilitator for a meeting or break out sessions, Master of Ceremonies or Emcee for any event they host.

1. In the beginning, welcome the participants with enthusiasm and a smile and offer an overview of the next few days. Share with them some of the exciting highlights that will happen and share with them some ideas for activities on their time off.

2. Stay in close communication with the event manager or whoever is putting the conference together. This person has specific announcements that come up, and has a certain idea of how information is presented.

3. Study up on the town where you’re staying to offer highlights of the city. Introduce yourself to the GM of the hotel and the concierge so you have their name and can rattle their names off to the participants in the event. Having a good concierge can save your participants time researching area restaurants if they have free time for dining out. And sharing their name will add one more thing that allows the participants to feel comfortable in their temporary “home”.

4. Sit down with each of the speakers before they go up on stage. Ask them the basic questions such as where they’re from and how they got in their careers, but also ask them what they do for fun. If they’re in terrific shape, compliment them and ask how they do it? The answers will surprise you!!! From sky diving, scuba diving, rollerblading and kite surfing to wind surfing and being wine enthusiasts, these activities bring a personality to the speakers that may not be apparent from the platform. After reading a shortened version of their bio, share extemporaneously what you learned about the speakers in an enthusiastic and fun way.

5. Ask the question, “What is one thing that no one here would ever know about you or guess about you? The speaker at that point will check into his or her long term memory bank and come up with some really interesting stories that they love to tell!!! One high profile speaker shared how he was arrested at age 12 after being harassed by other children on his paper route for cussing at the children. Another conservative looking speaker shared that he was in a rock band in college which was really bad but started getting better after 5-6 beers! These stories allowed the audience to take a peek at the inner lives of these speakers to see the real fun of behind the professional image the person.

6. Share a bit about yourself throughout the conference. The audience needs to feel comfortable with you as well, so offering advice from your own careers, offer up famous quotes, or stories from your own personal life. This brings more intimacy and liveliness to the audience. Make sure that the stories are short and sweet and have a punch. And if you find that a speaker needs extra time getting set up, go up to individual participants and ask them what they are getting out of the conference so far. Sharing the limelight and engaging particpants is a way to stall for time. Make sure you ask questions of people who look open to answering questions. It can be embarrassing for a participant who is intrinsically shy and who clams up in front of audiences.

7. In between the speakers, ask the participants to stand up, cross the isle and meet someone new each time. Then ask them to share what they are taking away or enjoyed from the previous speaker. This helps all of the participants to get to know lots of people in the room besides just those sitting in their immediate area.

Many of us will be cast in the role of Emcee or Master of Ceremonies at some point in our careers. This is the time to allow others to shine, to bring out their uniqueness from the stage so the audience can sense how likeable they are in “real life”. It’s a role that takes a bit of preparation, the ability to promote others, and to act enthusiastic even when you’re exhausted from long travel or from late hours. But it’s the one role that can bring fun to any event that might otherwise be on the serious side, and it’s the role that can get everyone talking, sharing laughing and engaging with one another when they might normally stay to themselves. Getting to know others on a fun level ultimately makes the conference memorable and a success for the participants.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Grandma Gracie

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with a friend of mine Giovanni Livera. He’s a creative genius who actually has more energy that me.. and together we could probably talk for hours and hours and solve all of the world’s problems.

After I’m with someone like Gio, I can write about 15 articles in seconds. The topics get blown up and I find so much information of use as a writer. It’s imperative that someone like me, spends time with someone like him.

He told me a great mini story about his Grandma Gracie. He said he didn’t understand it until he got older and that she used to talk to herself over and over and over. I laughed when I heard it, and realized what a GREAT habit she had formed.

When she was sewing, for hours upon end, Grandma Gracie would talk to herself and encourage herself along the way to stay focused and to stay the course.

“Come on Gracie, you can do it, you can do it. Keep it up Gracie, you can do it.”

Over and over and over she told herself, “you can do it”.

And guess what? She did it!

Giovanni, one of the most creative individuals I’ve ever met, now implements Grandma Gracie’s strategy… “come on Gio, you can do it. Good job Gio, keep going.. you can do it… you can do it…”

From looking around at the many, many amazing things that my friend Gio has accomplished, Grandma Gracie’s self talk has worked in Gios life.
And today, I’m using her technique… “come on Mary, you can do it. Way to go Mary, stay the course.. you can do it, you can do it.”

And now.. I pass it on to you… “you can do it.. you can do it….. It reminds me of the saying, “Inch by inch.. anything is a cinch”!!!! It certainly worked in their lives.. now let it work in ours!!!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Unbeatable Disney Customer Service Made us Fans for Life

We are coming off of spring break in Florida and finally relaxing after a 3 day Disney vacation. We visited the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. These past 2 weeks are traditionally the busiest of the whole year, because of the amount of people who come because of spring break.

I can attest to the fact that the parks were crowded. There were times where making it through the crowds was nearly impossible. The lines of the attractions ran over and hour in many cases. People who were able to secure Fast Passes were able to soar through the lines with no problem. That system allows anyone to feel special a few times throughout the day if they plan their time correctly. It keeps people satisfied that at least they’ll be able to visit a few rides quickly and efficiently.

I learned an invaluable tip from a friend of mine who has a child with a disability. We were able to secure a special guest pass because someone in our party has a childhood developmental disorder and with the proper paperwork from the doctor which we were able to provide, we were given a pass which we’ll renew every 3 months. This pass allows immediate access to all rides with no waiting whatsoever. It’s the disability line, which is the same as the fast pass line. If you time it outside of the fast pass time, you can get up to the front of the line within minutes. Even if you go at the same time with the Fast Pass holders, your wait time is still only about 10 minutes.

The thing that impressed each of us was the unbelievable treatment we received because of the pass. We were taken on back stage tours a few times by wonderful Disney employees. We were sat in premiere seats whenever possible and were personally attended to if we needed anything. They wildly exceeded our expectations and felt like VIPS instead of second class citizens which often happens to people with disabilities.

None of our children knew how we were able to secure the VIP fast pass and only one Disney employee corrected the children when he called it a Disability pass until we stopped him in his tracks. We don’t want our kids feeling like they’re disabled, even though the disability that has occurred is a constant challenge.

For families with Autism, ADHD or other neurological disorders, this system in place at Disney is invaluable. Disney should be recognized for the great work they’re doing to promote excellent customer service and wonderful treatment of those outside the box.

I’ve always been a customer of Disney but now I’m a fan for life.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Have Hard Times Hardened You or Helped You?

Yesterday we spent the day at the Beach at a resort in the Daytona Beach area. I went to the desk in the morning and asked if they could let me borrow an old hat from lost and found. I shared with them that I had so many upcoming medical expenses for my son, that I didn’t want to spend money on a hat that we’d use just for a few hours and we had hundreds at home.

The young gal at the front desk came back and reported in that it wasn’t possible so I asked to talk with whoever was in charge. Within moments, two women walked out and faced me.

One had an aggressive look on her face, ready for battle. It was apparent on her face when she said, WHAT? CAN I HELP YOU? It was bold and brazen and not soft at all. There was no customer savvy there whatsoever.

The other lady let me speak first, and she was pleasant. I spoke to both of them, and just asked if they had a hat that I could borrow. I didn’t care if it was old or whatever, but my son has red hair and I wanted to help protect his skin.

The bold and brazen lady, in her continued bold style said, “those are only the people’s who lost their hats, we can’t give them out.” I responded, “I’m sure there are some there that have been there forever! Can’t you just let me borrow one?” NO she answered with her natural angry look on her face still plastered on it. Then, the other lady politely chimed in that she’d see if she had one in the condo sales department and she then brought one to our room.

When I walked away, I wondered if this big resort knew how HARD hearted that one lady was? Do they know how her personality is negatively affecting their customers? Do they know, that because she’s got an attitude of “I’m going to get the world before they get me” is costing them?

I would have walked away with such a horrible feeling about their resort. It was the only request I had in my two days there, and it wouldn’t have cost anyone a penny. It was a simple request that they could have done out of the goodness of their heart. And as a matter of fact, someone from the company, albeit in a different department did save the day, and offer me a logo branded hat that was probably used for promotional purposes.
But I didn’t care. I was so grateful for her help and for the hat that I wrote her a long personal letter and will send a letter to corporate on her behalf, about how helpful she was and how awful the other lady made me feel.

What about you? What does your face look like? Is the natural look of your countenance sad? Happy? Content? Angry? Confused? Scared? It is my belief that our faces show our inside feelings and thoughts. And our thoughts then create how we act and respond to other people.

In the case of this woman, she didn’t disappoint. One look at her and I knew that I was going to have a battle on my hands. She wouldn’t give anyone a break because she hadn’t had any breaks in her life. She made it her goal to make it hard on everyone else who she came in contact with on her path.

Lucky for her, and a great blessing to me, she was with a kind hearted lady, who took the role upon herself to solve my problem. She received a long personal and handwritten letter of thanks from me when I left and returned the hat to her. I let her know that she was an angel for me that day.

What would you have done? Gone out of the way for your customer? Or let them figure it out for themselves?

My hope is that if you have time to think about it, you’d do the right thing… and she probably may have too, if she was just a bit more aware.