Oil Service Please, Hold the Survey

A few weeks ago I took my Honda CRV into the dealership for an oil change. At the end of the service the associate (they don’t call them employees any more) asked me if there was anything else they could have done differently to satisfy me. I wished the service could be free, but I didn’t think this was the kind of response they were looking for. Then they mentioned that Honda corporate would contact me regarding a survey and that it was important that I gave ‘5’s. I understood their perspective. It was like a student asking for an ‘A’ grade.

Last week Honda called me and asked me several questions over the phone about the service I received. In between folding laundry and making dinner I answered their questions with ‘5’s. At the end the person asked if they could send me a written survey for more details. I said, “No, I already answered your survey.” I think that it was reasonable considering I already gave them 3 minutes of my time. Then today Honda called me again to say,”Thank you for the good surveys”. At the end of my customer experience (assuming it is over and they don’t call me next week), the only thing I had to complain about was the surveys. I don’t mind getting surveyed once and providing my answers, but I do have a problem with feeling like there are more customer touch points regarding the survey than the actual service. Why can’t they just do the survey and get it over with? Why do they have to call me to say thank you?  I already know that Honda would will be happy with the ‘5’s I gave, I don’t need to be told. It is like telling a king they have a nice crown. He is the king, he doesn’t need to be told things he already knows. Same goes with surveys.

When I take my car in for service, I want the service and not the surveys. In my work in IT consulting I have noticed a similar obsession with surveys. They want more surveys and only good surveys. No one wants the bad news. Why does management think that if you get good surveys, you will have a more successful business? I completely disagree. Great service at a good price means a successful business. As an example, I really liked that I get a free car wash with my oil change at Honda. I also liked that when they replaced the car battery (which was under warranty) all of the car’s radios stations were reset for me. This is great customer service! Treating your customers with respect (because after all, customer =  person) will gain much more repeat business than annoying an already busy customer with surveys that they really don’t have time to answer. Next time I am asked to fill out a survey I will say I don’t have time. I just don’t believe in the value of surveys any more. If customers stopped answering surveys maybe this survey frenzy would end.

What do you think about this latest onslaught of surveys?


Communication Overload? or Misfire?

We have so many forms of communication at our fingertips, yet we still struggle to communicate our messages. With Instant Messenger, e-mail, text and phone, are there too many ways to communicate? Which method do you use, and when? Because we have so many methods for communication, are expectations for understanding and response too high?

IM at work can be your best friend or your worst enemy. When you need a quick piece of information, you just look for the little green dot next to the name of the person you are looking for, and voila – you can see if the person you need to contact is accessible or not. Maybe. Is the dot always accurate? Why is it green but the person isn’t responding to my question? Am I not on their priority list? Where are they? Why aren’t they answering me? So maybe e-mail is a better choice because you just assume it will take a while for them to get back to you, instead of an instant response. Remember when getting a response via e-mail was considered quick compared to a fax or letter? Does anyone even use a letter any more?

Then there is communication in the world of dating. “I texted him 2 hours ago and haven’t heard back,” a friend declares. Worse yet is the IM. You send your “hi” into the ether and then wonder why they didn’t respond. Is the green dot innacurate? Maybe they are out with another man? or woman? Do they have another lover? The mind could make you crazy with this scenario. The question is, why don’t we just pick up the phone and call? It clarifies a lot of communication issues. Why? There is something about the tone of a voice – the inflection. It gives you more of the message than just the words. Amazing that the ear really is detecting so much more than consonants and vowels – it conveys a feeling. A colleague told me a long time ago to smile when I am talking on the phone because the person on the other end of call could hear my smile. What? Hear a smile? Strange yet true.

Time for me to smile and call, text or e-mail someone. Since I have the ability to communicate I feel like I should. Sometimes silence is acceptable too. Imagine being alone with your thoughts for five minutes, or call to tell someone about it.

A Lofty Goal

Tonight I attended my monthly goal-setter’s meeting. What is it? It is a support system for women to share goals, dreams, successes and failures. The group makes you accountable to your goals regardless of what you want to achieve, whether it is getting investors for a startup company, going on one date in a month or planning an exotic vacation.

Sometimes the goals are small and sometimes they are big. Sometimes they are realistic and sometimes they are lofty or a bit outlandish, such as,”Marry Josh Groban“. The thing is, if we never have high goals, how will we really accomplish great things? Accomplishment is about vision. Focus on your vision and things just seem to happen. Even if you fall short of your vision, you have accomplished something.You have moved ahead from where your feet were originally planted. Wouldn’t you like to eliminate the moss from under your feet? Go somewhere or do something?

As I looked over my goals, they seemed somehow wimpy. I realize it isn’t a competition, it is all individual. However, I seem to be missing my “Josh Groban”. In other words, what represents the pinnacle of everything I want to achieve? I realize now that I really have no idea. I thought I knew – I wanted to write romance novels. Now I wonder if that is the right path or maybe there is something else where I could better utilize my talents. So I am left to contemplate my visionary goal until the next month’s meeting. My self-analysis of my goals made me realize, we all need a Josh Groban.

What is your Josh Groban?

Electrical Connections for People

A few weeks ago I attended a conference with colleagues from around the globe. One of the purposes of the event was networking. You know, connecting with others? What does connecting really mean anyway? What I know, is it requires more than a simple introduction. What I learned, was the best connections don’t come from constant networking exercises such as ‘introduce yourself to 5 new people and then sit at a new table’. Instead, connections came during lunch, on the bus to dinner, during breaks in the hallway or at the hotel bar. The best laid plans for networking, may not always work. Can people really connect without intervention?

There is no shortage of methods to connect. Getting introduced to new people through people you know, talking to the person who is wandering around aimlessly (they don’t know anyone either), or simply chatting with the person in front of you at the buffet line for a few minutes, are all ways to connect. Making connections at an event so large is challenging, especially when you consider the number of native languages spoken. In actuality, the language difference was one of the more fun ways to connect. Imagine my surprise when a man from Italy had not heard of Arizona, yet knew of the Grand Canyon. Finally there was recognition, “Oh, ARRRITZZOOONAA!”, he exclaimed. This triggered a conversation about pronunciation and accents. To be completely honest, I preferred the Italian pronunciation, because it made the state name actually worthy of the Grand Canyon.

On the bus back to the hotel from dinner one evening, I met two Brazilian’s. I asked how to say, “Thank You”, in Portuguese. I mean, when was I going to get another chance to ask that? I wonder if they remembered me for that? If not, I learned something new. When I met the Brazilian’s, I would have guessed they were from Europe or America, as their names (and looks) did not provide any indication of country of origin. Strange how looks do not indicate where people are from any more. The German from Brazil? The Indian from England? And me…the American from ‘ARRITZZOOONAA’? We are all just people and connecting does not seem to be dependent on culture.

As the week wore on, I became annoyed that I could not spend enough time with people to remember their name, never mind understand their role in the organization or how we could help each other. It felt like 2 minute speed dating and I wasn’t getting any phone numbers. For me the event was utterly overwhelming and exhausting. After 3 days I was losing my voice from talking so much, but demoralized. Why did I have only 1 business card in 3 days? What was I doing wrong?

By the end of day 3, connecting became crystal clear to me. When you really connect with people, something happens inside you. It is like electricity. Maybe what was inside me was a vodka shot warming my belly, but I believe it was more than that. When you walk into a room, you see people. All kinds of people. Who are you drawn to stand next to? Who do you want to have a conversation with? Who smiles or laughs the most? I gravitate to the people who are laughing and joking. Even if they are laughing at my shirt because it is buttoned incorrectly or because a coworker drank too much and looks like a shawl hanging over my shoulders. Like everyone, I find myself walking up to people who look familiar to me (I think I sat with that guy at breakfast?), or that I know (His name looks familiar, didn’t we exchanged e-mails a few weeks ago?). Once you meet a few people, things really take off. A few connections grow into more, and more, and more. Is there anything really wrong with this kind of organic networking? I hope not, because it was the most fun!

If you put random people together in a room, won’t they eventually form groups of people who are similar in some way? Sure, it is great to have different opinions, backgrounds and ideas, but to truly connect with people, you need something in common (role, language, age, experience, sports?). The Dalai Lama believed that any one person can connect with any other person. So it isn’t so much the structure of the meeting, but the fact that you are together and finding other people similar in some way. I decided that the energy and resulting electricity were evidence of successful connecting. In the end, I made a lot of new connections, strengthened existing ones and left the event with a lot more electricity than what I arrived with. What electrical connections are you making today?

2010 Lessons Learned

Another year has passed and I am left wondering where the time went. I need a new clock with 30 hours a day instead of 24, because 24 isn’t cutting it. Even with the measly 24 hours per day, a lot happened in 365 days. Today I reflected on how many things changed in my life this past year and what I learned as a result. Some changes I consciously focused on throughout the year, while other opportunities randomly presented themselves. Here are my takeaways for the year…

Over the year I developed some new friendships and ended some old ones. Such is the circle of life I suppose. The idea of friends coming and going made me think about relationships in general. Whether with your spouse, your friend or just a new acquaintance, if you cannot communicate and respect each other, then you cannot connect. Connections are very important in our daily life. What is wrong with wishing the cashier at the market a happy holiday? The concept of connecting with people seems obvious, until you realize that some people can’t or won’t always tell you their true feelings (duh, they are not communicating!). Also, what you see on the surface may not be the reality. We all have problems and challenges in our lives, so why can’t we share them? Isn’t that what friendship is for? This year I realized more connecting and sharing (even the worst part of our lives or ourselves) felt a lot better than hiding behind conversations about the weather.

Respect seems to be something you earn by placing boundaries around yourself. Not the unhealthy kind of boundaries made of steel bars or moats with alligators, but the kind where people are forced to treat you like a person, not a doormat. I learned this year that pushing back definitely worked. When you demonstrate to others that you respect yourself first, then they can respect you next. I didn’t let family, friends, or customers at work push me around this year and I was a lot happier as result. I highly recommend it.

I spent a lot of time communicating this year and I am not sure the message or the end result always turned out the way I wanted. Sometimes I had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear OR listen to things I didn’t want to hear. “What?”, you say, you didn’t know that LISTENING was part of communication? No one wants to hear they lost a job or be ‘unfriended’, however, I experienced new doors of opportunity that opened when old ones closed. Accepting the situation and dealing with next steps was lot more fun that sitting around wondering ‘why me’?

People talk about hopes and wishes, but that is total crap. If you really want something, you decide what you want and then go out and make it happen. I want to be the person making things happen, not sitting around waiting for it. I recall a friend from years ago who wanted to get married and have a family, yet she sat around her apartment waiting for Prince Charming ( or some guy named Steve) to show up at her door. You cannot depend on others to fulfill your dreams. We are responsible for our own destiny. Instead of hope, you need action.

So many people this year talked about the sense of community (or lack of it.) What happened to the small town feeling where everyone knew you and your kids? What about lending your neighbor a cup of sugar? Unfortunately whether living in big cities or suburbs, people are divided instead of brought together. Letting the neighbor kids come by for a visit so another mom can get a much-needed break seems an obvious thing to do in a community, but who am I to say anything with cinder block 6′ high walls around my house? I may have the physical walls, but I am trying to remove the mental walls, at least for myself. Hopefully others will find the removal of the mental walls liberating too.

The more I learn in life, the more I realized how little I know. I can only hope that 2011 brings as many opportunities to learn, just different ones than 2010 – because honestly, I don’t want to relive the year. Hello 2011!

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words

Why is it that kids can drive you so crazy with their behavior? During a routine grocery shopping trip, my 7-year-old son became so irritating and annoying, I was ready to strangle him. Several hours later I felt like an idiot when I discovered that his bad behavior was caused by hunger. How could I have missed something so obvious? Why is it that a child with ample vocabulary could not explain his extreme level of hunger, yet could easily act so bratty?

Instead of words, his body seems to become spasmodic as we walked up and down the aisles. He was banging the shopping cart into the shelves. I took away his privilege of pushing the shopping cart and he stumbled down the aisle losing his flip-flop. When he finally got his flip-flop back on he realized the existence of the little plastic ‘sale’ signs sticking out in his path and proceeded to slap each one with his hand as he sauntered down the aisle. I tried to control his behavior, but instead of it improving, it grew worse, like dandelions after a spring rain. Inside I felt like unleashing both verbal and physical lashings, but had to restrain myself in a public place with security cameras. Eventually I completed the shopping trip wondering why I thought taking a child into the grocery store was a good idea.

I arrived home and opened the trunk of the car and my son attempted to shut the trunk on me as I grabbed several of the grocery bags to lug inside. Not only did he refuse to help, he seemed irritated that I would ask him to complete such a mundane and boring task. Realizing I could stand neither his behavior nor his presence, I sent him to his room. Within 2 minutes he emerged from his room and asked ,”When are you going to give me something to eat?” I can only assume that he thought I knew he was hungry, when in fact I had no idea. A granola bar from the snack drawer and all was well. The brat was transformed.

Next time I head to the grocery store I will
1) Add the contents of the snack drawer to my purse
2) Provide the snack to all children at the store entrance regardless of their statements of, “I am not hungry.”

If kids could be as effective with their words in getting our attention as with their bad behavior, then parenting would be a lot easier. Then again, no one said that parenting would be easy or that our kids would actually speak to us once we taught them to talk.

The Last Book on Earth

At my last book club meeting there was a lengthy discussion about how technology is changing the experience of reading. The idea of the ‘Last Book on Earth’ was discussed as we considered the number of people reading on a computer, an IPAD, or a Kindle. The idea of reading paper books is beginning to look antiquated. Much like carbon paper and mimeographs were made obsolete by the photocopier, soon books could be replaced and instead of being ‘reused’ could land in the recycling pile. Think about how the IPOD, which enabled the instant downloading of music via the internet, revolutionized how we experience music. Why should the replacement of books be any different?

For some reason during this discussion of the potential obsolescence of books, I had a flashback to historic films about the burning of books during WWII and wondered if the elimination of paper books was really a good idea. There is something about the idea of holding a book in your hand that seems more solid, more real. How would people feel if a Minister or Rabbi read from an IPAD instead of from an actual Bible or Torah? I am not even religious, but the picture just strikes me as odd.

As I thought more about the idea of burned books, I decided to look up the list of ‘banned books’. You might be surprised by the books that have been banned by governments at one time or another. Previously banned books include 1984, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and even, Dick and Jane? Strange how the previously banned books made it to the top of my classics reading list in high school.

For some reason, I have a fear about letting a single entity (like the government) control books that ‘they’ decide should be available for people to read. I mean the government does control all of the libraries, don’t they? With the number of large corporations competing for our books buying business, this isn’t likely to happen, but it is possible.

Then again, if people want to read books, they can find them, but what if there were not actual books? Will there be ‘bootleg’ copies on thumb drives? What if the government could erase all versions of a book like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (another previously banned book) removing all recorded history of it. I could envision a technological burning of books that could occur. It could be done quietly with no puff of smoke, just a quiet whirring of a hard-drive. Scary isn’t it?

So as some of us grasp tightly to our paper books, others clear out their bookshelves (I wonder if bookshelves are next to go obsolete since we won’t need to store books on them any more?). The world as we know it continues to change from the elimination of books and even bookshelves. However, if you could save one book to be your ‘Last Book on Earth’, what would it be?

Memory Glue

I had an evening with a few hours of quiet and I was not sure what to do with myself. It wasn’t a matter of having nothing to do, it was a matter of choosing what to spend my time on. Sometimes life feels like a blur because it is going so fast. Being busy is great, but what about moving at lightening speed? I feel like I ‘saw’ a lot of stuff, but don’t really remember much. Isn’t it memories that we strive to create? Why is it that I can do a lot of things but not remember anything? What is the glue that makes my memories become memories in the first place?

I like to try new experiences which generally creates memories, particularly if the experience was a good one. Sure, I get the bad ones too, but I like to focus on the positive. When a memory sticks, I know it. I can feel it, and I can hang on to it. I was wondering if the good feelings about memories is the reason that people like to reminisce with friends about ‘good times’. Are we wasting time reminiscing when we should be trying to create new memories? If we aren’t creating new memories, is life a waste of time? Not every event in our lives will be equally memorable. Then our minds would work just like a computer – it would become a huge ‘file’ of stuff with no prioritizing.

Prioritizing is what we need. Our minds seem to do a pretty good job of prioritizing, but why? Does the emotion of the experience cause the ‘memory’ to stick? Is this the reason we make decisions based on emotion vs. rationalization? For some reason emotions play a large part of our lives even with the best intentions from a rational perspective. Can you think of a memory that is not emotionally based? Everyone has to memorize things like the Gettysburg Address, but that is a different type of memory that is forced through repeated exposure.

Emotions are the glue that makes memories stick. If we don’t have the glue, we don’t have or need the memory. Think of your first day of school, your first date, your first kiss, or saying goodbye to a grandparent or parent at a funeral. As I write, I feel a tear collecting in the corner of my eye. Why is this? Can I really feel memories as much as see them in my mind? Like a soldier returning from war that has suffered exposure to horrible things, they have an emotion around the event. In some cases the emotion is so strong, they get amnesia. The feelings are there, but the memory seems to be missing.

For anyone, like the soldier – they seem to carry the feelings of the memory throughout their lives like a bad cold. They feel like they can’t get rid of the feeling yet in many cases they already lost the memory or at least subverted it. Is this what happens when you have the glue, but no memory to stick to it? How does this impact your emotional state? How can you have glue without a memory? Is there a quick fix to get rid of the glue? Probably years of therapy will do the trick. Right now, I can’t remember why I was writing about glue or memory. Time to go out and make a memory…or some glue…or both!

A student of mentoring

Mentoring is another form of education.

Have you ever helped someone solve a problem? Or talked over a personal or business challenge? Did you make the other person think? How was it to listen to another person’s problems and help guide them to a solution without telling them specifically what to do? I wonder if we all have within ourselves the capacity to mentor?

As I have entered what I call mid-career , it appears that there are as many coworkers younger than me as there are older than me, which suddenly puts me in a position to teach more and learn less. I don’t want to be the guy that says, “We have always done it this way”, but I hope what I can share is a lesson learned or two. Occasionally ‘that guy’ with his statements about how things didn’t work a certain way, will turn out to be right. Sharing an experience does not always have to be about the right way but instead, something to think about.

I like the idea that we can all learn from each other (my Utopia) but there are some people who feel they have nothing more to learn (I don’t associate with those people, at least not by choice). I am questioning now, what makes a learning culture? How can someone educate or mentor me? How do you learn? By making your own mistakes, hearing a story, or reading a book? I usually make a mistake which I wish I could have learned about from a book. In the end though at least I have a story I can use to help someone else learn (assuming they didn’t already make the same mistake or they were not unable to learn from a book either). At least my mistakes are productive. What better way to learn? Maybe I am my own best mentor? How are you learning (or mentoring) today?

Why didn’t I get the message?

With text messages, voicemail, e-mail and instant messages, I am surprised that people have so many communication problems. How many times have you heard, “Did you read my e-mail?”, or ,”Did you see my text?”. We are all communicating at lightening speed using all these different mechanisms, but I have to wonder if our messages are actually getting through. I am not talking about whether the text or e-mail arrived, I am talking about the message we are trying to communicate. Confused? Me too!

Terabytes of data (and other numbers of bytes that I don’t even know the word for) are being generated daily, yet people are lost and confused because they aren’t getting the message. I used to think of communication methods as including written, verbal, and body language. That was easy, only three options. Body language makes up a significant portion of the message – something like 70%. No wonder we are left trying to decipher a message. Imagine trying to read a book with only 30% of the words!

The other thing that stumps me is deciding what communication to use and when. I get in trouble for sending ‘that’ in a text when I should have communicated in person. Is the quickness and efficiency of texting and e-mailing actually making us less effective communicators? Probably. Every day I see e-mail conversations that ultimately yield no decision or outcome. Time to pick up the phone and talk. Is that always more effective though? The phone lines and language capability are not always perfect. “Did you say you are shipping me nine cases of wine?” or “You will call me back on another line?” Repeating the message back and searching for understanding are the only way to receive the message. What? You don’t understand? How about I call you later and we can discuss it? The communication challenges continue, but we can’t stop trying.