Carol is a consummate customer service professional and she delivers the best customer experience I have ever received from just about any company when I have been at the point of giving up all hope.
So I had a very unique experience last month. Way back in January I discovered that I could earn additional cash back points for automatically paying my Sprint cell phone bill with my Discover card. Setting up my automatic bill pay, I thought was relatively easy. Sprint sent me an email explaining that bill pay would take a month to kick-in, so it wouldn't be until February that I would have the convenience of the service.
Well, sure enough when I got my February e-bill from Sprint they informed me that my automatic payment would take place the day before my bill was due. Now, I happen to be one of those people who pay all of their bills on time, and I regularly check my bank account to make sure things are set to be paid. In this case I trusted Sprint had it all under control. However, a few days before my bill's due date I received a bill reminder email from Sprint, and this one didn't mention the fact that automatic bill pay was set up to pay my bill the day before it was due. So, the trust I had in Sprint began to fade.
At the end of the day when the first automatic bill payment was to be made I monitored my online Sprint bill to see if my payment status would change. I also monitored my Discover card transactions to see if my Sprint payment would post. Nothing. The next day, the day my Sprint bill was due, I did the same thing. Again nothing. A few minutes before midnight I made a manual payment using my Discover card to avoid any late fees (according to the language on my bill), which overrode my automatic payment setup.
When I received my March Sprint bill I once again set up automatic bill pay using my Discover card, thinking that perhaps I’d done something wrong back in January. Once again I waited one month for the service to kick in, received my first bill with auto payment the day before the due date, and went through the whole ridiculous process just like before only to wind up paying manually to avoid those late fees.
In May I decide to call Discover’s customer service and see if they can help me successfully sign up for the service. While it does take transferring me twice, each time after confirming my personal and card information and then explaining my situation, which makes three times in total, I am at least directed to the appropriate person. She explains that the automatic payment process is initiated through Sprint and not Discover, so it’s not something that Discover can fix for me.
Now, I'm exasperated, frustrated, and pretty darn angry, but this woman, we’ll call her Carol, is a consummate customer service professional and she delivers the best customer experience I have ever received from just about any company when I have been at the point of giving up all hope. Here’s what she does:
Now, on the other end of the experience there is Sprint, where the initial agent that Carol speaks with hangs up on her—not on purpose, but still. The agent that we eventually deal with, let’s call him Fred, is an okay guy, but he is no Carol. He's knowledgeable and does impart two very interesting pieces of information, namely:
I am a customer who has gone to considerable lengths to sign up for a service that guarantees his employer on-time monthly payment of my bills. As an agent of this company, I would expect Fred to be more motivated to both help me and make up for the inconvenience I have suffered through no fault of my own by offering to assist me in reactivating my automatic bill pay or forwarding my feedback and experience with this service to the appropriate areas of the company. Fred does neither. Now, I understand that he may not be able to reactivate my automatic bill pay, but he can collect my feedback and he can also offer to compensate me for my troubles in some way. Even more importantly, throughout our time together, I expect Fred to treat me with respect, which I think is the very least he can do.
So, I guess I’m disappointed Fred isn’t smart enough to understand all this and take appropriate action. Because, let’s face it, even if Fred himself couldn’t care less about my Sprint automatic payment experience or me, his job should be to make me think there isn’t anything more important to him in the world, at least while we're on the phone together. After all, that's exactly what happened with Carol, and in the process she earned my undying personal gratitude and boatloads of corporate loyalty for her employer, Discover—and, that’s the point of delivering great customer service, even when, or rather, especially when you can’t solve your customers’ problems.
Is your customer experience in line with your communications strategy? Are you building loyalty with every interaction? If you’re not sure, let's discuss how I can help you find out.
The wonderful thing about inspiration is also, in some ways, the awful thing about it: Like a panic attack you usually can’t predict when or where it’s going to strike.
Last week I was lucky enough to make it off the waiting list and get a ticket for this wonderful thing called Creative Mornings, a free monthly lecture series, which includes coffee and, at least for July, bagels, too. The speakers, culled from diverse creative fields, give 20-minute presentations (give or take). Afterward there’s time to answer a few questions and, depending upon how early you arrive, there’s a good deal of time before things get underway to mix ‘n mingle.
The Creative Mornings presentation I attended introduced me to guest speaker Kelli Anderson, a wonderfully talented young designer, whose work is, dare I say, clever and inspired. Check out the paper record player wedding invitation she created for some friends of hers—it’s pretty freakin’ cool and original!
Creative Mornings, the brainchild of Tina Roth Eisenberg, is approaching its third anniversary and now includes 24 chapters spread across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Drink that in because it’s a remarkable thing and stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when an inspired idea catches fire.
Like so many others before me, my Creative Mornings experience blew me away and it got me thinking that being regularly inspired is as necessary to ongoing success for your business or career as setting the right goals and objectives and charting your progress. Yet, how many of us make a concerted effort to put ourselves in inspiration’s path on a monthly basis? After all, what’s the point of all our hard work without those joyful, fleeting moments when the stars align and everything is clear and bright and the world makes perfect, absolute sense?
The wonderful thing about inspiration is also, in some ways, the awful thing about it: Like a panic attack you usually can’t predict when or where it’s going to strike. What you can do, however, is create fertile opportunities that increase the odds of its occurring by finding your own kind of Creative Mornings to regularly attend.
If you’re not doing this already, take some time to start looking for a monthly gathering that suits your interests now. And, don’t make it all business. This isn’t about making networking contacts that can advance your career or extend your sales revenue. This is about expanding your way of thinking, seeing and being—you know, the kind of stuff that charges you up and gets you excited all over again about the things you love or maybe has you falling in love with something totally new. It’s about inspiration—giving it, getting it and, most of all, being in the midst of it so you don’t forget that yours is a life filled with passion and purpose driven as much by inspiration as by the gritty determination and perspiration it takes to see your biggest and best ideas and dreams come to fruition.
Have you found a way to be regularly inspired—your own Creative Mornings? I'd love to hear about it and, perhaps, so would others. Contact me and let me know.
If you’re stuck on getting that business plan done before you start-up, that's fine, but remember, plans are never perfect; they are only ever works-in-progress.
Well, yes and no. If you're looking for investors, then you definitely need a well thought out and written business plan. Take the time to do your research and do it right.
However, if you're going into business for yourself, and you're not looking for financial backers, then you really don't need to invest loads of time (and money) building a detailed plan. The odds are you know more than you think you do about the critical factors that will make your business a success; you may not know it or trust yourself enough to realize it.
You need to do your homework, too, but if you can:
In my experience, most entrepreneurs spend way too much time honing and perfecting their business plan to the detriment of their start-up. By the time they're ready to get their business going they've missed out on countless opportunities.
If you’re stuck on getting that business plan done before you start-up, that's fine, but remember, plans are never perfect; they are only ever works in progress. After investing three-to-six months in marketing your products or services and delivering them to customers consider how much more you'll know about the different areas of your business and, consequently, your plans for it.
It’s good to have a business plan; it’s even better to have some business and the insights that comes from your efforts to land some.
Jim Horan’s "The One Page Business Plan" series of books, available on Amazon, are helpful references...one is sure to be right for the type of business you're starting.
Also, check out the business model canvas for an easy one page planning tool.