Friday, June 25, 2010

Whoa baby! Half of 2010 Gone Already?

So I've been going to this Japanese style restaurant for the better part of four years (yes, Mabel,  this does have something to do with real estate).  I hesitate to call it a Japanese restaurant as it is owned, operated and staffed with Chinese.  But it's your basic sushi/Japanese menu type place that serves decent raw fish at decent prices.  I've been a very regular customer and have spent a fair amount of money there.  But I won't be going there anymore.  Why?  Well, earlier this year, they fired one of my two favorite servers and replaced her with an obnoxious, pushy person (I actually had to tell the owner that I didn't want her serving me...first time I've ever done that).  But the straw that broke this camel's back was the other night when the service I received was not bad...I was basically ignored.  I don't really ask for any kind of special service although it is nice to go to a place where everybody knows your name.  But the reason I bring this up relates to Customer Service/Client Service/Investor Relations.  We've all read about how much more expensive it is to gain a new customer/client/investor than it is to keep an existing one. It is very true.  And, as I've suggested, in a consultative way over the years, the most important time to visit your clients is when you're not trying to sell them something.  Don't forget your good customers. Don't take your good customers for granted. In the case of the restaurant, it's not my job to solve their problems and when they don't see me for a while, they may (or may not) wonder where I've been.  But I'm not going to tell them why they lost me.  Your clients may not tell you either and, as an aside,  you can be sure that one of your competitors is paying a lot of attention to them, right now.

I realized how out of touch I am with the latest and greatest technology yesterday when I was walking to work and passed the flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York and saw hundreds of people lined up.  I asked a cop, "What are they giving away?"  "Well, I got a free bottle of water", he said.   Then told me that those people lined up had ordered something new in advance and they were here to pick it up.  So that was my wake-up call to Apples new iPhone.  I'm still operating off a traditional Blackberry but have watched (and read a little) about the fun people are having with all the Apps.  So other than reading about all the dropped calls with these new phones I'm thinking how in a hurry everybody create the next 'must have' thing, to have the next 'must have' thing and to share what they do, every minute of every day with that next 'must have' thing.  However, I wouldn't mind having one of those things myself as when I watch people using them, they sure look like a lot of fun (but I promise I will not share every with you every important event in every day of my life).  

Seeing that Carole King and James Taylor are touring together got me thinking of 1970 in the cafeteria of FDU Teaneck when we bought tickets to see James Taylor, who had recently broken through, and there was a stage if you could call it that actually a series of eight inch high risers shoved together and the seating (were there any chairs?) was on the floor and as I usually try to do I'm sitting on the side of the stage where the grand piano was set up (I wasn't too interested in James Taylor as he was more of a heartthrob and after a while a woman walks out and takes a seat at the piano, without any fanfare or introduction and proceeds to bang out a set of recognizable songs as you can imagine they would be when it's Carole King! She stayed on stage and became part of Taylor's band. It was an extremely special evening with an unexpected truly guest 'star.'  (On music:  A good friend of mine and sent me a link to a beautiful song.  When I looked at it on Youtube, I loved the song but liked this version better.  I hope you like it).

Just a sidebar about a corporate culture.  I was on a Southwest flight recently and the flight attendant was having trouble getting one of the overhead bins to lock.  Now this wasn't a case of the bin being overstuffed, it just wouldn't stay closed.  So this flight attendant tried and tried and tried his best only a few times resorting to the 'if I slam this it will stay closed' approach a couple of times.  But then, exasperated, he went up front, I believed to call a mechanic (which is what would have happened on many, or most, other airlines) and in doing so he would have announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a little mechanical problem and have called our maintenance people.  They are on their way but right now but we will experience a delay in our departure as we don't know where they are.  We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience."  But that's exactly not what happened.  In a flash, the pilot of the plane came back and started fiddling with the bin door.  He looked like a mechanical type (aren't all pilots?) and he analyzed the situation, carefully looking at the brackets that hold the door in and in about two minutes the door was closed and locked and he was back in the cockpit and we were on our way.  I mention this in the spirit of a corporate culture that works.  One where everyone is on the same team and where the internal customer (your co-workers) come first and then your external customers.  I have been impressed with Southwest's management style for a number of years (btw, this has nothing to do with the fact that one of my daughters-in-law works for Southwest).  They embody teamwork.  They encourage their employees to do what's right, even if it's outside of their actual job, if it's something that will help one of their customers. There's a great book about Southwest called, "Nuts."  Southwest hires for attitude, not aptitude and while some aptitude is required in certain jobs, a great attitude can not only overcome some aptitude deficiency but also make a big difference in the success of a group of people. And, after all, aren't we all in this thing together?  

Congratulations to Michael Morgenroth who has been named Chairman of INREV.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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