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Boost employee morale; One idea that seems to always be overlooked

I get asked all the time for ideas on how to boost morale. I offer my suggestions and some simple ideas. I refer people to websites where they can find other ideas. Heck, I even wrote an eBook (years ago) 50 Ways To Have Fun at Work, Improve Employee Morale and Hopefully Not Get Fired. Want it for free? Just send me an email by April 1, 2011 (no joking).

But at the end of the day these ideas are nothing but band-aids. The most important way to improve morale is always overlooked. It doesn’t get mentioned. And it’s a pretty simple idea………….

Get rid of that which is killing morale.

It’s not always the economy or competition or regulations that kill morale. Too often it is people; in many cases one person. It’s the manager who says his or her people aren’t playing like a team. It’s the manager who seems to have high absenteeism in his or her department. It’s the manager who is always recruiting because turnover is high. It’s the manager who can’t get their staff to give 100%; to go the extra mile.

It’s also the manager who seems to always meet his or her goals; the manager who has been with you for twenty years and you feel an obligation. While this person might be meeting the numbers, what’s the cost of absenteeism, recruiting and a disengaged workforce?

Unfortunately staff are afraid to break the chain of command and go above this person in most cases. Further complicated is the morale killer’s boss is often out of touch with the staff, busy, doesn’t make themselves available; or perhaps doesn’t want to hear what is really going on.

Offering rewards, recognizing people, incorporating fun, and encouraging communication are all great ideas; removing that which is killing morale is a better place to start. Don’t you agree?

Do that and then you can initiate a morale program that includes rewards, recognition, etc; one that will have more meaning. Let me know if I can help.

A Better Employee Experience: Reward One Another

I was just reading a Facebook post of a friend asking what today would bring. My response to her post was “whatever you make it bring.” Then I got to thinking how that applies to employee rewards and recognition…….

I read a lot about employee rewards and the value they bring to increasing employee morale and employee engagement; to increase the employee experience. Rewards can be simple things; gift cards, lottery tickets, a quick team trip to the local coffee shop; a pair of show/movie tickets to an employee who has spent long days working on a project at the expense of his or her family so he or she can spend an evening with his or her spouse/partner/friend. They can also be huge bonuses and trips.

Well sometimes the boss needs your help. Sometimes the boss doesn’t get it. Sometimes the boss is so wrapped up in keeping you employed. Just because the boss doesn’t reward and recognize doesn’t mean it can’t be.

Who in your department deserves some special recognition and/or reward? How about you and your co-workers take up a small collection and recognize that person today?

Of course make an “event” of the recognition so the boss sees what you’ve done.

Business Building 101: Networking Events shouldn’t be like going for root canal

To me there is nothing worse than going to a “networking event.” More often than not they are anything but networking; it’s usually some event where people are just trying to tell me how wonderful they are or hoping to sell me something; too often under the “guise” that they want to help me. I also find that not enough people really want to take the relationship beyond the networking event to a one-on-one meeting somewhere. But you do see them Tweeting or Facebooking about the next networking event they’re attending.

The people I really feel sorry for are employees who are mandated to go to such events as part of their job with no understanding of why they are really there. You usually see them roaming aimlessly, standing by the beverage counter or checking their phone every 8 seconds.

I think the thing that aggravates me is that I try to follow the premise of networking which is see how you can help someone else (for free; to a point; you gotta let people know when they’ve overextended your free help) and that’s how you’ll get recognized and rewarded.

In premise that sounds great; but what if everyone in the room tried to do it the right way; then it would be equally as frustrating as we all fought with one another to be helpful.

So I guess someone has to be the one who tells you how great they are and someone has to be the listener. And until I train myself to be a self-centered egotistical networker I guess I’ll have to be the listener.

Or maybe not…………………………..

As much as I get nauseous, stomach pains and heart palpitations when I think about that networking event, I decided to make it a game. What if I came up with a couple of questions that appeared I was interested in the other person but really were about me and my business? 

For example, these days I might ask these two questions:

  1. Tell me what marketing techniques are working for you? (usually requires a follow-up question where I question how that might work for my business)
  2. I then ask them to tell me about their best social media success/strategy.

Now I only take this approach when it is clear you are rambling on and on.

So if you and I meet at a networking event and I appear not to be listening you’re probably right. I’ve trained myself to turn off all the egotistical chatter as my head spins figuring out what to do with the information you’ve just given me.

Or who knows I might get lucky and you’ll take an interest in me.

Customer Experiences are better when employees use Common Sense

I woke up Monday morning and realized I had left home the night before without my “funeral pants.” No I really don’t have funeral pants as someone did ask me; but those pants were the ones I had worn to the 3 previous funerals in the past month. So here I am at 7:00 in the morning walking around my mom’s house saying “Crap, crap, crap; I can’t go to a funeral in the torn jeans I wore last night.”

Who’s open this early I thought. Kmart? Target? Walmart?

Quick smartphone search and I find Target is open at 8:00AM; the location is right near the funeral – which starts at 8:30.

7:45 AM I am off to Target.

I find new funeral pants; they fit. I yank off all the tags (especially the long sticker that goes down the leg with your waist and inseam size; which I have in the past walked around displaying); walk out of the fitting room; hand the woman back the card that shows how many garments I walked in with and told her I’m wearing the pants.

And then it went like this…….

“You can’t wear them. You have to pay for them and then come back and put them on.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Security is going to stop you” I was told by one of the four associates standing by the fitting room. The other three looked on with those “yeah, that’s the rule” looks.

“Well that makes no sense; either way I’m going to walk out of the store wearing the pants; with a paid receipt? You can walk me to the register if you’d like.”

“Well you can’t do it that way.” Clearly this was going nowhere. First, I was thinking what happened to the customer was always right? Second, you still haven’t given me a valid reason why this rule or policy is in place?

“I’ll take my chances of being tackled by security” I said and walked towards the register. I know; in the time I was having this exchange I could have just followed their rules; but this was just silly and made no sense to me. I like Target; and I couldn’t imagine Target training people to make a customer experience a hassle?

I approached the register, gave young man the tag, told him I am wearing the pants; he gave me a bag for my jeans and as I walked out the Security Officer held the door for me and told me to have a great day.

Am I missing something here? Is Target missing an opportunity to train its people a bit better? Or is this one of those situations that require common sense only and maybe we need to actually come up with a college course in such?

Teach your employees to use common sense and the employee experience and the customer experience will rock!

Customer experiences that are great = business thriving

I love when I see clients follow through on vision and create new programs that provide something unexpected.

A while back I presented a program at the ARC of Meriden-Wallingford’s Professional Development Day. It was an exciting time for the organization. While many agencies had funding cut, had resources cut, were looking at layoffs and appeared to be suffering; this ARC seemed to be growing – and doing some interesting things.

Why? How? These are the questions that come to mind. These are the questions that always come to mind when you see any business thriving while similar ones are hurting.

But to answer those two questions, I think it is programs like I witnessed the other day that make the difference. On Wednesday I ate lunch at the ARC Eatery. With the exception of the Head Chef, this deli style eatery, is run by those living with developmental disabilities. Not only is it a restaurant, but it is also a day-program providing training for those who work there.

Two things really stuck out for me though. Okay three things. The first was that the place was clean. But the things I want to comment on are Customer Service and Teamwork. 

Customer Service was incredible; from the moment I walked in the door. They were glad to see me. They were glad to help me with descriptions of food choices, food suggestions, making sure I had a “real” fork, and sharing information about their catering services. I’ve walked into too many places where the welcome was anything but. This was refreshing.

Teamwork was alive and well. If something needed to be done; someone else picked right up on it. It didn’t seem like specific tasks were assigned to different folks; there was an appearance that “we need to get the job done so let’s do it.” And even if that wasn’t the case; the appearance was there. And we all know about appearances.  When customers see you have a cohesive team they return. When your employees appear unhappy and not working together you’re not going to attract loyal fans.

Pretty cool idea if you think about it. Provide a service to the community; provide training to people who might someday be able to find mainstream work; and earn a profit to put back into your business to make up for the some of the reductions in funding. Looks like they have it covered from all angles. Congratulations ARC of Meriden-Wallingford! 

On their website it says The Arc of Meriden-Wallingford, Inc. is a membership agency that provides comprehensive, full-service, community-based opportunities for people with disabilities. And while the ARC Eatery might be comprehensive program for people with disabilities….. they make a mean Asian Chicken Salad for those of us who take for granted not being disabled!

Professional Development sessions. What if they had mandatory lock-downs at the end?

Last night I attended a Social Media program by Jeff Korhan for NSA CT. This morning I did something that most people don’t do after a learning experience……………

I took a RECESS from the list of tasks in front of me and went off into a corner (my favorite corner coffee shop) to debrief/decompress all the dots I connected and started implementing.

To create a better employee experience organizations send people to conferences and learning sessions. Too often nothing is done with the information when the employee gets back to the office. They get excited about what is being offered. The have great conversations with other attendees. There is fun and laughter at the bar in the evening. Then the conference ends and they go back to the office; meaning they go back to tasks, emails that went unanswered, phone calls that went unanswered, unnecessary meetings, strategic vision of the day, and who knows what else.

So what happens to the learning? It goes off on the right (or left side of your desk); you’ll get to it this afternoon. This afternoon becomes tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes your notes end up in a folder; cuz let’s face it, putting it in a folder makes it important. The folder goes home with you on the train or bus, but Facebooking wins out. The kids need some attention at home. The folder goes back to the office with you the next day. The folder goes in a follow-up draw in your desk.

I’ve been to enough professional development conferences where I am the closing session. Send them off with some motivation. Send them off with some ideas. But imagine if there was a different type of ending…….

Imagine if every conference, meeting, or learning opportunity had a mandatory lock-down for a couple of hours at the end. You couldn’t leave. You had to start taking some steps. It could be facilitated; it could be open space style; or it could be  you and another attendee working on a mutual learning. I bet more would get done. I bet one of the great ideas that whirled around in your brain would start to become something bigger. Imagine if your employees came back to the office not only with an idea, but that idea already mapped out for you.

Meeting people is great. Getting out of the office for an evening, day or week is awesome. Turning learning into ROI is a whole different game. The next meeting planner that calls me is going to hear this idea from me; and I won’t charge them for the additional service.

Can Hear Me Now @VerizonWireless? How One Bad Customer Service Experience Can Kill 15 Years of Customer Loyalty!

I’ve been with Verizon Wireless for about 15 years. I’m a loyal customer. I’m a fan. I’ve converted others to Verizon; tired of listening to their poor coverage complaints with you-know-who. Some might say I’m trying to create a Verizon cult similar to the iCult crowd. I also live in the real world; knowing that to Verizon I am just a telephone number. For 15 years I have been given great customer service. They have been helpful with plan choices, equipment choices, and support.

But then there was last week; the week that 15 years went to the crapper.

I switched from a Blackberry to a Samsung Fascinate Droid at the very end of December; December 30th to be exact.

  • First phone crapped out within 30 days; Verizon replaces with new phone.
  • Second phone craps out in about 33 days. After an in-store Tech looks at it she puts in an order for 3rd phone. Verizon replaces it with a “Like New” reconditioned phone.
  • That phone (3rd) arrives malfunctioning. Yep, out of the box there are troubles.
  • Phone #4 (another “Like New”) arrives within 96 hours of phone #3. Surprise….out of the box it is also not working.

I call Verizon. Tech support is no help. The woman on other end says she will send me a new phone. A new “Like New” phone I ask? Yep. I tell her I want a new phone. She puts me on hold. Comes back 5 minutes later and asks me to go to a store to verify I am not crazy (okay, my words); but I need to go get a Verizon employee to document in the file that this is equipment malfunction and not user stupidity.

Now I totally get this. I might be asking myself too if the user was just clueless. But all of the above was documented in my file and verified by Verizon employees. So it wasn’t the user; it was the manufacturer – in every case. (Samsung, you out there?)

Back home.,,,,I call Verizon……and here’s where customer service killed 15 years of customer loyalty.

  • Chris offered me another “Like New” I said NO!
  • Chris again offered me another “Like New” I said NO!
  • Chris offered me a new phone at a reduced price? I said I am not paying anything for phone #5. And I want a new one. He said he couldn’t help. I told him to transfer me to someone who could.
  • I was transferred to Ewumika, who was great at saying she was sorry about my frustrations but could only offer me a new “Like New” phone. I told her to stop with the customer service platitude apologies and gave her a firm NO!
  • After going back and forth for a bit she told me I was looking through a prism. I told her I work with companies seeking to create a great customer experience and asked her if she really wanted to go head-to-head with me about prisms. I also asked her my favorite question. “Ewumika, what would you do if you were me?”
  • Gets em every time. She conceded that she would want the same thing; a NEW, not “like new”, out of the box phone. I asked to speak to her supervisor.
  • Supervisor would not take my call. Ewumika told me she was in a meeting but was willing to offer me a new phone at $25. My response to Ewumika, who had me on hold for several minutes, was that your supervisor had the time to talk to you; but not to a loyal frustrated customer. That’s crap! Are you customer service supervisors reading this! Put your “meeting” on hold and help a customer – loyal or new!
  • “What part of I want a new out of the box phone do you not get? I commented that I would eat the $175 cancellation fee and leave if this is how you treat loyal customers.” Her response to me was that the cancellation fee policies have changed and mine is $350 prorated each month during the 2-year contract.
  • Beyond pissed off at that response…..“Get your supervisor on the phone. And if yours isn’t available get hers.”
  • She doesn’t get supervisor but says….“I see you’ve been a customer since the 1990’s and you’ve never had a Manager’s Exception; would you be willing to extend your contract by 2 months for a new phone?” she then asked me. (which is how long this phone call seemed to be going on; but represented the amount of time that had elapsed since I switched to the Fascinate.

My new phone arrives today

But seriously……Verizon, you gotta be kidding me! I get 4 defective products. You make me hop in my car to go to a mall to have some techy say “yep, the phone is broken.” You keep me in a 40 minute debate where this customer is nothing but even more frustrated and it comes down to 2 additional months of service – which as we all know, there will be some crazy promotion you offer to get me into a new phone that will extend my contract anyway.  That’s just stupid business! It’s also how out of touch big corporations are with their customers and their policies; and why I have chosen to work with small and medium size organizations who want to be great; and allow people at all levels to be great. I’ve been with you 15 years; what is 2-months to me? Isn’t it clear I like you guys and am not going anywhere?

So I get my new phone today. Hopefully it is from a better production run. But this whole experience just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I can tell you I won’t be singing the praises of Verizon Wireless in the very near future.

Charlie Brown’s Xmas Tree; Engaging Your Employees & Customers

Here’s what happens when you forget to put something away after the holidays and then you’re too lazy to climb above the garage again……………

Your dogs find the box while you’re out and decide that the $19.95 you’ve spent on a 3″ chew toy is not as fun as a cardboard box with something inside.

So you stare at the box day in and day out; thinking I need to find something in which to store the Charlie Brown Tree. You’re also having flashbacks of mother yelling at you to clean up your room.

But then I get to thinking in a completely different manner…………..

Maybe there’s another use for the tree?

  • I have a cookie jar that now acts as a planter. Much better on the waist.
  • I have a plastic beach pail that is now my Bucket of Ideas. Every time some crazy idea pops into my head I write it down on an index card and toss it in the bucket. Periodically I go through the bucket and get inspired or ask myself what the heck I was even thinking.
  • Recess At Work Day started out as a day of fun and games; and my clients and fans led me to see how it can be used as a fun opportunity to engage, train and create with your team. That event led to the creation of the RECESSitation Pack.

There’s got to be a use for this tree. Why does it have to only be a Christmas Tree? Why can’t it be something else? 

And then the other day I was out “Puggling”; spending time with the two adorable dogs (Puggles) who both look at me with that “I don’t know who did it” face when I come home and find the most recent damage, and saw the Holiday House; the house that is always decorated; the house with a tree in the window that is decorated year round. 

And I got inspired. I ran to CVS last night; picked up a few things and boom…………..

I present to you………………………………..


Along with some things to ponder:

Is there a use of your product/service other than its intended purpose?

 Not sure? Take a RECESS today; hold a short brainstorming session. 

Have you shared those ideas  with your employees? Your customers?