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"Why Choose Between Fun and Content When You Can Have Both"

Reason for Refund: We Suck!

My last two attempts to get a package delivered overnight via the United States Postal Service were unsuccessful. They never got to the recipient the next day. Fortunately in both cases it wasn’t the end of the world.

This morning I went to get a refund for one of those packages. The clerk was doing something on the computer and talking out loud when he apparently came to the “Reason for Refund” field on his screen. 

“We suck!” were the words that came out of his mouth.

I laughed. And thought true, yes you guys do suck. But then I  thought………….

Imagine if “WE SUCK” was an option. Imagine if the employee chose that option. Imagine if someone up the USPS food chain read that option. Imagine if employees were given that option as a way to express their frustration with poor service by their employer; about being the ones on the front lines who have to deal with unhappy customers like me (and I was a nice unhappy customer).

Imagine if We Suck was chosen more often than Failed Service Delivery?

Do you think it would get the attention of people who matter? Do you think they would recognize that they are providing a poor customer experience and an even worse employee experience?

The more I think about it the more I think the WE SUCK option might have huge benefit for a lot of businesses. It would definitely be a Recess from the norm.

Please take a Recess from that type of thinking (and talk)!
  • Yesterday I called to make an appointment for my mother to see a new doctor. The first question was what was her insurance. The next comment was we don’t accept that.
  •  I get calls regularly from organizations wanting to hire me to fire up their team/group/association; to get them thinking about creating a fun thriving working or meeting environment. The number of calls that start out with “I know you probably cost a lot but we have no budget or a very small budget.”
  • I was just forwarded a copy of an email from an incoming Governor to State Employees. Today was this Governor’s Inauguration. The first communication out of the Governor’s Office is I’m looking forward to working with you; although there will be sacrifices.

And this to me is what is wrong with our world. Too many conversations start out with why things won’t work or what we don’t have. We need to take a Recess from this type of talk – once and for all.

So let me put it another way……

Dear Doctor,

I called to get my mother’s pain issue addressed. How about we talk about that first? Cuz the pain my mother has is worth paying you in cash for an overpriced $400 fifteen minute office visit. I didn’t call to talk insurance. I called seeking medical attention. Let’s have that conversation first. 

Dear Meeting Planner, HR Professional, Business Owner, or Company VP,

What a consultant charges is nothing in comparison to the results you might receive if you actually followed through on their ideas. Let’s have that conversation first and then work in partnership to come up with a fair and equitable arrangement for all. And who knows, you might get me on a day when I’m feeling charitable?

Dear Governor,

Couldn’t the first email from you have been 100% positive, encouraging and engaging? Everyone knows the entire country is sacrificing right now!

I know, not radical comments or ideas; but ideas that need to be pounded into people’s heads regularly. Got any heads that need pounding?

My three step employee policy manual

Hey Kids!

2011 came and went. Happy New Year! So how are those resolutions going for ya?

I still think the whole resolution thing is pointless and just a setup for failure. My reason: Most people are going to take the same approach they took every other time they failed. It’s like people who follow any diet plan. They tell you the diet “works” and that’s why they’re doing it again. My response is “Why are you still fat if the diet worked?” The diet did NOT work if you couldn’t figure out how to make it work in a way that involved long term weight loss. But go ahead; have a ball again this year; doing it the same way.

Last night I was watching Jay Leno interview Ron Howard. Now for those of you reading this who are members of Toastmasters, you would have had a field day counting all the ums that Ron used. Which goes to prove one thing; you can be an interesting person and provide great entertainment even if you’re not the most polished speaker. Now I’m not picking on Toastmasters; I was a member of a club for a long time; but people spent more time counting ums and ahs instead of helping people become better communicators by focusing on interesting stories and relevant information they could share.

Ron talked about a family tradition for the new year where they sit around a fire and write down on small sheets of paper all the things they’re going to change or get rid of in the coming year. They then tossed them into the fire. Jay asked Ron what was on his papers. Ron’s response was the same things he puts on the paper every year.

Okay Rich, where are you going with this?

People focus on the wrong things too often (immediate weight loss, not long term; ums and ahs instead of killer info). Last week I found myself in an interesting discussion with two managers. One of them, half jokingly, made a comment that her resolution was to get her staff to spend more time working and less time on Facebook and texting. “We have a policy against it” she shared.

Woo-Hoo! You have a freakin policy! I bit my tongue from using words like moron, idiot and out-of-touch.

The other chimed in and proceeded to whine about sloppy work of his employees and seeming more interested in their personal business.

Why don’t you have a policy about providing a great employee experience? Why don’t you have a policy that you’ll provide interesting and challenging work so people won’t have time to play on Facebook or text their every move?

I would want my employees getting each other excited about projects. I would want them getting creative and building a better product; huddling off in a corner doing great things. And since I’m friends with some of those people on Facebook; I would rather not be reading they are picking their nose and scratching their butt because work sucks! Yes, I did read one with those words – and laughed!

When I designed the Talents Recess activity in the RECESSitation Pack it was to help leaders & managers find out who is not being utilized in a way in which they could provide much more value to the organization?

Why don’t you have a policy that promises the talents possessed by your staff will be utilized in a way that will knock the socks off the CEO, stockholders, board or whomever else you’re trying to impress.

Every organization has a fun, creative accountant. Find him or her. See what he or she can offer your product development team.

Employee policies are written as a deterrent to bad behavior. Why are we even considering people will be bad? Most policies immediately limit people’s thinking and don’t allow for new ideas.

 So here it is…….for 2011…….the only employee policy manual you need:

  1.  The company promises to provide a great employee experience. Please tell us how we can make it even better. This is not lip service.
  2. The company promises to provide you with interesting and challenging work. We really do want your ideas to make this happen. This is not lip service.
  3. The company will find out what secret talents you possess and we will utilize them to ensure 1 & 2 are being met.

Easy. Simple. Got the guts to live by it? Ready to do the work?

See you in two weeks.

Maybe it’s not the employee that needs to be corrected; but the policy?
  • When I sent a message to the bus company this past summer about a somewhat racist remark the driver made over the P.A. system I refused to give any information that would lead back to who was the driver.
  • When I was dealing with the Ivory Tower folks at TD Bank recently I did not give names about my nightmares but chose to talk about the experiences – the bad experiences.
  • And if higher ups at CVS see my post about an employee texting DURING my transaction yesterday I will not give that employee’s name.

Yes, I’m an advocate of employees. Yes, I think employees are often not treated fairly and are not utilized in the manner that would best move the entire organization forward. I even told the folks I was communicating with that they would not get names because discipline is too often used before learning/training/policy review. I was concerned that corrective action against the employee will be taken without looking at the policy that got the employee to the point that had them commit the “infraction” in the first place.

Some might argue that proper training and/or lack of communication might be at fault here. Now is that the fault of the employee or a bigger policy issue?

  • Did the bus driver make that remark because in addition to safety (which is the most important thing on a transportation company executive’s mind) nothing, or not enough, was mentioned about diversity? 
  • Should the bank be looking at who it promotes to a manager level and whether or not the necessary training is in place so that those people fully understand the systems to open accounts for new customers? Or have immediate access to people who do?
  • Should CVS just have a simple (enforceable) policy that says no personal mobile devices may be used during your work shift; or in view of customers? 

Now I know what you’re thinking; maybe all those systems/policies were in place. Then I go back to my original thought. What do you, the organization, need to do to get them adhered to? Slapping the hand or disciplining people who you have invested time/energy and recruitment resources into is not the answer.

There’s a bigger problem when a customer complains, suggests, criticizes, tweets, etc.  How are you going to react. Here’s what the bus company did:

They inserted a memo about my experience in the paycheck envelopes of all employees. With it they added a short training/policy idea that I had offered them.

Smart reaction! No need to discipline. Sharing the experiences with all is the best way to train and work towards this not happening again. I’m certain the employee who read my experience will have a valuable learning – and still have their job. A win-win for everyone; considering the cost of a new-hire.

At the end of the day we all want the same thing; to create an employee experience that is so great that people love coming to work. I work with organizations that are willing to explore all the possibilities to making that happen; even it if means the policy needs to be corrected; not the employee.

The movie Unstoppable. A great lesson in employee engagement.

If you haven’t seen the movie Unstoppable you might not want to read this post yet. If you have seen it or are not going to see it keep reading.

My favorite part of the movie was at the very end……. when they told you that the Corporate Jerk lost his job to the woman who really understood train operations. I also couldn’t help but laugh at the apparent CEO’s golf game being interrupted as tragedy was about to happen at his company. This is the stuff that employees assume is happening anyway; why not have some fun with it? This is the stuff that decreases employee engagement and makes for a lousy employee experience.

Leaders often forget that those running their business know more about the day-to-day of what is working and what is not. Unstoppable had a little bit of fun with that one.

  • Let’s not include vital people in making decisions; by vital I mean the people actually doing the work.
  • Let’s not give people information; just tell them that this is the decision and you don’t need to know why. It’s that old “I’m the mommy; that’s why” syndrome.
  • Let’s put profits and stock prices ahead of what is right.

When I talk with prospective clients I ask them a couple of questions. First I always ask them if they are ready to include everyone in the process of building and growing the business. The second question I ask is what they and their group are going to do immediately after spending an hour, half day or day with me. If you can’t answer those questions I’m not the guy for you. Lip service doesn’t work for me – and I know it doesn’t work for employees.

Doing the right thing and including the right people will always be the best choice you can make. Inviting the unusual suspects to participate in planning meetings, product development sessions and crisis management has benefits that will live on forever. It will not only engage employees and get them talking about their “cool employer” but it will label you as an industry leader. Isn’t that what most businesses want anyway?

So the good news learned from Unstoppable is that those who saved the day were recognized; and that does happen in the real world – from time to time. I’d like to see and hear about more of that. The unrealistic part is that most employees in any organization would not rebel against management; but instead put their tails between their legs, take the verbal hand slapping and obey their marching orders. Maybe the workplace needs to be more like the movies?

But here’s what I’m really wondering this morning. It said that the woman was promoted to VP of Train Operations. The next screen shows Corporate Jerk and it says “which used to be Corporate Jerk’s Job.”

It never said that Corporate Jerk was fired however……….

Your brother in law is dead. Or is it the dog? Or is it an employee?

My sister calls me last night and tells me she just ran into a friend of mine. That friend had just gotten a call that her brother-in-law died.

I called a friend of mine to tell him that Maggie’s husband’s brother died.

Maggie sends me a text message shortly thereafter saying her sister’s friend’s dog died. I was confused.

I send Maggie a text saying my sister thinks that your brother-in-law is dead cuz that is what you told her? Who is dead?


So here’s what happened…………

Maggie’s sister was on the phone with a friend. That friend had just found her dog dead. Maggie’s sisters son picked up the phone in another room, heard part of the conversation and interpreted it as his uncle had died. Now this is where I get lost. Somehow Maggie’s sister’s son let Maggie’s husband know his brother-in-law had died. Hubby then called Maggie. Who then told my sister. Who then told me. Wherein I told a friend.

Confused? I still am. And I’m still not sure I have the story right.

But I do know a person didn’t die. A dog died. And that dog was not even in my circle; although anytime a dog dies I get sad

So we were all laughing last night; not about the dog; but how bad communication travels very fast (and how some child might be learning a lesson today).

And what is the connection here to your workplace? I hope you’re smart enough to figure this one out yourself.

But here’s two hints:

  1. Not sure if that communication is true; go to the source.
  2. Don’t understand the whole story; share it with no one!
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Want to know how to reach Company Executives? Tweet about their crappy product/service!

Beyond annoyed with my new bank (see my earlier post) and tired of dealing with clueless telephone reps and “store” employees who seemed perfectly fine with not dealing with my issues, I did what any sane person would do………………

No I didn’t blow up the bank; although that did seem like a great idea. I did something even better.

I tweeted my frustration about my level of inconvenience that just kept getting worse.

Well, not only was someone at TD Bank monitoring the tweets, but I got a call from the Big Head Bank Boy in CT (he had some other ridiculous title that was supposed to impress me or describe what he did yet made no sense to me; they really do need a RECESSitation Pack and immediately get to the Engagement Recess to get rid of that crap.) Titles don’t impress. Actions do.

Now he couldn’t fix my problems; he didn’t need to. I’ve been assured that they were fixed by all the clueless people. (Stay tuned tomorrow. Same Bank Time. Same Bank Channel.) But I got a call from “an important person.”

Will things change? Who knows. But I’ve got a name. I’ve got a number. And a personal invitation to get in touch should I have any other problems. I will use it if necessary. Joe seemed like a nice guy, but personally this is one of those cases where I hope I don’t need to contact him.

But there’s a lesson here. I’m a small customer. I’m also a new customer. I’ve now had conversations with the Office of the President as well as Big Head Bank Boy in CT. It should remind anyone in business that every customer gets treated the same. (I just hope the big customers have had to deal with the clueless people too!)

So today is a new banking day. Let’s see.

Oh, I also think fair is fair. I did send another Tweet giving the bank kudos for their response.

But here is your bigger lesson: forget calling customer service……Tweet & Status Update when you’re pissed. Seems to get better, faster and higher up attention.

Hey BIG COMPANIES, Why should I complete your survey/feeback form?

Last month I leased a new Subaru. My experience was great – from the time I called the dealership with my wishes until the salesperson called me back two days later to tell me he had the car I wanted, on his lot, and I could drive home with it tomorrow (that day had I been available).

I drove there the next morning. The car was waiting for me to test drive and a few hours later (they needed to install the blue tooth) I was on my way home.

Yesterday a survey from Subaru Inc. arrived in the mail. 4 pages long of question after question.

Do big companies not get it?

  • Hotels ask me to take a 10 – 15 minute survey after my experience and give me nothing. How about some extra rewards points? A 10% savings on a future stay? A cocktail on my next visit to one of your properties?
  • Subaru asks me to take time to complete this survey. How about a free service? A key chain? Savings on a service? Put me in a drawing for my lease payments to be paid by you!
  • I love Verizon Wireless as many of you know from my past writings. But when I need to press 16 keys on the phone to reach a rep and right before I get to reach the rep you ask if I would take a short survey at the end about my experience…… My experience is sucking at that moment!

I applaud big companies who are trying to provide a better customer experience. But, I’ve given you my money when I purchased. Now you want my time to complete a survey that goes on and on and on and on. Get your head out of the sand……….

I’m about to help you do a better job.

How about giving me something?

My feedback might do the following for you:

  • provide for a better employee experience
  • provide for a better customer experience
  • help you crush your competition
  • give you a sales tip
  • get your employees more excited about their jobs
  • get you to see where you can improve

I am helping you better your business. This survey/feedback form is not about me. We all know that. It is time you start making it about me.

So staring at the survey, getting ready to crumple it up and toss it in the pile of torn up mail from every organization I ever contributed to asking for money I had an idea…..

I sent the UNanswered survey back to Subaru with the attached note: 

A great story of kindness. A great employee experience

As we enter the holidays I am always reminded of this story my friend shared with me about an employee experience not to be forgotten……………

She’s a very famous celebrity. She’s funny. She’s articulate. And apparently she’s got a heart of gold. She walked in to an art supply shop in this small craft village. She was looking for paints and other supplies. She asked the employee for recommendations. She asked the employee what he would buy.

The employee made his recommendations. “Well I would buy these and these and these. I would definitely buy these if I could afford them.’

She made her purchases. He asked her if she would like them gift wrapped. She said sure.

She paid. He handed her the package. She handed it back to him and said “Merry Christmas.”

Happy Holidays my friends. As you shop until you drop, think about doing something fun, cool and exciting for an employee you encounter.

Better Employee Experience; More Engaged Employee: Teach Employees to act like Entrepreneurs

My friend is a manager. He has about one hundred people employed under him. My friend has people to do things for him. He is a delegator. I am an entrepreneur. I AM my staff (other than the virtual people who do work for me when it comes to marketing, website, etc.)

So it only seemed appropriate that when my bathroom sink sprung a leak the other day my friend told me to call a plumber.  Instead I drove down the mountain to Home Depot, bought a $7.95 part; asked a few questions and within ten minutes when I returned home the sink was repaired. He would have waited for a plumber for how long? And paid how much?

And it only seemed appropriate that when I bought new lighting for the fireplace he thought I should call an electrician. I thought I should install them myself by following the instructions in the box. (Note for future: The sconce on the left side of the fireplace is on a different circuit breaker than the right; found out the electrifying way) He might still be waiting for an electrician.

Both these examples reinforced something very important: If we allow employees to act like entrepreneurs more would get done; and probably faster; allowing for new ideas and new products and services. Yes, I have another sink in the house, but the loss of that sink means inconvenience and time lost until someone else showed up to fix it.


How much time are you, your supervisors or others losing delegating which needs not be delegated? How much time are you losing not letting employees complete a project or task because the missing piece “is not their job.” Want to keep employees engaged? Want them to have a better employee experience? Teach them to act like entrepreneurs at times and their experience as employees will change.

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