Archive for June, 2005

A Lesson in Customer Service: Men’s Wearhouse

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

In contrast to suck-bag Fleet Air Conditioning, there is a company that deserves HUGE kudos: Men’s Wearhouse (www.menswearhouse.com)

Talk about knowing your customer, Men’s Wearhouse certainly does. Men generally hate to clothes shop (and if they like it and you’re married maybe you should be concerned), they shop at the last minute, they are price conscious and when they finally get around to doing it, they don’t want to mess around.

Oh, and they like being treated like a king, thank you very much.

Enter Men’s Wearhouse. You can be an allergy-plagued, concave chested, engineer or an athletic, retentive accoutant and you’ll walk out of the store feeling like a million bucks and looking like a dandy.

They have added a new service. We had just moved to our new house, when a college-age kid came to the door and offered to deliver dry-cleaning and shirts on Tuesdays and Fridays every week. They pick it up in a cool bag they give you and they deliver it within two or three days. And they mail you a bill at the end of the month. What could be easier? Oh, and it’s the same price as if you dropped it off.

And here’s the best part: Your delivery person is called a PERSONAL VALET. The minute I heard it I recognized pure marketing genius. That George Zimmer knows what the heck he’s doing.

A Personal Valet? My husband was positively eccstatic when he heard that he had a personal valet named Greg.

For years now, our trash has been picked up on Thursdays. But my husband can’t remember that. Oh no. But it only took looking at the schedule once to remember that “Looky, it’s Tuesday! Our personal valet is coming!”

We have Greg’s cell phone number, too. If we need a shirt done RIGHT NOW! he’ll come and get it. If something is wrong, Greg comes and fixes it.

And our Personal Valet is cute as a button. I don’t know how much they pay him, but he could just as easily fit in at an executive meeting with the board as be a dude driving a van and delivering shirts to harried customers. He’s also a very nice person.

Bend-over-backwards service, a solid product and a tie in with their main business–men’s clothing. MW Cleaners rocks and provides service in a humble industry.

Congrats to Zimmer and his whole crew, for taking the mundane into the magnificent.



Wait Rage

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

Want to start a business in Houston Texas and make a million dollars? Open an Air Conditioning Company. Want to make a Zillion dollars? Actually provide service.

Today, through my Home Service Warranty, Fleet Air Conditioning who services their contract (yes I am naming names) told me to be at home between 10 and 2. Now, they knew and I knew the likelyhood that they would be there between these hours was oh SLIM AND NONE. And they weren’t.

So, I cancelled a movie with my kids and their friends for 10:50-12:00p.m. No show for them and the A/C guy no show either. What a surprise!

I had a client meeting from 3:45-4:45 p.m. Guess when Mr. Fleet A/C showed up? That’s right 3:49 p.m. And guess when he left? Righto again: 4:45 p.m.

The thing that really galled me, though, was the utter contempt the receptionist/scheduler had when I called and asked for a narrower time estimate, or, at the least a 30 minute call-ahead so I could prepare. Her nasty attitude was my first Fleet interface after calling at least 20 times to get through. They only begin answering phones at 9 a.m. The guys get on the road at 9 a.m. NOT 8 a.m., not 7 a.m. Never at a time when a working person could actually be helped.

So, I received no schedule and no warning call. I did receive loads of nasty. My day was wasted. My client’s time interrupted.

If I had been an hourly employee or worked outside my home I would have missed a day of pay all to wait on someone who showed up nearly two hours past the promised time.

I understand that managing the logistics of something as unpredictable as AC repair is a challenge. But it is not impossible. Surely there is a software program that could help this company be more efficient.

Surely they have heard of Six Sigma or something like it. Couldn’t they make a more customer-service oriented service?

Yes they could. But why do it? They have all the business they want. Actually, more than they seem to want judging by the implicit message “you’re lucky you’re getting a visit today, we could make you wait”.

Guess who won’t be receiving my business in the future when the A/C problem that the tech diagnosed came when the house was built (nevermind that there hasn’t been an A/C problem in 7 years, but I digress)? That’s right Fleet Air Conditioning.



New Facilitators

Thursday, June 30th, 2005


Aren’t they a fine lookin’ bunch? From left to right: Dr. David Schweitert, Dr. Brent Babcock, Dr. Elva Edwards and Dr. Terri Cooper standing.

They form the consultancy Internal Solutions and are from S. Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Iowa respectively.

All are recently certified C.E.O. of ONE program facilitators. Congratulations!



It Pays to be, make that SEEM Nice

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Michael Jackson–NOT Guilty.

Martha Stewart–Guilty.

Baretta–NOT Guilty.

Bernie Ebbers–Guilty.

O.J. Simpson–NOT Guilty.

Leona Helmsley–Guilty.

Richard Scrushy (former founder/CEO of HealthSouth who was “ignorant” of the huge scheme that overstated profits to the tune of 2.7 BILLION bucks and made him a rich guy)–NOT Guilty.

What do all these people have in common? They are all guilty to one degree or another. What else? They all could afford the best defense money could buy.

So why do some get off and others get nailed? Why are a psycho pedophile and two murderers along with a stealing CEO off the hook and golfing a round (or in Michael’s case riding around on a golf cart looking at little boys, monkeys and llamas) while other people doing time?

The federal government is asking to give Bernie Ebbers 85 years in prison for defrauding WorldCom shareholders to the tune of 2.2 billion with a B dollars.

Does he deserve it?

Does he deserve 85 years when a murderer might get a manslaughter conviction and 20 years? Does stealing money equal loss of life? Really, anyway what is a life worth? How much money can be exchanged for a human life? A million dollars? A hundred thousand? $10? If you valued a life at a million dollars, old Bernie is on the hook for approximately 2000+ deaths. That’s almost the number of people who died in the World Trade Center.

Is Bernie Ebbers a corporate terrorist? Can we equivocate malicious money abuse to murder?

Here is my theory:
Some people are more likeable than others. The people who “got off” somehow managed to appear “sympathetic” to the jury while the other defendants came across rich, entitled, unrepentent, arrogant, and everything “Average Joes” loathe and envy all at the same time.

Another example: Bill Clinton would be forgiven again. I’d like to go out for a beer with him myself. I bet he’s fun and wouldn’t “talk down” to me. But Newt Gingrich? Well, just look at his name…Newt Grinch. Plus, he has that kind of high-pitched intensity that makes you nervous. You know what I mean?

O.J.? He’s just that frazzled guy running through airports and being silly in Airplane movies. And as we sit here the true murderer is rampaging through LA today.

Michael Jackson? How dangerous can a guy be who shows up to court in pajamas? Eccentric. He’s eccentric. Forget that no normal 45 year old man would even consider giving booze to a 12 year old and sleeping with him. In the same bed. “Sleeping” in the SAME BED.

Let’s do a word association for a moment.
Martha Stewart……………mean
Leona Helmsley…………..rich bitch
Bernie Ebbers (average guy)……..who?
Baretta…………………..cool
Michael Jackson…………..thriller
O.J………………….the juice

Richard Scushy (in his home town)…nice guy
Exhibit A:
But people close to the company insist the fraud was maintained for so long because of his influence. As chief executive, they say, he held sway over a circle of young, ambitious locals glad to accept an opportunity that was rare in Birmingham: a chance to be a leader in a Fortune 500 company and amass wealth. The parties and glamorous lifestyle were even more of a draw.Emery Harris, one of the senior executives who admits helping inflate earnings, was only 33 and already a group vice-president. Other mid-level executives, including those who admitted their guilt last week to conspiring to commit securities fraud, were hired with little accounting experience but given senior finance positions relatively quickly.According to plea agreements, Rebecca Kay Morgan, 35, rose to group vice-president of finance though she had taken only a few accounting courses when she was first hired in 1987. Cathy Edwards, 39, was also employed by the accounting department with no experience and later became vice-president. Both women helped falsify ledgers and account statements, practices they said they were assured were to be temporary. Diagnosis of fraud. Financial Times April 15, 2003

Richard was likeable–even to a jury. And, as far as I can tell being “nice” even if you’re a murderer, pedophile, thief or scumbag gives you a free pass.

I guess mom was right after all: it pays to seem nice.



Teflon=Cancer?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Just read this and thought you all might want to know: teflon causes cancer, maybe.

This stuff is everywhere. I know for sure that I have injested whole flakes of the stuff off of pans. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, copper pots…..

No gore-tex boots, coats, or clothes either. Old fashioned rain slickers and Wellies (those rubber galoshes).

Oy vey.



Worst Design of All Time: Modern Carseats

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

If you have never tried to lug a car seat from a far flung parking space into a restaurant you will think that I suffer from hyperbolitis (inflammation of hyperbole) when I state that Car Seats Are An ABOMINATION.

They offend me many ways. Let me count them here:

  1. Car seats force horrendous biomechanics in the people who carry them thus creating back problems
  2. Car seats weigh way too much. Certainly, if we can send a light, sturdy projectile into space, we can send a light, sturdy seat into a car. My husband’s softball bat is made of space-age material and weighs less than the bat I used in T-ball at the age of 6. Can some of this technology be sent towards car seats please?
  3. Car seats can’t be that safe. My baby’s head has outgrown the little cushy head thingy but still needs support. I use a rolled up blanket. That just creates one more thing to carry. He will still suffer whiplash in a car crash. Exactly what injuries are we trying to avoid besides being a launched sack of tators if he was held in my arms?
  4. Car seats are ugly. They are cutesy. There are no color choices. They aren’t sleek or in any way aesthetically pleasing.
  5. Car seats are uncomfortable. Harnessed in like a teenager on a rollercoaster, if the straps hit the wrong place (and they always do) they will lop off the kids head like a watermelon upon side impact. In addition car seats are hardly cushioned and the material ranges from rough and rugged to boil-you-butt vinyl.
  6. Car seats can’t be kept clean. There are way too many cracks and crevices to drop crumbs into.
  7. Car seats have crappy mechanisms. The latches are difficult. The way to secure them into cars is difficult. How about a universal joint that you can just attach the seat too? Why don’t car companies make a car seat as an accessory and design them to match the vehicle? They design watches and luggage to go with the car, how about a useful fashion statement?

Car seats just may be the bane of this mother’s experience. So many other baby things have improved but car seats remain, stubbornly, irritatingly horrible.



Work Life Balance

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005


The April 2005 issue of Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com) covered “extreme jobs” where people love their job so much everything else shrinks away in comparison. The comments regarding that issue were almost entirely dismissive. And I had to agree.

I believe it is possible to love your job in the context of your life. It requires absolutely clear goals and recommitment to them when work starts to suck at you.

When most people were farmers or tradesman with the odd lawyer, doctor and pastor (think Little House on the Prairie), our life and work were one. Our children knew what we were doing because they were with us and helping us.

Today, good luck describing a corporate job. Both my dad and my husband’s dad were corporate dudes ranging from middle to upper management. Their jobs were difficult to define–I audit, I hire and fire, I sell copy machines, I help people not be mad when their car is screwed up by a dealer. What?

Essentially our moms raised us as both our dads travelled hither and thither doing what they did. While I’m not sure how they feel about their trade-offs, I know how we felt as kids. We hated it.

So we chose a different way. We aren’t alone. When we take our kids to the park, moms and dads are there with their kids. Many who love their jobs are not willing to ignore one aspect of their life to totally focus on another.

The problem is that the peak creative years tend to coincide with the peak creative years business-wise. I see many in their 50’s slowing down, not desiring to dedicate so much time to work, but is that because their lives were so out-of-whack before or are they just tired?

I won’t know myself ’til I get there, but I have big plans for me after the kids are out of the house–they include things like writing a blog uninterrupted, for one.

But for now, I refuse to be an observer of my children’s childhood (or just have one kid so I can get back to work sooner). I want to participate. So does my husband. For us, that has meant delayed gratification…waiting on the ideal house, extended tropical vacations, the Mini Cooper (ever try fitting a car seat in one of those?).

For me, my job outside the home serves one purpose and that is to serve my family’s needs. I LOVE MY JOB, but because of the way our modern society is set I have to prioritize. And I have made my easy (not simple) choice.



Teen Behavior Predictor

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

New study shows that teen risky behavior: sex, drugs, alcohol, or tangles with the police correlates with higher % abuse of the above as adults. Shocking!

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=index&cid=594

The take home message? Hmmm, maybe “sewing your oats” isn’t so harmless after all.

My take home message: maybe kids who are drawn to that activity are trying to escape from abuse or neglect in some form. Happy, goal-oriented young teens don’t seem inclined to engage in said activities.

I hear the hew and cry from parents right now.



Choosing A Belief Choosing A Life

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Most of you know that my business is helping businesses work together better and achieve their goals more efficiently.

Dysfunctional work groups and teams, like dysfunctional marriages or any relationship don’t “just happen.” These lackluster groups are made up of people who are dysfunctional. In fact, one of my favorite posters from www.despair.com is called DYSFUNCTION: The Only Consistent Feature of All of Your Dissatisfying Relationships is You.

This is of course, a hard pill to swallow. Like the poll that asks people to rate themselves as drivers–most people say they are in the upper percentile of good drivers–we all think it is the other guy that stinks.

The problem with this philosophy is that we move responsibility to someone else which makes us helpless victims. “But I AM a victim!” we protest. “If you had to live with my boss, my husband, wife, co-worker, mother-in-law, etc.; you’d understand why!”

Is it any wonder we feel like we have been run over by life at the end of each day? We have removed from our ability the possibility of making anything better because it is someone else’s fault. We are helpless and hopeless and we get depressed. We get angry. We blame. We dig in our heels. We become a pain in the ass to be around because we pass the you-know-what down hill.

Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, he talks about how some people managed to be happy and content even in a concentration camp. This ability made him marvel. Read his book to discover his startling conclusions.

In the mean time, perhaps you could take some time to gently challenge your beliefs by asking yourself these questions: Can I be happy if I don’t get what I want? Can I be happy even if people wrong me or wronged me?

Read Barry Kaufman’s easy little red book called Happiness is a Choice and be prepared for a life change.

These two very interesting short reads would be a great addition to your summer vacation reading list.



Airplane Travel

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

As the fam and I prepare to travel to the Northeast over the 4th, I am already putting my game plan together to navigate through our not-so-safe-ridiculously-irritating screening process. Last trip we took separated me from my kids as I got thoroughly searched. Yes folks, a vanilla, pudgy 35 year old mother of two is a terrorist threat. Give me a BREAK!

Christopher Hitchens voices my outrage even better than I can. Here is the link: http://slate.msn.com/id/2120330.

I’m all for catching the bad guys and gals–most of whom look like your average ARAB.