Eggs!

We bought chicks from TSC in the early spring, kept them in the house, then the barn and finally to the coop.  So far we haven’t lost any of the chickens to predators.  And finally…our first eggs!  Everyone is very excited.



Kittens!

A week or two ago we decided our cat Patches was expecting. Early this morning I saw Patches sneaking through the cow pasture. Then during my board meeting at work, the calls and texts from my kids started rolling in that Patches was in labor and that a kitten was found alone in the hay. When I got home from work, we found Patches buried in a hay bale with one kitten. But a little further investigation and we discovered three more kittens in a different area in the hay bale! Not sure the best thing for them, we all decided to bring them inside and make sure they are dry, warm and all together. Never a dull moment on the farm.
   
    
   
    
   

Pickin’ Up Chicks

We made a trip to Tractor Supply Co and we came home with six red sexed link chicks.  The kids love them and chicks are getting tons of love and attention.  : )

   

    
    
    
    
   

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

The Breakers, post 1: The Best Customer Experience I Have Ever Had

   Last week, my wife and I took our first vacation without kids in over a decade.  We wanted to splurge a little, find a new place with a warm beach, and relax.  We chose The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL.  Let me just say that I have never experienced anything like it.  From the time you pull in the quarter-mile long brick drive, you will continually be surprised that any place offers such a customer experience.  I could easily invest a full post into the beauty of The Breakers.  From the flowers to the ceilings to the pools to the ocean views and back to the flowers just because they are that gorgeous…  But it’s not just the beauty that caught me so off guard.  Instead it’s the fact that every single person, from the valet to the concierge to the housekeepers to the wait staff, understands clearly that you are there to be treated like a king.  Not one person ever let me feel any tension in their voice over anything.  Breakers staff members were always around, yet never in my way. 

Every staff member seemed to know my name, and that we were there to celebrate our 14th wedding.  You might wonder if a place that nice might make you feel out of place if that’s not your day to day lifestyle…not once.  Not one time did I ever feel out of place.  I guess I should mention the Breakers is pricey compared to other hotels…but this is not other hotels.  Staying at The Breakers is like staying in your mother’s home where someone is always asking to do things for you.  And I must say that they are spending a huge percentage of your room rate right back out the door on you as the guest.  They hold nothing back and are spending much more of your money on you than you would have expected on staff, flowers, etc.

In my second Breakers post, I will try to drill down on one or two specific things I learned about customer service from my visit.  It won’t be easy to choose.  First, I just needed to get the word out to you that if you visit The Breakers, your concept of customer service will be re-shaped.  By that I mean that we can really only provide our own customers a service level equal to our imagination and past experiences.  The Breakers will seriously re-set the bar for you and you will come back with a dozen new ideas of what you can do to wow your own customers.

Way To Go Great Wolf

Last weekend, my family and I visited Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH.  It’s right next to King’s Island Park and a great place to get away for some indoor waterpark fun during the cold winter months.  I’ve got 5 kids under age 10 (plus one on the way) and cabin fever can take on an ugly face at our house. 🙂  GW does a great job online of showing you the rooms and letting you make reservations online.  Because I’ve got a large family and I wanted to get the details right, I chose to confirm my reservations on the phone with a GW customer service rep.  At the end of our call, the rep suggested we use one of their playpens for our 15 month old.  I took her up on the offer.  One less thing, right?

Well the bad news is that when we arrived, the play pen hadn’t been communicated to Lawson, my on site customer service guy.  So he called a guy and they agreed to bring it to our room.  We hit the waterpark for a few hours and came back to the room; but no playpen.  I called Lawson and the bad news got worse…the hotel was full and all of the playpens had been given to other guests.  Oh man…I’m tired, it’s late, and no playpen means no sleep for me that night.  And I wasn’t in the mood to go out in the snow looking for a WalMart to buy a playpen…

That’s where Lawson stepped in and saved the night.  He sent someone to buy a new playpen at WalMart.  It arrived just in time and our baby boy slept wonderfully in his brand new, never been used, playpen.  Thanks to Lawson for taking it upon himself to send someone out just for us and thanks to GW for providing a culture where people do what it takes to solve problems with short notice.

The Lesson:  Dropped balls are part of being in business.  It’s your willingness to dive on dropped balls that sets you apart from the pack.

Reminder:  There’s never a better chance to win the customer service game than when you are dealing with people who aren’t at their best and really need your help.

Success Is As Natural As Water Flowing Downhill

If you’re like me, you’ve been taught that success is something that you have to hunt down, chase, tackle and hold on to so that it won’t get away.  And because we think that way, we spend our time and energy pursuing success.  We go after it.  We fake it till we make it, right?

I want to challenge that paradigm today.  It’s not consistent with the successful people who I’m around.  Sure they are enthusiastic.  They happen to things instead of waiting to see what happens.  That’s all true.  But here’s the subtle but powerful difference that could really impact you:  Success is a natural product of showing up and doing a good job over a long period of time, like water flowing downhill.  So why are so few small business people successful?  Because we get in the way of the natural flow of success…we interupt success.  If a person calls your decorating business, it’s because they want to pay you for your help.  The sale is yours to lose.  If you will show up on time, have reasonable communication skills and knowledge of what you are doing, and serve their needs, you have a client for life that will tell all of their friends about you. 

But how many times do we take our eye off the ball and forget to do those basic things with excellence?  Have you ever taken off work to meet a person at your house to give you a price to paint or install irrigation or decorate or install new flooring and they were 20 minutes late?  Or when you met, they said they’d email you an estimate later that day that didn’t show up for a week?  Or you tried to call them after your meeting for a quick question and couldn’t get in touch with them for days?  In each of these cases, the natural process of buying was interupted by less than fantastic basic customer service.  But your customer won’t tell you that.  Instead they’ll tell you they are putting the project off for a few months…and you will never hear from them again.  They lost confidence in you and hired someone else and they may not even know why.

I am convinced that if you will focus 90% of all of your time and energy on the most basic business activities, that customers will chase you down to do business with you because this is so rare.  Your customers will pay your higher price, overlook your average looking website and wait on your waiting list if you will show up early, follow-up with every promise you make (big or small) and call them back super fast every time. 

“The person who knows “how” will always have a job.  The person who knows “why” will always be his boss.  ~ Diane Ravitch

Simple & Easy

Did you know that your own customers may leave you without telling just because doing business is even a little bit harder than your competition?  Confession is good for the soul, so let’s use me as an example.  Every customer has their priorities…price, friendliness of business, how important you make them feel, etc.  My top two are friendliness of the employees and convenience.  Make the gas pump ask me to punch fewer buttons to get gas and I’m there!  Let me buy from your store without up selling me at the counter or requiring my phone number and zip code at the register and I’m yours.  🙂  Make the line move a little faster, make the online buying process just a touch simpler to figure out, or make your parking lot easier to access from the street and I will pay your price, really! 

I’m a big fan of Publix.  They are always super friendly to my family and they never let me wait in line.  They are quick to open a new register just to get me out a little faster…my kind of people!  But then look at the Sam’s Club biz model:  I have to pay to join, have to have my card to get in the store, have to get my card back out to pay at the register, and then have to show my receipt to the guy at the exit to get out.  I’m not slamming Sam’s…they go for people who like to buy in bulk and save on price; but it’s too complicated for me.  Another example is the gas pump…many of them cut me off at $75 of gas…why is that?  And if you get a pump that pumps slowly, it really can double the time it takes to fill up.

Enough whining, right?  The good news is that you don’t always have to give up profits in order to make things just the slightest bit easier.  Check out this article about how Amazon added an extra $300,000,000 in sales just by making the online buying process a little easier.  Ask a friend to be a new customer for you and to walk through your process with “new eyes”.  What things could you change just to make your product or service just 5% easier to use?  You’ll be amazed at the results!

 

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”  ~ Muhammad Ali

Way To Step Up SOUTHWEST!

southwest-dogMy friend recently got stuck on the runway for 2 hours (yuck) due to severe weather.  He knew that air traffic control made the call to ground planes and that it wasn’t Southwest’s fault; but still…2 hours is a long time in a crowded plane.

Check out how Southwest Airlines stepped up and made a raving fan out of a bad situation beyond their control:

 [I love her title!]

 

Greetings from Southwest Airlines:                 

 I’m sorry your flight was caught in the middle of the weather-related mess on April 17.  Heavy rain reduced the visibility and limited the viable air traffic routes from .  Subsequently, we were unable to provide you with timely service and we truly regret the interruption of your travel plans.  Your patience while you waited is greatly appreciated.Houston

Though we may not be able to control Mother Nature or the rate in which Air Traffic Control releases flights, we do have some say in the way we show our appreciation of your valued patronage.  In this regard, I am sending a LUV Voucher to every person traveling with you—I hope this gesture will be accepted as our acknowledgement of the overall frustrations created by this situation.  You can be sure that we are looking forward to seeing you in the days ahead.

Melissa Chalupa, Proactive Customer Svc,

Be A Sure Thing

sure-thing_drHave you ever had an old car that was there for you most of the time; but from time to time it just wouldn’t cooperate and do the one thing you bought it for (drive)?  Then you know the feeling you get when you are running a couple minutes late and you jump in your beloved old car…it’s sort of an anxious feeling as you pray aloud “…just start…just start…START!”

While it doesn’t let you down often, the fact that it MIGHT let you down is enough to keep you from trusting that it will be there to do the job when you need it most, right?  Did you you know that business relationships work the exact same way?  Businesses that don’t deliver what they promise every single time are businesses that never allow their customers to trust that they’ll be there when they need them most.  And that lack of trust will keep you from experiencing the real success you are in business to achieve. 

The good news is that if you drive a stake in the ground and declare that no matter what, you will deliver what you promise every single time and especially when circumstances beyond your control get in your way…you will put yourself in the small group of businesses that people can’t help but refer to their friends.

  • Be the lawn company that doesn’t let rain throw you off schedule.  Let customers plan the party without worrying if the mowers will show up on the scheduled day to make the yard look nice.  [If it’s a monsoon that literally prevents you from cutting, have a plan in place to catch customers up the next day.]
  • Be the dry cleaner that has customer’s shirts pressed even when your hired help doesn’t show up for work.
  • Be CPA that gets the tax returns done on time even when you’ve over promised.
  • Be the sales leader that the owner turns to when he needs a job done right and done today.

Being a sure thing means you can charge higher prices, that you will have people on a waiting list to become your customer and that you can invest your old marketing budget into business tools that make your work easier.

“If you think you are too big for a little job, you are probably too little to be trusted with a big job.”  ~ unknown


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