Saturday, May 5, 2012

Problems, resolutions, moving on.

Conflict between people is an intricately complicated matter. Conflict resolution is dependant on open and honest communication between the parties involved in the conflict. Most people who have ever been involved in a relationship with another person has found that out in one way or another. The same principal of open and honest communication is just as relevant in business as it is in our personal lives. I just had to do damage control relating to a communication problem. It was a mess. As human beings we are subject to messing up occasionally. I feel as though I was almost set on proving that. I am still reeling from the consequences.

I am involved in a service business. I make cars clean, shiny, good smelling and as close to new looking as possible. I've been doing this for over 50 years. I know Americans have a love affair with their cars and how important it is to listen to my customers and accomplish what they want by using my knowledge and experience. It is a highly individual service. When I speak with my customers before we even begin the work on their car, I walk around that car with them and make written notes on every concern they bring up. Those notes stay with that car through the entire process. 99.99% of our customers are completely satisfied and recommend us to others without reservations. This week I ran across the .01%. No one could have ever imagined the series of circumstances that set the situation in motion:

Two customers came to us on the same day.
They each owned the same model car.
Both cars were the same color and year.
Each customer had a different set of requirements.
One customer was friendly, open and smiled and spoke easily, looking forward to a great experience. Wanting a "Complete" service.
One customer was of a difficult nature, abrupt and extremely specific as to the services desired. Only "this and that" service. (The husband explained to me in advance that his wife had a problem with her social skills, required medication for a personality disorder and apologized for any difficulties that may arise from that.).
Both customer's last names were pronounced the same but spelled differently.
The men's names each began with an M.
The women's names each began with an F.

Sometime during the processing of those two cars the specification sheets I had so meticulously written out were switched.

The customer with the specific requirements got more than they requested. The customer looking forward to "Everything" got slightly less. Not a huge difference but a difference none the less. When they picked up their cars they checked them over and were both very pleased.

The next morning I received a phone call from who I believed to be the woman that requested "specific" services. She was complaining that we did not do two services that she specifically instructed us not to do. I could not believe her denial of her own instructions. I was beginning to understand why her husband mentioned her instability problem. I handled the call as best as I could but she was still enveloped in denial. I called back in a few minutes and spoke with her husband, explained those things she had instructed us not to do but we wanted them happy. "What can we do to rectify this situation?" I asked. "We take pride in working hard to satisfy our customers, they are important and we will do anything within reason." He asked me again about a couple things and I explained again to him that his wife had specified we "not" do those things because he was going to do them. He even reacted in disbelief and denial but said he'd call back. I was very confused at this point. They were both in complete denial. How do I deal with that?

As is the case with any customer comments, good or bad, we have a company meeting and discuss the situation in depth. This was a very unique situation. We are not accustomed to dissatisfied customers......................Then, during the give and take of our meeting both spec notes were brought out, it was discovered that those sheets went back and forth between those two vehicles during the servicing. Suddenly, the realization came to me that I may not have been talking to the people I thought I was talking to. They really weren't in the denial I suspected but rather I was. Then it all came to me in a flash. I called the people back, they did not answer the phone or return my message. Apparently they believe they must have been talking to a crazy man. I really can't blame them. Innocent misunderstanding or not, they were not pleasant conversations. I immediately issued them a complete refund, wrote a personal apology explaining the situation as best I could and put it in the mail along with an offer for fulfill our original agreement without charge. There is nothing more I can do. It would seem that the cycle of communication has been severed.

Another day, another lesson in business and personal communication. I can't change what has happened. It was costly both financially and dealing with our self confidence. We come to work every day with the purpose of doing the very best we can with each and every one of our customers. This day it didn't quite work that way. It is part and parcel of the human situation. We've done what we could, taken action so the same situation doesn't happen again. apologized, made an offer of reconciliation and learned from it. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try it just gets messed up. Now, it's on to the next day. I wish you a wonderful one!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Is America ready for a king?

The discussion between the fella's setting around the table in the neighborhood gathering place, "Maria's Breakfast Nook" was rather intense. Each morning you'll find the guys meeting there for an order of Maria's famous "Gut Busting, Man Pleasing, Mom's Style breakfast." It consists of 4 eggs, 3 pancakes, 4 sausage links, 4 slices of bacon, American fried potatoes, 4 slices of homemade toast, orange juice and coffee. Did I say that the fellas were a bit on the portly side? Besides the food they were there to solve the problems of the world. In case you didn't know, most guys are more than willing to devise a solution to any situation you may reveal. Warriors and Kings is what most guys are. Warriors and Kings have gone to war since the beginning of time to solve problems. Why would they change now?

A king is the answer, they said in unison. A look of amazement and then victory came across their faces. The solution was at hand. The words flew and buzzed back and forth like bees surrounding the hive. Why is a kingdom the answer? Common sense they said in between bites of that suculant breakfast fare. Just think about it! A kingdom has less expenses because the entire government is run by one guy. (They decided earlier that a queen just wouldn't do because they share and adapt too easily). The decisions of a kingdom would be made almost instantly because it wouldn't be watered down by a lot of politicians (hoping to be re-elected) offering a thousand other alternatives to simple questions which are most often answered by yes, or no!

They were on a roll now, the atmosphere was one of enlightment, the voices louder and the gestures more animated. The point was made that in a closely held corporation, success lasted longer and finances grew and grew because there wasn't the totally uneccessary bickering back and forth between a lot of management with unfounded feelings of empowerment. That's what government does, gives way too  much power and entitlement to people that have no other agenda beside personal gain and ego fulfillment. Ooooh! They just may have come upon a solution to our present financial quandry.

As the fellas dispersed to wherever it was they went to for the rest of the day they were satisfied that their Kings and Warriors type of wisdom, if properly implemented would make America a better place. "Elect a King, give him a bunch of warriors and quell the fury." Now, tomorrow it will all be forgotten of course and the discussion will turn to other matters such as sports, motorized tools or another topic of the day. That's the nice thing about being one of the fellas. Solutions don't necessarily have to be put into action. Even if they are profound.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Titanic and perspective

Once again the movie, "Titanic" is in the news. Now it is being presented in 3D venues so you can experience the pain more easily of drowning I guess maybe. I don't particularly get a good feeling from a movie based on a true story where so many people died a slow death. Good music, choreography, love scenes and songs don't lessen the tragedy do they? But, I feel there is a lesson to be learned here concerning perspective. The Titanic was an example of the newest technology of the period. Engineers, designers, machinists, all sorts of educated people were brought together to build that luxurious ship. From their perspective it was "State of the Art!" From the perspective of all those passengers and crew that suffered in the sinking of that magnificent floating castle it was a piece of dangerous junk wasn't it?

When I write here I am speaking from my perspective and I don't expect everyone to agree. That's what perspective is all about. Perspective creates discussion, discussion increases vision, increased vision reduces misunderstanding, reducing misunderstanding helps us all negotiate the intricacies of our differences. That's the way it's supposed to work anyway. That's the lesson of the Titanic I think. I'm not at ease with viewing such a real tragedy. I find it akin to the monsters that beheaded a helpless prisoner and put the beheading on the Internet for everyone to see. Thoroughly disgusting, inhumane and heart wrenching! The people who, in their perspective agreed with the terrorists applauded their cowardice. Those people who in their perspective disagreed were sickened and enraged. Both sides feel they were right. In the case of the Titanic maybe viewing the movie will bring a more clear perspective to safety in all types of transportation. Maybe viewing the terrorist beheading will bring a more clear perspective to the insanity of hate. It's all in your perspective I guess.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Research and outcomes and silliness

Did ya ever notice that, no matter it is that you do, or how it is that you do it, recently there is some type of government research which determines, by experts, just how it is that you should do what it is that you do?

This morning the story was told about health professionals that denied crying new born infants of binkies. The theory was that without a binky to suck on the tiny babies would be wanting to suckle at the breast of their mom more often. It must have been, to the baby experts a great sounding idea for them to have put those new born infant babies through such trauma. With mom in the recovery room, totally dependant on the health professionals to take care of their tiny, precious little babies and what happens? Somebody ups and decides that it's time to run an experiment. Alrighty then, we'll simply pull that binky from quietly sleeping, calm and contented new borns and see what happens.

Results of test:
Baby cries
Baby fusses
Baby cries more
Baby becomes anxious
Baby loses trust
Baby remains anxious when it comes to feeding time with mom.


Do to research we all live better lives don't we? But once in a while something just sounds silly.

Other than this beauty was conducted with new born babies, it reminds me of a couple thousand other research projects that spewed whatever nonsense it is that they spewed.
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