Monday, December 28, 2009

2010: Resolutions

New year resolutions. This is usually my opportunity to make a list of "rules" which it will take me all of a week (sometimes less) to break. And so, in the interest of making this a useful exercise for me, as well as something that is more meaningful to me than "lose 50 pounds," I have decided to change how I do this. I am not making rules. Instead, I have developed a set of *guidelines* to help me make decisions I will be happy with. I want to be a positive influence, a generator of good energies and comfortable in my own skin while happy with my life. (Don't we all?) One of my closest friends, Mary Chimato, says on a regular basis, "You get back what you put out there." I want to be more conscious of what I am putting out. I want to have some touchstones for when things get wonky and I become unsure. And so, I give you my resolutions for 2010:

Resolution 1: Concentrate on the happy. Work to make self more of an optimist and channel for positive energy, actively work to decrease exposure to negative influences and energies.

Resolution 2: Concentrate on the healthy. When I eat better and exercise, I *feel* better - i feel stronger, more capable, I sleep better, I get sick less often. Yes, it takes effort, and time. But my feelgood, my mental & physical health, and my life balance is worth it.

Resolution 3: Concentrate on the love. Focus my energy on what I love about my work, my friends, my family, my home, and myself. Expand the love bubble by trying new and interesting things, staying in better touch with those I love, and meeting new folks.

Resolution 4: Concentrate on the experience: there are things I want to try and have been putting off for various reasons. Oil painting, figure drawing, brushing up on some foreign languages (spanish, italian), reading the Russian poets, doing some translation work in poetry, earning a doctorate. (Dare I add, dating?) I will not shrink from these.

Resolution 5: Concentrate on generosity - both toward others and toward myself, and in terms of not just "things" but also time and energy.

Resolution 6: Concentrate on clarity. Practicing yoga, keeping the apartment relatively clutter-free, having a dedicated writing space, and working on keeping work separate from home all helps me to keep a clear head and feel in control of my time.

All in all, a useful set of guidelines, I think, and a list I'll be able to come back to as touchstones to see how I am faring through the next year.

I hope everyone has a happy, prosperous and healthy 2010, and that your resolutions center around your happiness and not your waistline :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When You Think of Great Service - A Dog's Tale

What do you think about when you think of great service?

In Access & Delivery Services, this is the question I try to keep at the forefront of my mind when training staff and when dealing with my patrons. Great service is the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is the difference between a minor hassle and convenience. It may be the thing that makes someone's day and causes them to talk about you, blog about you, twitter about you, or send a really nice thank you note to you or your boss.

When I think of great service, I often recall the story about a woman who had intended to return her shoes to Zappos, the shoe mecca, but her mother died. A Zappos rep contacted her about the delay of her return, and not only arranged to deal with pickup of the shoes (against corporate policy), but sent flowers. The story is available here on Consumerist. It was such a strong display of simple humanity and kindness that I remember it often. That is above-and-beyond great service.

Today, Otto (who many of you know as my beloved basset hound of doom) presented a huge tennis-ball sized lump beneath the right side of his jaw. I, a doting puppymama, was horrified. Tumorcancerabcessdeathomg-thoughts sort of horrified. (You have heard of crazy cat ladies? Well, I am a crazy dog lady. Otto is my constant companion and only child, essentially.) Payday rolls around once a month for we university folks, and of course, what with the holidays and such, there's no way I was going to be able to afford to drag him in to the emergency clinics. I called them all anyway - cash or credit up front required, initial charge $15-$200, plus $500 and over for any testing and/or procedures. Cue the stressbarf. I emailed my usual vet, where Otto boards when I am away and does doggy daycare on occasion to set up an appointment for payday, hoping he didn't hatch an alien from his lymph nodes before December 22nd. I expected an email back Monday, when the vet re-opened.

Imagine my surprise when my gmail account coughed up a reply at 7:34pm, obviously past the noon closing time, long before the office reopens at 7:30am on Monday morning. Imagine my *greater* surprise to read the following:

Dear Ms. Harris,

We can certainly see Otto on Monday, December 21st. We have an opening at 8:40am or you could drop him off for the day and pick him up later that afternoon. If you think the lump is uncomfortable or cannot wait until the 21st, we can see him sooner and hold a payment until the following week. We do not want him to be uncomfortable. Just let us know.

Staff of KAMC
Kildaire Animal Medical Center

I was flabbergasted. I have never heard of such a thing. Otto now has an 8:30am Monday morning appointment with his vet, and I feel much less like I am killing my dog by having to wait to get him in. I already loved my veterinary staff and docs at KAMC - Otto is the only dog I know who runs *towards* the office rather than away from it, they treat him so well. I was already a loyal customer because of the nice treatment we had received in the past and the friendly staff. This, though - well, this is, as they say, "a whole 'nother level." This is great customer service. This is why I will not consider another vet, and will tell all my local friends to trust their furbabies to these folks. Because I was treated as not just another person with another want, but with compassion and understanding.

Thank you, Kildaire Animal Medical Center. You are a shining example to those of us who provide services to others. And I (and Otto) appreciate it. I am considering this an early Christmas gift, and am quite sure it will be the best one I receive.

Happy holidays to all, and please think on this - what have you done in your service provision to really make someone feel like you cared? How have you shown *your* customers/patrons/users/clients that they are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet, dollars on the bottom line, or transaction statistics?