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Customer Service Hang Ups

hanging phoneIf you are tempted to think that how you handle in-coming calls as a business isn’t top priority…think again.

I had an experience recently to prove my point.

I called into a big box company to try and order a waterfall for my backyard.  I don’t want to mention names but I’ll give you a hint…it wasn’t Home Depot.

The department I wanted to reach wasn’t listed in the company’s phone directory, so I hit zero for the Operator. After not one, not two, but count them…five attempts to get through without being cut off, misdirected or simply left holding a ringing phone, I finally found someone to help me.

As I was wading through my five attempts to complete what should have been a very simple and straight-forward request, I made the decision to cross this company off my list of potential vendors to hire for remodeling a rental property I was preparing for market.

WOW! That’s the power that lies in the balance between a well-handled call and a bungled one.  All told, as a rough estimate, I could have easily thrown over $10,000 their way in remodeling business, but I won’t be doing any contract business with them at all. That sale (and future sales) was lost while I was on interminable hold. I figured, “Hey, if trying to buy a waterfall is this hard, what hell would I be in for, if I decided to remodel a bathroom with these people?”

This is EXACTLY what YOUR customers are thinking when they are on eternal hold…they start to question you as a company and then they start to question whether you are worthy of their business, since you seem so willing to waste their valuable time. It’s in this moment that they may decide that it’s time to find another vendor/contractor/supplier/retailer, etc. altogether.

How my call is handled speaks VOLUMES about the quality of the infrastructure within your organization and its overall dedication to providing great customer care from points A to Z.

So the next time the phone rings, answer it as if your paycheck depends on it. It does.

P.S. I decided not to buy the waterfall.

Karyn Ruth White is an Organizational Humorist, Funny Keynote Speaker, Comedian, Author and Speech Coach. When you call her office you will be handled with care, either by Karyn Ruth personally, or by her trusty assistant, Ms. Voicemail. (Quick responses promised.) Visit her at karynruth.com, email her at info@karynruth.com or if you’re feeling brave, give her a call at 303-369-8277.

Detecting Your Personal Style

detective-1424831_1280I have been immersing myself in watching mysteries, including the series of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Hercule Poirot by Dame Agatha Christie. I love the London settings; Doyle’s dark and daunting streets of 1900’s London, and I can’t get enough of the fabulous art deco furnishings and architecture of 1930’s England in Christie’s Poirot series. The sets become a character, in and of themselves.

Fun stuff, whodunnits. The more I watch, the better I am at detecting patterns and solving the mystery right along with the sleuth. Detecting patterns…I figure that’s a good life skill to keep sharpened.

Several things have struck me while I was watching these series for pleasure.

#1: I love the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) use of humor in the midst of a murder investigation. Doing humor well in that context is no easy feat, it is a skillful tool, as it serves to humanize the characters and provide relief in the midst of tension. (Just like in real life.)

#2: I am struck by the vivid difference in the two detective’s personal operating styles. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is no nonsense in his pursuit of the task at hand.  He is laser-focused and has no time for the niceties and social graces. People only factor into the equation for him if he thinks they can be of use.

Whereas, Christie’s Monsieur Poirot, played brilliantly for 25 years by David Suchet, is the height of grace.  His manners are impeccable, always…even when encountering a less than desirable sort…and yet he still manages to succeed at his goal.

I found myself fascinated by this difference in approach. I realized that these are the same choices we make each day as individuals, whilst navigating our way through this mystery called life.

Our personal approach is our personal choice. So…ask yourself… “Do I choose to see people as an obstacle or as a resource to my mission?” Is the way I deal with others situational, or am I consistent in my approach toward people regardless of circumstance?”

In your daily dealings, both personally and professionally, do you tend to dismiss people unless they can be of immediate use to you, or are you gracious to all, always?

Venture a guess as to which one of these styles garners better overall long term results?

Detecting (and perhaps adjusting) your personal style might be the best mystery you ever solve.

P.S. And let’s not forget Detective Columbo, played by the incomparable Peter Falk, who simply annoys people to death until he gets his way.  This of course, is always another option when choosing your personal style.

Karyn Ruth White is a “thought-laugher” in the exciting field of Human Potential.  She calls herself a Success Humorist (a job title she made up.) She energizes Conferences around the U.S. with her hilariously poignant Keynote talks. She is an Author, a Comedian and the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise helping people unravel the mystery of happiness and live and work from their greatness. Visit her on-line at karynruth.com or email her at info@karynruth.com

Minimizers-At-Large

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Definition: Minimizer; a person who habitually attempts to make other people feel less than. Less than valuable, less than worthy, less than capable, less than competent, less than deserving, less than perfect or less than human.

Minimizers are omnipresent, insidious, potentially powerful, creatures who abound in all shapes and sizes. (Oh and by the way, they tend to be miserable in their own lives.)

And Minimizers are a crafty lot. Their verbal attack can come in the form of what appears to be a “harmless” remark in public company.  If you call them on it, they will most commonly respond:

a)  You’re being too sensitive

b)  It was a joke

c)  I didn’t mean anything by it.

I think, that on this very human journey of ours, it is important to give people the benefit of the doubt, so the first time I feel minimized by you, I will chalk it up to human miscommunication and let it go. (This time.) But let’s be clear, the red flag has been raised.  If it happens again, then I will consider that to be pattern of behavior, and it will need to be addressed.

When I sense that someone is trying to minimize me or my work, I know that we will not be doing business together. I am always willing to be flexible and get creative whenever possible to make a deal a win-win, but it has to be because I like you and believe in your work.  I must believe that we are partnering for our mutual success.

I once had an associate (a habitual Minimizer) who tried to get me to edit her book for free.  In her inimitable minimizing style she asked me: “Oh, could you just run your eyes over my book and punch it up with some humor?”

“Just run your eyes over it.” CLASSIC!  To this day I still use this phrase with my team when I ask them to do a big project… “Oh, Barbara, could you just “run your eyes over” the OPS Manual and update it?” Then we laugh and get to work.

Minimizers, when you come right down to it, make a habit of not granting the other person proper respect.  So… it then becomes our responsibility to command it.

It is our responsibility to teach others how to treat us.

SHAMERS are in the same family as MINIMIZERS.

Shamers are people who try to shame you into doing something you don’t want to do, or shame you into believing something negative about yourself.

 I don’t let people get away with trying to shame me.  If someone says: “Shame on you.” I look them dead in the eye and immediately respond: “Shame off me.” That usually stops them cold. 

One must tread daily, the fine line between censoring every word another person utters in your direction, and not letting people trample all over you.

Important Lesson:

Let your self-assuredness stop Minimizers in their tracks. Confront them early about their behavior, or it will become a pattern. It is best to deal with Minimizers in a calm, confident and professional manner.

And…most importantly, don’t become a Self-Minimizer. Speak only self-value. Don’t run yourself down. Don’t repeatedly say or think negative thoughts about yourself…you might just start believing them.  Feed your mind daily with a positive focus.

Here are some resources for dealing with Minimizers:

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, by Amy Morin

Dealing With Difficult People, by Charles J. Keating

Make Difficult People Disappear, by Monica Wofford

Here are some of my favorite inspirational quotes to help you keep a positive focus around Minimizers:

“How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” Wayne Dyer

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“To belittle is to be little.” Carol Moran

“Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength.” Eric Hoffer

“To be yourself in a world that is trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment of all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Karyn Ruth White is a thought-laugher in the exciting field of Human Potential.  She calls herself a Success Humorist (a job title she made up.) She energizes Conferences around the U.S. with her hilariously poignant Keynote talks. She is an author, a comedian and the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise helping people to live and work from their greatness (and never feel minimized.) Visit her on-line at karynruth.com or email her at info@karynruth.com

No Question, I Miss You Terribly

question-1500086_1280Remember…Ah…I remember…

The days when you could have an actual conversation with another person?

No little screen to distract either of you, no beeping interruptions.  Just pure, wonderful, intoxicating, give and take conversation.

For those of you who don’t remember what that was like, it would go something like this:

You would start by telling the other person something about your day or your life, or your thoughts on a particular subject, and while you were speaking, the other person would give you their full attention, including eye-contact, (that’s right – people used to actually look at one another when they spoke,) and then they would ask you…wait for it…a follow-up question.

THAT’S RIGHT! A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION.

…and here’s the incredible part, their follow-up question would refer in some way to what you had just shared. (This is why it’s called a follow-up question.)

For those of you who have never been on the receiving end of a follow-up question, here are some examples of a few of my personal favorites:

“What was that like for you?

How fascinating, would you tell me more about that?

How did that make you feel?

So, then what did you do?

What happened next?”

You might want to re-read these questions over and over again, because this is the only place you are ever going to see or hear them.

Because…it is official…the follow-up question is dead! Stone Cold Dead.

I am not sure when this happened exactly, but I think it’s safe to say that it drew its last breath within the past three years.

Perhaps the “Conversation Coroner” could provide us with the exact time of death.

There is a reason it is called: The ART of Conversation.

It is not called, “You mindlessly talk about you, I wait until you’re done (maybe), and then I mindlessly talk about me. Repeat.”

I have had to release several friends and colleagues over the past several years because when I talked with them, I didn’t feel like anything “stuck.” I call it having a Teflon™ Conversation. 

Most unaware people define “having a conversation” as; I’ll talk, you nod.

The “art” in the art of conversation, refers to the give and take involved.  Good conversation should flow from one person to the other and then back again. It should have a natural back and forth rhythm, kind of like great sex.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of verbal masturbation going on out there. And frankly, I don’t think anyone is satisfied.

There’s no more give and take. I am appalled at how many encounters I have had lately, where the dynamic is clearly take, take.  Where people continuously hijack the conversational ball and mindlessly bring all the focus back to them. 

I pour out my soul, and when I finish, rather than getting a follow-up question from the other person, which would indicate:

a) They are listening to me

b) They have processed anything I’ve said

c) They give a rip about me as a person.

instead, what I get is a blank stare, a short pause, and then they’re off to talking about themselves again. I want to reach over the table and smack them.  I just tune out when this happens and go into my own mind.  They no longer have my respect or attention. Because, as far as I am concerned, there is no chance that this is ever going to turn into a real conversation.

You want to look like a superstar in your relationships? You want to stand out at networking events? You want to close more business? Then do this…

ASK A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION. 

I know, I know, this is unfamiliar territory, but give it a try. Try it, see what happens. Watch how people respond to you, notice how the quality of your interactions improve, and then report back and tell me, 

“How did that feel for you?”

Karyn Ruth White is a thought-leader in the exciting field of Human Potential. She is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Comedian and Speaker Coach. She is the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise dedicated to helping people live and work from their greatness. If you have a follow-up question, visit karynruth.com or email info@karynruth.com.

FINE is a Four Letter Word

cash register 2I was recently eating at a local deli. I was having a light snack and catching up on my reading.  I was reading UnMarketing by Scott Stratten, an excellent book on engaging with your customers and treating people well in business.  I was reading about a coffee shop that seemed to be using their social media platform as a way to alienate customers, rather than using it as a tool to engage.

As I am reading this, a patron of the deli walked to the front to pay her check at the register.  I was within earshot of the cashier desk.

The cashier asked…“How was everything?” The patron grumbled that her salad didn’t seem fresh, and that normally when she eats here the lettuce is greener.  The cashier never even looked up from her register, never even gave the customer the courtesy of eye contact as she sing-songed a syrupy sweet, “Sorry about that,” took the money and let the dazed and dismissed customer walk out the door. My guess, for the last time.

Un-friggin-believable!!! I was SO unimpressed with this response that I vowed not to give this deli any future business myself.

Here’s the moral: EVERY COMPLAINT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE.

Every “less than enthusiastic” response from a customer should be immediately followed up by this question: “How can we make it right for you today?”

Why bother asking the customer, “How was everything?”, if you aren’t going to actually listen and use that information to engage and grow your business?

When you ask your customer, “How was everything?” and the answer comes back, “Fine,” remember FINE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD. People say “FINE” when they are so apathetic about your service or product that they can’t even muster the energy to complain. “FINE” is your cue to jump into action and become a detective.  Your mission is to find out what is “Behind the FINE” and create a delighted, loyal customer.

Back to the Deli…here is how the conversation should have gone:

“How was everything today?”

 “The lettuce was a little wilted, it’s usually so fresh and green.” 

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?  Let me extend my personal apologies. How can we make it right for you today?” (Said while looking the customer in the eye.)

Let the customer respond. Oftentimes, your customers will tell you exactly what will make them happy.

Be ready to extend the offer of a gift certificate for their next visit, or a free dessert of their choice to take with them. It only takes a little extra love to make the customer happy. As your customer, I can forgive your occasional shortcomings if I know you actually care about me.

It is much easier (and cheaper) to keep the current customer satisfied than it is to find (and keep) and new one.

I need to go, I’m off to find a new deli.

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Comedian. She is the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping people serve one another with love, laughter and respect. Visit www.karynruth.com, info@karynruth.com.