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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Complaint As A Gift

"Hi! What can we get for you?" asked the lady behind the counter. "I'll have an ------ salad, please." I ordered. "Anything else?" she asked. "No, that will be all. Thank you." I paid for my order and waited...and waited...and waited some more. What could be taking so long? I wondered. I was the only customer at the time. After about five minutes of waiting, I asked the lady about my order. She called out to someone in the kitchen, turned to me and said it will be another couple of minutes. After about ten minutes, I got up. Since their kitchen is visible from the dining area, I looked to see if somebody was fixing my salad. I saw a man who seemed to be washing dishes. He left the water running momentarily to take out the trash. He went inside, quickly ran his hands under the running water (to effectively kill germs, you'd have to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. this man was convinced that his hands were germ-free after a nanosecond). With his bare hand, he proceeded to scrape the bottom of a tupperware. Surely I thought, somebody else has to be making my salad. I looked around and saw no one else. The man transferred the remnants of what looked like noodles (!) into a smaller container. To be thrown out, of course! Or so I thought! The man started walking towards the counter where the orders were made. To my horror, I realized that the man was going to make my salad out of the leftover he had laboriously collected! I caught his attention and he looked at me and smiled to assure me that my salad was coming! "No, no, no!" I said, waving my hands in protest. He spoke and understood little English. He couldn't understand what I was telling him. I immediately called the lady who took my order and told her what I saw. She asked the man to stop what he was doing because I no longer wanted my salad. The lady profusely apologized and gave me a refund. The manager was not available at that time so I was told to call and speak to the manager. I left the restaurant, still hungry but my appetite had dissipated after seeing that! I called when I got home but the manager was still not there. I wanted to tell the manager about my experience so I called again the following the day but still to no avail. I gave up trying to contact them. I also stopped patronizing not only the branch where I had my horrible experience, but ALL the branches of that particular restaurant! Since nobody took the time to hear my complaint, I felt that they didn't want my business, along with the business of my friends and family.

Having worked as a customer service representative at a wireless company, I've attended several workshops that enhanced my skills. One of the classes that I found of most value was entitled "Complaint As A Gift". This class focused on how to deal with complaints. Instead of looking at complaints negatively, we were told to shift our views on the positive side, and take these as gifts! Why gifts? Because gifts are accepted and welcomed. Because an irate customer may complain but when viewed differently, they're actually giving you a CHANCE to change a product or the way you do business. When customers complain, they're actually telling you that they can forget their bad experience if you do something about the problem. Complainants convey the message that they like to do business with your company and one bad experience will not make them take their business to the competition, provided that you listen and take their complaints seriously. When you fix the problem, it sends out a message to your customer that they are valued. Being open to complaints will build customer loyalty. I took this lesson with me after I left the company. After ten years of taking the class, I still believe in this principle and often use it in interviews. When you start looking at complaints or criticism as gifts, you'll acquire a range of knowledge. You'll see these as opportunities for growth.

Ever since going to the Complaint As A Gift workshop, I can't help but notice how customer representatives, customer support, sales associates or anybody who directly serves customers, interact with customers and handle complaints. When I experience bad customer service, I always wonder if these companies give their employees adequate customer service training. When a customer service representative gets impatient and sounds like they don't want to hear another complaint from another customer, I always get the urge to preach about complaint as a gift. I find myself saying to myself that I'll even facilitate the workshop for the company for free, just to get my message across. Maybe, if more companies know about this workshop, or any similar workshops, complaints will be viewed differently, thus retaining more customers. Happy customers lead to a network of new clients. Companies benefit from free marketing and promotion through satisfied customers' word of mouth. Just the same, unhappy customers have the same influence on others ~ a lot of times ten times more.

It doesn't have to be customers seeking service from a business. It can be employees seeking reprieve from unfair treatment or unsuitable work environment, or maybe a request for a chair that will soothe their aching back. What are you doing to make your employees happy? Are you listening? Are you fair to your employees? Are company values in line with your own and your employees? If you're a leader, or a major influence in the company, how great of a leader are you??? DO YOU LISTEN to your employees? Can or should employees trust the company? Do employees feel encouraged to voice their opinions or concerns? Or are they threatened and reprimanded for wanting to be treated justly? Does the company create a safe working environment for its employees? And companies wonder why they lose their best people. Maybe if they practice their listening skills and treat complaints as a chance to correct the mistake, they wouldn't lose so much in court.

Be fair. Be open. LISTEN!

Monday, March 19, 2007

True Happiness Is Knowing What You Want

Soup or salad? Cheeseburger? Chicken Sandwich? No, I'm not asking what you would like for lunch. Rather, what you would like to HAVE in life today. If you were given a magic lamp and told you can have an UNLIMITED number of wishes, what would you ask for? Fame? A beachfront house? A fancy car and a chauffeur to go with it (no scratch that, make that 7 fancy cars to go with each day of the week)? A cure for cancer? how about money? (after all, you have an unlimited number of wishes).

True happiness is knowing what you want. Take for instance my wish to be able to take my four year old to preschool. I wanted to take and pick him up from school and occasionally volunteer to help in class. Because I work full time, I thought there was no way I can do this. My former manager and I attempted to propose alternate work schedules to our Assistant Chief but they were all turned down. Surely asking to work three days a week is out of the question. Still, all along, I strongly believed that something or someone will pave the way that will allow me to do what I really wanted ~ and that is to be there for my kids. About three weeks before I needed to come up with a solution, a new manager was hired. Knowing that I will not lose anything if I told her my situation, I asked if I can take a couple of days off a week while my son goes to school. To make a long story short, a week before my son started school, I was granted the option to voluntary reduce my work hours to accommodate my family's need. You can just imagine how grateful I was! All I did was ask! My first request may have been turned down, but because I BELIEVED that a solution will materialize in perfect timing, my wish was granted!

The universe, or rather, GOD, made it possible to achieve my wish. Going back to the Prayer for Prosperity, it states that "With God, I cannot fail. With God, it is impossible for me to fail" and "God is reaching out to people who can help and prosper me. His ways are sure, and His methods are ingenious." If you believe this to be true, you will find that your prayers will be answered at the right time. Surrender all your worries to God and feel your load lighten. It's no magic, it's no's a FACT.

So, how do you really get want you want in life? First, know exactly what you want. God, or the universe cannot give you what you want if you do not clearly state what you want. Be specific and stick with that decision. Often changing your mind will only send confusion to the entity granting your wish. The result? Your wish is set aside until you know exactly what you want! Second, once you make up your mind, FOCUS on that wish. One way to stay focused is by creating a dream board. Just what exactly is a dream board? It's simply a poster board with pictures of all the things you want in life. Take a picture of your dream car and glue it on the board. Take a picture of your dream house and glue it on the board, or maybe your dream vacation. Whatever you wish you can have, post it here. When you're done creating your dream board, place it in a prominent spot where you will see it everyday, preferably when you wake up in the morning. This will serve as a reminder of what you want to accomplish and achieve. Third, visualize yourself getting your wish. See yourself driving your dream car. See yourself coming home to your dream house. Send only positive thoughts to your mind. In doing so, you not only surround yourself with positive energy, but you also radiate this force field around you. Believe that you have already received. Fourth, be thankful now. Be grateful for what you currently have in your life. As a giver, doesn't it feel good when the receiver appreciates what you have given? The feeling of appreciation makes you want to give more gifts to that person, doesn't it? It is the same with the universe or God as the giver. The more you appreciate, the more you will be given. And lastly, share your blessings. Just as the universe have prospered you, so shall you prosper and bless others. The more you give, the more you will receive. Good things will come to you in a flood of abundance!

Know. Focus. Visualize. Give thanks. Share.

God Bless!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Preschool Jitters

Today marks the first day of preschool for my 4 year old son. I think the separation anxiety that I am about to go through today will more likely come from me. I can sense his excitement as he picked his new outfit for his first day in preschool. My kids don't go to daycare so they don't have a lot of social interaction with kids their age so I'm a little worried about how my son will act around other kids especially when he tends to get rough on his little brother. I was also worried about him following instructions when I think about how he disregard my instructions at times. Kids are resilient to change and can adapt to new environment quickly. When a change is about to occur, it helps kids to talk about it so there are no surprises. Talking to my son about school somewhat alleviated some of the tension on his first day in school. I told him the fun things he will do in school with his new friends.

He was hesitant to go inside the classroom as the other kids happily went about their routine. His teacher graciously let me stay for half an hour until he felt comfortable. When I was ready to leave, he clung to me and started to get teary eyed. Afraid that he will throw a fit, I offered to take him to the restroom so he won't feel embarrassed in case he starts crying. I reminded him of our conversation about school. I told him that he will need to stay in school while mommy does mommy things and he held up three fingers to reassure himself that I'll pick him up after three hours. The teacher's aid opened the door and gently nudged him towards the front of the room where the children had formed a circle. It was his first circle time. He didn't get a chance to look back as the aid purposely covered the view of the door so I can leave unnoticed. Standing just outside the door, I waved goodbye to the teacher to signal I was leaving. As I walked back to the car, I silently prayed for him to have a pleasant experience and hope that he will make friends easily. The teacher assured me that they will call me if he cries nonstop. I made sure that my phone's ringer was turned up all the way so as not to miss the phone call just in case. I kept checking on my phone during the first thirty minutes of having left the school. There was no phone call. When I picked him up, the teacher greeted the parents and grandparents at the door. I asked how his first day went and the teacher happily reported that he participated in their activities and did not cry when he noticed that I was gone. He got attached to the teacher's aid for a little while but was soon in the company of the other children. When I went inside the room, the children were again in a circle, where they remained until they were picked up. Relief swept over me when I saw him smile at me ~ an indication that he had a good day. As we walked to the car, he told me he wants to come back soon.

The first day of school can be unsettling to children and to some parents as well. Here are some tips to cure your child's first day jitters:
-Talk to your child about going to school. Tell them about the fun things they will do and learn and the new friends they will make.
-Help your child feel good about himself or herself by praising good behavior.
-Get your child ready for school by introducing activities such reading, counting, and encourage their creativity through art.
-Set up an appointment with the school to visit for a few minutes so your child will see the other children.
-Let your child meet the teacher before the first day of school so your child doesn't feel like he or she is being left with a stranger.
-Get your child excited about school by buying supplies. Let your child pick his or her school bag.
-On the first day of school, speak with the teacher. Let your child see you do this so he or she will feel that you trust the teacher.
-On your way to school, remind your child that you will just drop him or her off and you will pick him up after school. It's still best to give your child a hug or (a high five) and quickly leave. You will just make it harder for yourself and your child if you linger. Don't worry if your child cries because crying will stop after a few minutes.
-When you pick up your child from school, ask how his or her day went. This will tell them that you are very interested and excited to hear about their day.

Tips on choosing a preschool:
-If you have friends, relatives or co-workers with children, ask if they have any recommendations.
-Check preschools in your neighborhood. Set up an appointment to observe a class. This will give you the chance to meet the teachers and their assistants and see how they interact with children.
-Assess the facility. Is it clean? Is it secured? Is it easily accessible? Are the children happy? Are the teachers and aides friendly? Ask about their curriculum and their policy. Do they have an open door policy? Are parents encouraged to drop in anytime to observe their children? Rely on your instincts. If you don't feel good about the facility, keep looking.
-Is the price within your budget? Most communities have a partnership with a preschool and are more cost effective. You may also want to check the different programs that your school district offers (head start or state preschool, title 1 pre-kindergarten, and parent participation preschool where parents volunteer one day a week and attend monthly meetings. you may also want to check out parent co-op preschools in your area)

As parents, it is up to us to mold our children's perception of school. Because children are naturally curious, this is how they absorb and learn new things. Encourage intellectual and emotional growth by stimulating their curiosity ~ keep them interested in school. Participate in their school activities or simply help with their homework. Show appreciation in their development and be proud of their achievements no matter how small or big it is. Each child is unique and every child has his or her own way of learning. If you have more than one child (especially when they're close in age) be careful not to make any comparison. You wouldn't want to start sibling rivalry by praising one child more than the other. School is what we, parents make of it. So it is up to us to convey the message to our children that school is a fun and safe place to learn.