Thinking Deeply About Customer Service

by Molly Hetrick

I think I am a good customer. I’m always polite, though sometimes firm, and clear about what I am asking for when contacting a business. I try to also be patient and thoughtful, I will even say “I bet you’re really busy this time of year” or “I imagine the pandemic has made things challenging for you” and many times the person appreciates the empathy.

So, let’s consider a few things:

• I had a return of an item to Chewy.com and when I called customer service, they refunded my money but said to keep the item and donate it. This is a wonderful model… but my thoughts were “How can they afford that?” and “I can imagine other people taking advantage of that”?

• The same thing happened a few months ago with Clinique. They refunded my money, but let me keep the item to gift on to someone else. Great! Convenient for me, a friend got to try the product; maybe she will start using Clinique, which is probably what they hope for. (But again, I can see people taking advantage of this?)

So, why are we talking about this?

This is the “new” kind of customer service model, particularly which the retail world is moving to. Customers now expect free shipping, no-questions-asked returns, an end to hidden fees, and a money-back guarantee. AND Consumers are in control with online reviews. They expect customer service to be instant chat, just a click or two away, and 365/24/7. They expect same day delivery options – they don’t want to wait. They want to ask questions and make their opinions heard on social media, and have a fast response.

Even though in Recreation we are not retail, I firmly believe that this is fundamentally changing the mindset and more importantly, the expectations, of customers. They want easy, they want fast, they want satisfaction and are used to “above and beyond.”

No longer is a small business able to say “I understand you used this product for 3 months, broke it and now would like a refund of your original purchase price. But I cannot afford to do that for customers and keep my small business open. So here is what I CAN offer you…” (Slightly more direct language than is probably used, but you get the point).

Large cyber businesses have cushions, loopholes, and volume to support them. Smaller businesses, non-profits, and municipal based departments who offer services do not have such great options. We can’t give a whole summer of free camps because the child had a bad experience on Week 1. We can’t let kids repeat swimming lessons over and over without payment when the parent says it’s the Instructor not the child that is at issue. If we did, we could not afford to pay staff and keep the doors open, or even stay afloat beyond one or two years.

We can’t afford to designate a staff person to cover the Instant Chat and all the social media channels, the phone, the email and the voicemail too!

Please share other examples in the comments, there are so many more!

So, what do we do?

We are just at the edge of this new change and the new habits big retail is training society to expect. So let’s look at two things.

What do Customers Want?

• Satisfaction (Happiness?)

• Their need fulfilled

• An affordable cost  (sometimes they’ll pay for faster)

• A convenient and fast solution

• Their opinions and comments to be heard

Why do Customers Complain?

• Their expectations did not match what was offered

• Their expectations outstretch what the organization can provide

• They did not feel appreciated or they felt confused

• Service was not fast enough

How can we approach this?

• Clear instructions and expectations

• Matter-of-Fact policies

• Excellent friendly customer service (start off on the right foot)

• Empathy with clear solutions of what you actually CAN do when situations come up

• A work-together approach “I understand what you are asking for, here is what I can give, is there a way we can meet in the middle?”

• Decide how you will handle the small number of customers who are repeatedly asking for something outside the policies. (The 80-20 rule)

We are just entering into this new phase of super-fast, delivered to your door, over the top service. Convenience and demand take on all new meanings, and the refunds or customer service hoops to make people happy after there is a mix up sometimes are beyond belief.

How is your organization navigating these new waters?

How are these new business practices in customer service impacting your recreation services and programs?

Are you ready for Fall Fundraising?

by Molly Hetrick

Fall is the peak time for falling leaves and for fundraising! Here are some ideas and helpful bits of info for you to consider this fall…

Why Fall? What about the Holidays?

Traditionally people give more in the second half of the year as the holidays approach. Here are the important parts:

  • Get your fall appeal letters and marketing out before Thanksgiving.
    • When do other non-profits and big fundraising organizations get theirs out in your community? Try to work around this…
  • Early December is a good giving time IF your appeal is already out. It’s an excellent time to send email or social media reminders that support your original letter to people with a gentle nudge.
    • If not, do not send an appeal letter in the beginning of December. People are busy, holiday shopping is looming, and it will end up in the recycling!
    • At this point, you’ve missed your chance, so, you can try this next idea…
  • December is an opportunity to re-route holiday giving… instead of giving someone a gift that they may not want, people like Alternative Holiday Giving! What options can you offer?
    • Instead of a gift…
      • Put their name on a brick!
      • Sponsor a kayak!
      • Put their name on a scholarship to send a child to camp!
      • Name a wild animal after them…
      • {Insert your unique creative idea here}
      • No ideas? Offer to either send a special holiday card to the person they are gifting for (this requires extra work for your staff, really tragic if you mix things up) – OR offer them a special fun card to give themselves to the person they gifted for.
  • The last week of December is the big giving week – a great time to support your appeal letter with follow up stories, image similar social media or emails, etc.
    • Motivation at this point is often tax breaks and getting final donations made before December 31. With tax law changes, this is not always possible. Many donors still give even if they cannot claim it on their taxes.
    • This is also when donors remember their Top 3 charities. Your work all year long helps to align you to be one of their top three. If it is the end of December and you haven’t done outreach, start planning for next year to connect people and their passions to your mission.

Other Ideas?

  • Remember all year long to collect emails and addresses so you have an easily accessible list to communicate with for fundraising.
  • Is it okay to send fundraising materials to your participant lists? Double check with your Director, Board, or Attorney, but usually the answer is yes. They participate in your programs and enjoy your parks, they care about your organization, so let them know how things are going and the projects you’re raising money for in the future.
  • Remember Donor Centered Language – if you forget, look back at my previous blog posts.
    • Compare:
      • “We can’t wait to build the new picnic pavilion and we need your help to fund it!” (ie: you are the ATM machine)
      • “Your generous support for the new picnic pavilion will provide a large multi-use space for hundreds of community activities!” (warm and fuzzy!)
      • “Your gift last year made such an impact on the children who attend summer camp, will you consider a gift again this year?” (you matter! You make a difference!)
      • How do these messages feel to you? Which one makes you want to support something?
  • If you can’t handle the details of a large Fall mailing, instead:
    • Set up easy online giving and promote it through social media and eNewsletters…
    • Ask your Board Members to write personal notes or make phone calls to ask for gifts…
    • Create a special giving group and call some donors you know to offer them a special opportunity to make an impact gift towards a particular project… (exclusive, small group!)
    • Send hand written New Year’s cards that include a warm message and “please consider a year end gift to support the programs and services your family loved this year.”

I hope these ideas were helpful and got you thinking about fundraising for the Fall. This is a great time to connect with people, keep them up to date on your programs and projects, and ask them to be part of the exciting upcoming plans.

If you’re still feeling stuck, please reach out to me or to Tim Herd, PRPS CEO, as we are always interested to know what resources would be most helpful for you.

Fundraising Review – DIY consultation

I recently had the opportunity at the invitation of a Board President to visit a local non-profit and review their fundraising, in order to make suggestions and help them take their donations to the next level.

What I found was a wonderful warm group of people with a small overworked staff who does amazing work, a super marketing coordinator who puts out some of the best materials I’ve seen in a long time, innovative new programs, ongoing vital community services, and a really exciting new grant funded construction project.

They are rocking! They’ve got this, what can I possibly add to help?

Well, the need to increase their donors and find ways to encourage participants paying program fees to also make donations, plus engage a wider audience to attract new donors.

It occurred to me in sitting down to write this post that what I prepared for them might also work for you. Here are some things to consider:

  1. How is your social media?
    • Consider adding video or images that show how it “feels” to be a donor. Make it look really exciting and enticing to be part of that group
    • Consider using donor centered language. Instead of saying “Help us serve preschool children” say “You can raise up a child by supporting preschool programs” or “You can be the hero for a child!” (See below for more on this)
  2. Do you have a donor database or list?
    • Gather “everyone”: recent donors, old donors, sponsors, program attendees, vendors, grant coordinators, newsletter lists, etc – AND then ask your Board members to each provide 10 names who can be contacted. (They give their valuable time to your organization, why wouldn’t they want others in their sphere to know about your organization too?)
  3. Define Audience or Segments: who are your audiences, or communication segments, and is your message different or the same for each?
    • Insiders – those connected to and active with your programs
    • Connected – those who are familiar with your programs (think grandparents, teachers, etc)
    • Community – maybe these folks don’t know about your programs but wouldn’t it be great if they did?
  4. Make Donating Easy: I’ll say this simply: WHERE IS YOUR DONATE BUTTON? If I can’t click on your website and immediately see it, fix that first. Don’t lose people on their way to give because its not easy enough. After that:
    • Do you allow facebook fundraisers to be held on your behalf? (Awesome when someone chooses you to support during their birthday)
    • Can people set up a monthly gift? (excellent for cash flow)
    • Do you have a wishlist or list of programs/services they can support?
  5. Use Your Board:
    • Having an event? They get four extra tickets to bring people with them.
    • Having a fundraiser? They call people and champion your cause
    • Sending a mailing? They write a personal note on the mailing before it goes out AND write the thank you note when that person makes a gift.
    • (If they don’t or wont – explore why… consider bringing a consultant in to train them)
    • Ask the Executive Committee of the Board to start a “Give or Get” Policy. Each member has 12 calendar months to give or get $1000… if they want to write a check Jan 1, great. If they are not able to or don’t want to, they have 12 months to get creative with their kids, friends, church, pets, neighbors to raise $1000. Sounds fun, right??

If you don’t have time for all of this, then skip it and just read the rest because I want to talk again (like my last post) about Donor Centered Fundraising. In my experience and training, this has been my main focus. It’s a philosophy, a practice, a physiological exploration, and more. AND, it works.

This is the Very Best graphic I have ever seen to clearly show what we’re talking about. Read through – do you see the difference? Does it make you want to give? If you make no other changes, use this and change your wording. The donor wants to know where THEY fit in to the fantastic things you’re doing, not just about the fantastic things you’re doing. The full article that included this graphic is available here, authored by Cathy Elton.

I hope these suggestions were helpful! Please reach out and ask for help if you need it. You can improve your fundraising in small ways, even if it feels impossible now. Good luck!

Customer Service Calm

While I was preparing for the upcoming Customer Service Workshop, I was pondering something interesting: The inner reaction that we each have when we feel that conflict is about to happen.

For example, a staff person stops in your doorway and says “Mr. Jones is here, he has a problem with his pool pass and he wants to talk to you.”

Do you think “Oh good, I love helping Mr. Jones.”

Or, “Oh no, not Mr. Jones again! Can I crawl under my desk?”

Or, do you have that fall in the pit of your stomach, that dread before a confrontation and the pump of adrenaline facing the unknown situation that sounds like it could be difficult.

All of this is natural, so fear not. When our ancestors heard there was a mastodon nearby trying to get into the cave, they probably grabbed their big club and went out ready for conflict. Imagine their surprise when they discovered a baby mastodon sitting on a rock in the sunshine.

I confess, my natural tendency is to dread confrontation and for the adrenaline spike to indicate I think a problem is looming. But I’ve been providing customer service for my whole career and have worked hard to train myself to approach with curiosity instead of dread.

Recently a customer sent a harried email asking a question and I assured her that the project she asked about was completed and in the mail. It was! When she complained again that no mail had come and I went back to review the project, it turns out she was NOT one of the customers who signed up for this. Uh oh! Here she is waiting and waiting impatiently, now I need to tell her it’s not coming ever because she was never on the 2020 list.

I pictured anger, finger pointing, and recriminations. I took a deep breathe, lined up my facts, prepared to call her. Guess what – SHE apologized to ME! Not at all what I was expecting! I wish I had approached the situation with calm and curiosity, instead of dread.

How can we do this?

Confidence: I know my job. I know the range of options I can offer the customer. I can think on my feet when their questions surprise me.

Calm: this customer is having a bad day, but I’m okay. This customer is having an emotional reaction to the situation, but I will keep my emotions calm.

What works for you?

Sometimes its back up – knowing you have someone to help if you need it. Maybe it’s a matter of training or being clear on what options are available to offer a customer.

Sometimes its learning the customer’s name and figuring out what makes them tick. And being aware of your own source of calm to draw on when things do get difficult.

Never Stop Fundraising…

We are all busy, so I will keep this post fairly short. What I have to say is easy to say, and repeat:

You Never Stop Fundraising. Your Board Never Stops Fundraising.

Now, if that sounds like the stuff of nightmares, I understand. It feels like a long road into the distance to crawl with your hand out and your brain weary from fundraising endlessly into oblivion.

Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

It’s not so bad. Some people like to call it “Friend-raising” because it sounds hopeful and fun and better somehow. Sometimes fundraising isn’t the word to use, and your Boards – particularly tax supported entities – don’t really like that word at all. They prefer grants, stipends, and sponsorships.

That is all in the weeds, though. The reason I am bringing this up is from seeing people in non-profit and recreation settings really married to the budget. That little line item #107 says bring in $35,000 in sponsorships and donations this year, so Jan 1 the clock starts ticking and they get busy. (This definitely used to be me, I will admit!) If that amount is amazingly raised by April, they stop, thankful that this line item is met and they can take a break. Others labor away through the year until let’s say October it is finally met and then collapse in exhaustion.

Okay – it’s not that bad, right? The point is, if you meet the goal in April, don’t stop! Maybe you change directions, maybe you take a little break… maybe you pass the task to your Interns (Interns can come up with some amazing Gen Z style fundraising stuff that will blow your mind)… maybe you ask the Board to start Friend-raising for next year’s campaign… maybe you ask a Sponsor for a different type of partnership or to suggest another sponsor. But don’t stop. Your organization needs the money, so keep the momentum and the process going.

In this way, you’re not looking at that line item so much as you’re seeing what you can do. What can the people around you do? With curiosity and a fresh approach, there are a lot of possibilities based on the relationships you’ve created in the community and the willingness of others to give to support your cause. From small opportunities like Facebook birthday fundraisers or a single giving day to bigger opportunities to raise for a park or crowdfund a new feature, there are a lot of chances throughout the year to keep up the communication and momentum with people in the community. This will gather more people and keep your fundraising going without feeling like such a long challenging road. Good luck!

Civility – It Starts with You

Most days, it feels like the world has gone mad. Or at least, it’s tilted on its axis in a new way, so we’re all getting used to things being different.

When my calendar reminded me that way back at the end of 2019 I agreed to write this blog post on Civility in August, I must confess, I literally blanked. Civility? Is it even a thing anymore?

My mind whirled with images: people are angry and afraid – about money, about their futures, about their health, about the state of the country and its leadership, about so many things. And I watch in awe as it manifests in the complete feeling of entitlement to shout at strangers in the grocery store who have a different mask choice than you do (including ramming and injuring that person with a cart or tearing a display of masks to shreds while shouting epitaphs)… to road rage… to writing nasty hateful messages on the Governor’s social media pages or shouting at School Administrators who are not making the choice that most fits your individual family needs.

No need to go on about that. We’re living it.

So where does Civility, Kindness, Compassion, and Humor have a place in this angry, stressed, and in some cases mentally unstable world.

Woman Smiling Photo
Can you see her smile? YES – look at the eyes and cheeks…

Let me suggest a theory – it all starts with YOU. With Each of Us. Because you can only control you, but also because you have influence.

Yesterday I was curving through the strangely laid out parking lot of a busy Starbucks when I came parallel with the drive through and the woman in that car started to pull forward without looking. I immediately slowed and there we were, door side to door side, face to face through our windows, who was going to go first. I confess, the weary part of my brain wanted to say “thanks for pulling ahead without looking” but it was a weary thought, and certainly not accompanied by any hand gestures etc. But the woman saw me and smiled – WOW – and waved me forward. So I then waved my thanks with a happy smile and we waved and laughed and waved again as I pulled my car forward. WOW, how lovely, civility and humor and friendliness in a dark world.

I wonder if we can find our own level equilibrium, take our own deep breath before we go forth into the world, and try harder than ever to be civil and kind in this crazy place.

Even smiling feels hard – with the mask on. I’ve heard people say they are amusing themselves by making funny faces behind the mask, or whispering words. I think a good old fashioned smile is still important. And a verbal hello equally so. (Remember the 5 foot 10 foot rule? Let’s do it!)

I recently attended the Global Leadership Summit (virtually!) and had the opportunity to listen to amazing thought leaders  from around the world speak about the challenges that face us and our world. An additional session that I particularly enjoyed was Vanessa Van Edwards and her theories on human interaction.

Let me share two tidbits that I pulled from her presentation.

1) Your smile still shows behind your mask. Have you ever seen a smile that “didn’t reach someone’s eyes”? It’s like the fake “I will show you my teeth” smile but the eyes are flat. Well, a genuine smile includes the muscles around the eyes, the eye shape, the lines around the eyes (yes!), and the forehead. So SMILE smile smile behind that mask. And say a verbal hello.

2) From back in the caveman days, people are primed to see our hands. If we have our hands behind our backs, the amygdala in the brain starts to wonder, what are they up to? When the hands are visible but neutral, the other person’s brain is signaled that “I am a friend”. Vanessa literally suggested, and this is important for all these virtual meetings too, that when we approach someone we do a two handed wave. Sounds cheesy but she demonstrated with three wags of her right hand and then three wags of the left hand. That “hi-hi-hi” with each hand is a calm and friendly opening to “prime” the other person for a good interaction with us.

Now, if we apply that idea, let’s say you’re walking up to someone while smiling behind your mask, a friendly hello, and both hands lifted in whatever wave feels comfortable. This is priming – you’re getting the interaction started off on the right foot.

I’ll leave you with one last story… My friend was walking into our local Walmart, masked, when he observed at the entrance a middle aged man yelling and swearing at the young female staff person who was asking/telling people they must wear a mask in the store. My friend walked up and said “Hey buddy, back off, she’s just doing what she was told to do.” The guy pulled back, perhaps embarrassed, and then stomped off to his car to get a mask. My friend hung around and chatted with the woman, who confided how frightening and exhausting her job is right now, when she gets abuse every few minutes for the hours that she’s working that post. Can you imagine!? I would be a puddle of tears on the sidewalk.

Now, why did that interaction work? My friend said “Hey buddy” in a friendly reasonable tone, AND put his hands up in front of him with palms out, to show non-confrontation. It very easily could have gone the other way into violence.

What happened next? Two things – the man came back and apologized to both of them. He said things are just really getting to him lately, he can’t keep his cool. He was embarrassed but with a lot of head nodding, he entered the store (masked).

Also, my friend remained, arms crossed over his chest (which is more confrontational) and hung out with the staff person for about 20 minutes chatting. Three more times, he used the same language to defend her but they also observed together that people were less likely to yell at her with him standing there and she was grateful for the break. Interestingly – men were less likely to yell at her and passed by with grumbles, but women still felt completely comfortable to yell, including at my friend. (I would love to do a psychological study on that one).

So, in wrapping up:

Can you be the pleasant one, in whatever situation you find yourself in?

Can you embrace humor and find – and share – laughter in a world gone crazy?

If YOU are the one who is teetering so close to losing your cool, who can you ask for help? Whether that is helping you get groceries so you aren’t tempted to ram people with your cart or just talk with you about the things that are piling up?

Can we be that breath of fresh friendly air for someone else?

Can we help someone who is getting ready to melt down or protect someone (carefully) who is being verbally attacked?

It all starts with You – with US – each of us. We can be the spark for good or ill, and we must make a concerted effort to do just that.

I have an old purple T shirt that says “Build a Better World” in bright script. I’ve worn it for years without a comment, but recently, wearing it while traveling, many many people commented on it. Even a fun and friendly T shirt is a start.

Be well.

Internal Customer Service Challenge

It’s funny when I know there is a blog post coming up about Customer Service, the Universe seems to present me with a variety of examples.

Rather than tell you about the extremely rude behavior that I experienced at a big box store regarding curbside options, which drove me to a store where I paid more just to get good service and ask a few simple questions, I’ll tell you instead a story from a colleague.

The setting of this story is a library, but it could be anywhere. A staff person had a difficult interaction with a customer and was angry and upset about what happened. And it became a problem. The staff person said “I don’t like that woman at all. Every time she comes in here, when I’m working at the desk, I give her the stink-eye. I make sure that she knows she is not welcome here and she’s not going to get any service from me! I will not help her and I don’t want her here.”

portrait photo of woman frowning
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Um… ouch. (I know that is not very eloquent, but it’s the best I can do while my mouth is hanging open.) Where should we start with this one?

Let’s put ourselves in this staff person’s shoes first… we’ve ALL had bad customers. Mean ones, rude ones, sharp ones, forgetful ones, angry ones, odd ones… along with all the wonderful customers. Most of us have never had the luxury (or even considered that it was possible?) to give a customer the “stink-eye” and refuse to wait on her. But this staff person decided that was her prerogative and this was her course of action.

Let’s put ourselves in a Management role. First, we may not know this is even happening, unless the staff person, the customer, or other staff tell us. But once we know… how would you handle this? Imagine that this is happening at the front desk of your Recreation Center and a staff person is glaring at a person coming in for yoga class… or refusing to assist a parent bringing a child for summer camp registration. Imagine this is happening at your swimming pool desk or the service area at the State Park.

Now, the missing puzzle piece is, we do not know what this customer did to make the staff person so upset. But either way, we cannot have our staff behaving this way. How do we convey and train – and enforce – that every customer must be treated fairly and with respect – even when they do not return it to us. Staff on the front line are there to serve whoever needs service to the best of their ability. They are being paid for that job, they are expected to perform it, and are not ethically or personally allowed to decide who they choose to help or not help.

Likewise, this type of behavior trickles to other customers and can affect funding – especially if you’re a tax based entity. Unless the customer is breaking the code of conduct or behavior policy and management has to get involved, that person is still to be served.

Tricky? Absolutely. Especially if you do not have a Code of Conduct (or Customer Service Standards, Civility Standards, etc) that explain behavior for both customers and staff. What levels of respect and courtesy are expected – from both staff and patrons?  Can you ask a customer to leave your facility if they break these standards – yes – and can you discipline a staff person if they break the standards – yes.

Without them, it is much harder to illustrate expected behaviors, outline consequences, administer these guidelines, and get everyone on the same page.

Back to the staff person… while she is on the clock and working in your facility, this is not acceptable behavior. The fact that she thinks it’s her choice to behave this way – and she has the nerve to do so – speaks to her character and may mean this is not someone you wish to have on your staff. No one wants customers to be rude or have conflict with a staff person, and we must support and train our staff on how to successfully work through those interactions. This one, for me, crosses a line. I hope you’ll use this as a thought provoking exercise for yourself and give it some thought. How would you handle this? Or toss it to your managers at your staff next meeting and ask for open dialogue. What needs to be brought out into the open, discussed, explained, written or trained to help everyone have a positive work environment and not let a situation like this occur? It’s a step in the right direction!

 

The Importance of Internal Customer Service

You’re committed to Customer Service with your team and yet things are still not going smoothly…

You’re doing things like investing funds in training, modeling for staff, and encouraging staff to always take care of the customer. And yet… the staff is getting burned out and frustrated, customers still call to complain, and the cycle goes on.

What is happening?

Let’s take a look at Internal Customer Service, which is the facet of providing exceptional customer service that is often missed.

How staff interacts with each other, support each other, and do their jobs in ways that make others jobs go smoothly, is vital to the whole customer service cycle.

Here is a definition I really liked, from Micah Solomon in his Forbes.com article:

Internal customer service is when we provide customer service to the people we work with, helping them to do their best to serve external customers and promote the interests of our company.

woman working girl sitting

Let me walk you through some things to consider:

A staff person working at the front desk of a recreation office works hard to provide excellent customer service to a repeat customer who can be difficult, asks for extras, and has had complaints in the past. They carefully take down the rental request details – let’s say it’s for a picnic pavilion – noting for co-workers on the crew at that park all the important details this customer has outlined.

When the parks crew leader gets the information via electronic form, they are instantly irritated by the list of special requests and extra details that were promised to this customer, partly because the front desk staff doesn’t want to “be the bad guy” and say no. The policy states no extra customized set up – you take the pavilion as you find it – so the parks crew is very aware that their co-workers are making extra work for them and setting the customer up for complaints if they refuse to do it.

The customer, happily walking away after making the reservation, will either be:

    1. a) very unhappy when she arrives at the pavilion and finds it not set up to her specifications and yell at the first parks crew member she can find – and/or call the front desk the next day, or
    2. b) be extremely pleased to see her requests were fulfilled and return with even more special requests next time.

The parks crew leader is going to have a few choice words to say to the person in the front office, and there is now a cycle of conflict where co-workers cannot rely on each other, trust each other to do what’s best for all, or generally work together. The front office cannot call and say “hey, I need a really special favor this time” because there is no cohesive feeling or emotional capital in the bank.

Some other examples:

        • Someone uses the last pool pass form and doesn’t copy more
        • Someone leaves a mess in the staff lounge and doesn’t clean it up
        • Someone doesn’t put the kayaks away properly, making extra work for the next day’s crew

Another way of looking at Internal Customer Service: Working with a team of IT staff, we asked them to define their jobs. Since they knew they were sitting in customer service training, their answers very carefully included “the customer.”

        • Keep the website up-to-date and running so the customer can get information
        • Maintain the database and registration system so the customer can register for programs and passes
        • Monitor and maintain the wireless internet system so customers can have Wi-Fi during meetings and activities

Great! Yes… and, what if we ask these folks to re-word their job definitions based on their work with their co-workers?

      • Keep the website up-to-date and running so fellow staff members can access information and assist customers
      • Maintain the database and registration system so staff can efficiently do their jobs and provide excellent service to customers
      • Monitor and maintain the wireless internet system so staff do not have to troubleshoot and try to fix at the last minute when it goes down during a customer’s activity

Other examples might include:

      • Set up the projector and laptop system in the conference room so the Director can smoothly and professionally make the budget presentation to elected officials
      • Have an efficient system to onboard new staff members with email addresses and system access so new hire employees can be trained and welcomed smoothly

The bottom line is this: we need to treat our co-workers with the same respect, courtesy, kindness, promptness, and thoughtfulness that we provide to customers outside our organization.

When you call a boating outfitter, you expect to have a pleasant phone greeting, a variety of options, and a helpful person to guide you through getting the equipment you need. When you call your own boathouse at the park you work for, do you get the same thing?

This is a much more challenging training situation and requires open conversation, time for team bonding within the staff, training and communication about civility expectations, and consequences if new internal customer service protocols are not respected.

It is well worth the time invested to work through this with your team!

The “We” in Fundraising

I was recently asked “What is the one piece of fundraising advice you would give me, if you could pick only one?”

And I answered “Stop using the word WE.”

Now, that takes a little bit of explanation, but I promise, it’s a game-changer.

Let’s explore this…

You sit down to write a fundraising letter or marketing materials… what do you want to tell your potential donors? About your successes, about your accomplishments and credentials, how you’re different than other groups, your mission, and your needs…

This translates on paper and gets sent to the donor, who – I promise you – skims rapidly through your letter. What they see in their skimming is this:WE image

“We have reached our goal of… we offer programs to… we exceeded our project with… we meet the needs of the community… we need your help to move to the next step.”

Now, put your donor hat on and re-read that. Where do I (the donor) fit into this, other than to pay the bill?

Donors often say that they feel like an ATM machine, only contacted when someone needs money. The WE where we talk about the importance of our work is leaving out the very person we hope will help us.

Ah…. That brings me to the next important point. Watch out for the “Us” as well.

Writers think “us” sounds inclusive and will make people feel like part of the group, but it rarely does.

You may wonder why I would write a whole blog post on this – but remember, its my #1 choice top advice to give about fundraising when asked. There is an identified psychological element to the wording used in fundraising messages and how the donor responds.

I recently got a post card that said “Please help us build our new Park!”

Again, think like the donor… an engaged citizen who cares about the community and the recreation agency, or has children who benefited from recreation programs, but is also a tax payer and very busy person with bills and a life etc.

“Please help us (the parks agency) build our (the park agency’s) new Park!”

This sounds a lot like “We need money and you should give it to us.” Or as I like to explain it “Please help us pay our bills”

Now, this is not just my opinion. I particularly am fascinated by the language used in fundraising, copy-writing, and the psychological connection. If you want to learn more, research Donor Centered Fundraising.

So, let’s wrap this up: What would work better, make the donor feel included and welcome, and bring in dollars?

Original: Help us build our new park!

Instead: Join us! Let’s build a new park!

Note that “us” in this example feels inclusive, us all together.

Original: “We need your help to build our new playground!

Note here that the writer means for the “our” to be inclusive, everyone will feel excited about our new park, but it does not come across that way. Instead it sounds like “help us pay our bills”.

Instead: A New Community Playground! Will you help?

Better yet, try to include the word “you”. You the donor are vital to the success of this community project, you the donor can join this cause and be special, you (donor) can be a hero to so many kids!

Now do you feel the energy?

You can enjoy the new expanded playground with your family (future feeling) or You can make a big difference (feel like the hero).

As you’re writing, put yourself in the donor’s shoes and think carefully about the we-us-you’s that you use in the writing. It can really make a big difference!

A New Perspective on Civility

Civility means different things to different people. So, when we start dialogues in our workplaces about civility or the lack there of, plus the expectations of civility and what that looks like, we have to consider how each of us approaches the topic in a different way.

For example, I was taught that nice little girls are polite no matter what. I spent a large part of my younger years giving a social answer or self-deprecating answer, always folding under in the face of a louder or more strident opinion. Don’t rock the boat; never take a chance on offending someone. INPE0576

Let’s say someone else has the idea “It’s okay for me to always speak my mind, and I don’t care who I offend, it’s my right to say what I think.”

It is upbringing, experience, personality, emotional capacity, moral compass, and more that effects our actions and decisions about what civility is…

In workshops, when we start a dialogue about what Civility “is,” the answers vary widely but seem to follow the theme of how others behave or how others treat us.

Comments about Civility include:

·  I hate when people let the door slam on you. People need to look behind them and hold the door for other people.

·  I want someone to respect that I have different beliefs, and not make comments about my choices.

·  I want him to agree to disagree, and try to maintain politeness with me in future interactions, and I will do the same.

·  When people interrupt me, especially in meetings, its rude and I’d like people to be aware of that and try not to interrupt.

·  I think we should all try to be kinder, and put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

The phrasing is interesting sometimes, in that people often talk about what others should do: “People should slow down and stop tailgating” or “people should stop talking so loudly on their cell phones…”

So, let’s try a different exercise. How are YOU going to be more civil? Because we only control ourselves, right? But we have the power to influence others.

So, let’s try this:

·  Today, I am going to be kind to people, even something small like a smile.

·  I’m going to be aware of the challenges others face and try to put myself in their shoes.

·  I’m going to say hello to everyone I pass on the street, no matter who it is.

·  I’m going to be aware of the mess I leave in the staff kitchen and work harder to clear it up.

·  I’m going to get to know Tom better, since he and I do not see eye to eye, so that we have a more common ground to operate from at work.

Now, THESE have a little more substance to them, they are action based, and they start with “me.” I can influence others, inspire others, affect others, but only control myself.

The next step of civility is to see how long it lasts. It’s human nature that I intend to smile and say hello to everyone I pass in the hallway at the office, until someone is mean to me and then — forget it! People are mean to me so I’m not going to be nice to them… it’s a lot harder to maintain the civility in the face of rudeness, thoughtlessness, and aggressive behavior.

INPE0580

Take that to a global scale, we see it play out in conflicts all over the country and the world.

So, maybe we can all take a few minutes to think about how we feel about civility. Is it the way I want or expect others to treat me? Is it the way I intend to treat others? And how do we – all of us – sustain it, no matter how another person behaves?

There is no magic answer and it’s not easy, but within our workplaces, it is important that we start conversations about civility, about mutual respect for all people (everyone gets the same hello as the CEO), and how we want our workplaces to feel. The actions then are not pointing fingers at others, but our own ownership for being part of the solution.

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