Great Customer Service

I recently finished reading Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service.  I’ve been obsessing with Zingerman’s Bakehouse breads lately and I have a Zing BAKE! class on my schedule for later this month, so when I saw this book on the audiobook shelf at the Library, I jumped at the chance.

It was read by the author, Ari Weinzweig, who outrageously gave his office phone number out at the beginning, saying that anyone who had questions could just call his office to discuss. Talk about service!  Anyhow, he talked a lot about ways that good companies could give good service, and while I have forgotten the finer details of it, I do know that I know great service when I see it.  (Here’s a link to their 5 steps for dealing with a complaint, along with some of their other customer service mantras)

I wanted to call out and give examples of two companies that recently left me pleasantly surprised by their approach to customer service.

The first is Woot.com.  I had recently ordered a box of batteries. (Skynet is eating them for lunch.)  When I got the box, I opened it up to find that instead of 72 AA batteries, I had 72 AAA batteries. In all of my life, I don’t think I will use that many AAA batteries.  I wrote in to ask about an exchange, because I really did want those AAs.  I got a quick email acknowledging that my correct order was on its way.

A day or two later, Woot sent out the following email, presumably to all the customers who had purchased batteries during that particular sale.

Dear Battery Lover,

How many times have you gone to the store to buy AA batteries, picked up what you thought was the correct package, paid for it, taken it home… and only then noticed you bought the wrong freakin’ type? You always feel kinda dumb, right? Now imagine if you did that something like one thousand times in a row.

Which is our way of saying that yes, we DID finally notice that we sent you the wrong batteries. If you ordered AA you got AAA and vice versa. We’re the goofballs here and we’re sorry for the mistake. Now, let’s tell you how we’re makin’ it right.

FIRST: keep those batteries we sent you. Put ’em in your remote or your smoke detector or penlight or whatever. They’re yours now. Enjoy!

SECOND: Be aware we’re sending you the batteries you actually wanted, at no additional charge. They’re the ones you asked for, right? Of course you still want ’em!

And please, learn from our mistakes. Always count the number of A’s in your battery type. Always.

Apologetically,
Woot.com

Super awesome, right?  Here’s what they did right:
#1 – They acknowledged that there was a problem
#2 – They apologized sincerely and with a sense of humor
#3 – They made it right, and they made it easy. (I was ready to ship the AAAs back to them)

I have long loved Woot for the sense of humor that they bring to everything that they do.

The second example I wanted to share was the great way Nature Box handled my request to cancel my service.  Let me tell you right up front, I like Nature Box’s service. Basically, you sign up for a $20/month subscription and they send you a box of snacks each month. I felt like it was good value for money, and the snacks were tasty and healthy.  I decided ultimately that mye money was better spent on something else, but I highly recommend the service. (Try the Lemon Pucker Pistachios. You won’t regret it!)

Normally, you don’t praise a company for how they treat you when you cancel, but they did me right.  I knew that if I called they’d try to keep me subscribing, so I went the email route.  This is how it unfolded:

Dear Naturebox-
I’d like to cancel my subscription please and thank you. It is a lovely service, but I think at this time, my priorities lie elsewhere. I have enjoyed my time with you, and let me assure you, it’s not you, it’s me. 😉

Best-
Brady Emmett

Hi Brady,

Thanks so much for your message! I’m sad to hear that you want to cancel your NatureBox subscription

You have been a wonderful customer of ours for so long and I can’t explain how much we appreciate that! We miss you already just thinking about it. [yadda yadda… retention sales pitch deleted here – bpe]

Don’t feel bad if you are not interested, I really just wanted to let you know about this before you go. If you would rather part ways, let me down easy with a simple response to this email 😉

Thank you very much for all you have done for our company. If you have any questions, I am all ears. I really look forward to hearing from you soon!
Andrew

Andrew C.
Professional Snack Concierge since 2013

Hey Andrew-
I really think we should see other people. Maybe at some point in the future (I really liked the Lemon Pucker Pistachios. Those were good times.)
Let’s remember the good in the relationship. 😉

Thanks for cancelling my account!

Best-
Brady

Hi Brady,

Thanks for kind let down haha I speak for the entire NatureBox family when I say, I am sad to see you go 🙁 That being said, I’ve gone ahead and cancelled your subscription. We will not charge your card from this point forward and you should receive an email confirming this shortly.

Remembering the good times,
Andrew C.

I don’t know if you caught that, but my professional snack conceirge played along with me. He had a script, sure, and what kind of customer service rep doesn’t, but he broke out of it to respond directly to me and it honestly left me with a huge smile. If I didn’t have a rule about how many subscriptions I can have at any one time, I totally would have resubscribed right then and there. I still highly recommend it (If you want to try it out, this is my referral link: http://fbuy.me/MFds you get $10 off, and I get a $10 credit, which I will happily spend).

So, that’s how you do great customer service.  Have you had any good experiences with customer service? What about awful ones?

PS If you want a revelation, try Zingerman’s Chocolate Cherry bread. If you are family, and you come visit me, I will buy you some. 😀

Phoning it in

I am sitting on an eep! day on Beeminder.com and if I don’t publish something on my blog, I owe them $5.  I also went to the dentist today and my face is swollen and all I want to do is lie on the couch and watch Frozen, and because of the stupid Target data breach, I can’t even do that. (Chase cancelled my card, and I failed to update my preorder with my new card, so I won’t get it until tomorrow.)

So I’m phoning it in.  Sure it barely counts, but whatever. Here’s a phoned in blog post.

I was going to write about good customer service experiences that I’ve recently had.  Guess that’s for next time, and maybe this will teach me to get a little ahead of my Beeminder.

 

February Recap

February is usually the longest month for me.  I usually suffer my annual breakdown in February where I am deeply and desperately despairing for spring and light and meaning and love.

This year, I don’t feel like I had that breakdown. I’m very happy about that.  I think it is mostly due to some pharmaceutical interventions, which I will take, but I also think that I am in a healthier place over all.

I checked my diary just now. Yeah, you heard me. It is a daily record book, which is what diary means. And I have a very manly leather cover, so stuff it. Men write diaries. Shut up.

In February, I whined a lot about the weather. To be fair, Detroit has ranked #1 in the Winter Misery Index this year.  So I feel totally justified.

I taught the lesson in my Primary class a few times. (So glad for co-teachers). I’m still a little unsure of my footing there. I figure no one has burst into tears yet, and they are mostly listening and occasionally expressing insights (and begging for treats at every possible opportunity), so that’s a good thing.  Plus I like Sharing Time a whole lot more than I like EQ.

I started a meal planning service this month. I love to cook, but I’m terrible at planning, so I’m constantly buying food that gets thrown away. But with this service, I get a weekly recipe list with shopping list.  Since I know how to cook, it’s not a big deal, and I know how to substitute things in and out.  I’m also trying to be mostly vegetarian at home, so it is helpful to have someone else take the pain out of trying to figure out what that actually means.  I have found that making 4 to 5 of the meals each week on their 1-2 person plan gives me enough for both dinners and leftovers for lunches, and the variety is pretty awesome.  I also like that I can try other meal plans if I want to switch things up. (I’ve been wanting to try paleo, for example.) The service is eMeals, and if you want to try it out, this is my referral link. I have learned that there are lots of discounts and also that there is a Groupon or LivingSocial deal fairly regularly, so you can get a year for incredibly cheap if you try.

I also fixed a leaky toilet this month. I felt very much like a successful home owner when I took the thing apart and put it back together with a new seal.  It only leaked a little at first and that was nothing that a little tightening of the nuts and bolts couldn’t fix.

My favorite creation of the month was a chocolate bread pudding made with Chocolate Cherry Bread from Zingerman’s. It was very rich and decadent.  I based my recipe on this one from Serious Eats.  Substitute in any chocolate bread, but especially a chocolate bread from the Zing, and you are golden.

Other goals are coming along well.  I finally started making some progress on my star quilt when I got a quilting hoop in. I have figured out the running / hand quilting stitch and I’m getting good at it. The number of times that I had go to Joanne’s to get one more thing is amazing.  (Also learned that they will accept coupons from your phone, so always google Joanne’s coupons while you are standing in line.)

Also, got the second edition of Say Hey, Doctor K edited and uploaded.  Have you seen them yet? They are really fun, and I’m learning a lot about editing and video production. I think I made Doctor K a little nervous with how long it took me to get started this month, but we got there in the end.  Here’s one of them: you should subscribe!

That’s the highlights of my February. Hope yours was great.

Winter Fun Facts

Ann Arbor is presently the 7th Snowiest city in the US, with 74 inches total snowfall this season (including this morning’s storm).

I have shoveled my driveway and walk 11 times since January 1st, an average of 1x every 4 days.  The longest that I have gone without shoveling was 19 days between the 5th and 24th of January (I was out of town for 5 days in that period, and I think Rob picked up a time or two).  I shoveled 4 days in a row from Jan 24 to Jan 27.

It takes between 30 and 45 minutes to shovel. This morning, I took approximately 2300 steps while shoveling.

The snowbanks at the end of my driveway are nearly 5 feet tall.  I could hide at least 11 of my 13 nieces and nephews in them. The oldest two might be able to peek out the top.

I have gotten stuck in said snowbanks backing out of my driveway twice.  At least two other people have had to be rescued from said snowbanks.

My longest commute involved at least an hour and a half of driving after getting stuck in the snowbank for half an hour.  It felt like half of that was in downtown Dearborn, just a few miles from the office.

I have a raised bed garden space in the back yard.  I can’t see it.  There are at least two steps from my back door to the patio. I also can’t see them.

Days since I saw Frozen: 52.
Days since I downloaded the Frozen soundtrack: 28
Days since I preordered Frozen: 12
Days until I receive Frozen: 28
Number of times I’ve made a joke to myself about Disney turning down the Viral Marketing campaign already: approximately 100

 

2014 Resolutions

I’ve been putting this off.   Here goes, it is largely based on last years goals:

[ ] Create more

[ ] Constellation Quilt
[ ] Say Hey Doctor K video collab 1x/month
[ ] Blog 2x/month
[ ] Daily Diary

[ ] Be kinder

[ ] Be more active

[ ] Symbolic Bike Riding Goal (tbd)
[ ] More steps than 2013
[ ] Do more yoga

[ ] Cook more

[ ] Plan meals
[ ] More Vegetarian Meals

[ ] Spend out
[ ] Plan better

[ ] Plant a garden

[ ] Eat what I grow

[ ] Be ok
[ ] Be braver
[ ] Be a good Primary teacher
[ ] Deliberate practices – 1000 paper cranes
[ ] Host more dinners
[ ] Invest in relationships
[ ] Take a class
[ ] Do things I’m not good at

Update 2/28 – Finally figured out what I want my 2014 Theme to be: Engage

2013 Resolution Wrap-up

So, wrap-up time.  My 2013 resolutions were a thing. Given the nature of my goals, some of which were more of a becoming thing than a doing thing, it’s kind of hard to know exactly how I did.   I’ll try to give my thoughts about how they went, and some thoughts about how I want to proceed in 2014. Look for a new post with those as I finalize them (still considering how I want to approach them. I’m thinking of doing an RPG style game/goal this year.)

[ ] Create more  – I’m gonna give this a Fail. I don’t really think that I specifically created more this year. Although I tried a little, it wasn’t as much of a focus as I wanted it to be.  I did work on a model airplane for a while at the beginning of the year, I never really finished it.  I had wanted to do some video blogs, but never really got anywhere with that. 

[ ] Be kinder – With a few notable exceptions, I think I was a little kinder this year. I have to continue to work on it. I’m not very patient sometimes, and that leads me to do things that are unkind.  Pass, with continuing efforts.

[ ] Be more active – I’m going to say I achieved this goal. It probably could have been more measurable.  I can use my step count as a fairly good surrogate for my activity level.  In 2012, I recorded 1,880,902 steps.  In 2013, I recorded 2,198,161, a 16% increase.  On average, I took 6211 steps per day in 2013, compared to my long term average of about 5499 steps.

Here’s my step Beeminder goal this year.

[ ] Row the length of the Huron – Nailed it.  This was a symbolic goal (I did very little on the actual Huron this year, I think one float on Labor Day…), so it was really to pull 21,000 strokes on my rowing machine. Going into this, I wasn’t sure if I could do this. In the end, I probably could have doubled it, if I had really tried.  I finished up at the end of November.  I had a few eep! days, but I never fell off the road.  Here’s my Beeminder graph:

[ ] Cook more – I don’t have a baseline to compare to, but I think I did do a better job after I got several talkings to by my doctor.  Vegtember helped a lot, since it is very difficult to find vegetarian meals in the frozen food aisle.  I’ll give it a win.

[ ] Spend out – This one was one of those becoming goals.  I defined it as a reminder to not hoard, to use, to be willing to spend on quality.  It’s one that I need to continue to work on, but I feel like I’m remembering to spend out. (Now if I could just convince myself to replace my ragged work shoes with quality!)

[ ] Take a real vacation – I’m going to give this a double win.  The purpose was to take a vacation to a place I wanted to go and see things that I wanted to see on my own. In April, I visited Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival and in October I headed down to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.  Both were incredibly cool. (I was playing with the idea of Costa Rica or Orlando for the October trip, but I delayed planning too long for both of those. Maybe this year!)

 

563780_10151532104103467_1543155410_n
Me at the Cherry Blossom Festival in  DC
1000627_10151937816828467_289567436_n
Mammoth Caves – Rainbow Room

 

[ ] Plan better – I’m going to give this a Fail.  I was terrible at it this year. I think I did ok with the planning for our Family Reunion in December, but that was about the only thing.  Both of my vacations were fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experiences, and I missed out on a conference I wanted to attend because I didn’t plan far enough in advance.  Could use some better planning at work too, although for routine things, it went alright.

[ ] Plant a garden – Winner.  I planted a great garden. I struggled to keep up with it, my squash failed to thrive, and I regretted not planting green beans, but it was a resounding success. This year, I plan to expand my raised beds (I converted my non-raised bed into a bulb flower garden), and do a better job of eating what I grow!

[ ] Be ok- This one is a hard one to measure. I’m going to give it a pass though, based on one experience.  In the late summer/early fall, I could tell I was slipping back into depression (stupid brain not doing what it is supposed to!). My sleep was disordered and I was finding little joy in life. I asked for help, and got it, and am doing much much better now. That qualifies as being ok, I think.

[ ] Be braver – Again, a hard one to measure. I’m going to mark this goal as one to keep working on. I can’t think of anything that says I failed, but I can’t think of anything that says I didn’t fail, either.

[ ] Be believing – This is one of my major struggles. I’ll keep working on it.

[ ] Deliberate practices – I struggled here too.  I’ve got a few ideas for deliberate practices for the new year including keeping a diary and possibly folding paper cranes for the sake of folding paper cranes.  Possibly some meditation.

[ ] Host more dinners – I hosted a few, including my first Thanksgiving at my new house.  I don’t know if I hosted more or less than in prior years. I don’t feel like I hosted enough dinners specifically, plenty of parties and get-togethers (and Rob did a lot of the planning for those…). I have a specific goal to host 12 dinners (at least 1 a month) in 2014.  That way I will know if I accomplished it or not.

[ ] Invest in relationships – I did alright with this one.  I’m doing better with my family relationships, especially now that most of my immediate family have begun to text more frequently. (Got to maintain favorite uncle status! I have a nefarious plan for that in 2014! Watch out, other contenders!)  I’d like to do better outside of my family. I’m considering The Friends Game to help myself in 2014.

[ ] Dress better, take better care of my appearances – I’m going to give this a win.  I bought (and used!) a can of spray starch, I made certain to iron my shirts, I invested in higher quality clothes, especially dress shirts. (I have one with a monogram on the sleeve now! How fancy is that?)

[ ] Take a class – A win, but kind of a combined win-slash-maybe I’m cheating.  I took a yoga class… See next goal.

[ ] Do more yoga – Yep, Winner. I took a yoga class, which I really enjoyed.  I should have re-enrolled, but I didn’t. Guess there’s always this year.  Also, Yoga X from P90X is intense. I can making it through the dynamic standing poses, but by about 45 minutes in, when it gets to static poses, I die, every single time.

[ ] Shave with a razor – Winner. I don’t think I used my electric razor more than once or twice while traveling this year. I don’t know why I never went with a regular razor before. I can get away with only shaving every other day, and my side burns have never looked better.  Also, so much smoother!

[ ] Do things I’m not good at – I’m going to go with Fail on this one. I think it slid off my radar, and I continue to avoid doing the things that I’m not good at. I’ll have to try again.

In addition to these resolutions, I also did a series of monthly challenges, although not every month got one.  I for sure won February, March and Vegtember.

So, mostly successful in 2013.  I’ve got some things to continue to work on.  I’ve got some goals for 2014, which I am still mulling over.

How did things go for you?  Did you win 2013?

 

#ReplaceWordInAMovieWithBacon

Ok, I’ll bite:

Resolutions Update

So, you can see from the graphs in the post below how I did with my personal challenge to try to get 10,000 steps in a day.  If you throw out the final data point for a day when I forgot my Fitbit, I averaged about 9600 steps a day, which is a fantastic average.  My long term average is 5,400.  I had 16 days over 10K steps, which is the same as what I had in all of 2012.  I ended up getting a new Fitbit One mid-month, when my Fitbit Classic kind of fell to pieces.

2013-03-10 08.58.37-3

 

Things I learned:
– To get that many steps, I have to do a Morning Mile without fail. (Thank goodness for Radiolab)
– It’s still pretty cold in the mornings in March.
– The Fitbit One has a nifty feature that allows it to vibrate an alarm. I use it to remind me to get up and walk around at work mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
– I still have troubles getting my steps up on Sundays
– The Briarwood Mall is about 1200 steps round trip
– Sams Club is further away than I expected it by foot.
– If I walk while I’m on the phone, I can up really up my steps

Other goals:

I’ve been doing more Yoga via a Rec and Ed class. It’s been challenging and rewarding.
I have been shaving with a razor (instead of an electric shaver) since the beginning of the year. It’s nice because I don’t have to shave every day anymore.
I spent out on a few things that I wanted for myself. (A new television!)
I’m not very good at getting reviews of the media I am consuming written up.
I am about 36 miles into the 130 miles of the Huron River. I am right on track.  The graph below is my Beeminder graph, so you can see when I’m slacking. I don’t actually know if it live updates or not. (The closer the dots on the graph, the more frequent I am rowing. As long as I stay above the yellow/orange line, I’m on track.)

 

I think my April goals are Plant a Garden (I planted flowers and built myself a raised bed garden last Saturday. Now I just have to fill the garden with soil and figure out what to plant in it.) and Be Braver. I’m also testing Take a Real Vacation.

March Personal Challenge : Be More Active

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, I set some New Year’s Resolutions, mostly principle based, to help me improve how I feel about myself and about my life.

The idea, when I had them, was to take one or two or three of the principles and work on them in any given time period (months being the most obvious.)

I’ll do a Jan-Feb wrapup here in a post or two, but I wanted to share an experience and my thinking about March.

In February, for reasons still a bit unclear to me, I asked myself a question: “Can I underspend a particular budget category?”

I do pretty good with my budget, but there is one line item that I constantly overspend: Shopping. I bin all of my Amazon purchases, clothes purchases (“Dress Better”), and most household goods to this category, and so have a tendency to overspend.  It’s not a problem to my overall budget, as I’ve got a lot of wiggle room baked in.  But I wanted to see if I could for once, spend within that budget on purpose. (“Deliberate practices”)

I’m happy to report that I could. It actually took a bit of work to rein back some impulse purchases, but I made it, underspending my budget by $43! No creative accounting or anything, although I did use points to pay for one Amazon purchase.

As I thought about the experience, I wondered what kind of a question could I ask myself for March.  I have been playing with the idea of eating Paleo or vegetarian for a month (“Cook More”), but felt like I need a bit more time to learn about those particular diet systems.  I’ve been meaning to start back up my Morning Mile (“Deliberate Practices” / “Be More Active”) once the weather starts to warm back up again. I had a great experience with that practice during November, and put it on the back burner for winter.

At approximately the same time I was pondering these big questions, I found an article about getting data out of the FitBit system into a Google Document.  I love my FitBit, but I’ve never been able to really analyze my habits with it. It’s great on a one off daily analysis, but I wanted to know how I have been changing over time.  Am I walking more? Am I walking less?

I spent some time figuring it out, but I’ve got my data over to a spreadsheet, where I learned some very interesting things.  For example, last November was my 2012 high for average daily steps: about 7,600 vs my long term average around 5,500. (No surprise, thanks to the Morning Mile). I was surprised that I only hit 10,000 steps in a day only 16 times in 2012.  Sundays are my least active day, and Saturdays are generally my most active, but in 2013 so far, it’s been a virtual tie between Mondays and Thursdays. I’ve apparently been more interested in watching TV on Saturdays than going for a walk. Cut me some slack, it’s cold in January and February!

I decide my question for March would be: Can I average 10K steps?  Can I get more 10K step days in March than I did last year? What does it look like if I try to get more walking in?

I started out on Friday with a Morning Mile, and by the end of the day had only made it to 9000 steps. (I definitely took a few extra trips downstairs at bedtime for things I had “forgotten” to get past 9000.) Saturday, I may have overcompensated with a walk, a row, and then picking the vacuum cleaner at Chapel Cleanup. I hit 10K shortly after noon and ended the day with 14K steps.  Already today I am at or above my Sunday average.

The graphs at the top of the page should show you how I’m doing. They should update daily. I’ll report back in April and let you know how it went.

Backwards in Oz

I apparently have to share this because after discovering this yesterday, I had very vivid dreams last night about telling other people.

I know that you probably won’t be as blown away as I was, because you probably didn’t devour all of the Oz books when you were a kid, like some people I know.

I’ve been listening to the Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire during my commute recently, and I’ve been holding a map in my head of Oz, of you know where Munchkinland and Gillikan and the Emerald City are.  And I keep getting tripped up.  Something wasn’t working quite right with my assumptions about Oz.

Large portions of the book took place in Munchkinland, where Dorothy originally landed.  In my mind, (like the map below), Munchkinland is on the left side of the country.  But wait! Dorothy landed on the Wicked Witch of the EAST!  Munchkinland in my mind is on the West!  No wonder I keep getting things messed up.

 

But notice that compass rose on the map. It’s oriented so that North is up, and East is left.  Crazy!

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Baum had a map on a glass slide that he used in a traveling show.  When he later copied it from the slide, he accidentally reversed it, and rather than redraw it, he just reversed the compass rose.  His editor later flipped it back the normal way, adding to the confusion.  Apparently, I am not the only one that this mixed up.  Even the woman who took over writing Oz books, Ruth Plumly Thompson, reversed directions in Oz frequently!

And now you know! And maybe your mind was just as blown as mine was.

%d bloggers like this: