Tag Archives: review

Double Identity and Feelings

Lyman High School’s Lymlight Production of Dr. Jekyll an and Mr. Hyde was excellent. It was nice being on my old campus. I was anxious to see the adaptation because I had taught the classic novella only a few weeks earlier at The Ampersand School.
The interpretation of the diaries, the epistolary effects of disjointing, and mixing monologue with flashback was great and came through clearly. The device of the magician’s presto-chango door was kitschy yet clean and effective.

Using the Victorian period’s phenomena of bodysnatching, and burgeoning science butting heads with spiritual ethics as a story arc showed understanding. The brothel asides were distractingly hideous.

I have a few very specific complaints. The stage work, acting, lighting, music, direction and passion are not among them. The inappropriate female dress across the board and the adaptation’s use of highly sexualized characterization are. If this were in any other theater, I’d be fine. In a high school, not so much. When the Man Servant, Poole, is reimagined as a female, it doesn’t follow that a distinguished Dr’s. head mistress would be dressed as a can-can extra for the Moulin Rouge.

It didn’t escape me that the highly stylized production was closer to rock opera than Victorian classic stageplay. The only thing missing was a Meatloaf solo. It came off a little closer to Rocky Horror Picture Show then Robert Louis Stevenson
I suppose my gripe is with the author of the adaptation: Jeffrey Hatcher. The Hyde character’s emotional enmeshment with Elizabeth and his resulting concern of the safety of this hooker, fails big time. Hyde has no conscience. To have him scare away a woman for her own protection is squarely in contrast to the alter-ego’s purpose. It only serves to invite shallow melodrama into the wannabe rock opera.
Again, having a high school cast lose the books meaning, in favor of a reality show plot, is not why I applauded. The great acting certainly was.

I can’t be the only one who knows it’s inappropriate to shove a teenager into a bustier and heels and claim it’s okay because it’s a performance…can I?

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a WOW a day, realistically.

What does it take to get wow’ed. I like, first of all that that word has gone from an interjection to a verb. I was wow’ed at a Burger King On Hwy 27 just and I-4 in near Orlando a few weeks ago, because it was so bad. I was wow’ed at the service I received from a volunteer at Blue Springs State park in Orange City, FL not long after because it was so simply polite and genuine. I spent half as much at the park.

One Hotel management guru suggests that simply wowing one guest per day can turn your establishment into a star earner. In the higher end market a star earned can mean a million more dollars. Some establishments in NYC are forgoing a star to save a million. I won’t encourage that behavior. The long term always demands great service. Cut somewhere else.

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Let’s say that a venue has 10 employees on a shift. If each one of them works to wow one client. Potentially 10 clients will be turned into free marketing machines. How do we know to what level each customer responds with “wow.” The secondary effect here is that while each employee strives to make an impression on one customer, they have no idea which customer will respond in that fashion. So each employee, engaged in this strategy will be attempting to wow them all. It should be stressed that we are only requiring one. requiring a wow response from all of them demands that nothing less than a perfect show is acceptable, and that is unacceptable. Furthermore, stressing that they will be attempting to wow just one, allows them to relax and give great service to everyone, knowing that a realistic expectation has been set. Besides, it has been established that “wow” service is personalized. The same wow factor cannot be applied to every client, regardless of expectations. See Personalized Service.

Trying to wow just one person per day alowesthe entire staff to the room to constantly impress all your clients.

But, I am pregnant…what’s your job?

I am always amazed at the level of service I encounter at Dr’s offices. The amazement comes at the point where the expectations meet the sliding glass window. let’s start there. Why does a Dr’s office have that sliding glass window? Is there a good time to cut yourself off from your customers? Is there a good time to give the appearance impropriety and secrecy? More and more modern offices have an open plan, and for good reason. My wife is pregnant. She went to the radiologists to examine a lump. It happens in pregnant women, hormones and all. She was instructed to come a half hour before her appointment in order to fill out paperwork. Why not just make that her appointment time? Nobody rejects the idea of having to fill out paperwork, much. We accept that as part of the receptionist and record-keepers job that we have to do. I think it is nice if a person has a conversation with you and asks you the information. You can do it yourself if you find that privacy is an issue, but that should be the exception. Don’t take an appointment and then patronize us into coming in earlier, thereby making acceptable, sneaky, extra wait time under the guise of administrative necessity. And heaven forbid the facility have a working website where the information can be entered at the patients own time (since we accept that it’s our time we are spending either way) and then simply verify or correct the info at the office? That’s being served.

The paperwork ended with a disclaimer which read: Please sign here confirming that you are not pregnant. Being pregnant disqualifies you for radiology in some cases. My wife is pregnant. She explained to the receptionist that she did not fill out the disclaimer, because there was no other choice. She was told to Just sign it anyway. Let’s say that her pregnancy was not as obvious. What could the repercussions of exposing an unborn baby to radiation be, because the tech saw a signature and didn’t take proper precautions?

And 9 months to make a baby..and a second to damage one...
And 9 months to make a baby..and a second to damage one…

My wife is not a liar. We disagree on the role and importance of the designated hitter in the American league of Major League Baseball, but not because she is lying, she’s just wrong. My wife explained that she can not sign it, because she is pregnant and the radiology tech will see her anyway, she was sent by the Ob/Gyn. The receptionist had a choice: to display knowledge of the service her company provides and display caring professionalism, or roll her eyes, huff a little, and express sentiment in the fashion of the neighborhood snitch. She chose incorrectly, stating :Okay…I’ll let’em know.

When you are the face of the medical staff, please don’t refer to women as sweety, or honey. Even if they are very old. Address them by the names on their bank account, get it. The medical community is not social authority, they need to serve the same way that every other business does. Regardless of a nationalized/socialized medical insurance policy, there are still options, and they are populated by human beings, serve each other accordingly.

Living with Poor Service Specialists

I always keep my expectations high, so that I give people the opportunity to succeed and catch them doing so. Of course this is a passion of mine it’s also easy for me to catch the opposite.  I’m looking for opportunities to hone my own skills. Sometimes it takes skills to be a customer to somebody else. Therein lies the problem-a  customer shouldn’t  have to bring many skills the marketplace.

Customer service always starts in your house. You have certain expectations of where you’re going and of the service you want to receive. Customer service also in the house because that’s where most of your advertisements lie. More on that another post. IN this case my house is where customer service barely started, and has hardly seen the light of day. My roof has been leaking for a while. I have been emailing the property management specialists for a while. We were getting death by a million paper cuts. We got the same emails as responses to different questions. The roof continued to drip. Black Mold formed on the ceiling. After a week, someone showed up to paint over it. I know the ceiling can’t be replaced until the leaky roof is. One drip turned into one downspout and 3 drips.

fix a leaky roof
I’m not saying I can do it, but her’es how you do it.

My last email was to inform them that I don’t expect much from them, except to keep depositing my rent check. I have run around emails and many of them to prove that expectation was realistic. It was clear that their actions had lowered my expectations of them. I got a 2 calls- one from the property management owner (not the maintenance person) and one from a very polite roofer’s receptionist asking when I would be available to let the guys in to see the damaged area. Apparently the roofing company was trying to get this done and property management hadn’t provided them with the information. I call a little BS on that, since they were awarded the contract, they had the address. Nobody, but nobody can’t be found when you have an address. That Monday a tarp was put in place until the roof can be replaced at the end of the month. That was all it took. As usual the difference between good and bad customer service was 15 minutes work. Instead, it was 90 days of poor service. I didn’t realistically expect the roof to be replaced right away. It took 6 months to replace a dishwasher that leaked and was infested with bugs. One email reply even asked me what my address was, and it wasn’t the first email.

ceiling stain
Nasty water stains turning into black mold

 

Check out my Vine account, @ConHippy. I have a bunch of Vines showing the drips, spanning months. and that was after a few calls. During one rainy week we were told to be patient, that roofers couldn’t do it while it was still raining. No Kidding and I thought you were going to be patronizing. I had a roofer send me – the renter – a bid. When I told him I am not authorized to accept nor deny, he asked me to forward the email. Is that service? No. Now it is important that I hold the other party accountable to the contract they signed. I pay rent to live in a nice house in a nice ‘hood in a nice town. Because that is the value I receive, in addition to a leaky roof over my head, the price is justified. I also can not use my rent as leverage. Asking someone to abide by their maintenance contract means abiding to my side of the contract as well. In fact, the argument is stronger when I have facts and proper payment in tact. Customer service exists at home. I shouldn’t become used to bad service, even from a landlord.

Individualized Service Still Follows a Standard Procedure

After reading Taking Cue From Ritz-Carlton’s Customer Service I wondered how many employees on the front lines can recall their customer’s names. While customer service ought to be standardized, the interaction between the service personnel and the client should be individual. This does not mean that a single service professional needs to lead their customer by the hand from start of the interaction to the finish. In fact, that is appropriate in only a very few settings. Concierge service like that is rarely what someone comes into a retail location for. Handing a customer off, by name, to a fellow professional who can meet their specific needs with their own specific talents or availability is preferable. Demonstrate to that helpful new associate that you have remembered the details of the request so the client isn’t repeating themselves. That’s not service, it’s passing the buck.

Individualized service means that the professional recognizes that need as a single task to be performed and solved. That same need may have been fulfilled a hundred times that day, literally in foodservice, but this time it is for this specific individual and it should be performed as if it is special for them. This may mean simply that we use their first name, mention a previous interaction, or ask if the usual order is again in order. Once the individuality is established, the standard procedures f for that order are followed. Individualized service following a standard procedure means that every customer will realistically expect to receive exactly what they want, or need and it will be easy to fulfill. More importantly, they will return because it is the trend.

During PGA tournaments and other special events- frankly if a convention nearby lets out- a service professional can have a full workspace all at once and for hours. It’s a hurricane  not a tornado.  The trick is not to fulfill thousands of requests. In fact it’s not a trick at all. The skill is to fulfill each request. Repeat that a thousand times. Behind the bar of course, it helps if you can go octopus.

Drunk Octopus

What else do you look for in Individualized Service?

Nature Vs. Nurture : What do you bring that can’t be taught anyway?

I was reading a blog about how Starbuck’s rates it’s most valuable asset, or something. It was in a lot of legalese. Either way, it addressed a very intriguing concept. The heart of their customer service is the ability of their barista’s to be a self-initiated learner. How can this requirement be judged in an interview? Especially when barista is an entry level position. If little or no job history is required, what then tells a company that a candidate holds this quality? Can this quality be taught?

It reminded me of one of my less admirable times behind the bar. I had held all the talents of a better-than-average bartender. In this brand new, multi-million dollar renovated PGA tour clubhouse, most of the new staff did not hold the same checklist of talents. Little did I know at the time, but quickly was I to learn, that it was actually to my detriment, since I was assuming that that was their shortcoming. In my first 90 day review I was told very succinctly that all the talents which I possessed  could be taught anyway. While they were valuable to our bottom line, they were far from the extent of the job’s requirements. There were also a list of co-workers snapping at my heels for my job. Just saying, I was replaceable. My greatest shortcoming at the time was patience with members (customers) and with “co-workers with less experience.” This is where I tie in to the previously mentioned blog.

In the interview, I was asked what had I done for my customer’s in the past that was not in the typical list of bartender skills, how had I gone beyond the call of duty. I explained that I had created a four star dining experience for regulars in a place that would only qualify for two. It was practically a joke, putting a tablecloth and a single candle on a bar high top for a first date a regular was having. But it worked well. I can’t account for the relationship. That showed a level of customer service that could not be taught. However, once on the job I was not displaying that skill. It was further explained to me that my managers could only model it, not teach it. I had better initiate the learning.

What is your CS Nature? What can be Nurtured?
What is your CS Nature? What can be Nurtured?

What is in your customer service nature, and what can be nurtured? I believe that a desire to satisfy a customer’s needs comes from intuition. Which cannot be taught, but it can be modeled. I don’t mean a 6th sense clairvoyance type of intuition. I mean the intuition that can tell when a look in your direction is preceding a request. The intuition that lets a professional know that when a server sticks a cherry in your Cosmo, it’s an opportunity to teach proper garnish, not the time to huff and puff and blow their house down. By the way, NEVER  let a drink leave the window without proper garnish. I’ll end that there.

Being a self-initiated learner, empowers you. It lets you know that you have autonomy and you’re not an automaton. I expect that my order will be taken in a timely manner, it will arrive similarly, and that my basic requests will be met. That’s the job description. Those skills can be nurtured. In what manner, how pleasantly, and hospitably these things are executed, depends first on a professional’s nature. These can be coached and modeled, but because they can’t be faked well, they can not be taught. It was my spiritual condition and my strength of character that led me to change my attitude, on a daily basis. Hint: my skills improved to a point that could not be taught as a result, because I wanted them to. If I can do it, so can you.

How Not to Get too Insulted

I recently read a great blog about getting Insulted. It took me back to my formal service days… less than 2 years ago. Here’s what I liked: As an ex-bartender It is important me to remember all the allies I had in the customer pool. My specific pool at my last career spot was made of millionaire members of a PGA golf course resort, who mostly lived on premise. The resort was partly run by an HOA. I knew who my allies were and who the fly-through tourists were. Even in the fly-through pool, there were plenty of allies. In the membership pool there were plenty of enemies, only they had to be assuaged even more, because they were members. There were also the type of person she described: the  hangers-on!

Hangers-on, Posers, Name-Dropping-No-Names, were the ones I loathed. They were customers, and deserving of all the service they paid for, and then some. What they weren’t deserving of was the treatment of  the royal courtiers they pretended to be. I had people show up and name drop just to get member’s discounts on the happy hour drafts they were already getting for cheap, comparatively. I had people name drop the owner of the resort all the time…”I guess I’ll just call Sheila (Johnson, the owner of Salamander Hospitality) and tell her what is going on.”

Ms. Johnson knew be by name, or at least had the decency to pretend to, because it’s good business, to seem approachable to her staff. She didn’t know and didn’t care to know, I perceived, every f’n whiney baby wanna-be who couldn’t get their way. Do you know how hard it is to NOT get your way in a resort that has 5-star service? The only reason there was no fifth star in the resort overall was because we preserved our original architecture in our guest suites and didn’t have elevators. Nothing was more than two stories. We had 24 hour Bellman. What the hell were you asking for that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do for you?! We would actually bring raw steaks from another restaurant in to cook them. We would hit the liquor room in Shipping and Receiving in the middle of the rush to get a single bottle of out of distribution liqueur we had stashed, in order to make the perfect Straga Wallbanger. I would increase my liquor cost to replace the expensive tequila you can only get in a handful of American bars, just in case a select few came by, we wouldn’t be out. What would you ask for we couldn’t do? I watched my manager produce a table and 5 chairs from the basement so corporate bigwigs could sit in an already full and backed up restaurant, right before the presentation of a PGA trophy. We did stuff.  I made half a dozen freshly squeezed margaritas during a convention’s media blitz, we were capable.

Maybe we wouldn’t do it. Here is the flipside of that coin. When a guest starts getting juvenile, stomping feet, calling names, holding there breath etc… We have the opportunity to enable or disable that behavior. Under some very limited circumstances, a customer is told no. They are told no when they finish their meals and then demand a refund. They are told no when they are already “overserved.” They are told no when they exhibit lies and manipulation to get around the standards. Standards exist against which to measure all other experiences . If you are substandard, the answer may be NO.

As far as judging my appearance?  I was wearing the uniform, and the approved grooming.

See? The Required Uniform and Grooming.
See? The Required Uniform and Grooming.