Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm Sorry... Are You Mad at Me?!

This is the question that was racing through my mind as a colleague and I attempted to place our order at Horace & Dickie's in NE DC. I've patronized this restaurant several times, largely because of it's proximity to my office and its hot tasty fried fish. Nevertheless, I get the impression that I am not wanted. While at this restaurant I (and my poor coworkers) have:
a. had a receipt thrust at us in a hostile fashion with a menacing roll of the eyes.
b. been rushed through our order despite the fact that there was no line behind me.
c. been told, "The tip jar is there for a reason!"
d. been told, "Go get your lemonade over there, I ain't got time for this!"
e. My last visit elicited: "You can leave now!"

Why continue to go, right? Well, I believe that some people have bad days and I wanted to give them a chance to redeem themselves. But my last experience was so harrowing, that my coworker and I decided that we will never go again. I refuse to be hazed just for supporting your business. Which brings me to the question of the hour....

How important is customer service in deciding whether you use a business or service again?

These are my new glasses by the way!
Case Study 1: Allow me to describe my visit to MyEyeDr of Clarendon, in Arlington, VA. I was about 15 minutes late due to Metro delays so I called to let them know. When I arrived a little out of breath, the receptionist said, "You must be Crystal; so sorry to hear you were having trouble on the train. Would you like a beverage?" The manager was extremely patient as he showed me the different brands, picked out a few, and gave me honest feedback on how they looked. The next day, I ran into my doctor at Starbucks on the way to pick up the glasses and she said, "Hey, Crystal how are you? Ready for those glasses?" I certainly didn't remember her name, and yet, she knew mine after a brief eye exam!When I casually mentioned that I worked at a non-profit, they dropped $100 off the price of my glasses. Mind you I already had a significant discount thanks to Groupon. I walked out with the intention of never going anywhere else for my glasses.

Case Study 2: For about 3 years, Leslie at Shear Movement on U Street was my go-to hair stylist. I tipped well, referred friends, and was always on time for my appointment. Unless I lied and said I had a flight in two hours, I was there for several hours. But... I accepted this, because that's what I had come to expect from hair salons. Nevertheless, my last visit took the cake. My appointment was at 2:30. I arrived at 2:15 PM. My stylist was not there, and I thought that odd, but I said ok. A little after 3:30 as I prepared to ask a friend to style my hair, she strolled in casually with shopping bags. She said, "Girl, there was a sale, I just had to go." She ate a Chipotle burrito and then around 4:00 decided to start on my hair. I was angry but I really needed my hair done for an event that night, so I stayed. I sat there fuming and let her expertly style my hair. I paid, left a tip for the shampoo girl, and walked out with the intention of never going back to that salon again.

And I haven't. I've never entered Shear Movement again, but I have referred several people to My Eye Dr of Clarendon and to my new hair salon, Bang at the Verizon Center. There, my stylist Amanda completes my hair in 1 hour dedicated specifically to me (and for cheaper than Shear Movement.) She doesn't eat while she's doing my hair. She doesn't talk on the phone while she's doing my hair. Whenever I enter the salon, the staff knows who I am, greets me by name, "Hey Crystal, glad you're back!" I don't know if they're acting, but they genuinely seem happy to see me.

Why give business to people who act like they don't want you there? Why not support people who seem genuinely gracious to have you? I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses would experience a great boom in sales if they treated people like they appreciated their business. Send thank you letters to clients, keep them in the loop about promotions, smile when they walk in the door, it's really very simple. I don't ask for much, just an appreciation of my hard-earned dollars.

What about you though? Would you continue to patronize a business with horrible customer service? Have you had any particularly good or bad customer service experiences? What do you consider "great" customer service? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. But before you do that...

Today's Black History Moment
Black History isn't just about learning about things that happened in the past; it's about making it every day and continuing to build upon a great legacy left by our American ancestors. One way to contribute to Black History is through our support of others.
A dear friend and colleague of mine, Jabari Smith is in a contest to win the title of Paradise Hunter Host. If chosen, he would travel the world for a year leading his audience on a fast paced adventure through paradises across the world. (more information about the job is here.)
I can think of no one more qualified for this job than Jabari. He's one of the kindest, friendliest, and amazing people I know. You ever meet someone and mention some small detail of your life, and then months later, you run into them again, and they say, "How did that chicken pot pie recipe you were working on come out?" That is Jabari. He's got a compassionate heart, particularly for those in his hometown of New Orleans, he consistently supports charitable causes, and he can be counted on as a faithful ambassador of troubled youth.

While I'm sure that he can convince the judges that he is the best candidate for the Paradise Hunter job, he also needs votes from us! His most competitive opponent has quite a following of people supporting her, but I'm sure that between his network and the A Word or Three family, we have an ARMY that will get him to the top spot! Click the picture or click here and share the link with others!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why We Can't Wait

At least once a year, I reread Why We Can't Wait by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, quite possibly one of the greatest non-fiction books I've ever read. It's a work not often talked about but it is often quoted. You may have heard the following:
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Every time I read it, I find a new gem or source of relevant inspiration. My most recent reading proved no different.

On January 25th, protesters in Egypt spoke out loud and clear about their frustration with Egypt's President Mubarak.They marched, led civil demonstrations, and in some cases rioted and clashed violently with nationalists. The world watched as the Egyptian drama unfolded and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when on February 11th, the President gave in and resigned. Despite his February 1 pledge to not run for reelection, the Egyptian masses said, "No! We can not wait! You must go now."

In my own life... I've had similar revelations. My long-term goals include professional development in the non-profit arena and more stage/film experience.  I can dream about these things and hope that it will come to pass, but for them to come to fruition, I have to take action. That means acting classes, saving for a possible move to Los Angeles and seeking opportunities in my office to develop new skills. 

Saying that you "will not wait any longer" does not mean that you aren't willing or able to be patient, nor does it imply that you're restless or overanxious. It means you will no longer wait for life to pass you by; it means that you will allow the passage of time to be accompanied by activity, progress and hard work.

In the book referenced in this title, MLK says:
[There] is a tragic misconception of time... a strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Time itself can be used destructively or constructively. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to [wait].

How will you use your time wisely? What goals/plans/discarded resolutions could you be working towards? I implore you to begin to be proactive today. Do something concrete to bring your dreams closer to reality. If it's simply drafting a budget for a savings plan or if it's something bigger, like applying for 501 (c) 3 status for your dream non-profit, it's a step in the right direction.

I'm no mogul or huge financial success encouraging you to take a journey that I've already traveled; I'm simply a fellow human in this thing called life encouraging you take a journey with me, so we can inspire each other. :)

Black History Moment
In my continuing quest to share information about unsung Black Americans this month, I encourage you to check out Guy Johnson, a great writer. Guy Johnson is an example of someone who took several stabs at life. He's held several jobs including managing a bar in Spain, working on oil rigs in Kuwait, photography, and finally.. as a writer. As the child of Maya Angelou, you'd think he know he was born to be a writer, but not so. I highly recommend his historical fiction novel entitled Standing at the Scratch Line. While Why We Can't Wait is my favorite non-fiction, Standing at the Scratch Line tops my fiction list. It gives you drama, romance, action, a lot of history, and even some voo-doo.
Learn more about Guy Johnson here:
1. Guy Johnson at Random House
2. Guy Johnson at Barnes & Noble

As always, I welcome your comments. I'm especially excited to hear about any plans you have for moving your life forward.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Don't Need Me... You Need the Google Machine

Technology has made our lives so convenient that the Jetsons world doesn't seem so far away. Just today, I've used my smartphone, my ereader, paid a bill online, and later I'm going to watch a DVR'ed episode of Glee. This is what I humbly consider, a "smart" use of technology. Some people however, haven't mastered the art of allowing technology to help you. Instead of taking the time to use technology that is literally at their fingertips, they take to social media or send a text asking you to find information that is readily available.

I understand asking questions where you'd prefer a personal reference, like, "Whe
re do you get your hair cut?" or "Where can I get some good Italian food?" Sure, you can find those answers online, but it's often better to get a personal recommendation. But in the cases listed below, it's inexcusable.

1. The Weather. A friend of mine who lives about 2.5 miles from me texted me a few weeks ago during the snowy weather and asked, "How long is it going to snow?" (FYI, I'm not a meteorologist). Since I didn't know the answer to his question, I went to on my phone, got an update and then texted it to him. Moments later, I realized I'd been bamboozled. Why didn't HE just do that? He has an iphone! A few days later, he asked again, "What's the weather looking like by us? Is it snowing now?!" Me: "!!!!!!!!!" Instead of peeking out of his own window, or even using one of his several weather app options, he asked ME if it was snowing out. I may not be a model, but I know I don't look like Al Roker!

2. TV/Movie Schedules. I saw a tweet the other day that asked, "When is The King's Speech playing in Chinatown?" Really?!?! Who randomly knows Chinatown's movie schedule?! No one. So what you're asking someone to do is find out for themselves, and then relay that information to you. No, ma'am.

3. Directions. This one hurts me deeply. Everything comes with a GPS on it.. Phones, GPSs.. pets... If you have the address to where you're going, why rely on shoddy directions from people like, "You're going to pass 3 speed bumps, a McDonald's, 4 Starbucks, and a woman in a poncho on the corner before you make a right."

4. Date/Time. - If you ever use your phone to text someone or to tweet and say, "What's today's date? What day is it? What time is it?", I just... I just... I don't even know what to say. You are the reason polar bears are an endangered species and forced into slavery by Coca-Cola.

Solution - Let Me Google That For You
If you find yourself the victim of the questions listed above, type their question into the following website, and send your aggressor the link. I promise you... they will get the point, and you will get a laugh. Let Me Google That For You.

Black History Moment
As promised, in honor of Black History Month, I'd like to honor someone who has made significant contributions to the American way of life. Because this post is about technology, I thought Jesse Russell would be a good choice. If you've ever used "4G" wireless, this guy should be your hero. Mr. Russell is an African-American inventor and one of the visionaries’ whose innovative perspectives profoundly influenced the wireless communications industry, the driver of growth in 21st century. He holds numerous patents and continues to invent and innovate in the emerging area of next generation broadband wireless networks, technologies and services, which is frequently referred to as 4G. Thanks Mr. Russell! Learn more about him here:

Have you been the recipient of a Google-able question? If so, do share!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black History Month is for Everyone!

I'm a little bit of a nerd about Black History Month. I enjoy reading and sharing the facts and contemplating my role in it all. But I never considered it a moment specifically for Black Americans to be proud; I thought it was something for all Americans to be excited about. After all, don't people of all races & ethnicities love peanut butter and blood transfusions? (George Washington Carver & Charles Drew respectively)

Well, I learned that everyone doesn't see it that way. So, A Word or Three is here to clarify a few things:

Brief Brief History
Black History Month is the child of Negro History Week, a celebration pioneered by Carter G. Woodson for the sake of informing Americans (all, not just Black Americans) about Blacks' contributions, something that had traditionally been excluded from history books. February was chosen as the month, in honor of President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthday.

Why BHM Rocks for Everybody
  • It contributes to our "melting pot" lore. In a recent speech, President Obama said, "We are a nation that says out of many, we are one." And while in practice this doesn't always happen, America tries. But for us to melt into this great-tasting stew, we can't leave any of the ingredients out! The carrot must have respect for the onion. Ok... this metaphor is getting ridiculous, but you get my point.
  • An incomplete history isn't history at all. Suppose I decided not to discuss or respect our Founding Fathers because many of them owned slaves? Suppose I decided that I'd rather not respect the writers of the Constitution because the original version considered me 3/5ths of a person and rendered me ineligible to vote for 3 different reasons? (I don't own property; I'm not white, and I'm not a man.) American history books have this peculiar habit of putting "Moments in Black History" or "Women in History" in the literal margins of the book versus including them as part of the main body of text. Wouldn't it be odd if history books had a special highlighted section entitled "White Men Who Made History" ? I believe the intent of these highlights and "footnote style" is to give Black History a special shout out, kind of like Black History Month, but it also creates the subconscious idea that Black achievements are secondary to the main story. In reality, without Blacks' contributions in the fields of education, science, fine arts, politics, humanities, and et cetera, America would be a very different place. Black History isn't an aside to the American story; it's an integral part of the major plot!
  • Black History is an inspirational story of triumph despite overwhelming adversity. If you still haven't committed to believing that Black History is for you, consider this: It's about the stuff that makes for good movies! Slavery, Jim Crow, the Klan, unequal education opportunities, institutional racism, lynchings, and just plain old mean prejudice are a few of the reasons why life for Black Americans has been -and continues to be- a tumultuous ride. When you consider that at different times in America it was illegal for Black Americans to read and write; that a wolf whistle at a woman could get you castrated & lynched; that the National Guard had to accompany a little girl to her equal education, that almost all 60% of former inmates exonerated through DNA are African-American men, that even today, Blacks with comparable education and experience receive less pay than their White counterparts, it really is inspirational!
So let's celebrate this month. Let's celebrate the achievements of Malcolm, Tubman, and DuBois. Let's celebrate the achievements of those whose names aren't etched in history books. Let's celebrate the achievements of people who sacrificed so that it's ok for me to write to you. Let's celebrate the achievements of our fellow Americans. It's patriotic.

In honor of Black History Month, my February posts will honor those you may or may not have heard of. What will you do? Share.