Taking to Twitter

Have you noticed that people who are upset with a company or a product often take to Twitter? That’s what I did recently at the suggestion of friend Joy Meredith. My new Lenovo tablet has been “in the shop” for more than 40 days. The impact on my business, like the length of time it’s been missing, is of Biblical proportions. After repeated attempts to get answers via the customer service hotline (and I use that term loosely), I was out of ideas.

Instead of waving the white flag, I took Joy up on her recommendation. Indeed, I got a response. The first few DMs (direct messages) were inadequate volleys of how they would “try” to get the issue resolved. The folks at Lenovo apparently never saw Yoda in Star Wars (“Do or do not. There is no try.”) As I dragged Lenovo’s DMs back into my Twitter feed, their tone became more and more responsive. Now I finally have a RLP (real live person), Marlan, with whom I can talk. Nice chap. He said I can expect a replacement within two to four days. If not, look for me back on Twitter.

Not Originally a Fan

When Twitter first came out with its original 140-character limit, I was derisive. How could I, a former reporter and free-lance writer who used to get paid by the word, ever adapt to a social media platform known for its brevity? But once introduced to Twitter, I became a fan. Much like writing a haiku, it forces the writer to condense his or her thoughts into a concentrated jolt. I also enjoy the links to other stories that widen my views and often make me laugh.

How it came to be my favorite, besting Facebook and even LinkedIn, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it’s because FB triggers FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) and LinkedIn requires more decorum. Twitter, even in its new 280-character incarnation, requires a clarity and conciseness that challenges the imagination (that is, unless we’re talking about #45). Some people use Twitter as a pipeline as well as a platform for thought leadership. My Twitter feed serves as a news source, a great resource for story ideas and links to memes and videos that help me keep my finger on the pulse of contemporary life.

Caution: Use Twitter Respectfully

Like all media, though, it’s important to use Twitter respectfully. [Listen up, #45.] I thought long and hard before taking on a behemoth computer company in a “Twitter war.” For those who know me, it takes a lot to push me to this point. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Too bad it came to this. But it’s nice to know there’s a place for customers to vent, fume and make a complaint public in order to receive an actual response. Once my new tablet is in hand, I’ll make the proper acknowledgements. Until then, I’m reminded that the pen—or, in this case, the tweets—are mightier than the sword.

P.S.

Just when I thought Lenovo was rock bottom for customer service, I called IKEA to order a gift certificate. Their “customer service line” was busy so they invited me to call again. Click. No optional extension. No “Please leave your number and we’ll call you back.” Just “click.” Needless to say, I went somewhere else.

What’s your best (worst) customer service horror story and how did you solve it?

 

 

 

Extra! Extra! Newspaper Routes Create Leaders

This week I taped some segments for my new talk show, “Talk About Choices.” Once again, I asked successful, entrepreneurial leaders, “What was your very first job?” And once again, I heard the response: “I had a paper route.”

One of my first guests, Bob Carey, chief market strategist for First Trust Portfolios, told me how having a paper route shaped his business acumen. Bob had a route that few kids in the neighborhood wanted–all his customers were in a retirement community. Previously there had been a lot of turnover because kids his age didn’t want to deal with older people. Bob took it on and built his route from 30 customers to 100. What were the secrets he learned as a paperboy?

“Provide great service,” he said. “Show up. Do what people want and good things happen.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in there for anyone running a business, leading a team and/or serving clients and customers. Let’s break it down:

  • Provide great service. This seems obvious, but anyone who is in business knows it’s easier said than done. How do you define great service? More importantly, how do your clients or customers define it? Do they expect you to return your calls within the hour? Within the day? 24 hours? When is the last time you asked them how they define great service? There’s sometimes a gap between what we think is great service and what the client thinks is great service. We need to be crystal clear about their expectations if we want to have any chance of meeting them.
  • Show up. There’s a saying attributed to Woody Allen (no longer my favorite director for reasons that should be obvious, but have to give credit where credit is due): “85% of life is just showing up.” Ain’t it the truth? Or, to quote the old tagline from the lottery, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Showing up on time, showing up ready to do business, showing up all ears, committed to listening–those are variations on the theme. But first, you gotta show up.
  • Do what people want and good things happen. Let’s assume that what people want (the market) is what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about and what you are burning with desire to deliver (your service). And let’s assume it’s legal, moral and ethical. Do that–just that–and good things happen. Deliver the paper on time, every day, on the stoop where they like it, collect on time and have a smile on your face when that customer opens the door, and good things happen. For Bob, those good things include a role as chief market strategist for a highly respected investment management company, a role that allows him not only to make a difference in the world of finance but also subsidizes his penchant for fabulous guitars.

What was your first job? I’d love to hear about it. (Comment below, please.) Did you have a paper route? Did you babysit? That was my foray into entrepreneurship. I’ll save those stories for another blogpost. First, I want to hear yours.

P.S. Millennials, since paper routes for kids may have gone the way of the rotary phone, please tell us: what was your first job?

 

 

Staying Relevant

Technology has me in its clutches. My smartphone, my laptop, the incessant braying of these devices for updates and the cost of doing business by investing in technology have me in a tizz.

At this moment I’m awaiting a transition from laptop to tablet, a thin sheet of amazing processing power that stands to make my work life, and my travel bag, lighter. This leap into the future was precipitated by an increasingly tired and sluggish processor in my current, beloved laptop which I’ve hung onto as long as I possibly could. I’m what they call a “late adopter.”

Hog-tied and ham-strung by the wait time between opening a program and having it actually kick into gear, I faced the brutal truth: it was time for an upgrade. The cost of the hardware and software is nothing compared to the cost of having to adapt to a whole new way of relating to my machine. No digital native, I. The re-wiring of my neural networks takes some doing. So why bother?

Because I–like you, I suspect–want to remain relevant. I don’t need to be on the cutting edge but I can’t afford to lag behind, either. Many of the books I read for my monthly program, Biz Books Review, refer to neuroplasticity, the capability of our brains to change, and I know that staying abreast of technology helps with that process of keeping mentally fit. I also can’t afford to be perceived as a dinosaur or, worse, a Luddite. That would hurt my brand.

Back Woman Computer KeysThis Baby Boomer appreciates all that technology has to offer, from reading the news on my phone to using a new app called “Marco Polo” to record short videos to share with my family across the miles. The miracle of talking to our daughter while she was in Africa this summer in real time via FaceTime still blows my mind. I feel fortunate to live in an age where there are so many ways to connect.

I do, however, object to what I call “technology snobbery,” that race to see who has the most state-of-the-art gadgets and then flaunting them with implicit disdain for the have-nots. I’m grateful for the brilliant people who have the knowledge and gifts to envision, to create, to code. But let’s never forget who is servant and who is master here. Technology is a means to an ends: let’s be civil and generous as we use it to better ourselves and the world.

Photos: Sculpture by Peter Austin, Burning Bush Gallery