Archives for May 2013

Let’s Eat Grandma, Because She Doesn’t Know How to Write

It’s been very windy in Texas this week, and apparently it is heralding the winds of change … to writing as we know it.

I spend a lot of time writing and editing. I probably spend as much time on dictionary.com as I do on detroit.tigers.mlb.com. APStylebook.com is a distant third. I rely on these sites. I make mistakes; we all do. But I try REALLY, REALLY hard to play by the rules, and they help keep me in line. So I find the links below amazing and scary.

First this infographic, via my friend and fellow public relations chick Kim Eberhardt. No surprise, but seeing this data is troubling. That it’s shared by talking cats is more troubling.

Then my favorite grammar police chief Beth Concepcion found this little gem, starring a former teacher. Quote of note: “Punctuation isn’t important.”

Thank goodness this popped up on Facebook to make me feel better:

So, fittingly, this headline wraps up a week of wonderment: Man tries to blow up misspelled sign with pressure cooker.  I’m disappointed by all this, but not enough to be headed in this direction. If you are, call me and I’ll talk you down.

As for my title*, Grandma’s probably the only one among us we CAN write anymore, because she likely sat through hours of grammar and spelling lessons, including diagramming sentences (remember those?). The youngsters are the ones who only know how to communicate via emoticons. So, let’s eat grandkids!

Have you seen anything lately that hurts your writing sensibilities? How about something that lifts your writer’s soul?

*If you don’t get the title, here:

via becomingmums.co.uk

Fun with Customer Service, and I Mean That Sarcastically

The customer might not always be right, but at least give him or her a chance to be wrong.

Infinite Target Registers

Photo by Patrick Hoesly

1. My mom was wrestling with a baby registry at a popular superstore:

An employee was walking through the department. Mom asked, “Can you help me?”

Employee: “I’m busy right now.”

“Can you page someone to help me?”

“Is it an emergency?”

Mom said, “Never mind.” She looked around without success, and gave up. On her way out of the store, she stopped at the service desk and shared that exchange. The employee said, “I’m sorry.” Pause. Mom said, “OK, I just wanted to let you know.”

2. My husband and I overestimated our ability to take the heat at a local restaurant:

Manager: “How do you like it?”

Me: “It’s spicy.”

Manager: “Not too spicy, right?”

Doug: “Too spicy for me.”

The manager smiled and backed away from the table.

3. I had to take my dog to the vet for a follow-up:

The next day I got a postcard from the clinic that said my dog was due for a shot. Wouldn’t it be great if the software had alerts, or the employees manually check a field every time you’re standing in front of them?

They’ll say, “Oh, by the way, she’s due for a Bordetella shot, so let’s do that, too.”

You’ll say, “Wow, you’re making it very convenient for me. Thank you!” and we all live happily ever after.

So when I called, after making the appointment, I said, “Can I offer some feedback?”

The defensiveness in her voice came through loud and clear: “About what?”

All these experiences were, in a word, poor. The first one in particular makes me very sad, because I LOVE that store. Sigh.

I did a lot of time in restaurants and retail, and was trained that the customer is always right. My husband works in the hospitality industry, and it wasn’t until he gave me some examples of guests trying to work the system in some very shady ways that I realized that’s not always the case. However, the customer ALWAYS deserves respect, and you have to hear them out. Yes, they might be in weasel mode. But you have to start from a positive place.

Even if the pace is between frazzled and crazed in my office, when the phone rings, I will take a minute to take a deep breath and go into calm mode before I answer. And I smile. You can hear it through the phone! It helps me focus on the call.

I’m not saying that you need to give your customers a free dinner or hold their hand every time they come in the store. We all get so busy and distracted, it’s worth taking a minute to remember how awesome it was when that employee you encountered greeted you so warmly and was very focused on helping you. We CAN do that.

What’s your customer service story? Whether it’s a plus or minus, I’d like to hear it!

P.S. The customer isn’t always right, but you don’t have to go totally insane about it, Samy and Amy! See:

The most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever

Notes from NYC: Four Things You Can’t Do To Your Customers

I was a panelist at the American Society Of Journalists and Authors annual meeting in NYC last month. Thanks to Lynne Golodner of Your People  for recruiting me! I was honored to be part of this group:

Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our fearless facilitator Lynne Golodner, chief creative officer and owner of Your People; Lisa Brody, editor of Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield; yours truly and journalist and author Peter Zuckerman. Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our panel was “So You Want To Be a Publicist/Public Relations Specialist”. Lynne facilitated, and we talked about transitioning from writer to PR person before participating in a question-and-answer session with the 50-or-so attendees.

I was fascinated by and cringing at stories about PR folks missing opportunities or straight up messing up with the editors in the audience and the one sitting on my right, Lisa Brody from Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield. Even if you aren’t a PR person or have a PR person supporting your business, you can use these examples of no-nos that apply to all of us trying to do business, period:

1. Not following through.

A PR person offered a story to an editor. The editor liked it and emailed a few questions and … nothing. The PR person never responded. The editor won’t likely forget that. How does it apply to doing business? Maybe someone calls you after receiving your direct mail piece, and you’re so busy you never call back. If someone takes time to reach out to you, make time to follow up.

2. Not doing your homework.

A PR person sent a story idea to an editor that had NOTHING to do with what the publication covers. Another sent a calendar item to a publication, not realizing the pub is a monthly and the deadline was long gone. How does this apply to doing business? Our digital society puts so many resources in your hands, there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer. Let’s say a businessperson asks about your product or service. Take the time to go through his or her website to understand the perspective. What’s the point of pain? How can you or your product help?

3. Lollygagging.

Speed is of the essence in most business practices. In PR, if an editor needs a source and you can’t get back to them the same day, maybe even the same hour, he or she will often move on. If a prospect sends you an inquiry about your product or service but you don’t look at your email until the end of the day, they might very well be long gone. Can you afford to be casual in your follow-up?

4. Not being honest and managing expectations.

One of my favorite moments during the panel was when an opinionated and animated author told fellow panelist and book publicist Kathleen Schmidt of KMSPR that he didn’t want to work with his 20-something publicist; how could she possibly have contacts and know what she’s doing at that age? Kathleen politely pushed back, leading with her policy to always be straightforward with her clients. She then explained the expertise and insight that 20-something publicist was bringing from her publishing house, and urged him to give her a chance.

We’ll all run into clients, customers and associates who are going to tell US what we’re going for them, instead of listening. I have a choose-my-battles approach with difficult folks, but that includes always speaking up when they’re going in a direction that is not in their best interest, even at the risk of vitriol. You would want someone to rein you in when you’re going down the wrong road, so we owe it to them to do the same.

What’s on your no-no list?