For Your Windows – blog

All About Windows and other Stuff

COMMON SENSE=MORE CENTS Replayed

The bolder print, along with pictures below, comprise a post I wrote in 2010. The restaurant I refer to is going strong, treating customers with lots of care. I am in a “hungry for good customer service” mood so I decided to revisit the feelings I hold about good customer service. When I go to the grocery store today, I am heading to a different one than normal. I have shopped at the same well known store in several of its locations for a very long time. They have made many changes over the last 18 months and I have been patient. I have talked to people at the top of the food chain and filled out surveys, telling them how I feel. I spend a lot of money there, but I do not think they care. I am a very loyal customer. I think it is sad that it does not seem to matter.

I love good customer service! I am looking forward to this evening because I will be dining at a new restaurant that was opened a few weeks ago by some neighbors. They had another one a few years back that they sold, and whenever I went there I got treated like royalty. I am sure the food will be good too, but the customer service is what will make it really enjoyable.

Years ago, when I first started in the service industry, and the yellow pages were the major force behind advertising, I remember reading in some of their promotion the results to a survey they had conducted. Ninety percent of the people surveyed said that how they were treated was more important than the quality of the work done.

When I ran our window cleaning businesses, I noticed that customers were left with a strange sort of hunger if they got bad service. One time when I asked a woman what exactly she wanted us to come back for, she had a hard time pinning it down. Windows were clean she told me, but something was not quite right. It all boiled down to our employee treating her disrespectfully. Fortunately, I was able to save the situation and the customer; did not save the employee. I learned early on to listen and let the customer vent for as long as they needed without interruption before I jumped in to solve the problem. That venting usually soothed more that my solving did.

It is easy to say that good customer service is just plain common sense. However, in today’s world, where common sense often seems lost,  great customer service is sometimes not very common. When you experience wonderful service make sure you shout it to the world, including to those responsible. When it is not so good, offer some correction, if possible, with a touch of forgiveness. Make sure if you train younger employees as part of your duties that you never assume they have common sense. Teach them that how they treat people is right up there, and maybe surpasses, the actual work itself, and happy customers equals returning and referring customers.

So, I am off to enjoy good company, good food and wonderful customer service.

So today, I am off to to something similar, along with hopefully finding lower prices. Wish me luck on my test run!

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At This Window You Get Potatoes

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I just love it when a business endeavor succeeds! I had the pleasure of attending the Oregon BrewFest this past Sunday. My nephew Ken and his wife Amy recently debuted a wonderful food cart here in the Pacific Northwest ( I say here because I was raised in Portland, and am visiting from ABQ). Baked & Loaded Potatoes operates from a cute, little, custom renovated school bus. That’s my sis posing in the Spud Bus window last Sunday at the event held in Silverton, Oregon.

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I certainly am not a food critic, but I can honestly say the baked potato I ate was spectacular! What a great addition to all the brew that the festival offered.

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If you live anywhere near Portland or Salem, and ever need taters served, or if you just want to follow where the Spud Bus goes be sure to check out their site. No matter where you reside, like their page on Facebook. 

When a new business succeeds we all win! Great job, Ken and Amy!

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A SMILE AND A HANDSHAKE

Nothing like back to back, out of town family visiting, with major dental work sandwiched in the middle, to knock the blog right out of me. Where did the month of June go? All in the name of summer fun!

I guess you might say it gave me time to reflect a bit about business related events happening around me. I was reminded of an employee who worked for our window cleaning company back in the mid 1990’s. He was a troubled fellow who had moved here from California with his mom. He sort of wore his problems on his sleeve, and would often complain about whatever was occurring in his life.  For the most part, he completed his work regardless of his personal problems.

Once, after a long couple of hot days, he came into my office madder than a hornet, ready to jump on anyone who got in the way. I cannot remember what he was upset over, but he made it clear that it was my fault and our company was treating him badly. He quit and stormed out of the office without giving me any notice. I was frustrated, feeling somewhat deserted by a person who I had accommodated more than once when he needed help.

Then something very unusual took place. Within 10 minutes, he walked back in, looking like a sad little puppy.  He did not want his job back because he knew he needed to make a change, but he wanted to apologize for taking his stuff out on me. He told me that he knew it was all about him, not me or my company. I will never forget that incident.

This young man wanted to take responsibility for his behavior.  I don’t even think he thought of me in terms of a future reference. He just wanted to make things right.  To this day, I have appreciated that more than he could possibly realize. I am sure it made me a better employer.

Because that same business is still family owned, I am aware when upsets occur. Only the faces have changed. The types of employee problems remain the same. In a small business, it is hard to always keep business and personal separate. Employees have bumps in the road that you end up knowing about, and because you care about them, it is hard not to be involved. Empathy is appropriate, but you also have to remember that the survival of the business itself has to come first or no one will have an income. 

Recently, there was a similar upset that did not have the same ideal ending. Different lessons to be learned, I guess. Hopefully, the upset, and now terminated, employee will on some level want things to get repaired. Life will go forward, and somewhere in the future it will become obvious that when a change is needed, a smile and a handshake work best.

Another thank you to that honest window washer who needed a change. You showed me that no one has to be made the bad guy.

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BABIES, WINDOWS AND MORE WINDOWS

In a world that changes by the minute it is always nice to experience stick-to-it-iveness at least sometimes. On February 7, 1986, I interviewed Maria to be the nanny for my kids which included two month old twins. She was the best choice, and as an extra bonus she was a twin herself. We lived in California back then, and we were just getting the second My Window Man up and running.

About two years later we sold that company, along with a start up in LA. We invited Maria to move with us to Albuquerque, and she agreed. As our needs changed, Maria blended right into the transitions. This past Tuesday, she celebrated her 26th anniversary.  She now works for our daughter, Stephanie, who was 4 years old when Maria was her nanny. When Stephanie was younger she babysat Maria’s daughter, and that same daughter (Melissa) has put in time babysitting Stephanie’s kids as well.  All of the aforementioned kids feel very comfortable hanging around a My Window Man. Any one of them can wield a phone or a squeegee.

Dedicated employees like Maria do not come around everyday. 

      We appreciate you!

I am not sure it could happen, but I think For Your Windows needs one of you. 

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WINDOWS WITHSTAND WHATEVER WEATHER

Whether the weather be fine,

Or whether the weather be not,

Whether the weather be cold,

Or whether the weather be hot,

We’ll weather the weather,

Whatever the weather,

Whether we like it or not.

Author Unknown

I have been rolling up my sleeves lately and working to help schedule work for my favorite window cleaning company here in Albuquerque, My Window Man. It might have just a little to do with the company being owned by family. To get the year started out with a boost we are offering a discount to repeat customers. The weather has been incredible, up until today’s windy presence.  We have had cool, but sunny New Mexico skies – perfect for window cleaning.

That condition does not stop customers from questioning the weather. I get amused when I look at their past notes from May or August and it says, “Call me when it is not so windy” or “I will call you when it is not so hot.” I am pleasant with them of course, but weather is weather whenever.

If you windows are dirty, don’t hesitate to hire a professional to clean them in the winter. Cool crisp winter days look better with clean windows.

And, it is always a good time to check out cheap  discounted window covering at For Your Windows.

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A NEW WINDOW TO HELPFUL INFORMATION

I hope you don’t mind if I blog about a blog today. I love finding new sources of information and tips to run a business. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about customer service, especially since I believe it is an important thing to perfect these days. I know one thing for sure, it is more fun to improve our customer service than worry about the economy.

Check out this article and the whole blog for some great stuff!

12 Most Stupendous Ways to ROCK Customer Service

I wrote my first book, Five-Star Customer Service, with one simple premise in mind: you don’t have to charge Ritz-Carlton prices to give Ritz-Carlton service! After all, a sincere smile costs you nothing, but that alone can build you an empire – just ask Chick Fil-A how that type of warmth is working for them as they compete for customers with McWendy King.

No matter what business you’re in, you can make Five-Star Customer Service your calling card as well. Begin with some of the “12 Quick Tips” I share with each of my Five-Star audiences.

Everyone else out there is making the same sloppy mistakes, treating their customers poorly – and setting expectations low. Follow these suggestions and lock your customers in for life.

Remember, Spoiled = Loyal. Spoil your customers with your outstanding customer service.

1. Make your company a H.I.T.

Hire for attitude. Inspire through pride. Train in skills.

In. That. Order.

Remember: you can teach job-skills to anyone with half a brain, as long as their mind is open to learning. Attitude is key. When hiring, start there or suffer the consequences.

2. “It’s not my fault, but it is my problem” – Disney

Don’t take complaints personally. …But do solve them. The buck stops with you, no matter where you land on the org chart.

3. You are always on a job interview

Who’s to say that your client’s dorky intern won’t be your biggest customer three years from now, or your next boss? Give the same unrivaled level of customer service to everyone you meet, all week long.

4. If it works for Stew…

This one is written in stone outside Stew Leonard’s, “The World’s Largest Dairy Store.” If it works for Stew… I’d at least give it a try if I were you.

Rule #1 – The customer is always right
Rule #2 – If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule #1

Of course customers make mistakes: they’re people, too! But you’ve got to stop thinking like that, or you’ll never provide Five-Star Customer Service. If the customer wants it, your only desire should be to provide it.

Ted Coiné

http://www.tedcoine.com/

Ted Coiné is the business heretic at the helm of the Catalyst blog. Author and speaker, futurist, and happily-former CEO, Ted is currently writing his third book, Catalyst, about how business will be done in this exciting new century. Follow him on Twitter and join the conversation on #leadbiz.

To read this article in its entirety, visit it here

The other 8 ways are great too.  I really like the one about not fussing at your customer. If you own a business, focus on this customer service issue. You may not be able to change the economy, but you can change how you view and value your customers.

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CLOSE THE WINDOW TO INSANITY

I have been thinking a lot lately about marketing, customer service and how both relate to our spending habits and the economy. Nothing like “Black Friday” to stimulate some interesting thoughts.

Back in the 1970’s, I had a retail business in a mall. That particular day kicked off the holiday shopping season. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was a let-down. Back then the term “Black Friday” had not really spread into all areas as it was a pretty new concept connoting that merchants would actually see “black” instead of “red” in their cash flow.

As a consumer, I still do some shopping in stores and a lot online. However, that Friday is a day that I almost always stay home, purposely avoiding the mayhem. This year, I  am amazed at the way this bizarre marketing strategy has literally crushed the whole concept of Thanksgiving.

How much more money will any given business really make if they open up during Thanksgiving Dinner instead of early Friday morning? I could go on and on and on about all the details, but please someone explain the logic.

Could we just close the window to this insanity for good!

The idea for today is to shop local and support small businesses in your area. I like that idea. I am even going to participate now that my Thanksgiving dinner is digested.

If you do shop online, remember to visit For Your Windows. Gift certificates are available at Wallpaper for Windows, and maybe someone you know would like a neat bird feeder or greenhouse, available at the Outside Your Windows department.

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WINDOW BLOG FOG

It really is more accurate to call what I am in a “spin.” but that does not rhyme very well with blog.

This past week flew by for sure as I needed to catch up after being gone for ten days. And now, we have the beginning of the holiday season to offer another distraction.

I have been doing a lot of research about how to run a business better, keep overhead down and provide outstanding customer service. As I was realizing I had not blogged for a full week – and that reminded me of how fast time flies – I was also pondering how everything sort of stays the same as it changes.

Okay, let me explain. When we first started a window cleaning business, we used “independent contractors”  that we trained to perform the window cleaning. It did not take long to find out we needed to treat them as employees to meet standards set forth by several government entities. Even though there are ways around that, they all involve either more than a typical window washer wants to confront, or they create a situation that resembles setting up your own competition.

This morning, I was reading an article about why “virtual employees” are better than “freelancers.” Freelancers are in business for themselves and usually work for more than one account.  Virtual employee is a fairly new term – you cannot even find it yet in Wikipedia.  Maybe I should start a description there. 

I wonder how long it will take for aforementioned government entities to have rules about virtual employees? Virtual personal assistants and virtual offices I can see, but the minute you use the word employee, you are right back to the independent contractor issue. The content does not change just because the form did. 

And anyway, can you imagine a virtual window washer?

Sure is nice to have a virtual online store though. Check it out if you have some naked windows begging to be dressed up for the holidays.

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CUSTOMER APPRECIATION

Did you know that procuring a new customer costs anywhere from 5 to 8 times more than keeping a customer?  If you have a business, you probably already know that. Of course, you need to have a consistent flow of new customers, but your repeat customer base is the real bread and butter.

In the current business arena, where we get bombarded with half -off coupons everyday in our email, our challenge becomes even more apparent. If the work you did last time you serviced any given customer was not exceptional, they won’t think twice about trying someone new who offers a discount.

Not only do your customers want your product or service, they also want to feel appreciated. Feeling unappreciated is one of the main reasons they will look elsewhere. Depending on the size of your customer base, each week choose between 2 and 10 customers to shower with gratitude. Send them a thank you card through snail mail (what a concept these days). If you do quality control by phone, make sure that you also take time to thank them for being such a loyal customer. 

The holiday season provides us with a perfect opportunity to begin making every week

CUSTOMER APPRECIATION WEEK. 

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WINDOW CLEANING COPYCATS

I use the word “copycats” in a positive way for sure. Over 26 years ago, shortly after moving from Portland to Southern California, I hired a young 20 year-old to work in our new My Window Man office in Orange County. I almost lost her at least two times for various reasons. She stuck around, met her future husband – a 20-year old fellow we hired to wash windows- and later opened an office in San Diego. After they were married, they sold that office and moved up to Ventura County. The Oxnard My Window Man has serviced customers for almost 20 years now. 

Their work ethic and dedication paid off for sure!

Our bags are packed, the fridge is full of food for our son who is house-sitting (and even helping with some painting in the kitchen) and the car is fueled up. We are heading out to visit My Window Man in Oxnard. Time to talk about business and family while we eat some great seafood.

While I am gone, I will still blog, and For Your Windows is still open to help you with all your window covering needs.

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