Category Archives: Thoughts

What I’m Listening To?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and it’s been a while since I’ve posted the songs that I’m currently in love with. So, here’s what’s rockin my socks.

This song is hotter than wearing nylons in a south Floridian summer. I love the simplicity of the song, and this video. Hello Mackelmore

If you and I are friends, you know that I have a special place in my heart for Florence and the Machine, so two songs are currently on the list:

and

This artist had the bubble-gum-I-hate-it-already song of the year, but her follow up, is so much better. Take a moment, give it some love. Carly Rae Jepson…

This song fills my heart, It just grabs the right place, holds on, and says, “I’ve got this, you take a moment to relax.” Calvin Harris, with Ellie Golding

This song has me cranking the radio to max volume. You should listen to the deep lyrics and the vocalistic power behind these words. So Breathtaking. Emeli Sandé

Eurovision’s Number One! I’m still so madly in love with this song. Here’s Loreen’s official video…

For this one, you need to click play, and crank up your speakers. I. Don’t. Care. I. Love. It. –Icona Pop. Do eeeeit.

…And this song just steals my breath. Every time. Find the love in this song, even if you have none in your heart.

I’m holding my life together with all available appendages. I’m trying to come back to post. I’ll be back soon. Join me here… What’s going on in your life? How may I be of service, my dears?

In the meantime, will you click play on one of the above songs. That’ll serve as your hold music as I get back to business. If you need another little nudge.… This is just for you. Yes, you.

Advertisements

Schnikism: 2012 in review

Wow. This is somewhat interesting. LOL

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

A New Schnikism: Ken

I’ve got a great job. But, it’s hard work. And tonight, I stayed late, frustrated that some seemingly simple task was taking me forever and keeping me from spending time with my loved ones. So frustrated, was I, when I left work that in my head I was talking to myself as I walked to the bus, trying to think of a way to make it better. I entrenched in my thoughts, angered, tired and ready to go home.

As I walked, man stopped me on the street. He held up a paper and I immediately thought he was asking for directions. Impatiently I listened to him, looking for a way to cut him off as he launched to his tale of how he was down on his luck, really tired of living on the streets and trying to get into a local work program. One that would allow him to stay off the streets, get a shower, shave and regular haircuts.  At first, I just wanted him to stop talking and let me say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help,” so I could get on my way. I was cold and tired, ready to go home.

As I listened to his story, there was something about him; his honesty, his frankness, and a little something in his eyes as he looked me square in mine. “Tonight, I’m just trying to get a bed at a hostel for the night. I have spent all day gathering cans and bottles and have worked my way to up to five bucks. I know you’re busy, I know you want to get home, I just need a few bucks so I can reach my goal.”

While he was speaking, it sunk in; I have a great life, I have had some amazing things happen to me this year. I have been blessed and I have been fortunate. Before he could finish, I reached for my wallet and handed him the last cash I had, it was only fifteen bucks, a moment earlier I was trying to decide if I was going to stop at Starbucks for my five-dollar coffee. I thought spending my money this way was a much better investment.

When I handed him the money, he looked at me with a bit of astonishment and gratitude. He stuck out his hand and shook mine. “Thank you sir, my name is Ken and I really appreciate your generosity. Thank you for believing in me, I won’t let you down. Merry Christmas.”

It took me a moment to catch my breath, I wished him a Merry Christmas as well and headed on my way to catch my bus. In that moment, my whole night changed.

I know you won’t Ken.

Cave Dwelling

I heard yesterday (Saturday) was going to be really hot, so I thought it would be cool (pun intended) to hide inside the earth for a bit. Near Mt. St. Helens, Washington, there’s this part of the park called Ape Caves, which is a former lava tube.

Ape Cave Lava Tube
(Used under creative commons, thanks iwona_kellie!

As we began our descent into the cave, there are a couple things you notice: a stark change in temperature – from 90°(f) to the average temp inside the cave of 45°(f) – and there’s a really interesting breeze blowing through. Immediately, you’re struck with a decision. A decision you have to make quickly because if the cave is busy there’s many people behind you, pushing their way in. Your two choices are this: Take the lower (or easier) cave or take the upper (harder) cave. In “life+art=reality” and in spelunking, we took the more challenging road.

As you make your choice and walk further into the cave. You lose all sense of perception as your mind, and optical nerves, adjust to the reality of complete darkness. The cave walls seem to absorb all extra noise and soon you find yourself in a weird, yet comfortable, sensory perception deprivation state. It’s blissful, almost, you’re now on your journey, flashlights in hand and ready to climb throughout this former volcanic river.

Cave Wall

Then the real “climb” begins. As you’re walking into (or out of) the cave, you have to climb and scurry around, having chosen the more difficult path. Over large boulders of rock that once floated through the canyon, watching your head for low hanging objects, squeezing through tight spaces requiring you to use your mind and body in unison to get through a difficult pass. Inside each pathway, I noticed there were almost always two decisions, two routes to take, the more difficult and challenging (or sometimes impossible) route and the relatively simple, well-traversed route. Many times you didn’t know the outcome of your choice until you took that first step. Then, it was too late to go back and start over.

Placing your feet in the correct spot was one of the more challenging tests. Each rock was either: solid and stable, shifted slightly, or was completely rickety. The problem was, no matter how many ways you tested it with your toes, you really didn’t know which state that rock was in until you put your full weight onto it.

Much like life, you never know the outcome of something, unless you give it your all. Having scurried through the cave; I did not fall once. I doubted myself many times; but, I did not fall. I have some bruises, sore muscles, and reminders of low-hanging stalactites. But, every step I took turned out, in the end, to get me to my destination. I never considered turning around. I kept putting one foot, in front of, or high above, the other. My spelunking partner and I made sure to support each other in each difficult pass, every challenging route, and every moment of rest, including moments to stop and look around at the cave’s beauty.

The toughest challenge was wall-walking. If you’ve seen someone rappel down the side of a cliff or mountain then you’ve seen someone do this before. You grab the rope, lean all of your body weight into your legs, and walk up the wall. Yesterday was my first experience with this.

There’s a part of the path which used to be a lava-waterfall and it is only about ten feet tall, but it’s still challenging to climb. Having examined the wall, I noted it’s cover of cave-slime, instantly you’re nervous about placing your feet on the wall, afraid of slipping. Up I went. I grabbed the rope firmly, leaned back, took a deep breath, placed my feet on the wall, and pulled myself up. The adrenaline kicked in and I went for it! Up the wall I climbed, over the edge and sure-footed on the top. A challenge overcome.

There were a couple places in the cave, where the groups bunched up, waiting for the last climber in their team to navigate the pass. As with life, there’s always one or two people who are impatient or unwilling to wait for someone else. There were a few of those inconsiderate people in this cave, trying to climb over/around others to get through faster. Luckily peer pressure, in this case, succeeded in forcing them to back off and wait their turn.

As we rounded a corner, we started to see light. Which gave us hope. Nearing the end, (or so we thought,) spirits lifted, we walked a little faster, and started looking around. Only to find out, it was a skylight. A place where the cave had collapsed the roof, giving us only a small peek into the outside world.

Cave Skylight

We pressed on, undeterred, and made it through to the end. Climbed out of the cave and made the hike back to the car in blue skies and beautiful weather. Challenging as the hike was, the reward was really worth it. A day spent with a friend, pushing myself to new limits, understanding what I’m fully capable of: climbing a wall of slime, seeing how nature survives in darkness, and coming through the other side.

All these things, I think, we deal with in real life, I just don’t think we take enough time to celebrate the successes. In that cave, especially in the extreme darkness, I felt great fear. No cellphone service, no light (except from our flashlights,) fear of bats(!) and virtually no sounds (except for our breathing.) Well worth the experience.

Lake Merwin through the trees

While I never intended, when we set out yesterday, to come back with a fable of cave dwelling and it’s application to real life. There are so many connections to be made here: People climbing over you to get ahead, feeling alone in large caverns, being unsure of your footing and pushing yourself to do things outside your comfort. Job well done!

Should “Influence” Impact Service?

I was involved in a conversation the other day about Customer Service from a brand perspective. I listened intently as this person talked about how they check things like: Klout scores, blog followers, and their perspective on how many people an individual reaches. Then, these “influencers” receive a heightened level of customer care because of their perceived impact on the brand’s reputation.

Neon Telephone

“Interesting,” I thought. I bemused, “Shouldn’t all customers receive the same level of care?” “Shouldn’t every call be the most important of your day?” As someone who lives in the customer service world, I was really surprised that companies still have the impact perspective.

Service has never been easier to provide. You can call (my preferred method,) you can write (email or snail mail,) or your can tweet/blog. Some companies even let you file a report via Facebook. And, your reputation, when tarnished by a poor customer service experience has the opportunity to go viral at any moment, regardless of how much reach the customer has, it is all about who is listening.

It shouldn’t matter to a company how many followers there are or how many blog comments I receive. I’m far more likely to impact your business in the extra 20 minutes I have to wait, than one “influencer” who tweets that they’re angry.

Do you provide customer service based on your perception of the potential impact to your brand or do you treat all customers the same?

Guest Post: Service Standards – An Owner’s Perspective

–Schnik’s Note– I have the pleasure of knowing this business owner and I consider them great friends. Gaining the perspective on Customer Service from the owner’s point of view is something I’ve considered doing but needed the right storyteller. Here’s their story. If you’re ever in Camas, Washington, and soon to be Vancouver, Washington – Check out Twilight Pizza, they really do make you feel at home. (I suggest the T-Rex Pizza!) All added photos and emphasis are mine.

What do we sell at a restaurant? Food is the obvious answer, although I really believe that what we sell is temporary relief from the stresses of reality. In some ways, a restaurant is much like a movie. The goal of a movie is to offer temporary escape from reality. If the movie fails to suspend our disbelief, breaks the veil of unreality, well, then, hopefully that was the intent. But if that wasn’t the intent, and the movie fails to fully envelop us in its world, well, then, the movie’s probably a failure. Or, as my business/life partner husband says, “It’s probably an Adam Sandler movie.” (Forgive me, Adam, I liked most of your earlier work.) But I digress….

If, when you visit our restaurant, we fail to allow you to escape the stresses of life, if we can’t sweep you off of your feet and create a place where you are the center of our universe, if for but a small moment in time, then I feel we have failed in our goal.

We have tried to create this comfortable escape for you in a million tiny ways that, if we’ve done our jobs, you don’t know why you love it here so much or why you feel so comfortable—but you just DO.

Black and White Table Settings

It’s because we chose our chairs carefully so that they’d be comfortable for you, and not the ticking (forgive my phrasing) ass-time-bomb that so many restaurants use, as if they’re trying to make you uncomfortable after 20-30 minutes so that you’ll leave and they can turn the table again. Or maybe the owner(s) didn’t try out the chairs before they purchased them. We DID try out chairs—many, many different chairs before selecting ours. Our chair seats are wide, the backs supportive, and they even have little divots carved for your bum cheeks. Yes, bum divots. (It makes a difference.)

It’s because we researched colors, because we wanted the atmosphere to be warm and inviting so that you felt immediately at home. I’ve never been fond of the IKEA school of restaurant design. If I feel like I’m in a Mike Myer’s Dieter skit on SNL when I walk into a restaurant, that doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy—and I doubt it makes you feel that way, either. Blue is a bad interior color for restaurants, or really anywhere that you want to feel warm. Yellows can be harsh and overbearing, but if used sparingly and in the right spots, can add warmth. Why do I know this? Because if we wanted our customers to feel warm and at home, we had to learn about color.

It’s because of the hundreds of observations we intentionally made going out to other restaurants, noting the things we liked and didn’t like, the things that made us feel welcome and the things that didn’t, the food that turned us on and the foods that didn’t, and the interactions with restaurant personnel that were great, and the ones that weren’t so great.

I suppose that’s why restaurant ownership is the perfect place for me. I’ve always been a little on the short attention span side, and in owning a restaurant, one must wear many different hats and learn many different things. That suits me.

Glass of water, black and white

I’m not fond of the phrase “customer service.” Only because it has become a trite phrase used to death, but ringing hollow in so many places. It may also be because I think of our “customers” as “guests,” as if they were guests in our home, and I like to think that we make people feel that way as well. But we sometimes fail. Everyone fails from time to time. I have to tell you, though; I truly, genuinely HATE it when we do fail. And I’m not telling you this to gain any sympathy or acknowledgement. I’m telling you this because I sometimes think that people do not understand how truly personal a small business is to the people who own and run it. It is very, very personal.

We picked our staff, not necessarily because they had a great deal of experience in the restaurant industry, but because they were genuine during the interviews, personable, likeable, and showed a keen interest in making others happy. I can train someone to serve a plate of food. I cannot train them to have a sincere like of people or to want to please them and make them happy. That is an innate trait that cannot be trained into someone. This quality, to me, is far more important than a long and impressive resume of previous experience. I believe this assumption has played out in truth in our restaurant. (Although I am thrilled and proud that many of our servers do have a long and impressive resume of work experience in this industry and that they choose to work for us.)

I will admit that our training program is less than formal. It may even border on chaotic and “throw them into the fire” at times, depending on staffing needs. I will cop to this being one of our many shortcomings. We’re a small operation, and as such, long periods of training simply aren’t in the budget. We are working on implementing a more formal, written training program, and I hope that this will lessen our falling short in this area.

However, in our particular field, nothing substitutes for being in the trenches. I’ve learned so very much in our first five years of business that I cannot even believe that we were so naïve as to think we could make it in this industry. We’ve made mistakes. Our employees have made mistakes. And when we’ve recognized our mistakes, we’ve tried to make amends for them. Sometimes we’ve succeeded immensely and have gained a lifelong customer because we went the extra mile to make it right. We give all of our staff the authority to make things right for guests. They don’t have to come and explain the what’s and why’s of a situation. We trust them to know when we owe someone a mea culpa. If we don’t trust someone to know when that call needs to be made, they don’t work for us for very long. And “knowing when” is sometimes a function of being able to read people, to know to ask if they didn’t like their appetizer because they didn’t eat much of it. (And then to have the follow through to take it off of their bill.) To know that if you overhear that someone has had a miserable day that bringing them a dessert on the house could turn their day around. To know that smiling at a child playing sweetly with their mother and getting a big old smile back can also make your day in return.

The bottom line—you MUST like people and want to make them happy to be good at and to give honest customer service.

Lucky Piece Rose, International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

But don’t misunderstand me that I expect my staff to like everyone that walks through the door—they don’t. That’s not because they don’t try, believe me. They truly WANT to like everyone who walks through the door. But some people really do make that very difficult.

There’s the guy who wanted to leave his kids with us to eat while he went to the bar down the street to drink. Yes, really.

There’s the couple who have made waiting on them so very painful that when they come in, experienced servers will try to pawn them off on the new guy/gal, which will be a lesson in customer service for that new employee.

There are those people who threaten you with their never coming back because you are not giving them their way, when their way will be unfair or unpleasant to the other guests around them.

I’ll reiterate that it is our job to protect your ability (and our ability) to maintain that oasis free from the stresses that exist in your life outside of this little space that we have spent so much time, research, blood, sweat, and tears (literally) to make it as amazing for you as we possibly can. Sometimes that means pleasing some and angering others. We do our best to please everyone, so long as what they are demanding is reasonable, doable, and we are able to execute it without imposing difficulties upon other guests.

Misbehaving isn’t tolerated well. Remember, you are in “my house” so to speak and I wouldn’t let little Billy trample over my rosebushes at home and I won’t let him trample on other guests’ comfort here. I don’t feel that this is unreasonable, and frankly, neither should you. If you do, you are probably not going to want to be my guest. But if you understand that little Billy’s mom and dad are responsible for his behavior and I ask that he not run in the aisle while 550-degree disks of melted cheese are being shuffled to tables, well, then, you are probably going to like it here. It’s my job, and my staff’s job, to make sure that our guests understand imposing their will on you is not within the spectrum of their authority. You are paying the same money, too, and you deserve a good experience, too…right? Right.

So my staff and I have your back and we’ll continue to try to do right by you each and every day. We’re going to blow it sometimes and I hope you’ll give us a heads up and say, “Yeah…not so great this time.” And we’ll make up for it and do better next time, learning something valuable from you in the process that will allow us to raise our game. And to keep the veil of suspension of the realities of everyday life at bay for an hour or more, so we can make your day better for a just a little while. That’s all. We’re not curing cancer here… we’re slinging a few pies to please our guests. We are more than that, of course. And if we’ve done our job right, we’ve impacted your life in a positive way. And that’s the goal. Every day, every plate.

You Want Me To Do What?

A friend of mine was asked some strange things in an interview. Well, I think they’re strange and some people think they’re perfectly normal. So, I went to go get a different perspective. Thanks to my love of LinkedIn, I’ve found some great HR/Career communities in there and I’ve been commenting and reading a lot of the things HR-Types look for and passing those on to friends.

So I posted the following question in one of the forums:

I had some questions from an actual interview. A friend interviewed for an Administrative Assistant-type job and the interviewer asked questions like: “Tell me about a time when you’ve lied.” “Tell me a time when you’ve been sent to the principal’s office.” Then, after hearing that the applicant went to school for an English major with a vocal minor, The interviewer asked the applicant to sing a song for him.

Does any of this sound legal?

Here are the responses from the community – Actual HR Directors and Recruiters.

CEO and Executive Director:

Nicholas – illegal, no. Incredibly stupid? this one takes the cake. If I were asked something like that (lying), I’d give some innocuous example of a white lie told to my kinds about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. OR better yet, if as an Admin assistant, ‘I told someone my boss was not in the office after he told me to tell everyone he was out’ needing to finish a report or something official. As far as the song, I’d tell them ‘my vocal coach advises me not to sing unless I’m getting paid to do so’, or ‘in front of an audience of more than 25’.

I really enjoyed his response. I think, if you’re put in that position, you might have to respond with some sort of silly snark.

Sales Manager at a National Furniture Company:

If I were asked such questions, I would ask MYSELF if this is really a company that would be a good fit for me.

I wholeheartedly agree with the above sentiment. I think I’d have to walk away.

A Job-Seeker:

I have seen similar questions on personality exams. I do not see the questions being illegal, but I cannot see how singing a song is relevant to being an Administrative Assistant. Unless perhaps entertaining is part of the job description. The other questions seem like a catch-22. I agree with “Sales Manager” in wondering if that is a company I would want to work for.

I’m noticing a trend here, from manager and employee alike.

Store Manager at a National Clothing Company:

Tell your friend to run for his/her life.

It’s true, A real trend.

Human Resources Director – Education

Wait a minute…there’s no Santa, no Easter Bunny? I’m bummed. Love Steve’s response. I agree that they are questions probing for your reaction and creativity when faced with unforseen spur of the moment challenges, and how you would respond. I would’ve sung jingle bells!

Finally, A response in the other direction. I think this is a case of what you see, is all there is. While my personal reaction was that of shock, horror, amazement and extreme annoyance, my friend didn’t see anything wrong with it. Just part of the interview process.

I agree with a lot of people, and commenters above, is that somewhere you’d want to work everyday?