Customer Service: “May I speak with your Manager?” or why we end up doing someone else’s job, too!

It is absolutely stunning, how little people understand about affording excellent customer service.

In my way of doing business, I do my utmost to make our clients happy and I almost never tell any client “No”.  When they ask for a refund (and 2 clients in 7 years of being in business have); they get their money–even when we believe, it’s unfair to us.

Very recently in a dealing with a local limousine company (not referred by us), we approached them on a mutual clients behalf; I came to found out the Clients preference was a white limousine for their wedding day.  As they’d contacted us rather late in their planning process, once I found out they’d hired a car company without my input (this same company told them, there are “only 27 stretch limousines in Phoenix and it’s the busy season”), they went ahead and deposited (on a black car), because they were afraid they’d be without a car on their Day.  Of course, you and I know they should have called me first, but I digress…

Once I got this information in hand, I proceeded to call the company to ask about a white stretch (knowing that I had a preferred vendor who had one with no problem), but firstly, promptly and very nicely asked for a refund for our mutual client.  “The Client hired you mainly out of fear; and not with what I would call full knowledge, his Wife wants a white limo and as a Wedding and Event Planner in town, when next I can refer a client to you, I certainly will to try to make it up to you.”  In other words, let’s let these people out of this contract and I’ll do my best to send you other business to make up for it.  A nice offer I thought and as I’d not done any business with this client before, I thought a nice way to begin a relationship.  A favor for a favor.

The Gal on the phone said she couldn’t authorize refunds.  “Okay.  Put me through to your Manager, please.”  “I am a Manager”, she replied,  then after much back and forth; “You actually need the Operations Manager and she’s not here, I don’t have any power to make this decision.”  “She’s gone for the weekend and won’t be available until Tuesday (this was last Friday).  “She’s the only one who can approve refunds. I’ll try to reach her for you though and see what we can do.”  All pleasantries…and I should have known it was what I call “niceness-smoke”….because when I called on Saturday, she had no answer for me, but she did take both my phone numbers (and here’s me thinking: “ahhhh, progress!”).  I then proceeded to call twice on Sunday, still no answer and still no Manager to speak to.  “I don’t know why she’s not responding to me, but I’ve tried to reach her.”  On the said Tuesday morning, with still no return phone call about the refund, I ring again and lo and behold at 4:30pm on Tuesday afternoon (this same “manager” who’s had my phone number since the Friday before), tells me “No, we’re not offering any refund.” “O.K., May I speak with….”No, She’s not here.”  “How about the Owner?” “No, He’s not here.”

Surprise!  No, that really wasn’t a surprise and this probably isn’t either:  This company will NEVER get any of my future business.

What kind of professional shop can’t supply a simple answer “Yes, we can” or “No, we can’t?”  Leave aside the times you bite the bullet and refund the client anyway, because that’s what a smart business owner does.  The next time a planner asks me for a limo referral, guess who’s number I’m NOT giving out. Funny?  Here’s funny: during our just recent and (unfortunately, not last) conversation, she asked me if she could find out if that white limo (supplied through a contractor),  had the audio fixed yet and could she call me with an answer.  “Well, you haven’t called me in days, why would you do that now?”  There.  A little satisfaction for your writer.

It isn’t the “No” that really offends me; I hear a “no” from time to time, it comes with the territory.  Some people are willing to bend to get new business, some aren’t…’s that this SAME company in weeks prior took the liberty of posting their phone number and company name on my Companies’ Facebook Wall; like a mini-advertisement.  Out of pure kindness and as a professional courtesy, I left it there….then lo and behold, when I need a favor for our first mutual client, not only can I not get one; I get literally pulled around for days trying to get a simple answer.  But wait!  Aren’t we Facebook Friends?  HAH!  This company has lost goodwill with me and anyone within earshot….and, what’s really silly?  All of this over a $250.00 deposit. I wonder.  Do they think they made the right business decision?  I’ve had the good fortune of getting returns 4 times that amount from local businesses for my clients–and those people; they were smart.  They just knew it was the right thing to do; for both of us, because if the client is unhappy, the vendor gets to be unhappy.

Now, let’s circle back a moment and discuss the Manager; you know, the one who “didn’t have any power”.  Could she have called me?  Absolutely.  She never followed up with me over the course of 5 days to try to come to a solution that would help everyone.  I’m not an unreasonable woman and I always try to be respectful; until I realize I’m being played.  She never did one proactive thing on our mutual clients’ behalf.  I wonder if her so powerfully-busy-upper-echelon-6-figured Manager even knew I’d called…..I had to call her, multiple times–so, in addition to doing my job, I was having to do hers.

The term “Customer service” is made up of two words.  You have a customer.  You’re supposed to service their needs; call them, follow up; don’t show up a week before you need a renewal for their business when you haven’t spoken to them in a year, you won’t get that renewal, especially if that business investment isn’t paying and hasn’t paid off.  I pay people I like and I do business with people I like and I afford people business who service our companies’ needs.

So, in closing; I recommend you not hire Maxim Limousine Worldwide.  They apparently don’t have any managerial system in place to deal with a client by telephone, text, shouting, sonar or smoke signal (unless, of course, you’re going to be paying them money).

And, last but not least and because I’ve been holding this in for the last 9 months:           To out of San Diego (not referred by us, as well), the day you took your $450.00 deposit from our Bride and Groom, did you plan then to cheat them?  And when you never afforded them even the rough footage, let alone a finished product, I have to ask: how do you sleep at night?

For you readers, by the way, if I had shot the video for my clients, they’d have it today, and that would be yet just one more example of me having to do someone else’s job


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Please Read This Story, Thank you by Linton Weeks

NPR – March 14, 2012

Listen to the conversations around you — colleagues at the office, customers in the coffeehouse line, those who serve you, those you serve, the people you meet each day. “Give me a tall latte.” “Hand me that hammer.” “Have a good one.”

Notice anything missing? The traditional magic words “please” and “thank you” that many people learn as children appear to be disappearing.

Lisa Gache, co-founder of Beverly Hills Manners in Los Angeles, has noticed the gradual vanishing of courteous language. She blames the casualty on the casual. “The slow erosion of the ‘magic words’ in our everyday vernacular,” says Gache, who coaches people to be more civil, “has to do with the predilection toward all things casual in our society today. Casual conversation, casual dress and casual behavior have hijacked practically all areas of life, and I do not think it is doing anyone a service.”

Other polite phrases also seem to be falling by the wayside. “You’re welcome,” for instance. Say “thank you” to someone these days, and instead of hearing “you’re welcome,” you’re more liable to hear: “Sure.” “No problem.” “You bet.” “Enjoy.” Or a long list of replies that replace the traditional “you’re welcome.”

Instead of saying “thank you,” people say “got it.” Or “have a good one.” Or, more often, nothing at all. And in lieu of saying “no, thank you,” reactions such as “I’m good” are increasingly common.

“The responses ‘have a good one,’ ‘I’m good’ or ‘you bet,’ do not carry the same sentiment or convey the same conviction as when we are sincerely expressing our gratitude or thanks,” Gache says. “They feel less invested, almost as if they are painful to utter under our breath.”

Please excuse us for asking the questions: Are we just finding new ways to say old, polite phrases? Are good manners merely morphing? Or are they fading away altogether?

Becoming More Rude

“Simple things that we took for granted as children no longer seem to count,” says Gregory E. Smith, a psychiatrist and blogger in Augusta, Ga. Smith says he has noticed a tectonic shift during his 25 years of practicing medicine. “Saying please and thank you, asking permission, offering unsolicited help, and following up on solutions to problems are no longer as important.”

He also has observed a drastic change in everyday transactions. “Go through any drive-through at a fast-food restaurant in America. Go through any checkout line in a grocery store. Stand in line at a convenience store. If you are very lucky, the person waiting on you will make eye contact. Maybe they will speak. More likely, they will hand you your drink and bag while looking back over their shoulder, never even acknowledging your personhood much less your status as a customer.”

Our experience has only been stellar with Chick-Fil-A and most times with Starbucks in this regard.  They typically use proper grammar and are always very pleasant at their drive-thrus.  Interestingly enough; this same Fast Food experience was the impetus for us to start our business!  While standing in line at a a Subway, the young man in front of me nary spoke a word; grunting was all he could seem to muster.  Skate board under arm there were no ‘pleases’, ‘yes’s’ or thank  you’s.  It was appalling and was quite clear he was almost college aged.  I shuddered and made the decision then and there to start Mrs. Hancock’s. …. whether behind the counter or in front of the counter; this just would not do.

The checkout person “will check you out,” Smith says, “all the while being ‘checked out’ emotionally from the situation. Worst of all, as I experienced in an airport in the last couple of years, a kiosk worker will blandly bag your item, swipe your debit card, hand you your receipt, all while having a conversation on her cellphone. Amazing. Outrageous.”

Research backs up Smith’s anecdotal observations. In 2011, some 76 percent of people surveyed by Rasmussen Reports said Americans are becoming more rude and less civil.

Margaret Lacey, on the other hand, finds that many people are quite well-mannered in her everyday life. A sophomore at the College of Charleston — in the South Carolina city that is often cited as one of the most courteous in the country — Lacey notes that people can be polite without trotting out the traditional niceties.

She describes a typically routine encounter: “At the grocery store cafe down the street, I go get a coffee every morning,” Lacey says. “This morning I walked in and they said, ‘Good morning, will you have the usual?’ I smiled and said, ‘Yes, please.’ They asked me how my morning had been while making my coffee. On the way out the door they said, ‘Enjoy. See you tomorrow.’ ”

She doesn’t expect people to utter the same old same olds.

Timeless Principles, Changing Manners

Neither does etiquette maven Cindy Post Senning, a director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. The institute, dedicated to promoting etiquette and civility, was established more than 60 years ago by Emily Post, who wrote a landmark book on manners, Etiquette, in 1922.

To Senning — who is Emily Post’s great-granddaughter — etiquette and courtesy encompass two interrelated and essential components: principles and manners. “The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless,” she says. But “manners change over time and from culture to culture.”

To strengthen relationships, she says, “we need to articulate these principles in all our interactions. It is respectful to make requests rather than demands, to show gratitude and appreciation, to greet others, to give our complete attention, to acknowledge appreciation shown, to acknowledge and show respect for age, standing, importance.”

However, when it comes to the actual articulation, she says, “the words we use do change.”

For example, Senning says, it is important to show respect for other people by greeting them when you first see them — in the hallway, at a meeting, on the street. The form of greeting, though, has morphed over time.

“How do you do?” became “Hello, how are you?” which eventually changed into “Hello, how are things?” Or “How’s it going?”

As a result of the metamorphosis, Senning says, “today it would sound a little stilted and perhaps even disrespectful if a sarcastic tone is used to say ‘How do you do?’ ”

And what about other popular substitutions, such as “no problem” for “you’re welcome”?

Senning says she prefers the latter, “but if the appreciation is expressed in a genuine manner, I do not see its use as a loss of courtesy.”

She agrees with Smith, the psychiatrist, and many others that the phrase “you’re welcome” has long been the commonly accepted courteous response. But she also acknowledges that the norms — and the manners and the mores — may change.

“What won’t change,” she adds, “is the importance of acknowledging appreciation expressed.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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R.s.v.p.’ing, the Dodo Bird and the “Easy Button”

What happened to the Dodo Bird?  We wonder if it’s with mingling with the R.s.v.p., perhaps?  The topic of the R.s.v.p. has been interesting to me as for a very long time. I thought I was the only person a lack of an R.s.v.p. was a real pet peeve for.  I was wrong.  Maybe the question should be why did we stop sending our R.s.v.p.?  Honestly, I just don’t know.  What I do know is that not responding to an invitation is bad form and it reflects negatively when not issued correctly…

A little background:  R.s.v.p. comes from the French, “Repondez, s’il vous plait,” which means “Respond, please.”  But, you knew that.  When did so many of us decide to stop using it?  When did we decide that it doesn’t matter whether we respond??  Again, I don’t know.  What I do know is that many of you have a). Stopped having parties because invitees have gotten so lazy in their lack of a response!  Is it that we all have so much to do these days that we’re always waiting to see if a better invitation comes along?   Or, is it that we’re so dog-tired at the end of most weeks, that it seems we’d rather just snuggle on the couch?  Which, I’m not sure.  What I am sure of is that many of you are b). Mad about the whole thing!  Really!  It’s something we hear over and over again at Mrs. Hancock’s.  “Oh, you’re going to teach them about R.s.v.p.’s?  OH GOOD!”

So, please, if you get an invitation to a get-together of some sort, do the right thing.  In a timely fashion please respond to your hostess that you’ll be in attendance and, with how many or, that you’re sending your regrets.  (Now in unison, let’s everyone push our ‘easy button’.  See?  “That was easy”)!  We all need to remember that throwing a party can be an expensive proposition and a lot of work, so please be considerate.  Your attendance or lack thereof, decides how many bottles of wine, how much food and whether or not they’ll need to hire a valet, perhaps.  And, if you do R.s.v.p. in the affirmative, you must attend (unless you or your child has the flu or some other catastrophe strikes—then please call the day after the event and, no.  You may not send an e-mail!  They need to hear from you in person as to why you weren’t in attendance).

Consider, too that your little ones are watching and learning.  So if you know you have a party to go to Saturday night and you and Honey decide at 5pm you’d rather stay in and watch movies after a rather long discussion about how ‘they’ll never miss us’, ‘it’s not that important’; know the Kids are listening and learning from that discussion.  The next time Sarah Jane invites your little Carrie to her Birthday party and it’s 3pm and she’s decided she would rather head to Lena’s for a sleep-over, well that’s not okay either and please explain to Carrie, why.

Get an invitation; respond to an invitation.  Make a promise; keep a promise.  There.  “That was easy!”  Your new party dress is calling…and don’t you look fabulous in it?!

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How do you organize the guest list?

How do you organize the guest list? Often this is a question that couples wrestle with, due to obligation, family pressure and budgets. The following quick tips offer some insight into the topic. These are the very kind of things we at Mrs Hancock’s deal with everyday when we work with our clients. We have the know the right approach to handle the many challenges couples face when planning a wedding, let us work with you make sure your day is stress free insuring you and your families are “present” and remember every moment.

According to the website the average number of guests nationwide is 166. The guest list can be a real issue for couples who do not want to offend or go into debt due to expectations of others.

There is always the destination wedding, and a party upon return to help with costs. Love this one! BUT if that is not an option, some tips…

It is no longer the responsibility of the bride’s family to pay for out-of-town’ guests travel and lodging. Times have changed, and they pay for their own.

Cut guests you have outgrown, invite out of intent, people who are in your life today and limit the ones who have drifted.

Cut “work” friends you don’t socialize with outside of the office; They will understand more than you know.

Ultimately, remember people make the wedding memorable, invite those who matter most and will be in your life going forward.

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Welcome to Mrs. Hancock’s Blog site…

Welcome to our Blog; enjoy our unique and special take on all things Etiquette and Wedding related…

Why use a Wedding Planner, you ask?

As we enter “Wedding Season”, there is so much to consider for the bride and groom as they begin the planning process.  Weddings are intricate and detailed and growing more so all the time.   Where to begin?  What is the first thing the couple should do?  One major question is, “are we going to hire a planner/coordinator”?  Certainly opinions on the topic are as varied as the planners that are out there.   Some guidance in this area is wise; lots of your questions can be answered in the following article.

 At every major event in life professionals are present! A doctor delivers a baby, clergy persons baptize and confirm children, city and school officials preside at graduation, directors take charge of movies and stage productions and licensed persons perform marriages and bury the dead. In each of these events rituals are involved. There is a system for each, carried out by someone trained to do so.

With the high cost of weddings and the time involved to pull all the facets together, it is all but impossible for the bride to do this while keeping her daily routine (which is already in overload) intact. Listen to some of the comments made by brides who did not have a wedding coordinator.

  • “By the day of my wedding I was so overwhelmed by all the things I had to do I was like a zombie. I hardly remember repeating my vows and I never did get anything to eat.”
  • “There were so many mistakes in my wedding that could have been avoided had I hired a wedding coordinator. I never gave a thought to coordinating the arrival of the vendors, so the cake was delivered before the linens and flowers. After the linens arrived, the cake table was set up and the cake had to be moved a second time. One pillar tilted, so I had a lop-sided cake. We were shorted one bouquet and no one realized it until it was too late for the florist to deliver it. Everyone was running around screaming–or so it seemed–blaming each other. I just stood there crying. All of this could have been avoided had I hired a professional coordinator.”
  • A coordinator schedules the arrival of vendors–Example: The linens would arrive at 10:00 o’clock, the flowers at 10:30 and the cake at 11:00. Thus the cake table would be set up and decorated before the cake arrived. She would have checked the number of bouquets against the number ordered before the florist left. In a real emergency, she could simply pluck a few flowers from floral arrangements and, using tools from her emergency kit, make a bouquet.
  • “I forgot my garter. I had really looked forward to having Dan toss it to his best man, hoping that catching the bouquet would cause him to propose to my best friend, Cindy, who was my maid-of-honor. Imagine her disappointment and my embarrassment.”
  • A coordinator always has a spare garter in her emergency kit.
  • “We forgot the Guest Registry Book so we have no record of those who shared our beautiful day. How sad, especially so since it was the last time my grandmother signed her name. She died the next week.”

A professional coordinator has a checklist, which she uses to be sure everything arrives and is set up. Some even carry an extra Registry Book. By now you get the picture. A coordinator is trained to plan and coordinate every minute detail and oversee all of it!

Are coordinators expensive? Some brides feel a coordinator is too expensive. Compared to what? The gown? The reception? The band? Overall, the money spent for a coordinator is a small percentage of the wedding budget, which is where the coordinator begins before she offers any suggestions. Many times she can actually save you money because she knows the “going” price. Frequently she can negotiate prices. The following is a true story–a telephone conversation I overheard while in the office of a Wedding Planner: Continue reading “Welcome to Mrs. Hancock’s Blog site…” »

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