Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Customer Service

This morning I went to get a haircut up at the shopping district about a mile from my house. I grew up going to the stores there: the movie theater now a bank, the drug store now vacant, the Manners Big Boy still a restaurant, the small grocery now a CVS. Problem was, I had a hundred dollar bill left over from my vacation. I went to the bank to get change. In the bank were four or five employees and one other customer. When I asked for change, I was refused because I was not a customer. It was corporate policy not to provide service to non customers.

What has happened to the service businesses in Northeast Ohio that they feel the need to not take the energy to serve the community? I know that this practice is repeated elsewhere but my opinion is, it shouldn’t. Taking that refusal as an opportunity to talk with the manager I introduced myself and we talked for about thirty minutes about customer service, community service, collaborative behavior, quality connected places, branding, and many other aspects of Open Source Economic Development and good behavior.

We talked about the bank not waiting for the landlord to fill the vacant space where the drug store moved out but proactively searching for a new tenant. The new tenant might provide employees who open accounts and apply for loans, the new tenant might open an account and become an active user of bank services, and the new customers the tenant attracts might provide profitable business for the bank.

We also talked about neighbors who were refused service and did not open accounts with the bank when the need arose, neighbors who did not have good things to say about the businesses practices of the bank, and possible building tenants who did not move in because of the less than pleasant atmosphere. The manager did offer to make change for me but today I decided to go elsewhere so that I did not the teller feel that perhaps she had done something against policy and that I had gone over her head.

I will be back to the bank because we began to build a relationship. I have connected the bank manager to a new Women’s Enterprise Network program that I am helping to develop. Maybe she will start having her branch provide service to the neighbors, customers or not. And maybe that vacant space may be filled soon.

Loss of Focus

I have found that over the past several months I have been a little less focused as well as a little less tolerant than usual. I know that a lot has to do with both my parents dying in early January and my dealing with that loss. As executor, there is also continuing stress of sealing with various governmental requirements and other estate issues.

I had been taking care of my parents over the last five years and my work as a founder and director of a local non-profit allowed me some flexibility to deal with family issues.Luckily, I am more flexible than most and I know that there are many people out there who hold down a regular full time job, are raising a family, as well as looking after parents. I do not know how they are able to maintain an acceptable level of stress.

As far as this blog is concerned, I have been unable to focus long enough and deeply enough to complete a cogent discussion.I still would come with ideas to write about but would not have the wherewithal to work through to the end. I did find myself with a lot of partially finished projects. I am not a journal writer at heart as I prefer to sit down with people face to face to work through a conversation.

My brother thought that a vacation would do me and him good so the two of us went to a small fishing village on the Caribbean coast of Mexico to veg out but we ended up swimming and snorkeling every day as well as exploring the jungle and kayaking in the mangrove swamps.

My brother speaks Spanish but is hard of hearing. I understand Spanish but my speaking the language has not redeveloped from thirty-five years of inactivity. So the locals would speak to us in Spanish, I would translate to English and say it to my brother who would respond in Spanish. The time was somewhat a break and was enlightening but when I came back, I returned to all of the tasks that I had not taken care of for two weeks. Somewhat the way that I remember vacations being when I took them many years ago. (Other pictures may be found here)