Thursday, February 23, 2023

SERVICE - Ain't What It Used To Be


I have been working most of my adult life.  I had my first job at age eleven and worked year round at one or more jobs until I graduated college in January 1970.  I then went to work of Owens-Corning Fiberglas, a Fortune 150 company in the building materials industry.  In 1985 I started my own marketing research and services company (BJS III Marketing), and then, in 1987, I started a light manufacturing company called ADvent Supply.  ADvent started in my garage with three employees, and grew over sixteen years to three plant locations (Texas/Virginia/Nevada) with 127,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and warehouse space and over three hundred employees.  I sold the company to my largest competitor in 2003 and retired.

The key to my success when working for others and the success of my own companies was almost entirely dependent on providing the service my customers deserved and craved.  Oh, sure, we had to have good quality products.  And, yes, we had to be competitive.  But the real reason we were able to survive, grow and maintain consistent profitability was GREAT SERVICE.

The classic definition of SERVICE is the action of helping or doing work for someone and providing assistance or advice to the customer during and after the sale of goods.  In the case of ADvent Supply, we designed and staffed a company whose goal was to provide superior service to all customers.  We trained our employees and kept them motivated to serve.  We responded quickly to every request to ensure our customers got the service they paid for in a timely manner; occasionally going over and above to make things right.  Were we perfect, no, but we tried our best.

During this same period of time, we searched for companies that had not only the products we required but also the service to secure those products quickly and efficiently.  We also monitored the follow-up service when things didn’t go exactly as planned to ensure we got what we wanted and were treated fairly.  We went out of our way to do business with those companies who provided superior service even if it meant a cost premium. 

Unfortunately, we are finding that fewer and fewer companies either have the desire or the ability to provide world-class service anymore…apparently at any cost.  Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic or about mid-2020, service, across the board, has gone down the proverbial toilet.  Today, nearly three years later, I personally have almost daily reminders that even just good service in this country is very hard to find.  And marginal service is the new norm.

See if any of these situations have happened to you in the past three years

1.)   Missed delivery dates.  (Some by as much as two weeks)

2.)  Delayed deliveries.

3.)  Much higher prices with no increase in quality or service.

4.)  No phone number available to call anyone.

5.)  Inability to connect to a live person with which to speak.

6.)  Referred to a Chat with an automated attendant.

7.)   Referred to a Chat with an actual live person who still could not solve your issue.

8.)  Transferred more than once, even if a live person was available to speak with directly.  (I was transferred to four people at AT&T over a one hour period and still did not get an accurate or helpful response)

9.)  Put on “hold” for more than 20 minutes.  (My record was 1 hour and 13 minutes while trying to get an answer on a $ 699.00 order with the third-party shipping company handling a Lowes order we had placed)

10.)                   Transferred to a person whom you could not understand (language barrier), or who was poorly trained, or who, in the end, could not help you or all of the above.

And finally, have you ever been connected with a person who is rude, questions your intelligence, or simply hangs up on you!  (I had one person who implied that my parents were never married before I was disconnected, but I’ll just put that in the “rude” category)

One might think that these things only happen with smaller companies or companies that are struggling for whatever reasons, but that is just NOT the case.  Mega-retail giants like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Target and online powerhouses like Wayfair, Etsy, AT&T and Amazon are suffering with declining service with no improvement in sight.

Back in the day, if I got a complaint from one of our customers, I dug in and got to the bottom of it and worked hard for a solution.  We always tried to make it right for the customer, regardless of cost.  If you have experienced any of the above, don’t just let it go.  Contact the company and file a formal complaint.  Leave a review of your experience on an appropriate website.  Speak to family and friends (strangers on the train) about your experience.  Answer the annoying survey questions at the end of your call and hope the company listens and reacts. If all else fails, place a call or write a letter to the CEO of the company.  Yeah, that’s the one making the multi-million dollar bonus because they have been pleasing their stockholders instead of their customers.  See how long that lasts when they lose half their customers because of horrible SERVICE.

I would appreciate your perspective.







Friday, February 17, 2023


Mental Health.  So much in the news these days, mental health is looked at from several perspectives.  Political, healthcare, research, and the positive but mostly negative impact of mental health issues in our society.

There is an old story I will repeat here:

 “Driving down a lonely highway, I ran over a nail which punctured my right front tire and gave me a flat.  I pulled the car safely over to the shoulder and started the process of replacing the flat with the spare tire I hauled out of the trunk.  As I took all of the five lug nuts from the flat, I placed them in the hubcap.  As I was removing the wheel and tire from the axle, I accidentally kicked the hubcap and four of the five lug nuts, disappeared through the slots of a grate to a sewer line that ran along the roadside.  I could not retrieve them.  One lug nut would not keep the spare wheel on the car, so even though I was three miles from the nearest gas station, I had no alternative but to walk there to, hopefully, purchase some more lug nuts. About a mile down the road, I came upon a six foot high chain link fence that surrounded the grounds adjacent to a huge hospital-like building.  As I got to the walkway up to the building, I read the sign over the door; “Berkshire Mental Health”.  Oh great, I thought, it’s a looney bin. I started up the long walkway, hoping I could find some attendant inside who could help.  A man, who appeared to be in his mid-forties, was standing in his hospital gown on his side of the fence.  As I approached, I nodded in his direction and, suddenly, he addressed me.  “Good morning, what brings you to our facility?”  Not wanting to be impolite I briefly told him my predicament and was prepared to move on when he quickly said, “What I would suggest is that you go back to your car, remove one lug nut from each of the other three wheels and then use the four you would have to mount the spare.  That should easily get you into town, where you can get the help you need.”  I stared at this well-spoken man for a moment and then responded, “Wow, what a great idea.  I think that will work.”  The man just smiled.  Then I said, “Excuse me for asking, but you seem to be quite intelligent. What are you doing in a place like this?” - while pointing at the sign above the entrance.  The man chuckled and said, “They put me in here because I am crazy, not because I am stupid.”

According to the National Institute for Health, nearly 53 million American adults are afflicted with AMI, defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder.  Some of them you might know about, others maybe not so much.  Depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder (also ADHD), obsession/compulsion disorder, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, paranoia, and schizophrenia are some of the most prominent and they rank in severity from no impairment to mild, moderate, even severe impairment.  One in four American adults will have a diagnosable mental disorder at any given time. Chances are you might know someone personally who suffers from one of these disorders.

Is it any wonder we are having such an apparent increase in the number of mass shootings and violent acts resulting in injury and/or death almost every day?  Is it any wonder why homelessness and poverty continue to plague individuals and society?  If this is ever going to change, as a nation we must put the same kind of effort into identifying mental health issues, provide treatment for those so impaired, and increase research into finding ways to improve or lessen the impact on individuals and society as we do for treating cancer, heart disease and other prominent physical abnormalities.  Even searching for a cure for some forms of mental illness, should be a top priority.

Until we recognize that Mental Health should be up at the top of the list of problems we address instead of spinning our wheels and spending our tax dollars on complex, and sometimes, ineffective solutions like gun control, police protection in our schools, arming teachers, increasing the size of our police forces and improve their training, or handing out care baskets/blankets to the homeless.   All good things, but they do not address the core issue; mental illness.


Comments?  Solutions?  I welcome your thoughts.