8.17.2015

Customer Service: The Power of A Name

Image result for customer service icon
I've worked in customer service my entire adult life.  Offering great customer service is something I care about.  I want my customers happy and I want them to think highly of the company I work for.  I could go on and on and on about it.

But I won't.  Today, I just have a few thoughts on the impact of using your name.

Many companies require their Customer Service Reps (CSRs) to use their name in their greeting when they answer a call.  But I think reminding a customer of your name at the end of a call is far more important.

1. It gives them confidence.  When you close a call and remind them of your name, that customer knows you stand by the service you've given them.  They feel confident that they'll receive what you've arranged and will follow through on your end of the responsibilities.  And if something goes awry, they know who to call or who to say they talked with.  You taking ownership of the service you offer makes your customer feel confident.

2. It comforts them.  I work in a service industry, so I frequently talk to people who are distraught.  Offering my name at the end of the call helps them know that I care about their situation.  They know that Joy is working on their behalf.  Tell a customer your name and that they can ask for you if they need anything else.  Often, they don't need to call back again, but they feel more calm and like their situation is under control just knowing you're there for them.

3. It creates personal service.  When you use your name at the end of the call and invite them to call again, they no longer feel they're a customer of whatever-company-big-or-small-am-I-talking-to-someone-in-India.  They're now your customer.  That sense of personal service makes a customer much more likely to "buy in" to your company and stick with you for the long haul.

These are obvious tips for someone in phone-based customer service, but they can go equally as far for someone in retail, out in the service field, executives, home-based businesses, networking, interacting with your children's school teachers/administrators, and beyond!

I know this isn't something I have ever really talked about on the blog here, but it was just on my mind today, so I thought I'd share.  Happy Monday, all!

1.02.2015

New Year 2015

What would a New Year be without resolutions?  Actually, resolutions don't need to happen right at the New Year, but I think we are remiss to allow a year to go by without giving some thought to where we've been and where we're going.  I have some friends that do it around their birthdays or other prominent dates in their lives.

I did not do so well with my resolutions last year.  I made too many to keep up with AND I let even the manageable ones fall to the wayside because I didn't keep those goals in front of me.  The ones I met, I met by accident.

But now it's 2015.  New Year, New Leaf is what I'm saying.  My New Year Resolution list could alternately be titled "Kick 30's Butt".  :)

Here are some of my goals for 2015.

Say "How about you?":  Last year I added more "pleases" and "thank yous" into my vocabulary.  This year I'd like to add more "how about yous" and things like that.  I always want to be a good friend and a good listener and to care for others more.  So my goal is to never let a conversation completely center on me.  When someone asks me about my day, my weekend, my plans, etc, I plan to give them an appropriate-for-the-conversation answer (I tend to be long-winded and an over-sharer) and finish with a question back to them.  I feel there's no better way to get to know someone better than to ask them about the things that matter to them.  It's about courtesy, but it's even more about connection and letting people know they matter to me.

Say "Yes?": If I have one struggle in my life, it's having patience and giving grace to my family.  So this year (and I've already started) when someone is calling my name, I don't want to respond with "What?" or, even worse (but all too common), "WHAT?!".  I am going to respond with, "Yes?".  I think it is a simple way to give affirmation to my family, to set the tone that what they're about to say will be received and not rejected before they can speak, that their talking to me is not an inconvenience.  I can see that this is truth in the look on my 3.5 year old daughter's face when I answer her.

Do Something Healthy: I know that health goals are hackneyed for New Year's Resolutions, but I have one anyway.  I would like to lose some weight (20 pounds if I can), but more than that I'd like to get stronger and feel better.  I frequently find myself worn out and feeling blah and I'm over that.  We got a Nutribullet for Christmas and have started drinking smoothies for breakfast.  My Mom and Aunt swear by them (they've been doing it for several months and have both lost weight and report feeling more energetic and physically better).  I think Nora would have a smoothie for every meal if we'd let her!  I just started today drinking Matcha.  It's powdered green tea leaves.  One 2-ounce swig each morning gives all the good stuff of about 10 cups of steeped green tea.  It tastes kind of gross (call it an "acquired taste"...that sounds nicer), very Japanese/Sushi/Seaweed-like.  I also like that because of...something...in it the caffeine is delivered evenly over several hours which prevents the jitters/crash that I get from coffee.  It's science.  I also plan to do the Chicago Triathlon Super-Sprint later this year.  Don't think I'm crazy or all hard-core...it's something like 1/4 mile swim, 8 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.  I will have to do a little training for it (I couldn't run 1.5 miles without stopping even if zombies were chasing me), but I think it will be fun and very rewarding!  My sister is planning to do it also, and I'm hoping Zach will, too.

Practice God's Presence: I have been in on the "Not A Fan" movement since the very beginning, and I've been learning and growing over 2014, but I still feel like something is missing.  As I look at my life, I think that missing piece is communion with God.  I want to carve out some quiet time to connect with God.  Right now I'm going to try several things and see what works well and then make a commitment to it.

Experiences Over Things: It is SO hard for me not to pick up that little toy, book, item, whatever for my kids every time I see it.  But while giving a gift is rewarding in the moment (for both parties), experiences and time spent are so much more valuable.  This comes in the form of playing a game one-on-one with Nora, or taking Judah outside even when I don't feel like it.  It also looks like letting my kids take their time putting on clothes or packing a bag or doing a task even though I could help them or do it myself and get it done much faster.  It looks like redirecting my money away from buying "stuff" and toward doing things--bowling, ice skating, camping.  It looks like re-allotting my time to make space for all these things.

Be A Champion For My Husband: This looks like speaking to and about him with respect.  It's relating with him using his love language.  It's praying for him.  It's encouraging him and being a help mate.  It includes the above-mentioned goals of answering with "Yes?" and asking "How about you?".  It's putting him before the kids (which benefits the kids, too, in the long run).  It's also keeping him in the loop on what's going on in my life schedule-wise, emotionally and spiritually.

So those are my goals.  It looks like a lot written down, but I think it can be done.  How am I doing kicking 30's butt? I think it'll result in a better me all around and having some great experiences under my belt.  In October I'll be able to ring in 31 with no regrets.

So, how about you?  When do you set goals? Do you have plans for 2015?

8.27.2014

The Fantastical Story of the Missing Quarter & The Golden Rule


I was in the drive through line at McDonald's today and I dropped a quarter.  Somehow, this quarter magically disappeared somewhere on the floorboard of my car.  So I started looking around, lifted the floor mat, scooted my seat back and had my head between my knees looking for the disappearing quarter.  When I looked up, the line had moved a few car lengths without me.  As I pulled forward I thought to myself, "That person behind me probably hates me right now".  But they shouldn't.  For all they know, I could be distracted by a family member's death, exhausted from being up all night with a sick or scared child, I could have a poisonous spider on me and need to kill it before pulling forward...

Then I got thinking of the times that I make up wild scenarios and feel good about what a gracious person I am.  How that lady with the coupon's husband lost his job and has been searching for a new one for 3 years.  How the guy who passed me doing 80 in a 50 zone is racing to the hospital after finding out one of his family members was in a horrible accident.  The customer who was rude to me on the phone is having a terrible day.  The person driving me crazy on Facebook is lonely or depressed.

But what if they're none of those things?  What if they're just your average mom, a dude who is speeding, an upset customer, has too much time on their hands...or me, just a lady looking for a quarter?

If their scenario is more everyday than elaborate, does that make them more deserving of my eye rolls or passive aggression?  Does it make them less worthy of my helping hand, patience or kindness?

See, I've been seeing a lot of videos and blog posts lately about how you never know what kind of battle people are fighting and you need to treat them with respect and kindness, grace and mercy because of that.  And that's true, I don't know what battles the people around me are fighting.  But that's not the reason to treat others with respect, kindness, grace and mercy.

Jesus gave us what has come to be known as "The Golden Rule", Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you."  It's not about fantasizing or romanticizing the other person's situation.  In the long run, that is self-serving.  Your made-up story about the other person only demotes them to be less than you and makes you into a hero in your own mind.

Back up a few verses before the Golden Rule (that's always a good thing to do).
The passage begins with the familiar analogy of the plank:
Matthew 7:1-5: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Doing unto others starts with a look at yourself and then a look across at them--as an equal--not a look down at them.  How would I want to be treated if I were in their shoes?  Their missing quarter shoes, not their poisonous spider shoes.

So be kind today.  Because it's the right thing to do.

And by the way...I never did find that quarter.

8.22.2014

On Days Like Today...

Usually on a day like today I would say, "Whew!  I wish I could start this day over and try again!". Not today. Today I'm just glad it's (almost) over.

I could list all the things that went wrong today, but the long and short of it is this: today I was not in control of me.

I was unloving, ungracious, impatient and ungrateful with my husband and children. I acted selfishly, my thoughts were on many things other than grace. Many things other than kindness. Many things other than love.

Have you had a day like this before? A day where your heart feels like it is in turmoil. Where if you had to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in how "keyed up" you feel, it would be a 12. Where the literal noise of life has pushed you to the breaking point. A day when your inner voice is a liar, scripted by satan himself, all self-filled, all angry, all curses.

I literally thought to myself at one point today about my husband, "he has locked the van doors exactly one time ever and it's now, when I need into it". I would half smile at the ridiculousness of that thought now if I wasn't so embarrassed by it. Both because it is a lie that he never locks the doors and the absurdity of the insinuation that he locked them to spite me, to make my task harder. It just speaks to the condition of my heart.

We each took a kid to bed tonight and when I got mine laid down, I stole a few minutes outside. I needed some quiet, away from the noise of appliances, of voices and toys and the cricket in the basement. I sat down with my Bible and opened to the book of Joel.

I'll admit, I read the short book quickly without a lot of deep thought, but felt better after turning my focus toward God. I came inside and as I fixed a cup of tea, I thought, "God, what are you saying to me?" Suddenly, some words from Joel popped into my head:
"The Lord's voice will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth will shake.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
and strong fortress for the people of Israel." Joel 3:16-17

It made me think of chaos. That's the best way I can describe my day. Everything felt like chaos. But during that, through it, the Lord will be a refuge for his people. 

Now, I know this is out of context, and don't think that I'm telling you what the book of Joel is about. But this is what the Lord was speaking to me tonight.

When life is chaos, when things are out of your control, I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress. 

Even though, when it comes down to brass tacks, there's really not much other than yourself that you're in control of on ANY day, I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress.

When you're not even in control of yourself (especially when you're not in control of yourself), I am your refuge. I am your strong fortress.

There is still plenty of time and opportunity this evening for things to go wrong. But instead of letting my stress level climb, instead of listening to the liar, I'm going to make another cup of tea and settle into my refuge, my strong fortress.




8.19.2014

Judah's Nursery--An Almost-Neutral Nursery On A Shoestring Budget.

Seeing as Judah is now 13 months old, this post is a little (ahem) late, but I wanted to share it anyway. These are some pics from Judah's nursery!  When we put it together it was "Baby G2's Nursery" because we didn't know what we were having.  Over the past year we've added more boyish things and it's become boyish, but if he had been a girl we would have added more orange and some pink to make it more girly.
So here's our "Almost-Neutral Nursery".
We also did our nursery on a shoestring budget.  And this wasn't one of those shoestring budgets like some blogs or TV shows where they're like, "It was a tight budget--only $1000".  We thrifted, bought secondhand, and used what we already had to make this nursery happen.  I'll tell you about it as we go. How's that?  Good?  Good.  :)
These little guys were the inspiration for the whole nursery.  They are the hanging toys on our swing and mobile and match the print for the bouncer, pack n play and car seat.  I loved the colors, so we ran with it.

  • This door was already painted with chalkboard paint when we moved into the house, so I searched "chalk lettering" on Pinterest to find a design I liked and just subbed in Judah's name and sketched it on the door in colors we used in the room.


  • I love these ABC wall clings! (above and below)  They were originally from Target (I think), but I found them brand new in an unopened box at Goodwill.  I just noticed the picture below makes them look crooked, but they're not in real life.  They've been up there for well over a year now and haven't budged.
  • The changing pad and cover is the one we had for Nora when she was a baby.  The pads run around $20 (I think ours was originally from Babies R Us or Wal-Mart) and the covers come in a wide variety of prices.  I think the cheapest I've seen them in store is about $12, but always check the clearance section at Babies R Us and I see these often brand new at Once Upon A Child.  A quick search on Amazon shows one just like this on sale for $8.74 and it's Prime eligible.
  • The dresser!  We rented a house the first year we lived here and our landlord told us we could keep/use/give away/sell anything that was in the garage while we lived there and that's where this came from.  This little dresser was a really, weird, ugly green color, but we chose this orange paint and gave it a little makeover.  The drawer pulls are just the wooden drawer pulls that were on it and I painted them the same color as the walls.
  • The hamper (in the shadow on the left) is one of our "boy" touches and is just a pop-up hamper from Wal-Mart.  I've seen similar ones at Family Dollar/Dollar General.
  • The curtains!  They were a lesson in resourcefulness!  We got the white curtains for free from a parent of a friend of Zach's parents (whew!) and Zach's Mom refashioned them to work in our living room.  These curtains were the ones left over from that project.  They happened to fit the window, so we went with it.  The valances were made by Zach's Mom to give it a bit more of a baby feel and cover the tab-tops of the curtains.


  •  We bought the crib, glider/ottoman (as well as a changing table that's in the bathroom and a dresser that's in Nora's room) from a friend for Nora's nursery.  We spent $300 on the whole set.  She was a trusted friend, so we knew we were getting clean, quality pieces.  Don't be afraid to buy secondhand as long as you trust the source!  By the time Judah came around, the chair and ottoman had seen better days, so my Mom recovered them in a nice, soft, neutral fabric (and it cleans well).
  • The green rug was purchased at a wonderful thrift store called R Kids.  I have gotten plenty of quality items there and the owner told me the consignor for this rug is a regular at the shop and always has great pieces.  The rug retails online at JCP.com for $100 and we paid $40.
  • The big basket next to the glider that you can see in several of these pictures was part of a purchase long ago from Menard's.  I think we got 13 baskets in that set and you can spot them all around our house.  It holds toys that the kids have grown out of or haven't yet grown into.


  •  The poster on the wall is a map of the zoo in the town where Zach grew up.  His grandparents bought it for him when he was a toddler and it has hung in both our kids' nurseries.  It's just in a 1 in poster frame.



  •  Books are on top of the basket, and the yellow fabric is a place mat from our dining room.  My Mom put it there so my glass wouldn't sweat onto the basket (the stain on the basket bleeds when it gets wet).  It was in the color scheme of the room and worked perfectly.
  • The sad little bunny is a toy that belonged to my husband as a baby.
  • The framed hand print is a kit that came from Pottery Barn Kids.  My aunt picked it up at a yard sale and gave it to us.  It came with 2 frames and the mats have ages printed on them--Newborn, 6 months, 1 year.  PB doesn't carry this same one anymore.  It could be easily replicated with frames from any store and some mat from a craft store.


  •  Judah loves his WubbaNub. That little paci creature has been awesome.  The paci doesn't bounce when it falls (so it doesn't disappear), it's easy for little hands to hold onto and when he was teeny tiny the weight of the animal helped the paci stay in his mouth while he slept.  You can find them in several stores and online.  They're worth the $13.
  • We have 3 crib sheets.  Two were from when Nora was a baby and the 3rd I bought at a resale shop.  I'm a little weird about secondhand bedding and trust me, I washed and dried the crap outta that 3rd sheet the second I brought it home.  If you're not into secondhand bedding, watch the sales.  Again, the clearance section at Babies R Us is sometimes great, Amazon, and my Aunt scored crib sheets on clearance for less than $2 at JCP a while back.  This is another product that Once Upon A Child ALWAYS has brand new, in the package.  That sheet is not going to make or break your nursery.  Please don't spend $30 on it.


  •  This cute little worm was also from Zach's childhood nursery/bedroom.  It would be a super easy DIY.

  So there you have it: an almost-neutral-nursery on a shoestring budget.  My biggest suggestion is to get an idea of what you want and start shopping early so you have time to shop around (especially if you don't thrift). Thrift, shop secondhand, accept hand-me-downs, repurpose what you already have, use some childhood mementos, DIY.

The nursery is a room that can quickly become like a wedding: having concrete plans for each item that you won't budge on is just going to cost you a bunch of money that you don't need to spend and often won't matter later.  Look for inspiration (or Pinspiration!), don't try to replicate someone else's room.  For some more ideas like these, here's a link to my Pinterest: check out the boards "Nora" (girl ideas), "Judah" (boy ideas), "Kids' Room Ideas" and "Nursery Ideas".

7.29.2014

Start Now

I was having a text conversation with one of our students the other night and I confessed something to her that I have not told anyone.


I have a regret.


I know, it's not cool to have regrets.  Just look at Pinterest.  It'll tell you so.


But I do.  And what is it?


I wish I would have started sooner.


I wish I would have started working with youth sooner...
...taking piano seriously sooner...
...worked with missions...
...searched out opportunities to answer the tugs God put on my heart at the moment they were placed there.


Some things I can start working at today.  Other opportunities are altered forever.  Still others have passed me by entirely.


So I implore you, I beg you...no matter what your age.  If you're 15 or 30 or 50.  START TODAY.


Put hands and feet to the things God is calling you to.  Find opportunities to use and follow your passions.  Don't be afraid to start something.  To move away.  To apply for programs or internships.  To work for a nonprofit. 


Two things have made me really face this recently. 
1.  In the first sermon in the "Meaning from Memes" series at FCC, Dallas said his dad told him he wished he'd "done less for my family and more for Jesus". 
2.  This brilliant "Liking isn't helping" campaign for Crisis Relief Singapore


If you want to see human trafficking stop in your lifetime, find an organization who is doing something about it and go work there.  Volunteer there.  Support them financially.


If you care about the homeless, find a shelter where you can work. 


If you want to lead worship, find a church with a worship leader and apply for an internship...or ask if you can shadow.


God called people at all ages.  Samuel was a child.  David and Mary were little more than children.  Timothy was young.  Abraham received his promise in old age.  Moses was something like 500 years old when he built the ark. 


You can be part of something amazing and you can do it now.  So do.


Matthew 28:18-20


and


Oceans (Hillsong United)
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my strength could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior."



6.18.2014

Threes

I have heard that having a three year old is terrible. That the threes put "terrible twos" to shame. And sometimes that's true. 

My Mom, however, in her infinite wisdom (seriously, she has never been wrong!), told me three is the best.  She was right, too.

Ever since turning 3 Nora has been astounding me daily. Her comprehension of things in life and in make believe is growing, her capacity for emotional connection and compassion is expanding in breadth and depth daily.

This week is VBS for us. We are doing Group's Weird Animals. The mission for the week is Operation Kid-to-Kid, working to bring clean water to over a billion kids in India who lack safe drinking water. 

Tonight during bedtime Nora and I were talking about VBS.  I asked if she saw the kids giving their money and if she knew what that money was going to buy. She didn't. So I told her that lots of kids just like her far away in India have water that makes them sick. She said, "oh, that's not good". I told her the money at VBS is going to buy clean, healthy water for those kids. I asked her if we should give some money tomorrow at VBS. She said yes. She asked where she could find some money to give and I told her we could look in her piggy bank. She enthusiastically looked at the coins that tumbled out of the bank and counted out just the right ones to give tomorrow. 

Then we prayed. We put our hands together on the coins and I prayed. When it was Nora's turn she hesitated. I asked if she wanted me to say some words and she repeat them. She told me no, she can do it herself. Then she prayed.

Folks, she did not pray eloquently with fancy words or even with complete sentences. But she prayed with the words she had. She thanked God for making her and making the kids in India. She prayed that her money would help kids not get sick and she thanked Him for Jesus who loves us. 

My eyes filled with tears. This is why three is the best.  I'm not just proud of her, I also feel there's lessons to learn here. 

If you're not praying because you feel your words are inadequate, start praying today. I wish you could have heard Nora pray. You didn't have to understand every word to understand the sincerity of them. 

If you're not parenting your child to love God and love others because you feel they don't understand, start today. 

I can't wait to continue to watch her grow and love God more.