Grateful on National Girlfriends Day

August 1 is National Girlfriends Day, as in your BFFs, not the romantic boyfriend/girlfriend version. How do you show appreciation for your valuable female friendships? Take few minutes to think about who your best girlfriends have been over the years and what they’ve contributed to your life. Starting with my very first girlfriend, pictured here* – our parents became friends when we were infants and Beth and I remain friends to this day – I am grateful for all the encouragement and advice and conversations and laughter my girlfriends have shared.

Last week I reconnected via Facebook with my best friend, Jen, from 7th grade. Her family moved before high school and we lost touch. Within a day, we were on the phone for over an hour and it’s amazing how much we’ve grown in common.

I think women typically tend to be more apt to express their appreciation for friendships than men. And more than one study has shown women rely more heavily on their friendships to get them through tough times as well.

As much as I love hanging out with my guy friends, nothing beats a good conversation with a close girlfriend. Guys can get uncomfortable if you’re talking about something that makes you cry. Girlfriends just hand you a tissue and let you go on. Then there are the topics guys will never be able to relate to (just as there are guy conversations we will never “get”).

So thank you to all my magnificent girlfriends! I’m fortunate that the list is long and spans great geographical distances, so long that I dare not post it here, lest I inadvertently forget one. Know that I am eternally grateful to you for the incredible gifts you’ve each presented, the ones that could only have come from you being the amazing person you are.

Post a comment and share a story about one of your girlfriends!

*This pic is from a few years ago. I attempted to find one of the two of us “back in the day,” but came up empty handed.

It’s Customer Service Week

Seriously, they have a week for this? I guess it makes sense, there’s a week for everything else. But shouldn’t EVERY week be customer service week?

If you’re so inclined to celebrate, I recommend doing something extra specially nice for your customers. I mean, only if you like them, and want them to continue supporting your business.

A few ideas:

  1. If you have face to face contact with them (kind of a rarity anymore, huh?), look them in the eyes and tell them how much you value their business.
  2. Send out a handwritten note to say thank you to each of your clients.
  3. Go to www.ZenRabbitCookies.com and order boxes of Gratitude Cookies or bags of Zen Crunch to show your immense appreciation for their loyalty.

If you have a staff of customer service reps in your business, take a cue from my new Twitter friend at Business & Legal Resources (@BLR_Inc). They compiled a bunch of stories from the front lines that will have you shaking your head at the ridiculousness of some people. Check it out here.

Got any good customer service stories of your own? SHARE with us by posting a comment!

Customer Experience Lessons

I’ve been a subscriber to Derek William’s ezine, The WOW Awards, as well as a great proponent of his whole  concept of “Catching People Doing Things Right,” for quite a while. Loved reading about his recent experience at Wagamama’s restaurant and had to share it with you. (He lives in the UK, in case you’ve not heard of Wagamama’s before – I hadn’t.)

Wagamama – communication lesson # 1
A recent trip to Wagamama’s restaurant produced some interesting experiences. We arrived at about 9.30 pm – after the main rush of people was over. This particular restaurant is always busy and lots of people must have eaten that evening before us. Maybe even hundreds.

Wagamama have a greeter to show guests to their table. And as I approached the desk, I asked the greeter, “How are you today?”

“WOW!” she says. “You are the first person all evening to ask me how I am.”

I could see that she was delighted to be asked and had an extra spring in her step as she showed us to a table and took our drinks order.

Many years ago when I wrote 3 Dimensional Care, I devoted a chapter to Getting an extra slice of the pie. And, guess what? It was all about getting better service in a restaurant. And here it was in real life.

Did we get better service through asking that one little question? Would you give a customer better service if they took an interest in you?

Wagamama – lesson #2
The second interesting experience at Wagamama came when I settled the bill and added a tip to the credit card payment.

My daughter works in a restaurant and relies on her tips. So my wife and I always wonder if the tip we give at a restaurant is going to the person who served us or is it going to the owner of the business.

After the waitress had processed our payment she came back to our table and said, “Thank you so much for the tip. It really is appreciated and I just wanted to let you know that it will be shared between all of us.”

Many of the things that are a worry for your customers have nothing to do with the food. Understand the questions that are never asked and you will win customers for life.

FYI, this article was reproduced with permission from Derek William at The WOW! Awards www.thewowawards.co.uk

Leading a Tribe

Seth Godin's book TribesSeth Godin is looking for leaders. In his latest book, “Tribes,” Seth claims there’s a “vast shortage of leaders” at a time when it’s never been easier for people who want to make a difference to do so. To become a tribe leader, “all you need to do is motivate people who choose to follow you.”

Cool. So I’m seeing massive opportunity in front of me and for you too. What are you passionate about? Find others who are passionate about the same thing and lead them in creating change, in making a difference in the world. It’s human nature to want to belong, to fit in. And right now, with the Internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to find others who will join you in whatever quest you’re on.

Personally, I’m building a tribe to change how people relate to each other in business and personal life. I’m building a tribe that understands the importance of sharing gratitude, of appreciation marketing, of recognizing the contributions of others to their success. Not everyone will want to be in my tribe, nor is everyone is even qualified to join. But for those who do and who are, we will impact the lives of millions by creating stronger relationships and helping others feel valued.

What tribe are you leading?

Employee Appreciation Time

EmployeeAppNow is a good time to remember and appreciate the employees who are working so hard for your company’s success. It’s the time of year when school’s out and any holidays that generate good will and celebration are few and far between. This year, many companies are asking fewer employees to make do with less resources. Which is why it’s the perfect time to show some gratitude for your people.

I just read an article about businesses in New England using food to reward employees. The article itself wasn’t all that great, so I won’t provide you with a link. But there was a quote in it from Paul Baard, a communications professor at Fordham University who researches workplace motivation. He said, food “appeals to our need for relatedness.”

Yes, people need to feel connected. They need to feel part of a community. They need to know that what they are doing day in and day out on behalf of your company is relevant.

Giving food gifts, or “breaking bread” with others, has always been an important and personal form of recognition. It offers a level of genuine connection that cannot be achieved through any other means. So make an investment in the well being of your employees (and your company overall) and show some gratitude.

What Need Do You Fill?

The sole reason a business exists is because it meets a human need. ~Harvey Firestone

I saw this quote over the weekend and it got me to thinking, again, about what human need a box of cookies fulfills. Yes, we’ve been over this before. That Gratitude Cookies are not so much about the cookie part and much more about the concept of gratitude.

Is feeling gratitude an actual need? It’s not specifically on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but friendship, giving and receiving love, and recognition are on his chart. Feeling connected to others is certainly a human need. And expressing appreciation is one important way to connect.

Keith Ferrazzi was on Good Morning America today, promoting his new book “Who’s Got Your Back” and his 16-city road show. He said that 75% of Americans don’t feel that someone’s got their back; not even married couples. Wow, that’s a lot of disconnected people. Furthermore, he says that the most important thing you can do to succeed is to build deep and trusting relationships.

So then, if you could create stronger connections in your personal or profession life and satisfy that need in yourself and for others, why wouldn’t you? You have a great opportunity here! No matter what other human need your business exists to fulfill, you can improve your business by addressing this one of connection and recognition through gratitude.

Some Customers Are More Equal Than Others

A friend recommended I speak with his college roommate, Sam*, about how Sam’s company handles customer appreciation. By all outside perceptions, Sam’s company fell exactly within the demographics of an ideal Zen Rabbit client.

But after just a couple of minutes on the phone, it was clear that Sam is currently working in contraction and fear mode, you know, because of the economy. Futhermore, Sam didn’t seem to understand the lifetime value of his clients.

I pointed out to him that even though he said he has thousands of clients, he’s likely getting 80% of his business from 20% of them. He agreed. Then I mentioned that he should be focusing his efforts on keeping those 20% really happy. That’s where he got a little fuzzy. Even though he “knows that,” he still wants to keep ALL his clients happy and not play favorites.

Hey, I can understand wanting to keep everyone happy, but like in the classic book “Animal Farm,” some customers are more equal than others. That’s just how it is. Some clients are more valuable than others. And you would do well to focus on and cater more to those 20% who bring you the most valuable business.

Sam admitted that he does not have a plan for consistently showing appreciation for his best customers. But he doesn’t quite believe that it would be worth the effort. I got the impression that he prefers to “fly by the seat of his pants” in that regard. It depends on whether there is money left over for it at the end of the month. It’s an afterthought.

But what if Sam DID believe in the power of saying thank you to his clients? What could his business look like then? I know for sure that his company would be a lot stronger, that he wouldn’t be so afraid of what’s going on in “the economy.” That he wouldn’t have to compete on price. Too bad Sam’s not ready for that message yet. Are you?

*names have been changed to protect friendships.

Quick Change in Perspective

I just left Starbucks, where I was to meet with a new business contact. In South Florida, there seems to always be a traffic delay somewhere, so I usually give people 10 minutes before I call to find out where they are. Coming up on the 9-1/2 minute mark, my phone rang. It was the person I was to meet and she asked if I was there. I knew right away she was going to say she wasn’t coming; I was mentally preparing for some kind of lame excuse, since that’s what usually comes next.

I was not prepared for her to say her dad died on Sunday and she’s in Chicago. Immediately my perspective changed from “doesn’t this person respect my time” to “holy cow, don’t even worry about not meeting with me you have so many more important things to do”! I’m surprised and grateful she even thought to call me – she said she doesn’t know why our meeting just popped into her head right then.

One of my mentors told me a story years ago, about some rowdy kids on the subway early one morning. The man riding with them was doing nothing to control their behavior and a fellow rider was becoming increasingly annoyed. After a while, the fellow rider finally caught the man’s attention. The man quickly apologized for his children’s activity and explained that they’d all spent the night at the hospital where their mother had just died. The kids were full of anxious, fidgety energy.

Talk about a turnaround in perspective.

It only takes an instant to change your perspective. So whether it’s from annoyance to compassion or from frustration to gratitude, see if you can find what serves your higher good in every situation.

Can’t believe I’m writing this

I had a strategy call with my coach and mentor this morning. Fabienne always speaks her truth, what she’s seeing or feeling, and sometimes it’s hard to hear. She always asks permission before sharing, and really, who wouldn’t want to hear what could be a great revelation? Still, even when you know it’s for your own good, it can sting. So what she called me out for is not living in gratitude.

Deep breath here.

My business is all about gratitude, saying thank you, showing appreciation in your business and personal life. The Gratitude Cookie™. Hello?!

But I’m not personally living in gratitude. I have my moments for sure. And then there’s the rest of the time. The time I spend wondering where the money is. Where are more clients? Why do I not have a multi-million dollar business yet?

Rachael Ray featured Zen Crunch as Snack of the Day on her talk show last month. Everyone who knows about that thinks it’s an incredible achievement! My gratitude for that lasted about five minutes before I was looking for the next opportunity.

Nothing has been enough and I always need more.

So I haven’t been living authentically. That’s why everything has been so hard. Are you laughing at me, or does this resonate with you too?

Fabienne and I talked about how I can change that – continuing my meditations and working out at the gym, and journaling more consistently. There are some other changes I’m making too, that I’ll share in time.

Right now, I’m committing to live in gratitude for everything, even when it feels foreign. Care to join me in the adventure?

Grateful for Twitter Connections

Last week I had a great phone conversation with Deanna Collins, creator of The Gratitude Collection. We found each other on Twitter and thought that with The Gratitude Cookie™ and The Gratitude Collection, we must connect.

Deanna’s Gratitude Collection is a collection of bracelets, necklaces and earrings that were created to “help the wearers make a conscious effort to recognize the gifts in their lives.”

She told me that she made the very first Gratitude Bracelet, the one that has now become the essential element of the Signature Collection, for a friend as a gift to comfort her through a difficult time. (see that whole story here.)

Word got around and more and more people began asking her to make the bracelets for them. Next thing you know, she had a business and expanded the jewelry line into necklaces and earrings as well.

Today the solitary bead in her Signature Collection is an authentic hand-sculpted bead from the Mount Kenya region of Africa, hand-crafted by local Kenyan women. Very cool.

Also on the Gratitude Collections web site are some wonderful quotes on gratitude. Check them out here.

With our common connections and philosophies, Deanna and I are discussing how to combine our efforts to share the important message of Gratitude. I’ll keep you posted on the new developments. Or follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/ZenRabbit and twitter.com/GratitudeCircle) to get the continuing updates.