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Making a mess

In life, things change all the time, and how we deal with that is so important. Change can be unsettling, but it can also be vibrant and exhilarating. It also often involves making a mess.

Right now, we are stripping the wallpaper from the dining room, and it’s making a mess. It’s ugly, feels cold, and the walls are horrid. But by the end of the week we’ll be painting and it’ll look so much better. It’s change, it’s making a mess, but it’s worth it.

We might have to wait for a plasterer to come and skim the chimney, but we can get on with the painting everywhere else. We’ll be rearranging furniture as well, I think, probably. It’s going to be lovely when it’s finished.

In the background, the website is undergoing constant change too. The guidelines for what works in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) are in flux, always changing. The software is being updated and adjusted all the time. So the website has to change to take that into consideration.

It’s the same with any creative art, here it’s photography. I take loads of pictures, and many are less than great. Some are dreadful. But I adapt, I learn from those and improve.

This applies to my writing, to my paid job, to parenting, to everything. Change is unsettling when it’s unexpected, but if you embrace it, run with it, change can be guided to your benefit.

I know, it doesn’t always work like that, but it’s worth thinking about, right?

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Communication is key

In any job, clear communication is your greatest asset. In a customer service role even more so.

Remember the fire saga?

Communication was appalling. No-one thought to inform the client, me, that the job would be delayed. The company involved never bothered to give me all the information.

On day 2 of trying to get the dining room fire replaced, the fire is going in but I won’t be able to use it. They’ll fit the fire today but then an electrician needs to come and do the wiring. Another day messing about, stuck indoors.

But the fire has a plug on it… Well, yes, but I’m meant to cut that off so you can’t use it… Raises an eyebrow. OK, I can leave it on. But it’s because the landlord has had people take the fires when they move out…

Raises eyebrow even further.

I’ll leave the plug on then… Yes, you will. Not that the lead reaches the closest socket. But I could run the fire if I need to.

It’s now a week later, and no word from the electrician. They’re due tomorrow morning. We will see.

This is a rented property, and the fire replacement is at the landlord’s insistence. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it. It’s messed up the wall, and the carpet. So I’m going to have to redecorate, and probably replace the carpet in the dining room.

As it is, silver linings, taking a deep breath, the new fire looks nice, and the room needed redecorating at some point.

I have had a few jobs over the years, and in almost all, communication has been what has let us down. It’s also what makes us great. If you talk to your clients, managers, employees, really talk to them, in clear and plain language, then you get those wonderful moments. The moments when a smile and a thank you happens.

I’ve been talking about work, but it applies to all aspects of life. Sit your teenagers down and chat. Make time to converse with your parents, friends, neighbours. How much easier would it be to have a conversation instead of banging on the walls when someone’s music is too loud?

Communication is key, always.

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Customer Service is easy.

I have worked in customer service roles all my working life. We all do, really, when you think about it. All jobs and careers have customers. They might be your patients, constituents, shoppers, householders, pupils. They’re all customers, or clients, and you have to keep them satisfied, or they don’t come back.

We live in a consumer focused society, and this drives everything we do. Whether we are the customer or service provider, it drives us.

Excellent customer service is rare, good is easy to accomplish, but poor seems to be more and more common.

But it is so easy to get it right.

An example.

Last Thursday I had workmen booked to replace a fire in the dining room. The fire was delivered in the morning, the work crew booked for the afternoon. I called when the fire was delivered to say it was here and they could start work. This was about 10.30.

By 3.30 I had to call again to ask where the guys were. “He’s gone on an emergency” But why did I have to call? Excellent customer service would have been to call me, let me know, and arrange a new date. So, I left it with the office to call back “in the next 15-20 minutes” with a plan. An hour later, I had to call them again.

When you have an annoyed customer, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t say 15-20 minutes if you can’t stick to it.

Finally, having wasted most of Thursday stuck in waiting for people who didn’t show up, we arranged Saturday morning, “before 8.30, so it gets done before lunch for you” Fantastic.


9 am came and there was no sign of anyone. Let down again. Really fed up now. So, I had to call them AGAIN, to chase this job.

He turned up at 9.30 with some excuse about the office never organising things properly.

A simple, “I’m so sorry I’m a bit later than planned, I had to pick up some blocks and cement to do the job.” would have been perfect.

Not great.

Another example.

On Thursday I had a bloke come to repair the bathroom ceiling. It was cracked, and peeling.

He was on time, polite, and did a great job. He took such care in my home, and pride in his work.

Then on the way out, while clearing up, he stumbled at my front door and knocked the weather strip off. It’s always coming off. I said to just leave it. No. He grabbed some sealant and repaired that too.

Absolutely brilliant.

So, above all, make your life easy, keep your customers happy. It’s so easy to get right.

customer service

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Manage your expectations

In most areas of your life you manage your expectations and respond to any given situation accordingly. You do this for yourself, adjusting to clues around you. If you are a parent, guardian, or responsible for another person, you help manage their expectations too. It’ll happen in every part of your life without you realising it.

For my job that pays the bills, I work in a customer service role. I answer customer’s questions, and deal with any problems that might arise. I like to think I’m quite good at it. But too often I hear of a ruined birthday, the worst day ever. But is it really?

Managing my tea expectations

My local supermarket is convenient, has pretty much all the groceries I need, and is familiar. The staff are friendly, the shop is clean and tidy, well stocked. There is also often a well filled reduced section, if you time your shopping trip right.

About 2 weeks ago I had Earl Grey tea on the shopping list. I prefer loose leaf. My lovely rainbow striped teapot has a filter insert thing and I love it. My regular shopping trip was a complete disappointment. No loose leaf Earl Grey on the shelf. No space, no label, no tea… Heartbroken, disappointed…

Oh, hang on. Really? It’s just tea. They have Twinings loose leaf, just not their own brand. Yes, Twinings is more expensive. But really, does this ruin my life? My day? Anything? What did I do before I got my teapot? I used tea bags. What do I use at work? Tea bags. No ruining of anything. No need to have a tantrum and threaten to take my valued custom elsewhere.

To be honest, I don’t think the supermarket would miss my small weekly shop.

So, I manage my expectations. I shrug, either buy the Twinings, or look for loose leaf Earl grey from somewhere else. I could ask the customer service staff in store if they would consider getting the tea back in. That’s a positive thing I can do. But I will ask in a friendly way, in the full knowledge that it’s not their decision and they are simply doing their job. They might be able to help, but they might not. Either way it’s not their fault. They are human beings, doing a job, and deserve courtesy and respect.

Thank you

This is a bit of a ramble, and thank you for sticking with it, but can I ask you to please remember that you are in control of how you react when things go wrong, when things change. That thing you bought that broke, or is faulty? The thing that isn’t in stock, that didn’t arrive on time. The workman who didn’t keep the appointment. You might need to tell someone, to ask for something to be done. The people you deal with want to help, but they have rules, guidelines to follow. Be nice, be understanding, be polite – manage your expectations. If it was me dealing with your problem, I promise that will get my best efforts to solve your issue as best as I can.

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Some days it just takes a little appreciation to make the whole day feel brighter.

It can be a cold, wet, grey, day when you haven’t seen the sun at all. But when you feel you’ve done a good job with something, it really helps brighten your view.

A few words, sincerely offered, can make such a huge difference. Thank you, well, done. That’s all that’s needed. It’s how you manage people, it’s what makes a great manager instead of an ok or poor one. The best managers, in my opinion, run a team by managing the people rather than the work.

You could be in a low paid, menial position, but you will still love going to work, if you have that sense of appreciation.

How many times do you hear people complain about how the boss is always on their back, they’re not appreciated? Bosses, managers, come on, you have wonderful, amazing people working for you. Appreciate them, tell them how much they do and how well they do it. They’ll thank you, and they’ll work harder than you could ever make them.

Colleagues, you can do it too! Tell the person sitting next to you how you learned from them. Tell the person who was on time to relieve you at the end of your shift, thank you for being here so I can go home on time.

I promise they’ll smile, they’ll appreciate your words, and make greater efforts.

But, make sure you reciprocate. Make sure you’re on time, do your best, and help when you can. It’s not slavery, it’s a team effort.


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