Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring 2011 Events Worth the Walk (or Run)

Here are some upcoming events that I think will be worth your time.

  • April 10, 2011 - Ponte Vedra Chamber Car Show 11a.m.-3p.m. This year's event will be held at the beautiful TPC Sawgrass. Brumos Porsche is the Presenting Sponsor and will have a lovely and expensive display of classic porsches. Over 150 antique, classic, custom, and new automobiles are expected to compete for 25 trophies. Many local businesses will also be present, showcasing goods and services. So, come join us and enjoy a wonderful day at a truly lovely venue! Keep your eye out for First Coast Focus and Girls on the Run!
  • May 14, 2011 - New Balance Girls on the Run 5k at Nocatee. Join Girls on the Run for their spring 5k. The race course will wind through the beautiful trails and neighborhoods of Nocatee. All activities will begin and end in Community Park. Adult running buddies, cheer groups, and fans are always welcome!
  • June 1, 2011 - First Wednesday Art Walk Downtown and Business Expo 2011. Visit the ever popular First Wednesday Art Walk Downtown venues and stop by the Jacksonville Chamber Business Expo housed in the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront from 4-7p.m. While you're at it, join Business After Hours during the Expo from 5-7p.m. Don't forget to stop by the Jacksonville Landing and say "hello" to Helen Cowart at Elemental and Istvan Pono at Pono Visual Expression while out and about!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Good Customer Service Is Not Dead!

Searching for excellent customer service? Here are my top two picks with one honorable mention.

From the initial phone call to the passing back of keys upon completion, these folks know what they’re doing. The appointment setter at the initial service call is professional and efficient. A follow-up email with your appointment time and date is promptly sent. Two additional reminders are made the day before service – one via phone and the other via email.

When you pull up at the service area, a valet greets you and escorts you to your service advisor, opening doors along the way. Your advisor welcomes you by name and if you’ve made arrangements for a loaner vehicle (by simply answering “yes” regarding need during the initial call), a copy of your driver’s license and insurance are made desk-side and a temporary registration issued for the loaner. Completion expectations are discussed and a preferred number to be reached solicited.

Your service advisor escorts you back to the service area where your loaner vehicle is waiting for you.  He wishes you a happy day and you’re off!  Upon returning, you’re promptly greeted again, doors are opened, and closing out the invoice is quick and efficient. Loaner keys are taken by the service advisor and your freshly washed and vacuumed car is brought around without delay. Your advisor bids you a final happy farewell while wiping down any remnant drips on your bumper from the wash.

Chick-fil-A is one of those places where you can expect to receive hot food and excellent service in a quick and efficient manner, even at the busiest of times. Having a teenager reply, “my pleasure,” must be priceless to millions of parents around the world! Managers roam and chat with customers, employees are always quick with a refill or tray removal, and seriously, you just can’t beat the cow marketing!

Panera deserves an honorable mention in this category. Food is now delivered to the table, trays and dirty dishes are often swept away by lobby attendants upon completion, and the new rewards program is amazingly generous.

I often conduct business breakfast or lunch meetings in Panera. It’s quick and there are a wide variety of food options to satisfy a myriad of tastes. I visit Panera about once every two weeks or so. But, I already feel that I’ve been rewarded with the new Panera card. I haven’t broken through to the “high ticket” items yet, but the promise of a free sweet or beverage is a fun way to start the day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

500 Words or Less: Business Writing in the 21st Century

Please help me welcome my dear friend, Vicki Winslow.  She's provided this month's guest post.

If you have a business, you have to write—and when you write, someone whose good opinion you value will read it. I am here to help make sure that you don't lose that good opinion through poor writing. Here, then, are two simple steps you can take today to improve your writing and enhance your company's public image: 
  • Use spelling and grammar check. I use Microsoft Word, and the squiggly red lines that indicate misspelled words are lifesavers. Don't like having grammar check turned on? Neither do I. It's annoying to see that squiggly green line appear—especially when it shows up beneath a perfectly good sentence. Right now, on my screen, a squiggly green line under the word "I" indicates a grammatical problem in the sentence "Neither do I." According to the Word Grammar Pixies, "I" should be "me." That is flat wrong! But keep grammar check turned on anyway, just in case.
  • Never hit "Send" on an email until you've read through it carefully. I've heard that it is therapeutic to write an angry letter, pouring into it all of one's pent-up feelings of bitterness. Afterward, one must burn the letter, symbolically releasing the anger and letting it drift away on the wind. The destruction by burning is key; one doesn't want those negative feelings getting out where they can create misunderstanding and pain. Keep this idea in mind when writing email messages to vendors, clients, and business contacts. Review each message for accuracy and clarity, then make certain that the message is free of snark, petulance, and spite. Even if you're writing with a light touch, remember that the reader may miss subtle nuances of tone and see the message as sarcastic rather than amusing. Keep email correspondence professional and brief.  Because, you see, here is the thing: Ultimately, you have no control over what the recipient does with your email. Assume that every email message you write may be forwarded to dozens of other people. Especially keep this in mind if you are commenting in your message on another person, product, or company.
Now, having averted the minor disaster of a misspelled word and the potentially major disaster of an earth-shattering email faux pas, we can relax and approach our writing from a calmer perspective.

21st-century Writing Tip: Some people write email; others use e-mail. Either spelling is correct. The important thing is to use one version consistently. The same is true of website and Web site (or web site). Pick the version you like and stick to it or risk appearing indecisive.

For free answers to specific questions about grammar or writing, email Vicki at with "Business Writing" in the subject line. You can also follow Vicki by visiting her blog (Vicki Winslow's Blog). 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wave and Engage

There are three people that I’d like to highlight in today’s post, but I don’t know any of their names. All I know is that I’d like to be just like them when interacting with customers, clients, and strangers.

Observed Party #1: There is a school crossing guard on Baymeadows Road near 9A that I’ve observed in what I consider to be the wee hours of the morning while stopped at the traffic light.  Even though it’s bright and early, he’s smiling and waving to each of the cars as they pass.  As children approach to cross, he initiates a conversation with every single one.

Take-Away: He is a pleasure to drive by and the lesson that he makes me remember is to engage everyone, even complete strangers. We all crave connection in a world that can be surprisingly impersonal, and this man has mastered how to make a genuine connection in less than three seconds. All it takes is eye contact, a smile, and a wave.

Observed Party #2: On a nice weekend, at least most of last year, you could find a sign waver advertising a builder on the corner of Alta and New Berlin roads. Regardless of how miserable he must have been after hours of standing in the sun, every car that went by got a smile and a wave. Every soldier or police officer that passed received a salute. It really can’t be a pleasant job. It’s hot, there’s no shade, the grass on the side of the road is tall and the ground slants significantly, there’s constant noise from the traffic and the threat of crazy drivers.

Take-Away: What I appreciate from this particular sign waver is that he takes it all in stride. But, what I most admire is his ability to genuinely smile and enthusiastically wave at every single car that passes. So, the next time I am participating in a networking event or waiting with fellow shoppers at the check-out, I want to make sure that I convey energy and authenticity with each and every person.

Observed Party #3: My third pick for this category is the dancing sign waver advertising for a sandwich shop in the Town Center. For quite some time, he was stationed at Town Parkway and St. Johns Bluff. Last time I saw him though, he’d moved to an even busier intersection near Gate Parkway and 9A. What I most admire about this young man is his ability to boogie in front of the masses. His enthusiasm is fabulous. I caught a newspaper interview with him a while back. Apparently, he’s wasn't the fastest sandwich maker but he was willing to work, so the owners handed him a sign. He even practices his dance moves before revealing them to the public! I don’t know if it’s true or not, but he looks like he’s having a blast. And, he must never need to work out…think of the number of calories he burns!

Take-Away: I think the biggest lesson from the dancing sign waver is to enjoy what you do. Make your job have meaning. His dance moves have actually caught quite a bit of attention – I saw him on some local tv spots over the holidays.