Thursday, September 28, 2006

If only one thing remains constant, it is change...

Change. People getting together, people growing apart. It happens. We as humans expend so much energy looking to interact. No man is an island unto himself, or so the quote goes. When I think about the things that are getting ready to happen, I feel so excited, overwhelmed, humbled, scared and a million other things all at once. In order for us to grow as individuals, we have to change. Running water becomes stagnant when it stops moving. Sometimes change can be brought about by a major upheaval in your life. A divorce, death of a loved one, a birth, loss of a job, starting a new job. Sometimes, we have an epiphany, a divine revelation that things are going to, and must change. We might take steps to control the change so that we feel comfortable with the pace. This is certainly a luxury that most people are not able to have. Don’t be afraid to stand on the edge and look over the side. You can always take a step or two back. I read the back of some guy’s T-shirt once and it read, “If you’re not standing on the edge, you’re taking up too much room”. I thought to myself that that point of view is pretty extreme. Now that I’ve grown older (and wiser – yes, I know: that phrase again!), I can see the wisdom in this. You never really live until you step into the unknown, if even for just a second. The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity, I’ve heard it said. I’m not sure if that is entirely accurate. I dreamed my whole life of being a professional musician. I wanted to play drums full-time and to make a good living doing it. Even though I haven’t had my name in lights, I’ve made some pretty good money playing drums. So, technically, I’ve been a professional musician for years, just not a famous one. If you get paid to do a job, you are a professional. Sometimes I tell people (for my own amusement) that I am a “local” celebrity. What the heck does that mean? It means that some people know me because I play drums with various bands. Does it impress people? Not much. But it sure makes me laugh! I’ve never been afraid to take on challenges and “blaze the trail” of my own life. When I switched professions at 37, I was scared to death. People generally don’t transition into a new profession that late in the game. I am very fortunate that I was successful at such a radical change.
I have been offered the Dean of Student Services position and I’m happy to report that I have accepted. So having said all that (and nothing at all), thanks for being great students. I will teach out the classes I have for this session and then assume the Dean of Student Services position at the end of this five weeks. I’m glad that I’m not leaving you entirely. I’ll be here for you, just in a different capacity. Actually, I’ll be able to better serve your needs, in my opinion. All you have to do is knock on my door.
I’ll still be writing this blog, so keep checking back for my “adventures at SJVC”.
Peace…you guys totally rock!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

If you hang up on me I'm just going to keep on talking...

Difficult customers. I've had a million of 'em. I can remember my first difficult customer. I was working for GTE and taking billing question phone calls. The customer called because he was being charged a monthly rental fee for a "rental phone" (Something that has gone away, like saying: Bling-Bling) and wanted to know why. I explained, in my best customer service voice, that he had always been charged for the use of the phone set. You see, GTE used to hardwire the phones into homes and then charge for the use of the unit. There was a long pause while the customer mulled this over. I figured that the explanation was good and that he would accept it. Wrong. He then proceeds to tell me that he had his “hard wired” phone removed several years ago, had a plug installed, and had bought a cordless phone at K-Mart. Uh-oh. My mind raced as I tried to think of a way to smooth this over. Nothing was coming to me at the moment, and my mind went blank. He then asked me if I could find out how long he had been charged for the use of the phone he no longer had. I told him that I had access to his last twelve months of bills. I offered to check the bills for the charge. Just as I had thought, he had been charged at least the last twelve months for a phone he hadn’t had for years. Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled. He then demanded of me, “What are you going to do to get my money back?” I told him (and was quite proud of the fact) that I had the authority (great word, isn’t it?) to credit his account for the last twelve months of charges. He began to get very irate and said, “You’ve charged me for the use of a phone I haven’t had for seven years and you’re only going to give me twelve months? ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I began to stutter and said to him that this was all I could do. He said, “NOT ACCEPTABLE. NO WAY!” He then put me on the spot and asked me if I would accept that offer. I stammered my way through our policy for just such a question. My answer was less than sincere. “I’m not in a position to answer that question”, I whined. That made him even more upset. He said, “I want to talk to a supervisor, and I mean RIGHT NOW!!” This was followed by a few “choice” expletives. I asked him, as politely as I could, if I could put him on hold. He then said to me, “If you hang up on me I’m just going to keep on talking!”. I said to him that I definitely would not hang-up on him and I would get a supervisor, right away! I was totally demoralized after that incident. I had absolutely no idea how to handle that call. After a few months, I started to get the hang of it. But man, does that remain one of my most uncomfortable memories. I started to go to optional training workshops and seminars, and before I knew it, other coworkers started handing off their difficult customers to me. It’s not to say that I made every customer completely satisfied, but I sure did it more often! Here are a few key things to remember when dealing with difficult customers or coworkers:
1. Let them say what they need to say. Don't interrupt!
2. Don’t, under any circumstances, tell them “It’s not my job”.
3. Don’t yell and/or cuss back at them, for obvious reasons.
4. Try to re-assure them that you will help fix their problem.
5. Then, do everything within your power to help them yourself.
Call another department for them, or better yet, take some responsibility and make a decision. Nobody wants to deal with someone who can’t or won’t make a decision.
6. Follow up with the customer to see if the problem has been taken care of. Nothing worse then someone promising you the moon and then NOT delivering.
7. Talk with your supervisor/manager and see if they’d be willing to have some outside source come and train the service employees on how to deal with difficult customers and decision making.

Now a side word, if a customer or coworker threatens you with physical harm over the phone, it is a felony and should be reported to the authorities right away.
The main thing is to try to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated?” This can go a long way toward helping you understand the meaning of customer service.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
- Roger Staubach

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I woke up with a squirrel on my face...

Communication - how do we talk to each other? I know what I mean when I talk to you. Do you know what you mean when you talk to me? Are you sure that I'm understanding you correctly? How would you find out? I was in the Ed Room today and I heard someone say, "I woke up with a squirrel on my face". What does that mean? Is that code for something? The person then went on to say that "Squirrel" was her cat. OK, now I get it. You should be careful when talking in "code". Your friends may get it. The people around you may not get it. This is how rumors get started. How do we interpret what people are saying to us? Body language and voice inflection. When I have spoken to you in a foreign language during class, you use the faculties that are available to you. Such as gesturing or the urgency or volume of my voice. It's funny that from one language and culture to the next, body language is interpreted differently. Standing close to people is rude in one culture and then customary in the next. How do you know what to do? When we begin to learn language as young children, we mimic what we hear and then later put meaning to it. We learn by doing. If you want to be an effective communicator, you have to practice. Ask for responses while communicating. When someone communicates something to you, repeat it back to them, to show that you are interested in what they are saying and that you understand them. It’s amazing how such a simple thing can clear the way for effective communication. I began doing this in my business dealings and it has served me well.
There is the potential for major miscommunication when dealing with customers or coworkers who are emotional, irritated or upset. You have to get to the root of the problem. Asking them to calm down is not usually the best option. That will usually make them more upset. Let them “vent” for a minute. It won’t hurt you and will probably help start the communication flow. Once the problem has been communicated to you, repeat it back to them and ask; is that what you meant? If not, then that will be the other persons cue to attempt to explain more carefully. This avoids frustration on your part and whomever you are dealing with. When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. Ernest Hemingway

Monday, September 25, 2006

All things considered...

Wow, some of you had really interesting things to say. I appreciate your willingness to share your point of view. Thanks for the questions. Here are some answers.
1. Why are women in music videos objectified (paraphrased). Answer? It's very simple. Remember your marketing classes? Sex sells. Sad, but true.
2. Why weren't we able to survey all of our classes last session? I received a memo in my box yesterday that said the survey computer server is completely overwhelmed. So, the Corporate office decided to pick at random several classes and delete them from the survey. By the "luck of the draw" your other class we eliminated. Sorry!

I was watching COPS on TV last night. It occured to me that we American's love our "dirty laundry". We love to watch other people get arrested, crash their cars, and get chased by out of shape policeman. I'm of the mind that these shows, though immensly entertaining, eat away at our feelings of security and overall safety issues. We look at these people and say to ourselves, "What a bunch of crackheads!" And they are! However, we start to look at the world around us and see paranoia gripping us as the media tells us the world just isn't safe anymore. There are rapists and serial killers and gang-bangers around every corner to rape and kill and rob us. An interesting fact is that teen crime is down 25% from ten years ago. Why doesn't the media tell us that? It doesn't sell newspapers or good ratings for the 11 o'clock news. There is a book by Barry Glassner called The Culture of Fear. In it, Mr. Glassner shows how the media is scaring us silly by shoving bad news and fear down our throats. It's a morbid fascination that we have, here in America, for more and more bad news and fear. Terrorism! Gangs! Teen violence! Drugs! Moral decay! Whoo Hoo! We love our controversy. What have you watched on TV in the last week that made you pause? Why? Click on the book title to visit his website. It's pretty eye-opening!
All the world's indeed a stage, we are merely players. Performers and portrayers. Each another's audience inside the guilded cage.

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires...

Censorship. What a loaded word. When I was young and terribly conservative, I thought that our country needed more censorship. That the moral majority should hold responsible, those who would "sully" our national moral fibers. As I've gotten older (and wiser) I have found that people naturally resist censorship. We have the right, as guaranteed by our Consitution, to speak our minds freely. The joke goes, "A person who wants to share his religious beliefs with you often doesn't want you to share yours with them". Funny, but very true. What has been censored in your life? Your beliefs? Ideas? Aspirations? Dreams? It's amazing how people who are mired in mediocracy want to keep others down, so that they don't have to recognize just how ordinary they are. I found this especially true while growing up in a small town. You might be able to relate. The best way to have your voice heard is to be educated. Nobody wants to listen to a "Redneck" spout racism disguised as religious conviction, or a Black man preaching that the evil that exists today in the Afro-American culture is because of the white man. When you are educated, you learn the "truth" of what the issues are, and not to allow your emotions to "run away" with your reasoning. I may not agree with what you say. You may not agree with, or even like what I have to say. However, we have the guaranteed right to say it. What statement do you want to make today?

Friday, September 22, 2006

All the world's indeed a stage...

It occurs to me that I should talk about one of my inspirations. I've always been a fan of music and subsequently, a musician. Rush is one of my favorite bands. The reason I play drums today is because of Neil Peart, the drummer of Rush. Not only is he an accomplished, award-winning drummer, he also writes all the band's lyrics. I'm posting a link to his personal website and I encourage you to poke around there a little bit. He has a journal or blog, if you will, that he updates from time to time. He is a fantastic writer and captures the feel and nuance of his experiences. He is an accomplished cross-country bicyclist and has toured Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. He has written a few books about his assorted bicycle shenanigans as well. I highly recommend them. Here's the link: I think you will enjoy it. So, please feel free to comment on what you find there. Peace.

Just a few words from our sponsors....

Welcome to Mr. Judd's blog. As this is my first attempt at blogging, it will be a learning experience for me as well as you. My idea, as an instructor, is to educate, inspire and prepare. I've called my blog The Soapbox. Back in the day, a person who wanted to address a crowd of people, would stand on a soapbox and espouse his views. Often times, it would be of a political or moral nature. My slant or view on this is to give you more time to ask about what ever you want. I often don't have the time to address each one of your questions in depth, so this will allow me to be more accessable to each of you. Feel free to be honest, to speak freely and most importantly, to express yourself. Please keep profanity to a minimum. Compose your questions in a professional manner. If you think and write in a professional way, you will be treated professionally.
I'll probably blog a little each day. I'll talk about music, entertainment, and answer questions.
So...let the "blogging" begin.