ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

No. 198, June 2005)

 

A guide to this month’s edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Customer Complaint, Friend or Foe

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements

 

Welcome

 

Welcome to “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals.” This month’s newsletter is filled with tips and thoughts to help with your professional development and to manage your business more profitably. My purpose is to stimulate your thinking; the industry benefits most when we all do our best.

 

I encourage you to share “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals” with your colleagues and friends. They can subscribe by simply going to

http://www.protoconsulting.com and selecting the Sign-up link on the home page.

 

If you have any comments, questions, or would like more information about any of the topics discussed in this newsletter, call me at 510.881.9440, or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com.

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2. ProTips for Professional Development

 

Responsibility is not something you do…it is something you are. Responsibility begins with the decision you make the moment you become aware that something needs attention. Responsibility requires you to say, “I’ll take care of this,” even if it is not your job. If you are responsible you will follow-through to make sure the issue is resolved, no matter whose job it is. Responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do the task yourself, but it does mean you’ll bring it to someone’s attention and follow-up with them to see that it gets done. Responsible employees are the foundation for building great customer service.

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Dependability…is the first and most important step for a long successful career. Dependability simply stated is being someone others can count on. When you first started working, dependability was as simple as showing up for work and doing your job. As you progress in you career, dependability carries with it a higher burden. Now you must become a trusted source for getting things done. Whether you’re assigned a task or you volunteer for one, You Must Deliver. Failing to do so will tarnish your reputation and jeopardize your career.

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Be flexible…reduce stress. And I’m not talking about stretching here. You need to be able to change with the times or the circumstances. Stop and think about it. If you try to bend a stiff object chances are it will crack and break. If the object is pliable, you can bend it into almost any shape you want. And so it is with people. Keep an open mind when you are approached with a new idea or a different twist (pun intended) on an existing situation. Don’t discount them because “we never did it that way before.” Be flexible and keep an open mind. You’ll create less stress for yourself and the people around you.

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

 

Recommit yourself…to safety. If you’ve been getting mediocre results from your safety program it’s time to reevaluate your efforts. A good program starts at the top. Make sure you have a safety attitude. Follow the safety rules for your facility when you’re on the property. Set an example for others. When making route observations, put on a safety vest before you exit the vehicle. Demonstrate that you’re safety minded. Attend safety meetings and join in on the discussion. Everyone likes to hear what the boss has to say. And remember; keep your comments upbeat and positive. If you change your attitude about safety, you’re bound to change the attitude of others.

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Watch out….school’s out. School will be out in a few days and summer will unofficially begin. One thing is for sure, the kids and their parents are not thinking about safety, their mind is on vacation. There are no crossing guards to protect your drivers from the kids darting into the street on collection day, so drivers must proceed with caution. While on the freeway, drivers must stay alert for the errant vacationer who cuts across three lanes of traffic to make their exit. Summer brings out the worst in pedestrians and driving behavior. It’s important that drivers stay on high alert to avoid accidents.

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Avoid right-hand turn accidents… pay attention. All too often a car will try to squeeze between the curb and your truck just when the driver is about to make a right-hand turn. The next thing you know, your filling out an accident report. “It’s not my fault!” The driver exclaims. But the accident could have been avoided. First, instruct the driver to pull as close to the curb as practical, thus eliminating the chance a car can squeeze by. Second, train the drivers to check the side-view mirror before moving the vehicle. Just because the driver is stopped at an intersection doesn’t mean that s/he can drop their guard. Driving is a contact sport. You have to stay alert all the time.

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4. Topic of the Month: Customer Complaint, Friend or Foe

 

Everyday your office receives loads of telephone calls from customers with service requests, questions about their bill, and the occasional missed service or tipped over cart. Sometimes though, the customer is not very friendly. In fact s/he is downright angry. This is the umpteenth time they’ve had to call to resolve their problem. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t want to speak to anyone but the boss. Now you’re on the hook. It’s up to you to right the wrong.

 

Hold on there, this isn’t the time to get angry. This is the time to demonstrate your commitment to Uncompromised Service. You may provide great service but your customers don’t recognize it. After a while, great service is taken for granted. It’s expected; it becomes the norm. To the customer there is nothing unusual about your service. However, when you get a complaint, it’s your chance to show your customer how you really appreciate their business. It’s an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

 

The next time you get a complaint, go out of your way to fix it. Once you’ve taken care of the customer, stop by their home or business and apologize for the inconvenience. If they’re not in, leave your business card with a hand written note of apology and a brief explanation of how you fixed the problem. You may even want to enclose a gift certificate to a local coffee shop as a gesture of appreciation for their patients. I used to give the customer an “inconvenience” credit on their bill for the trouble we caused. A gift certificate or a credit on their bill will go a long way in saying, “We appreciate your business, and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

 

Now that you’ve taken care of the customer, turn your attention to fixing the problem for good. Don’t let this issue slide. If you do, trust me, it will come back to haunt you. And don’t blame any of the front line workers, just yet, anyway. Remember, they are the instruments, not the cause of the problem. The complaint from the customer was only a symptom not the problem. The real cause of the problem lurks somewhere deep in your operation. It may be poor supervision, a glitch in your billing system, or a snafu with the computer. It might even be an errant employee. Your challenge then, is to find the problem and fix it so it never rises to the surface again.

 

So the next time you’re handed a complaint don’t cringe, welcome it with open arms. Consider it a chance to let your service shine and an opportunity to improve your operation. Complaints are stepping-stones to providing Uncompromised Service.

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5. Quote of the Month

 

“Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.

Henry Ford,

Businessman

 

The mind is a powerful tool. It can either build you up or tear you down. The choice is yours.

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6. Ramblings

 

 I’d like you to meet one of my friends, Ron Poggi. Ronald, as I often call him, is a talented guy with a quick mind and a sharp tongue. Until you get to know him, he’ll bring tears to your eyes every time he talks to you, tears of pain that is. He loves Frank Sinatra and lives his life by the song, “I Did It My Way.” His wife Barbara is a saint.

 

Ronald is a mechanic by profession and a master craftsman. I describe him as someone who can rebuild the engine in your car, weld a trailer hitch on it, and build a fine piece of furniture for your home. His talents know no limits. He is the only person I know who reads the wiring schematic to fix an electrical problem on a clothes dryer. I used to own a coin-operated launderette. Unlike Ronald, I just kept changing parts until I found the one that solved the problem.

 

Ron’s passion is hot rods. He’s been tinkering with cars for more than 50 years. His pride and joy is the ’32 Ford roadster he built from the ground up. It’s painted the deepest red you ever set your eyes on. He made many of the parts, from the handcrafted rearview mirror to the custom designed windshield posts. His attention to detail is impeccable. The car is a real beauty, a show car for many, but not for Ronald. It has to go; it’s not for show. He and Barbara take about eight trips a year with his buddies from the Bay Area Roadsters club. They travel all over the Western United States.

 

With that much travel, there is bound to be some wear and tear on the car and a few rock chips. I thought the car looked terrific just the way it was, but Ronald thought differently. So a year ago he started rebuilding the car by stripping it down to the frame. He redesigned a few parts to improved performance and enhanced the look. He even made the car go faster, much faster.

 

When it came time to paint the car, Ronald considered several options. One option was to paint the car in his garage. Another option was to paint it at his buddies shop. I helped Ronald build a custom dolly to transport the car to the paint shop. In the end, Ronald opted to paint the car in his garage, over the objections of his wife. I told you Barbara was a saint. Now the interior of his garage is pale red from the overspray, so are his workbench, a few of his tools, and the garage floor. 

 

The best part of the rebuild though was the upholstery. Ronald decided to do it himself, talk about a risk-taker. He never used a sewing machine before, but he was bound and determined to upholster his car. A friend gave him a commercial sewing machine and Ronald started to practice. He read books on the subject and watched a video by Sid Chavers the renowned hot rod upholsterer.

 

When the car was finished Ronald showed it at one of the local Hot August Nights events. Hundreds of people showed up and there was a buzz around his car. It was the star of the show. One of Ronald’s hot rod buddies brought Sid over to look at the car. “Who did the upholstery,” he asked. “I did,” said Ronald and a dialog began. At the end of the conversation, Sid said, “If you ever need a job, give me a call.” Now that’s a great testimony to the quality of Ronald’s work. Ronald is a fitting example of this month’s Quote of the Month.

 

Well, now Ronald’s at it again. He’s building a ’40 Ford pickup. He chopped the top and did all the other trick stuff to make his latest creation a standout. He’s getting ready to paint it. I can just picture Barbara when he told her, she shrugs her shoulders as she rolls her eyes to the back of her head. You can hear Frank Sinatra singing in the background, “I Did It My Way.” Oh the color, he’s painting it blue. Now the inside of his garage will be a pale red with a pale blue overspray and so will his workbench, a few of his tools, as well as the garage floor. A Rembrandt he’s not. A hot rod builder, he’s the best there is.

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7. Announcements

 

If you would like more information on any of the above topics, call me at 510.881.9440 or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com. Please visit my Web site at http://www.protoconsulting.com for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.

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“ProTips, the E-newsletter For Waste Industry Professionals” is produced and distributed monthly by R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc. I encourage you to share it with your colleagues and friends. You may reproduce this electronic newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include the correct copyright notice (at the end of this newsletter), with a link to my Web site, http://www.protoconsulting.com.

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