ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

No. 21, August 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: How to Manage an Irate Customer

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

 

Show some class…make the introduction. If you’re with someone and you come across a friend or business acquaintance, don’t forget to introduce the two strangers. It’s not only courteous; it’s professional. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you know how downright uncomfortable it is to stand silently while the other two are chatting. I once had a boss who frequently came across someone he knew, and always failed to introduce me. After a few times of being ignored, I started to introduce myself. So if the person you’re with doesn’t have the presence of mind to introduce you to her/his friend, wait for a break in the conversation, offer a handshake, and introduce yourself. You’ll break the tension, and make the encounter more enjoyable.

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Read, don’t have time…listen. Reading is a terrific way to learn about the waste industry, an interesting subject, or a hobby. It is also a great trigger to stimulate your creative mind. Reading however, takes a fair amount of time--something most of us have little to spare. Instead of reading, try listening to an audio book or a podcast (podcast is a term used for radio type content that can be downloaded to an MP3 player). While at the gym or on your daily run/walk, listen to your selected content. Make sure you carry a digital recorder, so you can capture that next great idea to help you propel your career and your business to the next level.

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Stand up…and be heard. Recently I attended an important meeting, held in a large room filled with lots of folks. Towards the end of the meeting came the question and answer session. I listened in amazement as attendees, hunched in their seats, mumbled their questions. The rest of the audience looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders; no one understood the questions. The next time you attend a similar meeting stand out like a pro. If you have a meaningful question, raise your hand high. When asked, stand up so everyone in the room can hear you. In a loud, clear voice, give your name and affiliation, then ask your question and take your seat. The speaker and the audience will appreciate your extra effort, and you’ll come off looking like a pro.

 

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

 

Tire maintenance…the pressure is on. Tire maintenance is getting a lot of attention lately. It’s been the subject in several newsletters I subscribe to, and a featured topic in the July 18, 2005 issue of Waste News. The gist of the articles is the same; tire pressure is number one on the list. Low tire pressure not only reduces a tire’s life, but can also cause it blow out, creating a safety hazard. Checking the pressure by hitting the tire with a hammer doesn’t cut it any more. You have to use a properly calibrated pressure gauge. So if you want to reduce your tire maintenance costs, check the air pressure in the tires and check out the articles in Waste News.

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Reduce customer complaints…spend more time with your drivers. Inexperienced drivers, drivers who are unfamiliar with their routes, and drivers who are just poor employees cause most customer complaints. The only way to improve this situation is to devote more time to correcting it. Don’t allow drivers who belong to any of these categories to clear their routes until the supervisor has had a chance to check things out and talk to the driver to make sure all the day’s work was taken care of. Yes, this takes a lot of time, but yes, this will reduce customer complaints.

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Credit adjustments…make the process easy. Empower customer service representatives (CSRs) to make credit adjustments to customers’ accounts. If every credit adjustment has to go through the department head or the boss, you’re not only wasting time--you’re irritating the customer. Review your adjustment policy with the department manager and the controller. Set new guidelines that allow CSRs the flexibility to make a wide range of credit adjustments with sufficient limits. If you’re worried that CSRs will overstep their bounds, ask the controller to pull together a report and review the credit adjustments periodically. Quick and easy credit adjustments not only satisfy customers; they ease the stress on CSRs.

 

 

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4. Topic of the Month: How to Manage an Irate Customer

 

It’s three o’clock on a Friday afternoon. All the trucks are parked and things are winding down. Anita, the customer service manager, walked into my office and said, “I have an irate customer on the phone. He claims he’s calling the mayor, I can’t find out why, he just says it’s the poor service. He’s not reasonable. No matter what I say, he just says he’s calling the mayor. Do you think you can try to reason with him?”

 

The last thing a manager wants is a customer calling the mayor, especially for poor service. “Transfer him to me,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”

 

I could barely introduce myself when he started yelling, cussing, and threatening to call the mayor. I tried, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise so I just listened. It didn’t take long to figure out why Anita was having a problem; the customer was intoxicated. But that didn’t matter; I still didn’t want him to call the mayor.

 

About an hour later I had the customer settled down. He agreed not to call the mayor. Everything was patched up. He even invited my family and me to his house for dinner on Sunday. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from accepting his invitation. But the point remains; I turned an irate customer into a satisfied customer.

 

Here is what I learned from this experience on how to manage an irate customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing an irate customer is an art rather than a science. Like all artistic endeavors, you only get better with practice. No matter how hard we try to please our customers, it is inevitable, an irate customer will surface, sometimes more than you want. Consequently, opportunities will abound to practice the art of managing irate customers.

 

Remember what your mother told you when you took music lessons, practice, practice, practice.

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5. Quote of the Month

 

“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.

Frank Leahy,

Head Football Coach

Notre Dame, 1941-43, 1946-53

 

The quote says it all. 

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6. Ramblings

 

Vivian, Joshua, my 11 year-old grandson, and I just returned from South Lake Tahoe. We took a few days for rest and relaxation. The weather was gorgeous, with clear blue skies and the temperature in the high 70s. Just right for me. I’m a sugar cube; I melt in the heat.

 

Tahoe has something for just about everyone. Water sports in the summer, and skiing in the winter. If you like to gamble, they have that too. It’s not quite as exciting as Las Vegas, but it serves the purpose, if you’re so inclined.

 

If you’ve never been to Tahoe, you have to find an excuse to visit this beautiful lake. It’s huge, measuring 22 miles long and 14 miles wide, with 72 miles of shoreline. It’s fed by the snowmelt from the huge, surrounding mountains. The water is crystal clear and cold. Looking out over the lake the shades of blue darken, as the water gets deeper and deeper. It’s a beautiful sight.

 

For me, though, the best part of going to Tahoe is fishing with Joshua. This kid can fish. He caught his first fish when he was four, and always seems to out-fish me. He either catches the most fish or the biggest one. He rarely gets skunked.

 

Joshua and I spend a lot of time fishing when we go to Tahoe. We have our favorite spots where we’ve caught our share of lunkers. It’s a delight to watch a little kid battle a four-pounder, especially when the fish is breaking water and tail-walking up and down the stream. Splashing, diving, lunging in the air, this fish is all over the place.

 

“Keep the rod tip up, keep the rod tip up,” I holler over and over again, as he struggles with his prize.

 

 “Get the net,” he shouts back. “I don’t know if I can hold on much longer.”

 

Finally, the battle is over. The beautiful rainbow trout lays still in the net, gasping for air. Joshua and I are overwhelmed with excitement; our hearts are pounding furiously from the adrenalin rush. We are literally jumping for joy.

 

 “Let it go. Release it,” says Joshua.

 

“What!” I snap back. “I’ve never released a fish and neither have you.”

 

“I know,” says Joshua, “but it’s time we start letting them go.”

 

“Okay, big guy, it’s your fish.” I say.

 

So with a twist of the hook, I let the fish go. It moves slowly at first, and then it darts back into the deep dark hole it calls home. I shake my head. “I would never let a fish go, especially one that big. It was a real trophy.”

 

“I know,” said Joshua, “But he will live another day to fight again.”

 

Damn, the innocence of babes.

 

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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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