Monthly Archives: August 2011
I was awakened during the middle of the night by a phone call from an unlisted number. Half alert, I answered the call. A recorded message stated, “An inmate from the County jail is on the line. Press one to accept.”
My mind immediately went into overdrive, racing to make sense of the situation before me. Giving in to my curiosity, I accepted the call.
On the other end of the line was a dear friend, Matt. He had been involved in a physical altercation, resulting in his arrest. I was his lifeline; his one call.
Shaken up and confused, I attempted to calm Matt in hopes of obtaining the facts. I racked my brain to think of a contact who could provide guidance.
First thing the next morning, I contacted Ron, a defense attorney whom I had known for a few years. I shared with him the information that Matt had provided me, including the fact that Matt had never been arrested or had any previous brush with the law. Given the jail’s overcrowding, I assumed that Matt would be processed and released in short order. Ron wasn’t as convinced and offered to make a few calls to the jailer on my behalf.
Almost weekly, I receive emails from readers who find themselves in situations where an individual or company’s brand has made a distinct impression—either good or bad. Their stories excite me as it further demonstrates the need for each of us to be cognizant of how our verbal and non-verbal communications and our interactions are perceived.
One recent email comes from an industry colleague, Sharon Berman, principal of Berbay Corp., a marketing and public relations agency that represents professional services firms. She relates two examples of recent situations that got off on a bad note but were quickly resolved to her satisfaction. Below is her email.
I thought of BAD for the BRAND during two specific interactions with well-known companies.
In the first instance, I was contacted by Intuit to upgrade my agency’s accounting software, QuickBooks. Apparently we were using a version that they no longer support. I assumed that by upgrading, I would be provided the necessary tools and technical support to download and install the new software. For reasons unknown to me, the process didn’t go as expected, and the install failed.
In an effort to resolve the situation, I was directed to the company’s “after sales” customer service department. The representative there claimed that the problem had nothing to do with the software, leaving me to my own devices.
I had just started as the firm’s director of business development. Understanding that my success would largely depend upon my ability to win over the trust and respect of my attorneys, I immediately went to work initiating relationships, starting with the “big guns” who occupied the corner offices.
As I made my rounds, I was particularly cognizant of Jerry, a senior partner who also served on the firm’s governing committee.
My conversations with Jerry had been strictly business. It was clear that he wasn’t particularly interested in me. In his mind, the jury was out as to the value I could provide him in building his law practice.
On a whim, I invited Jerry and his wife to a Fourth of July celebration I was hosting at my home. I didn’t expect them to attend, but thought the invitation would demonstrate goodwill on my part. Much to my surprise, he accepted.
Five minutes before the plane was to push back from the terminal en route to Chicago, one of the flight attendants, Susie, announced, “We’ve just been informed that there is a malfunction with the rear lavatory that will have to be addressed before we can take off. We’re expecting a delay of approximately one hour.”
The resulting reaction from a handful of passengers was as though a nest of snakes had been released into the cabin (yes, it was THAT dramatic).
A voice yelled from the back, “Don’t you realize there’s a bunch of children on this plane?” Another passenger exclaimed, “But I’m going to miss my connection!” And yet another, “This is ridiculous! I want to talk to the pilot!”
To quickly address the issue before it snowballed further, I expected someone from the airline—the pilot, a flight attendant, or a crew member—to make a follow-up announcement ensuring us they were doing everything within their power to expedite the process and get us on our way. No such announcement was ever made.