Saturday, July 23, 2016

Responding to Customers During a Crisis

Southwest Airlines is my favorite airline and I'm a fairly outspoken about it. When a technology malfunction grounded around a thousand flights this past week and delayed hundreds more, it affected thousands of people flying across the country. When something this catastrophic happens, a crisis management plan is implemented. They have to get things back up and running first; not only the planes, but their website was down during a particularly good sale. As they are working on the technology side, their communications groups go to work. 

Southwest took to social media with videos explaining what was going on. One particularly informative Q&A posed questions that a lot of customers had on their minds, not just lobbed softballs for the COO. There are multiple posts giving customers information and although the comments are mixed, you can tell the loyal customers; the customers that have made Southwest Airlines the 7th most admired company in the world according to Forbes Magazine.

Let's face it, unforeseen things happen. They happen to good people and good companies, but if you communicate how things will be rectified for customers and how things will be fixed, the reputation that you've built with your company will continue to stand through thick and thin.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Work-Life Balance

Back in college, all-nighters were a regular occurrence. One time in particular, there was a party Saturday night. It was Friday night and the only thing standing between me and that party was a 20-page paper and one night do it. Of course the professor had given me more than one night to do it, and of course there was Sunday, but I made a deadline and decided I was going to do it within the 10 hours overnight at the library. With half an hour to spare, I completed the paper (and ended up with an A- on the paper).

When I joined the workforce full-time, there were a few of those overnights to meet a proposal deadline. They were a badge of honor, a physical act to show the company how dedicated I was. If I were to do that today, I'd be looked at as crazy. Pushing yourself to be better, achieving aggressive goals, competing with your co-workers to be the best.... all can be positive things if you're working towards them with an appropriate work-life balance.

Gone are the days for me where I can even function after less than 5 hours of sleep, let alone an all-nighter. Here are some things I do to maintain a decent work-life balance:
1. I have at least one vacation planned out. By the time I get back into town from vacation, I already have the next locale chosen. This allows me to always have the ability to bring happy thoughts to the forefront of my brain when I need some positivity.
2. I have dramatically cut back on when I check work email. If I'm hanging out with friends and family, the work email doesn't get checked. France is passing a law that makes checking email after hours illegal.
3. By realizing a job is just a job - it's not your entire life - is very important for me to keep in the back of my head. No one company will shut its doors because you took that two-week European vacation or took off work early to see your daughter's dance recital. Work will be there the next day and the next.
4. Find a good stress reliever. After a particularly stressful day at the office, some people use exercise or laughing with friends as a de-stresser. Me? An hour-long session of Grand Theft Auto trying to get four stars as quickly as possible.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Details Matter, Especially For Nursing Mothers

As an event planner, you try to anticipate the needs of your guests, especially when you're planning an internal meeting with people that you work with regularly. Food allergies, 1 or 2 bed preference, specific drinks... those types of things. Guests will remember the meetings if everything goes right, but the meeting will be positively memorable because of the details.

One of the guests at a meeting I produced in January was a nursing mother. (Side bar here: I am a mother myself, but I did not have the ability to nurse my son and consequently don't really know anything that a nursing mother may need.) She had to check out of her room and come to the meeting, but needed a way to keep her breast milk cold for the remainder of the day, which included the plane ride home. Gary Bruckner, Event Guru at Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Florida, came up with a solution stat: instant ice packs that become cold when you want them too. Gary's very quick thinking gave the guest an immediate viable solution and removed that worry for her.

Although you can't anticipate everything, after reading this anecdote, you'll think of this solution when a nursing guest comes to you for help in the future. Kudos to Gary for the great idea!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cool Product Alert: Stylish Purses With Chargers

How many times have you had a co-worker or a guest at an event ask if you have an extra phone charger? It seems to be happening to me more and more, especially with males. And I understand. They can't really carry a charger in their pocket. It's much more likely that a female would be carrying around a charger.

Now anyone who carries a purse, can carry around a charger in style. But not one that you have to plug in the wall, one that acts as a charger on its own. These weren't really designed with other people's phones dying though; they were designed for on-the-go nomophobics who are draining their batteries from sun up to sun down.

Being fully charged and stylish comes at a price though. The Kate Spade model is high at $698, where the Ivanka Trump model seems more reasonable at $325. Although a bit too pricey for me, I love the aspect of combining technology and style. We need our phones to last throughout the day, especially if we're away from the convenience of a wall plug. Until phone makers can extend the battery life of a phone 100 times (without making it a brick), consumers are going to look for products that combine technology with wearables and accessories.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Team Building in Kansas City

Let's be honest, team building in a Corporate setting can be a little awkward, especially if you've never seen your co-worker out of a suit. But there are a lot of options that can keep you in your normal clothes, but still interact in a different way with your co-workers. In Lee's Summit (Southeast of Kansas City), there is a new entertainment venue that recently opened called The Exit Room.

In The Exit Room, up to eight people are "locked" in a room and have to work together to get out. It's timed too, which creates an additional layer of excitement to work together. As an event organizer and planner, I like the idea of The Exit Room for team building because all I have to do is reserve a room (they're starting out with four) and determine which people I want to pair together. There is a built-in time limit of one hour, which could also allow me a mechanism to award a prize for the team to exit their room first. There are plenty of places nearby to reserve for a happy hour for your co-workers, so everyone can rehash their time working together to get out of The Exit Room.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Airbnb Could be a Good Option for Conference Travel

What do you do when you're going to a conference and can't find a hotel nearby? Try Airbnb or Airbnb for Business if you and your co-workers travel frequently. I recently took over coordinating a hotel room block for a conference a few months prior to the event. Confirmations of when people were actually arriving and departing were all over the place and because of the proximity to the conference, I had to schedule some people at two different hotels during the conference. Not the ideal situation.

Airbnb had some options in the same proximity as the convention center, at a fraction of the price. Now it may not be ideal for your colleagues to share a house, but take a look at different options, even if it's just for one person. There are a variety of options: anything from a shared room, to a private room, to an entire house.

Here are some things to consider if you're out of traditional hotel options and want to try Airbnb:

  • Read the reviews on Airbnb and check the response rate and time of the host. 
  • Look at all of the costs that you'll incur with your stay. Cleaning, deposit and extra people are a few of the charges that could be added. When you go into a specific listing, it will add up all the fees for you on the right.
  • Read the cancellation policy carefully. If you don't have a definitive schedule, Airbnb may not be the right fit. Hosts will need to give you access to their home or shared space. 
It's always good to have options when you're limited because everyone seems to be descending on a city at the same time as you. Keep Airbnb in your back pocket.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone by Fredrik Eklund

Let me first admit that I am a fan of Fredrik Eklund of Bravo tv's Million Dollar Listing: New York fame. Knowing his adorable Swedish accent made reading The Sell even more entertaining.

The history of Fredrik's life helps illustrate how his foundation helped set him up for his future successes. He does discuss his tactics for negotiating and keeping the upper hand; something extremely important in your professional and personal life.

The discussion of personal brand and how to maximize your time for PR items (social media mainly) was a great reinforcement of other business books I've read. It's hard to implement advice sometimes, no matter how much sense it makes, but it was great to see the effect with a personal example. This example is also seen in Million Dollar Listing: New York.

Read this book for a different perspective on negotiating and selling yourself. If you buy it for your Kindle, get the "deluxe" version so you can watch videos of the endearing Fredrik.