Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What is Great Customer Service--and Why do you give it?

Why do you give such GREAT Customer Service?
Back in the day, when I worked in the Training Department at Mrs. Field's Cookies corporate office, I happened on a project left over from a previous staff member called, "What is GREAT Customer Service?" My boss, Monnie Hughes and I decided to make a sequel that asked the next question:  WHY do you give GREAT Customer Service..

The original was a quick little 8 minute training presentation store managers could run for their teams before they started their shifts entitled, "What is Great Customer Service?"  It was a home brew theatrical production that featured all the bad ham acting you cold cram into 8 minutes featuring the "cool" dudes and dudettes at headquarters.  It showed a real life situation with simulated customers, how it is often handled (with appropriate comic effect) and how it should be handled.  It was a bit more than skits in front of the fire place, but it got the message across.

My idea was to take advantage of a national swing to take pictures of some botique stores for the annual meeting--and video tape clerks, waitresses and others serving us as we traveled, two questions:

1.  "What do you think is Great Customer Service?", and

2.  "Why do you give Great Customer Service?

We never found a convenient, legal way to do what I'd envisoned without stopping some great servers, desk clerks and car rental agents in their appointed rounds.  During that trip, Monnie and I asked three or four dozen people those two questions.  I could bore you with the text book answers we got--and the dumfounded stares we encountered in a few folks without a clue.  

The upshot of this quest came in Atlanta, Georgia down the street from the Great American Cookie headquarters--a subsidiary of Mrs. Fields.  Monnie and I went to an venerable tea room for lunch with the Vice President of Marketing, a short Jewish woman with a heart of gold.   Our waitress was a delightful African American grandmother named Effie who was in her early eighties if she was a day.  Monnie winked at me and I asked the two questions: 

"What do you think is GREAT customer service?"  

"That's where you take your broken toaster, isn't it?" she responded.  

I gently explained, "Thanks, Effie!  But I was hoping for something about how you serve your patrons...but let's try this question,'  WHY do you GIVE such great customer service?'"

"That's easy" she grinned, "Its cuz ah LUVES mah peeple!!!"
I never had a better answer!

With all this extra attention, she shyly told us about her two sons, a doctor and a lawyer--and dragged me over to see an article in the Atlanta Constitution Sunday Magazine about her long service, preserved under glass in a dignified frame.   But she didn't take much time.  She was in charge of twenty tables in the big tea room and she had some water glasses to fill!

The AFTER STORY:  We never produced that project.  The company decided to level the budget deficit by letting one HQ staff member per department go back on the job market.  Reduction in force is what it sayes on the official paperwork.  As valuable as I thought I was, the company decided otherwise. Monnie and I had hired a great college student who was familiar with all the desk top publishing and video production software.

(My great friend, Monnie, invited me back to shoot and edit the training film when Mrs. Fields partnered with Sesame Street for the inevitable Cookie Monster and Elmo cookie projects---and in retrospect it was time to move on!)


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Memories of my Dad, Milo

by Donald Eugene Howe
(on the 93rd anniversary of his birth, February 2, 2011 -- Ground Hog Day)

As an elementary school kid, in Laramie, it was pretty ubiquitous phenomenon to pick up on the fact that Football was a big deal in our town, both in High School and Division 1 NCAA Football ranks, way before anybody had ever heard of the BCS.  Dad had been a High School football player, in Kearney, Nebraska.  And when I voiced an interest to Dad to take me to local Laramie Senior High School Football games coached by local legend John Deti, my lasting memory of him is those on chilly Laramie Friday nights, when Dad was in town and available to take me, we would partake of the excitement of watching Laramie Plainsman Football.  What great memories.  I guess I not only went to the home games when Dad could take me, we also lived next door to the Laramie play-by-play radio voice for a short time when McGrannahans either moved away, or went on sabbatical, and our neighbor Mr. Ken Keating and his family lived next door to us on Ashley Street.  I enjoyed following the Plainsman either at home, or away by listening to LHS Football broadcasts by Ken Keating, or going with Dad to watch them firsthand. The Keatings had a daughter who was a school classmate in later years at Thayer Elementary, and at Laramie Jr. High School.  When at LJHS, another of my classmates was Scott Shurmur, son of UW Cowboy Football Head Coach Fritz Shurmur.  His Dad’s specialty was Defense, and he went on to work until the day he passed away just a year or so after he coached the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win in the late 1990’s, as Defensive Coordinator for Packers’ Head Coach (and former Assistant Coach to Lavell Edwards at BYU), Mike Holmgren.  Fritz had been invited to go with Holmgren to Seattle to coach the Seahawks defense, but cancer cut short his opportunity to go to Seattle.  Today, he is buried in Wisconsin.

Some of my lasting, endearing first memories of our Father, Milo Howe, was how he would bundle me up on those cold late September and October Friday evenings, and when I couldn’t generate enough heat to keep warm while watching the game, he’d open up his herring bone tan and brown herring bone wool overcoat and sit me on his lap, and wrap me up, and just being on my Daddy’s lap, witnessing all the excitement, pageantry and traditions of High School Football - - the crisp air, the occasional wafting smell of popcorn, pipe tobacco, and listening to the music of a marching band, and witnessing a winning football tradition on my Father’s lap, all was right and good and kind with me, and my Dad.  My Sister Carolyn played French horn in the Plainsman marching band, and if I recall correctly, she, too, played “Powderpuff Football” for the girls’ annual Jr’s vs. Sr’s tackle football grudge match.  What lingers in memory the smell of that old wool overcoat, a hint of Aqua Velva, or Old Spice aftershave, and a gentle, reassuring, loving voice replete with explanatory inside-football descriptions by someone who had played the game, and loved to share it with his ‘Little Feller,’ son.  When I played tackle football some years later in 7th and 8th grades, I recall Dad showing up to practice one day with his Argus C-3 rangefinder camera and snapping a few pictures of his aspiring right halfback / linebacker son.  Oh what fun memories!  Happy Birthday, Dad.  Thanks for taking me to the football games and taking an interest in me, and keeping me warm and sharing something that was dear to you, and is a tradition that is now dear to me, too.

Thinking about Jon’s memories riding bikes to Cheyenne with Dad, he and I also used to ride our bicycles on nice weather days on Sunday mornings down to the Thomes Chapel, in Cheyenne, to attend Priesthood meeting early in the morning when Dad was in, and the weather was nice.  I can’t watch a bike rider pedal by, to this day, but what I don’t have the primal urge to want to jump on a bike and ride, too, and feel the breeze on my face, and the joy of human powered mobility.  Walk into any bicycle shop, to this day, and the smell of new bike tires, and an open container of white grease bring back the Schwinn bicycle shop, to me.  “MILO! . . . DONALD!   dinnertime, wash your hands! . . .”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Secret to Wealth -- Retire and Develop Your Favorite Passions!

OK, I'm not wealthy----YET!  But I'm havin' a ball.   Last year, our sweet, well meaning daughter gave me a workbook of Sudoku, cross word puzzles and other exercizes to keep from catching the dread Alzheimers.  I saw a man at the Sizzler Restaurant the other day in the next booth doing a "Word Find exercize like my Dad used to do in the Alzheimer's ward of his rest home--and I thought:  "I could no more slog through such a non-productive time waster than, 'fly to the moon backwards with my bed socks on!!!'"   Give me a juicy writing opportunity--or a picture collage to produce.  I think I know how to keep my own grey matter sharp and focused, thank you!

I've found fulfillment in publishing now five blogs about human behavioral engineering.  Follow the links below and enjoy a leisurely sample of my publishing just since March of 2010.   (Blogs are great for repressed reporters and photographers who have ached to get out from under a restrictive, tyrannical committee of lilly-livered editors all their lives.) If you've ever wanted to run your own newspaper--and let Google handle the ads automatically, THIS IS IT!

1.  Grampa in Training (GiT) for Already and Wannabe Grampas and the Grammas who love them (This site concentrates on the application of specifics with gramkids especially where "The Rubber Meets the Road)  This will include more and more little DVDs

Teaching Moment Boosters (Vitamin TMB) is the fulfillment of a more than 40 year old hobby collecting and publishing quotes and stories and a lot of Object Lessons for teaching good upbeat Human Relations Engineering theory and practice.  The Blog has the built in benefit of constant updating.  I may never publish on pulp again.   Trees may now breathe a healthy sigh of relief.

3.  Santa's Cosmic Sleigh (Howe to Build Your Own North Pole) focuses on the tools and techniques of another aspect of Human Relations Engineering -- Entertainment as a Teaching Tool--for both young and their participating adult handlers.  This is becoming a series of digital training publications and DVDs for World Class Santas and Wannabes.  It's also become a fun history of my nearly 40 years in "The Rig".

Backstage at the North Pole  I just started this guide for parents and party hosts to help them get the most out of their rented Subordinate Clauses--with a bonus illustrated Gift Guide   It's become a fun way to promote my favorite Toy Store--The Red Baloon in the Sandy Mall and 33rd South in Salt Lake City.  (This one is only a few days old---but I hope to make it publically available after 25-30 posts, just in time for Christmas Party Planning.

5. MUSH-FO-U is an acronym for The Milo S. Howe Family Organization Blog It has become on-going tribute to our great folks.  Mom passed away earlier this year...and I've been pumping out her Memorial Service in little bits and bytes on YouTube and e-mailing those efforts to our bunch.  Though a public site, this one is designed to reach our wide ranging extended bunch of inlaws and outlaws!

Whenever an idea pops into my head, I thoroughly enjoy deciding which of the Blogs will get to run it  It then takes an average about an hour to develop each post and illustrate it once or twice from Google Images or my growing library of brief video and digital images.  I invested in a wonderful new Olympus Pen 12 megapixel digital camera.  It's often better than continuous tone--if you are hooked into the developing world of digital photography.

I also run the church program as the Bishop's Secretary with ample space for announcements calendar items and lots and lots of pictures.  Our ward is getting to know each other on paper as they connect faces to names--and find out a little more about each other.    Just yesterday, I was exchanging e-mails with ward department heads who wanted their material included for next week...and it was just like being back at work, in every good way.  My publisher's uniform is pajamas (and bathrobe on cool days)  --and I take a shower whenever I like!   I don't have to get permission from anybody to go swimmin' in the middle of the day ('cep' mabe Gramma Rosie!!!  Good life!   JWC

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gramma Delma's still growing Memorial is now available on Youtube. MORE TO COME!

This post includes the three brief Youtube productions in tribute to my sweet Mom who passed away in Worland Wyoming last month.  Gramma Delma and Grampa Milo couldn't have been better poster children for this blog.

These first two segments feature video that I shot of the two of them  in 1992 on a visit home.  It was the year before we gathered as a family for a reunion celebration of their 50th Anniversary.

Delma Isabella Hunt Howe passed away in Worland Wyoming on April 18, 2010 at the age of 87. This edition of her Memorial Service is the first of several segments produced primarily from a recording of her Funeral on April 20,2010. Members and friends of the Milo S. Howe Family Organization cooperated in the presentation. Milo and Delma's oldest son, Jon Robert Howe of Salt Lake City, Utah produced this series for the now and again MSHFO video

On January 3, 1941 Delma Hunt wrote a love letter interwoven with faith and hope in the inside front cover of her fiance's scriptures. Milo Howe carried his mother's gift of a bible and Delma's Triple Combination with the letter inside during his service as a Locomotive Engineer/Tech Sergeant in the United States Army in World War II. Fifty one years later, in their Cheyenne, Wyoming kitchen, the couple remembered that time and how they felt as she read the letter aloud. They both wept happy tears.

Our only sister/daughter Carolyn Howe Sansoucie was the first to leave us in 1996. Seven years later in 2003 Grampa Milo passed and seven years later in 2010 Gramma Delma's "graduation" brought us together -- now only four brothers, wives and families remain on the earth.

This segment shows the gradual "Aging of the Brethren"  over the last 32 years, from our college days in 1978 to 2010. These family reunions are rare with all of us scattered across the West and New Hampshire, where Dick and Carolyn's descendants are.

In the years to come, there will be other gatherings and what will be so much more than a  "wrinkle and liverspot festival". We will bid goodbye to one another with a rare Howe family love, known only to us,  then to gather as the Milo S. Howe Family Organization (MSHFO) in another dimension one by one with,  "No Empty Chairs."

Bookmark this blog post.  More to come!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Delma Tribute 1 is on Youtube May 7, 2010

Hi, Cousins!  This is your videogenic shirt tale relative and friend, Wizardhowe writing to you just after I posted Gramma Delma's first segment of the Worland Memorial Service held on April 20, 2010 on Youtube.com.  This is the first of  a number of segments of the tribute in the latest edition of COUSINS MAGAZINE. 


Like it says at the end of this 1:13 introduction, there's MORE TO COME.    Youtube can only handle about 10 mintues per segment, so for the 90 minutes of funeral and additonal material like this introduction and a wonderful moment between Milo and Delma sharing her letter to him at the beginning of his Army Service in WWII, we may have 10-12 10 minute segments yet to be produced.  (I visited Mom and Dad in Cheyenne in 1992,  the year before we all gathered for their 50th Anniversary.   I've sent the link to as many MSHFO Members and Friends for whom I have email addresses.  

VIRAL MARKETING:  If you'd like to spread the word and pass it along,  please copy and paste this URL:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws1JlGTPcqs into an email and help share these segments about the life of this wonderful woman.  ( As a labor saving idea, if you want to send me the email addresses that you think I may not have, I'll add them to my gmail Family Group.)   Thanks in advance--and, as always, much love!   Jon Howe (wizardhowe@gmail.com)

PS As I write this, I'm flashing back to what she used to tell us about her cakes, cookies and pies.  This video is special because it has her love in it!  JRH

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Milo and Larry's Basement Barbershop

OK, so we whined more than a little bit.  We liked our hair a little shaggy.  This was before the Beatles and the Vietnam War protestors made HAIR so notorious they named a broadway musical after it.

Milo and Larry's Basement Barbershop was a monthly event at our house!  Dad's great friend from the Army, Larry Parker would bring his two boys, Daryl and Lyle over from Flint Street and we'd all line up for a trim!  By then we were involved with cub scouting--Dad was cubmaster, an assignment he loved for nearly 30 years.  Larry and Hazel were Den Dad and Den Mother and were the Guide Patrol Leaders (for 11 year old Scouts).

Dad had bought a little hand operated set of clippers in a little pine box where he kept his good conduct medal and a little plastic bottle of oil.  On the troop ship coming home, from WWII, Tech Sgt. Milo made enough money in tips from his fellow soldiers that he had enough saved for a downpayment on a  little one bedroom house in Roach Addition with a big knotty pine kitchen.  (Only in later years did I chuckle at who in the world would name it the  "Roach" addition, but that was the developer's real last name, honest!}

The homemade hair cuts project was a way to keep in touch with the Parkers and save barber money on four heads of Howe youngsters.  (I don't think Dad ever touched Carolyn's hair--but I wasn't sensitive to that beauty parlor ritual back in the day!)

The ritual was pretty standard.  Dad mounted a red and chrome kitchen stool on the well built wooden trunk with the galvanize metal top he'd built in 4H.  He had a cloth barber's cape he wrapped around each of us and fastened with a safety pin and the trimming began.  By the time I was old enough to pay attention, Dad had purchased a set of nifty electric clippers.   They made a loud buzzing noise as he chopped off sideburns with a little off the top.  It wasn't quite "Put a bowl on my head and lop off whatever showed under it"  But it was always too short--and we didn't express appreciation like we should.   

Dad and Larry took turns, trimming their own children, though I got the feeling that Dad had more experience than Brother Parker.  Besides, he was balding and a Phd candidate at the University of Wyoming in Wool science.  When he went abroad with his family for a doctorate at the University of Edinburough in Scotland and post doctoral work in Afganistan and Africa, I have no idea who cut his hair.

If I'd been smart, I would have learned that skill for my own son, but I couldn't get out  of Milo and Larry's Basement Barbershop fast enough.  Rosie cuts my hair nowadays and saves us $20 every time.  I cut my own beard and mustache, thanks!

The little kids thought it was really something to be "awarded" Dad's good conduct medal for sitting still during the haircut..  By the time I was drafted and earned a good conduct medal of my own, I was surprised to learn that a good conduct medal was awarded rather routinely to soldiers who had passed basic training.  Still, it was special in our house.  The first time I got a short short short cut to go through basic training looking like an escaped convict, I remembered the homegrown haircuts we got from a caring father.  At least he left a little bit to part with a comb!  JRH

MSHFO's Traveling Plaque

Growing up, certain things take on a meaning all their own.   Several years ago Mom and Dad sent us a letter asking which of the family "heirlooms" we would like to have.  I chose a grey trunk--a wood working project that Dad had built as a boy for Four-H.  It had a galvanized metal top.  During all the years that Dad corralled us and cut our hair, he arranged a kitchen stool on top of that trunk so our shaggy little heads would be just the right height.  A few weeks later, Dad delivered his trunk in the commodious trunk of his 1957 turquoise Cadillac.  As big as it was. there was room to spare!

The folks had to clean out their bank accounts when Dad entered a rest home--and we got an unexpected check--the first installment on our inheritance.

Then came Gramma Delma's memorial service.

(The back story) Back in 1982 I got to know the graphics instructor at a high school near our apartment in Beltsville, Maryland outside Washington, D.C.  In the evenings for several weeks I built the oval shaped plaque for the Milo S. Howe Family Organization at the right.   I kept one copy and bought a lovely mohogany and gold trim frame for the only other copy.  I put a few pictures of our family on the back and gave it to Mom and Dad.  They hung it in the bedrooms as they moved from Laramie to Cheyenne to Worland.  I smiled everytime I went to visit and peeked into their bedroom.

Tom and Trudy cleaned out the basement in the folks' Cheyenne home and sent us regular subscriptions of BOX-O-JUNK.  Most of the stuff we gave to Deseret Industries.  We kept a few things, but our basement will need the services of a Tom and Trudy one day and we hesitated to add to it!

Fast forward to Mom's memorial service in Worland on April 20, 2010.  At the Barbeque at Roger's House the night before we gathered, Tom continued his service as the distributor of the family "heirlooms"  He walked over to me smiling with what has become the MSHFO's Traveling Plaque you see here.

It was an unexpected joy!  I really couldn't have been more pleased!  Donald had been in the market for a laptop computer and Tom gave him Mom's.  He was so unexpectantly pleased.  I'm not sure what Roger and Tom "inherited".  All I know is that most of Mom and Dad's things were sold in a giant garage sale that Sarah (Roger and Sue's oldest)  and her husband Jeff, organized around the time their little Worland house was sold.

So now, I've got the MSHFO picture organization chart.  It's incomplete by nearly twenty years--and needs some updating.   Rosie has asked me to produce one like this one of her family.  A friend of Roger's asked for a picture of it so he could make one for his family.  If two requests make a trend --then maybe!

In the meantime, it's a handsome reminder of the once and future team of MSHFO.  Three deaths and four of us left.  In some ways the four brothers are the last men standing of a well nurtured regiment, living our lives and watching the days pass.

Carolyn passed in 1997.  Inoperable Lung Cancer.  Seven years later in 2003  Milo left us because of Alzheimers and Dimentia.  Seven years after that Mother departed mortality after a little stomach ache and a change of medication.  In some ways I feel like I have about 7 years left.  Stay tuned!  JRH.