5 Customer Service Lessons from the Department of Motor Vehicles

photo-7

 

You can learn from every situation.  Whether it was an incredible service experience that makes you a raving fan or whether it is one where you’re left shaking your head.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate a milestone with my daughter.  It was time for her to obtain her driver’s permit.  She had finished a weeklong driver’s education course, passed the written test, obtained all of the paperwork, and we had dutifully filled out the forms.

Everything was ready.

Now it was time for us to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), get her picture taken, and obtain the permit.  I knew it would take time.  That’s the nature of the DMV.  I figured an hour to an hour and a half max.

Instead, we quickly realized that getting the permit was going to be about as difficult as Frodo making it safely to Mordor.

All of us have had the same shared, miserable experience at the DMV.  In every state I’ve lived in, it’s the same.  We just forget, don’t we?  We finally get what we need, and then we hope that we never have to go back.

Our experience was even worse than what I recalled from before.  Nearly five hours later, we finally emerged with the permit.  All of the waiting for just five minutes at the counter.

We were exhausted, but we also were laughing.  That’s what we do when we are beyond frustrated.  Jim Rohn used to say, “Learn to turn frustration into fascination.”  When I’m terribly frustrated, I try to heed his advice.

 

Learn to turn frustration into fascination. -Jim Rohn

 

Here’s what I jotted down in my notes during that first hour:

I’m fascinated:

  •             That this operation is so inefficient.
  •             That no one has redone this entire system.
  •             That we blindly put up with it because we feel powerless.
  •             That leaders haven’t emerged to fix it.
  •             That they aren’t listening to suggestions for change.

 

After two hours, I was no longer fascinated.  That’s when I go to my second step.  I look for customer service or leadership lessons.  That worked for the next hour.

What business lessons can we learn from the DMV?

From my notes:

Set expectations.

At the DMV, they don’t give an estimated time until you will be served. Failing to set expectations leads to disappointment.

Lesson:  Whether running a business or serving on a team, it’s important to set expectations—and then keep them.

Finding the Next Steve Jobs

iStock_000006505657Small

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/TABoomer

Nolan Bushnell founded groundbreaking companies such as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.  In his first book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Retain and Nurture Creative Talent, he outlines a plan for helping companies bring more creativity into their organization and make it their competitive advantage.  (Nolan hired Steve Jobs in 1972, two years after founding Atari.)  The book is a must read for all creatives and especially anyone who aspires to manage creatives.

My good friend, best-selling author and speaker Tim Sanders of Net Minds, is his publisher.  Tim graciously agreed to interview Nolan and talk about creativity, leadership, libraries and even publishing.  Here is the conversation between Tim and Nolan:

FTNSJ_Cover_v31_130#1330ED1I know it’s your strong belief that leaders at companies need to foster a creative culture. If you were going to give leaders one piece of advice on how to think differently about a creative culture, what would that piece of advice be?

I would encourage them to say yes to at least one crazy idea a year.

Give me an example of some of the crazy ideas you heard when you were in Atari.

Among the many that were pitched to me, one that stands out was this notion of making pretty pictures when music happened. It seemed ridiculous at the time. The product ultimately turned into Midi.

Midi, of course, is the standard that still exists to this day for connecting music devices to each other and synchronizing them. 

I think we built 20,000 of them, and I think we sold six at full-price. (Laughs). But it did become a force within the industry, for sure.

Let me ask you about leadership because you’ve led several companies. Do you think of leadership in a military way, a coaching way, or an improv comedy way?

7 Facts of Business Success

4189466395_7557e85a68

Photo by melanie_hughes on flickr.

 

After over forty years of owning businesses, Bill McBean shares the success factors that propelled his ventures to new heights. Whether turning around underperforming auto dealerships or forming new investing and administrative services companies, Bill has seen what works and what doesn’t. He recently wrote The Facts of Business Life, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his formula for business success.

Why do most businesses not achieve the level of success that they should?

It’s usually a combination of reasons versus one specific reason. These reasons are, in no particular order: 1) an opportunity with little potential for gross profit and net profit; 2) a lack of knowledge of the important elements, or basic fundamentals which create success; 3) a lack of leadership knowledge of how to move a business “from here to there”; 4) a lack of knowledge of how to compete; 5) a lack of overall business knowledge (not to be confused with industry knowledge).9781118094969 cover.indd

This is not a comprehensive list, but in my opinion from what I have seen they make up the vast majority of business failure or lack of success — and it’s rarely just one of these reasons. Instead it is a combination that can kill or seriously hinder the success of a business.

Your book outlines seven “facts” that successful business owners understand and utilize. We don’t have time to go into all of them, but how did you develop and choose these seven?

 

It probably wouldn’t surprise you if I told you these ‘facts’ chose me rather than me choosing them. By this I mean in all my years of business ownership these 7 facts were the ones which cost me the most money — either in not optimizing an opportunity or by not paying enough attention to a particular fact that ended up taking a big bite out of my wallet.

Are You Living or Existing?

7117200007_bb104edacb_z

Photo by ’James Wheeler on flickr.

I met Kimanzi Constable somewhere between the blogging and Twitter worlds and heard his story.  He was stuck in a dead-end job, unhappy, and going through life in a way that was existing, but not thriving.  He decided to do something about it and began to change his life.  As he describes it, he decided to “stop settling, stop making excuses.”

As he began to change his life, he self-published two ebooks, which sold over 80,000 copies.  A short time later, a publisher called and he ended up with a book deal.  He quit his job, becoming a speaker and a coach.  His first published book is Are You Living or Existing? 9 Steps to Change Your Life.

9 Steps to Changing Your Life

  1. Identify Your Dreams
  2. Get Fit
  3. Get Rid of the Negative
  4. Fix Your Money
  5. Nail Down Your Plans
  6. Make the First Moves
  7. Tie Up Loose Ends
  8. Make Radical Changes
  9. Pay it Forward

Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book because for twelve years I had settled and made so many excuses to not live the life I truly wanted to lead. After many struggles and victories and tears I realized a lot of truths that I thought could really help people who were and are in the same position I was in. I wanted to show everyone that anyone can live the life of his or her dreams with the proper plan. I’m living proof; this book is my game plan on paper.

What’s the difference between living and existing?

The difference is realization, attitude and action. You start by realizing that time is one resource we’ll never get back, so we can’t afford to waste it doing things that won’t better our life. Then have the right attitude towards everything you do, viewing opportunities as a blessing and not another task on your to do list. Action means not wasting your life away watching the latest prime time shows. It means getting out and creating amazing experiences. At the end of your life you won’t remember all of the stuff you got or shows you watched. You’ll remember incredible experiences and times you impacted the lives of others.

Describe the moment when you had enough and decided to go for your dreams.

4 Cornerstones to Create Distinction

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, how can you make your business stand out?

When you’re competing for the job or the promotion, how do you not only differentiate yourself from others but distinguish yourself as the best candidate?

What do you do when you’ve already taken your business from good to great, but great doesn’t cut it?

Creating Distinction

Scott McKain is a global expert in the art of distinction. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, Scott helps companies rise above mediocrity and sameness to achieve record growth.  His own career is also distinctive.  He’s one of my favorite professional speakers. He is both a member of the Speaker’s Roundtable and the Speakers Hall of Fame.  He’s a bestselling author and also a personal friend.9781608324262

Whether in the boardroom or on the platform, Scott is passionate about helping businesses and individuals create distinction.  His latest award-winning book is called Create Distinction.  I love what the subtitle adds: What to Do When Great Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business.

Do you ever feel that way?  That your business is great, but in the world we are in, great just isn’t good enough?  What do you do?

Scott McKain offers what he calls “The Four Cornerstones of Distinction”:

  1. Clarity
  2. Creativity
  3. Communication
  4. Customer-Experience Focus

 

CLARITY

 

The first cornerstone of distinction is clarity.  This requires you to define who you are, what you’re about, and, just as importantly, who you are not.

Clarity means you are precise about who you are—and just as exact about who you are not! Scott McKain