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Pick up the #[email protected] phone!

June 16th, 2019 by Kenneth Abrahams

This is take six of this blog. Honestly, I can’t remember more time and more discussion spent on one of our posts. This has been sent to a number of people to get their feedback on the pros and cons of posting this piece. First off, I was told a title change was needed, apparently Dear Dumb Ass as a title was a little over the top. Second, I was told it was whiny and unprofessional, guilty as charged at least on the whiny part. Sometimes, I just need to get things off my chest. Let’s be honest, I don’t have much of a filter. Some will view this and me as unprofessional. There is little I can do to change their opinion of me. Lastly, people were unclear of the purpose or expected outcome. We operate differently than some of our competitors, vendors, and even clients. Communication is essential to our operation. We try and let people know where things are at every step of way. Do we fail sometimes? Of course, but it is rarely from lack of effort. My other hope is that this may make some people stop and examine their own communication style. Hope you enjoy it; if not, please call me.

My needs are simple, I don’t ask for much. Believe me, working in a business that is almost 30 years old, we have had our share of problems. Look at just the last few weeks, we had a bag full of paint and equipment that was supposed to fly to the west coast that never made it. Lo and behold, it appeared the baggage handlers either jumped up and down on the bag or ran it over with the baggage cart. Whatever the reason, the bag was almost destroyed and the contents inside nearly ruined. We were in constant communications with the airline and they assured us that the bag would be on the next flight out. Since the job was 20 hours later, we didn’t worry. However, the next morning we were notified that the bag was still in Boston with no plans to fly it out anytime soon.  Suffice it to say that bag never made it to its intended destination, and we had two airbrush artists ready to start a tour with no brushes and no paint.

We could also talk about the myriad of events this spring that were moved, postponed, pushed back, or outright cancelled due to Mother Nature’s Springtime wrath. Too exotic or far-fetched you say? Then, let’s go with something mundane, how about a staff member reading their schedule wrong, thinking their job was 12 hours later than it was. Yep, we are far from perfect, but we never stop trying.    

Recently, we had a situation with a vendor that left me frustrated and more than a little angry. Despite assurances that we were all set with the order we placed, things went sideways or downhill at the 11th hour. As a client explained to me the other day when an artist got sick at a job, things happen. We never expect anyone to be perfect, that would be unrealistic. What we do expect is communication, from our staff, our vendors, and even our clients, and to please keep us in the loop when things don’t go right or even look like they are not going right. 

As chronicled in these pages before, I am not always a believer in the Customer is Always Right theory, but I am a fan of either making them feel right or at the very least included. Yep, you may think that the “please call me” text at 7:30 pm on the Friday night of Memorial Day Weekend letting me know the items I needed in four days were not arriving was sufficient, but it wasn’t. What is even more maddening is when I found out that our operations staff had reached out four days earlier to get tracking numbers and you never responded. When I talked to you that night, you assured me you would keep me updated as you tried to find a solution. Unfortunately, that, too, never happened because I needed to text you at noon the following day to get said update. Again, radio silence until I emailed you on Monday to let you know that we had solved the problem on our own. Your reply of “ok” was woefully inadequate.

Here is what we ultimately need from our vendors/suppliers: communication and follow through. Tell us we are all set when you have an order or tracking number. Let us know as early as you can when there is a problem. Respond to our calls, texts, and emails. If you encounter a problem, please try and come up with a solution and not just dump it on our doorstep and walk away. We have a number of suppliers that operate that way as well as some that proactively reach out to us to preempt problems from occurring. For example, one of our suppliers always calls as the weather gets cold to inquire about our snow globe needs. These are shipped in non-temperature trucks and if it gets too cold the products freeze. She wants to make sure we receive what we need with the least amount of possibility that they will be damaged.  That level of service is exceptional, not what we expect from our vendors but absolutely appreciated. We are loyal to them because they take care of us.

I’m not sure how you treat customers or clients but here we believe that if we make a mistake there are several things we must do. Mom always said, “take your medicine like a man.” What she was saying is own your mistakes. Let your clients or co-workers know as soon as an issue has been identified. Do your level best to fix the problem. Apologize to the party that you have wronged, whether it is intentional or not. Ask them what you can do to try and soften the blow or lessen the damage. If you had done any of this, this situation might have been viewed much more positively and I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog.



About the author: Ken Abrahams has been on this planet for 59 years and has been screwing things up since 1960. One thing he has become much better at is apologizing; still not one of his favorite things to do but he is getting better at it. If he has wronged you, he is sorry. Let’s face it, sometimes he too can be a dumbass.



Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

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