Sunday, November 22, 2015

A delivery mishaps blooms into good customer service

"They were beautiful," N.L. writes. She was referring to a bouquet of flowers that she received from her partner in the late afternoon on a day off from work. The flowers weren't for any special occasion, just an effort to make the day a bit brighter.

When N.L. read the note that accompanied the flowers, she saw that not only was there a note from her partner, but a note from the florist apologizing for the original delivery not arriving at the time it was promised. N.L. texted her partner to let him know how much she loved the flowers and sent him a photo so he could get a sense of how beautiful they were.

He told her that when they had spoken earlier, he knew she hadn't received the flowers since she didn't say anything, so he called the florist. The florist apologized and promised to get another bouquet out right away -- which it did.

Then N.L.'s doorbell rang. It was her next door neighbor to whose house the original bouquet had been delivered.

So now, N.L. had two beautiful bouquets. She texted her partner to tell him and to ask if she should call the florist. He texted back that when he asked the florist what he should do if the original bouquet eventually showed up, the florist had told him to keep both and enjoy the flowers.

Now, N.L. wanted to let her friends know not just how beautiful the flowers were, but also how responsive the florist had been to get the order right. "But I'll be telling friends that the florist screwed up the first order," she says. In her effort to praise the florist, she worried she'd be making her look bad over the mistake delivery.

Nevertheless, N.L. thought it important to sing the praises of the florist for making good on its promise. You hear so many stories of poor customer service, she said. Now, she wanted to make sure to spread a story about good customer service on her Facebook page and other social media.

"What's the right thing to do?" she asks.

It wouldn't be wrong to spread the word if she really wanted to. After all, the florist did make good on an error.

But N.L. might want to figure out what her ultimate goal would be in spreading the misdelivery made good story. If the intention is to drive other people to use the florist because of the service and the quality of the flowers, then perhaps there's a way to do that without having to worry about a potential delivery mishap.

N.L. could simply tell her friends how beautiful the flowers were, and then post a photo of them with the name of the florist (and perhaps the partner who ordered them) on her Facebook page and other social media accounts. Doing so would let friends know how pleased she was with the service.

The right thing is to figure out what she really wants to accomplish by spreading the word about the florist. If she can do that in a way that doesn't result in potentially having the opposite result of giving prospective customers pause, then that's the choice she should make. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

References should honor privacy, but be forthright if they screw up

Questions revolving around writing references seem toarise frequently. More than once I've received questions about whether it's OK for recommenders to ask you to write your own recommendation to which they will simply affix their name (it's not).

Now, the question arises of what the right thing to do is when someone writing a reference for a former colleague is not as careful with keeping that colleague's decision to apply for a job elsewhere confidential.

Here's what happened.

A reader, let's call him Reed, received an email from a former colleague, Colleen, telling him that she was planning to apply for a new job and wondering if he would be willing to write her a letter of recommendation. He emailed back indicating he'd be glad to write the letter. Colleen sent Reed some details and he subsequently set aside some time to write the letter.

A few days later, after Reed had written the letter, a copy of it was sitting on his office desk, waiting for him to sign it, stick it in an envelope, and send it off. (Reed is very efficient at getting recommendation letters out in a timely fashion.)

That day, however, Bart, another former colleague who had worked with Reed and still worked with Colleen arrived at Reed's office door. Reed had forgotten that he and Bart had agreed to meet for coffee and to catch up. But there Bart was at Reed's door ready to go -- and there sat the letter for Colleen in open view on Reed's desk.

Bart plopped down on the seat next to Reed's desk and they began chatting before taking off for coffee. Well into the conversation, Reed realized that Colleen's letter was sitting in open view. He reached for it, turned it over, and made a comment to Bart to the effect of, "Sorry, I shouldn't have left that out."

"That's OK," Bart joked. "I learned to read upside down a long time ago." At least, Reed hoped that Bart was joking.

Now, Reed was concerned. He promised to keep Colleen's job application confidential. He didn't think Bart had seen anything or that he would say anything even if he did, but he wasn't sure whether he owed it to Colleen to give her a heads up.

Reed should have been more careful with Colleen's letter once he printed it out. Granted, she didn't work at Reed's new place and no one there knew Colleen, but given that it was a confidential letter, he should have taken a bit more care.

But Reed slipped up, and he wanted to do right by Colleen since he had written her a strong letter.

If Bart did see anything, he should have told Reed that he did. And even if he didn't tell Reed, he should not disclose to anyone what he saw. Friends should not betray friends.

Reed isn't obligated to do anything. He is, after all, doing Colleen a favor by writing her a letter. But Reed chose to do the right thing by emailing Colleen and letting her know what happened. As far as either of them know, Bart either never saw a thing or, if he did, kept it to himself. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Time for colleges to stop charging students to do internships

K.P., a reader from New England, has a daughter attending college. As part of her major, K.P.'s daughter must complete at least one internship during the course of a semester. Neither K.P. nor her daughter minds this requirement. In fact, each believes working for a business might give the daughter valuable insight into the work world that she plans to enter after graduation.

While it concerns K.P. that many of the internship opportunities that are available to her daughter are non-paying positions -- and rightly so, since it's only right for businesses to pay workers for the work they do -- that's not K.P.'s major concern.

K.P. is troubled with the fact that her daughter must take her internship "for credit," effectively paying the university tuition for the privilege of working for free at an approved business. While her daughter will register for the internship and the supervisor at the business will fill out an evaluation on her daughter that it files with the school, there is little in the way of academic requirements.

"Should my daughter really have to pay the university to work for free at a business?" K.P. asks.

The issue of unpaid internships has been a sticky one for years. Lawsuits have been filed over the issue. Arguments fought. It seems only right for companies to pay student workers just as they would regular employees, even if the students are gaining experience on the job.

An argument might be made that fewer internships would be available if pay was required. Perhaps.

But if colleges see value in internships, even unpaid ones, perhaps a way to compensate students would be to not charge them for the credits they're required to sign up for to take the internships.

A handful of colleges do not offer credit for internships. As a result, students are not left paying for the right to work for free.

Other colleges regularly offer students a fixed number of tuition-free credits when they sign up for college activities, such as working on the staff of a college publication. If a free credit toward tuition can be offered for such non-required activities, surely colleges can offer a limited number of free credits toward internship requirements.

Is there anything unethical about businesses asking students to work for free? If the businesses are using interns to sidestep the need to hire paid employees to do work that is essential to running their business, something rotten is happening. In such case, employees lose opportunities to work. And students are being asked to do that work for free. Presumably, these positions are not at charitable organizations to which students are volunteering their time. These are businesses whose goals are to turn a profit. Should they be able to do so on the back of free student labor?

What's worse is expecting students to pay college credits to institutions that may claim to provide oversight for these positions, but that, in reality, do very little that translates directly into the equivalent of the college having to hire a full-time instructor to teach a course.

The right thing is for academic institutions that require students to pay for credits to do internships to re-examine such policies to see if they are truly fair and in the best interest of the students they are charged with providing the best education possible. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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