How NOT to Do Customer Service

Oh. My. God. I just hung up the phone with Panasonic customer service and I am ready to pull out my hair.

I bought a Panasonic canister vacuum in January from Target.com- I even sprung for the extended warranty. Well, the vacuum stopped working- just stopped, won’t turn on. Things happen, no big deal, this is why warranties exist. So, I called Target. Super short call with a very nice person who advised me that the vacuum was still under the manufacturer’s warranty, so I would need to speak with Panasonic directly. She even transferred me. Super easy.

After a few minutes of automated prompts, followed by a few minutes of hold time, a nice Panasonic employee answered the call. I explained my situation and she said I would have to drop the vacuum off in South Windsor. Very nonchalantly, like that was the next town over from me. South Windsor is in CONNECTICUT. 1 hour and 50 minutes away. I told the agent that it was too far a drive. Oh, not to worry- they’ll “be happy to reimburse for 50% of the cost of shipping.” I’m sorry… WHAAAT?!?!

I calmly explained that since the vacuum broke less than 6 months after purchase and there was not a service location nearby, it was enough of an inconvenience to have a broken vacuum and to have to lug said vacuum to a UPS store, but to have to pay (prob $100?) was not something I was willing to do. When she said there was nothing more she could do, I asked her to to transfer me to a manager.

A manager got on the line after a few minutes and sounded like she was reading a script. She literally told me that when I purchased the vacuum, I automatically agreed to the terms of the warranty, which, according to her, state that 50% of shipping would be covered by the customer. (I’m not sure how I was supposed to agree to something I couldn’t see inside a sealed cardboard box, but, for kicks, I looked it up on their site. And- surprise!- there is no mention of the customer being responsible for 50% of the shipping costs.) Once again, I explained the situation and why I felt a customer should not be responsible for paying for shipping in this situation. I asked to speak to her manager. She insisted she did not have a manager, but told me I could write to consumer affairs. No telephone number or email- snail mail only. Seriously.

I know, from experience, that there are far worse things in this world, but I don’t have patience for things that waste my time. And, as a business owner, I can not wrap my head around the way Panasonic has failed to empower their customer service managers to resolve issues in a reasonable and responsible way.

This is exactly how NOT to do customer service.

-M

Simple & Quick Scratch Ticket Bouquet!

I have spent the past 3 days with some kind of electronic device in hand, on Pinterest looking for the best way to create a scratch ticket bouquet for a fundraiser this Saturday night.

I have $100.00 to spend and I want to make it look fabulous.

I found all kinds of cool pictures, but when I click on the link to learn how to create it, there is either a dead link or a website that has nothing to do with the original picture.

I decided to figure it out on my own and  create a “how to” post so that others can read a real post about the real pictures :-).

I purchased a cute container with a really sweet flower on the front- no need for me to decorate!  I took it to the floral department and put a gazillion of those floral foam balls inside to see which fit the tightest.  I found one that wasn’t perfect but would work.  I had the rest of the supplies at home already so I only spent about $10.00 at the craft store.

Supplies:

Scratch tickets

Lollipop sticks or skewer sticks

Floral foam

Container of choice

Shipping tape

Crinkle cut basket filler

Cellophane

Ribbon to tie a bow

supplies for scratch ticket bouquet

supplies for scratch ticket bouquet

Tape the lollipop sticks to the back of the scratch tickets.  Be sure to not tape the bar code on the back. You want to make sure the person who wins can redeem the ticket and they won’t be able to without the bar code.  The heights can vary.

Stick the sticks in the floral foam

I had to secure the ball in place with a little tissue paper.  You don’t want the tickets moving from side to side.

sticks in floral foam

Sticks in floral foam

Cover the foam with something that looks nice. I used a little crinkle cut basket filler.

Before crinkle cut and cellophane!

Before crinkle cut and cellophane!

Wrap with cellophane, tie a bow and you are finished!

final product! Took 10 minutes to make.

Final product!
Took only 10 minutes to make.

These baskets are usually great sellers at fundraiser/auctions.

We’d love to see how yours come out! Share pics in the comments!

 

True business perseverance…. Small business spotlight!

In New England we have gotten a LOT of snow.  They say this was worse than the blizzard of 78.  I heard one news reporter say Boston got over 100 inches since January 28th.

giant snowman

To say that it has been difficult to run a business is a complete understatement!  Between closing full days mid-storm, closing early, opening late,it has been a nightmare for my business and all of my small business friends.  Then when it finally stops snowing, there is the cleanup.  After the 70 inch mark, there was just no place to put the snow anymore.  The snow mounds are so high, you can barely see out of most windows.  Then there are problems that come with so much snow that you just don’t even think of, leaks that never existed suddenly appear.  Heavy snow on weak roofs have caused some roofs to cave in and collapse.  My husband had to get on our roof twice and shovel.

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

A local business in my neighborhood has had to close their business for the four weeks.  It is a dance studio called In Sync Center of the Arts.  They are one of the most well run and talented dance studios in my area.  What drew me in to this dance studio 5 years ago was how many classes they offered- not just for dance, but taekwondo, lego club, music lessons, and drama. I have four kids and I loved that all of them could take a class at once and I would get a whole hour all to myself :-). In the lobby, they have big screen tv’s that show all of the classes so you can see everyone at once.  LOVE IT!

The week before February vacation,  Insync’s next-door neighbor’s roof collapsed.  Thankfully it was empty and nobody was hurt physically.  Financially, it is devastating.  There are 5 business all in this little strip mall and they are all closed.  If I had to guess how many people were employed between the five businesses I would say hundreds.  Hundreds of people out of work because of something out of their control!  It’s heartbreaking!

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

Teri, the owner of Isync, was trying to unplug and relax for a few days during Feb vacation with her husband and kids.  She actually left her phone in her hotel room while out for dinner, only to return to hear about the nightmare she has now been living for weeks.  She had to cut her vacation short and rush home to make sense out of her new situation.  She was not allowed on the property. The electricity and gas is shut off and everything is roped off until it is deemed safe.

Most people would curl up into a ball and feel sorry for themselves, but not Teri.  She had her team up and running the next day seeking out temporary space for her business.  They brought their phones and laptops to a fabulous little coffee shop (mine 🙂 ) and worked as a team and didn’t stop until they found space that would work.

She ended up with two spaces, one by day and a high school for the night classes.  The high school is perfect because there are so many class rooms that it allows many dance classes to go on at the same time.

Amazing strength, creativity, and the drive to go on.  All admirable qualities that I believe most entrepreneurs have.  Teri has a crazy awesome team loaded with talent and is clearly flexible.

Awesome, talented staff!

Awesome, talented staff!

I am honored to be a customer of theirs and I love how they are handling this situation.

There is so much negativity and tragedy shown on the news and social media, I just had to share how a real life woman turned some serious sour lemons into delicious lemonade 🙂

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One of My Favorite Quotes…

ItAlwaysSeemsImpossible

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. As a mom, it speaks to so many things. Some days, it refers to the dishes or laundry. Right now, in Boston- it’s the snow removal.

-M

A little love reminder…

Do you ever catch yourself looking at somebody you see every day, a little differently? Tonight, my husband said something that was kind of funny in a dry, sarcastic manner. I looked at him without thinking and for whatever reason I found myself gazing at him finding him extremely attractive.

I think he is attractive in general but I feel like most of the time I don’t actually see him.

I go through the motions of life, busy with four kids, a business, a dog, a few gerbils, a guinea pig, writing children books, a blog/radio show, family and friends. Most days I am blinded by getting to the next activity or “to do” thing on my list.

Then there are times like last tonight where a small glance turns into a full on, full of love moment.

 

image from Shutterstock

image from Shutterstock

We got a lot of snow these past few weeks (life in New England). My husband has been out snow blowing and shoveling our businesses most of the time (small business owners). The kids and I have barely seen him. He came home last night and taught my oldest son how to play a Beatles song on the guitar.  My heart melts when I get to enjoy moments like that.

I love that my kids love the same qualities about my husband that made me fall head over heels in love with him so long ago.

He still gives me butterflies when I see him.

It was such an unexpected treat to really see the guy I fell in love with 25 years ago.

Happy Valentines Day!

Tips from a Pro: How to Get That Coffee Shop Taste at Home!

I opened my first coffee shop (Coffee Break Cafe) at the age of 25 because I was sick of bad coffee and even worse service. I had exhausted all of the coffee chain possibilities in my area and knew there had to be something better. My husband and I (boyfriend back then) worked in the restaurant industry and had access to a lot of different coffee companies. We bought whole bean coffees and brewed at home back when people still bought instant coffee in a can (wait, maybe they still do?)

We drank a lot of coffee.

By the time we had opened our first location, we were completely hooked. Coffee is like wine or cheese- at first the cheap stuff tastes pretty good but, as your palate develops, you find that you can no longer tolerate the inferior. It happens to most people who drink a lot of coffee. Once you discover the good stuff, it is REALLY hard to go back.

I am asked, all the time, why brewing coffee at home doesn’t taste as good as it does when you buy it at the coffee shop. I think there are a lot of reasons why, but I am here to explain how SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE it can be to brew really good coffee at home.

The beans:
Starting with the best quality coffee is the most important aspect of a really good brew. You want it to be freshly roasted (within the past few days is best) and if you own a grinder, you should always buy your coffee in whole bean form. If you don’t own a grinder, buy smaller quantities of pre-ground coffee more frequently. That way it will always be fresh. You will want to ask for the beans to be ground for a french press, which is coarse.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Nice course grind for the French press.

Nice coarse grind for the French press.

 

One misconception I hear frequently is people think that darkly roasted coffee is “stronger”. Darkly roasted coffee actually has less caffiene than a bean that is roasted light or medium. It might taste “stronger” but it is not.

I am slightly biased, but we do have the best beans around!  Check them out here!

Equipment:

Let’s briefly discuss grinders.…. You always want a burr grinder. Blade grinders shred the beans with inconsistent results, while burr grinders make even particles that allow the water to steep evenly through out. You can get a decent, inexpensive burr grinder just about anywhere. Depending on how much you grind you might want to spend a little more, your choice. This is a decent inexpensive one here…   Higher end, more expensive, the one we use at home is here.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Up next is a French Press. You can get them for as little as $10.00 or as much as a couple of hundred dollars. The one we have at home was about $40.00 and is perfect, check it out here.

Water:
Since water is the main ingredient in coffee, it needs to be clean, and free from any foul odor or taste. A good filter goes a long way. If you are using a french press you have to get the water to a boil. If you are making iced coffee, your ice cubes should also be made with filtered water.

How to:

While waiting for the water to boil (just fill a pot, no need to measure) put the beans in the grinder. We add the grinds right to the french press. The ratio of coffee to water is typically one tablespoon of coffee to a cup of water. You can adjust to your taste of course.

I don't measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

I don’t measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

At home we usually don’t measure. At work, we don’t brew without measuring. (Consistency is the key to success in business!) At-home brewing can be a bit more flexible; you can brew to what you like best. Add a little more coffee beans if you like it a little stronger and a little less if you like it a little weaker.

When it’s just off the boil for a minute, pour the water right on top of the grinds in the French Press and let sit for about a minute and a half. You will see the top looks like foam. (This is called bloom.) This means the grinds are starting to release some of their aroma. The water is becoming infused with delicious flavor, and did I mention the smell? Your house will smell so good!

Coffee foam!

Coffee foam!

After about a minute and a half, agitate with a wooden stirrer. Wood is best because metal may accidentally tap the sides and break the glass. I usually use chopsticks.

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

stirring the coffee!

Let sit for another minute and a half or so.

Next, press the top plunger stick down, using just the weight of your hand. You don’t want to press too hard or fast, or the grinds will escape into the coffee you are about to drink. You want to push all of the grinds to the bottom.

pressing down, coffee french press

You are ready to drink. OMG, nothing better than freshly brewed, high quality coffee.

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

I almost always drink my coffee iced. So, I let my coffee sit until it reaches room temperature and then pour over ice…. YUM.

Feel free to post questions in the comments below- I love talking coffee, business and mommy business.

**Affiliate links are included in this post. The products are actual products that I use and recommend. Amazon is an easy, reliable place to order them. If you choose to purchase through these links, Mommy Business will receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

Guest Blog Post: Donna Mavromates of MavroCreative

We take inspiration from lots of sources; often from other moms and business owners. With that in mind, we offer words of wisdom and inspiration from our very first guest blogger- Donna Mavromates!

Life is fluid. A lesson learned from a mother of twins.

Life takes twists and turns that we often don’t expect. For most of my life, I have been a planner. I like to know precisely where I’m going and what lies ahead. The first time that my best-laid plans were put to the test was when I became pregnant for the first (and only!) time. I was working in a corporate environment and I added the baby’s name to the waiting list for the on-site daycare. I was going to take 12 weeks maternity leave and would be right back to work. All set. Until an ultrasound revealed that the “baby” was actually “babies”.

Scan 1

My identical twin girls at 6 months!

Twins? Wait a sec…that wasn’t in my plan!

And right then and there, my focus shifted and I quickly learned that I had to be open to a change of plans in all aspects of my life. It’s been almost 18 years since my twin daughters were born and I can honestly say that flexibility and adaptability are now ingrained in my persona!

So what does all of this have to do with this blog post? Because it’s along that same vein that I approach my business, Wicked Simple Marketing. I spent the second half of 2014 refining and defining the business and understanding what our clients need and want from an agency like ours.  Wicked Simple Marketing has been a part of me since 2010, and when I decided to focus on the business full time in June 2014, I did so with the intention of digging deep and understanding exactly what its mission is and what it is designed to do.

A name and branding change wasn’t something that I anticipated doing. In fact, I love the name Wicked Simple Marketing, because it’s fun and whimsical and quirky and very Bostonian! But the deeper I dug, and the more I learned about myself and what aspects of the business get me excited, the name “Wicked Simple Marketing” no longer resonated with me.  I realized that I hadn’t taken the very same advice that I give to my clients:

I hadn’t defined my brand.

Our core mission has always been to deliver affordable marketing and design (web and print) to businesses and providing the best possible customer service. That will never change. What we have done, however, is refined our offerings, concentrating our efforts on our core competencies and the things that we love to do, and on what our clients are telling us that they need and want: website and graphic design that is clean and sophisticated and that tells their “story”.

And so, the vision of MavroCreative began to take shape.

johnjacobs

John Jacobs, co-founder of Life is Good, speaking at the recent MA Conference for Women in Boston.

“Do what you like. Like what you do.”

John Jacobs, co-founder of Life is Good, said those very words at a recent conference I attended.  “Do what you like. Like what you do.”  I left the conference and those words stuck with me. When I really thought about it, the word “creative” kept coming up. Over and over. It is the aspect of what we do every day that motivates and drives me.

While I do enjoy social media and other forms of marketing – including marketing strategy – the parts of Wicked Simple Marketing that resonated with me the most revolved around the creative.  Helping businesses find their voice and creating that brand with them, and seeing it evolve in print and on the web is what I really like to do and it’s what the majority of our clients are looking for.

Deciding on a brand change was scary. I had my plan for Wicked Simple Marketing all set and it was hard to let it go. But, the lesson I learned almost 18 years ago continues.

Life is fluid and sometimes you have to follow a different road than the one you set out on.

So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, Wicked Simple Marketing has evolved into MavroCreative, LLC.  We provide sophisticated web and graphic design services to businesses and help them create and maintain their brand across all platforms. We are the same team, providing the same high level of customer service, under a new brand:  MavroCreative.

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As we say goodbye to 2014 and look ahead to the years to come, we are mindful of the fact that life is fluid, and sometimes the best-laid plans take a sudden turn. We look forward to seeing what this coming year has in store and our wish for every one of you is to take the advice of John Jacobs and “Do what you like. Like what you do.”

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Donna Mavromates is the owner of MavroCreative, LLC, a Hingham-based website and graphic design agency. In her spare time she is a hobbyist photographer and most recently can be found visiting prospective colleges with her 17-year old twin daughters, who inspire her every day. Learn more at www.mavrocreative.com .

Join Us- An Easy, Fun Way to Spread Cheer!

Jenn and I decided to give back this holiday season by delivering baskets of cheer to people who need or deserve and extra hug or smile. Our businesses, Coffee Break Cafe and Healthy Homes Cleaning have invited other local businesses to contribute their goods or services to the basket. (Those who do not have goods or services can make a contribution to The Joshua Kaye Foundation to be included. We will deliver baskets every Saturday through the end of January. If you are in the Boston or South Shore areas, contact us to join. If you’re not local- start something in your neck of the woods and post about it on FB and Twitter using ‪#‎MommyBizGive‬. Be sure to tag Mommy Business so we can see all of the holiday cheer you’re spreading!

Week 1 Basket of Holiday Cheer!

Week 1 Basket of Holiday Cheer!