Thursday, October 28, 2004

Presidential Perspective

With less than a week left until the most divisive election of our time, I've spent quite a bit of time reading about the Bush and Kerry campaigns. Starting with the first of the Presidential debates, I was amazed at the lack of actual discussion between these men who are vying for the most powerful job in the world. Everything from President Bush's mouth was a prepared catch phrase that was inserted at occasionally appropriate times as a response to a question. More often than not, it seemed he was forcing these responses where they didn't really fit. Senator Kerry, while not nearly as bad, fell into the strategy of repeating the same points in a simplistic manner as often as possible. And after the debates, the lack of actual discussion picked up a head of steam. Now, as we stand just days before the election, we are hearing both candidates essentially bicker like kids on a playground, with no new insight, just a general belittlement of each other. Everything has been so calculated to play to every form of media that at this point, none of what either of them are saying has any weight. And don't even bother trying to get independent analysis from the radio - Air America criticizes everything President Bush has done and the gaggle of right wing clowns has been pushing their agenda for years without regard to truth or common sense.

So how have I decided who to vote for? Simple - I am voting for the man who seems to understand complexities, who understands that the world is not black and white. I am voting for John Kerry, not because I am a Democrat (I'm not) or because I think George Bush is a failure (he's not). I am voting for John Kerry not because his policies are inherently superior to the status quo - I'm voting for him because I believe he will make reasoned decisions and will think about the consequences of his choices. I don't believe John Kerry has an agenda that he will pursue like a rapid dog; I think Kerry will evaluate the problems at hand and thoughtfully recommend the best course of action. I am voting for a President who can think on his feet and articulate his thoughts, demonstrating firm understanding of the issues of the day.

And I don't think President Bush works that way.

Regardless of the candidate that you support, please make sure to vote on Tuesday. This year more than ever, every vote counts!

John Brooks

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Retail Customer Service

In this day and age, the words "customer service" have virtually no meaning in a standard retail establishment. We have all been desensitized by the extraordinarily poor service we receive and have grown to expect no better.

The typical retail chain is staffed by workers that have everything on their minds besides a positive shopping experience for the customer. At a fast food establishment, tables will be filthy and garbage cans will be overflowing, but the three high school aged staffers will be chatting about how they can't wait to go home. I've waited at the help counter at a copy chain for ten minutes simply needing some supplies to make a purchase with no help in sight. And I've been told that although two of the three copy machines are broken, that I would have to wait for the employee to finish using the one functioning machine, because she had no idea how to fix the others. In most establishments, there is a prevailing sense that the customer is in the way, an inconvenience for those who work at the store.

Blame for this phenomenon could be placed on the front line staff - usually the high school kids trying to make a few bucks for the weekend. And that would be the simplest place to start. But, in my opinion, the real fault lies in the management of the stores. If shift managers put a focus on placing the customers' experience first and executing tasks second, their inexperienced staff would learn to prioritize. A boat without a rudder will go wherever the currents take it. The real issue is that many shift managers do not have a customer focus, either, which makes it impossible to train the lower level staff.

I was in a large discount retailer on Sunday evening and was treated to this announcement: "The time is 8:45 - our store will be closing in 15 minutes. Please make your final selections and proceed to the checkout. For your shopping convenience, we will open tomorrow morning at 8:00." For my convenience, they want me to hurry through the store, grab some items, and rush to the checkout, only to return the next morning to finish my shopping? It sounds more like it's for their convenience, so their staff can get home ten minutes earlier to watch a Simpsons rerun or, if it's a real good night, maybe some Seinfeld.

You'll find you get the best service in a shop where the owner is on site. You can bet that the owner knows the importance of building a strong relationship with customers - because if he doesn't, he won't be in business much longer.

Happy Shopping!

John Brooks

Friday, October 15, 2004

Introductory Musings

As I was killing some time in the afternoon, I stumbled upon the fabulous Blogger site, and I realized that I had to give this a whack. As I am short on time this afternoon, I would like to welcome you to the site and promise occasional discussion of things of great interest - including everything from the Presidential Race, the demise of the Chicago Cubs (spoken as a true White Sox Fan), and all things entertainment, including my addiction to electronic devices that make life easier and my wallet a bit thinner, including TiVo and XM Satellite radio.

As long as I dropped a quick mention of the Chicago Cubs, I should note that today is the one year anniversary of the Cubs elimination from the National League Championship Series...has it already been a year? Who could ever forget the legendary Steve Bartman incident, which made the curse of the goat seem like child's play. Being surrounded by Cub fans almost everywhere, I could sense that everyone was just waiting for something to go wrong - and how right they were...Sox fans, raise a glass tonight, to the never-ending saga that is Chicago baseball. There is no more interesting (or frustrated) baseball city in America.

Best Wishes!

John Brooks