Category Archives: customer service

Facing my fears plus other observations on Ghana

We got up early today and traveled out to the Kakum National Park.  No one will believe this but I am TERRIFIED of heights. I have been obsessing over the rope bridge at Kakum National Park since our very first planning meeting.  One way or another, I was going to do it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that besides a fear of heights, I have some social anxieties and I have to push myself sometimes.  This entire trip has required me to push myself outside my limits, but now I’m comfortable with these people.  At dinner last night, John and I were teasing each other about going across the bridge, and I told him if I could then SURELY he could cross the bridge.  There was a fair amount of trash talking and ultimately neither one of us could get out of crossing that rope bridge, 100 feet in the air, over the tops of trees.  There are actually a totally of 6 or 7 bridges.  I’m not sure how many, but there are a lot!

We got up to the bridge and there was no question that I’d do it, but I was so scared.  I can’t even describe my level of fear.  “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself” was said by someone who never looked down from a rope bridge in Ghana.  But we’re on this pilgrimage together, and nowhere was that more evident than today on the bridge.

In our group was a family from the UK with four children, one an infant in a carrier strapped to the front of the mom.  She’s currently teaching in Egypt and they’re here on holiday, and they all went over!  Do you think this made me less frightened?  No!  Not in the least!  I didn’t even think about them.  Instead, I obsessed over the number of people on the bridge.  The guide told us that the maximum was five.  FIVE!  Whatever happened to the elephants they said went across the rope bridges to test them?  Surely five of us wouldn’t weigh as much as an elephant!

I took the first step, petrified.  I started reciting to myself the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the 23rd Psalm, and all the other prayers I’ve ever memorized throughout my lifetime.  Then I started singing to myself.

Whether Shanna and Sharon have superhero hearing is something I’ll never know for sure, but Shanna said look at the back of her head and step with her.  I counted every single hair on the back of her head.  She stepped and I stepped.  Then Sharon started asking me questions.  I didn’t forget my fear of plummeting 100 feet to my death, but I was distracted enough that I can’t remember the exact number of bridges that I crossed.  I just know it was a lot.

John and Gale also made it across, and the three of us joined hands to help hold each other up as we went up and down the hills through the jungle.  I had left my cane in the bus and I am so proud of how well I did.  This entire trip has been one giant leap of faith after another.  I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

But I never need cross another rope bridge again in my life.

The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions

All online schools and courses are not created equal. I happen to love distance learning and I work hard to provide my students with the best experience possible. As a student, I have studied under outstanding professors in the traditional classroom and online, and I’ve had horrible professors in both settings. As a faculty member, I work hard to give my students the best possible experience, regardless of the settings. I do this through personalization, engagement, and innovation, and received the James P. Etter Award in 2014 for my efforts. Many of my online students finish the class feeling as if they know me as a person, and some later become friends.

 

One of my few regrets is that I never went back to school for my MSN. My first degree was an ADN and I became a RN in 1975. I had a wonderful career but not in traditional nursing. I was in the right place at the right time and I took advantage of every opportunity, so the fact that my degrees were not in nursing was no problem. I have a BA, a Masters of Science in Health Policy, and a PhD in Organization and Management. I’m an Airline Transport Pilot, which is the PhD of aviation. I’ve worked hard and I’ve loved every step of the way. But I wanted the MSN.

 

I am a full-time faculty member at one of the best online universities. I believe in our organization and in our leadership. I have so much faith in our leadership that I am not interested in looking for another job. I’m here. I’m present. I work hard and I give it my best effort. But I wanted this additional degree. My husband said, “You have a terminal degree. Why are you doing this?” A very dear friend said the same thing. I said, “Because I’ve always wanted this and because I can.” One of my art teachers said I needed to think about being a human being and not a human doing, but I wanted it. It was a goal I had not fulfilled.

 

I recently completed my first course, an online 16 week course. I chose this established traditional, nonprofit university that offered a fully online option because (1) the degree is a lifelong goal of mine, (2) the specific program was not offered at my school, and (3) I’ve clearly lost my mind. The positives: (1) the admission process was easy, (2) the transfer credit process was a breeze, (3) their outstanding customer service during the entire process from student services and admissions, and finally, (4) a well-structured orientation. They really acted like I was valuable. Now for the negatives: (1) very limited involvement with the professor, (2) late grading with no feedback, (3) awkward course setup, (4) carelessness in the course setup, including typos in the grading rubric, (5) 16 weeks is way too long for this course. There were times I felt they were just pulling content out of the air to fill up space. This may be due to accreditation, but if I had designed the curriculum I could have cut the length.

 

Will I continue? I don’t know. I am taking a term off. I have had no quality of life, much like during my doctoral program. This is not a degree I ever plan to use so it isn’t like I need it; I’m doing this solely for the satisfaction of saying I did it and that I will have completed a 40 year goal. I have no plans to ever leave my job, because I love what I do and I have so much respect for the leadership. This goes back to something I’ve said so many time, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

 

But maybe I should. Or not. We’ll see.  But if you are considering online education, let me know.

Detesting Dulles Airport

Let me begin by saying my favorite approach is the river visual into Reagan airport, to runway 19 .  From the cockpit, flying down the Potomac with monuments on either side is nothing short of exhilarating. As a passenger, I don’t get the same view, but I do enjoy the views of the city. Given the choice, I will choose to fly into DCA over IAD, any day of the week.
I just finished a very productive trip to the DC area and I was elected Treasurer of The Equality Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to decrease the digital divide in Nepal and also improve the education opportunities in this beautiful and fascinating country. While on this trip, I was also able to spend time with two of my former students. It was a productive and rewarding trip.
I flew home from Washington Dulles at 0600. The bag-drop line was long but not unbearable, as some people did not know to use the kiosk to get their boarding pass. It wasn’t awful, though, but it was a precursor to the extremely long security line. There were only three scanners available and the TSA agent who checked me was a little too vigorous and overly intrusive in her pat-down.  I”m not even sure why I needed a pat-down since I was wearing the same clothes I had worn on the flight up.  I’m all for security but I’ve had mammograms with less touching.
I made it to the gate and encountered one of the most unpleasant gate agents in my 50+ years of flying on commercial airliners. This man either woke up on the wrong side of the bed or is just a really unhappy person. Rarely have I encountered a gate agent who is just rude to everyone. I generally try to avoid the gate agents, because I know they are busy and they deal with a lot of people, and I don’t want to create any additional stress. This guy seemed to go out of his way to be hateful and even chased a lady who did not say thank you, screaming, “You’re WELCOME!”  From his actions, she clearly wasn’t.
On the flip side was our pilot. He was Captain Personality!  He walked through the cabin, smiling, shaking hands, and speaking to each passenger prior to takeoff. He actually made a second trip back and told me he wished he had been able to fly with my husband prior to his retirement from Delta. Nice. Yes. My husband is the nicest guy in the world and he loved every minute of his Delta Air Lines career. Our captain’s uniform was clean and pressed and he exuded professionalism.  I love to see people smiling and loving their jobs.
Customer service is important and it is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. Employees may not realize that what they say and do reflects on the organization as a whole.  This wonderful captain’s commitment to excellence was very powerful and outweighed the unpleasantness of the gate agent. Hopefully someone at Delta will give the gate agent some additional customer service training and will help him see his job in a different light.