Sunday, June 22, 2008
I got an email last week from Anusara Yoga's "head office" (I'm not kidding, there is a "head office" for yoga!) Fusion Studio, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa yoga studio had been affected by recent floods.
Fusion's scrappy owner Marsha Nieland had found another spot to set up shop, and she and her team were looking for mats, blocks and other materials (also known as "props") needed by students.
I wrote to a small company that I've done business with before, Yoga Props (www.yogaprops.net). Within hours, one of the owners, Ruth, had written back to commit her help -- and the next day she had shipped off some brand new props.
I also wrote to a couple of the larger businesses in this yoga supply space, using generic customer service and sales email forms or addresses.
At a small firm like Yoga Props, the general customer service email address is monitored by the owner, or someone very close to her.
I haven't heard back from the larger firms.
Which doesn't mean that we won't: my request is probably going up a chain of command. (Word from Anusara HQ is that prAna has also chipped in, and Bheka-Bhakti is offering advantageous pricing for community members who want to make gifts to Fusion.)
Which leads me to my favorite speaker at last week's Wharton Leadership Conference, Southwest Airline's Colleen Barrett.
Colleen showed a brief video of customers and employees talking about how they feel about Southwest, customer service stories and their resolution...standard stuff. (The segment about the relationship between the gate agent and passenger who was flying towards life-saving surgery did cause me to brush a little tear away. I'm a sap!)
More powerful was Colleen's anecdote about what happened when planes were grounded on 9/11. She called a hotel, she thought in Sioux Falls, where a Southwest pilot had been billeted with his crew and passengers.
When Colleen asked to speak with the pilot, she was told that he wasn't there -- he had rented a bus and taken everyone to the movies.
When bad stuff happens, how does it affect your customers? Colleen Barrett and Southwest Airlines had no choice but to react: this one was in their faces. The good people at Anusara Yoga saw it, too.
When we hear back from the other yoga-related companies, Marsha and her colleagues at Fusion will probably have been outfitted. Colleen was talking about the service that is possible when you put people at the front lines who understand the Golden Rule, tell them that you expect them to practice it -- and then put policies and processes in place to support that intention.
This kind of thinking gives a company the power to respond in a timely and meaningful way.
Having worked with a small business in lower Manhattan after 9/11, I know that the next good thing that can happen for Fusion is for people to use their services. (So maybe my contribution will be send them a check to buy some classes for first responders in the community, who will be in need of stress relief. That is, when they finally come to a stop.)
And BTW, help is still needed in New Orleans...my choice is the Leary Firefighter's Foundation, which is helping to rebuild there, one firehouse at a time.
(Addendum on July 16, 2008: click here for video of Colleen's conversation with Wharton's Mike Useem at the Leadership Conference. And welcome to readers of Knowledge@Wharton (and thanks to my friends at Wharton for the link, which noted my "slash" existence as a management consultant/yoga teacher.) Those interested in my consulting side can click to my website. I'm noodling on how to unify the blog and the site. Yoga means "union". Sigh. )
(Photos of Fusion Studio before and after the flood are from Marsha Nieland.)