Friday, October 30, 2009

This is NOT a Halloween Horror Story

It seems to me that it is a stock joke to refer to the Post Office and it's workers whenever you want to give an example of poor customer service. How many times have you listened to a comedian tell some horror story of trying to get something accomplished at the local Post Office? Well I want to tell of a different story.

Let me give you the set-up. The Rev and I are planning a vacation this next summer. After nearly two years of dealing with the aftermath of the flood, we want to get out of Dodge. In fact, we want to go far, far away. That means I need to get my passport renewed because it expires February 1, 2010.

I'll admit it - I've been dragging my feet. I just didn't look forward to the hassle. I imagined I would have to go down to the Post Office, get in line, and deal with a bored office worker who's only goal was to get through the day so they could escape to their home.

Well, I'm very happy to tell you that was NOT my experience when I finally went out today to get this off my task list and get the Rev off my case. This ended up being a very pleasant and enjoyable interaction with a very lovely and competent lady at our main Post Office. Her name tag said she was Kim and I'm sorry now to say that I did not get her last name.

I had gone online and visited the State Department's website about passport renewal so I had what I hoped were the proper forms all filled out. I had my old passport and I was ready to mail everything in to start the process. I just needed two passport photos. The site said that many post offices were able to take the photos and when I checked our Post Office website it said they provided that service so off I went to the post office. I figured I would just get the photos taken then I would step off to the side and prepare my package to be sent off to the Passport Processing Center.

When I got to the post office I was relieved to see a sign that assured me they could take my passport photos, but I couldn't see where that might be done. I must have looked a bit lost as I stood away from the counter checking out the area because Kim called to me from the counter and offered to assist me. I told her that I was renewing my passport and needed photos.
"No problem - I can do that for you." "Let's see what you have there.".
I emptied my envelop of forms and materials on her counter and she took over. She checked my form to make sure it was complete and signed. She took my photo, she got me a mailing envelop to send it in and pointed out the address where it needed to go. She reminded me that I needed to include a check for $75 to the State Department. In short, she walked me through the whole process and she did it with humor and a smile.

Kim didn't just do the minimum. All I really asked her to do was take my photo. Kim took it upon herself, as a professional should, to see to it that everything was in order and sent off correctly. When I left, I didn't have that nagging feeling that I left something out. I knew it was done and done right. Kim sold me more than 2 passport photos and postage for a letter.

I'm thinking Kim may reappear in one of my training sessions with my sales staff. She is an excellent example of excellent customer service.

Tomorrow is Halloween. Enjoy. And when the day is done I wish you -

Friday, October 16, 2009

Block By Block

I haven't written about the flood recovery in a couple of months. That doesn't mean that it is over. Not by a long shot. Today I want to introduce you to a community effort that is really making a difference in the Time Check area that I spoke of last spring. That effort is called Block by Block.

Block by Block is a program created by a coalition of the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub, Four Oaks, and the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. Here is how they describe it on their website.
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What is the goal of Block by Block?

More than a year after the historic flood on June 13, 2008, there are still hundreds of Cedar Rapids homes uninhabitable or unoccupied. This has led to safety issues and larger concerns; what will happen long-term to affected neighborhoods and the people who live there?

The community needs a visible, immediate sign that there is organized progress.

Block by Block is a solutions-based, relationship-building approach that identifies and assists neighborhoods that want to come back to life. The program builds on the tremendous work already done by blocks, providing resources to make each property on the block fully habitable. Once an area is identified and a construction plan is set, private dollars, paid oversight and volunteer labor will rebuild the neighborhoods one block at a time.

The Block by Block development strategy is designed to create hope and encourage all property owners on the block to either reinvest in their property or arrange for a solution other than abandonment.

The goal is to complete eight blocks by the end of the 2009 calendar year. Limiting factors may include block participation, funding and weather-related delays. The real solutions come from within the block and work outward; each neighborhood moves forward by working together, communicating their needs at neighborhood meetings and supporting each other to bring back their block.

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The money to start this program came from private funding. The initial seed money came from

John & Dyan Smith $1M

Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation $700K

United Methodist Church $200K

The goal is simple - go block by block to coordinate and support residents to reclaim their neighborhood. Nobody is required to participate and each homeowner is responsible for their own renovation. But the focus and the support has been a great asset to the homeowners. As you might imagine, participation has been very high in each block. I see on their website that the initial goal was to complete 8 blocks this first summer. I have been told that number has grown as the success of the program has become clear and many more blocks are wanting to be a part of this program.

There is still a great deal of work ahead before we can claim to have recovered from that flood last summer. But it will be programs like this and efforts of groups from within our community that will make that recovery happen.

Please keep our community in your prayers and as always, I wish you


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Guess I Didn't Really Want That Bottle of Coke

As I headed out the door for my meeting at church today, I told my self I should stop on the way and get a bottle of coke to get me through the meeting. No problem - I thought - I'm running a little late but I drive right by the Kwik Shop on the way, I'll stop there.

As I came up on the corner for the store I couldn't believe all of the traffic. No way was I going to be able to turn left into the Kwik Shop. No problem - I thought - I'll just go across the street on the right to the pharmacy - I can get a Coke there.

Ah yes, this is much easier - a right hand turn into the parking lot and there is even a parking spot right at the door. I went in and selected my bottle of Coke Zero. This is now my drink of choice - real Coke taste with zero calories. Off I go to the counter to check out. When I got up front I found just one register open and there was a line of 5 people ahead of me. Bummer - I'm gonna be late for my meeting if I don't watch out. Oh well, the line will move quickly - I thought. Then I hear over the loudspeker - "Manager to the front please - manager to the front counter." Wait a minute, this line isn't moving. Off to my right I see the pharmacist. He has come up from the pharmacy counter in the back of the store.
"My computer is down, is yours working?"
"Mine's down also", said the clerk. "I tried to call you but the phones are dead too."
Then the clerk turned to us in line and told us he couldn't do anything until they fixed the problem. Oh well, I guess I'll just put this coke back and go to my meeting. I don't have time to wait - I'll be late. So I put the coke back and drove downtown to the church.

It wasn't until I got to the church that I realized that I was half an hour early - cool, I have time to run over to the grocery store, it's just two blocks away. So off I went and this time I had no problem buying a coke. They didn't have a Coke Zero in the case but a Classic would do just fine. I grabbed my coke, paid for it, and got back to the church just as the rest of the people were starting to arrive. Hey, this is going to be alright - I thought.

As I was settling in I grabbed my coke and then I noticed that it didn't seem to be as full as they usually are. Oh well, maybe it was just a little glitch in the bottling - no problem - I thought.

I went to open the bottle and that was when I realized why the bottle looked to be a little short on volume. The seal on the bottle had been broken - someone had opened this bottle, taken a swig, and then put it back in the case.

Well, I guess I didn't really want that bottle of coke after all.

True story.

May all your bottles be full and your lines empty.