One thing we love about the chimney sweeping industry is the sense of community and the willingness to lend a hand to those in need. That’s why it was no surprise to us that Tommy Nelms and Mark Stoner (two rockstars in the chimney industry) started Sweep Away Cancer, a 501(c)3 non-profit that raises awareness and funds for breast cancer research, and aids those in need.
Every October since the non-profit’s inception, chimney sweeps from all over join the movement and do their part to sweep away cancer. Are you and your team ready to raise awareness and help find a cure? Here are some ways you can get involved this October:
- By purchasing and wearing pink “Sweeps For A Cure” shirts, which spark conversations and help to raise awareness with customers. Let your customers know you care and that you’re working hard to make a difference in the lives of those who have battled or will battle this disease.
- By leaving behind pink “Sweep Away Cancer” koozies at the end of every service. Think of it as a little “thank you” gift for your customer that gets the conversation going and lets your customer know you care about the health and welfare of women (85% of customers in the chimney industry are women).
- By asking customers if they’d like to donate to the cause. Once you get the conversation going, your customers may want to get involved. If customers inquire about how they can help, you can either take donations yourself or direct them to the Sweep Away Cancer website, where they can donate directly.
- By donating a portion of sales from the month of October to the movement. Many companies choose to take a portion of profits from the month of October and donate to Sweep Away Cancer. Letting customers know that your company participates and initiates change in this way will make your customers feel good about spending money with you, because they’ll know that some of it goes towards curing cancer and helping those fighting the disease.
If you’d like to learn more about how the foundation was started and how you can get involved with the Sweeps For A Cure movement, or to purchase “Sweeps For A Cure” shirts for your team or “Sweep Away Cancer” koozies for your customers, visit the Sweep Away Cancer website. There, you’ll also find some of the best resources and research websites so you and your team can go into Breast Cancer Awareness Month educated and informed.
In both big and small companies, customer service, for the most part, sucks. We hear all the time that companies need to create a “customer-centric culture,” but is that really the answer?
We’re willing to bet that the companies with major customer service problems are the same companies with major employee problems. These companies treat their employees terribly and then wonder why their customers end up being treated like dirt. It’s not rocket science: if you’re treating your employees like expendable burdens, you can expect them to treat your customers the same. Let’s look at some quick examples of companies that can’t seem to get either right:
It’s been a year of epic fails for United Airlines. In fact, you can’t Google their brand without learning of yet another big failure (Go ahead, Google them. We’ll wait). Perhaps the worst part is that these less than stellar episodes now define the brand. The brand is no longer what they say they are, but what we see them to be. They can make all the heartwarming ads they want, but people perceive them as insincere. Why? Momma taught us, “Actions speak louder than words,” and when it comes to backing up the talk about how important their customers are to them, United leaves customers feeling the complete opposite.
And it’s not any better for employees. In a recent Unpodcast episode, Scott & Alison Stratten talked with Dave Carrol, one of the many people who have had a terrible experience with United. The difference is, Dave wrote a song about it, “United Breaks Guitars.” Since then, he’s received letters from United employees, and the resounding message is: If you think it’s bad flying with us, try working here.
Uber, the ride-sharing company, has had its fair share of incidents over the years, including rapes, murders, robberies, and assault. But since the drivers for Uber aren’t “technically” employees (they’re contract workers), the company has been relieved of all responsibility in these incidents. It makes you wonder, if the company isn’t responsible for the folks providing service to customers and doesn’t have any sort of standard for how customers should be treated, how can they ensure a great and safe customer experience for their customers? Well, the answer is: they can’t, but do they care? Let’s look at their company culture…
Want sexual harassment cases and sexism? What about poor treatment of employees and unfair wages? Looking for a CEO who doesn’t care about the law, his employees, or really anything other than money? Uber has it all, or had it all — the CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick stepped down earlier this year. And although Uber’s cleaned house, fired many employees, and hired an Apple marketing executive to “rescue its tainted brand,” can they really make the change when the current culture is so pervasive? And if so, is it too late, since most of us have already made up our minds about what kind of brand Uber is? Time will tell.
The Heart Of The Problem
From an outsider’s point of view, there are a couple of major flaws at the center of the culture of companies like Uber and United:
Us & Them Mentality
Whether it’s “us,” the upper management and “them,” the employees or contract workers, or “us,” the company and “them,” the customers, an “us & them” mentality and culture is a big problem. Not to get too philosophical or political, but this is the mindset behind a large portion of the world’s problems.
So what’s so dangerous about this mindset? It removes empathy, understanding, and even the desire to know or understand the “other.” It’s divisive, not uniting, which is kind of ironic in United’s case, because they clearly have an “us & them” culture — just read the letter that the CEO sent to employees and consider the circumstances around the “passenger dragged from the plane” incident in April.
Uber has this at the heart of its culture as well, which is evident in the way they completely reject any responsibility for the behavior and actions of workers representing the company. This separation mindset makes it impossible for a company to truly deliver exceptional service and treat both its employees and customers with respect, which is why you don’t see either within Uber.
The Scarcity Mindset
Another big cultural problem is the scarcity vs. abundance mentality. Think about how you feel when your tanks are empty and you aren’t getting enough sleep, food, love, _______. In these times, do you feel like giving or taking?
Now, think of how you feel when you’ve got everything you need and more; how you feel when someone else is generous and kind towards you. Are you more generous and kind towards others? It’s no different as an employee. If you don’t feel you’re getting even the most basic care and respect from the company you work for, you’re not going to feel like giving even the most basic care and respect to the customers you interact with.
You Can Suck, But You Can’t Hide
The problem (for companies like Uber and United) is this: today’s customers, especially millennials, want to use their consumption choices to make a statement about who they are and what they believe in. They want to work with companies that reflect their values, and thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t take long for us to decide which companies align and which simply say they do. These days, you can still suck, but you can no longer hide the fact that you suck — your customers and potential customers will find out.
So what’s the solution? Treat people decent. Just treat people decent, whether they work for your company or they purchase your products or services. Don’t go through all the work of creating a “customer-centric” culture if you aren’t also putting your employees at the center. It’s not one or the other or one before the other, it’s both — and it’s time companies accept that reality.
People lose their minds trying to understand the Millennial generation — a generation that, for some reason, everyone thinks is different, not quite right. The term Millennial makes me twitch, maybe because I remember when we were just normal Gen-Y’s with bright futures. But somewhere along the way, I suppose when we started driving and getting jobs, we became Millennials, an insulting and entitled generation of special snowflakes.
Beards? Check. Hipster Haircuts? Check. Sunnies? Check. Phone/Tablet? Check, Check. I tried to find the most stereotypical picture of Millennials possible. Nailed it.
Millennials want to find meaning and purpose in their work.
Millennials want to be a part of something bigger.
Millennials want to work for people and with people who share their values.
Millennials want the hours of work they give to an employer to mean something and to make a difference in the world…
I guess that makes us weird.
The funny thing is, we thought these desires were a part of being human, not just a part of being in this generation. We get compared, boxed in, and treated like freaks because we want things that, in reality, every generation has likely wanted, but has maybe been less vocal about. It’s frustrating to say the least.
So you can imagine the joy I felt as I read this passage from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a book that takes place in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and was written in the 80s, before we Millennials were potty trained and able to disrupt the workforce. Check it out:
What I am trying to say — and I do not think this an unfair comment — is that we were a much more idealistic generation. Where our elders might have been concerned with whether or not an employer was titled, or otherwise, from one of the ‘old’ families, we tended to concern ourselves much more with the moral status of an employer. I do not mean by this that we were preoccupied with our employers’ private behaviour. What I mean is that we were ambitious, in a way that would have been unusual a generation before, to serve gentlemen who were, so to speak, furthering the progress of humanity…
Butlers of my father’s generation, I would say, tended to see the world in terms of a ladder — the houses of royalty, dukes, and the lords from the oldest families placed at the top, those of ‘new money’ lower down and so on, until one reached a point below which the hierarchy was determined simply by wealth — or the lack of it. Any butler with ambition simply did his best to climb as high up this ladder as possible, and by and large, the higher he went, the greater was his professional prestige…
…such thinking was quite out of step with that of the finest men emerging to the forefront of our profession. For our generation, I believe it is accurate to say, viewed the world not as a ladder, but more as a wheel…
…we were, as I say, an idealistic generation for whom the question was not simply one of how well one practised one’s skills, but to what end one did so; each of us harboured the desire to make our own small contribution to the creation of a better world, and saw that, as professionals, the surest means of doing so would be to serve the great gentlemen of our times in whose hands civilization had been entrusted.
Whoa, wait, what? Is this describing Boomers vs. Millennials? Or have other generations cared about the ends and not just the means?
Is it possible that every generation starts out wanting the very same things we weirdo Millennials want? Could it be that the grouches who think Millennials serve no purpose in this world are just jaded at the thought of being replaced in the workforce or having to do things differently because the times have changed? Could it be a jealousy that rises from the fact that this generation seems to be more comfortable vocalizing their desires than the generation before?
Here’s the reality: every generation thinks something is incredibly wrong with the next. It’s part of aging. Hell, I almost said something to the loud and obnoxious teenagers who were on their phones for the entire screening of Wonder Woman…almost. But then I remembered that I was that loud and obnoxious teenager to the generation before me.
My point is this: it’s time to stop putting people into little generational compartments and deciding who they are, simply based on when they were born. We’re all human and we all want to know that we matter, that we’re making a difference. Even the most rigid and unemotional tough guy wants these things — he may simply be less honest with himself about it than his younger neighbor.
So can we all agree to stop using the M word and start getting to know the people who are working for us and coming into the workforce personally? Can we agree to give people the opportunity to show us who they are, what they’re about, and what motivates and inspires them, without using profiles and personas to label them and box them in? Please and thank you.
Do you have a personal Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account? Well, so do most of your current customers and future customers. What better way to grow your business than by connecting with those customers through social media? Social media also allows your business to connect with other local businesses, which is always a plus.
A wise group of people, The Spark Marketer Crew, enlightened me on the important role social media has in branding your business, increasing web traffic to your company website, and making your online presence stronger. It just makes sense. Social media plays a major role in businesses today because most customers do their research on a business via their computers and smartphones before they make that call.
Our company has been using social media for years and it has been a great tool for us for building relationships with other businesses and customers. We started off using Facebook, then added Twitter and Instagram. These social media platforms allow us and our customers to engage with each other on a regular basis, not only when our services are needed.
Don’t be afraid to try social media for your business, but remember, it takes time and commitment for it to grow — but it’s all worth it.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Don’t use your personal account — have a separate social media account for your business.
- There are many social media platforms to choose from, so choose the one you feel the most comfortable with. In my opinion, Facebook is the easiest.
- You need to post daily on each of the platforms you choose and always have an image with your post.
- Keep it professional, but fun. Share repair work photos, employee work anniversaries or birthdays, helpful tips that you or your customers would enjoy, etc. Mix it up!
- Like and share the posts of others.
- Don’t always try to sell something — it’s social media. You need to find a balance between business and popularity and use the platform to be social.
Social Media for business is necessary if you want to stay in front and grow your company, but it takes time and commitment. Stick with it! Your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram followers will be people who know your company and have most likely done business with you in the past. Use social media to show them who you are and what you’re about and to build relationships, turning one-time customers into long-term fans. These are the customers who are going to tell their friends about you!
Linda Roydhouse is co-owner of Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County and offers social media management tools, tips, and consulting services to other business owners through Roydhouse Effect. Check her out!