Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: November 2013

A disappointing interaction with Kraft highlights an important component of written communication

Form letters – we all use them, mainly because it makes life easier. After all, it’s a lot simpler to “cut and paste” a canned response to questions that are asked frequently. But … and this is a big BUT … it’s VERY important to read the question first. Too bad Kraft hasn’t figured this out!

KraftI often visit the Kraft Canada site to peruse recipes, look at new products, and download coupons. The other day I attempted to print off a coupon that required a newer version of Java. But the link on the Kraft website put me into an incorrect subroutine and I couldn’t download the software and coupon I needed. I sent off an email to their technical support and received a response the next day.

Hi Merge,

Thank you for visiting

Unfortunately, this promotion was so popular that the coupons offered were depleted.

Thank you for contacting us and please add our site to your favourites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller, Associate Director, Consumer Relations

Huh? Clearly Kim McMiller had sent me the Dear Coupon User letter – the same one that anyone gets when they write to Kraft asking about coupons. And it was obvious that no one had even bothered to read my email! Continue reading

Employee volunteer programs increase employee engagement

CGA1112-2013Research shows that volunteer projects taken on by groups of employees encourage teamwork, improve communication, promote leadership and other skill development, enhance employee loyalty and retention, increase job satisfaction and morale, and even improve productivity and on-job-performance. With all these positive outcomes, you’d expect that companies and departments would be clamoring to sign up. Not so. And that’s usually either because managers have bought into several myths about why such projects won’t work, or because they don’t know how to make it happen.

In my latest article in CGA Magazine, I address the three most common myths that stall such initiatives AND offer three specific things that you can do as a leader to maximize the value potential inherent in a team volunteer project. Continue reading

Personalized service (even if it’s low-key) attracts customers

About a year ago, I wrote about how Hai de Lao, a popular chain of “hot pot” restaurants in mainland China, has used above-and-beyond personalized customer service to differentiate itself from its competitors. While the Hai de Lao experience is definitely “up there”, a recent low-key experience in Honolulu reminded me that you don’t have to necessarily do it in the Hai-de-Lao-up-in-the-stratosphere style to achieve a similar result.

So what was the experience? The elevators at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani resort in Honolulu. Or more specifically, what was on the walls of the elevators. Three times a day, in each of the six elevators in the hotel, a hand-made quilted original wall-hanging with a greeting is replaced to reflect the time of the day. Each wall-hanging is original and different from all the others.

It’s just wall-art, right? Nothing to get excited about? Or so you’d think. Continue reading

Change is integral to survive, in fact to thrive!

Darwin_Change_QuoteIn my last blog post, I wrote about the predictability of people’s responses to negative change, and how leaders could use that information to lead change initiatives. Today’s blog post continues on that theme, and it was prompted by the t-shirt I saw displayed in a store during my recent trip to the Galapagos Islands (where Charles Darwin first postulated On The Origin of the Species). In case you’re looking at this post on a small screen, here’s what the t-shirt says:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.  —  Charles Darwin

Continue reading

How to manage change in the workplace

BCHRMA_logoIf you’re a supervisor or manager then you don’t need me to tell you that workplaces today are changing exponentially – you’re living it!  Resources are fewer, yet you and your staff are being asked to accomplish more tasks, give greater levels of customer service, and achieve improved results.  All this while your workload escalates and your time seems to vanish into thin air.  Yet not everyone responds in the same way to this rapid pace of change.  You likely may have one or two staff who roll with the punches and quickly bounce back from even the biggest knockout.  But you’re just as likely to have employees who resist all change and struggle to keep up with even the smallest modifications.  So what can you do to help yourself and your people successfully deal with this reality of today’s rapid pace of change?

My latest article recently published in the BC Human Resources Management Association‘s online magazine – HRVoice.orgoffers a key insight: while negative change is often unpredictable, people’s reactions to it tend to follow a classic model. Continue reading

Leverage difficult situations into opportunities

AirplaneTakeOffDid you know that airplanes take off against the wind? It seems counterintuitive … you  would expect that it would be easier if the wind were coming from behind the aircraft, giving it a push. Yet in reality, it is easier for a pilot to take off when flying towards a full-force gale, rather than with it. The explanation comes from Newton’s Third Law of Physics … you remember, the one about how every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. When a plane thrusts into the wind, the fast air bearing down on the plane generates an upward force on the wings which helps lift the aircraft, thus allowing the plane to take off in a shorter distance.

Cool huh? Worth considering when everything at work seems to be going against you. Think about it for a moment … when setbacks occur, don’t you push back with an energy that allows you to lift up and above the difficulty? Sure you do! So make it more of a deliberate and conscious effort. Next time you’re faced with a problem or issue, ask yourself: what can I do to turn the negative force into an upward lift?

I would love to hear about how you’ve turned a headwind into a lifting boost. Or not! Please share online by leaving a comment below.

We’re taking a short hiatus over the long weekend!

Okay, so our super-smart tech folks are at it again … this time they’re getting ready to launch our brand-new website over the long weekend. Now usually, my next blog post would be tomorrow, Thursday, but they’ve asked me to hold off because they’d prefer that I not add any new information while they’re trying to do a data migration. While I don’t entirely understand the details of all the magic they do behind the scenes 🙂 , I do know that they are VERY smart when it comes to all things technology. So … of course I said yes!

There won’t be a regular blog post tomorrow, but I’ll be back right after the long weekend on Tuesday November 12. I can’t wait!

Get important tasks done by connecting them to a fun reward

For the past week, I’ve been sharing a series of experiments sponsored by Volkswagen that examines the hypothesis – if it’s fun, will people do it. Here is the third experiment.

Experiment #3: The question – can we get more children in cars to fasten their seat belts by connecting this action to a fun reward? In this case, the fun reward was the ability to use to the in-car entertainment system; unless the seat belt was fastened, the entertainment system would not activate. This video shows you the results.

So, what can you learn from this as a leader? Continue reading