An open letter to twenty-somethings

Dear Twenty-Somethings,

While you were out there somewhere undoubtedly feasting on some overpriced and under-portioned aged quail and black pepper pickle froth, the general election for public officials happened last week. And as the interwebs were trending with political chatter, talk proved to be cheap. Turns out, 2014 general election voter turnout was the lowest it’s been in any election cycle since World War II. Just 36.4% of the voting-eligible population cast ballots as of last Tuesday, continuing a steady decline in midterm voter participation that has spanned several decades. The results are dismal, but not surprising. Midterm election voter turnout is always lower than presidential elections, but that percentage is “the punch line to a bad joke“, according to MSNBC.com.

But hey, that pickle froth was a seasonal offering so you did what you needed to do.

Just know any complaints about taxes, transportation, abortion, the environment, ordinances and protocols, or student loan debt are hereby void – mostly due to your overwhelming apathy and unrealistic expectations of work to be done by everyone else in your community.

Yikes. Does that sting a little?

Good.

On the one, you millennials and twenty-somethings alike have an incredible upper hand. You are currently the majority of the workforce, and on the cusp of dominating the working population some 80 million strong. You are rewriting consumerism as we know it and totally paving the way for the technology industry. You are active, social, and [somewhat] involved. You are poised for influence!

But on the other hand, you are fighting a whole slew of unfortunate labels and generational stereotypes that might be making you drag your feet. You’ve heard it before – you’re a coddled bunch, you’re socially disinterested (unless it comes with a like button), you’re entitled, you lack conviction, and you can’t commit. To anything. Ever.

On top of all of that, you’re also just young humans. And selfishness is expected. Your 20s aren’t meant for political activism or philanthropy. According to every single millennial-targeted online publication, and, well, history, your 20s are supposed to be spent finding your spirit animal and enjoying the aforementioned plated pickle froth. Freedom! Festivals! Traveling! Substance abuse! Buzzfeed!

But twenty-somethings, millennials, graduates – I want to encourage you to start facilitating a different set of stereotypes. You don’t have to wait until your 30s to be cognizant of your surroundings and to root yourself in something greater than yourself. Voting is a really simple way for you to not only help direct the future of this country, but to immerse yourself in topics that call for a much bigger conversation than that microbrewery you just gave 4 stars to on Yelp. Hate to say it, but right now your biggest political contribution is incorporating Obama with the #selfie hashtag. Find your voice, set yourself up for success, and discover how you can devote your time and talent for the betterment of your own damn future.

After all, it’s up to you.

If you’re in Austin and you feel brave enough to deny yourself hipster debauchery a couple nights a month, get involved! There are tons of awesome groups for young people in this city, all spanning across a wide range of interests. Some of my favorites include:

Sincerely,

A former twenty-something.

On being customer-centric

A while back, I talked about one of the hardest areas of business in which to measure your return on investment  is customer service. It’s not easy to put a value on going the extra mile to deliver a wow experience. But as customer service becomes less about expectations and more about experiences, and as technology and consumer patterns evolve – so must the way we engage our customers.

So maybe the better question to ask now is, can you can afford not to?

One of our customers ordered a banner to proudly display at Jeter's last home game at Yankee Stadium. He was so proud that when he saw it on the Jumbotron he wanted to share it with us. Forever our captain!

One of our customers ordered a banner to proudly display at Jeter’s last home game at Yankee Stadium. After the game, he sent us an email: “Thank you for the awesome banner! It was on TV all night at Yankee Stadium and even made it on to Sports Center!”

In a client-facing industry, being customer-centric is crucial. Your customer has dozens, if not hundreds, of other companies just like yours to choose from. Create a place for yourself by offering more than just the standard. Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of Lean Entrepreneur, believe the idea is not to create personas, but to focus on the actual people who are or will be passionate about your product. They believe that “getting to know your customers is just like fishing. Any amateur fisher can catch fish once in a while with a bit of luck. But, professional fishers who have to bring back fish day in and day out need to truly understand the type of fish they are seeking to catch, including where it lives, how deep it goes, and what bait it likes.

The same goes for your customers. You can create general personas and jump to assumptions. You can know roughly who they are and the kinds of things they probably are dealing with. You’ll be able to get a few customers to your product that way if you’re lucky. But, you won’t be able to connect with users on a larger scale if you don’t understand who you are talking to.”

The better you understand your customers, the more likely you are to build a product that not only addresses their need but also resonates on an emotional level. Develop programs, adopt methods, or implement benchmarks that will drive your customer service team members to engage with your customers on a deeper level.

At BuildASign, our Customer Love Team is multi-faceted – it has to be! As an online company with a very large and very demanding consumer base, it’s imperative we stack our CLT team with rockstars that carry a servant leadership mentality, have great temperament and demeanor, and are innovative thinkers. We work very hard to make the data they gather equally as important as their working culture. Because of that, we’ve implemented a number of sub-programs and contests to help us monitor customer loyalty, measure performance, and maintain an awesome customer relations culture, ultimately pushing us to rise above the competition.

Some of our programs and methods include:

  • Sending satisfaction reviews and feedback surveys.
  • Utilizing the Net Promoter Score - another great management tool we use to gauge the loyalty of our customer relationships.
Tallie and her BuildASign-made wagon plate. Tallie was diagnosed with a type of cancer and was given only a few short weeks to live and has been having trouble walking. Our CLT team rushed her order so Tallie could cruise around in style.

Tallie and her BuildASign-made wagon plate. Sadly, Tallie was diagnosed with a type of cancer and has been having trouble walking. At the request of the customer, our CLT team rushed her order so that Tallie could cruise around the rest of her days here in style.

And one thing we’re really proud of is BuildASign’s Customer Love Team TLC Program. The TLC Program is a reflection of our overall “Customer Love” philosophy of building connections between people instead of automated systems and scripts. Our representatives have the freedom to have fun with our customers as well as offer support any way we can, and part of this includes a monthly “allowance” to send any customer any kind of gift for any reason. Even the smallest token can have a huge impact, which drives our overall goal of offering the best in customer satisfaction and often leads to a lot of word-of-mouth recommendations.

For some people, this means something silly based on a joke they shared during a call (chocolate pudding for a Walking Dead fan, for example); others might make a donation in someone’s honor or send something sweet, like a diaper cake to a family with a new baby. Once we even made a customer an “Honorary Love Team Member,” complete with a customized sheriff’s badge!
The moral of this story is to encourage all you customer-centric business to be just that: customer-centric. Take the time to get to know who the buyers of your products are, foster relationships, inquire, communicate, and most importantly – deliver on the promise that you’re the best in the business (because we all are).