I came home from TNNA in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday around dinnertime. Rita Pettys from Yarn Hollow was my traveling companion this year. She and I have done a bit of collaborating in the last year (including but not only during the Sock Summit last August in Portland, Oregon). We just finished with a sock design which will be released in a few weeks.
Rita had not been to TNNA before, and I encouraged her to go. She was happy to have attended.
As usual, the Lansing folks all ran into one another often during the weekend. We tried to have another of the “many shops from Lansing” dinners as we have done in several previous years. However, TNNA scheduled things differently this year (with events after 5pm) so it did not work as well as in the past.
We still ended up with a Saturday-dinner Entourage of four folks from Rae’s Yarn Boutique, Rita/Yarn Hollow, and me. Other than that lovely and more intimate meet-up, there were many knit-celebrity sightings and many, many hugs. It is such a joy to connect with my peers! TNNA is precious to me for that reason.
The weather was hot and about 100% humidity most of the time we were there. One day a thunderstorm created a power outage for a short while in some buildings. However, the first photo above was taken right outside the Convention Center on Friday, the day of the big storm. It was gorgeous and sunny right when I found Sarah Peasley outside doing a bit of knitting.
Sarah works for the XRX people often, teaching at their Stitches events all over the country. She was one of my first teachers and I continue to pass on her tips to my own students. I’m lucky to have her as a peer, and even more lucky that we live in the same area. However, we don’t see each other often.
I was honored to see that Sarah had knit a mini ZigBag for her sport bottle. I was even more honored to hear that she made several as gifts and then finally made this one for herself. She is not fond of photoshoots, but she consented to this photo of her outside the Convention Center, with her ZigBag. (Thanks, Sarah!)
Friday was much fun, with classes all day and exhibits of new products outside the exhibition hall. There were snacks, and a meet & greet with teachers (including our Rae, who taught sold-out dyeing classes for this conference). Then we had a keynote speaker and a fashion show.
The Keynote Speaker: Excellent
I have not seen anyone else mention the speaker yet on the web, when discussing TNNA. I was enthused with and energized from the presentation. (I can not seem to find her name anywhere on the web. I want to say it was Anne/Ann, but I’m grasping at straws here.)
She was from ZingTrain, a training company related to Zingerman’s delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is such a fine organization/restaurant, I am a loyal customer even though I live about an hour away. I’ve literally (when I was younger) gone to Ann Arbor just to go to dinner at Zingerman’s and then come back home to Lansing.
She Knows Fine Customer Service, by Experience
The food at the deli is extra-ordinary in all senses. The service is just incredible. People wait in line, often outdoors in bad weather, just to get in there and buy. When you are the first in line, they treat you as if you are the only person there, bringing samples of whatever you’d like to try, and answering any question you might have.
Since I have a lot of food restrictions, there are few places I can eat without taking risks with my health. At Zingerman’s they really know what is in everything, and I can eat without taking any chances. They bring me lists of ingredients whenever I ask. It’s wonderful.
I was there once in a rainstorm. We customers waited in line outside under umbrellas and newspapers, chatting while we waited. The deli sent out treats, and I think hot coffee if I remember right, for those of us waiting outside in the cold.
Back to the Speech
This is to say that when our speaker talked, I listened. Maybe others listening did not know she was really telling it without embellishment. The methods they have for customer service are truly extra special. They do make customers happy, even with a long wait and even in bad weather. Yes, even with relatively high prices. The quality service and food make for such a superior experience that I go out of my way to eat there whenever I can.
I learned much from her about good service. One of the points she made was that they use the same skills and techniques to serve one another inside the company. There are a lot of folks who work there for long streteches of time. This, in a retail food business (an industry not known for overall loyalty from employees).
Another great point was giving the employees the power to actually fix a complaint right then and there, rather than telling a customer they need someone else, or need to call back at an inconvenient time to find someone with the authority to make it right. They are to find out what went wrong, and do whatever they can to fix it, then thank the customer for letting them know they needed to make something right.
Authority to Act is Key
When employees, anywhere, can not fix something for a customer (because they lack authority or confidence) it hurts the business in a trickle-down fashion. The customer then will (definitely) tell a lot of folks about their unhappiness. If they have a good experience, they also share about it, but not in as destructive way.
I once worked for a computer training company for 6+ years. I was often the only representative of my company on location. My boss handled the authority issue well.
I was told: “If there is a problem, do whatever you can to fix it, in the best way you can figure out. Later we will discuss what you chose to do. If I would prefer you do it different the next time, we will discuss it then. Meanwhile, do your best and don’t wait for me to tell you the right move.”
This was powerful. I am confident that it increased our ability to do good customer service. I loved being told I was trusted to be a thoughtful adult, too. So many workplaces do not have the confidence to do this. It helps the customers, the employees, and the business. I am confident it helps the bottom line, as well.
I want to share more. I’m falling asleep as I type. More images tomorrow, I assure you.