On my way to Fargo!

I'm sitting in Toronto's Pearson airport, waiting for my flight to Chicago, and then on to Fargo for the GP Technical Conference.

My trip is not as long as David Musgrave's (see his post here) but it does require customs and all of the fun that entails.  THANK GOODNESS for the Nexus program!  I was through security and customs in less than 10 minutes thanks to the retina scanner Nexus system.  There's nothing like lining up like cattle going for feeding time, wandering through a long line for customs clearance, only to do the same a few minutes (or hours) later for security checkpoints!

My day did, however, start with a trip to the walk-in clinic.  *Sigh*  I had the flu about 4 weeks ago, and with it I developed a cough.  The flu left quickly, thankfully, but the cough has remained with me ever since.  Last week I started to get an itchy sore throat that also won't go away.  Then to top it all off, this weekend while demolishing our kitchen (preparing for renos), I managed to get a lot of demo junk (insulation, sawdust, other things) in my eyes and for two days my eyes have been completely irritated and bloodshot.  Long story short, I'm looking a little rough!  So this morning I'd had it, and went to the clinic to see about all three, get some antibiotics to clear it all up and be on my merry way to the airport.

So, here I am, with a little penicillin, eye drops and trying not to make eye contact with very many people to scare them off!  LOL…

Back to the task at hand: I'm on my way to Fargo for the Tech Conference.  I've never been before, and this year I decided it was time to attend!  I'm excited and can't wait to get there and enjoy the festivities.  Of course I have been looking forward to getting a chance to meet others like David that I haven't met yet, and now I just hope my eyes clear up before I scare someone!  ūüôā

More details to come on the R2 release that is part of the content this week…

New Year’s Resolutions!

Happy new year everyone! ¬†It’s January 1st, 2011 and, like many of you, I take some time around the new year to look back on my last year and look forward to the new. ¬†It’s always fun to take a look at last year’s resolutions to see how you fared a year later. ¬†I’m not sure if others do this too, but most of the time the resolutions I wrote the previous year, I don’t look at again during the year! ¬†Ugh! ¬†No wonder resolutions are not very successful for me!

The year 2010 in review

Looking back on last year, I was only four months into my own consulting practice and the year ahead was a bit unknown.  Last year at this time I was working on a contract and business development was not my immediate concern.  My business resolutions for 2010 were marketing related for the most part:

  • Improve my website content and look at add a blog or other dynamic rather than static content
  • Develop an online presence in the Microsoft Dynamics GP community

I’m pleased that I have succeeded in both resolutions, at least having a starting point. ¬†I found a fantastic freelance web designer locally who has been a tremendous business partner this year, working with me to re-design my website which was phase 1 in the summer and in the fall add on the blog to the site. ¬†Thank you Rolf, it’s been fantastic working with you and it was a fun project to see come to fruition!

On my second resolution, it’s been a goal of mine to establish a presence in the GP community online. ¬†It’s such a large, strong community with so many others willing to share their knowledge, I really wanted to be a part of it. ¬†I’ve followed many bloggers for years, and saw an opening for more Canadian content with few (any?) bloggers being really active in the community from Canada. ¬†I am very thankful that the community – as strong and knowledgeable as they are – are also open to welcoming newbies to the blog world like myself with open arms and helping shed some light in my little corner of the web world. ¬†I’ve been fortunate to have some of the biggest names in our community mention me, list my blog or otherwise bring some attention my way. ¬†Developing an online presence is not a one-time thing that just happens; I will have to work on it, and continue to contribute meaningful, useful articles for my resolution to take shape and I look forward to continuing that in 2011 and beyond!

What’s in store for 2011

On to 2011 and here are some of the things I resolve to do this year, business or professionally related:

  • Keep up the blogging – once a week is my minimum goal, more often as subjects, issues and time permits!
  • Update my GP certifications. ¬†A few of my certs go back to release 8.0 which are expiring so it’s time to re-certify in some areas!
  • Read more books! ¬†I am such a computer geek that when I say I’m reading, it usually is something online. ¬†I find I don’t spend as much time anymore actually reading a book, sitting in a chair, not staring at a computer screen! ¬†Even if I take the time to read fiction novels which I used to devour like crazy, it’s time engaging another part of my brain and giving my computer a rest.
  • Learn 5 new things about Dynamics GP that I didn’t already know and blog about them. ¬†As much as I think I know, there are tons of things that are still out there to learn. ¬†Big or small, I resolve to find things I don’t know well or at all, learn them and blog about it!

What can you, the GP user, do in 2011?

Here is my suggestion for you whether you are a GP user or a consultant.

  • If you are a GP user: identify one or two things that you don’t use in GP today – it could be a module, a report, a tool – and make a plan to learn it and utilize your investment more wisely this year. ¬†It could be something small or something large. ¬†As a consultant, I see TONS of things that customers own but don’t use – or don’t use effectively – and even finding small things that would minimize their work is a bonus.
  • If you are a GP consultant: identify one or two features or modules you don’t know and learn them. ¬†Dig in to something, learn something new, force yourself to struggle through it until you figure it out and could then leverage that knowledge with a client in the future. ¬†The more skills you have, the more marketable you are!

Happy new year to everyone and cheers to resolutions!

Jen

Happy New Year

I’m taking a wee break over the holidays!

I wanted to wish everyone a safe New Year’s Eve celebrating and success in 2011!HappyNewYear2011

Do you want my business?

After receiving some positive feedback on my recent customer service article, I thought I would continue with the odd off-topic article (defined as non-Dynamics-GP). ¬†I’m certainly finding recently a whole LOT of examples of shall we say “learning experiences” to draw from!

Having recently moved, we are undertaking some renovations to the house over the next little while – some relatively minor, some relatively major. ¬†It’s been an eye opener so far in terms of how the various people we have been dealing with run their businesses. ¬†While I certainly am far from perfect, I would like to think that I would do things much better than some of these folks given the opportunity.

Don’t ask me for my requirements, just tell me some negative stuff!

I was looking to buy a new fireplace grate – for our wood-burning fireplace. ¬†One store I went to, I was asked what I was looking for and if they could help me in any way. ¬†Good start! ¬†“Yes I am looking for a grate for my fireplace”. ¬†We were standing in front of their display with what appeared to be two styles of grates. ¬†The gentleman’s response to me? ¬†“That grate (pointing to one of the styles) won’t last you if you have a fire every day”.

Hmmm…. maybe you should ask a couple of questions before losing yourself an easy sale. ¬†I’m no rocket scientist but hey, “how often do you use your fireplace?” seems like a good starting point to me, followed by “We have two models to consider, this one here is what I recommend if you use your fireplace a lot since it will last a long time. ¬†This other model will certainly suit you just fine if you only have the occasional fire.”

Instead I left the store with a lot of doubt in my mind about the first grate – since he planted that seed so well – and they didn’t have the size I needed in the other sturdier model. ¬†Business lost. ¬†I bought a grate elsewhere an hour later! ¬†If you are selling ANYTHING, services or products, retail or otherwise, start with asking some questions – qualify, understand the requirements, THEN recommend, and yes please make a recommendation. ¬†Anyone can be trained to tell you about a product. ¬†It takes experience to take that along with a person’s requirements and recommend something to them.

I’ll get back to you

This is a common one. ¬†“I’ll get back to you” is such a common phrase in business and there is nothing wrong with it, unless you don’t! ¬†We called some firms to come in regarding some possible structural changes. ¬†One fellow, nice guy, said he’d talk to his architect or engineer and he or they would get back to us within a few days. ¬†It’s been two months, we didn’t bother to follow up since neither did they. ¬†Another fellow, was building a house for a friend of ours, had an appointment to come by the house to look at the same structural stuff. ¬†Didn’t show up, no phone call. ¬†We followed up, we booked another visit, he didn’t show up, he didn’t call. ¬†That was also two months ago. ¬†Third example was another tradesperson, spent time with us early in September, said the quote would be ready in a few days. ¬†After about 6 weeks and my follow up the response was “I’m having trouble quoting this one” and came back to take another look. ¬†“Will have a quote to you in a couple of days”. ¬†I had to follow up again, “I’m too busy to quote right now”. ¬†We finally got a quote and booked the work, 3 months later than we wanted.

For the most part, and this could be a “thing” in the construction industry, we have generally found that the people we felt most comfortable with and wanted to continue to pursue we have had to follow up with them to keep the conversation going. ¬†It kills me, if you want my business, should you not be pursuing me, not the other way around?

You’re busy, I get it

In the construction industry, I’ve been told you don’t want to hire the guy/gal that is able to start your job tomorrow – they should be busy. ¬†I get that. ¬†What I believe many of these businesses and people can learn is, unless you really don’t want the business, keep in touch somehow. ¬†Find 5 minutes to update someone. ¬†Acknowledge a person’s email or phone call – so they know you got it, even if you can’t respond right away.

Communication is so important yet so overlooked. ¬†All these people have to do is communicate: are there delays? ¬†Just let us know, somehow, please, give us a small indication you want my business because I’m sure happy to tell everyone how fabulous your work is when you’re done if you do.

How is your customer service?

I believe that sometimes companies need to step onto the other side of the counter and view themselves from the customer’s standpoint. ¬†I don’t intend to post non-Dynamics GP related things very often but today I had the good fortune of having three incidents worth talking about – two on the negative side, one on the positive side.

The background to my little story is I recently bought a new house – built in the 1950’s – and one of the first changes was putting in a new furnace, air conditioner and hot water heater, powered by natural gas. ¬†Yesterday the HVAC install crew was here busy at work all day long, and at the end of the day I get a call from the production manager. ¬†Bad news: the gas company doesn’t have a record of our install therefore we will not have gas service today, they will accommodate us on Tuesday. ¬†Now it’s November 15th in Canada – fortunately it is staying at +5 Celsius overnight. ¬†Having no heat since it was turned off early yesterday morning and no hot water to shower with this morning was quite a drag but life goes on…

Customer service story #1

Fast forward to today. ¬†This morning I woke up, the house is cold, I’d love to have warmed up with a hot shower but that will have to wait. ¬†I make myself a big “to go” mug of tea and head out for breakfast, looking forward to sitting in one of my favourite breakfast joints in Burlington, in heat! ¬†I walked into the restaurant, it’s a family style restaurant, simple good food, no frills kind of place. ¬†I am half asleep still, found and sat at an empty table. ¬†Nearly immediately a waitress came over to me, no so much as a “hello” then greeted me with “He wants you to remove that from the restaurant” pointing to my mug of hot tea. So, I picked up my things, took my mug and left to put it back in my car, drinking what I could of it before returning for breakfast. ¬†I was annoyed, I was tired, and if I wasn’t so tired I would have gone elsewhere.

The lesson I take from this is phrasing is everything when delivering bad news to a client.  Had she apologized to me for the bother, explained why it was such a big deal, or simply been a little less curt with her delivery of the message, I would have not minded and not been annoyed.  You have options when dealing with clients, and there are many ways to deliver a message.  Next time you have to deliver less than good news, think about how to phrase it.  I will think twice before returning another time to this restaurant and it all could have been handled much nicer without possibly losing a regular customer.

Customer service story #2

Same day, funny how these things happen in bunches! ¬†I was out for lunch today – and for those keeping track, still no gas hookup, no shower, no heat, no hot water. ¬†I went to a very busy local specialty grocery store, that happens to have a small eat-in restaurant cafeteria style in it. ¬†It’s always packed, the food is good, the prices are very reasonable but the customer service is, well, less than stellar. ¬†The procedure is you line up, grab a tray, and someone behind the counter takes your order. ¬†The challenge typically is, in an effort to be highly efficient and quickly serve people, you are placing your order before you get to the part of the line where you can see the choices of the day. ¬†I’ve often wanted to wait to see what’s there but usually default to my favourite because of this setup.

So today was a similar day to what I’ve witnessed in the past. ¬†I had just placed my order, I am not yet in front of the counter where you can see the food choices so I am peeking over others shoulders to see. ¬†The lady behind me, perhaps in her 70’s, was asked what she would like to order. ¬†She explained she couldn’t see what there was to make up her mind yet. ¬†She was basically asking for a little more time. ¬†The counter person though, in an apparent rush to keep the orders coming, spoke to the four of us ahead of this lady “you all have ordered, move out of the way so this lady can see the food”. ¬†One lady in front of me actually hadn’t ordered yet (was still deciding) and the long story short is we were all taken aback at the directive to move. ¬†Once again, wording is everything. ¬†This could have easily been phrased in a way that we gladly would have parted the line. ¬†The counter person also could have taken a step back and relaxed a bit – giving the line a little time to move on its own accord before re-asking for this lady’s order.

The lesson I learned here, similar to the first, is what what you say but also ask yourself what the urgency is?  Rushing clients through a decision is not wise most times, it will often result in a poorly made decision or one that gets changed.  Let the decision come to you when the client is ready.

Customer service story #3

Last one of the day – ending on a positive note! ¬†Now that the HVAC guys are nearly done their work on our house, and the gas guys have come and given the thumbs up to power everything on, both the salesperson we purchased the system from and the production manager came to the house to check on the work of their crew. ¬†Both asked me if everything was going ok, if I was satisfied with the quality of the work done so far. ¬†The production manager also apologized again for the gas install date mishap, but this time getting the apology in person instead of over the phone was nice. ¬†The sales guy was happy to see we were happy – so he wasn’t going to get any angry phone calls from something he didn’t know about.

The lesson I learned here is follow up with your clients, get their feedback on how you did or how your staff did in their last encounter with the client. ¬†If something went wrong, you likely will hear about it. ¬†If something made the client unhappy but not serious enough to complain, you may never know. ¬†If you don’t take 5 minutes to follow up and ask about their experience, you may never know and there may be bad feedback out there you don’t know about.