I wanted to switch my Home Insurance Policy. Ten years ago, I reluctantly changed my policy to a man my friend was dating. He recently bought an Allstate Agency. A small business owner with a soft heart and loyalty to other small business owners I thought "what's the harm?"
Insurance had broken my trust long ago. As there are five generations working and living together Millennials and Gen Z don't remember when insurance was sacred. There was a time when your insurance agent truly was an extended part of your family. There was a deep trust that rates would be fair and if there was a challenge, there would be a blanket of safety ready to be wrapped around you and lift you up. Your insurance company held up their end of the bargain for the insurance premium you paid. Our family rep was a State Farm agent. He would come to our home to evaluate our coverage, we would go to his office at times too. He was there for all my major life events, my marriage, the purchase of my first fine jewelry and the fur I bought myself with the first significant bonus I earned. I enjoyed meeting with him and his assistant to discuss life events. He seemed genuinely happy for me. Once, wind damage knocked down wooden fence that encompassed the yard of my first modest sturdy brick home. The check came readily and it was generous enough to cover quality materials. We could even save some money by doing the work ourselves. There was no penalty.
A few years later things began to change. Claims were challenged. Our family would discuss, in shock, being challenged and not being reimbursed for a simple car accident with minor damage. Our agent grew bitter and his assistant became exasperated and helpless. They seemed to be operating under pressures they could not control. My guess is there were corporate mandates to change behavior. We had heard that being an insurance agent was no longer a lucrative career. Our agent retired and his assistant followed right after him.
I was still with State Farm but had no loyalty. I had a minor electrical fire which destroyed my brand new television and dvd/vcr player. I called the 800# and the rep said "don't claim it, your rates will go up." I replied "that's ridiculous, this is what I'm paying for." I claimed it and true to her word, the rates went up enough to cover the expense I just claimed. With no loyalty, I moved my policy to the friend's boyfriend.
Service was marginal. The love relationship between my friend and the agent is now over. It was time to explore options. I have an insurance broker I really like. He does not do personal property. He referred me to someone in his firm who does. She sent me a quote for $100 more than I was currently paying. Feeling that I already overpay for insurance and will likely not be reimbursed if there's a challenge, my goal is to keep my rates as low as possible. When I pushed back her reply was "oh, you want the same coverage?" She then quoted me the same rate Allstate gave me. I didn't appreciate the lack of service and the manipulative effort to try to slip one by me.
Still loyal to small business owners. I called a broker who is in a business referral group with my real estate attorney. He didn't respond to my email inquiry. Knowing what I needed to know, I moved on.
A late adopter to fads, I decided to explore Lemonade. I don't feel secure about their marketing or their name. Lemonade for insurance? Feels a little too hip for me. I saw a Facebook ad that said "your insurance doesn't have to suck." A man, a writer, wrote that he was offended by the word. A social media follower responded "I can't wait until the dinosaurs die." The Millenials often talk about creating a community. I thought "is this the kind of community I want to be a part of?" One where using crude language and being horrible to people who express their opinion is tolerated?" I admit, I'm likely a T-Rex next to my fellow writer's Allosauras however do we have to tolerate things that are so offensive and not inclusive?
Taking a deep breath, I accepted the world is changing around me in ways that don't work for me. I decided to take a serious look at Lemonade. My interactions with the BOTS were good and efficient. My quoted rate was lower. I did more research and learned this insurance company is generally going after renters insurance which is optional for most people. I wondered, would there really be any money for me if I filed a claim? Then I learned they are a peer to peer model that gives any money left over to charities of your choice. Well that's *nice* but why not return to it the consumers in the form of lower rates?
My favorite magazine AARP showed up in the mail. There was a list of companies that provided savings for members. One company was Hartford Insurance. I used a very efficient interactive online system, no offensive words or slick interactive BOTS, but it did the job. After filling out my information and seeing that I could save $100 on my current policy, I was asked to call. I then spoke to a pleasant and efficient human being who tolerated my complaints about mandatory insurance with good humor.
Since there was a better option, I couldn't go with the slick and glossy Lemonade. Upon further research it doesn't appear they are a true P2P business model but are a slick marketer. My main reasons for not choosing Lemonade were lack of demographic inclusion, offensive language and lack of transparency. Homeowners cannot choose to be uninsured. It's required by law. We can, however, choose who we do business with. We can also choose to be a vocal part of the community. This dinosaur decided on another option, still longing for the days when your insurance company was truly there for you.
Is the current insurance business model outdated and inefficient? Of course it is. The very profitable insurance companies could easily redirect their resources to create efficient customer service and friendly, inclusive technology. It's time for them to start doing so. I'll likely do a review next year to see if my rates are as low as they could be. At that point I may look at an authentic Peer2Peer insurer, I hear that Friendsurance is one. I'm also being inundated with Faceook insurance ads, learning there are more companies than I have ever dreamed of. For now, I need to put this analysis to bed. I've put a significant amount of life hours into a financial decision that will likely not benefit me if and when I need it.
I recently had a rough Lyft driver. He ignored red lights, cut people off and dropped me off in an illegal lane. I hopped out of the car quickly, more worried about my safety than correcting him or having an altercation with him.
I provided feedback on the app knowing that with a three star or lower rating I would never be paired with this driver again. I immediately received a quick automated response acknowledging my concern assuring me Lyft would look into the issue. Lyft sometimes gives a credit for bad service, this time they did not. The credit is nice, but response and correction is what I'm really going for.
After the interaction I received a survey. One question startled me. It was "Do you think Lyft cares about you?" I paused. I didn't rate it a ten because my whole interaction was was automated. Could a Bot care about me? I wrote that comment in the notes.
Upon further reflection, I would answer 'yes' I do feel cared about by Lyft. The response came quickly. I feel confident they addressed the issue. I felt safe. I could provide my feedback without having a personal confrontation with the driver. My first reservation was 'how could I be cared about by a Bot?" The whole transaction was automated. True. However there were people behind those automated processes. People who coded efficiently, who discerned how to capture experiences, automate a response, tracked the information and replied appropriately.
In contrast, I had a human interaction with a driver, who didn't care about me. He compromised my safety. If I didn't have the support of the Bot, he would be left to his own devices to continue on with his behavior. The driver would now be held accountable. He'd either get a lower rating or might even be terminated. Either solution, if it creates change is a good one.
Bots are used to automate repetitive action. Lyft proved even kindness, consideration and responsiveness can be automated. The fact that behaviors can be automated only elevates the importance of human interaction. It doesn't replace it.
I am SO EXCITED and cannot wait to try this new shopping experience! I was walking past one of the new stores on Franklin Street in Chicago not really sure what it was. I know you can pick up your items from Amazon (why would I want to do that? When anything I buy is delivered in two days free to my door?). Anyway, I saw my favorite Farmers Fridge Salad in the window. Farmer's Fridge prepares salads fresh daily, traditionally sells them through a vending machine (there are not enough vending machines around for me). These salads are an impressively delicious, healthy grab and go item, made with in-season ingredients. There's a spot in the vending machine for the consumer to recycle their salad jar. Whoah selling Farmers Fridge Salads is a game changer! What is THIS new Amazon concept all about?
I asked my much hipper friend who was sure to know what the 411, was to fill me in. He explained that it's a new store concept where you don't have to wait in line and your Amazon account is charged directly to your app. Waiting for a conference call that never came (frustrated!) I downloaded the Amazon Go app. As a writer, I was critiquing the communication. It was very clear. An animated infographic popped up guiding the user through the process. Even if a user couldn't read the words in English, the images were clear. Any image could be paused and replayed. I was kinda glad there was no music in the background which is so popular now.
My only frustration is the store is only open during regular business hours Monday through Friday. I wonder why that is? It can't take much overhead to run the store. One perhaps two employees need to be present. Eventually no employee will likely be required to be present at all. I'm sure there's a risk factor but that can't be too great either. Digital tracking and immediate notification should minimize the risk of theft and personal harm.
As some Chicagoans lament the demise of Sears, I'm celebrating these new concepts maximizing all the technological tools we have available to create a better quality of life for all or at least for some at the start. Sure, jobs will be lost, but jobs will be created. It's up to us to keep reinventing and grabbing the opportunities in front us. Sears helped the world grasp the concept of credit which was incredibly futuristic thinking in it's day. . At one time, not so long ago, it was humiliating to have any sort of debt at all. Sears convinced people by opening up a store credit card that it was "ok" to use credit to get the big ticket item of appliances. It takes a while for social and behavioral change.
Sears lost out when they stopped listening to the marketplace and transforming to utilize available technology and thinking about future potential versus focusing on hanging onto existing profits which ultimately dissolved. .
Is Amazon Go concept here to stay? Will it be used for other shopping experiences? Restaurants? Convenience stores? I hope so.
#I often suggest volunteering as a way to meet people, share your skills and learn new things. I volunteer at HI USA. I take travelers out on tours and also help with their travel scholarship fund. It's a lot of fun and I meet great people and of course, learn a lot.
Today a man from Toronto was telling me how shocked he was to see drivers texting and driving in Chicago. He said in Toronto the driver would get hit with a hefty fine and also receive points.
Not really understanding what 'points' were, I looked them up. Seems the sage Canada doesn't simply suggest that drivers don't engage in extremely dangerous behaviors they sanction the drivers that do. Drivers receive demerit points that will result in even greater fines and driving restrictions based on repeat occurrences. Seems like a really smart and effective idea to me.
One of the most valuable benefits of travel is to learn how other people live. Travel is an extremely effective way of broadening a person's world view, It's been broadening to see my city through new eyes as well. I share the gift of travel every chance I get. #travel #volunteering
#I don't know a thing about sports.
It's really shameful having grown up in Chicago which boasts some of the most amazing, accomplished teams ever, anywhere. Sports somehow escaped me. I thought one day I might learn, I've been to a handful of games and even boxes at the White Sox Games, the Cubs Games and the Blackhawks games when the companies I worked for sponsored them for events.
Although organized sports have never been my thing, sports shapes Corporate America so like it or not, I had lots of exposure. As I started a new year, a boss would hand me a binder with notes stating "here's your playbook" as if everyone spoke in these terms. I learned to adjust and get along and benefitted by being in the presence of some incredibly important sports figures and well-known arenas.
I heard Gale Sayers speak at a business lunch. I knew him from the movie "Brian's Song" which was played regularly on after school TV. It was unusual in the 70s to see an interracial friendship. It was also unusual to see heterosexual men openly express their love for each other in a deep friendship. It was the first Bromance I recall. I was really looking forward to hearing Gale Sayers speak, he owned a tech firm and that was something I could wrap my head around. I remember Mr. Sayers clearly stating 'everyone thinks I have it so easy, because I'm Gale Sayers.' He said, 'well when something goes wrong (and things go wrong in tech all the time) they say AREN'T YOU GALE SAYERS?" His insight stayed with me. We're all dealt a hand in this life, how we play that hand is up to us. From the outside looking in it seemed he had it so easy.
The other notable sports figure I saw speak at a lunch was Coach Joel Quenneville. It was just as he accepted the job to coach the Blackhawks. I didn't have any after school movie that would shed any light on who Coach Quenneville was. I did know about the Blackhawks heyday though and the rockstar- like reputation Bobby Hull has. Before Coach Quenneville took over. the Blackhawks were lethargic for a long time. I heard stories though of people having long-time season tickets back in the heyday, the games they saw, and lots and lots of stories about Bobby Hull.
Coach Quenneville was leading the Blackhawks at the beginning of what is referred to in business as a 'transformation'. He was taking the sleepy current state and building a future state we couldn't even imagine in 2008. Coach Quenneville brought the Chicago Blackhawks to not one, not two but three Stanley Cup wins. It seems unimaginable from the vantagepoint of 2008.
I was interested to hear the new Coach Quenneville speak. I found a man who was humble and straightforward. He said, The first thing I did was invite Bobby Hull in and apologize to him. We spent time talking about every painful issue. We put it on the table, and created a pathway to start building trust. We argued, we yelled, and then we started over. Then I apologized to the fans' (paraprhased , this is all from my memory long ago). I was really impressed. Coach Quenneville's message was soft but hard. Having the skill and ability to face the soft, hard things is quite a talent. Apparently it's a talent that earns three Stanley Cups.
I dont' know the backstory of why Coach Quenneville got fired. I heard something about Rocky Wirtz saying "we're not going to be sentimental about these decisions anymore." I have a feeling Coach Quenneville was somewhat difficult to deal with over the last several years. I have no idea what kind of pressures, constraints or demands he was under. I do know, though, it was wrong to part ways with someone who did so much for the Blackhawks so unceremoniously. A man who brought an unnoticed team, where you couldn't give a ticket away, to winning three Stanley Cups deserved more than the way he was treated. Even if the termination was justified, parting of the ways could've been administered more thoughtfully perhaps showing appreciation for all he had done and accomplished. It seems not everyone was listening at Coach Quenneville's lunch presentation.
One day, I hope Coach Quenneville gets the apology he deserves. How he was treated was wrong. Until then, he will remain a hero in Chicago stories and his very well-deserved Rockstar status will live on. #Leadership
I've got the Amazon Prime 36 hour sale on my calendar. I buy from Amazon all the time, might as well get the deals. Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com have transformed how we shop. Accessible processes and affordable prices have closed the expense gap for many, created jobs and fostered small businesses, globally. Amazon has brought a lot of goodness to the world on a very large scale.
This past lazy Sunday afternoon, however, I had a different shopping experience. I decided to head over to Macy's on State Street. An afternoon at Macy's is not a task, it's an event, one to prepare for and savor. I carved out a good part of my day so I wouldn't be rushed. I wore a summer dress, strappy sandals and a little makeup. I bet my doorman thought I had a date - and I did.
A native Chicagoan, I remember when Macy's was Marshall Field's. Luckily to the relief of Chicagoans citywide, Macy's has respectfully kept the essence of Marshall Fields. They maintained the intangible "good will" found on the balance sheet that they likely paid for. Smart business. We all have a Marshall Field's story, whether it's coming to see the Holiday Windows, having lunch in the Walnut Room, being assisted by a personal shopper, buying an item you still have and treasure or meeting under the ornate clock at the corners of Washington & State.
I was going for shoes but Macy's is not a one stop shop. I started in the hat department. While I live in the Millennial my soul is in the 40s. I love hats. I played, trying on all of the most outrageous summer hats with feathers and flowers. A man walking by with his family smiled at me kindly . . . who doesn't love hats? As I left, I had every good intention of going to the shoe department. I was seduced by the dresses, long elegant evening gowns. Many I knew were perfect for me. The same floor houses business attire so I went there - hey there might be a deal? While there, I snapped photos of the intricate mosaic-designed ceiling.
I dawdled at the lingerie department remembering what a treat nice lingerie is and then felt myself drawn to the wedding dresses. Still no shoes, I'm getting there, I'm getting there. The voice inside my head said "don't go, this is silly, you are not going to buy a dress, you'll waste the staff's time." My heart whispered "I bet there are some really pretty dresses inspired by Meghan the Duchess of Sussex' recent wedding. Don't you just want to see?" I did. Christopher caught my eye and invited me in. When I told him I wasn't in the market but just wanted to admire the styles, he then insisted I step in. We had a lovely chat and were later joined by Jessica. We reminisced about movies from the 80s, styles and the future of retail.
I forced myself to break away and enjoy the shoe department.(Sarcasm :-) I struck up a conversation with a lady and her husband as we tried on shoes, and compared and contrasted the styles. One of the great things about the store the size of Macy's (8 floors!) is the massive amount of inventory. You're very likely to find your size and when the season changes, even get a good deal. They need to move the inventory to make room for the new items and if you play it right, (signing up for the text message deals!) you'll walk out with armloads of shopping bags!
Mission accomplished, I couldn't leave just yet - there's the furniture department! Visiting the furniture department is a stand alone experience. The creative staging is inspiring. As I disembarked the 8th floor escalator, I was greeted by Kewsi (pronounced Kwazi) who stopped, introduced himself, asked my name and shook my hand. He reminded me of my Dad, an Eastern European Immigrant, who worked in a steel factory but on the weekends was never without a tie. My Dad would often say 'there are two things you can control in life, how you speak and how you dress."
The subtle impact of thoughtful presence and presentation are worth investing in. (My Dad said so) I look forward to my next indulgent Sunday afternoon at Macy's. They've nurtured and sustained the soul of Chicago. I'm grateful.
Content Marketing is defined by me as using communication to further your product by providing value to your community. It's ok to 'subtly sell' however there's a delicate line. I think of it as a panting dog. You know type, you can feel that a sales rep needs to make a sales goal or earn a commission and is just not going to let you walk out of the door.
It takes courage to let your content sell. It takes courage to share information you know you should be charging for.
Let me help you to look at content marketing in a new way. Consider that it is relationship building. Relationships are built on trust and have a delicate balance. When you give away valuable information you are trusting that your audience will use it properly. You are trusting that when the time is right, and when you ask in an inviting and engaging way, the customer will buy from you. You take the risk that they may not.
How do you build that courage? Know your value and know your audience. If you are truly building a sound relationship with your audience it is highly unlikely your target customer will buy from someone else.
As you continue to give valuable information away you are building a relationship, a partnership so to speak. In our fluid world of constant change there is a pretty high likelihood something may not go perfectly. If your audience is engaged, they know it was a blip and you'll fix it.
These are the kinds of customers you want, partners that are in for the long haul. Invest in your relationships by having the courage to use content marketing wisely. As you start building and sustaining a solid customer base, it won't feel courageous anymore, it'll seem smart -- because it is.
I saw a car accident yesterday. It came out of no where. A vehicle seemed to cross several lanes to turn on a side street. He cut another vehicle off that was proceeding straight ahead in their own lane, as they should. The loud crash made me stop and look in wonder "what could've happened" It's as if this guy thought he had the whole lane to himself and just decided to take the turn. He got the worst of the accident. The front of his vehicle was laying in the street. The woman who was hit out of no where was wondering what I was wondering "how did this happen?" Except she was angry, she opened her door slowly and headed toward the man, I could see an angry confrontation was about to take place.
As the man was exiting his vehicle, something odd happened. I saw them both slow down and look at each other. They knew each other. They stopped to embrace. At this point I moved on.
The minimum wage has increased, there's high employee turnover, you do your best to attract long-term employees that will help grow your business. How do you manage the risk of ensuring your new hire has the right to work in your state?
Some restaurateurs do their own background checks, verifying the data that was supplied to them and then have the new hire sign documentation ensuring that all of the information they have provided is accurate to the best of their knowledge. This process will likely involve the participation of an attorney and any associated costs that are included in that process.
Other restaurateurs outsource verifying employment application information to local employment agencies that charge a monthly, annual or per-use fee.
Another perhaps less well-known service is provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDOHS) which offers E-Verify service. The impressively thorough website lists that "E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)."
E-Verify is the only free, fast, online service of its kind that electronically confirms an employee’s information against millions of government records and provides results within as little as three to five seconds. As of March 31, 2018 722 food services and drinking places around the country have enrolled. A list of currently enrolled employers can be found on the USDOH website and even downloaded in an excel spreadsheet.
The services available to get any employer started are local outreach offices, webinars, a very robust website, a customer service number and an online assistant, Emma, that is available and ready to chat with you providing answers to your questions any time.
According to Jennifer Nelson, Management and Program Analyst Outreach Branch Verification Division in Lincoln, NE, whom I met at the National Restaurant Association Show, “Some might consider the greatest benefit of using E-Verify is that when used correctly it lessens the risk of liability because they are checking government records and getting a response from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make sure an employee is authorized to work.”
"Wise use of money is more important than it's possession" - Fortune Cookie
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely that there's more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than among the ranks of the disadvantaged. -Norman Mailer, author (31 Jan 1923-2007)
Alicia Dale is a strategic thinking Creative that understands the power of words to influence, change and build new infrastructures. This Blog is to capture ideas that have no where else to go at this very moment. Who knows how they will be developed? Or where they will go? For now they are sparkles of light easily stored where I can search and find them when they call my name again.