The Mongo Diaries

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“It is not enough to be compassionate; you must act.”

– the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Cyatso, 1992

 

August 24, 2013/8.30AM

The overall feeding coordinator formally announces that all employees in the Head Office will have its second feeding program this year in the afternoon of August 31, 2013. Groupings will be according to each department, hence, members know each other by name and face because they belong to one department. Since our department is huge, we were divided into three groups, with 11 employees per group.

 

August 27, 2013 /9.00AM

We meet in the office, all member of Group 10, to discuss the forthcoming feeding program. The discussion revolved on the following: venue of the feeding, division of labor on the actual feeding, what to bring and who will provide, contribution per head for other expenses that the group will incur.

The group decided that we will do our feeding program in Block 27-30 of Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City.

August 27, 2013 /5.10PM

Two members of the group, Rudolf and Jayson, went to the site to do ocular inspection. They also went to the barangay hall and meet the barangay captain to ask for permission. The group prepared a formal letter to do a feeding program in the barangay in advance, and it was received by the captain that day.

Our team leader is already feeling crazy that week because he also happens to be the overall coordinator of the whole activity. Not to mention that he is part of the on-going Part 1 course after office hours so he cannot devote much of his time in the preparation. The other members take the responsibility to lead in the preparation; making sure that the incoming feeding program will turn out successful and hassle-free.

The barangay captain of Addition Hills, Hon. Rodolfo Posadas, was very cooperative with our initiative. He offered us the kitchen of the barangay for our food preparation. This is good news for the group because we don’t have to worry about the cooking place. Besides, it is very convenient to transport the ready food to the feeding site.

 

August 30, 2013 /2.00PM

The major ingredients for the feeding program were received, including rice, eggs, bananas, mongo, squash, paper plates and utensils. Everybody is so busy!

But because we prepared and discussed who will be assigned to do each tasks, it was a breeze in the preparation part. Melody takes the responsibility to cook the rice. Revo and Jayson volunteer to boil the eggs. Romeo provided the LPG gas that will be use for the cooking of mongo in the barangay hall the next day.

Melchor and Norvel were assigned to cook the mongo. Lala is the host of the program prior to the actual feeding; while Jayson and Rudolf assist in making sure that the children remains behave and in order during the games.

We went home early that day so everybody can rest on the eve of the feeding program.

 

August 31, 2013 / 8.00AM

This is it. This is the day that the group has been waiting for. We will be mobbed, er feeding, 350 kids. We had short kriya in the morning to prepare us with “battle” in the afternoon. Three hundred fifty is no laughing matter.

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August 31, 2013 / 11.30AM

All feeding team leaders had an audience with our EVP to give us blessings and offer congratulatory speech for a job well done. This feeding program was only planned in 2 weeks time, and somehow, with focus and dedication, the whole thing was pulled off successfully.

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August 31, 2013 / 1.30PM

After we ate our lunch, we went directly to the barangay hall of Addition Hills. This is where we will cook our mongo. Melchor, Norvel, Revo and Ramil were simultaneously doing the rounds to ensure that the whole thing will be cook and ready by 3PM, our call time for the feeding program. Melody, on the other hand, is in San Juan together with her relatives cooking 25 kilos of rice! Again, she also has a deadline to beat—cooked rice at every kids plate by 3PM, too!

Every feeding program, the kids are the boss. We, the sponsor, the food preparers, are at their mercy. Our roles are reversed and it is an experience worth noting every time. It keeps us grounded.

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August 31, 2013 /2.00PM

Chopping. And more chopping. Onions, garlic, squash. Chopping.

We have to divide the mongo in two containers to make it cook faster. The problem is we don’t have extra container. So we just have to contend ourselves with what we have—cook the mongo in two batches. Our initial fear is we might not be able to finish cooking by 3PM! Oh dear mongo!

Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.

Chop. Stir. Chop. Stir.

 

August 31, 2013 /3.00PM

Lala, Rudolf and Jayson went to the feeding venue ahead of the group. The barangay has chosen the Nueve de Febrero Elementary School as our feeding site. Kids from nearby depressed communities will come over to the school for our feeding program from 3PM-5PM.

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Lo and behold. Upon arrival in the place, the school is teeming with noisy kids!!! Lala, being the host of the program, has to tune herself to lead the kids and tell them to behave and sit in the floor while the rest are still coming inside the school. The energy inside the school is indescribable, Lala has to speak louder even in microphone just to get the message across to all present inside the building.

Prior to the feeding proper, the group prepared some fun activities for the kids. They have games, including best dance and sing-off. All had fun. We also introduce simple exercises and stretches to them.

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August 31, 2013 / 4PM

The mongo is now ready for serving! Hot and yummy. Cooked with tender, loving, care from the group. We know that all of them are a bit hungry, and are here because of the free food, so it is expected that most of them will find their ways to be in front of the line.

It gets rowdy, but thanks to social workers from the barangay, the children were arranged and lined up in single file. We just have to assure them that we have enough food for everybody.

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The whole group has to doubly put food per plate so we can distribute it right away in the shortest possible time. Division of labor again—two persons assigned in rice, two persons put spoon and fork to each plate, two persons distribute banana and egg, two persons in mongo, two persons distribute the food to the kids, and one person in water station.

We finish serving the food to everybody after 40 minutes. We have used up all the 350 plates that was allotted for the feeding. Alas, we still have excess rice and mongo. So we inform the people nearby to send some food container from their houses so we can distribute the remaining food. After 15 minutes, gone. That is how it is in communities where the people are deprived of basic needs like food.

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August 31, 2013 /5PM

We are all tired. Dead tired. We even forgot to take group picture together with the kids. Before we left the school building, we have to clean up the place with garbage. It is SOP to our entire feeding program.

Yes, tired but rewarding. The sense of fulfillment that you derived from seeing kids eat, from their smiles while enjoying the games, from their precious utter of thank you when you give them food. In our own simple gesture of giving a meal for the day, we were able to affect the lives of 350 kids. We are happy, because we give it our 100%.

So, when is the next feeding program again?

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Birthday Treat @ the Office

Pancit at Cake

My birthday will be tomorrow, March 22nd. Never mind my age, because everytime someone asks me how old I am, my template reply will be “it doesn’t matter because age is just a state of mind.”

The department I am heading, Customer Action Group, gave me a touching treat today: cake and pancit (see picture above). I heard that they contribute some of their money to make this surprise possible.

So thank you dearly to all of you! You all know who you are.

Where does customer service resides?

Below is the abridged text of what I wrote about a customer service seminar I attended a few months ago in the office.

We normally hear customer service from every corner—banks, telecommunication companies, call centers, restaurants, and other service-oriented industries. But what is it exactly? Is it something that is so common a term that we ended up defining it in various ways? But whatever the case, it has the two most important words: customer and service.

 

I got the chance to be part of a customer service seminar last Saturday, Aug 23, 2008. This is the first time that I was part of a customer service seminar. And because this is just a seminar (as opposed to training), the activity is less rigid, less hands-on. But the whole day seminar is full of fun because most of the time, the exercises are dealt with games and small group interaction. The facilitators have done its research well because there have been studies to prove that in order for seminars to be effective, infuse interaction and participation. That way, the audience will feel engaged and definitely not bored.

 

The seminar speaks of five major tenets which is vital in customer service.

1.)    Responsiveness.

2.)    Reliability.

3.)    Tangibles.

4.)    Assurance.

5.)    Empathy.

 

Responsiveness refers to the measurable qualities like time, accessibility (communication), after sales service. How responsive are we when addressing clients needs. Customer service does not end right after they purchase the first time (in our case, machine) because the barometer of how responsive we are to their needs is viewed in the after sales such as consumables ordering, service requests, and problems that will arise during the course of the partnership. It is important to attend to the customer’s need in the fastest possible time because if you don’t, they have the option to look for other suppliers.

 

Reliability measures how your client views you as a company, in terms of truthful communication based on the commitments you provide to them. If you say the unavailable toner will be available by Friday, do you make sure that it becomes available by Friday or earlier? Commitment to client is crucial because it creates an impression on them as to how you do business. If we keep on breaking our commitment and promises, then it creates a notion of unreliability. This way, customers will do away from you and look for someone else who can deliver what they need.

 

Tangibles are things that can be seen and touched. These refers to the uniforms you wear (is it clean? Decent? Pleasing?), tools (are they complete? Are they clean?), logistics (how does your delivery vans and motorcycles look like? Does your delivery crew have protective gears such as raincoats when it rains?) which clients see. It creates an image and branding, such that even if the client does not tell it to you, they can see how you do business just by seeing your appearance and the things that represents your company.

 

Assurance is connected with feedback mechanism. Not just feedback per se but rather constant feedback in times where there is something to be resolved. For example, a spare part is currently out of stock but it is badly needed by your client. What will you do? In cases like this, you need to assure your client that you are doing all possibilities to serve the requirement in due time. More so, alternative solution like outsourcing of s/p from an existing machine should be considered. You have to constantly in contact with the client so they can feel your concern. Sometimes, you have to tell the truth (like out of stock problem) but it doesn’t stop there. Lay out your options and see to it that your client is given with feedback about it so that they will know that something is being done with their problem and it is being addressed. The worst that you can tell your client is not tell them at all, as if they are in the dark. In cases like this, they would feel that they are not important to you. We don’t like that to happen.

 

Empathy is putting your self in your client’s situation. When the machine is down, and you (as a supplier) cannot provide the client with the desired spare parts because it is currently not available? The client will have no income for the days where the machine is not running. Imagine your self in their shoes; it is just not acceptable.

 

Moreover, the seminar tackles about how to go through situations or problems. The acronym is ACCO, which means;

 

  1. Assess the situation. Know and identify the what, when, where, who, why.
  2. Consider. What are the options available? This also includes likes, needs, wants and value of the customer.
  3. Choose. Once the options are identified, choose the best that will address the problem or situation. Choosing also includes acceptance—that part where you need to tell the truth from your client and not do “sugarcoating”. Admit mistakes and learn from it. Client will understand; in fact, it will lessen his/her anger once you apologize and admit the mistakes and shortcomings. But make sure that you are doing something, because it doesn’t stop from the apology.
  4. Own. Take the initiative when you feel that the problem is not being acted upon by your immediate superior or manager. Identify and talk to the concerned parties in your department or office as to why the problem is not being addressed to or acted upon. Partake in the endeavor and own it. Do not ignore the situation just because other process owners are not doing its role in the loop.

 

The one day course, as I have said, do not teach you the do’s and don’t’s of customer service. Albeit, it delves into your self. In fact, it was aptly titled My Career, My Business. Customer service is not simply about customers and your company, it is also you. You being the mirror or representative of the organization you work in.

 

I love the idea that the focus is not towards your customer but rather on each and everyone (which basically comprises the organization). The facilitator lets you delve into the core of the self. It is a sort of reflection into your capacity as an individual; that you have the inner power that can change the status quo into your advantage.

 

When you want something to be in your favor, change from within. Change your mindset. Do not think of negative thoughts, prejudices, biases, because these can influence your judgments towards the kind of work/decisions that you do.

 

The tool on problem solving (ACCO) is useful in terms of making day to day decisions regarding work, most especially in my department where complaints are encountered in many ways than one. It should also be noted that when an exception arise, it has to be reported right away so that solutions can be had even before it becomes a complaint. Based on experience, there have been cases where agents in my department do not report cases of exceptional nature like concerns from clients or queries that need to be resolve. The case of non-compliance on their part is partly because they think they can resolve the case from their end, but later realized that it is beyond their control.

 

Constant communication between internal process owners should be in placed. And not just plain talking and exchanging pleasantries, but more of asking the right questions and seeking the right answers. When a colleague said that the available toners will arrive by next week, do not take it as it is. Rather, consider other options like shipback from a nearby branch of the same item because time is of the essence. The kind of urgency (remember that we have to put our self in the shoes of the customer) at our level should be there always.

 

Another good point that was mentioned during the course is about tangibles. The appearance of the employees when he/she do business with a client mirrors that of the company. Therefore, employees—especially those going out in field and interacts with client—are expected to be dressed properly, behave courteously, and act professionally. These small things speak a lot about how we do business.

 

You know I find it funny because we aspire to be of greater help to our customers, pleasing them all the time, and making sure that they are well taken cared of. But because of this grandstanding mindset that we end up neglecting the small things (tangibles) that matters most to our clients. Summing up all these small gestures might prove effective in the long run. These are the things that stick to clients mind.

 

The challenge now is how to practice what was learned from the course. Definitely, the result will not happen overnight. Nor will it happen in a month’s time. The barometer if the course point is embraced or not is dependent on each attendee. Each of them now has the responsibility to commit to what they pledge at the end of the course.

 

When employees changed their mindset (for the good), slowly but surely, then it will reflect in the statistics: sales performance (machines, consumables) increases, clients are coming, less/minimal complaints. The ball is with us; not the company.

Malay Tao with Joey Ayala

Malay ni Joey

Last May 31, 2008, my company sponsored an audience with Joey Ayala for its office-based employees. It was a whole day affair, complete with singing and fun activities. The course points delves into the imagination and creativity of the individual and how to nurture the same to use it wisely for his own good.

See my complete reaction below.

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The Salundiwa activity with Joey Ayala last Saturday, May 31, 2008 is simple and easy to understand, and yet applicable to so many things. It was my first time to be in his audience, and I never thought he teaches these kinds of things. All I know about him is his music.

 

I agree that in order for an individual to be creative, you need to put him/her in an uncomfortable situation. It is at this state where the individual tries to think and imagines. In our work setting, we are always thrown with problems and challenges. The likes of delayed deliveries, commitments that fall short, out of stock inventories, and other customer-related complaints. In general, an employee would see these situations as irritants because they are unusual. Meaning, they would rather prefer the routine process of smooth flow of operations—no complaints, on time delivery, widely available inventory, etc. But they don’t get the point. Problems will always come. And what differentiates smart people from the others is that they solve the problems that come their way; others resist them. It is said that it is at the point of uneasiness wherein imagination is at its heightened state. Thus, it is up to the individual to confront any uneasiness by using his imagination.

 

Joey’s approach in conveying his message is not your typical linear style that is being taught in school. He uses drawings and objects to present and communicate his points. He let us draw a lot, for he believes that an individual’s way of expressing himself is best captured when he is honestly speaking from the heart. And what better way to do this than dropping all the rules and let him be on his own self so he can express himself openly.

 

He said that one blunder committed by the schools is how they teach you in a rigid, rules-based curriculum wherein there is a dichotomy of right and wrong, black and white. The concept of right and wrong used in the classroom setting feeds the subconscious with a terrible flaw that can prove disastrous in later years. He further added that this kind of education culture makes the individual afraid to commit mistakes, and would rather be risk-averse. And because there is a rule, you follow steps and procedures to attain a goal. This, according to him, hampers our imaginative self and constricts our chance to create/imagine.

 

For us to move forward, let’s be iconoclast. Do not be afraid to ask stupid questions; do not be afraid to answer unheard and impossible answers. Lay all options on the floor, he said, regardless how silly it sounds.

 

Which leads me to his concept of universal truth and how the universe aligns itself to your side. If you want something, set your self to it, and make it a mantra daily to attain it. If you want P12million/month consumables sales, you have to keep it in your mind daily. Of course, it does not stop there. You need to set realistic goals, and how to’s in order for you to attain that goal. Identify rooms for improvement, lay down problems and hurdles that hampers to this objective, provide solutions, and lay the message to teammates so that all are in sync in attaining the same objective.

 

We were assigned to do an activity that identifies our strengths. He told us to list 10 strengths in a specified time. Most weren’t able to complete the ten. The obvious explanation for this is because we are always harsh to our selves. We seldom ask our selves who we are? Or what are you good at? Almost always, it takes other people to tell us who we are. There was one participant who blurts the word selfish during an answer, and Joey commented. He said that the word selfish is misconstrued and has been used erroneously to define a situation. For example, when you think something for your self more than others, that is not being selfish, according to Joey. He said that you need to be with your self in order for you to be happy so that you can radiate the same happiness to others. You cannot jump to help others when you cannot help your self. It has to pass through levels of completeness—from the self, to family, society, world, humanity, etc.

 

Awareness of one’s self is also one activity that he let us do. He made us rate how we are faring in terms of relationships, money, mind, body/health, work, spirit, community relations. The purpose of the activity is for us to identify our weak points, and areas for improvement. As we age, I need to balance everything such that I rate almost the same scores in each category. It all starts with awareness, and honest assessment of my current state. Then, this becomes the blueprint for what I will do in the future.

 

Actually the course points that he emphasized during the activity are not new. They are commonly feed by self help books and literature. But what makes the whole thing exciting is because he changed the manner of delivering the points. Far from the conventional literary approach, he uses drawings and imagination to make a point.

 

He proves effective in this regard. In fact, for the whole day of the activity, I was not bored at all. There was singing, as expected, that are lyrically poetic and deep. There are jokes that ranges from the corny, to the regional (Bisaya), to the green and toilet humor. The audience bought them all.

 

There was laughter all the time. And sharing. It is as if we all went back to school, and Joey is our teacher. I remember the movie “School of Rock” with Jack Black, because of music, guitar, and Joey. And I have to agree that learning should, first and foremost, be fun. Once you get the fun out of the equation, it becomes boring and the students (us) are less responsive.

 

Overall, Joey successfully conveys his message and concepts clearly and in a clear, unique manner. His techniques will be useful in what we do—from goal setting, forecasting, problem solving, and planning. I hope that everybody learns from the experience, and apply them to situations that require it.

 

Let’s have more Joey sessions in the future. J