Category Archives: Customer Service

Streamlining is Simple…Start Small

There are many reasons why philanthropy should streamline – excessively long strategic planning processes, grant proposals that take 8 months to be funded, board meeting dockets that measure 3 inches high – and the task can seem daunting. However, there is a way to quickly streamline…by starting small. Let me give you an example: I recently stayed at the Marriot Marquis in Washington, DC and ordered room service. You know the routine:  Order food, wait, hotel staff brings it in your room, they hand you a bill, you sign it while they stand around, and they leave.  Not anymore. The Marriott has eliminated futzing with the bill! Instead they deliver you the food, and promptly walk out the door. No … Continue reading Streamlining is Simple…Start Small

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What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

Last week, I wrote about the small – but troubling – culture of disrespect that I’ve observed bubbling up in the field of philanthropy. In that post, I shared examples of grantmakers who disrespected colleagues, grantees and partners by doing things like intentionally double-booking their calendars, purposefully making grant applications lengthy, or refusing to shoulder their share of the cash flow. I also said that the culture of disrespect is still the exception rather than the rule. This week, I’d like to share a shining example of what respectful philanthropy can look like. This example comes from one of my clients, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s a statement of Grantee Experience Standards that the Foundation developed after asking … Continue reading What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

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What I Learned About Customer Service from Marriott

Last week I stayed at the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco, and I was blown away by the nonstop, excellent level of customer service I experienced. What I learned is applicable to foundations and consultants, and I want to share six lessons learned with you. 1. Treat everyone like they are important (even when you are busy). This convention hotel must have been booked solid, with a Salesforce convention happening one block down the street. Yet my colleague and I felt like we were the only guests at the hotel. Front desk staff were attentive, friendly, and willing to take extra time to accommodate my colleague, who was on crutches and needed certain room accommodations. All staff were prompt, cheerful, and … Continue reading What I Learned About Customer Service from Marriott

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Delusional Altruism

Foundations pride themselves on the good they do for others; that’s the very nature and culture of philanthropy. However, in my 15 years of experience advising foundations, I’ve found that most foundations suffer from delusional altruism. Delusional altruism is when you are genuinely trying to help people – but paying absolutely no attention to the operational inefficiency and waste that drains grantseekers or your own foundation of the human and financial capital necessary to accomplish these goals. Let me give you three examples: A foundation gives itself five weeks to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) that it has already written, but gives grantseekers only three weeks to apply. Five different departments within a large national foundation each had a … Continue reading Delusional Altruism

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Who Is Your Customer?

It’s easy to get mired in the way things have always been done, and sometimes it leaves us blind to our customers’ real needs. So take a moment and ask yourself one critical question: Who is my customer? In my experience this is a question that most foundations simply don’t ask themselves. I was talking last week with a funder client (let’s call her Mary) who said that a big lesson she learned is that they should give their applicants more time to respond to a request for proposal. They had only given their applicants about a month; during that month, the applicant had to decide whether and how to apply jointly with other organizations that were also invited, prepare … Continue reading Who Is Your Customer?

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Don’t Let Policy Get in the Way of Good Practice

I’m working from my laptop in a Panera restaurant near Cleveland, Ohio, one of my many “offices away from home.” I’m desperately trying to focus on work but am continually distracted by the music piped in above my head, because the station they have turned it to is skipping. What is supposed to be relaxing symphonic sounds are quite irritating and painful to hear. I’ve asked two Panera employees what is wrong and suggested ways to solve the problem. Both agreed that it sounds horrible, explained that they “tried turning it off and on” and nothing happens. When I asked if they could simply turn it off, they said they weren’t able to.  Panera would rather play music that is … Continue reading Don’t Let Policy Get in the Way of Good Practice

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