Monday, May 12, 2014

at your service

Over the past few weeks I was on a mission of buying costumes for dance competition.

This included ordering shirts on line for 12 guys, and trouping around goodness knows how many women's clothing shops looking for 12 tops that would suit 12 different body shapes, that were identical, and that were of a fairly specific style and colour way - and in summer weight fabric.  Nothing made it easy.  It was end of season.  Hard to find anything in the right colour, let alone shape and size. The shirts had to come via two different suppliers.  I was also looking as some DIY options which necessitated visits to a number of craft shops.   The challenges went on and on. Don't even get me started on hair, jewellery and makeup!!!

But, to cut a long story short, all's well that ends well, and we ended up with 12 couples in suitable attire, for a very very reasonable cost to each person.

The point of this story though, is not to highlight the problems associated with fitting out a dance troupe, but to commend the (literally) dozens of shop assistants and help desk staff that I dealt with over this time.  Much is made of the poor service in NZ and I would have to vehemently disagree with those naysayers.

Without exception, every person in every shop went far beyond the call of duty.  Even though in many cases the clothing was incredibly cheap, and found  in chain stores seemingly run by teenagers, everyone was cheerful, helpful, obliging and tireless in their attempts to help me (and others) find exactly what we needed.  Most were happy to ring around other branches of their shop, and all were more than OK with pulling piles of clothes of racks and putting them on hold.

Similarly a recent experience at a hotel was, simply, outstanding and left me feeling I would be loyal to that place forever! From the moment I arrived and was greeted by name, I felt like I was valued.

I spend a lot of time assessing customer service in my town (and further afield) because a/ it's part of my job to do so and b/ I'm a bit precious about it.  And sure there are some exceptions, but I would have to say that by far and away the majority of businesses that I deal with do it extremely well.  Of course retail and hospitality are the most scrutinised.  And have the biggest risk of ''getting it wrong''.  The staff has high turnover.  Seven day a week operations potentially don't get the staff training other businesses might.

It's said that good news stories go nowhere but a bad story will be repeated a dozen times.  If that's true then it only goes to prove my proclamation - because it is a rare thing to hear a bad story about service these days.  Most businesses (I believe) want to give good service - sure doesn't the survival of their organisation depend on it?

I go out of my way to provide feedback (good and bad) to businesses. Do you?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Shall we dance

I started dancing Ceroc about  3 1/2  years ago - the idea had been sloshing around for rather longer than that but it took me quite a while to get the nerve to go to a class. In fact, the first time I went I sat in the car for half an hour before I even mustered up the courage to go into the class! (I found out later this is quite a common phenomenon...)

After just a few weeks I helped out that the first Champs to be held in the Waikato (2011), and in 2012 competed in one round of one ''DWAS'' (random pairing - dance with a stranger) competition, which I didn't enjoy at all.  I did however love watching all the amazing dancers, and promised myself that one day I would take part in a team (which seemed an impossibly exotic dream at the time), and maybe, just maybe be better than the 'beginner'' I then was.

Time rolled on, I stopped and started classes a bit, depending on availability of babysitters, but stayed involved in the ''business end'' of Ceroc - helping on the door, and attending dance parties whenever  I could.  Earlier this year I had another go at a competition, not doing well, and finding the defeat particularly galling considering I was dancing with who was arguably one of the best male dancers in town.

My young man  (MYM) and I, through a number of circumstances, ended up competing together this weekend just gone. We were in a team together which was, I won't lie, flipping hard work, but incredibly satisfying all the same.  We went and had a private lesson with teachers in another town, whose style we both admired.  And we competed as a couple in a freestyle event and individually in DWAS - although neither of which we got past the first cut of.   Also, at the last minute I found on line (as one does in this modern age:)), someone to compete in the over 45's section, since MYM was not old enough - and this was a little nerve wracking as I knew nothing of this guy - his dancing style, or skill level. (And since mine is not fantastic I was a bit nervous I might be a bit under par).

To cut a long story short, the team placed third, and I made the final in over 45's.  It was disappointing that MYM and I didn't do better -we had one of the teachers cheering from the sidelines and got good feedback afterwards -  but it was a learning experience, and the competition was incredibly tough.  There is room for improvement for both of us , individually and as a pairing, should we continue to compete together, and also opportunity to do things separately too.

Dancing is a funny thing.  Away from the eyes of the judges I am sure I dance better.  I know the things I need to do better - eyes up, shoulders back - but also know there are things I can do well - stay in time, follow a lead, break out a bit when I am able.  Together, MYM and I are great if there's no pressure. We had heaps of fun. Add on a judging eye and it's still good, but there is that constant feeling of wanting to do better, and, I am sure, subconscious judging of our own performances.

There were many people at this competition dancing with new partners. MYM did it at the last comp and also did well. There was something to be said for dancing the other competition with a virtual stranger - no expectation, inhibitions checked at the door.  Maybe I got lucky with a great partner, maybe there is potential to repeat and do better - maybe it was a fluke.

The clear winners on the day largely had long term partners.  There were people who stood out as being just so much better than the rest.  And there were a couple of dark horses who surprised everyone.

Whatever the science, or not, in this dancing competition lark, it was still a fabulous experience.  I thought I wasn't competitive, but maybe I am...The taste of small success remains on my tongue and I think with some dedication and focus I could do better next time.

In the meantime, I am incredibly proud of my achievement, of the great dance MYM  and I did in the the team (we came third, and in the playbacks, our own performance was almost perfect), and of course of my result with Mr over45 , and of the experiences I had dancing with some of the best in the country.

Dancing on air indeed.