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9 Episodes in: Laugh Riot at “Instant Hotel,” Managing Expectations, and Alaskan Bald Eagles

bald eagle

I don’t want to give anything away, which means I probably will, but episodes eight and nine of “Instant Hotel’s” Season 1 are seriously hilarious. You might have to watch from episode six to get a feel for the characters and allow the comedy to build, but I haven’t laughed that hard in a couple of months. (That’s your spoiler alert.)

Managing expectations in any endeavor is so important to customer and experience satisfaction. There are few companies that get it right. Disney, somehow, is able to deliver on sky-high expectations. Marvel movies have also done it consistently. DC movies weren’t able to satisfy expectations until movie goers started expecting bad movies and got decent ones. Otherwise, even in customer-oriented businesses, it’s a crap shoot. Under promise and over deliver should be your mantra, the problem is that people expect you to over deliver. If you just meet expectations, it isn’t good enough.

You need to be able to talk up your product, service or experience enough that people are interested in it and willing to take a chance on it, but not so much that people expect gold plated toilet seats and unicorns. It’s a fine line that requires honesty without bragging and still needs to feel positive.

(Seemingly unrelated detour, but stick with me. I’m not promising it will make sense, but it will be interesting.) It’s hard to see bald eagles at rest in the wild unless you know what you’re looking for. Part of the reason for this is because people expect it to be easy to spot a white head against a dark background. So, instead of looking for the heads, they look for the other parts of the eagle that blend into the background trying to see the full form of the bird.

When I moved to Alaska and went on my first camping trip on the Kenai during salmon season, the more experienced guy on the trip pointed at a tree and said, “Look at all those bald eagles.”

I looked at the evergreen tree and didn’t see a single eagle. I thought he was playing a joke on the cheechako (me). “Where?”

“In that tree.” He pointed to the same tree. “Do you see them?”

“No.” I shook my head.

My newbie friend leaned over and whispered, “Look for the golf balls.”

It was like a veil had been lifted. My jaw dropped. I uttered an exclamation of awe as the tree lit up with what looked like hundreds of bald eagles. From that moment on, I knew how to spot bald eagles in trees and could see them easily.

So, a couple years later when my mom came up to Juneau, I knew she would want to see bald eagles, and that seeing them could be problematic. There are a lot of bald eagles in Juneau, but they are less visible when the salmon aren’t running. There was one place where it was easy to find bald eagles, so I told my mom I was taking her to see a lot of them. However, the place where they hung out wasn’t going to be very majestic. It would stink if the wind was blowing inland, but there would be eagles there.

Properly prepared, we went to the city dump, and there were so many eagles. I was even able to tell my mom about the golf ball trick pointing to a nearby tree.

Mom had a great time looking at the eagles and laughing about how they weren’t so majestic when they were eating garbage. Had I told her we were going to a nutrient-enriched environment that acts as a sanctuary for the eagles when food is scarcer, her reaction to the dump may have been a but different. She would have been at least disappointed, even if she had fun.

When the “Instant Hotel” guests are overly critical at their hotel stays, they set themselves up for a downfall. If they have such high standards and can point out all the flaws of an instant hotel, their hotel must be immaculate and so much better. Don’t talk up your property or degrade others even if it really does deliver on what you think.’

Managing expectations is a key to success. It’s about being honest with yourself, your guests and your customers. When you can provide a little extra, you should, but don’t set the extra up as an expectation.

If you’d like to read more about Alaska, get the coloring book “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.”

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Kendall Jenner’s acne leads to ‘moving’ and ‘raw’ announcement

When Kris Jenner announced that her daughter Kendall Jenner (Reality TV star since 2007, age: 23, net worth: $30 million) would be sharing a moving story and hashtagged it with #bethechange #finallyasolution #mydaughterinspiresme, people immediately speculated what the announcement might be. Would Kendall come out as gay? Would she be going to rehab? Would she reveal she’s pregnant? Was she abused as a child (she spent half her life on reality TV, so…)? Was she raped or sexually assaulted? It would certainly be something momentous. The rumors and speculation grew. What would she be changing or offering a solution to?

The announcement ended up being a commercial… for an acne treatment… meh. And Kendall got raked over the coals for it, though a few tweets predicted that would be the announcement.

A year ago, when walking her first red carpet event, Kendall felt amazing. Her hair, makeup and dress were perfect, and she was on top of the world. When she got back to the social media world, people had pointed out her acne, and it hurt. Then some others helped her change her view when they supported her bravery and courage for going out there with acne. “But I still want it gone.”

Having acne isn’t a world-changing announcement. It isn’t something worthy of all the drama, but there are two things worth noting in this announcement. This is the worst thing that’s happen to Kendall, and it points to a worse problem than just acne.

People who were upset that this is the worst thing that’s happen to Kendall in her life need to stop and think about their gut reaction. Does anyone really want to hear that someone’s been raped, sexually assaulted, or going to rehab? No, because that means something terrible has happened and no decent person wants that for anyone else. It’s awesome if this is the worst thing that’s happened to her. Some people bullied her about her looks, which are ingrained in who she is and what her job entails, and others came to her defense as a virtual support network that helped her keep her self-esteem intact. “But I still want it gone.”

Women have to deal with judgement about their looks all the time, particularly those in entertainment and modeling, who provide role models and expectations for those normal women who have everyday lives, children and not enough money for food or rent, much less to go to the gym and the spa. Women are told they need to spend time and money on how they look. They need make-up, moisturizers and creams and a little black dress. Things that most men don’t have to deal with.

But Kendall didn’t make it about men or societal expectations. Instead, she made it about herself. Her fans helped her turn her energy around and make her feel better about the acne. However, that doesn’t mean that she wants to have it. “But I still want it gone.” This tag says she’s doing it for herself, and if that’s true, then good for her and good for her all the way to the bank.

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The Ludicrousness of the Internet and the Simple Answer

Should I feed my dog mandarins? Yes or no. It’s a simple question to answer. Yet, before I can get an answer to this question on the Internet, I have to understand what a mandarin is, what a dog is, the different breeds of dogs that might eat mandarins (all of them), the nutritional value of mandarins and their rinds, how a dog’s digestive system works, why people might think it’s a good idea to give dogs a mandarin, why dogs should have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have mandarins, why they shouldn’t have the rinds, and then finally, the writer of the article deigns to give the answer: Probably not, but barring allergy, the dog won’t die from it. (In other words, I should not feed my dog mandarins.) That simple sentence could have been written at the top of the page, and it would have saved 15 minutes of scrolling and loading and given me the answer I was looking for.

The same is true for recipes on the Internet. Search for “apple pie recipes” and you’ll get plenty of recipes, but most of them will tell the story about how the person thought about making an apple pie on one harvest Sunday when the smell of cinnamon wafted through the air from the local bakery reminding him or her of a long deceased grandma who had the best apple pie recipe in the world, the one that you will soon be baking after the person gives you a complete biography of said grandma and the hardships she went through to get to the U.S. during the Great Depression. There will be a not-so-lively discussion of various apple types, how Johnny Appleseed was responsible for a majority of the apple trees in the U.S., and whether or not apple pie is actually as American as baseball and Chevrolet. Sure, the recipe, which calls for cardamom and squid, could’ve been placed at the top of the page and all of the other stuff below it, but you might’ve clicked to another web site if you found that the recipe required an ingredient you didn’t have, like 24k gold dust from a Nevadan river.

For either of these two posts, you’ll be scrolling past photos, videos and ads, all eating up bandwidth and time. Why all the scrolling, or worse, the multiple “next” page clicks? The easy answer is money. The slightly less easy answer is search engine algorithms. The least likely answer is credibility.

The more copy someone writes, the more place there is for ads. If a web page can keep you scrolling through ad after ad, it will make more money, even if you never click on any ads. Some web writers don’t have control over the placements of the ads, so using several pages rather than one long post makes it easier to make more money while you click through page after page of long-winded explanation for a simple question. Regardless of how much everyone wants content on the Internet to be free, the person or people producing the content need to make money to live. While multiple pages and multiple ads are annoying, they are necessary for many creators in the Internet (me included).

However, if no one is looking at the pages, there is no revenue to generate. Getting people to the page takes good search engine optimization practices. This includes writing enough that search engine web crawlers don’t exclude the page because it has a lack of content. “Should I feed my dogs mandarins? No” just isn’t enough words for a search engine algorithm to recognize the page as serious. Anything fewer than 100 words is suspect, even 100 words is questionable. Write enough, and the web page not only becomes more reputable according to web crawlers, but it will also hit on more keywords for search engines to latch onto.

For some pages, this is a matter of establishing credibility. (If I wanted to do that, I would tell you I’ve been working in the SEO industry for almost a decade and have studied trends in the Internet and its search engines. I would also give you a complete history of the Internet and my involvement with it, stopping just short of claiming to have invented it – I did not invent the Internet; please don’t start any rumors.) Because most Internet information is published by those who wish to remain anonymous or those you don’t personally know, it is important for the person to come up with a way to get you to trust him or her. After all, not everyone can be associated with a credible Internet source and those who aren’t need your page views even more than the biggest web sites. Of course, credibility doesn’t really matter to someone who is looking for a recipe. It should matter more to someone looking for dog care tips, but for the most part people on the Internet aren’t looking for the truth. They are looking for someone to confirm the information or biases they already have.

Aside from that, writing a lot doesn’t actually establish credibility. Anyone can write anything, and you will have little to no way of verifying the information. I used to be an astronaut and flew the first manned spaceship to Jupiter in a secret government program. That’s not true, but there’s no way you can verify it. Maybe it is true, and I’m trying to cover myself by saying it isn’t. Even if you have access to secret government records, chances are you don’t have secret access to every government’s records. However, if I wrote a whole lot about space and Jupiter and published some planetary stock photos, you might think I’m a credible authority on space travel. The same is true for someone who writes a whole lot of information they found on the Internet in their blog about feeding dogs mandarins.

Until the Internet changes the way information is sorted and paid for, there is little anyone can do to stop the overflow of useless information that doesn’t answer the question asked. Sending reports to search engines about clickbait, especially on sponsored posts, may help. Subscribing to your favorite web sites may also help. However, for the foreseeable future plan on learning the obscure history of someone’s great uncle pirate who is responsible for the introduction of gravy to the Indonesian diet while you’re looking for the answer to whether or not raccoons are native to North America. (They are.)

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Misunderstanding in the English Language: Sarong, yet it felt so right.

I handed the small items to the cashier, who was in training, as his supervisor stepped away to help another guest. I then handed the larger items over, including a sarong and held up the suitcase last.

“I want to put all this stuff into the suitcase,” I said. It would save us the cost of a plastic bag that wasn’t needed anyway.

“Okay,” he scanned the suitcase price. Then he rang up the smaller items. Then he reached for the hangar with the sarong. “Do you want these two?” It was clear English wasn’t his first language.

“Yes, I want this, too.” I indicated the sarong on the hanger.

His trainer, who also wasn’t a native English speaker, returned and asked, “They want this two?”

“Yes, they want this two.” He replied.

“Yes, we want this, too.” I said simultaneously.

“No, we don’t want those two,” my wife says. “We just want one.”

The trainer pulls two sarongs off the hanger and hands us one. I didn’t realize there had been two sarongs there and apologized for the confusion. The trainer assured me there was no problem and that the overring was easily fixed.

Creativity requires a change in perspective. Learning a new language can help provide a different perspective. Alternatively, speaking with people who have English as a second language can also improve creativity through culture and connections they make that Americans would not. Read more about creativity.

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‘Luv’ Opens the Lines of Communication at Southwest Airlines

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  While attribution of this quote is problematic, Southwest Airlines has taken the message to heart.  Starting with “Luv,” Southwest Airlines employees and guests are treated with respect and care.

Love helps to open the lines of communication by softening people’s defenses.  When people know that their managers care about them as people, they are more likely to reveal problems more quickly.  Information is able to move faster, which allows problems to be solved before they can get out of hand.

Part of caring for people is listening to them.  When someone really listens, the person who is speaking feels valued.  For leaders, this quality is invaluable.  It is also critical for the people who handle complaints to listen.  Sometimes, that simple act followed by an apology can help create enough good will that the person making the complaint will be more open to a solution that is equitable for all involved.

By providing guests with information about  why a flight has been delayed, Southwest is able to express their love for their customers.  Everyone in the organization is aware that without flyers, there would be no airline.  Creating an atmosphere where there can be no complaints is difficult, and when a situation arises where a legitimate complaint is made, it is important to listen to the person before trying to solve the problem.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

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Internal Communications at Southwest Airlines Keeps Everyone on the Same Page

Southwest Airlines believes in giving their employees more information rather than less.  Spreading information throughout the company equips front line employees to make better decisions.

The corporate newsletter “Luv Lines” has several sections to it.  “The Learning Edge” features learning through stories and metaphors.  “How Do We Rate” features the statistics that are important to airlines like the number of bags lost and how the planes are doing with being on time.  “Industry News” helps everyone stay up to date on what other airlines are doing, and “Milestones” features accomplishments, of which employees can be proud.  The airline has also put out quarterly videos called “As the Plane Turns.”

Face-to-face communication is important for Southwest Airlines.  Rather than writing a memo, people are encouraged to talk to each other and just get it done.  This type of communication helps Southwest to make decisions faster.

Another way that Southwest has increased the speed of communication is by limiting the layers of management.  Too many managers can cause a distortion in the message that someone is trying to send.  Like the “telephone game,” the message changes as it moves up the management chain.  By keeping the layers of management small, the airline is able to minimize miscommunication because there is less congestion in the communication channels.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

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Communication Keeps Southwest Airlines Flying High

Southwest Airlines has built a culture based on communication. Chairman Herb Kelleher insists on absolutely honest communication with employees. When Southwest started in Texas, they faced impediments to starting up that were instigated by the competition, but they succeeded in getting the proper authorizations to run flights in Texas.

In order to keep prices low, the airline had to turn its planes around in ten minutes. The industry said it was impossible. Because Southwest employees did not know it couldn’t be done, they were able to turn planes around quicker than any other airline.

The standard turn around for Southwest is now 15 minutes because airports have become more congested. The effort to get a plane turned around in that time requires open communication and teamwork from all employees on the plane – even the pilots help unload the baggage.Southwest has cultivated a casual atmosphere that has allowed employees the opportunity to talk to their managers and those higher up in the company. It is this casual atmosphere, as demonstrated by their uniforms and the fact that everyone uses first names, combined with the empowerment of employees that allows the company to make decisions quickly.

Kelleher has a reputation for thinking and talking straight. His honesty and actions have allowed employees and unions to negotiate in good faith with one another. When the pilots agreed to have their pay frozen, Kelleher froze his own pay. It is actions like these that help employees know that the company is a team. It isn’t employees versus management. It is everyone working together to create a better, more profitable company.

All information is compiled from “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.