Aliveatwork's Blog

I Was Sick … But I’ve Been Keured!!

I’m Sick!

Approximately 14 months ago I had a routine physical. It’s now over a year later and I am still trying to get the insurance company (Aetna) the lab (Sonora Quest) and the doctors office to cover the cost of the blood work on a routine physical examination which is included in my plan.

Over the course of the year on multiple conference calls about improper coding and who’s to blame between the 3 of them, I have on numerous times heard the following statements:

  1. “I’m so sorry Mr. Contrera, I promise I will get this handled”
  2. “I promise to call you back”
  3. “We value you as a customer!”

The most recent conversation went something like this: “Mr Contrera has anyone ever told you that your plan has a $200 limit for a physical examination and that includes the Doctors visit, consultation, and any blood work associated with your visit?”

My response, “So let me see if I understand you, I’ve payed you over $6000.00 in premiums, I go to the doctor once a year for a physical, and it’s not covered because you limit the cost to a paltry $200 which barely covers the cost of walking in his office? AND it took you 14 months to come up with that brilliant answer? Well to be honest … that’s makes me sick!”

The Problem:

  1. The issue is still not resolved.
  2. No one has ever called me back when they said they would, I’ve always had to call them back to follow up.
  3. I will never do business with the doctor, the insurance company, or Sonora Quest Laboratories again!

I’ve Been Keured!!

Over a year ago I bought a Keurig coffee maker which just recently stopped working. When I called on March 17th and was asked when I purchased my machine I told them the truth, March 10 th of last year (It carries a 1 year limited warranty). Bottom line: I was beyond the warranty period.

To my surprise Amy the young lady on the phone turned me over to Frank the technical expert who walked me through a process and then said, “Well Mr Contrera looks like we’ll have to replace the machine,  let’s get you taken care of!”

Today is March 23rd I have a brand new Keurig coffeemaker sitting on my counter … it showed up yesterday, within 5 days of my conversation with customer service. It carries a brand new 1 year warranty.

The Lesson:

  1. Buying a new Keurig coffee machine over a year ago … $154.00.
  2. Enjoying a freshly brewed cup of chocolate raspberry coffee on my brand new Keurig coffeemaker this morning …. $0.00!
  3. Having a customer for life … priceless!!

Why is it that some companies “get it” and some companies don’t? You and your company make decisions everyday that communicate to your customers whether you value them or you don’t.

How you treat your customers determines whether you find yourself continuously replacing the ones that you’ve lost (as a result of delivering poor products or providing lousy service) or actually growing your loyal customer base and your sales revenue.

How Do Treat Your Customers?

  1. Do you make it difficult to resolve problems your customers have with your products or your service?
  2. Do you misrepresent the truth or hide it in the small print or in a fast talking words of the announcer at the end of a commercial?
  3. Are you flexible with your policies living by the spirit of the law rather than the law?
  4. Are the people who interact with your customers the most (customer service, inside salespeople, accounting, etc.) trained and knowledgeable or do they make promises that they don’t keep and give answers simply to get the customer off the phone?
  5. Do you have customers for life or customers for the moment?

Remember: It costs 5 times more to find a new customer than it is does to keep an old one!

One last thing: Did I tell you that my Keurig coffee machine makes the best coffee I’ve ever brewed at home … I highly recommend that you buy one … it is well worth the investment!

How Do You Respond To Your Constituents (Customers)?

Elected officials like Sales Professionals some times forget who their customer’s are  …

Recently I received an email from my favorite Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio asking for support on a local bill that would force the local Phoenix government to be more efficient in spending our tax dollars. He requested that we email, phone, or fax, our local representatives asking for their support of the bill.

What follows are 5 responses I received from 3 different representatives. 3 of them never even bothered to respond.

Which one is most typical of the way you respond to your constituents?

Response #1 – Telling Your Customer They Don’t Matter – Judy Burges (the complete response):

“You can quit writing as I am told that the bill will be assigned to my committee today and we will hear it next week.   Judy Burges”

My reply to Judy Burges:

Dear Judy,

Thank you for taking the time to respond, I understand that you are very busy AND I would’ve preferred a response that said something like, “Thank you for taking the time to write about this very important bill ….” Instead of one that started by saying “You can quit writing …”


Joe Contrera

Response #2 – The Auto Respond Brush Off  – Just another way of telling your customer they don’t matter – Judy Burgess:

Thank you for e-mailing the City of Phoenix Mayor/Council office. Because of a public records request, your e-mail also will be reviewed by the Arizona Republic. If your e-mail contains information that you believe is confidential and should not be released, please immediately call 602-262-7029 for assistance. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Response #3 – The Delegated Appear To Be Sincere Missing Punctuation Response – Councilman Anonymous:


The councilman appreciates your sending this

My reply to councilman anonymous’ assistant:

Stephanie thanks for the reply … which Councilman is replying?


Joe Contrera

Response #4 – The Auto Respond Brushoff – Councilman Anonymous:

Thank you for e-mailing the City of Phoenix Mayor/Council office. Because of a public records request, your e-mail also will be reviewed by the Arizona Republic. If your e-mail contains information that you believe is confidential and should not be released, please immediately call 602-262-7029 for assistance. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Response #5 – The You Matter Thanks For Writing Response – Steve Montenegro

Thank you for your input on this bill; I support it and I will continue to support it as it works it’s way through the Legislature.  Thanks for your input.

Here to Serve,

Steve Montenegro
Speaker Pro-Tempore
Arizona House of Representatives
Legislative District 12

My response to Steve Montenegro:

Steve thanks so much for your response, it is appreciated! Keep up the good work!

Joe Contrera


Everyday your customers have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they want to do business with you.

That’s why every email, every detail, every sales call, every interaction, that you or anyone in your company has with your customers needs to insure the customer has an extraordinary experience. You have to continuously give them a reason to vote for you and your company.

REMEMBER: Customers can have short term memory loss when it comes all the good things that you do for them. However they have memories like elephants when it when it comes to the bad experiences they may have had with you or your company.

You have to give them as many reasons as possible to vote for you again and again and again … besides you’ve worked to hard to get into their office!

One last thing …  So which representatives do you think I will choose to do business within the next election?


CYA … Choose Your Attitude!

Sometimes thing happen life that don’t feel good, we don’t like, or we don’t understand why this had to happen to us.

The truth is that even though we may not like what happened we can always choose how we will respond to that particular situation or event. We choose what we make it mean and what we make it means determines our attitude.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is simply another way for saying that you’re choosing a bad attitude. The attitude you choose each and every morning can determine the quality of your day,  your week, your month, and your year.  The average person living in the United States will experience approximately 28,616 mornings. That’s 28,616 opportunities to wake up on the right side of the bed.

American author and clergymen Chuck Swindoll said this about attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

So what about you, how’s your attitude? Do you choose your attitude or do you give your power away and let someone or some external factor determine your attitude?

5 Things You Can Do To Shift Your Attitude:

  1. Decide: make a decision to choose differently. Remember that you hold the power to determine your attitude. Doing this will bring the power inside of you instead of allowing an outside factor to determine your attitude and your results.
  2. Do something physical, exercise, go for a walk just move! Physical activity can shift your attitude and get you moving forward.
  3. Pet Therapy … in other words go spend time with a pet. If you’ve ever noticed, animals, particularly dogs, don’t walk around with bad attitudes they just want to play. They want to chase a stick and bring it back, they want to play with their friends or the friend at the park they haven’t met yet. Watch them, observe them, you might learn something!
  4. If you wake up in the morning on the wrong side of the bed. Get undressed crawl back into bed and roll over to the other side and get out on that side telling yourself, “this is the side I needed to get out on, this is perfect!”  You think I’m kidding … I’m not! It’s called anchoring and it’s about tying a physical object or activity to a different way of thinking.
  5. Affirmations: before you go to sleep at night, tell yourself that tomorrow you’re going to wake up rested, refreshed , and with an attitude of joy and happiness regardless of what happens!

A  Brooklyn New York homemaker born in 1927 who once described herself  “As an overweight woman, married to an overweight husband, surrounded by overweight friends.” She also said, “It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny.”

Jean Nidetch is the founder of Weight Watchers, one of the most successful weight loss programs in the world. Based on her words and action she apparently chose a different attitude one day and started a business that not only changed her life but changed the lives of millions of people around the world! 

So what are you waiting for? You know what you need to do … when will you take that first step?

Maybe you just need to decide that you want an extraordinary life.

If that’s the case … remember that it all starts with your attitude … and that my friends all starts with you!

Work Life Balance: All Work and No Play …

I’m sure most people have seen the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick entitled, The Shining. The story, written by Stephen King, is a psychological thriller about a writer who takes his family to an isolated hotel to be the caretaker in the off season. It will also give Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) some much need time to work on his writing.

At one point in the movie Jack’s wife stumbles across his manuscript which is comprised of line after line of this sentence, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well you can guess what happens next and the insanity begins.

Here’s the point:

Sometimes in our striving to be successful we lose site of those things that bring a sense of balance to our lives. We push ourselves to continuously do more, accomplish more, or be more yet we never take the time to occasionally pull the plug on our “work brains”  so we can recharge the batteries.

A mentor of mine used to say if you don’t stop occasionally to put gas in the car eventually you’ll run out of gas and you’ll be stranded.

10 Signs You Might Need To Stop And Put Gas In The Car:

  1. You’re family is crying when you come home from work … not when you leave for work.
  2. You would rather work late than go home to be with your partner, spouse, or kids.
  3. You’re family is going on vacation … without you!
  4. You wake up at 2:30 AM and decide you need to send an email to clarify some point you made to someone earlier in the day.
  5. You wake up at 2:30 AM and decide you need to send an email to ANY one for ANY reason.
  6. You have so much vacation time built up that you could literally take 3 months off and not skip a paycheck.
  7. You walk in the house one day after work and your spouse asks “Who Are You?” And then you realize your in the wrong house!
  8. You come back from a long business trip with a Teddy Bear for your little boy and you find him upstairs in the bathroom … shaving!
  9. You have this sudden desire to start typing “All work and no play makes Jack, Tony, Bob or any other name a dull boy (girl)!
  10. You come home from work one day and find that your family has moved out … when you track them down they tell you that they moved out … two weeks ago!

Okay so maybe you chuckled a bit and on a more serious note … you will be far more productive over the work year if you pause to fill up your tank and give the engine a rest. Besides their is no job, position, title, or amount of money, that can replace the your family especially your kids. Sad thing is some people never get this until they lose them (physically or emotionally).

Providing for your family is half of the equation … being with them to enjoy it is the other half of the equation … Stay Balanced!

Do You Remember Follow the …

… Leader?

Yes, it was a game many of us played when we were kids. The rules were simple, just do what the Leaders does. If you don’t do exactly as they do, you’re out of the game, the last person standing wins and they’re the new leader. Sounds simple, sounds like a fun game … when you’re a kid.!

Then you grew up, went to school, and probably stopped liking what your Leaders told you to do. You graduated, got a job, and eventually you moved into a Leadership position. Now you’re the Leader!

The only problem is that nobody wants to play your game. You might be telling you’re people what to do, but they simply don’t do it. Or they don’t do it exactly the way you want them to or exactly how you would do it.  They’re not playing nice.

Sure you can blame your people, You can make it their fault, you can say they’re poor performers, poor listeners, they don’t understand, or they SIMPLY DON”T GET YOU!

Maybe they don’t  … and maybe the real issue is that … you don’t get them!

Some Leaders believe that just because they have a Leadership title that people must do what they say. But wait a minute you shout “That’s right, those are the rules, YOU HAVE to play the game and I AM the Leader … I was the last person standing, I’ve been here the longest, I won!

Say it ain’t so Joe!

Okay, IT AIN’T SO!

People will follow you when it’s their choice, not because they are told to follow. You have to earn their respect and it doesn’t get handed to you when you get a promotion or a new title. If you’re people don’t follow you it’s quite possible that you’re not giving your folks a reason to follow you and here’s the tricky part … they want to follow you!

Most people want to know that their Leaders is looking out for them. They want to know that their Leader respects them, appreciates them, and see’s the value that they bring to the bigger purpose of the organization. That’s what Extraordinary Leaders do!

There is an old saying that says if you want something you must first be willing to give it away!

5 Things You Probably Want As A Leader And How To Get It:

  1. If you want people to listen to you … you first have to listen to them.
  2. If you want people to trust you … you first have to trust them.
  3. If you want your people to value you … you first have to value them.
  4. If you want your people to be honest with you … you first have to be honest with them.
  5. If you want your people to respect you … you first have to respect them.

So are you willing to give to others what you want for yourself?

If so, I guess you’re ready play Follow The Leader … otherwise, you might find yourself in a bad game of Hide and Seek!