I recently got a call from a friend who was charged with a misdemeanor traffic violation in Ohio. It was a big deal, because he drives a tractor-trailer for a living and needs his CDL. He was caught up in a sticky situation, and I was determined not to let his career go down the tubes over some stupid traffic ticket.
I set about finding a lawyer to handle his case, and I wasn’t looking forward to the task, to be totally honest with you. After years of working with colleagues who simply didn’t have it together, I expected to get poor customer service. Sadly, I was not surprised. My first call went directly to phone-tree hell. Like a fool, I remained on the line in the hopes that one of the options would take me directly to a live person. And by live person, I mean someone who speaks English and knows something about the type of cases that the lawyer handles.
After picking option #2 to indicate I was an attorney, I had some hope. If they were smart, I thought, they would quickly sort out the attorneys and answer our calls immediately in the hopes of getting some business (the exact reason I was calling). My spirits were lifted even higher when I selected the next option to speak directly with the lawyer’s assistant. That’s when it all turned from pudding to poop.
Once again, I was invited to leave a voicemail. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I personally cannot stand getting messages on my phone. Sometimes I listen to them (often long after they are left), but I never leave a voicemail with one important exception (discussed later). Perhaps I am unreasonable. If so, fine. I don’t care, and studies have proven without a doubt that most of you feel the same. People who are directed to voicemail rarely leave messages. If you hate getting the runaround as much as I do, you probably are sick and tired of the lousy customer service that has become acceptable to many business owners.
The next firm I called had a live answering “service.” My call was answered, but I was told the lawyer was out of the office. When invited to leave a voicemail, I politely declined and asked the attendant to take a message. Apparently, this was asking too much. She told me my only option was to leave a voice message, but she was wrong. I created my own option by hanging up and dialing the next number on the list. I can’t imagine how much time I saved by going to Plan B instead of hoping for a call back. The next firm I called had a receptionist who put me on hold—the old-fashioned silent hold that makes people wonder whether their call was dropped. Studies show that hold music—or any kind of recording at all—will keep people from hanging up for much longer. Then I got dumped to voicemail and hung up.
Nothing is more frustrating than pulling out your wallet only to find that nobody cares enough to show up at the cash register and take your money. Do lawyers still think that people will chase them around like they did when Matlock got started? No, the client of today doesn’t have time to waste sitting around waiting for service providers to get their act together. That’s why I run my practice in a way that is totally different from the pack of wannabes who still don’t get it.
My staff knows that they are expected to be helpful and competent, which starts with answering the phone. We know that our clients aren’t calling to chitchat; they have a serious problem and want a solution now—right now. My receptionist is more than just a glorified message-scribbler. She answers the phone, and depending on the client’s situation, transfers the call to a paralegal who can answer the client’s questions and educate them about the legal process, their defense options, and the costs they might face.
I understand that no system is perfect, so I check our team nearly every day by calling the office myself. I rarely get sent to voicemail, and when it happens I leave a message directing the staff to call me immediately to account for failing to pick up (my one exception to leaving voicemail). In most cases, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.
While I certainly can’t fix the world and all of the many problems that confront us, I do not have to tolerate mediocrity here in my own little corner of the universe. Give your clients the VIP treatment they deserve and don’t impose on them the frustration of dealing with an indifferent attorney. Over half of the lawyers I called were too lazy to answer their phones or even hire someone else to do it right. As George Ross (Trump’s righthand man) once told a failing contestant on The Apprentice: “If you can’t even be trusted to take money, how can you be trusted to do anything else?” You can always count on your CAMS Account Manager, Teresa Blakley, for outstanding customer service. Call her today at 844-BUY-CAMS.
Yes, it rained. We monitored the weather all week, and we knew it was coming. By early afternoon, the 68th annual Shad Planking was a sea of umbrellas. Despite the soggy weather, more than a thousand people came out to the Wakefield Sportsmen’s Club on April 22 for a day of music, speeches, wine and whiskey tastings—and roasted shad.
The Wakefield Ruritans lit the fire in the wee hours, butterflied the shad, and nailed them to planks. They placed the planks outward at first, letting the boards soak up the heat and smoke. In late morning, the planks were turned inward to let the shad finish roasting. Simmering nearby was a vat of sauce, a blend of “ketchup, kerosene, and napalm,” if you believed one fire-keeper. You didn’t need a dinner bell to let folks know the fish was ready; they began lining up well before it was served, and it went quickly.
This year the organizers made several changes to the event, the first of which was changing the day from Wednesday to Friday. (Ironically, Wednesday’s weather was Chamber of Commerce perfect.) In years past the event was held the same day as the General Assembly veto session, making it difficult for lawmakers to hightail it to Wakefield in time for the shad and speeches.
The second was adding grapes and grains, which brought in several wineries and distilleries, as well as people who enjoy those beverages. With the lousy weather, festivalgoers spent a lot of time at those tents, and sales were brisk. Taste-testers were asked to vote for their favorite wine at the event, and this year James River Winery claimed bragging rights. Their award was an actual shad plank, which we hear will take a place of honor in the JRW tasting room.
In addition to voting for the best wine at the festival, folks strolled through the CAMS booth and voted in the Presidential Straw Poll by dropping a raw peanut in their candidate’s basket (Wakefield is peanut country after all). Not surprisingly, Donald Trump won easily, with 82 votes, followed by Ted Cruz (40), and John Kasich (27). On the Dem side, Hillary and Bernie tied, with nine votes each.
Absent this year were the Confederate flaggers, who chose not to pay for a booth. The anticipated Sign Wars were reduced to a mere dust-up, with only a few planted at the entrance.
Serving shad is tradition, and it will continue, according to event organizers. Shad is bony and oily, and you either love it or hate it; there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Conservative blogger Gabby Hoffman, who made the trip from northern Virginia with her dad, liked it, but another festivalgoer described it this way: “Imagine smelling fish and then licking a plate of olive oil and salt. That’s what it tastes like.”
No doubt he headed for Little Piggy’s Wurst Nightmare. Their truck was set up near the stage, so you could stuff your face with their killer BBQ (sold out by the end of the day) while catching the line-up of speakers. The only problem was figuring out how to hold your umbrella and eat a messy sandwich at the same time. There were 17 speakers this year, including candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and the 4th District seat in Congress. A few other special guests, including Brian Moran (D), Secretary of Public Safety; Senator Ryan McDougle (R-4); former Governor Jim Gilmore; and former Lt. Governor John Hager, also spoke.
The underlying theme of the speeches was jobs, the economy, and the history and tradition of the Shad Planking. Everyone was just happy to be there. Gubernatorial candidate Rob Wittman (R) said the Shad Planking is a “great opportunity to come together and really talk about the future of our nation and the future of our Commonwealth.”
Delegate and businessman Glenn Davis (R- 84), candidate for Lt. Governor, said, “We want to bring back jobs. We need an entrepreneur to do it.” He had rolled in early, parking his new RV among the pines and setting up soft-pretzel service for the crowd. Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17), candidate for Lt. Governor, also manned a booth and spoke. Chesapeake City Councilwoman Dr. Ella Ward (D) had a booth and spoke about her candidacy for the 4th District seat in Congress.
During the program, Sen. Reeves, Delegate Nick Freitas (R- 30), and Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) surprised emcee Martha Boneta with a commendation recognizing her as a champion of property rights for all Virginians. “Free elections without property rights is nothing more than the ritualistic selection of who gets to take our stuff,” Freitas told the audience. “Property rights are essential to freedom.” When Martha’s property rights were challenged, “she went to Richmond. She made a difference, and she did it not just by being tenacious, but by being incredibly friendly in the process.”
Throughout the day, Martha didn’t seem to mind the rain or that fact that her shoes were soaked. Her passion and enthusiasm for Virginia, Virginia politics, and the Shad Planking dazzled through the drizzle, and she was just as happy and upbeat at the end of the day as she was early in the morning. When her duties were finished, she was eager to talk to the press about the tradition of the Shad Planking and why it’s important to keep it live and thriving.
“It was truly an exceptional day,” she told Black & Blonde Media of northern Virginia. “I am just so thrilled that we had such a successful occasion today. I look forward to next year. What a beautiful, joyful occasion that we all had.
However, one of our goals was to bring in a younger and more diverse audience. Our IT team developed a mobile- friendly website, shadplanking.com, with information for sponsors, vendors, and the general public. When someone filled out the contact form on the website, an Infusionsoft campaign was triggered, and the person received a series of emails with information about the event.
We uploaded pages of content about the history of the Shad Planking, the sponsors and vendors, and regular folks who attend and used that content to create advertising and posts for social media. The IT team carefully tracked hits and clicks, as well as resulting tickets sales. Our Facebook campaign placed ads in front of our target audiences, and it was hugely successful (as well as economical).
Marketing an event such as the Shad Planking requires three key elements: leadership, organization, and teamwork (and several whiteboards). Congratulations to Mari Hardenbergh for her dedication, perseverance, and commitment to excellence. She took on the challenge, put together an equally dedicated team, and trusted us to tackle our individual responsibilities. It is rewarding to know that our efforts to rebrand the event were successful and had a positive impact on the Wakefield community. And that’s really what it’s all about. Virginia’s elections will take center stage next year. See you then!