Beyond Customer Service

Perhaps my greatest benefit to you: extraordinary (and authentic) accessibility

Mr. Miyagi

I’m old enough to be your father, so I can attest that one of the worst things to happen in my lifetime is experiencing how the transformation to an all-digital online world has destroyed customer service, personal accountability, and people being there and caring for each other. It’s like our digital world of anonymity removes the responsibility of treating each other like actual people. And unfortunately, it seems the more everyone sees this as the norm, the more accepted this becomes. We have created tools that in theory make it easier to communicate, yet these same tools have created a massive disconnect.

It seems like the attitude now is, “Leave your message and someone MIGHT get back to you. Or not.”

I cannot count the number of times I have felt unable to get help in a timely manner when I was in a time of need because businesses and organizations were stonewalling with voicemail, email, contact forms, and other forms of digital barriers and bureaucracy. Just think of how many companies don’t even give us a phone number or even an email address anymore when we need to reach out for customer service or support. Nothing can be resolved quickly anymore; the standard now is the generic “contact form” with dropdown menus, then wait a long time – sometimes days – for someone to maybe respond. Or, as is too often the case, to not respond.

Good luck getting someone on the phone who actually cares, will listen to you, and will actually help you. “Your call is important to us. Press 1 to go to hell; press 2 to be disconnected . . . “

This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of how I roll.

I care

When you team up with me, you team up with an actual person who cares A LOT. You are not dealing with a corporation, and you are not dealing with a bureaucracy.

You're dealing directly with me.

I HATE bureaucracies; this is one of the reasons I did not last long working for organizations throughout my life, and it is one of the reasons why I have been doing my own thing for almost 20 years now.

The one company where it worked well for all involved was the Princeton Review. I was there for 10 years because they recognized early that the best way to “manage me” was to step aside and just let me do my thing and I would make students happy which in turn was good for the organization. 

The "a-ha moment" of recognizing my unique value proposition

For years, I didn’t even recognize that one of my best benefits for my students is my accessibility and commitment to responding and following through very quickly to student questions and needs outside of tutoring sessions. I never thought twice about it, I just thought of it as me being me.

Over the years, I have had many students tell me they had never worked with a tutor as accessible as me and I took some pride in hearing that. It is always my hope that the student and I get more out of our time together than just the transaction of services for payment.

nice cards from students

nice cards from students over the years

The older I get, the more I understand how valuable – and how increasingly rare – this quality of accessibility is. While I was recently being treated like garbage by the agency through which I was trying to get health insurance – an experience that took weeks to navigate, multiple phone calls, explaining again and again why I was calling, and horrendous customer service that left me vacillating between Hulking out and folding up into a fetal position with tears in my eyes because of how difficult it was to do something that just should not have been as difficult as they made it – I thought about how I would NEVER treat any of my students like this.

And that’s when it dawned on me that the way I give my all to my students and sincerely put them first is my unique value proposition.

I never thought of actually talking about this on my website, but now that I’m in the world of online marketing and trying to make it clear why a student would be making a wise decision in choosing me over other tutoring options, I recognize this quality sets me apart and makes sense to promote.

A businessperson might classify it as “extreme customer focus”, but that sounds more like some type of company mandated policy or slogan. I look at how I conduct business as me just being me, which means giving my all for the benefit of my students and believing that part of what I’m trying to do in life is more than just exchanging services for payment.

My hyperfocus on student needs is not what I would call a "business policy"; it's really just my innate behavior.

It's who I am.

What does this mean for you?

Once you demonstrate to me that you are for real and you are going to be working with me ongoingly, you will experience the benefits I am talking about. In addition to us doing our work together during sessions, I’ll be available between sessions to answer quick questions and I will look over work you ask me to look over (stuff like homework, practice problems, and other problems you are working on) and follow it up with written feedback for you.

When you’re prepping for an exam and there’s last-minute questions coming up, I’ll be there to answer them if I'm available at the time.

This is stuff I do for you on my own time (meaning, "off the clock"). You will find I'm very generous with my time in regards to doing stuff for you beyond our actual tutoring sessions. That being said, there is an expectation that students don't abuse the goodwill and leave me feeling like I'm being used and abused. I shouldn't be feeling like I'm doing more work off the clock than what we do together in sessions.

I don’t want students to feel like the only time we can interact with each other is during the scheduled sessions, that the only time I exist in their lives is when we’re face-to-face on Zoom. I'm not an app; I'm a human being who cares, and I derive a lot of my purpose in life from working with students and helping them accomplish something important. I like it when it feels like we’re connected on an organic chemistry journey together and that I am readily available to help.

Hi Eddie,

I hope you are well! It's been along time from ochem, to medschool applications and now I am set to graduate [from Georgetown University School of Medicine] in May!

I wanted to share with you that I matched into one of my top choices St. Joseph's Seton Hall in New Jersey and will begin my training as an orthopedic surgeon!

Thank you so so much for your part in this very happy moment for me.

Thinking of you,

Nancy M.

Nancy M.

Harvard University Summer Student from 2009, writing to me in March 2016

Life is about giving

Let me tell you something . . . as you get older, you develop a stronger understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and what you strive to accomplish before you face the final curtain. Being over 50 now, and – as Joni Mitchell sang – having looked at life from both sides now, I want part of my legacy to be that not only did I give everything I could, I gave more than I had to.

Ron Curry

There was a time in my life when I was heavily involved in ballroom dancing, and there was a dance coach I will never forget. His name was Ron Curry, and he was the most generous dance coach I ever trained with. His love and expertise of dancing was obvious, but even more impactful to me was how he treated me and how I saw him treat all his students.

It was obvious that he loved helping people with dancing. He lived for it. It wasn't just a business to him.

In 1998, I was at a dance competition in Troy, New York and my partner (shoutout to you, M.M.) and I were in the practice room warming up together for our upcoming heats. Things were tense, and we were arguing about a dance figure. Suddenly, I heard a voice from behind me saying, “That’s not how you do a heel turn.”

It was Ron. It was as if he magically materialized like an apparition in the doorway. He was one of the judges at the competition, but he was on break and he had come into the room where we were practicing. When he caught us squabbling, he came over, diffused the situation, and started giving us advice and coaching to help save our foxtrot.

Ron was always like that. He always gave of himself. I never felt like he was in it just for the money, that I could not dare ask him a question about dancing if we weren’t in the studio “on the clock”. I felt he was a guy who was doing what he loved and was living the dream of getting paid to do the thing he loved.

And that made a big difference in how I learned. In fact, it motivated me to want to learn even more. Ron's love of teaching and authentic desire to help me improve made me feel more comfortable with (and accepting of) my dancing shortcomings, and that it was okay to be the student who was not yet the master. His passionate investment into me improving my dance skills made me want to get better not only for myself and my dance partner, but also for him. It was like I wanted to further express my thanks and gratitude to him by having him see with his eyes (and, because it was ballroom dancing, have him feel with his body) the improvements I was making as a result of his guidance. 

Instead of being afraid to see him (as I often was with most of my dance coaches), I couldn’t wait to see him. I loved the lessons with Ron. He never made me feel like he was watching the clock, or that I was an annoyance that he couldn't wait to be done with me for the day. In fact, it almost seemed like he felt bad when the lesson was over and we couldn't do more.

Thank you Ron, I will never forget you.

Ron’s example made a strong impact on me because I recognized I was very much like him. And now that I’m the coach, I strive to be like Ron. I don’t give my all because I feel I “have to” . . . I do it because I want to. And I believe this is one of my best qualities as a tutor and coach.

I’m not expecting you to love organic chemistry the way I loved ballroom dancing (although I’ve had students fall in love with organic chemistry unexpectedly, then go on to become teaching assistants and tutors), but I am hoping I can be a positive part of your experience getting through it. At the very least, you will come away for our time together recognizing that I was really there for you.