Before my folks got married their relationship hit a little bump in the road and, for a short while, my mom entertained another prospect. My Dad didn’t appreciate this other gentleman caller and eventually, neither did my mom. Max and Sharon patched things up and the rest is history.
During ‘The Dark Period’ however, my dad wrote a song to win my mother back, called ‘I Cried.’ That was 52 years ago and Don and I grew up hearing Max play it occasionally at home and, many times, he’d say “I’d like to hear someone record that sometime. I could hear that on the radio.”
He said it again recently and so I said “let’s do it.” We recorded the vocals at my place with Max singing lead and Sons of Maxwell singing background. Ross Billard did everything else at his studio in Halifax and, 52 years after writing the song, my dad finally got to record his first single, at the age of 73.
The icing on the cake is that, just this past weekend, Paul Kennedy at 105.9 Seaside-FM in Halifax did a live on-air phone interview with Max and debuted his breakout single while my parents enjoyed their first dance to “I Cried,” playing through their radio.
Download I Cried:
I’m a big fan of Country music and have been for a long time. My friend and co-producer Scott Ferguson and I were following some of the online criticism of the Bro Country genre one day when we joked about the fun we could have making a lighthearted offering of our own. The song was born the next day and this video was just too much fun to make.
Thanks to everyone who took part in creating “Froggy on Ya Baby.” It was a truly collaborative effort.
Bro-country: a sub-genre of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, hard rock and electronic music. Many “Bro Country” songs are about attractive young women, the consumption of alcohol, partying, and pickup trucks (via Wikipedia).
Bro Country artists often possess a certain one-dimensionality to their voices that some might refer to as “froggy.”
Download Froggy on Ya Baby:
She was a British war bride arriving with my dad and his sister at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1944 and raised 3 children, the youngest of whom died from tainted blood received in hospital in the 1980’s.
A very proud and humble woman, she lead a seemingly normal life surviving my grandfather and a second husband of over 25 years each, but as she was coming to the end of her battle with cancer I decided to attempt to summarize her 88 years in a four minute song. That’s an impossible task but I decided to try, and focused on the essence of the person she was at three stages of life: her beginning and childhood with her maiden name; as the wife of a soldier traveling alone to a new country as Doreen Carroll and finally near her end as woman with a third last name, Daley, with a life well-lived.
One thing I learned from her was how to be proud of who you are and where you come from without feeling ‘better’ than others. For my grandmother her family, God and The Queen were the three pillars she rested her story upon and so I had a most powerful experience sitting her down in my studio chair and playing this recording for her a few weeks before she died.
I’d never seen her cry until that day, and if I had to say there is one song I’m glad to have written, it is this one. It’s called ‘God Save Doreen.’
As a consumer advocate and professional speaker I listen to consumers from around the world share their unpleasant customer experiences and this is a great example of one that ends well, but one that the company should have solved much sooner. This highly respected brand was close to experiencing a social media crisis by doing everything possible to upset a valued customer.
In my opinion, I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world. I’m privileged to travel the world sharing my insights on the value of delivering outstanding customer service and why every business needs to become an effective storyteller.
This past week United Airlines has been in the news twice for customer service failures. In one case, a female passenger who is also a Muslim, was refused an unopened can of Diet Coke because of the potential threat it could pose in her hands. Meanwhile a non-Muslim passenger beside her was given an unopened can of beer. A bigger issue occurred though, when a nearby passenger made threatening comments to the Muslim woman that went unaddressed. http://dailym.ai/1ET2e4Q
In another case, a pregnant mom and her toddler son were removed from a United airplane before takeoff because the son had been crying and was deemed a safety threat to others, even after he’d fallen asleep. http://bit.ly/1HIKETa
But United is not alone… Last week Sunwing Vacations dropped the ball and left a paraplegic mother with a damaged wheelchair resulting in a less than stellar vacation experience. http://bit.ly/1MekMTr
All three of these examples have one thing in common. In each case, there were employees who could have made a decision to improve an experience for their customers but instead chose a path that affected not only the individuals in question, but their fellow passengers, which resulted in damage to the brand of their employer. These employees helped write powerful brand-detracting stories that are being shared by millions and the companies are largely to blame.
It seems clear that airlines have trained their employees to understand the technicalities of certain policies or empowered them to use their judgment to turn around a plane and remove crying children and their moms. It also seems apparent that there are those employees who deliver the bare minimum in their job description. But is the beef really with the employees? I believe something important is absent in their training and it goes beyond that.
The concept of caring first, or what I call ‘Compassionate Design’ seems to be missing as a foundation to delivering great customer service. If a company culture was founded upon the notion of encouraging and empowering employees to always seek ways to enhance an experience for customers by seeing themselves in the customer, imagine what a difference that would make for all of us:
A Muslim woman would have a can of soda opened in her presence; problem solved. A mother with a toddler would be allowed to calm her child and continue on with her fellow passengers. A woman with a wheelchair would be seen as unique, requiring extra care. All of these things would just happen.
Compassionate Design cannot simply be preached however. It must be displayed in the everyday actions of senior leaders, since caring cannot be reserved for the end user or customer alone.
Caring is free and it’s contagious and should be unleashed throughout an organization, so that employee’s first choice to a challenging situation is compassion. Employees learn to do this by experiencing it themselves from the company. Companies need to create an environment where compassionate responses are rewarded and recognized and then lead the charge where caring is central to every policy internally and externally.
There is no strategy more cost effective than adding caring to your business model and nothing that will increase sales and profit more effectively in the long haul than compassion by design.
Until compassionate design is ‘the new normal’ in customer experience, companies like United Airlines can expect isolated cases of poor judgment by it’s employees to detract from it’s Brand. No business can satisfy everyone all of the time, but the companies that create a culture of caring, can safely empower their employees to make better choices. Those companies will get it right more often and at that point the stories we tell will change for the better.
Want To ‘GO Viral?’ Don’t Put Your Count Before Your Content!
One night, shortly after midnight, I got a call from a man in Shanghai who struggled to explain to me through his thick accent, that he wanted to commission me for a viral video. When I asked him to explain the focus of his story, he said he was looking for a music video that would expose the affair his wife was having with a Vegas Restaurateur.
Maybe I’ve watched The Godfather too many times but upsetting anyone who lives within the city limits of Las Vegas makes me nervous. For the record, I respectfully declined to write the song about the alleged affair.
When you create content that explodes in popularity and becomes YouTube-viral, the viewing analysis behind what makes it a ‘hit’ can be distilled: There are others who don’t care ‘how’ it happened, they simply want to enjoy it. Then, there are those believe a viral video can be as easily created as ordering a hamburger at McDonalds. My friend from Shanghai had recently viewed United Breaks Guitars, and he wanted a burger.
While I don’t believe a viral video can ever be guaranteed, when creating successful social media material, content is still King. Worrying more about how many people will watch it before you focus on what they will experience is like putting the cart before the horse, or in this case, the count before the content.
Prior to releasing United Breaks Guitars, my social media strategy relied upon three things that defined what a successful video looked like to me. A video would need to:
1. Look Good
2. Sound Good
3. Make People want to tell their friends about it
That was it. I could focus on the content quality to ensure I met those three goals. Before anyone else could like it, I had to like it first myself. It had to look good and sound good to me, to be share worthy by my standards.
It’s no coincidence that the most successful commercial and artistic thing I’ve done to date came on a project I cared little about. Yes, I took great care in the craftsmanship, but cared little about what others outside the project might think during the creative stage.
I recall it being fun and refreshing to write and create UBG. There were no expectations or demands, except my own. And without rules, I allowed myself to think freely and outside the box.
This is why the video succeeded. While anyone can capture content that goes viral by having a camera at the right time and right place, there’s nothing like the experience of watching something you create explode on social media.
One of my key take-aways from this experience has been the reminder that putting the cares of other people ahead of your own stifles creativity. Create first for yourself, and never put your YouTube count before the content.
Musician behind United Breaks Guitars,
Singer-Songwriter, Speaker, Author, Social Media Innovator
Air Canada Dropping the Ball (and our luggage)
Last week Air Canada was thrown into crisis mode when a passenger caught AC baggage handlers on video dropping luggage from the top of an outdoor staircase to a luggage trailer 20 feet below.
Rather than walking the bags down the stairs, as one would hope, the team felt that recreating Galileo’s gravity experiment in Pisa a more fitting plan. What’s worse, these were carry-on bags; the ones people pack with their most fragile and important travel items.
The incident after only 3 days has been viewed over 750,000 times. Air Canada has since apologized and may very well fire the workers. Although I truly believe that saying “I’m sorry” is sometimes the least expensive option in a PR crisis, AC will have to do more to make this go away.
Firing the workers is a strong move in the short run. It serves as a warning to other employees that this behavior won’t be tolerated, and it distances the company from what they will say is an isolated case. The fact is that consumers believe this video captures more of a norm than an exception and I’m left with questions that only management can answer.
When Air Canada joined many other carriers in charging passengers extra for checking a suitcase, it caused passengers to pack as much as possible into their carry-on bags, which fly for free if you put them in the overhead bin inside the cabin yourself. As a result the boarding process has become a race for overhead bin space and, when those are full, many bags are forced to be removed from the cabin, left at the gate and hand delivered down below. It doesn’t cost the passenger any more but those bags were never meant to be handled, not to mention mishandled.
This process of transferring the carry-on luggage below takes time and, in the airline business, time is money. Why then, with all this extra revenue does AC not pay for a solution to a problem it created? Yes you can fire these employees but the problem won’t go away. Why doesn’t Air Canada concede that the solution lies in a faster, safer and more efficient system of getting bags that won’t fit inside the cabin down to baggage handlers below.
I’ve seen luggage slides that are attached to these outdoor staircases at other airports. I’ve often seen elevators near the aircraft that lift these extra bags to the gangway for disembarking passengers. To be safe, a worker should carrying only one bag at a time down a staircase while holding the handrail to the bottom. At best they can carry two but that’s a waste of time and it puts the worker at risk of tripping.
I’d like to think that all baggage handlers care about the belongings in their care but the truth is some simply do not. In my opinion however management is more responsible in this case. The employer needs to give employees the tools to do their job effectively and efficiently. Maybe these specific baggage handlers should be terminated but until management addresses the bigger issue, we can only hope the camera’s keep rolling and Air Canada is held accountable as a company.
Musician behind United Breaks Guitars,
Singer-Songwriter, Speaker, Author, Social Media Innovator
My John Of God Experience By Dave Carroll
A couple of months ago I met a friend at O’Hare Airport and the conversation turned to a mention of an internationally known healer from Brazil named John of God. I had heard of him initially through a personal healing experience author Wayne Dyer shared at a Hay House Publishing event in San Jose the year before. I had also heard that Oprah had visited John of God as well, although I’m not clear if she is impressed or not. My friend also mentioned she, herself, had had a great experience visiting John of God and added that the healer was coming for a rare visit to Toronto.
Because my mother suffers from constant pain and because I believe there are people in the world with a healing gift I decided to keep an open mind and experience this first hand and escorted my mother for a day at the John of God event last weekend. There was supposed to be a third person coming with us and when they couldn’t make it I decided to offer the ticket on Facebook to anyone who couldn’t otherwise afford it. That offer turned into a spirited debate on my Facebook page and surprised me how polarizing a figure John of God may be. I was arguing for the benefit of open mindedness and experiencing things first hand before judging. There were those who were firmly behind John of God and some were adamant that he is a fraudster and hustler with no healing ability whatsoever.
I’ve decided to share my experience in this blog and approach it from two sides: (1) from the perspective of hope that many people seemed to share there that day and (2) The impressions that both my mother and I left with following our visit. The two perspectives are different and deserve a fair mention.
A collection of Hopeful People.
In a nutshell, going to John of God is all about spending some time in the presence of a man who apparently channels the healing energies of specific spirits. He can lay hands on you or you can simply be in his presence to benefit from the energy that the entities he channels, and the positive energy the audience brings together into one place. The organizers of the event ask attendees to dress in all white, saying that it improves the experience and is perhaps a more welcoming atmosphere for the energy (or “Entities”). I wasn’t completely comfortable wearing this uniform of sorts, being a little skeptical, but I did like everyone did. I wore all white and the Toronto convention floor looked like a snowy prairie landscape with what looked to be maybe 3000 or more ground hogs popping up their heads to check the weather.
Most of the people working the event seemed to be volunteers who had their own positive past John of God experiences and everyone I met was friendly and helpful. As for the participants there were some people, like my mother, in wheelchairs. Some people looked as though they were going through cancer treatments. I saw a few mothers with children that might have been sick. We met a woman with MS who explained she had found a very effective medication from Mexico to deal with her illness that Health Canada had banned and eventually so did Mexico for its harmful effects on the liver etc.. She was hoping for something to take the medication’s place at John of God. There were plenty of healthy looking people too and the vibe from the audience was positive and friendly with lots of smiles from strangers.
I was encouraged to meet a medical doctor from New Jersey who had been in a accident 15 years ago an been through every type of treatment and therapy imaginable and at 52, she was walking without a walker with mobility in her body she hadn’t experienced in over a decade following a visit with John of God. Believers like her seemed to be everywhere.
So, my comments that follow are in no way meant to dismiss the claims of anyone or to diminish the faith in what John of God may be able to do for others. If anyone feels they were legitimately healed by him, or believe he has that ability, who am I to argue with that but unfortunately I have to say that my mother and I left the event completely unmoved by what we saw or felt. More than that, I left troubled about what seemed to me to be a money-making operation for the John of God team. If they had offered a 100% satisfaction money back guarantee, I think I’d be looking for a full refund.
From Where We Were Sitting
What first appealed to me about the event is that I was under the impression that John of God wasn’t about selling consumables that keep you coming back for more. If you visit him in Brazil I was told it’s free so although the tickets in Toronto were pricey (at $180 each for one day, and more for the three day pass) renting the Toronto Convention Center is expensive too I’d bet. As a musician I looked into renting Massey Hall for one show recently and the price: around $55,000 to start, so the entire Convention center would have to cost a pile to rent for three days.
Despite that, it seems to me though that John of God is very much about money and about influencing people to buy consumables and here’s why. There’s a merchandise table at the back of the room with books, dvds, jewelry, CD’s, wooden “prayer triangles” (apparently energized replicas of the two larger triangles that people were lining up to pray to all day) and bottled water branded with John of God’s face on it. A merchandise table is not uncommon at any event but they were certainly doing a brisk business there.
They were also offering 20-minute slots on one of 25 crystal beds for $30/session. These relaxation beds, which incorporate the placement of crystals over the 7 Chakras, were supplied by local private bed owners who agreed to share in the revenue. I think the beds were mostly full between 8-5 pm. My mother and I took a session each and actually found that to be the best part of the day. It was very relaxing and I felt great when it was done. Still, if each bed is earning $90/hr and they run at capacity, for only 6 hours a day, that’s over $13,000 a day in potential revenue or $40,000 for the weekend.
So, if you’re charging $180 for admission to be seen, and you have a merchandise table, if you’re selling drinks and you’re renting time on relaxation beds you are very much running a business. That means you have customers and if you have customers you owe them a great customer service whether it’s spiritually related or not. Lets look at the value for the money then on the experience alone.
Everyone there was attending to see John of God but your total exposure to John of God on any one day was limited to a 5 minute appearance by him on the main stage in both the morning and afternoon. That was so he could address the people. People were there though to pass in front of him for a healing. If you chose to line up to pass by him in the morning though, in a designated separate room, you were told to immediately go home for the remainder of the day to rest (whether you felt the need to or not). When you lined up for this viewing and were ushered into this room to see him, you would be in that room for maybe 30 seconds and in front of him for maybe only 5 seconds (literally 5 seconds). John of God doesn’t speak English so aside from a few sentences translated from the main stage, before he took his seat in the next room to receive passers by, that was all the communication he offers. The longest amount of time you can expect to lay eyes on John of God in one day at an event such as this is for 10 minutes and 30 seconds spread over 8 hours, of which only 5 seconds are devoted to you. If you are selling a full day event or full three day events, and the main attraction lasts just over ten minutes the event needs to be augmented with something meaningful to fill the rest of the time. This was an event, not a trip to the emergency room and a three hour lunch break seemed excessive.
We arrived at 8 am. The event started at 9 and was scheduled until 5 pm. Very little was going on in the large convention hall for most of the day though. There was some soft singing for a short while (from a talented Brazilian singer with beautiful voice) and some general instructions from the stage but for the most part, most of the hours spent there were spent sitting in a massive room with thousands of others waiting for something to happen. We were asked to meditate on our intentions and many people were doing that. Again, if they are running a business then that makes me a customer and there were several hours that could have been filled with something more than personal quiet time to enhance the experience of the people keeping you in business.
Of course the theory is that while you are quietly contemplating, the Entities are not only working with you and for you all of that day, but before you even get there, and they will visit you after you leave. More on that in a second.
My spidey senses lit up a few times that day regarding profiteering. The first had to do with the water. If you go and see John of God at his Casa in Brazil and you receive an intervention (that’s when you invite the Entities to perform a spiritual healing on you through John of God) you are given herbs that are supposedly energized to match your vibrational need and you are to take them following the intervention for I think 40 days.
Health Canada did not allow them to import these specific herbs for the Toronto audience so we were told that the work-around to that was that John of God and the Entities would energize bottled water that would replace the herbs and act as “the medicine” anyone receiving an intervention would need. If you had a single intervention last weekend you would require twelve, one litre bottles of this water and would need to take 2 ounces three times daily for 40 days. This was not a suggestion but a requirement. You could buy the water at the back of the room for $36 for 12 bottles and once you wrote your name, your birthday, and the word “surgery” on the package, it would be energized supernaturally by the entities and become “your medicine”. We were cautioned not to share this water with anyone because, like medicine, it could hurt someone who was not meant to take it! If you had a second intervention for weekend pass holders you would need a second case of water. One $36 case per intervention!
They mentioned many times over the PA, as we sat there in wait, that the most rewarding experience anyone could have would be an intervention. Simple blessings were great but an intervention was where the real work is done. I was told that not everyone gets invited for an intervention though so you can imagine my surprise when John of God came up on stage in the morning and declared that anyone wanting an intervention was welcome. Apparently the energy in the room was so plentiful he was able to make that offer. I took note that not just some people but every person would then be needing a $36 case of water when they left and wondered, who would settle for a blessing when you could get the intervention we were told repeatedly was the greatest gift you could give yourself? Lots of people lined up but I chose to wait until the afternoon since all of these people in line would be going home for the day immediately afterward and I wanted the whole day experience. We’d wait until the afternoon intervention.
While one of the attendees told me the water was shipped from Brazil it says clearly on the bottle that it was sourced and bottled in Ontario, has a Canadian flag on it and a Culligan logo. The label also had John of God’s face on it as well as his own logo so it seems that they had wisely bought the water wholesale, close to Toronto. While it might have been nice to see John of God bless the water we were told that he had blessed these large pallets of water before anyone had arrived on Thursday so simply buying it to stay hydrated during the conference was beneficial.
Just before lunch we were told by a staff member that the morning intervention call was the only call for interventions that day and that we had missed my mom’s opportunity to experience the intervention. The gentleman had checked with the conference organizer though and came back to tell me that the good news was that “you don’t need an intervention because if you did the Entities would have made sure you were in that line”! I told him politely that the reason we weren’t in that line had more to do with miscommunication than divine intervention but didn’t argue. My mother and I actually started laughing at that point.
Another major red flag came in the afternoon when again, while we sat waiting for John of God to take the stage one of his team leaders took the stage to say “John of God wants me to make you aware that there are healing crystals at the back of the room. You may have seen people carrying little blue bags around? Well, the bags contain these crystals that are personally energized by John of God for you. You don’t need them, but people who have bought them say they are very powerful and helpful in their life. They are not to be shared or even shown to anyone else because of the energy they hold for you alone. If you want them please go to the back and pay for them. We’ll give you a receipt and when you pass before John of God show your receipt and he will pass you the bag of crystals and energize them for you. They cost ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS”! My mother and I looked at each other in disbelief. How many people bought this small bag of crystals? Maybe 100? Maybe 500? Or maybe more?
Shortly after, John of God arrived, and he called for the afternoon line up and, once again, anyone who wanted a healing was welcome (more $36 water anyone?). I pushed my mom’s wheelchair past him, and she and I shared 5 seconds in front of John of God, but not before seeing an elderly couple in front of us collect their little blue bag of crystals. We were then moved to a third partitioned room where we sat through a guided meditation for 5 minutes, told that we had just had our intervention and to go for debriefing in a 4th area. We were given a handout that that walked us through the rules of post intervention healing:
• You must go home to sleep or pretend to sleep for 24 hours unless you are traveling, in which case the Entities will protect you until you can get home to sleep.
• No heavy lifting of any kind for 7 days, except when you carry your water that you MUST get on your way out of the building…again the Entities have made allowances for that.
• No sexual activity of any kind for 40 days.
• No spicy foods for a week or was it 40 days (can’t remember…they lost me at the sex part)
• and no fertilized eggs (eggs with embryo’s)…. I could handle that one.
Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed and have to say that not only did I not feel the love from the stage, or in his presence, I felt a little played! The vibe from other attendees was amazing. There was love in the room for sure but in my opinion, and mine only, it wasn’t coming from John of God. We left right away. We bought two bottles of water because the hotels charge $7 for the same amount, but that was all we bought and returned to the Royal York for dinner.
That was my experience. Other people there may have had a completely different take on the day but I can’t say for sure. While my faith in alternative medicines and healing is as strong as ever I didn’t get anything close to what I was hoping to experience from the John of God show. For that reason I can’t recommend him to anyone. I didn’t experience anything energy-related or healing-related and from a customer service perspective, or value-for the buck, I was completely disappointed.
That being said I respect the opinion of anyone else who feels differently or who may have had a completely different take. Advocates for John of God will say that my mother and I lacked faith and that our experience was directly proportional to that lack. I call that a convenient excuse and will leave it at that. In the meantime I will continue to embrace new modalities for wellness and to reserve judgment on things until I can experience them myself. I am grateful that I went and, if nothing else, my mom and I enjoyed a terrific Teppanyaki dinner at that Royal York which I highly recommend.