July 30, 2007

Can Closing Credit Cards Really Hurt Your Credit?

In the Supernova Coaching July Newsletter, we talked about how closing your credit cards can actually hurt you. Well, that definitely got some dialogue going behind the scenes. Many of you wanted to know more about how this works. Well, here is a primer on how credit scores are calculated. So, can closing your cards hurt you? We'll let you be the final judge.

Your credit score is made up of five different categories: Payment history, Amounts Owed, Length of Credit History, New Credit and Types of Credit Used. read more digg story

July 26, 2007

Credit & Investment Tips with Kim Halverson

I am so excited to launch our first ever podcast!! Woo-hoo! This is going to be a regular feature that my company is calling Supernova Coaching Radio. I get to serenade you all on a regular basis, and hopefully you won't find my Midwestern twang too annoying. :)

We told you we'd be interviewing money and finance experts this month, so starting us off is Kim Halverson. She works closely with her sister in real estate and has created a new group called InvestHer to help women understand more about investing opportunities and credit issues. She joins me to discuss tips and tricks on credit scores and real estate investment.

We hope you enjoy the podcast and keep checking back for new shows in the future. Oh, and let us know what you think.

July 25, 2007

Thank You: A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

I talked at length about this in my "Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies" series. However, no one knows charm better than my pal, Shelly Marie, the Modern Day Southern Belle™.

She does a nice little piece on the power of thank-you notes in her blog. And she even mentions my airport experience in her write-up. So here's to adopting a little more Southern charm into our hectic lifestyles with a simple thank-you.

July 24, 2007

When Was the Last Time You Pulled Your Credit Report

Credit reports are often top-of-mind when you are in the midst of buying a car, purchasing a home, getting a loan or any other similar life changing opportunity. But how about when there's nothing major going on in your life. It's important to keep tabs on your credit reports to catch any errors (and believe me, you'll find errors) that exist in the reports. Many people don't realize that they are entitled to a FREE (that's right, I said free) credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. You are also entitled to a free credit report each time you are denied credit, insurance or employment.

Some people are aware of these facts, but don't know where to go to find the "free credit report." It's really amazing how sneaky the three credit reporting agencies are at hiding this stuff. Instead, they want you to sign up for their credit monitoring products, so they can get some money off of you. So here are the links to the "free" credit reports to which you have a right. After all, knowledge is power.

Your free annual credit report from all three bureaus can be found here.

If you have been denied credit for any reason, you can find your free credit reports at each of the three bureaus' web sites. Below are links to these specific free credit reports:

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Conclusion)

Okay. I finally have on the right attitude, so now it's time to head to the customer service counter. In my head I'm going through "the script" that Hajii gave me. With all the overbooking issues, United Airlines' customer service counter had its hands full. The line was so long it spilled into the main terminal throughfare, but that's beside the point.

I had been placed on an alarmingly long waiting list, and luckily, the gate for the first available flight was strategically located next to the customer counter. So even though I had positioned myself in the customer service queue, I could keep tabs on my status on the waiting list. Either way I was settling in for possible hiberation. After 45 minutes, I had made it to the front of the line. I was the next person up when I heard my name sound over the loud speakers. Could this be possible? Could I have made it on the very next flight?

I run over to the gate counter and tell them that my name has been called. Upon confirming my identity, they tell me to run to the plane as the door is about to close. The agent hurriedly unlocks the door and runs with me to the plane. As quickly as I make it onto the plane, I just as quickly get kicked off. It turns out that the last passenger tally forgot to count a man in the lavatory. In other words, the plane was full. Unbelievable! I trudge over to the customer service line to find that have another 45 minute wait ahead me. However, I know I will prevail...it's just a matter of time.
Tension is high, attitudes are poor and there's screaming and yelling going on at the customer service counter. By the time I make it to the front of the line, I can tell the agents are at their wits end. While it may seem like the odds are against me, I feel confident that I will get results. Now would be a good time to share why I feel so confident. It has to do with the script and the strategy for getting amazing results at the customer service counter.
POWER LESSON #4: While it may be easy to believe that Customer Service people have absolutely no desire to help you, keep in mind that they are bombarded day in and day out with angry, frustrated people that practically enjoy unleashing large torrents of pain on them. Imagine if you had to do this job. Kindness is so rare for them that when it happens they almost have no idea to how to react. They also work ten times harder to meet your needs.
Okay, so I finally arrive at the customer service counter and begin spewing the script that I've been rehearsing. Study the following phrases and commit them to memory. They will serve you well. Start by describing your situation as calmly as possible. Then you will follow-up with the following phrases. Substitute your own circumstances for the words in parentheses.
"It's unfortunate that your company made the mistake that caused me [to miss my flight.] I am a loyal [American Airlines] customer, but could not [get a ticket from them] and thought I would give your company a try. Unfortunately, this has been a horrible experience for me. What are you going to do to convince me that I should [fly your airline] again?"
Then you follow-up with the following lines:
"Look, I know that you've personally done nothing wrong. You are just the messenger. And if I seem frustrated, it is not with you, it is with your company. However, I hope you understand how upset I am about this situation, so please help rectify this for your company."
The agent was dumbfounded. I kept reassuring him that I knew he was not at fault, but that he would also do the right thing. Within minutes I was booked on the next available flight out. During that same timeframe I witnessed the complete opposite approach at the next counter. Screeching, swearing, crying. It was sad, because they were headed to a wedding, but their approach didn't exactly motivate. As you might have suspected, they didn't make it to the wedding.
I thanked the customer service agent profusely for his efforts, and advised him that I would be writing a thank you letter to the company telling them how he had rectified the situation. The smile on his face was priceless.
As I stood in line to board the plane, I could see numerous fellow waitlisters sitting in agony hoping for their name to be called. If only they knew the formula--a "travel agent," a healthy dose of confidence, a positive attitude and a sympathetic understanding of a customer service rep's plight--they might be boarding the plane, too. And now you know, so that next time you meet the "friendly skies," you may do so with power and success.
Did you miss the previous chapters? Read them now. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

July 22, 2007

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Part 3)

Okay, so it was time to calm down. I'd been dealing with airport hell for over an hour when I decided to call my pal, Hajii Otto. After all, he is known as America's #1 Chill-Out Guru, so if anyone could help me de-stress, it would be him. For almost 30 minutes I vented in Hajii's ear telling him my sad tale of woes while he was working his magic and helping me decompress. That's when he shared that he'd been in this situation tons of times before (Hajii has traveled the world more times than anyone I know), and he had some tips for me.

Then he laid the following bomb on me, "First you need to get out of victim mentality." I was thinking, "huh?" He gave me a second to process the idea before following it up with "You have the power to change this, you know. Remember that the airline is at fault for making you lose your flight, so take charge!" Of course, this last statement did give me pause. I had to admit that for a short span of time I had been thinking and acting very "un-divalike." So, it was time to put the power and success diva into action. This leads me to the next lesson.

POWER LESSON #2: Never assume that the first scenario that an airline (or any vendor for that matter) gives you is the very best they can do.

Then, Hajii shared with me a few more tips, including a little script that is bound to get anyone results at the customer service counter--my next stop. But first, I needed to put on the right attitude.
POWER LESSON #3: As the old adage goes, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." In other words, although we may feel completely angry and frustrated on the inside, we need to keep in mind that acting like it will get you few results. The key is to state the facts with authority all while remaining as kind and calm as possible. Hajii likes to call it a "bitch with charm," but he can get away with saying that because he's from the South. I prefer to call it "attitude with ettiquette."
Next up...the Customer Service counter. Go to Part 4. Check out Part 1 or Part 2 in case you missed them.

July 21, 2007

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Part 2)

I finally get to the correct electronic kiosk, and put in all of my pertinent information. That's when I get the news that, "Your bag cannot be checked in at this time." WHAT???!!! So I ask a completely disinterested counter attendent what this message means. This attendant advises me that it's too late, and that I've missed my flight.

I'm completely bewildered at this point. I tell the unsympathetic attendant that this cannot be possible, because I checked in at home hours and hours before the flight. All I needed to do was turn in this one piece of luggage. He reiterates that it is too late to turn in baggage. "The cut-off time for baggage is 45 minutes before the flight. It is now 30 minutes before the flight," and with that he unceremoniously walks away.

So, I turn in vain to yet another check-in agent, and tell her my same sob story. She tries in vain to get me on the flight, but has no authority to override "the system." Then, she looks at her watch and realizes it is time for her break, so she gets the attention of two very serious looking women that have more "flash" on their badges. They turn out to be check-in managers. These managers are stoic as I share the confusion about the lines and the error made on the part of the airline. Halfway through my story one of the women just walks away. (This must be a part of their training to help psychologically torment customers.)

Now, I'm upset and my stomach tied in knots. "I have an important engagement that I cannot miss," I tell the agent. I imagine she must hear this at least 100 times a day, because she almost loses her stone cold face to a slight rolling of the eyes. At this point, I decide to call my travel agent, who tries to provide me with a glimmer of hope and alternate flight options. No can do. She tells me that United has oversold almost all of their flights for this particular day.

POWER LESSON #1: If you ever run into problems with check-in or gate agents, call your travel agent (even if the person you are really calling is your dog). Agents will treat you better knowing that their conduct can impact the opinion of a travel agent.
So with my travel agent on the phone I say to the agent, "My travel agent wants to know if the following flights have long standby lists?" I give her the long list of flights as her fingernails go click, click, click on the keyboard. It turns out that there are over 40 people on the waiting list.

After several minutes (that seem to last hours), the attendant hands me a boarding ticket with handwritten instructions. She tells me that I am on standby for the next three flights. However, if I cannot get on any of those flights then I will definitely be able to fly out the following morning. Fly out the next day??!! I am completely perplexed. How is this acceptable. My blood pressure is skyrocketing, and it takes everything in my power to NOT reach over the counter and strangle her.

Go to Part 3 of the story. Missed Part 1? Catch it here.

July 20, 2007

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Part 1)

Ah, the joys of summer travel: warm, sandy beaches; thick lush forests; beautfiful rock formations; crabby, unbearable air travel. As a part of my job, I have the "privilege" of frequenting the friendly skies. Every travel experience is such an adventure, so today I thought I would discuss some power and success strategies for managing air travel.

On a recent trip I had airline tickets with United Airlines. The day before my travel date, they sent me a lovely e-mail informing me that I could use their electronic early check-in system to avoid hassles at the terminal. I thought that this was such a great idea, because they were trying to save time and stress for customer. In fact, I began to wonder why other carriers weren't doing the same thing. This is before I remembered that everything sounds great in theory.

I followed the instructions in the e-mail and checked in from the comforts of my home. I felt at ease and confident as I drove to the airport knowing that all I had to do upon arrival was turn in my one piece of check-in luggage. As I enter the airport, I see numerous lines, so I ask a United attendant where I needed to go to drop-off my luggage. The gentleman points me to a nearby line, and I settle peacefully into the queue.

After 20 minutes I arrive at one of the many electronic kiosks only to discover that this machine is not for submitting luggage; it is for checking-in and getting a boarding pass. I ask a counter agent if I can turn-in my luggage at this location anyways, but get directed to another line--the line I should have gone to in the first place. I stand in this new line for an additional 5-7 minutes before reaching the front of the queue. I'm still not worried, because I know they expect me on the plane.

After all, I did check in from home...Go to Part 2 of the story.

July 19, 2007

Is It Time for a Raise?

In the spirit of money and finance month, we're throwing out the question of salary. Maybe it's time to start negotiating a pay increase with your current employer. Here's why. Nearly nine out of 10 employers reported that they're seeing more competition for new college graduates than in past years, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). And with the increased competition, comes an increase in starting salaries for new hires. read more

So how are you faring versus your peers? You can also find more salary statistics at the Salary.com website.

Isn't time you started getting paid what your worth? If you're interested in learning how to effectively negotiate pay increases, sign-up for a free coaching session to get started!

July 12, 2007

Americans: All Work & No Play?

It's the middle of summer and many of us have vacations on the brain. But as Americans are we getting short-changed when it comes to our downtime? Shorter vacations, longer work weeks and skimpy sick leave for Americans add up -- not to greater upward mobility, but to a burned-out workforce earning less than preceding generations. Hmm. It doesn't sound like we're creating a very empowered work force, but what do you think?

read more digg story

July 5, 2007

July Is Travel, Money & Wealth Month!

Woo-hoo!!! Isn't summer grand? The days last longer, we get to play more, and the world feels just a little bit better. Heck, it's practically national vacation month.

So while you are getting some much needed R&R, I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss your personal wealth. Just think, with a little more money, you could potentially be on permanent vacation...or at least that's the dream.

Stay tuned as we bring you information on building positive money habits, with a few stories thrown in on travel . To get you started, take a look at my blog on how Americans don't like to take vacations anymore. And fill out a few surveys on your thoughts about vacation time.