The Three Ps of Amazing Customer Service

I was recently in Miami staying at the Fountainbleu Hotel for a conference. Located in the heart of Millionaire’s Row, the hotel is smack dab in the middle of a spit of land with the Atlantic ocean on one side and the bay on the other. The room was gorgeous, and I spent quality time on the private balcony enjoying the views of both bay and ocean.

 

Accommodations aside, what really impressed me was how The Fontainbleau seemed aggressively involved in the customer journey and experience. They crushed it in the three Ps; Place, People and Post-Experience.

 

The Place. The instant you walk in the experience begins. In the air throughout the hotel is the faint (but definitely perceptible) scent of flowers and, strangely, what seems to be suntan lotion. They use ScentAir products and have a signature Fountainbleu scent. The smell evokes the beach and reminds you that you should be out there soaking up the sun. I’m using my imagination about the sun part as it was raining with thunder storms and extremely hot and humid.

 

The People. Every single person was exceptionally customer-focused. From the porter to the shop clerks to the concierge, my every need was anticipated and handled.

 

The Post Experience. I reviewed the hotel on Facebook and within two hours, I had received a personal thank you and they asked me about any special memories of my stay. From start to finish, it was extraordinary.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if everywhere we went, we were surrounded by such amazing customer service? There you could be, at the DMV with customer-oriented employees, enjoying their signature scent evoking something fun and relaxing (as opposed to other scent that typically permeates your local DMV and evokes frustration, anxiety and slight body odor). Not to mention, the how did we do email or text that comes after your visit and lets you know they really care. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

 

As multifamily professionals, it’s very important for us to give each and every resident a great experience. Ask yourself, what am I doing to give my residents an amazing environment? Am I creating the customer journey I want for my them? Am I nailing it with the three Ps?

 

How does your community look? Smell? Are you welcoming? Are you standing up and greeting people, asking their names, smiling on the phone? Are you sending out surveys, emails or thank you cards?

 

If the answer any of these is no, it’s time to reevaluate how you can fix one, or all of these Ps. It doesn’t cost a ton of money and the rewards you reap are more than worth any nominal costs you encounter.

 

So go out there, make the Place amazing, be the People who enrich our residents’ lives and show you care afterwards, with the Post Experience.

Customer Service Key Shows Online Consumer Support

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Customer Service-A Lesson from Hori

I was enjoying lunch last week at Benihana with our awesome chef, Hori. He was great, flipping and flying food with the best of them. Sadly, Hori had to deal with two high maintenance and very unhappy people. (Not us, we were delightful-don’t be silly.)

 

“We don’t want sauce.” “Add this sauce.” “More garlic butter.” “More this, more that…” Complain, huff, deep sighs. I felt badly for Hori, as did my dining companion who heard more than I did. Hori, though, rolled with flow, stayed professional, dignified, and kept plugging away doing his job like the rockstar he clearly is.

 

As is the usual, once your onion-volcano-making, shrimp-tail-flipping, clickety-clacking, food-flying chef is done, he’s off to another table to wow those guests and add more shrimp tails to his hat. After he left, the two at our table (or for the fancy reader … hibachi) went on a rant with the server about Hori.

 

Because, as previously mentioned, we were delightful, we stayed after to tell the server how great Hori was. We found out the other guests had complained about Hori and his awful service, saying he was “too old and should retire.” Can you imagine? Apparently, they “get stuck with him all the time.” All I could think was thank goodness I’m not in a customer service role like that.

 

Then it occurred to me. Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, everyone is in customer service. Everyone you deal with is a customer in one way or another. Your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your vendors, your friends and even your family. They’re just customers in different ways.

 

So, then, what can we learn from Hori?

 

  1. Keep your cool. The ability to keep your cool comes easier to some than others. When you read that review, when you have that complaining customer in your face, when your coworker leaves the copier jammed and doesn’t fix it, all these are opportunities to lose your mind or to stay calm. Take a breath. Count to 10 (or 10 million), think about puppies, whatever helps. What would Hori do? He’d just placidly and professionally keep making volcanoes and flipping those shrimp tails (or in the case of the paper jam, I’m sure he’d expertly unjam it and move on).

 

  1. Continue trying to help until you can’t. Don’t let anyone derail your excellent customer service. Keep your cool (see #1) and continue to do what you do best. Hori persevered and kept doing his best with all frustrating requests. Bless his heart.

 

  1. You can’t please everyone no matter what you do. Guess what? Nobody has a 100% success rate. I don’t care who you are, what you do, there is always going to be someone who isn’t into your jam and how you do things. That’s life. Hori knows this. Let’s make sure we keep on reminding ourselves of this as often as possible.

 

  1. Don’t take it to heart and stay your awesome self. If you’re a perfectionist like someone I know (read: me) you can do 1,000 things amazingly, but the 1001st you blow, well clearly that’s the one you focus on. If I know Hori like I think I know Hori (and of course I know him after the 30 minutes he spent cooking for us) he moved on unfazed and just kept going, like the Zen master I have created him to be in my mind.

 

So, remember not everyone is going to love you. All you can do it stay awesome, keep your cool and keep doing your job as if they were your favorite customers in the world. Just like Hori would. And when all else fails … start flipping shrimp tails.Heart shape shrimps

Farewell to 2016

 

Desk Calendar Represents Year Two Thousand Seventeen

Let’s face it, 2016 was a tough year. We’ve lost so many beloved icons, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

 

2016 brought us a newly elected president, new Star Wars movies, terrible acts of terrorism, refugee crises, the death of Fidel Castro, a heartbreaking season premiere of The Walking Dead (yes, I yelled at the TV and maybe cried a little…OK a LOT—don’t judge me), Brexit, earthquakes, the Olympics, the Zika virus in Brazil, Kanye exhausted and hospitalized, plane crashes, Juno orbiting Jupiter, hacked election emails, and Hatchimals becoming the new Tickle-Me-Elmo. Oh, and let’s not forget Mariah Carey’s meltdown on New Year’s Rocking Eve. (For the love of the Pete, who runs around in the equivalent of a teeny tiny bathing suit in Times Square? I got frostbite just looking at her!) I’m exhausted from thinking about all last year wrought.

 

Looking back on January 2016, I realize I don’t recall my 2016 resolutions. Something about being healthier, working harder, eating better, blah blah blah. The usual. I had my ups and downs, successes and…um…let’s call them less-than-successes. What about you? What were your resolutions? Did you succeed? Or did life start derailing them right around January 5th to the point where, like me, you can’t even remember them?

 

So 2017—here you are. It’s with a sense of optimism that I’m diving in.  New year.  New me.  More than that, I’m looking forward to taking everything I learned in 2016 and making 2017 even better.

 

I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. I mean, obviously, I want to be supermodel skinny, run a marathon, cook nutritious and delicious meals for my family every single night, become wife and mother of the year, remember to sign report cards, not leave the laundry in the dryer for days, and be utter perfection in the workplace resulting in a giant raise. Clearly.

 

While I’m sure these are all going to happen (I really wish there was a sarcasm font), I don’t want to be looking back on this year’s resolutions and realize I needed a genie in a bottle to make them happen (let alone remember what they were).

 

This year I decided to work on being a kinder, more joyful, grateful person.  And yes, I already failed several times this morning – did EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NEED TO BE ON THE FREEWAY TODAY?!  Sorry, I digress. I figure that focusing on being kinder, more joyful, and more grateful for everyone I know and everything I have, the other things will matter a little less. And isn’t that what we all really want?

 

What about you? What are your resolutions for 2017?

Doing Good

I’m a huge fan of charitable works. I’d love to have been Mother Teresa if I could…except for the whole being a nun thing. I really like my husband and son and would have hated missing out on that! (And let’s not even go into my whole shoe and purse obsession, neither of those I’m sure would help with my nunley duties.)

 

Three years ago, my company’s Core Values were a huge part of why I decided to work for Steadfast.

  • Proceed with Integrity (I like where they’re going with this)
  • Value People (Excellent I’m a person and I LOVE being valued)
  • Embrace Opportunities (Tell me more…)
  • Pursue Excellence (Totally in my wheelhouse)
  • Do Good as We Do Well (YESSSSS)

 

Are you kidding me? Each of these on their own as a company’s core value is pretty great, but all together? I’m in! This last one though, Do Good as We Do Well, is what I want to talk about today.

 

At our annual holiday party, our company unveiled our new VTO opportunity. Volunteer Time Off. Not content to just put Do Good as We Do Well on our business cards, stationery and website, they put their money where their mouth is. Starting January, 2017, in addition to our holidays and our regular PTO, every employee is being given two days of VTO a year to do volunteer work. EVERY. EMPLOYEE. Anyone who wants gets two days to go out and do good.

 

Obviously, there are some rules. You can’t use a day of the VTO to take your son’s Little League to Chuck-E-Cheese for lunch to celebrate the season. Though seriously, Chuck-E-Cheese? Fifteen kids? Please send me to Calcutta with ugly shoes and no purse all day every day rather than that! But I’m digressing.

 

We have a lot of properties. We have a lot of staff at these properties. We have a lot of support staff at the corporate office. We also have malls, resorts and other interests with staff. That’s a lot of people taking a lot of time off to do a lot of good.

 

We’re constantly being bombarded by all the ugliness in the world and I am speechless (well, anyone who knows me knows speechless isn’t really a thing I do) to see any company, but even better MY company making this possible. I am overwhelmed with the heart for giving our Executive Team has by making this available. And I’m so excited to see what our associates do this year.

 

I can’t wait to Do Good as I Do Well in 2017!

 

To learn more about our charitable works visit http://www.steadfastgivingtree.org/.

Hands holding pink ribbon

Thoughts and Prayers for the US

I’ve got nothing today to say about work, marketing, leadership or the like. Today I want to share my thoughts and prayers for the US.

Social networking with green figures (holding hands)

We were told, this new commandment I give you. Love your God with all your heart and love others as you would yourself. To that end, I’m only going to do positive things today. I’m only going to share happy things.

To all my friends who voted for Hillary and feel a sense of disillusionment, if I haven’t told you lately, I love you.

To all my friends who voted for Trump who feel they’re perceived as hateful, racist idiots, if I haven’t told you lately, I love you.

To all my friends who declined to vote for president because they felt in their hearts there wasn’t anyone worthy, if I haven’t told you lately, I love you.

To all my LGBT friends, my Hispanic, my African American, my any other race, religion or lifestyle friends who feel disenfranchised and that America has just given them the finger, if I haven’t told you lately, I love you. I’m here for you.

To all my friends who voted for recreational marijuana to be legal in California and other states, if I haven’t told you lately, I love you. And I’ll get you Oreos and Taco Bell if you have the munchies. Unless it’s really late or, let’s be honest, inconvenient to me, then you’re on your own. But I love you anyway.

To everyone else out there I don’t know, even those who are destroying the flag (seriously?) and each other from anger and hurt, I love you. But can you please just stop?

I pray that people go out today and do something nice for someone to help heal our country and our hearts. And that we all try to see each other how God sees us–with love and grace.

Love you all!

Asking for the review

Have you ever left a review on your own, just because? Chances are you were either super happy or more likely, super upset about a particular incident. On the rare occasion, someone may ask you to. But that’s the exception, not the rule typically.

Angry young man shouting and looking up at copyspace

I’m so angry, I’m going to write a review!

 

So my question is, are you asking for reviews? Or are you passively waiting for someone to be sufficiently upset or sufficiently over the moon happy to post something about your community on their own? If it’s the former, kudos to you, super star! If it’s the latter, you need to get busy! Like, yesterday.

 

This is a world where people rely on online reviews to make purchasing decisions. Facts are facts, whether we like it or not, it’s gonna happen. Are you leaving your property’s reputation and future revenue in the hands of just anyone? What you should be doing is controlling that message as much as possible.

 

Are you making it easy for your happy residents to review you? If not, why not? There are so many reputation management tools out there that can help you manage your message. Even if you don’t have anything budgeted for reputation management, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost a dime.

 

Invite your residents to review you. You know the residents who love you. You know them by name, you see them all the time, they hug you in the hallways. Why not send them an email with a link to your community on a specific review site and ask them to give you some love?

 

Do you have someone who’s had a great move-in experience and they’re still in the honeymoon stage? ASK THEM. Send them an email. Make it simple. There are so many times during the life cycle of your residents to ask. All you need to do is do it.

Togetherness

These residents SUPER love you!

 

Do NOT pay or give any incentives for good reviews. EVER. Do not be tempted. It goes against many review sites’ policies and can get you blackballed. But worse, if found out, it can cast all your other reviews into question.

 

Case study: we had a property that was having a resident event and were giving out tickets for prizes. The flyer clearly stated extra tickets given to those who post a good review on X review site. One unhappy resident scanned the flyer, posted it on said review site and made a case that all positive reviews posted to date were fraudulent. Whoops that sure backfired. So just don’t do it.

 

Go over and above. Want to get people to give you good reviews? Go over and above. Care. Show your residents you care. Take the time to get to know your residents, be friendly. Handle maintenance requests as they come in, address issues that come up. DESERVE your good reviews. You can totally do it.

 

Do not make fake reviews. I feel silly even writing this, it’s pretty basic. Just don’t do it. People can tell the fake reviews from the real ones. And doesn’t it feel better to have legit reviews?

 

Reply to all reviews, good and bad. A quick, “Thank you for the high five!” shows anyone reading the review that you value your residents’ opinions. Bad reviews are an excellent opportunity to show how much you really do care.

 

Negative reviews. The worst, amirite? But they can be amazing signposts pointing to areas of opportunity. Have five reviews complaining about the gate being broken? Fix that gate. Easy. Now you have five responses, “Thank you so much for letting us know. The gates are fixed! Let us know how else we can show how much we value our residents!” But wait. You’re not done. Reach out to the residents offline and ask them if they wouldn’t mind updating their reviews.

Solutions and problems signs

Negative reviews are OPPORTUNITIES!

 

Have a couple of reviewers complaining that maintenance tracked dirt in their home? We never want that and it’s an easy fix! Get some shoe cover thingies. Your reply to the reviews? “Thank you for your feedback! You’re right. We did track dirt into your home. We are so sorry, and it will never happen again. Give us a call so we can arrange for carpet cleaning (or a laundry card, Starbucks card, whatever you deem appropriate, if anything) for your trouble. Our maintenance guys are now wearing shoe coverings in every home they enter. We love our residents! Please let us know how we can make your day better.” Then offline ask them if they wouldn’t mind updating their review.

 

Listen, you’ve got this review thing down. Ask for the review. Fix the problem. Care. Easy, right? So get out there and change the world! (And don’t forget to ask for those reviews while you’re doing it.)

Handsome young man pointing finger at you

You got this!

Are you over-promising and under-performing?

Not the best business plan ever. No one has ever gotten a job or a raise from over-promising and under-performing.

 

I get it. You want people to like you. You want people to admire you. You don’t want to give them bad news or be mad at you. You’re super optimistic about what you can get done. All sorts of reasons that we might over-promise. So what do you do? You soften the news. At home it’s, “Ok babe. I’ll be ready to go in five minute!.” As you’re standing there in your unmentionables still deciding what to wear and in desperate need of a shower. (Don’t judge me, you’ve all done this. I’ve done it three times this week already.)

and-then-i-said-ill-be-ready-in-5-minutes

In a work situation it’s, “I’ll have this project to you in…um…three days. Yes, three days. For sure.” Then when you get it to them in a week they’ve probably been blowing up your inbox or phone, have lost confidence in you and (the absolute WORST) are disappointed in you. UGH.

 

Unless three days is actually feasible, why not be honest? “Listen, I’d love to have this to you in three days, but it’s going to take two weeks.“ Sure, they might be a little disappointed that you’re not going to have it in three days. But watch their eyes light up when you get it to them in one week.

 

Wouldn’t you say that eye lighting up is SO much better than sighs of disappointment? Here are a few tips to keep this from happening.

Too much work

 

Keep track of outstanding projects. Find a way to keep them at the top of your mind. Post-it notes all over your desk, writing on your hand, a handy dandy file right in your face. Something. Don’t let it get lost in everything you do day to day.

 

Are you overwhelmed? Go to your superior or talk to someone about your workload. It’s possible (read: probable) that they can help you, offer you good advice or give you the kick in the rear you need to get going.

 

Be realistic. Listen, we all have multiple balls we’re juggling. We’re all human and things are going to happen. But the one thing that we can do is to stop over-promising is to just be realistic. You may want to have that project done in three days, but unless you work all night it’s not going to happen. Make sure you factor in everything that may hinder your progress. Be realistic.

 

Under-promising and over-performing, that’s the goal. You CAN do this! Keep track of projects, ask for help and for goodness sake above all, be realistic about what you can actually get done. Let’s all take a few seconds and vow to stop this madness. (Though to be honest, I’m probably not going to stop telling my husband I’ll be ready in five minutes. We can’t all be perfect.)

Reputation Management at 39,000 feet

air-plane_fJIt3IF_Today I’m sitting in a first class pod on a Boeing 777 and I never want it to end. EVER. This time my flight has me thinking about reputation management and customer satisfaction. I have just cleaned my hands with the warm hand towel, feet up (in my complimentary first class socks), seat back, waiting for my wine and wagu beef to be served.

 

This has been a ridiculous day. Heading to Miami for the weekend, we get to the airport for our 10:30 am flight. Only to find out (after my carryon bag has been thoroughly searched and my offending new tube of toothpaste has been confiscated) it’s been canceled due to mechanical issues. The airline has rescheduled us for the 2:00 pm flight. Needless to say, we are extremely unhappy with this airline.

 

Fast forward and now we’re on the plane (yay!) and a very angry woman next to me is yelling a lot of four and five letter words at the flight crew (boo!).

 

Pro tip: when a crazy lady is yelling at a flight crew, or really anyone, do NOT make eye contact.

 

I don’t know why she’s angry at them, but now she’s yelling at me as well. I’m not going to repeat what she said—you’re welcome. But she was on a roll and she wasn’t going to stop. Our captain makes a U-turn on the runway and goes back to the gate, where the woman was politely, but firmly, escorted off by the police. Cheers and applause from all the passengers accompany her exit.

 

Finally, at 3:00 pm…3:00 pm people, not 2:00 pm thanks to angry woman and certainly not 10:30 am thanks to airline, we take off. Once in the air, the head flight attendant comes up to us to apologize for the woman’s behavior and brings us up to first class to make amends. (OMG so VIP! Did I mention the seat becomes a bed?)

 

So other than the sad fact I will never be able to enjoy another flight in economy class, I want to bring this back to our customer satisfaction and reputation management efforts. What are we doing to make amends when something goes wrong for one of our residents? Are we acknowledging it? Are we apologizing for it? Even when it’s not our fault (using my flight metaphor, like a crazy lady yelling on a flight)?

 

When things go wrong, it can be a huge opportunity to turn your unhappy resident into your biggest cheerleader. You can’t win everyone over, but you sure can try.

 

So, what are some of the things you can do to turn this situation around:

 

Communicate. I can’t stress enough how important communication is. You can’t always control how quickly things are fixed, but you can control your communication with your residents. Let them know what’s going on. Check in with them as often as possible. I know you’re really busy, but trust me, the one minute it’s going to take you to check in with them may just save you the hours and hours of leasing their apartment when they leave.

 

Apologize. My dad taught me a very important lesson very early on. When you’re having a disagreement, always apologize. By doing so, you’re not admitting guilt, you can be sorry the situation happened in the first place. So apologize. You can do it!

 

Roll out the red carpet. When mistakes happen, make sure your resident feels like they’re a VIP. Give them first class service. Do something so they know they’re important.

 

In our case, not only are we now not upset about the delay, or the fact I was cursed at. But the airline used the above-referenced three tactics and with the first-class treatment, I’m pretty sure we have a new favorite airline.

 

So go out there and roll out the red carpet people, one resident at a time.

 

(Postscript: I am proofing this on the flight home, squished in between two guys in the back of the plane and realize I was right—I miss my first class pod.)

Don’t Get Bogged Down in the Minutiae (or Craft Cocktail Crawl)

Tequila sunrise cocktail

Last week my husband and I went to one of our favorite local restaurants.

Bellying up to the bar, we grabbed a glass of wine and ordered dinner. Our restaurant, which always served beer and wine, was now serving “craft cocktails.” Interesting, I thought.

 

Looking over cocktail menu, I noticed there were some pretty fancy drinks in there. Sipping my wine, I started watching the new bartender. There was a LOT going on with the cocktail making. Poof! Orange peels being lit on fire, bitters and shots flying through the air, some sort of gourmet infused cherry situation, lemons being squeezed on demand and a lot of shaking and stirring. Funny thing, even though there was a lot of activity, not a lot of drinks were being completed. They took forever!

 

Time and time again, the servers came over asking about their drinks. It seems that these craft cocktails were taking too long to be crafted and the customers were getting antsy. (Word to the wise, give the nice people what they want when they’re hangry and thirsty and slowly back away.) The bartender needed to get help, she just couldn’t get it together.

 

This seems like a great lesson in our everyday lives, right? Not just for tending bar. Don’t we sometimes get so bogged down in the minutiae and the goal of perfection that we’re slow to—or never get to—the finish line? There’s sweating the small stuff and then there’s SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF.

 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do our best, because if there’s only one thing you should take away from me is that I always want us to do our best. What I’m talking about here is when you overanalyze what you’re doing, when you think it to death. Let’s call it analysis paralysis. Perfection isn’t perfect if the job doesn’t get done. In fact, I think that’s probably the opposite of perfection. (Oh, now we’re getting deep.)

 

Maybe now is the time to pull down that project you put aside that you just couldn’t get to the finish line. Take a step back and really think about what you need to do to get it going. It could be as simple as having a fresh perspective. Make a list of what needs to be done. Broad strokes here, people! Again, we’re trying to avoid analysis paralysis.

 

I know you’re going to be surprised to hear that this article did not take me months to finish. Which is weird as you’re basking in the excellence and glory shining up from your screen, right? So tell me, what opportunities do you have right now? Are you struggling to finish a project? Stop aiming for flawlessness and strive to do better, improving as you go.

 

Do your best, stop trying to be perfect. You’re not. I’m sorry, despite what your spouse or your mom said, you’re just not. For sure I’m not, and some days I’m even ok with it.

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(That Aristotle is NOT making my point for me!)

Customer service at 39,000 feet.

air-plane_fJIt3IF_

Right now I’m sitting on a plane at 39,000 feet and I’m thinking about customer service.

I’m in the row right behind first class. There is a net curtain separating me from the free champagne, food that doesn’t come in a box and warm towels to wash my hands. Basically I’m with the huddled masses back here in economy class, with first class literally three feet ahead of me. (I’m close enough to kick the person in first class in front of me if I wanted to. Obviously I didn’t–I’m not a savage for Pete’s sake!)

It got me wondering, what is it about first class that people are willing to pay so much money for? I mean honestly, we’re ALL in a flying box, little better than a Greyhound Bus, squished in with other people, and we’re not any of us comfortable, whether we’re in first class or stuck between two sweaty dudes in the back of the plane.

The true difference I believe is the service (plus the first on, first off thing, and a little more legroom). Don’t get me wrong, our attendants were great. They just weren’t first class great. Those attendants in the first class were on it! They were constantly checking in, constantly giving service over and above. Can I get you a drink? Would you like a blanket? How can I help you? I have to admit I was a smidge jealous of the amazing service.

Take a moment to stop and think in our daily work are we giving first class service or are we giving economy class service? What can we do to give our residents and our clients first class service?

Simple things really…

Remembering that you’re there to help them. To help them enjoy their home. Their home, people. I’m not talking about 5 square feet of turf that they paid money to get from point A to point B. I’m talking about their haven, their castle. Their sanctuary!

Greeting everyone with a smile. Just smile, and say hi. Be joyful. I’m terrible at remembering names, and am so envious of those people who can actually remember who they’re talking to. But if you’re one of those amazing super heroes, greet people by name AND say hi and smile.

Are you following the golden rule: treat others as you’d like to be treated? Are you dealing with your residents as you’d like to be treated or just another day on the job? Are you in first class or economy class when you’re interacting with your residents?

Really be honest with yourself and reflect on how your days go. What opportunities do you have to up your game and make your residents feel like they’re in first class? It will help you close that back door of residents leaving, it will help you with reviews, and help make your job easier. Happy residents are so much more fun, right?

Thank you for flying the friendly skies!

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