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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Are you a Bad Boss?

I was talking to a friend of mine, high up in an organization, about a new employee who was not performing.   The employee wasn’t a bad culture fit, but his qualifications on his resume didn’t seem to match his performance on the job.  True enough this happens.

To help this employee who was not delivering on time, my friend decided to put in place hard deadlines for her entire staff.   Her prior style was to give soft request and deadlines because she wanted her team to have autonomy and ownership.   My friend wrapped up our conversation with, “I don’t want to be that kind of boss,” inferring micromanaging.

Bad Boss - Not This Time
In this case, my exceptional leader friend wasn’t being a bad boss.

My response, “Giving employees deadlines is not being a bad boss.  Giving someone a deadline and then hovering over them until it is done because you don’t trust them is being a bad boss.  You are simply setting expectations, and that is helpful for everyone.”

Good Bosses and Happy Employees
As I teach leadership classes, what I see most often is managers do not know it’s a best practice, or are afraid, to set clear expectations.   The intention is good, to have individuals guide their work lives.   These good intention people want to treat their employees as the bright adults they are.   I get that.

But I would argue ambiguity is what is causes much unnecessary stress in the workplace. 

Happy employees, at any level, are ones given tasks with clear deadlines, which they check off when accomplished.  That is why so many people thrive on making lists and Franklin Covey makes a fortune!  

It also causes stress to the boss when they need to start disciplinary action.  They ask their HR professional, like me, “How did the employee not know what they were supposed to do?”  I can tell you why, most of the time is the employee was unclear about expectations.

The Gurus’ Solution
Employee autonomy is how an employee goes about doing the task.   Give them the tasks, the deadline, and then get the heck out of the way.

So help yourself and your employees, look at what you expect them to do and tell them in simple clear terms. 

Examples
  • “I expect you to meet with your partners every two weeks, and send a summary report afterwards to the project team within 24 hours.” 
  • “I expect you to have the timeline sketched out by Friday.  What obstacles do you see in making that happen?"
  • “I expect you to work effectively with Sam and I know you have had some bumps in your relationship.  Effectively to me means…”    

So there you have it.  If you find your employees are not performing to expectations, first look internally to see if you are setting clear expectations.   Put in writing those clear expectations, with deadlines, to make yours and your employees’ lives easier. 

If you need help developing your managers or supervisors, we invite you to learn more about our training class The Secret to Managing Excellence. Contact us at 407-495-0846 or info@thecustomerservicegurus.com.  We'd love to hear from you! 

  

Friday, April 1, 2016

It’s Complicated – Customer Service in 2016

It’s unusual for me to blog philosophically about this industry I love, customer service. But with recent world events, I am compelled to write something about the big picture of customer service.

Customer service can be boiled down into one word: relationships.

These relationships are circular, hierarchical, tangential, and in the end whether you give or receive exceptional customer service is really how two people feel about each other.  The two people are the customer, obviously, and the direct employee.

The old school of thought was, “The Customer is always right,” or “The Customer is king.”   This creates a hierarchy in the relationship, and I simply do not believe this is effective anymore.   Not that the customer's point of view isn't important, however current society is more egalitarian, and with this we operate more as peers.   When it is a peer situation, the ability to give serve others is a choice, not a job requirement.

Companies would be wise to help their employees understand this, respect it is their decision, and help them choose to do the right thing.  Serving others is highly rewarding, but it is the rewards of the heart that make it so.   Policies, mandates, and punishments, can be written until the end of time, but it isn’t until we choose to be different, do we consistently commit to do so.

Relationships in a Scary World

How are these relationships affected in this increasingly less colorblind world as we all become scared for our individual safety?  Once I believed we were on a new path of inclusion, but with recent events in Brussels, it will take dedication from us to continue on it.

I keep thinking how it will be now for the many millions of Muslims in the world, who are peace loving, but how will their service relationships continue?  I am talking simple everyday events like going to the grocery store, or calling the phone company.   Will the service professional simply not like them, and then that is the ruination of the relationship?

This is one statistic, and it is quite old 2006, "Civil rights complaints filed with one Muslim advocacy group rose from 366 in 2000 to 2,467 in 2006, an increase of 674%." (Read the entire article: https://goo.gl/qTtZCj).  

I think of young black men in the US who walk into a store and the worst is assumed about them.  What kind of service are they receiving?   Don’t they deserve our best too?    What kind of service will they give based on these experiences?

We have to get beyond this.

Possible Solutions

I was taught early in my career to give Benefit of the Doubt.  It was even an acronym, BOTD.  This is difficult in most situations, especially when dealing with the unknown, and it is especially difficult when our deep biases pop into our heads.  It challenges even me, The Guru, at times.

As customer service professionals we must be better, and serve every customer equality or equitably.    

In training class, I show a picture of an elderly man, who looks agitated.  I ask, “Would you approach him?”   The answer is almost to a participant a loud and shocking verbal, “No!”  There is no BOTD.  Then I ask, “What if he has had a stroke, and that is the way he looks because he lacks muscle control?”   As soon as I say that, the mood the class changes from tension to compassion.

What if we could start with compassion instead of tension?

It’s Complicated 

Service in 2016 is not impossible.  I talk and work with many companies that do a great job.  Unfortunately, I talk to at least 3 times as many who do it poorly and don’t get it.  I think how we teach customer service and support it has to evolve.

If you want to deliver superior customer service, you have to be willing to dig deep and not only analyze your customers, but your employees as well.    Change the tone of the training conversation from, “You just have to do it because it is your job description,” to, “This is a chance to do something special for someone.”

Thanks for reading my random thoughts today.   Be safe and live well, wherever you are. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Walking Dead have Taken Over Customer Service! The Antidote is Here

I don't mean to scare you, but the Zombie Apocalypse has arrived!

These are not the walkers and biters of horror fiction.  These are even more real and dangerous, as they are causing you sleepless nights and lost revenue in loyal and satisfied customers. They are the terrifying, "Disengagers."

How can you tell if an employee has been infected by this horrible disease?  Well, they are easy to spot in other businesses.  It is the cashier not smiling at the point of sale.  It is the sales person who has no enthusiasm for the product she is selling.  It is the server who forgets to refill your drink for 10 minutes after being asked twice.  It is the hospitality ride attendant who cares more about his conversation with a coworker and who is at Chili's on Facebook, than your safety as you board a roller coaster.

Disengagers can also be on the phone!  I kid you not! It is the contact center agent who's tone during a call sounds like they have already been bitten and can only grunt conversations.  It is the service professional, like a relocation coordinator, not returning your call.

How The Disease Spreads 

I am not versed how a bacterial disease spreads, but I can tell you this one is viral!

Employees arrive from new hire training, typically excited about their job and being a part of this interesting organization.  This is if you even have a decent orientation process (Read our Onboarding blog).  But regardless, the infection begins to take control as soon as they begin their regular job duties.

It is not through bites one becomes infected. It is through observation and talking to the infected, aka current employees.  The new hire begins to realize the high standards preached about in orientation are not the norm for daily operations.  She observe management hides in their offices, or does not keep tabs on her if they are At Home agents, afraid of confronting the infected.  He learns he can get away with not being his best at all times.  The tenured employees clock in, but they mentally check out.  They can show up unprepared with no enthusiasm, give mediocre performance, and that is acceptable.

The typical infection takes only weeks or months, depending on the organization.

The Gurus' Antidote 

1. Immediate Take Action Now Solution - As supervisors and managers, be very visible to the infected.  Get in their face! Great news: strong leaders are immune to the disease.

It is scary, but confront the infected by explaining, and more importantly DEMONSTRATING, what superior service looks like.   Leaders, you must hold the Disengagers accountable.  Your actions tell your team what are the acceptable behaviors on the job.  EQUALLY, your inaction speaks volumes what you will tolerate.  Zombies attack the weak!

2.  Long term Organization Solution -  Take Two Pills and Call Me in the Morning

Pill A. Put expectations in writing, or create short media clips what common interactions should look and sound like.   If the expectation is Be Nice (one of the pillars of The Gurus), get detailed what that means.  For example, does Be Nice mean to greet every customer, and if so how?   It is not difficult to make decent videos, and they tend to be the most helpful.  My caution here is keep the situations real and don't over polish it.  Many times I see the training situations created are too polarized and don't reflect real life for the Disengaers.  It makes it hard to connect you are talking about them.

Pill B. Give Disengagers the opportunity to cure themselves, of course with your critical care.  But if they decide to remain infected, they need to be removed.   If you do not remove them, they will continue to infect others.  This is a Lose/Lose situation for you and your organization, and possibly catastrophic.

Hope Has Arrived

Like a good Zombie movie, the survivors live on hope as they face the many challenges to finding a cure and a peaceful existence.  I am hopeful too that once solid expectations and processes are put in place, and constant informal performance monitoring occurs, our customer service zombie apocalypse will end.  This will take diligence and courage.  Be strong!

THE END


The Customer Service Gurus offers an engaging and customized training defending your organization against customer service zombies.  Call 407-495-0846 or email info@thecustomerservicegurus.com for details.