Archive for the ‘ Customer Service ’ Category

Is “meaningful work” actually meaningful?

Employee engagement is a hot topic these days.   According to a Gallup poll estimate, disengaged employees cost the US between $450 – $550 billion each year in terms of lost productivity.  Could you be contributing to that figured by not finding out what’s truly meaningful to your employees?

EmployeeWorkPassion4According to The Ken Blanchard Companies own research on the topic of Employee Work Passion, there are five job factors that can have a direct impact on retention: Autonomy, Workload Balance, Task Variety, Feedback, and Meaningful Work.

Over 800 individuals responded to a survey asking them to rank these factors by order of importance.   While all five factors are important, Meaningful Work was most commonly ranked as being the #1 priority.  In other words, respondents feel that employees need to know that the work they do has a direct positive impact on their organization, whether that impact is internal or external.

It makes sense, right?  If I’m an employee who feels my job duties are really just “busy work” that aren’t contributing to my organization’s success, will I really be engaged in my work?  If I don’t see my own work being important, how motivated will I be to go the extra mile?

offonThink about those fabulous people who work in IT.  Lots of companies, regardless of what business they are actually in, rely on the systems and technology maintained by these individuals.  While IT support may differ entirely from the type of work being done to maintain/grow a customer base, that doesn’t mean the work is any less important.  If you have a frontline IT help desk representative who doesn’t see that their own contributions have a direct impact (i.e. employees from other departments could not complete their own work without the assistance of IT support), their quality of work may suffer.

A common trap leaders fall into is to assume that just because their organization is in the business of making positive impacts on customers and people, that their employees see it that way, as well.  Leaders need to be proactive to ensure that their people also see the benefits of the work they complete.

ASK your employees how they feel about their work.  Be sure to check this barometer on a regular basis.  It’s easy for people to forget their importance in the grand scheme of the organization’s success.  If your company has ever been through a series of changes, you can probably relate.

SHOW them the results.  Ensure they know that they make a positive difference based on positive outcomes.

PRAISE them when praisings are due.  If they did a good job, be sure to tell them!  If you hear from another employee or customer that that they did a good job, pass that along to the employee!

How do you personally make sure your employees understand their contributions are meaningful?  Leave your comments!

The Customer Experience: Generation-Driven?

Are expectations from the younger generations driving changes to customer service and product support?

genyEarlier this week, I came across an article on Forbes.com titled What Kind Of Customer Experience Are Millennials (Gen-Y) Looking For?.  In the article, Micah Solomon, the article’s author, attempts to summarize the expectations of the Millennial generation when it comes to expectations around customer service and customer experience:

Millennials are looking for the same customer experience as are older customers–but even more so. (More efficient, more respectful of their time, easier, more reliable, more transparent, with more choices and more control for the customer.)”

Expectations around customer service, customer experience, and product support are definitely on the rise, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is specific to Gen-Y.  In general, people want options when it comes to products and services and how they interact with business.

For example, if you’ve ever needed to contact Amazon’s support, you know they offer different methods to contact them via phone, email, or live chat.  They also have a web interface for their customers to do things like initiate a return, track shipments of orders, manage browsing history, along with a list of other options.  As the customer, I can decide my preference for how I want to interact using the various options Amazon has provided.

serviceAlternatively, red tape can slow down or even destroy a customer’s experience.  If I buy a product from a retail outlet and decide I want to return it, why should I have to fill out a form and then provide my driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, etc…, just to get refund?

I understand that businesses need to protect themselves from fraudulent returns, but if I have to jump through hoops just to make a return as a customer, I may start looking elsewhere for my next purchase from a business with a less-intrusive return policy.  That extra 15 minutes it costs me to do a return as a customer may also wind up costing the business-in-question a future revenue stream.

If you want to improve your customer experience, don’t look at just Gen-Y, but look at your entire customer base.  As cliché as it sounds, ask your customers for feedback!  Most won’t hesitate to tell you what they want or would like to see if the benefit for them is an improved experience, product, or service.  However, you have to be sure to follow through with implementing at least some of those requests (and make it known to your customer base that those implementations are due directly to customer feedback) to show that you’re receptive to their feedback and suggestions.

Leave your comments!

The Balancing Act of a Leader

Being promoted into your first management role can be both an exciting and scary experience.  It shows that your employer trusts you to make decisions and lead others.  However, it can also be a major shift in responsibility.  People are going to look to you for direction, and it’s up to you to have the best possible answers for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are told that they will have new responsibilities, there’s one crucial piece that tends to be left out of that promotion-prepared conversation: get ready to start the workload balancing act.

What I mean by that is most people assume that their focus on work shifts to people they lead when coming into a management position.  While that’s true, that only paints half of the picture.  You had your own individual tasks and projects you completed before this promotion, but now that you’re promoted, you’re individual task work doesn’t simply stop (though the focus of that individual work may shift).  In fact, not only are you now responsible for your own workload, but you’re also responsible for the workload of those you lead.

It can be a major challenge when you have your direct reports coming to you needing direction, yet you’re in the middle of trying to complete a project with an impending deadline.  How can you balance the needs of the two?

  1. Start with the open door policy: Hopefully, you’ve heard of this term. If not, the basic idea is that your door is always “open”. If someone you lead has an issue they need to discuss, they can come by your office, email you, call you, etc… at just about any time of the working day. Having this policy can remove a major hurdle and allow the people you lead to get past problems faster than having to waiting until you’re available.
  2. Draw a boundary with your open door policy: While it’s great for your people to be able to discuss issues or get direction at anyJuggle Balls time, it may not always be feasible for you to maintain this policy at all hours of the day. If you have approaching deadlines or your own workload is starting to pile up, block out some time on your schedule. Set a ground rule with the people you lead that you can’t be disturbed during this time unless it’s absolutely critical. Be sure to follow up with step 3 below after establishing your boundary.
  3. Find your second-in-command: You’ve established your boundary, but now what? Your people need a backup plan for time-sensitive issues. After all, customers will only wait for so long before an issue gets out of hand. If you work in an organization with a large workforce, perhaps there’s another manager in the same department as you who can be your backup (also allowing you to reciprocate the favor).
    If you work in a smaller organization and there’s not an immediate manager who can cover for you, perhaps there’s someone you lead who is an expert in their role who can be groomed to take on this responsibility. Not only will it allow you to keep your boundary, but it allows you to tackle another management responsibility of developing your people.

Finding the right balance between being available and completing your own work will always be a juggling act, and you may find yourself needing to adjust and readjust your boundaries depending on the needs of your work and the needs of your people.

Leave your comments!

The Smile Test and the Positive Leader


Did you feel happier? Now try this experiment again with a group of friends in the same room. Look at one another as you smile. Does anything change?

From what I’ve experienced, being around a group enhances the effects of the smile test. Why? Because happiness is contagious. And by smiling, you encourage better moods in the people around you, which can even circle back around and improve your own mood further.

So share your smile and laughter with those around you as much as you can every day. You’ll be regarded as a more positive leader, someone who uplifts and inspires anyone and everyone. You may even find, as Brent did in his experiment, that your day becomes a lot brighter!

beautiful young girl smiling

Smiling Girl

Say What? – 4 Recommendations for Effective Communications

“Do yooouuuuu understand the wooorrrdddsss that are coming out of my mouth?”

If you want to be successful, you have to know how to communicate well.  There’s more to communication than just being able to speak or write clearly.  If you really want to “make a statement”, ask yourself the following questions:

How often are you communicating? – Do you provide regular updates, even when there’s nothing really to report?  For example, you might find yourself in a situation where a problem needs to be solved, but the solution isn’t immediately available.  Letting the stakeholder(s) know on a daily to bi-daily basis that there’s nothing new to report, but that you’re still working on it, shows them that you’re fully present in getting a resolution.  Providing regular updates is also one of the keys to providing great customer service!

callPhone, email, or carrier pigeon? – Face-to-face discussions aside, everyone has a preference when it comes to their choice of communication outlets.  Personally, I prefer emailing to phone calls because I can both communicate as well as document my conversations automatically.  Others prefer speaking over the phone because it’s more personal and it’s easier to explain something that might be complex.

Both phone and email have their places, but when starting a communication string or discussion with an individual, start by mirroring their preference.  If you’re sent an email, respond with an email.   If you’re left with a voicemail, call the individual.

If you do see the need to switch forms of communication, whether it is too much of a conversation for email, or perhaps a need to send something electronically, make the suggestion to switch from phone to email or vice versa before actually doing so.

emailIs it clear, or are you putting words in your own mouth? – This one tends to be more of a problem over email than phone calls, but is what you’re communicating clear, or is there room for interpretation?  It’s always a good idea to proof what you’re emailing before it’s sent.  Read what you’ve typed to see if it still makes sense.

For both phone calls and emails, you should also restate what you’re communicating in a different way by using statements such as “In other words…” or “Another way to put this is…”.  This can help set clear expectations and avoid confusion.

Is it to the point? – There comes a time when what you’re trying to communicate can be lost among words.  State what’s most important first, and be as concise as possible.

What suggestions do you have for clear communications?  Leave your comments!

A “Business Decision” May Not Always be the Right Decision

When I hear someone say “it’s a business decision”, money is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  The choice that was made was based on overall cost to the company or individual.  While it’s wise to consider cost, spending and/or investments, it’s not the end-all, be-all of choices within business.

Money There are other factors you need to consider, such as how the choice-in-question will affect your employees or customers.  Depending on the outcome of those choices, they may even change public perception of you or your business.  It could be that saving on immediate cost can hurt your income in the long run.

Take, for example, a news report out of Melbourne, Florida, regarding a man whose vehicle was wrecked by an employee of an auto repair shop.  This wasn’t an accident that happened during a test drive of the vehicle.  Instead, this happened during a joyride by one of the auto shop’s employees who crashed the vehicle not once, but twice on the very same morning.  In the eyes of the law, the employee didn’t do anything illegal.  After all, repair shops tend to take vehicles for test rides all the time to make sure they did the repairs correctly.

While there is nothing criminal that took place in the eyes of the law, you would think the auto shop would take responsibility for the actions of the employee, right?  According to the news report, the auto shop refuses to state it did anything wrong or reimburse the owner for the loss of their vehicle.

Obviously, paying for the loss of the owner’s vehicle is a direct cost to the auto shop.  They could choose to pay for it directly, or Downward Trendhave their insurance cover the loss, in which case, they will likely face increased insurance premiums.   No one wants to deal with costs that weren’t planned for, but in this case, what is going to be the long-term cost to the auto shop by not paying the immediate expense now?

I know that if I needed to take my vehicle in for repairs, I wouldn’t want to take it to this particular auto shop simply due to this story.  While it’s highly unlikely they will have another situation like this come up, why would I risk it when the vehicle owner in this story allegedly has to go through this hassle?  The choice being made by the auto shop now is sending a message to potential customers that they may not put their customers first when making decisions.

Immediate cost cannot always be the deciding factor.  If it is, it could cost you in the long run.

Leave your comments!

Leadership Failure

Not too long ago I was put in charge of a couple sections of soldiers who were working on some military intelligence products for an upcoming mission. Since the teams were working on separate products, I assigned myself to one team and had a Lieutenant take charge of another team. The LT had been in the army for a few years, so I had no qualms about giving the team to him. I spoke with him privately and told him that he had “full autonomy” over his team and gave him full discourse over what his team did and how they finished their products. The next morning I come into work at 7:30 fully expecting everyone to be there for unit physical training. They weren’t. When I asked the LT where his team was, he said that he told them that they could do physical training on their own and that they didn’t need to show up until 9:30am. “What? Why did you do that? We always show up at 7:30.”Leadership

So, of course, they decided to sleep in and didn’t do any physical training for the day.

And of course my team was upset that they didn’t get to sleep in and come to work at 9:30. The last thing I wanted to create was resentment across the two teams. I thought that maybe a “team building” exercise was in order, but I didn’t carry it out because I felt I would probably screw that up too.  I was upset about the whole situation, but mainly I was irritated at myself.

After looking back on the incident, here’s what I learned:

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

Here’s what I really said: You can have full autonomy unless you do something I don’t want you to do or something that I disagree with you on. What I told him he could do and what I wanted him to do were two separate things.

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

Giving full autonomy over everything is not really leadership at all. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him autonomy, but what I should have done in that situation was to give him more direction as to what is expected and necessary. Autonomy has its place and limitations; using it correctly is when it’s the most impactful.

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

I was never clear on my expectations. What was standard and status quo for me was not necessarily the same for him. Talking through each other’s expectations would have been helpful for minimizing conflict and building trust.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

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