I was talking to a friend of mine in Scotland. She had just returned from a class on professionalism.
She works for a very small business, less than 10 people.
She pondered a great question by one of her colleagues:
“You should be friendly to the people you work with but NOT be friends. The relationship should be professional and nothing else EVER.”
It is a great question. We have all been subjected to those moments when we have felt excluded when co-workers develop friendships that make us uncomfortable.
However is there an argument for that being a crazy expectation when we work for very small organizations when creating a “family environment” really fosters friendships?
Let’s have your thoughts on this one!
Somewhere along the way we lost the art of anticipation.
I often notice that when we do not anticipate we do not get to “the extra mile – above and beyond” it simply cannot happen. I notice this a great deal when it comes to “people” experiences.
I asked a group of folks recently what is the difference between customer: service, care, and delighting the customer. You can imagine that conversation! Do you know the difference?
I also asked who do you want to speak to when you buy a product? Is it the store or someone remote to the whole buying experience?
I also asked why is that we spend millions on customer service departments?
You get my point, if this was your business is this how you would run things?
Remember the last time you had to talk to customer service: The time when you punched a myriad of buttons only to talk to someone so geographically distanced that you wonder how did we get to this state in business today!
How is it that when we shop locally we speak to someone globally and so separated from the concept of “think and buy local?”
Does this concept add value to the customer experience or simply add cost! It is not often that I find it adds to a customer’s experience!
I also find that there is much to do when it comes to someone who is not your customer today but could be tomorrow!
I did an experiment on recruitment processes and wondered whether we would treat applicants differently if they were your next boss or a major potential stakeholder or future customer!!!
I got an answer that I did not like. Oh my! We need to understand that applicants can also be customers and they figure out pretty quickly how consistent your business practices work and how consistent your values are!!
I urge you to ask the questions I asked!
Is your business really “delighting the customer?” And do your employees really know what that means?
Hint: It is not what we do today for our customers that will bring long-term success it is what we anticipate that they will need tomorrow and the day after that is a business competence that will separate us from everyone else.
So here are my thoughts!
- I asked, “What is customer service?” of a number of folks and guess what? They all said something different.
- We also had lots of conversation about who is a customer! Well the news is everybody is your customer!
- It seemed they were all talking about outcomes and worse were quoting from company scripts!
- Customer Service has become an “Industry” and includes anything from big job titles to huge departments in organizations.
- Yes! they have whole departments for this stuff. What happened to “Get it right first time? “
- The people you speak to work off scripts and often have no authority to go outside set boundaries and then start espousing company rules. That’s Blah!
- It’s not about “customer service recovery”. That’s too late!
- It’s not about gimmicky slogans like “Customer is King” or “Customer First” or “Make sure your customer has a great day” – overused and who are these signs to remind? – You got it! Just words that flow unconsciously and easily out of too many sales assistants and now passé’.
- So it’s not about “clever words” or processes.
This is what it’s about!
- Breathe into the hearts and minds the philosophy of “serving”.
- Use the qualities of servant leadership.
- In order to be a “customer” servant leader, you need the following qualities: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and building a community. (*)
- Acquiring these qualities tend to give a person authority versus power. Now that’s what I am talking about! How would you FEEL if you had that kind of attention given to you…GOOSEBUMPS.
- The difference is simple: The customers’ highest priority needs are being served, and they are given the “whole experience”
- A great test is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
- This it seems is the ultimate! The likelihood of your customers recommending your business to everyone they know! That’s the community!
- So its about the human touch and soul and mind coming together.
- None of us need “gimmicks” to help us serve our loved ones, so put this into place with your customers and note the difference.
- It is about putting the “servantship” of customers above all else and thinking of the customer all the time and they are first.
- It’s a total mindset and philosophy about “serving” not giving service and there is a huge difference in this.
(*)(From the teachings of Robert K. Greenleaf)
The foundational concepts are found in Greenleaf’s first three major essays, The Servant as Leader, The Institution as Servant, and Trustees as Servants.
This is what I found out!
- Engagement without direction or purpose is wasted effort and is unacceptable.
- Doing nothing about the “internal terrorists” the disengaged is simply not doing your job and will kill your business.
- A lack of understanding of what to do with those that are engaged means a lack of management competence.
- Engagement starts in the hiring process. The computer adage of “garbage in garbage out” is appropriate.
- Engagement also reaches out to the community in which your business exists and your community is your business world.
This is what works!
- Link your engagement scores to your customer satisfaction scores.
- Make it a daily conversation in your team meetings.
- Identify who really is part of your team.
- Understand the thought that making customers want to come to you and recommend you to others is the goal and it gives focus to all what you do.
- Engagement means identifying how you motivate the hearts and minds.
- Involve your suppliers in the conversation; they are as much a part of your business success as your own employees.
- Include customers. They will help you with the key question of how you are translating engagement into their experience.
- Identify how the values and your mission are enhanced by higher engagement.
- Get those employees “ who have quit and stayed” off the bus.
- Remember that engagement starts with you.
I recently wrote about the seven sins and then the seven virtues of performance reviews, now I write about the Seven Capabilities that employees must have in order for the business to strive for the very best it can be.
* Problem Solving and Planning
The ability to solve problems and find solutions systematically; finds the best conclusions as a result of inclusive conversation with co-workers at all levels; Produces specific, measurable and achievable plans in order to deliver solutions.
Realistically predicts outcomes based on an objective review, evaluation and analysis of evidence; obtains the evidence and data which enables forecasts to be made; decisions not made randomly but on sound evidence and business insight.
* Financial Awareness
Understands and interprets numbers and makes the connections that lead to conclusions and decisions that form the base of actions.
* Communication skills
Be a great listener – listen to understand, competent on computer, paper, and telephone, good on their feet and constantly attempts to improve the skills of persuasion and connecting with others at all levels of the business.
Constantly seeks out improvement opportunities and seeks change for improvement to grow the business and the people who work there. Does not accept that Status Quo is necessarily the right thing for the business.
* Team Work
Are reliable and collaborative and supportive team players who look for opportunities to help; ask questions to advance understanding; participates in meetings; doesn’t wait to be told what to do- offers ideas and solutions.
* Customer Excellence and Quality Care
Knows the internal and external customer, anticipates their needs and requirements; produces realistic plans and programs to deliver results; constantly looks for way to delight the customer and improve quality of service. Displays a personal commitment to the customer.