Upright and Breathing are not Key Qualities

Tired businesswomanIn the last four years, I have facilitated over 100 customer service training sessions.  By far, the majority of people in my sessions want to provide their customers with great service.  They are excited to learn about the concept of internal customer service; they want to learn how to present themselves as professionals and how to effectively manage unhappy, disappointed customers.  They are eager to share their experiences with others in the group.

But every once in a while, someone will show up in a session who simply does not understand why they should provide some of the basics, never mind go out of their way to make a customer feel valued.  They believe that unhappy, disappointed customers are rude and demanding and refuse to consider using techniques to manage difficult situations.

I had one participant openly admit to spitting in a customer’s burger when it was pointed out to her that the burger wasn’t cooked as ordered.  (I must admit to thinking that was an urban myth.  Nobody would do that, right?  Wrong!!)  Another participant told me he had absolutely no intention of ever apologizing to a customer or trying to find a solution to a problem because “Customers get what they get and if they aren’t happy, they can just deal with it.”

Each time this happens I am astounded at the negativity.  We need customers. Customers pay our bills for us; they pay for our new car, our dream vacation, our children’s education.  Yes, sometimes customers come to our businesses with unrealistic expectations.  Sometimes the customer is “wrong”, but that does not give service professionals the right to treat the customer with disdain and disrespect.

Why do some employers put up with this type of behaviour?

Here are two reasons I’ve been given.

1.  The employee is great at everything else. Because they are technically proficient, they are allowed to get away with atrocious behaviour.

2.  They fill a time slot in the schedule.  Sometimes labour shortages result in the “hey, a living, breathing person who shows up for work at least 80% of the time is better than nobody.”

I understand the temptation to let high customer service standards slide a bit in those situations, but don’t give in!  The reality is that an employee with this type of negative attitude damages your business.  Having toxic, negative, people-haters showing up for work damages your reputation, your current customer leave and potential customers stay away.  Not only that, but the work environment becomes increasingly toxic as the negativity starts infecting previously positive attitude employees who see bad behaviour not being addressed.

Attitude truly does count.  You can teach someone HOW to complete a task, but you can’t train them to complete it with professional and personal pride or to care about their co-workers or their customers.

Upright, breathing and technically proficient isn’t good enough!   Hire people that want to succeed.  Hire people that would not dream of settling for “barely good enough” .  Hire people that actually care about and like people.


Her Favourite Colour was Red

My Aunt Lily passed away last week.  At last night’s service, family members shared precious memories they had of their mom, aunt, sister and friend.  I learned that my Aunt Lily’s favourite colour was red, that she loved to sew and that she thought 81 was way too young to die.

As I listened to the various stories shared, I realized how much more there was to my Aunt Lily than I had ever known.  And as I looked around the room, I realized that many of the people there were familiar strangers.  I recognized the faces but could not necessarily remember the names.  Family members have moved and big family gatherings with all the aunts, the uncles and cousins are a distant memory.  With the re-introductions came stories, shared memories, laughter and the comfortable feeling of being a part of something bigger.

There are many people that feel disconnected personally and professionally.  At work, emails have replaced face-to-face or telephone conversation as the preferred method of communication for many.  Demanding workloads keep people at their desks instead of in the lunch room or at home with family and friends.  Relationships and opportunities for personal connections are lost in the daily rush to accomplish tasks and complete to-do lists.

How much do you really know about the people you see every day at work?  Do you know something personal about each of the people on your team?  Do you know who prefers a good book to a night at the movies? Do you know the name of their partner and perhaps children? Do you celebrate when an employee achieves a personal milestone?  Do you pick up the phone or walk over to someone instead of emailing?

How well do you know your customers? Do you know their names or are they familiar looking strangers? Do you know their likes and dislikes?   Do you try and personalize each interaction or is it just one more transaction to complete before the next one? Do you pick up the phone or meet with your customer personally instead of relying on email as the only method of communication?

We work with people, not colleagues.  We serve people, not customers.  Taking the time and making the effort to get to know the person behind the title or the order, helps create the connections that build trust and loyalty and make work a much more fulfilling place to be.