A Question of Right or Wrong

Businessman taking oath.If you had to choose between what is right or what is right for the company, which would you choose?

For example, you are at lunch with a friend.  Your main competitor is sitting at the table next to you with a new contact you are meeting with next week.  It sounds like he is trying to get the same business you want.  Do you stay and listen in on the conversation, hoping that specific details are discussed, allowing you to better his offer or do you excuse yourself knowing that you will have your chance next week?

Your boss has implemented an incentive program based on selling x amounts of widget B, a higher priced alternative to widget A.  The extra money would come in handy. Do you push widget B even when widget A meets all your customer’s needs?

And if you are the boss, what would you do if you found out your sales person walked away instead of trying to get the inside scoop on a competitor’s pricing proposal or continued to include widget A as an option when speaking with customers?

In the first case, that insider information may be just what you need to secure the contract and in the second case, revenues are slightly lower when a customer chooses widget A over widget B.

Do we add a couple of dollars on to the blank tax receipt the cab driver hands us? Do you go back to the store when you realize the cashier forgot to charge you for the eggs?  Do you look for things to keep you busy even when the boss isn’t looking?  Do you wait until the very last minute to tell employees about layoffs to prevent people starting their job search immediately?  Do you tell the customer the flooring will be in by Thursday in order to close a sale even though you know full well it will take at least a week longer?

Our integrity is tested every day.  Integrity means doing what is right even when no one is looking. It means doing what is right regardless of the consequences.  It means being willing to lose a sale if the only way to get that sale is to lie, cheat or steal.

In today’s “the end justifies the means” world, it can be very tempting to start looking for loopholes or the excuse “but everyone is doing it”.  ‘The end justifies the means’ is an example of short-term thinking. It takes a long time to build a reputation for honesty and integrity, but that reputation reaps rewards and creates relationships that cross the line of competitor, vendor, customer, employee and boss.  A commitment to honesty and integrity is an example of long-term thinking.

Why Customer Service Training is a Waste of Money

WARNING … I’m getting on a soap box.  Potential for unfiltered thoughts ahead.

Want to know why that money you sunk into customer service training isn’t giving you the results you wanted? It’s because you may have taken the easy way out.

If any of these apply, don’t waste your money on customer service training.

  1. You don’t know our employees.  You haven’t taken the time to get to know your employees as people with lives outside of work, with dreams, with active likes and dislikes, instead of as employees.
  2. You don’t have defined performance expectations. What you want done and how you want it done changes from day to day and even worse, from employee to employee.
  3. You play favourites with employees and customers.  Some people get special privelages, some don’t. Some get away with poor behaviour, some don’t.
  4. You disparage your customers, either to their face or behind their back.  You call them stupid or cheap and insinuate they are a bunch of thieves out to get what they can from you.
  5. You apply#4 to your employees.
  6. You hire based on who you like, instead of clearly defined job descriptions and hiring standards.  You like people like you.
  7. You have no idea what your employees do.  Oh you have a vague notion, but you don’t know how much time, how much effort goes into getting their tasks completed, especially the ones who just quietly go about doing their work instead of whining about how much work they have.  Because they make it look easy, you assume it is easy and don’t recognize or value their skills, knowledge and expertise.
  8. You categorize any suggestion or concern is a needless whining.  Your employees should just be thankful they have a job and stop their whining.
  9. You don’t care what your employees think.  Oh, you might pretend to care.  You’ll hold a town hall or send out a survey, but it’s just window dressing.  You’ve already decided the answers, the strategy, the next step.  So what if they are the ones who interact with the customers every day?  So what if they are the ones on the floor completing the tasks everyday?  Their suggestions, ideas don’t matter. You’re the boss … you’ll decide.
  10. Rules don’t apply to you.  Just because your employees aren’t allowed to wear shorts to work, doesn’t mean you can’t.  Just because they’re not allowed to use the parking stalls close to the door, doesn’t mean you can’t.  You’ve earned the right to break the rules.

I could to go and on, but I’m not going to.  All I can say is, if any of those apply to you, don’t waste your money on customer service training because it’s not going to work.  Instead spend your money on customer acquisition because you’re going to need it to replace the good customers and good employees that decide to spend their valuable time with a company that respects them and values them.


An Example of Integrity in Action

Integrity.  It’s an easy word to throw around, but not always an easy word to live up to.  Acting with integrity in highly visible moments when actions taken and words spoken are seen and heard by many is highly commendable.  Acting with integrity in seemingly small, inconsequential moments is just as commendable and very often unrecognized.

Desiree Buban is the Front Office Manager at Four Points by Sheraton at the Winnipeg International Airport.  In her role, she is responsible for her team’s customer service and performance standards.  A tool used at the hotel to measure the reservation sales process is the mystery shop and there are incentives and rewards tied to high performance.

Last month, Desiree thought she had found an error in the mystery shop score for one of her guest service agents and she let the administrator of the program know. The unique twist to this is that it wasn’t a case of points being missed; it was a case of points being awarded that she believed shouldn’t have been.

Here’s the reality.  With over 250 mystery shops completed for over 40 hotels each and every month, the chance of that error being caught by the administrator was slim.  Desiree could easily have kept quiet, kept the extra points so that her team could reap the benefit of high scores.  No one would have been the wiser.  Instead, Desiree spoke up.  That’s integrity in action.  That’s leadership.

Do you have an example of integrity in action to share? 


Career Advice I’d Like to Give to My 20-Year Old Self

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and give  yourself a little hint of what’s to come?  Perhaps give yourself a little heads up on key turning points in your life that seem like a simple choice between options but is in reality a pivotal moment?   Wouldn’t it be nice to sit your younger self down and share some of the wisdom you’ve gained over the years.

If I had the chance, below are five things I’d like to tell my younger self.

1. Trust yourself more.  Parents, teachers, friends, supervisors, colleagues … there are so many people willing and eager to give advice, lots and lots of advice on what career path to follow, what jobs to apply for, what jobs to avoid.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the advice; it means weighing that advice against your own dreams, against your gut instinct and against your own personal reality.

2. Create  your own definition of success.  It took me quite a while to figure out that for me, success wasn’t defined by money, a title or an office with a door.  It wasn’t until I hit the magic mid-30’s, that I was able to clearly articulate what success meant to me, and with that knowledge, it became much easier to decide if an opportunity was right for me or not.

3. Manage your time. Oh, I wish I’d learned this one sooner!  The extra stress I put on myself because I put too many things off to the last minute; the opportunities missed because I could always get to it later; the merely “ok” work completed because I’d over-committed my time.

4. Take care of yourself.  I remember the day I broke down in tears on the job over a trivial issue.  It was day 21 without a day off.  I was holding down two jobs and going to school.  Between lack of sleep, grabbing some pretty poor meals on the run and the demands of school and work, I hit the wall.  I knew a change had to be made and I quit one of the jobs.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson then, but it took quite a few more years to figure out that I was doing myself and those around me a favour when I made sure to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health.

5. Being respected is more important than being liked.  I spent too many years trying to be liked.  I agreed with everyone or more honestly, pretended to agree with everyone.  I didn’t stand up for myself; I said “yes” when I should have said “no”; I hid my talents, my knowledge and my skills so that I wouldn’t come across as a know-it-all;  I let others take credit for my hard work. Usually standing strong, being confident, honest and assertive leads to being liked and respected, but if only one is possible, go for respect.

Of course, knowing my younger self, I’m not sure I would have listened to me!

What career advice would you give your 20 year-old self if you had the chance?

The Likeability Factor

Do you want more people to listen to you, to follow you, to believe in you? Try being more likeable.  People are more willing to give their time, their ear and possibly their loyalty to people they like.

Have you noticed some people really don’t give two hoots if people like them?  These people know what they want, what they believe, what they know, where they are going and don’t see a need to be liked.  Perhaps that is because they see people who place such a heavy emphasis on being liked, they come across as weak and unfocused.

The desire to be liked can be taken to an extreme, but when done with integrity, with heart and with a genuine caring for others, the likeability factor is hugely powerful.

Being likeable does not mean:

  1. Agreeing with everybody or everything.  It is possible to be liked and still have individual ideas, perspectives and beliefs.  It’s perfectly ok to voice differing opinions and to disagree … respectfully. Likeable people recognize that not everyone thinks the same way they do, prioritizes the same way they do or want the same thing they do.
  2. Giving up your expertise. Some people feel they have to hide their expertise in order to be liked; they are concerned they will come across as “know-it-alls” if they share their knowledge.  Likeable people recognize the value their knowledge provides, they freely share their knowledge, skills and expertise, but not in a high-handed way.  Likeable people don’t disagree by saying “You’re wrong and I’m going to tell you why.”  Instead, they ask “Have you thought of this?” Likeable people also recognize and respect the valuable knowledge, skills and expertise others bring to the table.
  3. Focusing entirely on others.  It is not necessary to cater to others needs, goals or desires, at the expense of your own, in order to be liked.  In my opinion, I think that approach backfires.  Sure, you may feel needed, but that is not the same thing as liked or respected.  Likeable people offer and provide assistance where possible.  Likeable people also recognize when they need help and are not too proud to ask for it.

To me, being likeable does mean:

  1. Being true to yourself
  2. Recognizing the right of others to be true to themselves
  3. Sincerity
  4. Honesty
  5. Respect for others

… And sometimes, agreeing to disagree.

What do you think?