AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

Last week at the AIMS Safety Seminar in Orlando, I had the pleasure of teaching the “Operational Leadership and Communication” course.  If there is anything, in my mind, that goes together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s leadership and communication!

After going through a communication assessment to determine their strengths, everyone wrote down their biggest communication struggle and turned it in to me.  Then as a group, we all brainstormed ways to over come that particular issue.  It was a great opportunity to learn from everyone in the room.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to them all, and some students have already emailed me asking to address their particular trouble spots.  If you were in the class, I am happy to do that for you, too.  In the meantime, I thought I would use the blog to address some of the ones that many people seem to be struggling with.

Here we go!

Biggest communication struggle: Being patient with others’ opinions.

You are not alone!  In class we talked about the fact that listening has more to do with an open mind than anything else.  When we hear someone state an opinion that is different from ours, we have a few choices.

  1. Immediately launch into a rebuttal
  2. Think about what to say, then respond
  3. Say nothing at all

Too often, option 1 is taken and that rarely ends well.  In order to make options 2 or 3 a reality, it takes patience, and what allows us to be patient more than anything else?

Thinking of things from the other person’s perspective.  Since there are (at least) two sides to every story, first consider that yours might not be right, or at least it’s not the story that the other person believes.

Take a deep breath.  Try to imagine where they care coming from.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Consider your previous impact on the situation. THEN, feel free to respond.

Biggest communication struggle: Being vocal

This came up a few times, and it doesn’t surprise me considering the class was full of leaders who are still developing their chops. Expressing your thoughts to your peers, employees or even management can be tough… there is a lot of fear that can encircle those situations.

  1. Fear of rejection – either the idea or you as a person
  2. Fear of sounding stupid – you’ll fumble your words and sound incompetent
  3. Fear of indifference – there will be no reaction, just awe-inspiring silence

These are legit, but can be overcome!  Best way to do that?  Just do it.  Work up the gumption, plan what you are going to say and state your case.  As a leader, you MUST have the confidence to state your position or vision.  If you know of a better way, SAY IT!

One way to bolster your confidence to speak up is to do a trial run with some trusted allies.  Let’s say you know the topic at the next manager meeting is going to be reducing guest complaints.  You have sort of an out-of-the-box idea that you fear will get shunned if spoken aloud.  Try it out on a few people one-on-one to gauge their reaction.

Also ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?”  If you won’t die or lose your job, you can handle just about anything else.  And we always make it worse in our minds than it really is.  PLUS, you may have the winning idea, the suggestion that saves the company from total ruin!  You don’t want to hold that back, do you?

Biggest communication struggle: Expecting people to know what I am talking about.

Hello, McFly! We don’t all get it, get it? Seriously, this is something we all suffer from at one time or another.  Why? Because we forget that other people can’t read our minds.

Think of all the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years.  What are the chances that someone else has the exact same database of knowledge and information rolling around in their skull?  Very slim.  So, we can’t take our communication for granted.

I love it when I hear managers say, “he should really know that!”.  Really?  How?  Do you know that he knows that?  Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have the knowledge and context to reach the same conclusion?  If not, get your specifics ready because that’s what it will take to avoid confusion.

If you have been with your company for a while, you know lots of stuff and jargon that a lot of new employees don’t know yet.  You have the benefit of time and experience.  They have someone getting frustrated with them because they don’t understand your abbreviations or nomenclature.  Don’t blame them.  Blame you for either not explaining it or assuming that someone else did.

I think this one goes along with being patient.

And we’re back.

There were a bunch more struggles that I will save for future posts.  In the meantime, if you have questions about communication, leadership, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my inbox is always open.  Drop me a note anytime!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

What? You want to read more?  Might I suggest:

Would you like to dance?

I’ve already written about the GREAT service we received while dining one day on our recent trip to California, and my overall impressions of the guest service at all of the parks we visited.  Today though, I want to explore an experience we had while waiting in lines that had nothing to do with how the employees treated us.

CNC Superman

Over the course of a week, we stood in lots of lines and waited for lots of rides.  What happened over and over again was the “dance” of large parties trying to get onto a ride at the same time.

Picture the “corral” set-up of most roller coaster loading stations.  There are chutes that guests get into that align them with the seat they are about to take.  This is where the dance happens, when people count the other guests in front of them and realize they may not be on the same ride as their friends.

So then this conversation ensues, “Would you like to go ahead of us so we can go with our friends?”

Let’s look at that.  So a guest is letting, in fact suggesting, that another group GO AHEAD of them in line.  At any other point in the line this would be considered “cutting” and not tolerated by the masses.  Yet, here it is encouraged.

And we saw this from guests of all ages and cultural backgrounds. It seemed that just about everyone was willing to wait a little longer for the chance to experience the ride their friends.

There is a special dynamic at an amusement park about sharing the experiences you have.  Even if you go on the exact same ride one cycle later, it’s not the same as going on on the ride WITH your friends.

Does this give us any insight into how people behave in the workplace?  I think it actually does.

The question about why people stay in a job, or what keeps them coming back, or what makes all the ups and downs worth it generally comes back to one thing: the people.

Of course we can’t overlook things like pay, benefits and working conditions, but so often people are driven by being around others that care about them, that support them and that THEY can have a positive influence on.  The more I am around people and get to study them, the more I truly believe that at their core, people want to GIVE as much as they GET.  That may not always be easy to do or articulate, but I do see it as a genuine human need.

As funny as it sounds, I think we sometimes marginalize what we allow our employees to GIVE us while they are working.  Yes, we get their time and usually their attention, but are we allowing them to give us their talents?

When people are unsatisfied in a job, is it because they haven’t worked enough hours, or is it because they haven’t been able to show what they are really capable of?

I’ve been a fan of Zappos for years.  Not necessarily as a retailer (although I have had good experiences) but as a company who has been able to sustain an amazing culture.  Look at their core values and tell me what you see.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I see that the majority of items are centered around how people work together.  They tap into the deep need we have to connect with others on a meaningful level and use that to propel their business forward. It doesn’t say so explicitly in their values, but they are also very good at placing people where their talents are best utilized, which makes upholding their values a bit easier.

If experiencing the “dance” while waiting in line has taught me anything, it’s that the need to connect and be human is so powerful for some that it trumps some of our shorter-sighted goals, such as being first in line on a roller coaster.  It sometimes causes us to sacrifice what we’ve worked (or waited) for, but in the end we know it will be worth it because of the deepened connections we’ve made.

Is it a stretch then to say that being part of a strong, cohesive team is more important than making a lot of money?

To some, it just might be.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: This is always the toughest part of the post to write – trying to tell you a little about who I am and what I do, all while not sounding pompous.  How about this? If you liked what you read and would like to talk about working together to improve leadership, customer service or team dynamics at your company, please contact me in the manner you see fit. The end.

How can YOU help?

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a Myth of Employee Burnout development session with a group of young leaders. Because burnout is not something that is fixed overnight, I asked the participants what they were committed to doing after the session. To take it a step further, I offered to follow up with them on a date of their choosing to see how things were going.

When I got home and read through their responses, two things were very evident.

  1. These folks are highly committed to taking their leadership skills to the next level.
  2. As leaders of leaders, this list gives us a wonderful bit of insight into how we can help develop the leaders that report to us.

Transitioning into a leadership role is hard enough, then when you realize that you are now responsible for developing other leaders, it can be very daunting.

Here is the list of things that the young leaders I worked with said they are committed to (and we can help with):

  1. Seeking out the opinions of my employees and listen to their suggestions.
  2. Help address issues before they become problems.
  3. I would like to have knowledge about what to do when a policy is violated. I would actually like to have knowledge of my job altogether.
  4. Be a better leader (4x)
  5. Keeping my visible anger outside of work
  6. Help my team perform at a higher standard and understand why.
  7. Grow to not feel behind the 8 ball and be more confident as a leader.
  8. Being more involved in the training of employees
  9. Doing more 1-on-1 development
  10. Provide a positive environment for both my guests and employees
  11. Become a better supervisor; learn how to talk to other leaders and employees when delivering positive and negative reinforcement
  12. I would like to have a better level of teamwork amongst my employees
  13. Finding the answers – never let an employees’ question go unanswered.
  14. Learning what goes on outside of my area.

The other thing this shows is that these leaders WANT the follow-up, they WANT to know how they are doing and they WANT someone to check up on them.  By filling out this form and turning it in, they are saying, “Please help me achieve this.” If you have read any of my other posts about feedback and thought, “they don’t really need or want that”… think again.  This isn’t ME saying it, it’s your employees.

In the spirit of full transparency, I will tell you that not every leader that was in this session turned in a commitment form.  It was a voluntary action, and some chose not to.  Doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t as committed as others, but it does prove that leaders at all levels are still individuals, and you may need to approach their development a little differently.

This also means that this list is a starting point, not the be-all, end-all. Just like your front line employees, leaders need individual attention and development, and it’s up to you to determine the best way you can help.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Matt is constantly asking himself, “how can I help leaders lead?”  Hopefully this blog is a good start but if you need more help, say with a development session for your team, an interactive keynote at a conference or 1-on-1 coaching, Matt does that, too. For a veritable plethora of ways to contact him, click here.

Jackie made it all better

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on March 13-14, 2015. This will complete the series. For Part 1 “I don’t care about $2, click here.  For Part 2 “Maybe I didn’t exist”, click here. For Part 3 “You sent my bag where?” click here.


After coming to grips with the fact that my suitcase would not be accompanying me during my 12 hour stay in Chicago, I still had to pick up my rental car and get to my destination.  So I boarded the shuttle to the rental car area.

That’s where I met Jackie.

Jackie had a “how ya doing, friend” kind of attitude.  Warm, engaging and genuine. At the risk of sounding redundant, she was real AND genuine!

After the morning I’d had, interacting with someone like Jackie (just on the above merits) was quite refreshing. But the story doesn’t end here.

Jackie pulled up my reservation and noticed that I had booked my car through a 3rd party “bundle” site (like Orbitz or Travelocity). It just seemed easier booking the number of flights, hotels and cars over such a short period.  As Jackie was about to point out, it’s not always cheaper that way.

She had a confused and bewildered look on her face when she said, “Do you know you are getting charged $68 for your car for one day?”

“No, it was in the bundle.” was my response.

“Well then,” she said with a wily smile, “you are going to love me. How does $11 sound?”

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I changed your reservation… I re-booked it directly through our site.  Don’t go through the bundle sites, a lot of times they are much more expensive.”

“Wow” was about all I could muster.  I was amazed at her honesty and goodwill and I began to smile.  Of course I would need a GPS, but even with that added to the rental I was still getting a bargain.

As I returned the car later that day, a nice young man asked if everything was okay with the car.  I told him the car was fine, but that Jackie at the counter was a real rock star.  He agreed and said, “yes, she’s the best”.

So how did Jackie make it all better?  How did she make me forget all the other junk that happened in the last 28 hours. She cared. Plain and simple, she cared about me, my experience, and my wallet.  She cared enough to take action on my behalf.  She cared enough to right the wrongs (or overchargings) perpetrated by others.

Based on the young man’s comment when I returned the car, this was not an isolated incident. He has either seen Jackie in action or has heard other happy patrons say similar things about his colleague.

Thing is, you can’t teach people to care.  You can’t give them a handbook of the do’s and don’ts and expect them to care.  I would imagine Jackie cares because she is a role that allows her to do what she does best.  How many of us can say that?

How many of our employees would care a whole lot more if they were in roles that aligned with their natural talents and abilities?  How much happier would your customers be then?

That’s something that every leader should care about.

Thanks for reading!

PS – I debated whether or not to mention Jackie’s employer, because if what she did was against policy, I certainly wouldn’t want her getting in trouble for it.  In the end though, through her actions she created a sense of connection and loyalty that will guide my rental car decisions in the future.  So, Alamo, you have a great employee in Jackie, and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves for this and ALL of the great experiences she creates.  Oh, and I will always check your website first when in need of a rental car.

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Some people don’t like to travel – Matt loves it! Not only does it provide for great stories like these, but it also allows him to do what he feels he does best – Helping Leaders Lead!  He does this through interactive keynotes and customized training workshops.  Click here for more details or to find out how to book Matt for your next event!

Funny things happened when I stopped following people on Twitter

I recently hit the milestone… following 2000 accounts on the Twitter. Little did I know, but there is some algorithm that doesn’t let you follow any more than that if you don’t have enough followers yourself. So, if I found someone really cool that I wanted follow, I had to unfollow someone else first. That wasn’t too big of a deal, because there were people I followed early in my Twitter-hood that I didn’t necessarily want (or need) to follow any more.

So, for a few weeks I would unfollow people one at a time as I wanted to follow others.  That was annoying.  Last night I decided I would go through all of the people I follow and figure out who I could unfollow, all at once. This way, I could easily and quickly follow new accounts as they came across my consciousness. As I combed through my previous follows, I noticed a few things happening.

First, I became very aware that there were A LOT of accounts that I didn’t need to be following anymore. Some were inactive, some had no tweets, and others were just of no use to me.  I also saw that I was still following defunct accounts of people who now had a new active account that I was following, too. Jeepers.

Second, a criterion developed for whether or not I would continue to follow them. This is not scientific nor algorithmic, but it makes sense to me. Here is the hierarchy that organically made it’s presence felt.

  • Did I know the person? Above all else, this was the MAIN reason I continued to follow people. If I knew them in real life, I continued to follow.
  • Do I recognize the picture? Branding experts will love this one, because a large part of my decision to continue to follow was based on whether or not their picture was familiar to me. Even if I didn’t know the person personally, recognition of their face meant I had seen their tweets, and if I hadn’t unfollowed them because of their content, I would continue to follow them now.
  • Were they following me? Okay, it’s a little about me… :o) but this is supposed to be about relationships, which are two-way. I guess I just wanted to know that there was mutual investment in the relationship.  Now, if it’s a large company I like, for example ProMark drumsticks, I do not expect a follow. But, Johnny Appleseed musician/writer/speaker/biker, etc., if you can’t engage with me (beyond your auto-reply message – which will cause me to unfollow anyway), I’m not sure I have much use for you.
  • Do I like their description? If I don’t know them, don’t recognize them, and they don’t follow me, BUT I find their description funny, insightful, or unique, I continued with the follow. Benefit of the doubt and all that. If I read about one more social media expert who is a coffee addict, I think my head will explode.
  • Have they provided value? Even if they are following me, I unfollowed some people for being too much about themselves and pushing their product. I admit that at times I have probably used social media more like blast advertising, but I am working on that. Even when I send something out, the intent is that someone will find value in it beyond an offer or sale. I do appreciate the follow from people like this, but I do not follow back just because you follow me. Twitter has made it known that these spots are very valuable.
  • Do I want to connect with them? Is there something they offer that I want? Content I care about, ice cube recipes or a chance to connect with a possible client… I will continue to follow them. You can learn an awful lot about a company through their social media channels, and sometimes that leads to an opportunity to work together.
  • Are they a real person? As opposed to a group, a company, an association, a consortium, etc., I will give the benefit of the doubt (and a follow) to real people over a “brand”.  AND, I place a high value on people having pictures of themselves in the profile pic, not a company logo or cartoon.

The grand benefit to this exercise is that now as I look through my timeline, I find myself not scrolling past so many tweets that are meaningless to me. I am following less people, but am finding greater value in the people that I still follow.  Quality over quantity.

So there you have it. These rules are by no means hard and fast, they are not definitive, and they are not essential to your success on the Twitter. This is simply what I noticed about the evolution of a communication tool and how I use it.

How you use it is up to you… and that’s the beauty of it.

So how do you use Twitter, or any social media channel, for that matter?  Has your use of the technology changed over time?

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt has been on Twitter since January 2010.  He generally tweets about customer service, employee engagement, and leadership, but has also tweeted about being a drummer and a Seinfeld aficionado.  His tweets are his own and he does not drink coffee.

Nick proves your argument is invalid

Last week I posted this tweet after a wonderful experience with an employee at my local Apple store.

Nick TweetWhile sending this tweet satisfied my desire to provide immediate and public praise for an amazing customer care experience, I don’t think it did Nick’s performance justice. For his efforts that day (and I am going to guess everyday) he deserves much more than 140 characters.

Here’s the situation… my 4 year-old Mac was having issues.  I had visited the Genius Bar (in-person Apple support) before and had a good experience with the “genius”, but ultimately we couldn’t pinpoint the problem.  When I left that day, the next step (after trying a few things at home) was potentially going to be wiping my hard drive clean and starting over.

I came to terms with this, backed up every last PowerPoint, spreadsheet and email, and trotted off to the Apple Store in the Altamonte Mall.

When I arrived, I took a seat at the Genius Bar, and was quickly greeted by Nick.  He looked me right in the eye, shook my hand, introduced himself and told me he was going to take care of me.

I’m terrible at judging age, but I would guess that Nick is in his early-to-mid twenties.  I was happy for that, because while I don’t like to stereotype, I felt much more comfortable with someone like Nick working on the problem than I would have been if it were someone more like… me. (i.e Old)

Nick went to work, troubleshooting and explaining things along the way.  He made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and patiently answered all of them as if it were the first time he heard it.  Nick moved around the computer and keyboard with ease and speed, never stopping his motion or his thoughts about what to try next.

When he started a diagnostic program that was going to take up to 10 minutes, he asked if it would be okay if he got started with another customer.  He assured me he would be back to finish up, and I no reason not to trust him.

The next 30 minutes saw more diagnostics on my computer, and more time for Nick to help others.  Here’s where it gets good.  Nick was now helping three people, myself and a person to both my right and left.  Normally, this would make many service providers cry for help.  But not Nick.

He would start a process on one computer, have to hold a key down, then shift his body to the other computer, start a process there, explain what he was doing, answer a question, start another diagnostic, etc. This went on and on.  It was like he was three people. It was really a beautiful process to watch.

Much like a symphony conductor, Nick navigated his way through an abundance of situations, guiding us and the computers along with him, ultimately to a successful resolution (at least in my case – I left before the other two were finished).

Once my computer was fixed, we high-fived and Nick wished me a good day and a Happy Thanksgiving.  He was then on to helping the next person…

So what argument does Nick invalidate? The one we make when we say “we can’t find good employees”, “these kids have no work ethic”, “they would rather text than have a face to face conversation”.

Is Nick the norm? Maybe not, but he provides hope that rock stars are out there. But unfortunately, hope won’t help you hire the right people. Hope won’t help you train them properly, and hope won’t teach them to have a good work ethic.

That falls to you and your staff, and if a little tough love is what you need to see what it takes to develop the Nicks in your world, then so be it.

And here it comes.

Stop wasting your energy on what used to be and start figuring out how to deal with the here and now. Your products and services have probably changed to meet customer demand, so why wouldn’t your internal processes change to meet the changing needs of your employees? You may need to look into technology solutions, consider more people resources, or turn your onboarding/training/employee relations process on its head. Can’t pay a lot?  Okay, what other ways can you show your staff how valuable they are? (hint, a thank you goes a LONG way).

If what you are doing now isn’t working, don’t blame your employees… they aren’t the ones who came up with the system that is now obsolete.

Like many of the problems we face, we probably know what needs to be done, but something (most likely our ego or assumptions) is getting in the way.  Could you have a Nick on your team?  Yes!  Could you have a whole team of Nicks? Absolutely, but not if you continue to argue that it’s not possible.

So there, your argument for not having a team of rock stars is invalid.  Now, stop invalidating your team by not putting forth the effort, energy and resources needed to foster a rock star employee experience.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

About the author: Matt is not too fond of going to the dentist, but recognizes that DIY dental work is a really bad idea.  If you see that your people processes are broken, but don’t know what to do, don’t go it alone.  Matt can help. Click here to find out how.

IAAPA Question – What I should have said…

This past week during the IAAPA Expo, I had the pleasure of teaching the Human Resources and Leadership portion of the Institute for Attractions Managers course. At the end of the session, I was asked the following question by one of the participants:

“You mentioned that we need to address issues when we see them.  How do you do that without sounding like a broken record?”

It was a great question, and as I think about the answer I gave, I don’t think I gave as complete of an answer as I should have.  I’d like to fix that.

My original answer (given within the context of guest service behaviors) was that “sometimes people need to find their own groove, and that if they are still within your standards and guidelines, letting them learn at their own pace might be okay.”

I still stand behind that, but I also think there are more factors to consider.  For example:

If this is a safety issue, don’t worry about what you sound like.  Your job is to make sure your employees and guests are safe.  Correct and/or guide as much as you need to.

If your employees are violating standards of conduct (i.e. having their cell phone when they shouldn’t, not adhering to grooming guidelines, etc.), then again you need to be relentless with enforcing your standards.

I think it’s also important to ask ourselves some questions, starting with WHY isn’t this employee adhering to the policy in the first place?

A few of these could be the culprit:

  • They don’t think it’s important
  • They don’t understand how to do it
  • They don’t see how they impact it
  • Others around them aren’t doing it

Similarly, we have to ask; WHY don’t they correct their behavior when we tell them?

  • They still don’t think it’s important
  • They still don’t understand how to do it
  • They still don’t see how they impact it
  • Others around them still aren’t doing it
  • They don’t respect the person asking them to change their behavior
  • There is no consequence for their behavior

If they are not understanding the concept or haven’t bought into it, we may need to look at how we are communicating the information.  If others aren’t doing it or there is no consequence for not doing it, that comes down to holding people accountable – showing them that things will change if they continue on the current path (and it’s very possible they won’t like the change!).

There. That’s better. That’s a more complete answer to the question.  So then what?

If you feel like you are starting to sound like a broken record, look at how that record got broken. It could be a lazy employee, but more likely it comes down to our communication and our ability to hold people accountable to our standards.

We could be the problem, but that also means we are the solution.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author:  Matt loves helping leaders find out what they can do to improve their own performance or the performance of their teams. He offers free consultation to see what direction to take, or to find out why you might be feeling like a broken record!  Contact him here to schedule a free 30 minute call.

To appreciate people, you have to appreciate people

After my recent epic roller coaster-palooza trip, I noted in my recap that one thing I noticed was that the places with the best guest service also had leaders who were out-and-about  and visible to guests and employees.

One more roller coaster picture because... why not!

One more roller coaster picture because… why not??

While I’ll expound on that in the future, it also occurred to me that just being visible isn’t always a good thing.  If you are a jerk, maybe it’s best that people DON’T see you.

What got me thinking about this was looking back at some of the blogs and articles I’ve read about leadership best practices.  Many of them contain very good advice about recognizing the positive in people and showing appreciation for their contributions.  They may even say, “be visible to your employees!”  But if you are a jerky-jerk, that might back-fire.

What these articles fail to include (and I am probably guilty of this as well) is not mentioning one of the most important, foundational, critical and experience-influencing characteristics of all.

In order to show appreciation for people, you have to genuinely appreciate them and the work they do.

And sadly, that’s not always the case.

We can all tell the difference between sincere recognition and somewhat positive words being thrown at us by someone who thinks that’s what they are supposed to do.  The delivery is different, the tone is different, and the impact is different.

To appreciate simply means: to be grateful or thankful for, or to value or regard highly. 

Let’s see which of these sound more like you… how you view employees:

Leader A

  • Glad they are part of the team
  • Welcome their ideas and contributions
  • Interested in their development and growth

Leader B

  • A drain on your energy and time
  • Necessary evil
  • No-good slackers

I would love it if my Leader B descriptions were a little far-fetched, but experience tells me otherwise.  If that sounds like you, call me.  Seriously.  407-435-8084.  It’s very possible that you are the leader employees DON’T want to see.

If you related more with Leader A – WONDERFUL!  You probably already appreciate, recognize and value your employees. If you aren’t doing it, but you THINK it, it’s time to put those thoughts into action!

Like so many things, our actions are nothing more than the physical manifestations of our thoughts. You want to show GENUINE appreciation?  You’ve got to be genuinely appreciative.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author:  Matt founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one goal in mind: to help leaders get the most out of themselves and their teams.  He does this through speaking engagements, training workshops and one-on-one coaching.  His book, the Myth of Employee Burnout outlines why some employees start off strong but eventually fizzle out. It has been called a “great resource” and “an eye-opener”.

 

 

Which customer do you choose?

You may have noticed that my last few posts have been about customer service (this one included). Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting out more, or because there are more situations that happen that I think we can all learn from.  My last trip to Walgreens was a perfect example.

I walked in, and like many establishments these days, the person behind the register greeted me with a “Welcome to Walgreens!”.  It wasn’t particularly enthusiastic or welcoming, but that’s a different topic.

To me, the issue is one of priority.  While I suppose I appreciate the gesture, I wondered how the person AT THE REGISTER felt when the employee’s attention was diverted from their transaction to greet a brand new person in the store. All the time in customer service we talk about engaging the guest and building a relationship.  Nothing says “I care about you” more than a self-induced interruption of your transaction so I can yell across the store to “welcome” someone else.

Somewhere along the line, management said, “we’re going to greet people as they come in.”  Was thought given to the CIRCUMSTANCES when that would be appropriate?  Or, did they just give their employees a directive to follow all the time because they didn’t trust their employees to make the judgement call of when they should provide the ‘entrance greeting’.

I can hear them now… “Well, if we tell the employees to only do it when there are no customers in front of them, they’ll take advantage and never do it.  No, better that we use the all-or-nothing approach.  You never know what employees might do if you let them THINK!

That’s right.  They could just AMAZE you!

To me, this situation also plays out when you have the same person attending to guests at the counter while they are also supposed to take incoming calls. The phone rings, and the person stops helping you to answer the phone. Like the automatic entrance greeting, management has made it clear that the phone needs to be answered in 3 rings or less, no matter what.  So you’ve just created another self-induced interruption of the service experience.

Both of these situations lead me to this question… which customer is more important? The person that’s in front of you or the person on the phone or walking through the door?

And you can’t say both, then willingly put your employees in situations like these.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

But I get it, it’s cheaper to have one person doing both those jobs than to have a dedicated person at the counter and a dedicated person on the phone.  Only you will be able to tell when the disjointed customer experience has impacted your sales.  Or maybe it already has, which is why you mandated that everyone be greeted as they walked in… to give them a sense of welcome and better customer service.  Is that working?  Hmmm….

What do you think?  How does this effect you as a consumer?  What do you think about it as an employer or a service provider?

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Matt Heller is a dynamic and engaging speaker, trainer, author and coach who builds confidence, courage and awareness in leaders of all experience levels.  He also likes vanilla ice cream with crunchy peanut butter mixed in.

 

 

Customer Service – The Next Level

At the recent Florida Attractions Association conference in St. Augustine, I got to have some great conversations with many of the association members and vendors in attendance. One of those conversations centered around taking customer service to the “next level”, and while this person stated that he wasn’t actually sure what the next level looked like, he knew there was room for improvement.

As it happened, I had an experience at the Starbucks in the hotel that might help us figure this out.

I was at the hotel for three nights, and each morning I got up early, went to the Starbucks to get a hot tea, then took a walk around the beautiful grounds of the hotel. It’s a great way to do some early-morning thinking, get some fresh air, and get the blood pumping (especially since I knew I’d be sitting down most of the rest of the day).

The first two mornings I would say that my experience at Starbucks was good. They took my order, instructed me where to get the tea bag, and provided an efficient transaction.

The third morning, however, was different. From a consistency standpoint, it was above and beyond the first two days, however some may argue that it may have just been what Starbucks is looking for as the standard.

When I ordered my tea the third day, the Barista let me know that it actually included two tea bags, and if I wanted to use them now fine, or I could take one of them and use it later. This is something that the Baristas did not mention the mornings before. He then asked if I had any exciting plans for the day, to which I answered that I was simply driving home to Orlando. This led to the inevitable conversation of backed up traffic on I-4, which is an all too common occurrence in Central Florida.

Ultimately, this transaction was much more personal, while just as efficient as the other two. Guess who got a bigger tip in the tip jar?

To me there were really two things that set this interaction apart from the two previous mornings. First, he offered additional information, in the form of letting me know that my order actually included two tea bags.

Second, he asked a question that allowed me to give him some bait. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how important it was for service providers to “take the bait” that customers provide them in order to make a more personal experience. When I mentioned driving to Orlando, he definitely took the bait to make the conversation much more personal.

In terms of taking customer service to the next level, it probably didn’t take that much more effort for this gentleman to ask me those questions and to provide the information. But something was different about how he did his job and why he did it the way he did compared to the other Baristas.

So to me, two lessons about taking customer service to the next level come out of this:

  • Paying attention to the details
  • Consistency

Paying attention to the small details of the conversation allowed the third Barista to engage in a person interaction. On the other hand, this was actually INCONSISTENT with the other two Baristas, making me question how often I would get this level of service. “Sporadic” is not how you want people to describe your excellent service.  The goal should be to CONSISTENTLY provide GREAT service ALL THE TIME!  That means every encounter, every employee, every interaction.

Is that easy? No. Is it ‘next level’?  Yes!

Are all of your employees providing knowledgeable and personal experiences for your guests on a consistent basis, or is the service experience hit or miss?

Had I not experienced this Barista on the third day, I probably wouldn’t have thought that the first two did anything wrong. And while they probably didn’t do anything wrong, they also didn’t do enough things right to take their service to the next level.

What does next level service mean to you, what does it look like for your customers? If you can’t explain in specific terms what this will look like to your employees, it will be very difficult for them to deliver that to your guests.

Leave a comment about what “next level” looks like to you – would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading.

Matt

About the author: Matt has added “conference exhibitor” to his resume. The FAA conference in St. Augustine was his debut.  The P.O.C. pens were a hot item!

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