Training

Responsiveness

One of the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL model of Service Quality is Responsiveness. The usual explanation of this dimension is “the willingness to help customers and to provide prompt service,” suggesting that it is applicable to a real time service experience. After an incident at the supermarket one day, I chose to test their degree of Responsiveness over 24 hours.

At the cashier check out station near to closing time, she tried every code she could and none worked for the Sunflower Seeds I had picked up. She left the station, went to look at other packs, spoke with another employee, then came back and apologized, saying she could not sell it because the code was not in the machine.

I had to go back into that supermarket the next day, so decided to test their responsiveness by picking up the Sunflower Seeds again. Success! I was a happy customer. 

Imagine if the cashier on the first night had passed on the issue, and the responsible person did not take action. Of if the cashier did not pass on the problem at all. The customer would have noticed it. The challenge of leaders is to let each employee see how their action directly impacts on service. On this occasion, there was a positive outcome. When I next see her, I will definitely congratulate her on the action she took. 

What are you doing to ensure that your employees are responsive?

Do You Care About Your Career?

I was going through some picture files on my phone and found one I had taken of a magazine article from a Self magazine entitled “The New Ambition”. Not sure why I kept it. Well, maybe I do. It is because I like asking participants to think about whether their careers are fulfilling and whether they feel great about it at the end of a week. I think if all is right with oneself, then being happy, creative and productive at work is less of a chore.

How I got into my original career in hotels was quite by accident. Or maybe not. A very good family friend had been appointed Director of Tourism. My father and I were watching the news when the announcement came on and he said to me “maybe that’s what you want to do.” I had been meandering through school, and was in the process of repeating Lower Sixth form. I told him “ok” and set about completing the necessary paperwork when the time came. Apparently, I used to like to cook and even wrote out menu cards which my mother – the family archivist – has kept to this day. 

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Do you say any of these to your employees?

Entrepreneur magazine published this article by Lindsay Broder which discusses 7 things you should never say to your employees. Be honest. Have you ever said any of them in the heat of an interaction with your employees? I have heard many mangers say #1 “I’m the boss. Do as I say.”  Perhaps early in my managerial career, I might have been guilty of that too. However, as I focussed on my personal development, I realized that I had to find other ways to influence the employees I managed to do their assigned tasks….and willingly, so that customer service could be at the desired standard.

I recall having success where I managed a team, most of whom were much older than me, were unionized and were generally seen by others as the ‘bad eggs’ in the company. Treating each as a human and an individual, I set out to find what made them tick, what their hot buttons were and ways which made them shine. I guess I realized I was successful, mostly, when I received an award for my leadership of that team.

My feeling is that if managers have to resort to any of these 7 phrases or retorts, then they themselves have some work to do on their skills. I am not saying that all managers have to be perfect, however, they should certainly try to better tomorrow, than they were yesterday. Read more, try new things, hire professionals like us to help identify the issues and suggest solutions.

Commit to avoid saying any of these phrases to your employees. They will appreciate you for it and your customer service delivery will improve.

Empathy in Customer Service

I was on a flight within the Caribbean, and observed a very interesting exchange between a Flight Attendant and a young mother, which could be used as a case-study in Customer Service training programmes.

The young mother was travelling with a 15-month-old toddler, who had been keeping her very busy for the duration of the four-hour flight.  She had to use various means to keep him entertained. He just would not fall asleep…..and why should he? It was the middle of the afternoon and there were much more interesting things to do and see than sleep!

Midway through the flight, the passenger took some sweet biscuits from her bag and gave to her son.  Not even 20 minutes after, he threw them all up.  Immediately, the section of the plane we both were in, reeked of vomit.  The two male passengers beside her seemed to be taking it in stride.  From my vantage point behind them, there was no adverse reaction from either of them, and they even seemed empathetic towards the mother.

Responding to the Call Button, the flight attendant came to see what the problem was.  The passenger told her that her son had thrown up. She also mentioned that it needed to be cleaned up. 

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What’s the vision for your service?

Business owners, especially those who are in a manufacturing type company, may focus all their energies on the product, from design specifications to manufacturing processes. How much time is spent designing the service they would like their employees to deliver to customers who will buy those products?

I feel that the starting point is to define what the vision for your company’s service is. What would you like to measure your service against? What key performance indicators will you use? What kind of training will be necessary? How often will you test the service anonymously to see if the end result you envisioned is being delivered to the customer?

If you have been in business for many years, it is not too late to do this exercise. Gather your key employees together and you should also try and include those who have served customers directly as they may have valuable contributions. Brainstorm and see what you define as the draft vision for your service.  Although you would be working from ‘front to back’, you will be able to use the vision statement as the starting point to make changes throughout the company.

To complement that exercise, you will also need to have the necessary training sessions to ensure that it permeates throughout the entire organization and is infused in all your processes.

Getting the word out

I was on foot for part of today while my car’s air conditioning system got a check up. In the Caribbean, it is ESSENTIAL to have a proper working air conditioning system in one’s car. Walking the island’s streets certainly confirmed that!

As I walked along, I noticed things that I wouldn’t normally have seen while driving. And I also saw many persons who I haven’t seen in some time. Since this is a new venture, I have decided that I will tell everyone I meet that I am now freelancing, providing training and human resource development services to small and medium sized companies in the Caribbean.

I stopped in by office of the sister of a friend. She works in Accounting and so has to visit several companies on the island each year. As I normally do, I ended my spiel with “so if you know any company which would benefit from my services, please think about me.”. Her response? “All of them!”

Seriously though, I am sure there are lots of them who are doing a good job in customer service and human resource development and when I see those examples, I will be sure to get the word out. 

Another gem about service during Cricket World Cup

Caribbean people don’t like anyone from outside the region to criticize aspects of life in this part of the world. That’s reserved for Caribbean people! We do a great job of cussing each other.  

So when a non-Caribbean writer wrote about an unpleasant incident a few years before the 2007 Cricket World Cup, he was “taken on” by various and sundry who sought to defend what it meant to be a Caribbean person.

It provided fodder for another article entitled Opportunity vs Nightmare. What do you think?