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What Can You Do?

Many of you have team meetings at the beginning of each week. At next Monday’s meeting, post this question on a flipchart page:

“What is one improvement I can make in serving my customers (clients, patients, fellow employees, etc.), that if I do it consistently and I do it very well, will have a positive impact on their experience?”

Give everyone a few moments to write down their answers, letting them know that you’re not going to ask them to share their answers with anyone. (They might not want to share something they know they should be doing but are not – or at least not doing consistently). Encourage them to make an honest appraisal of their usual performance, and choose something to improve. The statement should start off with, “This week I will focus on…”

  • “Sitting down with patients as I talk with them.”
  • “Making eye contact with every customer as they approach the checkout register.”
  • “Putting a smile in my voice as I answer the phone.”
  • “LIstening intently and actively as clients explain their situation.”
  • “Making sure my desk presents a professional image.”
  • “Focusing on the question-behind-the-question so I can assist with the real problem.”

The area of improvement can be anything just as long as it has a positive impact on the customer experience (internal or external customer) and is something the team member knows is an area of opportunity for him/her.

At subsequent meetings, just remind everyone to continue to focus on that behavior for another week. After a month has gone by, do the exercise again, having everyone focus on another behavior. Imagine the impact if every member of the team makes twelve improvements each year in the way they interact with customers.

Now, I’m not naive, I’m fully aware that many employees will roll their eyes at this exercise, write something down just to get it over with, and never do anything differently. But what if just a quarter of the team actually puts forth the effort, or even just one person. I believe it’s worth it. Give it a try!


Customer Service Report

One of the blogs I regularly read is written by Kevin Stirtz, The Amazing Service Guy. He recently added a post that contains a link to a survey his company conducted titled, “The State of Customer Service.”

Take a look at the post and then download the survey results at the following link; http://amazingserviceguy.com/resources/2009-State-of-Customer-Service.pdf. There’s some great stuff in there that can help reinforce your organization’s service improvement efforts.

My favorite part of the report is the list of responses to the question, “Think about companies that offer great customer service on a regular basis. What do they do best?” The top three attributes were:

  1. Friendly
  2. Responsive
  3. Polite

Not really rocket science is it? But doing the simple things consistently well dramatically impacts customer perceptions. Check out Kevin’s article.


Respect for the Individual

I was sitting next to a warm fireplace in the lobby of a Virginia hotel this morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. Several other hotel guests were doing the same.

Two men entered the lobby and sat down near the rest of us, sitting across the table from each other. It quickly became apparent that the purpose of their meeting was a job interview, as one of the men started lobbing pointed questions at the other.

It wasn’t that I was purposely listening in; the conversation was so loud that no one in the room could help hearing what was going on. The interviewer’s entire demeanor was arrogant, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the gentleman being interviewed. He responded sincerely to the questions, but was clearly embarrassed by the public nature of the inquisition. The interviewer pointed out problems with the interviewee’s background and challenged his responses to the questions. I couldn’t take it anymore, and quietly exited the room – as did several other witnesses to the humiliation.

Now, I believe that interviews should be challenging and pointed – they shouldn’t be sugarcoated. What I take issue with is the public nature of the interview. It would’ve been fine if it was simply a discussion about the details of the job, and an opportunity for the two to get to know each other. But that wasn’t the case. The interview was designed to be confrontational and a chance for the interviewer to flaunt his power.

If the gentleman gets the job (which I hope he doesn’t for his sake), I’m sure he’ll either go through an orientation or receive a manual that outlines the company’s values; one of which is likely to be “respect for the individual.” Right.

Training begins during the interview. If someone is treated in a disrespectful manner during that interview, he/she will be, and should be, skeptical of any espoused value of “respect for the individual.” Real values are demonstrated through behaviors, not manuals.

This was an extreme example of abusing power, but it was a great lesson for me in how someone in a position of power can easily kill the human spirit through thoughtlessness or, in this case, outright cruelty. I don’t think most leaders are as clueless as this guy is, but I also believe we all can accidently crush another’s spirit in moment of thoughtlessness due to being busy or under pressure. Most of us would never do this on purpose, but we just might do it by accident. Either way, the damage is done.

As I write this post tonight, I’m still unsettled by the job interview I observed this morning. I can only imagine how the interviewee is feeling.


The FISH! Philosophy

FISH!I was recently going through my library of business books and came across the book Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. I must admit that the first time I read FISH! I was a bit skeptical of its simplicity and applicability in business (I’m sure others have had the same skepticism regarding my book Lessons From the Mouse).

Going through the book again, however, I’m convinced that the book’s strength is its simplicity and I’m also convinced that the book’s principles are applicable to any job. Imagine if every employee in your organization lived by the following tenets:

  • Play – “Play is not just an activity; it’s a state of mind that brings new energy and sparks creativity.”
  • Make Their Day – “The world becomes a better place the moment you act on an intention to serve another.”
  • Be There – “You can multi-task with ‘stuff,’ but you need to ‘be there’ for people.”
  • Choose Your Attitude – “The attitude you have right now is the one you are choosing. Is it the one you want?”

Yes, it’s simple stuff, but the book provides a guide for doing a great job, no matter what the job is.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the subject of the book, Pike Place Fish market in Seattle, and they truly live what’s described in the book. Every employee I observed played, made their day, was there, and chose a positive attitude. How do I know? It was evident in their behaviors.

The primary thought I had as I observed the operation was, “If employees selling fish can demonstrate such energy and passion, there’s no reason employees in any organization can’t do the same.” I think the whole thing starts with the fourth principle of the FISH! Philosophy, “Choose Your Attitude.” Taking responsibility for our own attitude is the determining factor in how we approach anything we do. No one can successfully delegate their attitude.

If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to pick up a copy and share the principles with your team. Let go of any skepticism you might have because of the book’s simplicity and put these profound ideas to work.


Wow Service Example

The customer service example below comes from Springfield Clinic, a wonderful organization I’ve mentioned in my blog before. There are two things I appreciate in this example:

1. It demonstrates that opportunities to truly wow customers are all around us. It might not be possible to take advantage of every opportunity every time, but when we can – we should. You can bet that the customers in this story will remember the kind gesture forever, and imagine how many friends and family they’ve shared the story with.

2. It demonstrates a commitment to sharing great service stories. Not only do team members get recognized for their efforts, others reading the story might be inspired to create their own wow for a customer. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, “Celebration of achievements creates a culture of achievement.”

Enjoy the story:Springfield Clinic

“Dr. Lytchakov’s patient needed to be admitted to the hospital. The patient was upset because she was being admitted on her husband’s birthday. She tearfully explained that she had planned to bake her husband’s favorite key lime pie to make his day special. Now there would be no birthday celebration, no pie, not even a card. The pie could wait till another day, but Dr.Lytchakov’s nurse Debbie understood completely. She retrieved the patient’s husband from the waiting room to comfort his wife and then Debbie went to work. She had an important task at hand. She couldn’t come up with a key lime pie, but no birthday should go by unnoticed. She pulled out her glitter markers and began to design a “Hallmark by Debbie” birthday greeting card. Purple, pink and green lettering adorned the card. She found some highlighter pens to create the design and when it was done, she proudly presented the card to the patient’s husband. Both the patient and her spouse were sincerely touched by Debbie’s thoughtful gesture. It warms my heart to see this kind of caring. It is the healing touch that makes the difference in the lives of the patients we serve. This is a beautiful example of an excellent patient experience. The time invested was minimal, but the impact will last a lifetime! I imagine that this is a gift that will be remembered as birthdays and key lime pies come and go. Dr. Lytchakov provides compassion and kindness to all of his patients. He and Debbie make an excellent team. They are a wonderful representation of the Springfield Clinic Way!”

 What opportunities do you have to wow a customer…right now?